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Articles of 2009

Top Level Trainers Wonder If Layoff Will Hurt Floyd

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THE IMMINENT RETURN OF FLOYD MAYWEATHER AGAINST JUAN MANUEL MARQUEZ ON SEPTEMBER 19 AT MGM GRAND IN LAS VEGAS

LIVE ON HBO PAY-PER-VIEW®

LINKED TO OTHER GREAT COMEBACK ATTEMPTS

Legendary Trainers Dundee, Steward, Roach, McGirt and Mayweather

Weigh in on The Six-Time Champion’s Chances for Success

Las Vegas (September 8) – It’s the year of the sports comeback with Tiger Woods, Pedro Martinez, Roger Federer, and Tom Brady all coming back to their respective sports in attempts to reclaim their places in sports history. Joining the roster is Floyd “Money” Mayweather, already a six-time world championship in five weight divisions, coming back to the sweet science, after a nearly two-year layoff against five-time world champion in three weight divisions Juan Manuel “Dinamita” Marquez on Saturday, September 19 at MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The bout will be produced and distributed live on HBO Pay-Per-View® beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.

Historically, boxing has a long list of notable fighters who have made comeback attempts including Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and George Foreman. Mayweather instantly joins these ranks with his fight against Marquez.  Below is a list (in alphabetical order) of some of the legendary fighters who attempted, successfully or unsuccessfully, to make career comebacks.

Also, legendary trainers Angelo Dundee, Emanuel Steward, Freddie Roach, Buddy McGirt and Mayweather’s own trainer Roger Mayweather weigh-in on comebacks and Mayweather’s return.

BOXING’S GREATEST (AND NOT SO GREAT) COMEBACK ATTEMPTS

Muhammad Ali—Exiled from ring from 1967-1970, Ali returned to reclaim the heavyweight title twice in both 1974 and 1978, winning the last fight of his career against Leon Spinks.

Alexis Arguello—Following his retirement 1986, Arguello came back for two bouts, beating Jorge Palomares in 1994 and Scott Walker 1995.

Riddick Bowe—Bowe retired in 1996 following his second win (DSQ) over Andrew Golota.  He returned to the ring for three unimpressive wins between 2004-2008.

George Foreman—Retired in 1977 following his loss to Jimmy Young.  Foreman returned in 1987 and seven years later, in 1994, captured the heavyweight title via a tenth round KO over Michael Moorer, in what is widely revered as one of the greatest performances by an athlete over the age of 40.  Foreman officially retired in 1997 following a decision loss to Shannon Briggs.

Thomas “Hitman” Hearns—Following a loss in 2000 via TKO against Uriah Grant, Hearns did not fight again until five years later, going 2-0 against John Long and Shannon Landberg, both by TKO.

Benny Leonard—Retired in 1924, but returned to the ring in 1931 and won 18 of his 20 comeback fights before retiring for good after fighting 16 times in 1932, losing only his final bout that year.

Sugar Ray Leonard—Leonard retired following detached retina surgery in 1982, but came back in 1984 to defeat Kevin Howard only to retired again.  Returning in 1987, Leonard fought middleweight champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler and won via a 12-round split decision.  After his retirement following a 1991 loss to Terry Norris, he came back for one more bout against Hector Camacho, losing by TKO in the 5th round of their 1997 bout.

Joe Louis—Retired in 1948 after stopping Jersey Joe Walcott in 11 rounds.  Two years later, Louis came back and lost to Ezzard Charles over 15 rounds in a world title fight, but went on to win eight in a row before losing to Rocky Marciano in 1951 and retiring for good.

Sugar Ray Robinson—Retired following his 1952 light heavyweight title loss to Joey Maxim.  He then became an entertainer, lost all of his money and came back in 1955 to regain the middleweight title three more times before retiring for good in 1965.

Max Schmeling—Retired in 1939 after beating Adolf Hauser, but came back in 1947, fighting five fights and going 3-2.

Mike Tyson—Inactive from 1991 to 1995, Tyson returned to the ring in 1995 and regained WBC and WBA versions of heavyweight title in 1996 against Frank Bruno and Bruce Sheldon respectively.  He retired for good in 2005 following a sixth round TKO loss to Kevin McBride.

Tony Zale—Following a loss to Billy Conn in 1942, Zale went into the service.  He came back in 1946, fighting six times before engaging in an epic trilogy with Hall Of Fame fighter Rocky Graziano over two years in which he won, lost and then regained the middleweight title.  Zale retired for good in 1948 following a loss to Marcel Cerden.

TRAINERS WEIGH-IN ON COMEBACKS AND MAYWEATHER’S RETURN

Roger Mayweather

“Well I know one thing about layoffs and I know about fighters. If a fighter got skills – the greatest fighters in the world where people don't even know had layoffs. What did you think Sugar Ray Leonard had? He had a five and a half year layoff. He had two eye detached retina surgeries, right. But he still beat the greatest middleweight. He beat Marvin Hagler when he was laid off five and a half years. When Sugar Ray Robinson was laid off three years, that’s the greatest fighter on the globe. Muhammad Ali was laid off three years.

“So Floyd ain't going to be the only guy that’s been laid off in boxing. Most of the great guys – great fighters have something in common. They were all laid off anyway.  All of them who were good, what they called great, they all had layoffs and they all still had spectacular performance when they fought. So guy keeps asking about how you laid off, when you laid off. Fights are won by skill. That’s all there is to it.”

Angelo Dundee

“There is nothing more intricate than fighters.  They are all different.  You never know what effect a layoff is going to have.  Ray Leonard, I knew he was always staying in shape, like basketball, other sports, he was very athletic so the layoff didn’t bother him in the Hagler fight.  He was in great physical condition…but being in the ring, it’s a different feel.  Being in shape is not enough for a fighter.  Being in the gym is not enough.  You need to be in the action.  There is no substitute for a fight.  Marquez has been a little busier than him (Mayweather), and the question mark is going to make this fight a good attraction.”

“Ray used to do a variety of things to stay in shape.  Ali was a whole different physical effort and Foreman didn’t train in gym.  He did roadwork and calisthenics, that’s where he put in most of his work.  All fighters are different…Foreman knew how to train for a guy his age.  When you get older, you can’t put in the effort like you did when you were a kid.  You need to leave something in the tank.  Will he overdo it in training?  So there are many question marks in a comeback.”

“Fighters come back for the glow.  There is the spotlight, and there is the dark, and there is no in between. You miss the glow. That feeling is the ultimate feeling.”

“Mayweather is just that great of a fighter.  He’s smart, slick, and knows how to use the ring.  He’s going to have a tough fight on his hands, but he should be able to overcome.  You take what you got and you utilize it.  When the bell rings, you’re going to see who the best fighter is.  Floyd will have to beat a good Marquez.”

Emanuel Steward

“Fighters come back because they still have a lot of fights still left in them.  They don’t realize it.  Many have been doing it since they were eight, nine, ten years old, and they miss it.  Fighters like Floyd Mayweather and Muhammad Ali have a tremendous love for boxing which they don’t realize until they walk away.”

“I think Floyd’s going to look spectacular on September 19.  Historically, guys of his caliber; crafty, skilled fighters, they come back good.  Some guys, when they quit boxing, they are partying, but when Ali came back he was unbelievably sharp and looked splendid…The Leonard’s, Ali’s, I would put Floyd in that class, they never lost the love of the sport.  They are different types of fighters that never left the sport spiritually or physically.”

“Floyd is a brilliant boxing mind, just like Ali.  The top fighters, they don’t have a lack of confidence.  Layoffs do some fighters good…the time away heals the body up.”

Freddie Roach

“Sometimes a break can be good for a fighter.  Time can make you hungrier and give you a spark. But it can affect you in positive and negative ways…Mentally, it is a factor.  You’re away from the sport and enjoying life, and its not conducive to a boxer’s life…A gym is a gym and a fight is a fight, and you can say you’ll get ready with sparring partners, but there is no place like a fight.  You’ll just never know until fight night.”

Buddy McGirt

“I don’t think the layoff is going to affect Mayweather.  He’s a natural fighter.  He’s picked a real tough guy to come back against, but I don’t think he will have any problem on fight night…He was staying busy, and sometimes you need the break to get away, and to get it together…I think is going to be a very good fight.  Marquez is a very good fighter.  He’s a warrior.”

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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