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Articles of 2009

If Mayweather Is Smart, He'll Fight Pacquiao NOW

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This past Saturday two big events unfolded that will more than likely affect the boxing landscape in the junior welterweight and welterweight divisions for the remainder of 2009. The first being the Floyd Mayweather versus Juan Manuel Marquez bout to be fought at a catch-weight limit of 144 was postponed due to Mayweather suffering a rib injury during training last week. A few hours after the press release for that went out, Miguel Cotto scored a 12-round split decision victory over Joshua Clottey to retain his WBO welterweight.

Ever since Mayweather announced he was coming out of retirement 16 months after his last fight, a fews hours before Manny Pacquiao stopped Ricky Hatton in the second round to capture the IBO junior welterweight title, it's been widely accepted that a Pacquiao 49-3-2 (37 KOs) vs. Mayweather 39-0 (25 KOs) bout is the biggest fight in boxing. All Mayweather had to do was get past Marquez on July 18th. Assuming Mayweather got past Marquez all that would've remained to make the fight a reality were the fighters agreeing on the purse splits each would net from the fight. That no doubt would've been tougher than the fight they'd most likely deliver.

With both fighters being hell bent on a 60/40 split in their favor, it was hard to see either one conceding since both whole heartedly believe they're entitled to the bigger piece of the pie. And it's easy to see why they felt that way with Mayweather being undefeated and thought to have been the best pound-for-pound fighter in boxing when he retired, a title Pacquiao has earned since Mayweather's contrived retirement. Not only has Pacquiao succeeded Mayweather as the top fighter in boxing at the moment, he's also the biggest draw in the sport, a claim that Floyd has never been able to support. Regardless whether someone is a Mayweather fan or so-called hater, that's the truth.

All one needs to do is ask themself what's a bigger fight — Pacquiao vs. Cotto/Mosley/ Margarito or Mayweather vs. Cotto/Mosley/Margarito? The inescapable answer is it's Pacquiao who can deliver bigger PPV dollars fighting anyone of the other three, not Mayweather. And the reason for that is Pacquiao's fights are always exciting and action packed. Whereas Mayweather is more of a technician who takes the bullets out of his opponents’ guns instead of engaging them in a shoot out. Boxing fans enjoy seeing skilled fighters who are explosive more than they do skilled craftsmen. That's not Mayweather's fault it's just the way it is.

The truth is Pacquiao holds all the cards regarding the purse split. Add to that Miguel Cotto is now the leader in the fight Manny Pacquiao sweepstakes coupled with Mayweather's fight with Marquez not even rescheduled yet — Floyd is beginning to lose bargaining chips that he never really held. Which I'm sure hasn't gone unnoticed by Pacquiao and his promoter Bob Arum. That's why we'll probably start to see the hype for Pacquiao-Cotto begin to escalate, with the intent being to bring Mayweather to his senses and agree to a 60/40 or possibly a 57/43 purse split.

With Arum controlling the money it's hard to fathom that he really wants Pacquiao tying up with Cotto or Mosley, at least before he fights Mayweather, for one obvious reason. That being there's too much guaranteed money to chance. Physically, Pacquiao is in much deeper water fighting Cotto or Mosley than he is Mayweather. That’s something that the avid Pacquiao faction might dispute, but then they'd probably see him as the favorite over anyone up to junior middleweight with the exception of Paul Williams.

That said, Cotto and Mosley have a much better chance of beating up and embarrassing Pacquiao than Mayweather does. In a fight with Cotto and especially Mosley, it's not a given that Manny's power would overwhelm them. And if he can't hold them off there's a real chance they could work him over pretty good, assuming they're not dead at the weight. However, if Pacquiao fights Mayweather it's doubtful he'll get stopped or take a beating. The more likely scenario is Mayweather will move away and look to box and counter Pacquiao as he presses forward. And there's no doubt about the fact that if the fight happens, Manny will have to go to Floyd because that's how he fights every opponent.

Mayweather should take a page out of Sugar Ray Leonard's playbook when he fought Marvin Hagler. And that's fight Pacquiao with no tune up fight like Leonard, who was coming off a much longer layoff than Floyd is, when he fought Hagler. Not only does it give him a convenient excuse if he loses, as it would've Leonard, but if he wins it makes it that much more satisfying and special.

Another reason why Mayweather should go straight to Pacquiao is — what does he do if Pacquiao ends up fighting and beating Cotto? Not only does it take Cotto off the table for a future fight, but it gives Pacquiao even more bargaining power. Think about it. If Mayweather beats Marquez in September or October, if they even fight, and Pacquiao beats Cotto in November, not only does Mayweather have one less opponent to make a big fight with, but he loses even more power to negotiate for a purse split.

Then again maybe he could fight Shane Mosley, as he mentioned to Brian Kenny during their back-and-forth last month, who has five losses? Sure, that makes sense. Now fight Mosley when the risk/reward factor has never been more out of balance! No, I don't think so. If there's one thing Floyd Mayweather has shown beyond a doubt during his terrific career,  it's that he's just too smart to take a fight with so much to lose and little to gain against such a formidable and dangerous opponent.

When all is said and done there's just no getting around it that Pacquiao-Mayweather should happen this coming November. The only way for that to happen is for Mayweather to come back to reality and try to raise Arum/Pacquiao as much as he can to increase his percentage above the 60/40 split they offered, something that can probably be achieved because Arum and Pacquiao would rather walk away with 57% of Manny's biggest payday instead of holding out for 60% and risk the fight never being realized due to unforeseen events. It's boxing and Arum has been involved in it since Cassius Clay arrived on the scene. So he knows there's no guarantee that Pacquiao beats Cotto or that maybe Mayweather's body doesn't betray him in a future fight.

As far as Mayweather there's no other viable option. Since his pro debut Floyd's career has been brilliantly managed. That said he's never been a box office draw. In the three high profile fights of his career he was at the short end of the purse split versus Arturo Gatti and Oscar De La Hoya. Only against Ricky Hatton did he garner the bigger percent. Yet the fight was a big PPV attraction because of the fact that Hatton drew from an entire country, something Mayweather likes to say about Spanish and Mexican fighters. Pacquiao wasn't the draw versus De La Hoya and split the purse with Hatton, but he won both of those fights impressively and that's why he's the top attraction in boxing as of this writing.

Most sophisticated boxing observers know that Mayweather's retirement was orchestrated and planned. The intent was to give him a rest and infuse interest in him for a comeback bout, on top of aiding him in avoiding competitive fights in boxing’s most competitive division in which he fought, welterweight. The problem turned out to be that Pacquiao came along and defeated his two biggest name opponents, De La Hoya and Hatton, much more convincingly than he did. That isn't necessarily the be-all end-all, but it is to the boxing fans who put their money where their mouth is that buy PPV fights. That's why Pacquiao can call the shots.

So for the first time in his career Mayweather may have miscalculated and in a big way. The only thing left for him to do is realize that to become the man again in boxing he must fight Pacquiao this coming fall. Beating him would give Mayweather leverage if there's a rematch, something that's very plausible since if he did win it would most likely be by decision. On the other hand if he loses a close fight he can say he should've taken a tune up and may get a rematch.

If Floyd Mayweather is smart, he'll go straight to Pacquiao. Better do it soon, because the LA Times reports that Pacquiao and Cotto are in negotiations for a November match.

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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