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Articles of 2009

NYC PC REPORT: Money Mayweather Is Back In Circulation

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They are burning the midnight oil in the White House, the Obamas, Geithners, and Bernankes. They are buying tubs upon tubs of ink, and firing up the printing presses, 24-7, printing more currency as they work to prop up a faltering economy and to stave off a full-scale depression. They have attended to the sub-anemic housing sector, and the lenders, and the automakers, and sent lifelines to drowning citizens in the form of unemployment benefit extensions. But the best and the brightest minds haven’t hit on one most obvious method to right the economic ship of the United States economy, a revenue generator whose presence guarantees a state of liquidity and employment that should send the Dow popping 250 points when the Wall St Journal realizes what is in front of our face: that the return of Floyd Mayweather to boxing is the shot of steroids our faltering economy desperately craves in order to bounce back from a vicious recession that has left most citizens lighter in the pocket book and heavier of mood.

Yes, Wall Street, take heed. Barrons, stop the presses and put him on your cover.

“Money” is back in circulation. Mayweather, the 32-year-old Michigan native with a 39-0 (25 KOs) record is back in the game after a 14 month hiatus; he told media at a New York press conference to hype his July 18 comeback scrap with Juan Manuel Marquez at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas that he is returning to reclaim his spot as the pound for pound best. Floyd said that his bout with Marquez will determine who the P4P jefe is, because in his mind, Marquez has had the better of Manny Pacquiuao, who lays atop most every P4P pundit list, in their two tussles.

Floyd strode to the dais on the 80th floor of the Empire State Building in midtown Manhattan to the strains of Queen’s “WE Are The Champions,” and he did indeed go out of his way to compliment Marquez, the 35-year-old Mexican hitter who has morphed from a counterpunching cult fave into a seek and destroyer sort who should be able to make Mayweather wish intermittently that he’d stayed “retired.”

Mayweather squeezed a handgripper as he listened to Golden Boy’s Riachard Schaefer hype the bout.

“Thank you for coming back,” said the humble Schaefer, “for bringing energy and spark back.”

And let’s not forget money, in case any of you are under the impression that money isn’t far and away the main reason that these sorts of bouts get put together. It ain’t for bragging rights, as Mayweather and advisor Leonard Ellerbe are quick to state…

Schaefer shared some math with the media, and told us that in his last two fights (against ODLH in May 2007 and Ricky Hatton in December 2008) Mayweather generated 250,000,000 in revenue, when all monies are tabulated. The Golden Boy CEO said that Mayweather will provide a boost to the economy, which has been retracting since the middle of 2008, and certainly a few jobs have been added to handle the Mayweather/Marquez media tour, which touches down in London on Thursday.

We can argue, or debate, how much revenue Money brings to the table, and how meaningful he is to the sport, of course. Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton, two superior seat fillers, danced with the star, Mayweather, so to say that Floyd alone spurred a quarter bill of business isn’t accurate. I checked Oscar’s face when Schaefer pointed to Floyd as the “one person” responsible for this deluge of green, but Oscar had his best poker face screwed on.

De La Hoya spoke and he tabbed JMM as the top P4P boxer working today. Everyone in this promotion is working off that talking point, and the video accompaniment to bolster this claim certainly helps make a strong case that JMM deserved better than a loss and a draw against Pacquiao. Then again, no one edits sports better than HBO, so we’ll let Manny-Maniacs and JMM backers hash that argument out, until Manny/JMM 3 in 2010.

Then, JMM got the mike. In halting but understandable English, he said he mostly liked to let his fists do the talking for him. And, interestingly, he never stated that he would beat Mayweather. For what it’s worth…

Mayweather then told the media he came back to “dominate.” He weighs 146 or 147 pounds, so he said he isn’t worried about making the 143 pound catchweight. He hit 147 pounds versus Hatton, and was 150 for Oscar. 143 or under would mean he would weigh the least he has since he met Arturo Gatti in June 2005 (139 pounds).

Floyd looked ultra fit, and said his retirement agreed with him. He was able to let his hands fully heal, and he wasn’t sad to get off the treadmill of business which ruled his life since 1987, he said.

“I needed a break as a human being from 1987 to 2007,” he said. No, the reason he came back isn’t because the IRS has grabbed all his money, he said. He still owns a 23,000 square foot home in Las Vegas, he stated. It is because fans were clamoring for his re-entry in the sweet science, coming up to him, asking him when he’d glove up again. He told the media that he truly didn’t know if he was ever going to come back when he said he was exiting the game, in June 2008, rather than taking on Oscar in a rematch.

You may recall he exited the game guns a blazin’, telling The Grand Rapids Press in an interview that HBO “is great,” but criticized its announcers.

“They talk about Kelly Pavlik, a white fighter, like he's the second coming. Or they go crazy over Manny Pacquiao. But I'm a black fighter,” Mayweather said. “Is it racial? Absolutely. They praise white fighters, they praise Hispanic fighters, whatever. But black fighters, they never praise. I've noticed it for a long time but I couldn't say anything because I had to do business with them. I'll still do business with them, but I'm done holding my tongue.”

There was no rancor, no hints of lingering bad blood, as HBO sports boss Ross Greenburg greeted Mayweather warmly when Money came on stage. TSS asked Floyd about that exit slam, and wondered if he still believes race plays a part in the perceived lack of respect Mayweather has harped upon, and touched on Tuesday. He did point out that HBO’s announce team gave Oscar De La Hoya too much credit in their battle. But mostly, he didn’t care to go there. “You tell me,” he said. “I don’t know, you tell me.”

Floyd did reference certain behind the scenes matters that he doesn’t care for, but didn’t want to “spill the beans” on the specifics, so it is clear that some of the politicking and hassles that annoyed him pre-hiatus are still present. Overall, though, he sounded pretty pleased to be back.

“Boxing is a brutal business but it’s a classy brutal business,” he said.

No, that hiatus didn’t mellow Mayweather it seems, when it comes to his quite healthy ego. “I am boxing,” he stated, which will be news to Manny Maniacs. Then again, he is back in contact, regular contact, with his father Floyd Senior. They hang out and shoot pool regularly, he said, though of course they aren’t tighterthanthis, not after years of back and forth sniping. Mayweather pointed to his father’s incarceration for putting him a step behind the times, but for now, they are getting along.

The June 18 bout was at the forefront of everyone’s mind, but a showdown with many Pacquaio, if and when Floyd does away with Marquez, wasn’t too many steps away. “All roads lead to Floyd,” Ellerbe said when asked about how pie-slicing between Mayweather and Pacquiao would go, this after Freddie Roach has indicated that Manny is the main moneymaker in the game today, and the purse would need to reflect that: “Manny is gonna get the short end of the stick but he will still get the most of his career. Manny needs Floyd, Floyd don’t need him.”
Money echoed that. “All roads lead to Floyd Mayweather,” he said. “I’m the cash cow.” Just in case Pacquiao wants too much, Team Mayweather is setting a place at the table for Miguel Cotto. Floyd slapped Cotto promoter Bob Arum. “I think Arum wants Cotto to lose,” Mayweather said, because Cotto butted heads with Arum over the MargaCheato brouhaha.

Some fight fans will focus on the Money/JMM scrap from the top P4P angle, while many folks will wait til Floyd and Manny meet up to go there. Indeed, the promotion is tagged “Number One, Numero Uno” to play up the P4P angle, but Ellerbe and Mayweather both back off that subplot somewhat. “We don’t fight for bragging rights,” Ellerbe said.

Yes and no. Mayweather makes no bones about wanting to be handsomely compensated for doing his thing. But he is clearly fixated on his legacy, both all-time and in the current context of the game. He brings up the fact that Pacquaio has three losses and a draw on his ledger, while his resume is blemish free. To him, pointing that fact out isn’t about bragging rights, it is about correcting the faulty record, about remedying the misperceptions he feels he’s been unfairly saddled with.

My bottom line is, I am pumped to have Money back in circulation. He stirs up the pot, he forces me to think about my views as a fightwriter and human being, and he makes it pretty darn easy to churn out a two thousand word story.

Welcome back, Money.

SPEEDBAG
I had a nice chat with NY State Atletic Commission chair Melvina Lathan. She set up a symposium which took place on Monday at pace University. About 15 boxers and another dozen officials checked out “The Business of Boxing: Why Financial Planning Is Important.” Loys of basics were discussed, Lathan said, but I think most of us could use some remedial schooling on matters of finance, with all the debt the average American adult holds. “I think we found a friend in Pace,” Lathan told me. She said she will continue to set up symposiums and such to help fighters arm themselves with knowledge. I like her style, and it is obvious she cares about the boxers, so I’m always happy to talk shop with her.

24/7 fans, the first installment of the Money/JMM show runs on June 27 at 9:30 PM, before Boxing After Dark.

—I studied Oscar at several junctures during the press conference, seeing if I could discern a hint whether he’ll fight again. When Schaefer introed Oscar, De La Hoya went to the mike. There was a tepid smattering of applause. “C’mon guys, sit down,” he said, acknowledging  the mellow reaction. Will he miss the electric buzz one gets when all eyes are on you enough to give it one more go? I say yes.

—Yes, “retirement” hasn’t softened Mayweather or his ego. He growled that he didn’t want to do more interviews with Sports Illustrated unless they put him on the cover. SI’s Chris Mannix is one of those guys that quietly does his job with zero muss or fuss, and he gracefully absorbed the vitriol. Since he doesn’t have a say in cover subjects, Money would be advised to take it up with higher ups over there. At first I didn’t know who he was referring to when I heard him ranting at the tail end of the press conference, after 40% of the press had exited, but then I realized that he’d been on the cover of ESPN Mag, and has been on any other cover that it makes sense for him to be on.

—Stay tuned for a solid video interview I did with Paulie Malignaggi. I’ll post that soon. I also have a great one of David Haye and Manny Steward I will post before the Wlad/Haye beef.

Articles of 2009

UFC 108 Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva

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Former champion Rashad Evans meets Brazil’s venerable Thiago Silva in a non-title belt that can lead to a return match with the current champ, but first things first.

Evans (15-1-1) and Silva (14-1) meet in Ultimate Fighting Championship 108 in a light heavyweight bout on Saturday Jan. 2, at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. A win by either fighter could result in a world title bid. The fight card is being shown on pay-per-view television.

Events can change quickly in the Octagon and anybody can beat anybody in the 205-pound weight division. Just ask Silva or Evans.

Silva and Evans are both experienced and can vouch firsthand about the capriciousness of fighting in MMA and especially as a light heavyweight. On one day this man can beat that man and on another day, that man can beat this man. It can make you absolutely daffy.

Evans, 30, is the former UFC light heavyweight world champion who only defended his title on one occasion and lost by vicious knockout to current champion Lyoto Machida of Brazil. It’s the only defeat on his record.

Silva, 27, is a well-rounded MMA fighter from Sao Paolo, Brazil who is versed in jujitsu, Muy Thai and boxing. He can end a fight quickly in a choke hold just as easily as with a kick or a punch. His only loss came to who else: Machida.

Evans and Silva know a win can push open the door to a rematch with current UFC light heavyweight champion Machida.

“A win against Rashad would put me in the track against Lyoto,” said Silva, in a telephone conference call. “That's what – what I want to do.”

When Silva fought Machida the two Brazilians were both undefeated and feared in the MMA world. The fight took place in Las Vegas and with one second remaining in the first round a perfectly timed punch knocked Silva unconscious.

“I was humbled big time, man,” says Silva who fought Machida in January 2009. “I learned a lot from that fight.  I think I can correct the mistakes from that fight, not overlooking anything else right now, but just I want to get the chance to fight him again.”

For Evans it was a different circumstance. The upstate New Yorker held the UFC title and was defending it after stopping then champion Forrest Griffin by knockout. Still, many felt Machida was far too technically versed. Evans was stopped brutally in the second round.

“I've made it a point to not – to not get distracted on what I want to do, because you know Thiago (Silva) is a very hungry fighter,” said Evans who has not fought since losing the title to Machida last May. “My focus is just on Thiago so much.  You know I don't want to overlook him, you know, not even a little bit.”

Dana White, president of UFC, says the winner of this fight could conceivably fight Machida in the near future. Evans and especially Silva are motivated by the open window.

“I learned a lot from that fight. I think I can correct the mistakes from that fight,” says Silva. “Not overlooking anything else right now, but I just want to get the chance to fight him again.”

What a prize. The winner gets to face the man who beat him: Machida.

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Articles of 2009

Ten Boxing Wishes For 2010

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As 2009 comes to a close, one reflects on what went well and what went wrong during the year in boxing. There were many highlights. Pacquiao vs. Cotto and Showtime’s Super Six tournament were part of the best that boxing had to offer. But there were some low points too therefore the industry has some work to do in order to keep generating fans. Here are some suggestions for 2010:

10. Better pay per view cards

Paying 40 to 50 bucks to watch the main event gets old real quick. Why do we have to sit through a horrible under-card to get to the main course? It’s like being fed spam appetizers before the Thanksgiving turkey. It seems that the pay per view promoters just don’t get it. Are they watching what they put on or do they only watch the “big fight” as everyone else is slowly being conditioned to do so?

9. Time to make Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. fight

Okay, I understand he’s the son of one of the greatest fighters that ever lived. But he’s had 42 fights against low to mid level competition and has never managed to look spectacular. It’s time to throw the 23 year old out of the nest to see if he can fly. My suggestion is a fight against Sergio Mora or maybe even Yuri Foreman. Neither of these guys can punch. They may outbox Junior but they won’t totally humiliate him.

8. No more ridiculous Pay Per View mismatches

Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Juan Manuel Marquez should’ve never been made. It was a ridiculous fight when it was announced and it was more ridiculous when it took place. Unable to bring Manny Pacquiao to the bargaining table for a third match against Juan Manuel Marquez, someone figured that pairing up the 135 pound champion against a natural 147 pounder like Mayweather would be a great idea. The pay per view generated over a million buys but the fact that millions of people were treated to an incredibly boring mismatch is what’s truly worrisome. I can guarantee you one thing about this card. The sport of boxing lost fans once the show was over and done with. Talk about short term thinking.

7. Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola shows up for a fight in amazing shape

It was painful to see Chris Arreola take a beating from the Ukrainian giant, Vitali Klitscho. The champion certainly earned his “Dr. Ironfist” moniker as he plowed his powerful shots into the former #1 WBC heavyweight contender’s face. He reddened and bloodied the young Mexican American with an assortment of weapons and foot movement seldom seen on a six foot seven inch heavyweight. Arreola was brave and unrelenting in battle. He never stopped coming forward and took chances when he could. His work in the ring at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles wasn’t the problem. Where Arreola let himself down was outside the ring. His unwillingness to condition himself into a finely tuned athlete cost him certain immortality as the first ever heavyweight champion of Mexican descent. Arreola has the heart and skills but it was his mental fortitude that broke down. Anyone who’s followed the Riverside fighter knows that his best weight is somewhere in the 230 pound range. It certainly isn’t at the 252 pounds he registered on the scale at the Staples Center.  Those fifteen to twenty extra pounds might have made all the difference in the world. Maybe he would’ve been a little quicker, maybe he could’ve sustained a faster pace in order to tire out the champion. In his most recent fight against Brian Minto, Arreola weighed in at a career high 263. It looks like “The Nightmare” isn’t willing to change for anyone. At this pace, the only nightmares he’ll be providing will be to the management of Hometown Buffets all across Riverside.  Just kidding “Nightmare”!

6. More respect for the lighter weights

Real boxing fans know that the most exciting fighters in the sport are usually found toiling in weight divisions south of 154 pounds. Pacquiao, Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez, Edwin Valero, Israel Vazquez, Juan Ma Lopez, Vic Darchinyan, Rafael Marquez and countless others have been the real driving force behind this sport. It’s those great fighters that have made boxing fanatics out of casual fans. The heavyweights may get all the money and glory but it’s the little guys who make the sport shine and it’s time they received greater compensation. It’s dismaying to think that a mediocre heavyweight can make three or four times as much as the great Rafael Marquez.

5. An American Heavyweight champion

Speaking of heavyweights, two Americans tried and failed at dethroning Vitali Klitschko this year. Both Kevin Johnson and Chris Arreola did their best to wrestle the belt away from “Dr. Klitschko” but came up short since they were easily outclassed. What happened to the great American Heavyweight? Where’s our new Joe Frazier or Ali? Even a new Gerry Cooney or a Ken Norton would do at this point. I’ve got a feeling that the only way we’re going to see an American champion is if Klitschko retires. My money is on Arreola. Although undisciplined and rough outside the ring, he’s got tons (no pun intended) of natural talent. He’s without a doubt the most talented American heavyweight on the scene.

4. More ShoBox

The Showtime Cable network gave us the best boxing on TV for the price of a cable television subscription. Their ShoBox series has been a proven hit for Senior VP of Sports Programming Ken Hershman. The concept is simple yet brilliant. Match up two up and comers with great records and let’s see what happens. Sometimes the results are surprising. Many have passed the ShoBox test and went on to bigger and better things. Others have been exposed as having padded records and eventually their careers stall and take a dive.

3. More safety in Mexico so I can attend a show without a gun battle breaking out

Having lived near the Tijuana border all my life I’m dismayed at the war zone that the city has evolved into. Every day there are reports of shootings fueled by the drug war trade. Believe it or not, there was a time when Tijuana was safe and most wouldn’t have thought twice about crossing the border for some seafood and nightlife. No more. Having covered several boxing cards on Revolucion Avenue many years ago, I got a taste of just how important the sport is to Mexican fans. It’s also important to me but not that important. For now I’ll stick to covering shows at the Pechanga Casino and in the less dangerous city of L.A. I never thought I’d say that.

2. Pac Man vs. Mayweather

This is the fight everyone wants to see. Seeing how Mayweather dominated Pac Man’s arch enemy, Juan Manuel Marquez, you have to wonder if the Filipino can handle Lil’ Floyd’s speed and size. One thing is for sure, betting against Pacquiao doesn’t usually work out for me. It never has. There’s no future in it. So if the fight gets done it’s Pacquiao by TKO in ten.

1. And finally

One final wish is reserved for all the readers of TheSweetScience.com I wish you all a healthy and happy 2010. Thank you for your continued loyalty to the site. It’s very much appreciated.

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Articles of 2009

A Very Special New Year's Day Column

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It has been just over four months since Nick Charles, the play-by-play announcer for Shobox: The New Generation, was diagnosed with stage IV bladder cancer and forced to take a medical hiatus from the monthly show that has aired since 2001.

Since then he has undergone grueling chemotherapy treatments that have resulted in him losing all of his hair as he forces himself to live as normal of a life as possible. Through sheer force of will, as well as the strength and support that he receives from his wonderfully loving family and his strong Christian faith, the 63-year-old Charles has managed to keep his weight up while not falling prey to the always lingering threats of depression, cynicism and negativity.

If one was unaware that he was battling such an insidious disease, you’d never know from talking on the phone to him that he has been to hell and back. He has lost none of the inspiring energy that has endeared him to members of the boxing community and legions of worldwide viewers.

“I’m doing great,” Charles said during a telephone conversation on December 30th. “I’ve been off the chemo for a month, and the doctors have told me that I’m 80 percent in remission. I’m going to see them again in three months. It may come back, but if it takes one year, or two years, or however long, I’m going to make the most of the good time.”

As physically and emotionally wrenching as the grim diagnosis and subsequent treatment has been, even for someone as perpetually positive as Charles, the longtime announcer said a lot of good things have come from it.

Having been married three times, Charles is the father of four children: Jason, 38, Melissa, 34, Charlotte, 22, and Giovanna, 3 ½.

While Charles is not big on regrets, he is the first to admit that he wasn’t always there for his older children. For many years he traveled the world as a CNN correspondent, often putting the demands of his career above all else, including those closest to him. Nowhere was the strain more evident than in his relationship with Melissa.

Having been divorced from Melissa’s mother since 1977, Charles said his relationship with that daughter has been especially “hot and cold, all of our lives.”

His illness has enabled them to forge a relationship that has been “based on a massive amount of forgiveness and understanding.”

“This has had a tremendous healing effect on both of us,” said Charles. “My illness has had a fortifying effect on a lot of things, the most important of which is my relationships with my family.”

That also includes his first wife, with whom he has had an often acrimonious relationship over the past three decades.

“It took a long time for the scab to become a scar, but we had lunch one day and it was so great to once again see the gentle, soft sides of each other,” he explained. “The whole divorce process creates a hardness that doesn’t always go away.”

Charles is also the grandfather to three children, some of whom are about the same age as his youngest daughter. He jokes that he has a “nuclear 21st century family” because of the similar ages of two generations of children. One of the hardest things for him has been the realization that he can’t always play with them in manner in which he would like.

“The hemoglobin is the fuel in your tank, so when it’s low you can’t will yourself to do things no matter how much you want to,” said Charles. “You can’t just sleep it off or work through it. I don’t want the kids to wonder why I can’t play in the backyard with them, or kick a soccer ball, or throw them in the air.”

Particularly difficult is when Giovanna reminds her father of how handsome he is, but then innocently asks him what happened to his hair, eyebrows and lashes.

“You try to keep things on a need to know basis, which is not easy when dealing with curious kids,” said Charles.

While Charles might look like the kind of guy that things have often come easy to, the reality is that his beginnings were far from auspicious. But, he says, his often challenging Chicago childhood blessed him with the steely resolve that has helped him so much during the arduous journey he is now on.

“I had it pretty rough growing up,” he explained. “I remember the lights and the heat being shut off and eating mustard sandwiches. I went to work at 13 and always had insecurities about the future. But I always expected and saw the best in people, so when I got sick, never once did I say 'Why me?”

Since taking a leave of absence from Shobox, the outpouring of support from the boxing community has warmed Charles’s heart. For a guy that is battling for his life, he actually considers himself fortunate to be surrounded by so much goodness in both his personal and professional lives.

“I always hear that boxing people are ruthless, but I couldn’t disagree more,” said Charles. “I’ve probably received about 1,000 e-mails, and people are always following in sending their best wishes. From the relatively unknown people in boxing to many of the more famous people, there has been an outpouring of true affection.”

Charles said that the Top Rank organization has been exceedingly kind and gracious. He was touched beyond description when he learned that officials in Oklahoma got special permission to have a seamstress sew “Keep Fighting Nick” onto their sleeves. He chokes up when talking about cut man Stitch Duran giving up an endorsement opportunity so he could put Charles’s name on his outfit. He never tires of hearing shout-outs from fighters on television.

Charles has always been a people person with an inordinate faith in the goodness of his fellow man. Battling this illness has only made his already strong faith in humanity even stronger.

“Adversity is a great teacher, and it really teaches you who your genuine friends are,” said Charles. “I have a lot of friends.”

He also has a remarkable wife, Cory, a CNN producer to whom he has been married for 11 years. She is the daughter of an electrician, a self-made woman who exudes all of the warmth of her native Brooklyn. She has reinforced her husband’s spiritual base by her love, optimism and strength of character.

“If I get down, she reminds me to not get too caught up,” said Charles. “I believe in eternity, and that has put me pretty much at peace.”

More than anything else, Charles wants to get himself back behind a microphone sooner rather than later, and hopefully on Shobox. He is the first to admit that viewers “don’t watch the series to see Nick Charles,” but he is proud of the fact that he was “part of the identity” of such a popular show.

“And people love comeback stories,” added Charles. “That’s the message I’m getting from the people out there.”

In boxing the word “champion” is often overused because it pertains only to winning belts and receiving worldwide recognition for being the best at your craft. The reality is that life’s real champions have other qualities, such as the innate ability to treat people well and always make them feel better about themselves, especially when the recipients of the goodwill are in no position to give them anything back.

By that standard of measure, Charles is as much, if not more of a champion than all of the boxers he has covered during the nine years that Shobox has been on the air.

I know I speak for scores of others when I say, “Happy New Year, Champ. We hope that you are the comeback story of the year in 2010.”

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