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Articles of 2009

Kenny Missed Some Openings, But Mayweather Didn't

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Floyd Mayweather Jr. is showing to be Ali-like in one sense since coming out of his scripted retirement. That is, he provides those who follow and love boxing plenty of content. It appears Mayweather may have created his own brand–in sparking debate among fans, fighters and writers as to just how great he is or isn't. One thing's for sure, not only is Mayweather one of the smartest fighters of his era inside the ring, he's just as smart outside of it. While retired he was all but forgotten. Since his return he's dominated the scene like he never did before. And as long as he's out doing interviews and talking about his upcoming fights, it'll be written about here.

The things I mention below as to what could've been asked came to my mind as I was watching the Brian Kenny/Floyd Mayweather interview from last week. This isn't a case of Monday morning quarterbacking. I acknowledge and respect both Brian Kenny and Floyd Mayweather Jr. as professionals. That said,  I'm an opinion writer and they're both in the public eye. Below are my thoughts and observations as to the interview they recently conducted.

Last week during the Mayweather-Marquez satellite press tour, Mayweather was interviewed by ESPN's Kenny. The interview got off to a rough start when Kenny accurately introduced Mayweather as the former number one pound for pound fighter in boxing,  to which Mayweather took exception. This illustrated how insecure Floyd is when confronted with certain truths regarding how he's perceived among his critics in the boxing community.

Mayweather started off by admonishing Brian Kenny's opinion and questions, because Kenny has never laced up boxing gloves. (Ed. Note: Kenny in fact trained at Cus D’Amato’s gym for five years.) Which was an obvious cheap shot. I fought for seven years and was in training camp working with fighters the likes of Michael Spinks, Dwight Muhammad Qawi and Bennie Briscoe among many others. No doubt having fought gives you an added dimension that those who never did can't possibly have, but it doesn't take a fighter to observe that Mayweather has avoided the biggest challenges to him in his division. It only requires someone who's an informed observer that follows boxing. Some of the most insightful boxing minds I know belong to guys who never fought or trained as a fighter. The reality is most fighters only care about what's going on with and around them. So Mayweather's juvenile tactic came off pretty lame.

During the interview Mayweather was defensive and appeared to be looking for a war of words in order to divert attention from the legitimate questions Kenny was attempting to ask regarding who he's fighting. Watching the interview it struck me –had Brian Kenny been interviewing greats such as Alexis Arguello, Roberto Duran, Julio Cesar Chavez, Aaron Pryor, Sugar Ray Leonard or Thomas Hearns those same type assertions never could've been made. Instead of trying to find out if they were going to fight the best and most dangerous fighter out there, it would've been conducted from the perspective of when and where.

The surprising thing to me was Kenny, who follows boxing and isn't awed or intimidated by Floyd, missed some obvious openings that would've enabled him to expose Floyd for who he is. Granted, I know interviewing a guy like Mayweather is a difficult thing to do when he's already pre-determined that facts and actuality have no place in his world. It was just frustrating to see Floyd given the latitude of using his verbosity to dance around the substantive issues.

Some of the things that stuck out:

One thing Kenny nailed was saying, “Floyd, you got full credit for both of those wins, (De La Hoya and Hatton) that's why you became a superstar.” Yes, I couldn't agree more, Floyd Mayweather wasn't considered the face of boxing until he beat a part-time fighter/promoter (De La Hoya) along with an undefeated junior welterweight (Hatton) who he fought at welterweight.

However, I think Kenny could've addressed Mayweather's typical bravado and subterfuge better. I would've mentioned because Floyd kept bringing up his victory over Oscar De La Hoya, that maybe Pacquiao beat him when he was an empty package, but Shane Mosley took him apart more convincingly than you seven years earlier.

Mayweather said, “I'm too big for Marquez but I'm not too big for Pacquiao. Which one is it?” Kenny said that Pacquiao was 130 pounds and keeps moving up and whacking guys, he gets full credit. I would've retorted that Pacquiao won his first title weighing 111.75 pounds as a flyweight, four divisions and twenty pounds below Mayweather, who weighed 131 in his pro-debut. Instead, he let Floyd say he's moved up from weighing 125 pounds, which is outright dishonest.

Mayweather also asked Kenny, “Has Pacquiao been out-boxed by Erik Morales?” To which he responded yes. But he also could've suggested to Floyd that if he out-boxes Pacquiao maybe it shouldn't be considered such a feat since Morales was on the decline and fought Manny closer to his more natural weight when he did it.

Soon after that Floyd said he doesn't fight for bragging rights, in order to suggest why he doesn't need to fight Shane Mosley. Then he was reminded by Kenny that Mosley is the welterweight champion. This prompted Mayweather to mention Mosley has five losses and Shane isn't a PPV attraction. If there was ever an opening for a follow up it was there.

Kenny could've taken Floyd apart by saying ‘You challenged Winky Wright in 2005 and made demands that were unrealistic so the fight couldn't be made. Mosley had no trepidation fighting Winky twice. You never fought anyone close to a Vernon Forrest who was undefeated and thought to be a later generation version of Thomas Hearns when Mosley fought him — twice. As far as Cotto, Mosley fought him on even terms just as some think you did Jose Luis Castillo the first time. On top of that Mosley fought a Cotto, you turned a deaf ear to him when he was undefeated and hadn't yet endured a beating from Antonio Margarito.’

He could've gone on and said, ‘Floyd, if you fought every fighter Mosley did, how many losses would you have? Conversely, if Mosley fought every fighter you have  would it be fair to say he'd be undefeated too?’ And regarding PPV, Kenny could've reminded him De La Hoya was the draw and took home $45 million when he fought Mayweather, Floyd netted $20 million and let’s see when Floyd next grosses $45 million for a fight, like Oscar. Lastly, Ricky Hatton was the draw because he brought half the UK with him when they fought. Did it occur to him to say Floyd, ‘You're a big draw as long as Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton are your opponents.’

Later in the interview Mayweather spewed how Cotto beat Mosley, Margarito beat Cotto and Mosley beat Margarito, going on to say all these guys are beating each other but none have beaten me. Right here is where I believe Brian Kenny could've obliterated Floyd Mayweather but choose not to. I would've said, “Floyd, you haven't fought one of those three opposed to them fighting each other. Of course they haven't beaten you, but neither have you beaten them. There's a perception out there that you turned a deaf ear when they called you out, yet you heard and responded to Juan Manuel Marquez?”

Then Mayweather had the gall to say he never ducked or dodged any fighter. And in Kenny's defense he tried to pin him down to who he'll fight after Marquez, to no avail. And in sticking to form Floyd once again danced around it and mentioned how he has an issue with Bob Arum that may prevent the fight with Manny Pacquiao.

The only thing the ESPN interview accomplished is the fact that Floyd Mayweather Jr. is comfortable in the role of playing the bad guy for at least his upcoming fight and most likely the one after that. Due to the fallout from Mayweather's interview, Brian Kenny did a short interview with Shane Mosley on ESPN Friday Night Fights. Did anyone besides myself notice the respect Mosley commanded because of what he's accomplished in the ring with his fists. This is opposed to Mayweather, who clearly showed he's not as secure in his career accomplishments as Mosley is his.

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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