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Articles of 2010

MANNY-MONEY WRECKAGE: A Look Back, And A Look Forward

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We could look into the rear-view mirror, try and assess blame, figure out who dropped the ball in the second attempt to put together the superfight all of us crave, Manny vs. Money. It would have been the fight of the decade, maybe in two. Non boxing fans would have been buzzing, or at least, cognizant of it. Instead, we are left with rubble to sift through, if we choose. Or we can choose to use our time more wisely, by focusing on the future. We can try and help plot the course for Congressman Pacquiao, try and give promoter Bob Arum some free market research, help him gauge what the public wants to see.

Hey, I have an idea…how about we do a little of both? A little look back, an attempt to make some sense of the flameout that scotched the hopes for a Manny-Money clash for this year, and frankly, maybe forever. AND a look ahead, with ample input from TSS U, who collectively will offer clear-headed analysis on who Manny should fight next, and why.

First off, its looking like the court of public opinion is saying Mayweather didnt want this fight, that Manny did, that Manny made concessions, and showed good faith in trying to get er done. In fact, that isnt speculation; Floyd himself said as much to the AP two days ago, after Bob Arums Friday-at-midnight line in the sand deadline passed with Floyd choosing not to sign on the dotted line to take on Manny.

Im not interested in rushing to do anything, Mayweather told The Associated Press. Im not really thinking about boxing right now. Im just relaxing. I fought about 60 days ago, so Im just enjoying myself, enjoying life, enjoying my family and enjoying my vacation.

Nothing wrong with doing that, of course. But it would have saved us keyboard tappers some time, and energy, if he had laid this six weeks ago. This limited-in-length statement, however, leaves much open to interpretation. We dont know, because Mayweather and his team chooses to withhold comment so much, if he was thinking of boxing more a week ago, two weeks ago. Maybe he in fact was seriously entertaining the notion of fighting Pacquiao, and quieting the detractors who allege he is running scared of the Congressman. We cant know, because Floyd chooses not to do much press, as is his choice.

One thing that isnt open to interpretation is the bad blood left behind, after Arum announced that the exclusivity window to Pacman-Mayweather negotiations had ended. Mayweather advisor Leonard Ellerbe on Monday, a day after Floyd said he wasnt thinking about boxing, put Arum on blast.

Here are the facts. Al Haymon, Richard Schaefer and myself speak to each other on a regular basis and the truth is no negotiations have ever taken place nor was there ever a deal agreed upon by Team Mayweather or Floyd Mayweather to fight Manny Pacquiao on November 13. Either Ross Greenburg or Bob Arum is not telling the truth, but history tells us who is lying, Ellerbe said.

That Ellerbe went there surprised some, because Arum seemed to bend over backwards, like a Cirque du Soleil performer, to offer cover to Floyd for not accepting the Pacquiao challenge.

Right now I understand Floyd’s position – I believe his position regarding Roger, Arum said on that Saturday morning conference call which your faithful, and sleep deprived editor stayed up for, because he is a masochist. We know about this serious issue regarding Roger. I can understand Floyd delaying any plans for a future fight until there is a resolution of the Roger situation. Once you understand that, how can you jump on the guy?

To me, that was classy. Was it posturing for negotiations sake? Impossible to say. But Arum came off as a human being, understanding that Floyd indeed might be unwilling to enter into such a megafight without the input of his Uncle Roger, who is slated to face trial starting Aug. 2 for an assault charge.

Ellerbe insinuated that Arum was lying when the promoter told the press on Saturday morning that negotiations had been held. About two months ago, just after the Mayweather-Mosley fight, I got a call from Ross Greenburg, the president of HBO Sports, who asked me frankly whether myself and Manny Pacquiao wanted to do the fight against Floyd Mayweather and I assured him after talking to Manny that was the case, Arum told the press. From there I have had a couple of conversations with Ross and I laid out all the terms that would be acceptable to our side and I also informed him about the concession that Manny had made about drug testing. He got back to me in a couple of weeks and told me he had discussions with Al Haymon, representing Mayweather, and that everything looked good.

So…things get murkier here. Ellerbe tells us that Al Haymon, repping Floyd, never told Arum that things were looking good. Ellerbe tells us that when Arum said Ross for the last month has been telling me that Haymon was working very hard to get the agreement done with Floyd, that is a fabrication.

Ellerbe appears to absolve Greenburg of engaging in untruths, with his history shows line; thats a reference to the famous yesterday I was lying… Arum statement, in a jocular vein, to Bob Waters in 1981. Ellerbe affixes the target on Arum, and ups the ante considerably. He gets personal, which really cant be considered all that surprising, considering that a lawsuit helmed by Team Pacquiao is still in play, one that accuses Team Mayweather of slander for saying/insinuating that Pacquiao uses PEDs. Readers know my stance, that as long as that was in play, I thought it would be hard for a deal to get done.

Greenburg has not thus far been dragged into the mud, for comment. I requested an interview with Greenburg on Tuesday afternoon, and HBO replied that they, and he, had no comment. Greenburg is in a tough spot, because if he were inclined to bark back, and counterattack, he could ruffle feathers in the Team Mayweather camp, not an ideal situation if he chooses to continue to do business with the first or second biggest cash cow in the business. Sometimes pride must be swallowed for the greater good, or the greater additions to the bottom line…

Arum responded to the Ellerbe piledriver, to writer Lem Satterfield. This is Alice in Wonderland time. This is preposterous. Its almost like dealing with people who lost their minds. Its totally bizarre, he said. Arum said Greenburg told him not to fire back, because attempts were still being made to make the fight happen.

My take–the two sides seem a gulf apart. Evel Knievel couldnt make this jump. (Arum inside joke.) I will not and would not hold my breath that well get an 11th hour rapprochement, with the two sides kissing, and making up, and announcing that terms have been reached for Nov. 13. But..stranger things have happened. Arum and Richard Schaefer have hammered each other back and forth over the years, and been able to put that aside, for the sake of the deal.

So…what say we engage in some constructive activity, namely, help Manny pick a foe for his next fight.

Arum said on his inhumanely late call that a fight with Antonio Margarito or a rematch with Miguel Cotto are Plan B for Manny. I could deal with a Margarito fight. He was found to be a cheater, and his license was suspended in the US, so that fight would likely be in Mexico. I expect that inactivity and stress have stripped him of a goodly portion of his skills, so I think Manny would pick him apart. The public, I think, would buy this fight, since theyd overall like to see a pound of flesh extracted from MargaCheato, as some here have dubbed him. Its not as easy to make a case for Manny-Cotto II. Pacquiao had his way with Cotto when they tangled in November 2009 (TKO12), and Arum thinks the addition of Manny Steward to Team Cotto has reinvigorated the 29-year-old Puerto Rican. Enough to raise his game the 30% needed to make it even with Manny? Thats a harder sell to the public…and lets not forget, ever, that selling to the public, and getting them to part with dough, is the bottom line here. So, who else should be in the mix? Tim Bradley, who maybe possesses the biggest reserve of stamina in the sport, next to Pacquiao. Id buy that on PPV…but would non boxing fans? Id say yes, because Top Rank has no peer at selling bouts. They had a lot of people believing that Joshua Clottey was a mini-monster, ready to take down Pacquiao. How about Paul Williams, Long Tall Paul? OK, so hes not a a household name outside the hardcore sphere. Again, I refer back to the Top Rank PR machine. Bob could sell it. Not sure Freddie would like this one, with Williams reach (82 to 67 inch edge for LTP) and beard, but Id like to see it, more than I would a rematch with Cotto. And there are still scads of you who think Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny need to do it again. You have a point–of anyone, JMM has Mannys number. What about adding Andre Berto into the mix? Young, aggressive, active, owns a title at 147? Rather see him than Manny-Cotto II? While were at it, how about inviting Amir Khan up to 147, and making Freddie Roach choose his corner.

TSS U, I pass the baton to you. Please tell Top Rank who youd like to see Manny fight next. It may be too late, Arum said hed be working this week on getting a plan in place for Manny for November. But since you guys are the ones voting with your wallets, I see no reason why your input shouldnt matter.

Articles of 2010

Judah To Fight Mbuza March 5 In NJ

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Totowa, NJ – Kathy Duva, Main Events CEO, announced their promotional firm won the purse bid held at IBF headquarters in East Orange, NJ, Thursday. The bid was for the right to hold the IBF's junior welterweight title fight between Zab Judah of Brooklyn, NY and Las Vegas, and South Africa's Kaizer Mabuza.

IBF Championships Chairman, Lindsay Tucker explained, “It is a 50-50 split of the earnings between the two fighters. Kaizer is ranked No. 1 by the IBF, and Judah is No. 2. Where the fight will be held is up to the winning bidder.”

Judah (39-6, 26 KOs) is promoted by Main Events and his own firm Super Judah Promotions, and Branco Milenkovic, of South Africa, promotes Mabuza (23-6-3, 14 KOs).

Kathy Duva confirmed the fight will take place at Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, late February or early March this year as part of Main Events' Brick City Boxing Series.  (Saturday Update: the fight is March 5th, in NJ at the Pru Center. The bout will be part of a PPV card.)

“We are very happy that Zab has the opportunity to fight for the IBF Junior Welterweight title right here in New Jersey.  Winning this fight will put Zab right in the mix with the winner of Bradley-Alexander and Amir Khan.” Duva elaborated, ” Zab will work very hard to win this fight so that he will be one step closer to his ultimate goal of unifying all of the Junior Welterweight titles by the end of 2011!”

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Articles of 2010

UFC 125 Preview: Frankie Edgar Vs. Gray Maynard

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Few predicted Frankie Edgar would grab the UFC lightweight championship last year but he did. Most felt he would eventually win it but Edgar not only took the title, he beat one of the best mixed martial artists in history to do it.

Edgar (13-1) has emerged from the milieu of nondescript MMA fighters to become one of the more brilliant performers for Ultimate Fighting Championship. Next comes a rematch with Gray “The Bully” Maynard (11-0) tomorrow at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas. UFC 125 will be televised on pay-per-view.

All it took was not one, but two victories over BJ Penn.

If you’re not familiar with Penn, he’s one of the most versatile fighters in MMA history and had been nearly unbeatable in the 155-pound lightweight division. That is until he clashed with Edgar. Until he met New Jersey’s Edgar, the Hawaiian fighter chopped down lightweight opponents with ease. It was only the heavier welterweights he had problems against. Namely: Canada’s Georges St. Pierre.

Edgar showed poise, speed and grit in defeating Penn in back-to-back fights. The world took notice.

“You know, if I keep winning fights, the respect will come eventually,” said Edgar during a conference call.

Now Edgar will find out if he can avenge the only loss on his record.

“I just think I grew as a fighter. You know, mentally, you know, physically I, you know, possess differently skills, increased – you know, I think I boxed and got better, my Jiu-Jitsu got better and, you know, just have much more experience now,” Edgar says.

Maynard seeks to find out if Edgar has added any more fighting tools to his repertoire. Back in April 2008, the artillery shelled out was not enough to beat the Las Vegas fighter.

“It’s a perfect time. He had the chance and, you know, he took it and the time is now for me and I’m prepared,” said Maynard (11-0). “Any time you’re going up against the top in the world, you evolve and change and so I’m prepared for a new fight, so it will be good. I’m pumped for it.”

Though Maynard’s record indicates he is unbeaten that’s not entirely true. He did suffer a defeat to Nate Diaz during The Ultimate Fighter series and subsequently avenged that loss last January.

The UFC lightweight title is in Maynard’s bull’s eye.

“Looking to take the belt for sure,” said Maynard. “We’ll see on January 1.”

Edgar versus Maynard should be a good one.

Other bouts:

Nate Diaz (13-5) faces Dong Hyun Kim (13-0-1) in another welterweight tussle. Diaz is the only fighter with a win over Maynard. Anyone watching TUF remembers Maynard tapping out from a Diaz guillotine choke. The Modesto fighter has a tough fight against South Korea’s Kim.

Chris Leben (21-6) fights Brian Stann (9-3) in a middleweight fight. Leben is a veteran of MMA and if an opponent is not ready for a rough and tumble fight, well, that fighter is not going to win. Stann dropped down from light heavyweight and we’ll see if the cut in weight benefits the Marine.

Brandon Vera (11-5) meets Thiago Silva (14-2) in a light heavyweight match up. Vera is trying to rally back to the promising fighter he was tabbed several years back. Silva is a very tough customer and eager to crash the elite. A victory by either fighter could mean a ticket to the big time.

Clay Guida (27-8) versus Takanori Gomi (32-6) in a lightweight bout. Guida has become one of the most feared fighters without a title. No one has an easy time with the long-haired fighter. Gomi lost to Kenny Florian but knocked out Tyson Griffin. Can he survive Guida?

Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis (22-8) clashes with Jeremy Stephens (18-6) in another lightweight fight. Davis is a go-for-broke kind of fighter and is looking to get back in the win column after a tumultuous battle with Nate Diaz last August. Stephens needs a win too. In his last bout he lost to Melvin Guillard.

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Articles of 2010

Borges Looks Back, And Forward With Hope

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As the end of another year approaches, there’s no need to invoke Charles Dickens to describe what went on in boxing. It was neither the best of times nor the worst of times. It was just too much time spent on The Fight That Never Took Place.

For the second straight year the sport could not deliver The Fight, the only one fans universally wanted and even casual fans craved – the mix between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao.  No one has to be singled out for blame for that failure because this time there’s plenty to go around on both sides. The larger issue is what does it say about a sport when it cannot deliver its top event?

What would the NFL be without the Super Bowl? Where would major league baseball be without the World Series? Golf without the Masters? College basketball without March Madness?

They would all be less than they could be and so it was with boxing this year. Having said that, the sport was not without its signature moments. It was not bereft of nights that left those of us with an abiding (and often unrequited) love for prize fighting with good reason to hope for the future.

Three times promoter Bob Arum took the sport into massive stadium venues just like the good (very) old days and each time boxing drew a far larger crowd than its many critics expected. Twice those fights involved the sport’s leading ambassador, Pacquiao, who brought in crowds of 40,000 to 50,000 fans into Cowboys Stadium against inferior opponents Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito. Imagine what he might have done had Mayweather been in the opposite corner?

While both fights were, as expected, lopsided affairs, they showcased the one boxer who has transcended his sport’s confining walls to become a cultural icon and world celebrity. Pacquiao alone put boxing (or at least one boxer) on the cover of TIME and into the pages of such varied publications as Esquire, GQ, The Wall Street Journal, the American Airlines in-flight magazine and even Atlantic Monthly.

As history has proven time and again, that is what happens when boxing has a compelling personality to sell it and Pacquiao is that. Mayweather is such a person as well,  but for different reasons.

The one night he appeared in a boxing ring, he set the year’s pay-per-view standard against Shane Mosley while also leaving a first hint of dark mystery when he was staggered by two stinging right hands in the second round.

Mayweather was momentarily in trouble for the first time in his career but the moment passed quickly and Mosley never had another. By the end he had been made to look old and futile, a faded athlete who’d had his chance and was unable to do anything with it. So it goes in this harsh sport when the sands are running out of the hour glass.

As always there were some surprising upsets, most notably Jason Litzau’s domination of an uninterested and out of shape Celestino Caballero and Sergio Martinez’s one-punch demolishment of Paul Williams. The latter was not so much an upset as it was a stunning reminder that when someone makes a mistake against a highly skilled opponent in this sport they don’t end up embarrassed. They end up unconscious.

SHOWTIME did all it could to further the future of the sport, offering up a continuation of its interminably long but still bold Super Six super middleweight tournament as well as the launching of a short form bantamweight tournament which already gave fans to two stirring and surprising finishes with Joseph Agbeko decisioning Jhonny Perez and Abner Mares upsetting Victor Darchinyan in a battle of contusions.

While the Super Six has had its problems – including several of the original six pulling out – it also lifted the profile of former Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward from nearly unknown to the cusp of universal recognized as the best super middleweight in the world this side of Lucian Bute. If Ward continues winning he’ll get to Bute soon enough because that’s why SHOWTIME signed a TV deal with the Canadian and America may get its next boxing star if Ward proves to be what I think he is – which is still underrated and underappreciated.

HBO and HBO pay-per-view put on 23 shows, few of them compelling and many of them paying big money to the wrong people while doing little or nothing to grow the sport that has helped make their network rich. But they did have the knockout of the year – Martinez’s second round destruction of Williams – and some fights in the lower weight classes that were left you wanting more.

Two new names popped up who are causing the kind of fan reaction that also gives us hope for 2011 – American Brandon Rios and Mexican Saul Alvarez. They are two of the sport’s brightest young prospects because each comes to the arena the old-fashioned way – carrying nothing but bad intentions.
Aggression and knockouts still sell boxing faster than anything else and each exhibited plenty of both this year and left fans wanting to see more. Alvarez is already a star in Mexico without having yet won a world title and Rios is the definition of “promise.’’ Whether the star will continue to shine and promise will be fulfilled may be answered next year and so we wait anxiously to find out.

Backed by Golden Boy Promotions, there is no reason 2011 shouldn’t be Alvarez’s year and if it is people will notice and remember him because he has a crowd-pleasing style that is all about what sells most.

That is what boxing needs more of – fresh faces and new stars… so as fans we should root for guys like Alvarez, Ward, Rios and young Brit Amir Khan, who is a star in England but still a question mark with a questionable chin but a fighter’s heart here in the U.S.

Those guys and others not yet as well known are the future of boxing, a sport that for too long has been recycling the likes of Mosley (as it will again in May for one last beating against Pacquiao in a fight that's a joke), Bernard Hopkins (who can still fight although it is unclear why he bothers or where it’s all headed), Roy Jones and, sadly, even 48-year-old Evander Holyfield, who continues to delude himself but not many other people into believing he will soon unify the heavyweight title again.
If fighters like Ward, Alvarez, Rios, Khan, WBC welterweight champion Andre Berto and middleweight king Sergio Martinez continue their rise they could be the antidote for the art of the retread that Arum and Golden Boy have been forcing fans to buy the past few years at the expense of what boxing needs most – fresh faces.

The heavyweight division, which many believe determines the relevancy of boxing to the larger world, remains a vast desert of disinterest here in the US. The Klitschko brothers, Vitali and Wladimir, hold 75 per cent of the title belts but few peoples’ imaginations in the US, although to be fair they are European superstars and don’t really need U.S. cable TV money to thrive economically.

Each defended their titles twice this year, Vitali against lame competition (Albert Sosnowski and Shannon Briggs) and Wladimir against better fighters (Sam Peter and Eddie Chambers) but not competitive ones. Sadly, there is no American on the horizon to challenge them, a comment on the division and on our country, where the athletes who used to be Joe Louis or Muhammad Ali now opt for the easier and frankly safer road of the NFL or the NBA. Who can blame them considering all the nonsense a fighter has to go through to just make a living these days?

The one heavyweight match that would be compelling and might lift the sport up for at least a night would be either of the Klitschkos facing lippy WBA champion David Haye. The fast-talking Brit claims to not be ducking them but he’s had more maladies befall him after shouting from the rooftops how much he wants to challenge them that you have to wonder if Haye is simply a case of big hat no cattle syndrome.

For the sake of the sport, we should all be lighting candles each night in hopes our prayers will be answered and Haye will finally agree to meet one of them. It may not prove to be much of a fight but at least it will give us something to talk about for a few months.

Whatever Haye and the Klitschkos decide the fighter with the most upside at the moment however seems to be Sergio Martinez.  He has matinee idol looks, a big enough punch to put Paul Williams to sleep with one shot and a work ethic second to none. The Argentine fighter had a year for himself, starting with a drubbing of Kelly Pavlik followed by his demolishment of Williams. Those kinds of victories, coupled with his Oscar De La Hoya-like looks, are the type of things that if HBO or SHOWTIME would get behind him could allow Martinez to capture the attention of both fight fans and more casual ones.

In general, Hispanics fighters continued to dominate much of the sport’s front pages with Juan Manuel Marquez’s two victories in lightweight title fights leading that storyline. His war with Michael Katsidis is a strong candidate for Fight of the Year and his technical skill and calm demeanor make him the uncrowned challenger to Pacquiao. The two have unfinished business that should be settled this year if Arum stops standing in the way.

Two other fighters who gave us moments to remember in 2010 were Juan Manuel Lopez, who knocked out three solid opponents including highly respected Mexican warrior Rafael Marquez, and Giovani Segura, who won four times (that’s three years work for Mayweather) in 2010, all by knockout. Along the way, Segura defeated one of the great minimum weight fighters in history, slick Ivan Calderon, to win the belt on Aug. 28.

Lastly, boxing gave us another magical cinematic moment as well with the release of “The Fighter,’’ a film based on the life and hard times of junior welterweight scrapper Micky Ward. The film has won rave reviews and many awards and seems likely to have several of its actors nominated for Academy Awards, most notable Christian Bale for his sadly humorous portrayal of Ward’s troubled half brother, former fighter Dickie Ecklund.

Boxing has a long history of providing the framework for memorable movies and it did it again with “The Fighter,’’ a film that did more for boxing than any promoter did all year.

All in all, it wasn’t the best of years for boxing but it was a good year that picked up speed in the final months and, like that great golf shot you finally hit out of the rough on the 18th, left us with reasons to hope for a better year in 2011. If somehow it gives us Mayweather-Pacquiao, the emergence of Alvarez and Rios, the ascension of Martinez and Haye vs. the best available Klitschko in addition to the kind of solid performances that always come along, it could be a year to remember.

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