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The Heavyweight Bogeyman

Matt McGrain



When a heavyweight is defeated in the manner that undisputed heavyweight #1 Wladimir Klitschko defeated Alexander Povetkin at the end of 2013, he usually has the good grace to disappear.

Ernie Terrell went 7-4 after Ali spent fifteen rounds turning his face into luncheon meat in their infamous “what’s my name!” encounter from 1967; behind the hideous beating he absorbed against a furious Rocky Marciano in their 1953 rematch, the excellent Roland LaStarza managed just 3-4 before hanging them up for good.

It is physical, yes.

Professional athletes of this standard, whether they are a surgeon of Ali’s calibre or a cannonball of Marciano’s density, do damage. They shift organs. They grind bone. But it is also psychological. Fighters, in reaching the summit of their personal Everest only to be confronted by an animal so in excess of their own evolutionary prism that they are, in essence, chanceless, perhaps don’t want to climb again. Every blow absorbed, every meal missed, every first step taken by a toddler to whom the fighter is a stranger, is for a reason in the beginning – The Title, The Title, but when The Title seems no longer a possibility it becomes easier to stay down, to clinch instead of punch, to run instead of box. Terrell and LaStarza found the end of their string in the ring of the dominant champion that bloodied their respective eras, and with that string providing a definitive measurement of their abilities, certain realities had to be accepted.

Yesterday in Moscow, Povetkin reversed this trend, finalising his rehabilitation with a sensational first round knockout over #10 heavyweight Mike Perez.

Perez is an impressive scalp almost regardless of circumstances. A superb body-puncher capable of deploying a high workrate (when he’s in the mood), Perez is a rarity in the modern heavyweight division on two different scores and his technical gifts and counter-punching ability certainly put him in the “handful for anyone” category despite certain doubts concerning his temperament (and his commitment to training). These doubts deepened after the injury tragically inflicted upon Magomed Abdusalamov by Perez during their rousing 2013 encounter in New York. In the wake of this contest, doubts surrounding Perez’s already questionable temperament deepened, but he was desperately unlucky against Bryant Jennings the following summer, missing out on a draw by virtue only of a point deduction in the final round. Jennings had been pushed to the absolute brink by a more talented fighter who could not match his athleticism. That said, Jennings adapted superbly, eschewing his reach advantage to come inside and make a fight of it after being cleanly out-boxed over the first three rounds.

Neither man was disgraced in that contest, but what it meant for Perez was that he was to enter his showdown with Alexander Povetkin last night in Moscow with, having knocked out cruiserweight journeyman Darnell Wilson in two rounds earlier this year, and drawn with the ranked Carlos Takam in January of last year, a 1-1-1 ledger for 2014 and 2015. Despite the bad luck, tragedy and slick counter-punching that had defined his previous 30 months in the ring, a loss would have sent Perez bumping roughly down the ladder to gatekeeper status.

More shockingly, a loss would have had the same impact upon Povetkin.

Re-watching Perez-Jenkins this morning, I was struck by how efficiently Harvey Dock managed the Cuban’s fouling early in the fight. Every time, without exception, that Perez placed his forearm or any weight across the American’s neck or back, the referee stepped in to separate the two. What would Povetkin have given for such a referee the night of his contest with Wladimir Klitschko?

Luis Pabon was the third man in the ring the night of Povetkin’s shot at king Klitschko, and as the champion over and over again drew the Russian in with his enormous reach before placing his full 241lbs on the smaller man’s back, crushing him, literally, with his superior size, the referee neglected to act. It was an exhausted Povetkin who was repeatedly barrelled to the canvas by the champion as the fight descended into a physical and technical mis-match. Much spleen was vented in the aftermath concerning Wladimir’s solution to Povetkin’s rushing tactics, but the scorecards of the three judges, bereft of any instruction from Pabon to remove any points from Wladimir’s total, sang out their scores as a choir: 119-104. Povetkin had been outclassed and had absorbed a horrific beating in the process.

When he returned, Povetkin did so against the perfect opponent, Manuel Charr. The enormous Lebanese, who boxes out of Germany, was neither ranked nor particularly dangerous, but he was known, courtesy of his crack at Vitali Klitschko’s alphabet strap, and he was durable. He promised a comeback victory and a good workout. Povetkin’s triumph was no surprise but the manner, perhaps, was. Charr, who had been stopped just once on a cut, was blasted out in seven, the finishing left-hook/right-hand combination so spectacular as to remind one of Joe Braddock’s near decapitation at the hands of Joe Louis. Returning to ranked competition, Povetkin did a similar job on Carlos Takam, dropping him in the ninth, following fluid combinations with a monster right hand, before landing a glorious left hook to end proceedings in the tenth.

This performance pricked my ears a little; Povetkin, perhaps, was not going to go the way of Terrell and LaStarza. But what was his role to be? That was decided in last night’s contest with Mike Perez.

Perez came out showing measured aggression, probing with the jab before launching a two-handed attack over the top. Povetkin gave ground and then re-took his territory in the middle of the ring. When he threw his first one-two it was clear that Perez was surprised by the speed with which Povetkin punched; he made no attempt to counter. When, after leading with his own one-two seconds later he was caught by a lightning-fast right-hand to the top of the head, Perez lost his feet. He stammered backwards, hurt, and not just physically but neurologically – he was suffering not from messages of pain but from messages of disaster, his nerve endings alerting his brain to the fact that he no longer had complete control over his body.

It is worth reiterating at this point that Perez, like Charr, like Takam, has never been stopped; his chin was tested by Magomed Abdusalamov, among the hardest punchers in the division when he repeatedly reached the Cuban’s chin; Jennings, too, repeatedly landed clean, crisp shots to little affect. But here was Perez, grasping for the canvas. Seconds later, when Povetkin stepped out of a half clinch to give himself room for the shortest of right hands, Perez was suddenly on the ground looking up. Closed-faced, he defeated the count, and stepped tenderly towards the gallows. A sweeping left sent Perez crashing into the ropes and out of the rankings and made Povetkin once more the preeminent heavyweight in the world with a name other than Klitschko.

Generationally, it makes no sense. On paper, Povetkin’s time had come and gone. In reality, he looks better than he did before Wladimir beat the contendership out of him. He almost looks faster but in reality it is a new sharpness that appears to have gripped his offense. The punches that Povetkin is throwing are absolutely deadly.

His ability to absorb the beating that Terrell and LaStarza could not is partly a matter of physiology. He is made of different stuff and that stuff has reacted differently. Partly it is circumstantial; such is Povetkin’s promotional support in Russia that he was able to reintroduce himself immediately to good money – and to draw ranked fighters to the Moscow fortress that served him no advantage against Klitschko. But I wonder, too, if he is not driven by a certain sense of injustice. As I wrote in coverage for that fight, “if heart is the greatest attribute to which a fighter can lay claim, then Povetkin was a great opponent indeed, for in the eighth he showed as much as any heavyweight who has ever stepped into the ring.” Povetkin really tried against Klitschko and to a degree was let down by an incompetent referee. After the fight he made all the right noises, calling Wladimir the better fighter, but having reviewed the footage it must irk him that his heart-fuelled stab at the title was rendered chanceless by officiating. Perhaps the top of the mountain holds no fear for him, despite the agonies he suffered there, for this very reason.

Regardless, such was the margin of the defeat of Povetkin by Wladimir Klitschko that despite his ranking above some of the other top heavyweight contenders by virtue of his wider and deeper resume, he was not really in any discussion over who is to meet Wladimir Klitschko next. Even when he was restored to the #1 contender’s berth ahead of the likes of Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder and Bryant Jennings, nobody expected Wladimir to drop everything and rematch Povetkin at the expense of the next generation; but Povetkin’s destruction of Perez in mere seconds has made him something new, even though that thing has yet to take on any real form. Ethereal in his identity, without a belt, or a route to the legitimate heavyweight king, Povetkin has become a bogeyman to the division and most especially to the two men jostling for a shot at Klitschko next. Do not expect to hear talk of either Tyson Fury or Deontay Wilder matching the #1 contender in an attempt to cement their own status as contenders. They will both neatly sidestep the man policing the world heavyweight title and wait for the call. The reason is a sound one: he would beat either one of them.

Povetkin will haunt Wilder and Fury now until they have had their title shots, or have been shorn of any belts. He will dog Wilder’s comeback. He will be made to lurk but will do so in the full glare of the #1 contender’s slot that has been made his until such time as he is beaten, something that only Wladimir Klitschko can do, but equally, something he has already done and something he is unlikely to do again any time soon. The champion has his own problems.

Made to look, for the first time, old, by Jennings, who in turn was made to look limited by Mike Perez, who in turn has been blasted out in mere seconds by a vastly superior Povetkin, Klitschko is poised at the far edge of an illustrious career. This combination has ushered in a game of thrones for the biggest seat in boxing. The heavyweight division is much maligned, but in my view the last few months have made it fascinating once more, a twisted web. In the middle of this web sits an ageing spider that has been preying upon all manner of intruders into his domain for an incredible eleven years – arranged around him are suitors positioning themselves in the belief that they are the right man to take advantage of his advancing years.

Should someone surprise us by doing so, or if Wladimir should reach the end of his ride, Povetkin’s haunting of the division will end with another title shot.

What price, King Povetkin?


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Canelo Finally Ready to Take Manhattan; More Bites of the Big Apple to Follow?

Bernard Fernandez



Canelo Takes on Manhattan

You know the words to the song, written by Paul Anka and most memorably sung by Frank Sinatra. It’s a paean to America’s glitziest, grittiest, most self-absorbed metropolis, whose citizens have come to believe the city is and always will be the center of the known universe. Everywhere else is, well, Hicksville.

If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere

It’s up to you, New York, New York

Canelo Alvarez, the WBO/WBA/WBC middleweight champion, is only 28 years of age, but the proud son of Guadalajara, Mexico, has been fighting professionally since he was 15. Arguably the most popular and marketable fighter in the world, he has been a creature of habit, fighting almost exclusively in places where his worshiping fans are plentiful and his star power has been allowed to flourish almost unabated. Of his 54 ring appearances as a pro, boxing’s red-haired rock star has logged 34 fights in Mexico, 11 in Las Vegas, three in California and three in Texas. The furthest east Alvarez has come to ply his trade in the United States is a single bout in Miami, certain sections of which admittedly might seem like New York with palm trees.

But now Canelo says he is ready – eager, even – to finally make his mark in America’s toughest town, and specifically in the famous arena, Madison Square Garden, which fancies itself the “Mecca of boxing.” It is a not-undeserved sobriquet when you consider the roster of ring legends who have toiled at the Garden in any of its four incarnations.

Hey, if the historic building in midtown Manhattan, and the three preceding venues bearing its name, were good enough for Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, Henry Armstrong, Jake LaMotta, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson and Canelo’s promoter, Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya, then it’s good enough for someone who considers himself to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world today.

But Saturday night’s matchup of Alvarez (50-1-2, 34 KOs) — who will be moving up a weight class to challenge WBA super middleweight champion Rocky Fielding (27-1, 15 KOs) of England in a bout which will streamed internationally via DAZN — is not so much a one-off event as the first of many planned Garden parties in which Canelo will be the headliner.

“You know, Canelo’s always wanted to fight in New York,” said Eric Gomez, president of Golden Boy. “It seems like the last three years he’s been talking to Oscar and myself about fighting in New York and, obviously, at the Garden. He’s a big fan of Muhammad Ali and idolized Muhammad Ali.

“And to fight at the Mecca of boxing where all the greats have fought … Oscar fought there as well. It’s something (Alvarez) always wanted to do. So we’re extremely excited that we were able to squeeze in one more fight in December after having such a tough rematch in September with (Gennady) Golovkin.”

So what about that, Canelo?

“I would like it to be the first of many fights there,” Alvarez replied when asked about the hints he is dropping about possibly making MSG his new pugilistic home instead of Vegas. “To fight in New York is another landmark in my career and is another important story in my career. I want it to be the first of many more.”

All well and good, although Fielding, virtually anonymous on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, has no chance of playing the role of Frazier to Canelo’s Ali, or vice versa, even if he somehow captures lightning in a bottle. This also is the Briton’s first fight in New York, and who can blame him for daring to dream that pulling off the upset will make him a superstar in his own right?

“This is what I’m in boxing for,” Fielding, 31, said of the longshot opportunity he hopes to capitalize on. “This is what I’ve been doing in boxing since I was nine, for these nights. To fight at Madison Square Garden against the biggest name in boxing is unbelievable.”

Fielding isn’t quite the no-hoper Buster Douglas appeared to be on Feb. 11, 1990, when, as a 42-1 underdog, he pulled off boxing’s biggest and most memorable upset with a 10th-round knockout of the seemingly invincible Mike Tyson in Tokyo. But Fielding is an 8-1 outsider for those willing to place a wager on him, and Canelo backers would have to bet $160 to make a 10-buck profit.

Any chance Fielding has of shocking the world lies in the fact that he is noticeably larger than Canelo, at 6-foot-1 to the celebrated challenger’s 5-8, and with a 75-inch reach to Canelo’s 70½-inch reach. That, and the fact Alvarez is moving up to an unfamiliar weight class, is enough to fuel Team Rocky’s belief that they can spoil the star attraction’s New York debut.

“We’re going to ask (Alvarez) questions,” said Jamie Moore, Fielding’s trainer. “There’s a lot of unanswered questions regarding him moving up to super middleweight. The height and reach advantages that Rocky’s got is huge. How is he going to cope with those problems? When they come face to face in the middle of the ring, Rocky’s going to be huge, an absolutely huge specimen compared to Canelo.”

But there is another saying that seemingly applies here, and that is that it’s the size of the fight in the dog, not the size of the dog in the fight, that matters. And the talent gap between Canelo and this Rocky, who is not likely to ever be compared to Marciano, Graziano or Balboa, is of much more consequence that a couple of inches and pounds.

The incentives for Alvarez taking this fight are many. If – when – he wins and becomes a world champion at super middle, he joins fellow Mexican greats Julio Cesar Chavez, Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera and Jorge Arce as three-division champions. OK, so Alvarez has already announced he will be moving back down to middleweight. That itch he wants to scratch as a three-division titlist, even if only temporarily, is satisfied, as is his desire to make more dough before the end of the year and to show New York what he’s all about. Who knows, maybe he’ll even find time get in a little Christmas shopping at some of Manhattan’s trendier boutiques.

If there is a drawback to Canelo’s Manhattan adventure, other than the almost-unthinkable possibility of a loss, it’s that New York fight fans, whose reputation as a tough lot is deserved, are not disposed to be warmly receptive to an uninspired performance as those who lavished so much love on him in the Nevada desert, Mexico and Texas. Canelo might be cherished elsewhere, but from the opening bell he is going to have to prove himself anew to a rowdy crowd that is as apt to boo as to cheer.

So it’s up to Canelo to make New York as much his as it was for Sinatra. He theorized about the unlikely possibility of a rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr. (“If that fight were to happen again, I would defeat him, no problem”) and the presumably more realistic chances of a third go at Golovkin (“If we made two, I’ll make a third one”). There are other attractive matchups that could bring him back to the Garden, if his fascination with the place is as genuine as he now claims and Golden Boy accedes to his wishes.

“We’re open to doing more fights in New York. No problem,” Gomez said. “Everything seems to be going smooth. Ticket sales are great. We’re expecting a sellout. If everything goes as planned, why not?”

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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How Oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro Became a Sidebar in the Buster Douglas Story

Arne K. Lang



Buster Douglas, Vaccaro

When Jimmy Vaccaro, a close friend of long standing, set odds on the Tyson-Douglas fight, he never imagined that he would become a central figure in the story about the greatest upset in boxing, arguably the most famous upset in all of sports. At some point during the course of the betting, the odds favoring Tyson hit 42 to 1 and that became the title of the newest ESPN “30 for 30” documentary which premiered on Tuesday, Dec. 11.

A little background. Vaccaro grew up in blue-collar Trafford, Pennsylvania, a small town about 20 miles from Pittsburgh. An older brother, John Paul “Sonny” Vaccaro, went on to become the most powerful man in basketball by virtue of his relationships with players, coaches, and shoe companies. He is credited with hatching Nike’s “Air Jordan” empire. (Sonny was the subject of an ESPN “30 for 30” documentary in 2016.)

In 1975, Jimmy Vaccaro arrived in Las Vegas and found work as a 21-dealer at the Royal Inn, a small casino that sat just off the Strip. The pay for a break-in dealer was $16.50 a shift.

Nevada had recently passed legislation that allowed sports betting to co-exist under the same roof with other forms of gambling. During the previous 25 years, sports betting was quarantined in little mom-and-pop bookie joints. When the Royal Inn put in a sports book, Vaccaro moved over to that department.

In November of 1989, after stops at several other books, Steve Wynn hired Vaccaro to open a sportsbook inside his newest property, the Mirage. Situated in the center of the Las Vegas Strip, the Mirage, with its artificial volcano outside the front entrance, was instantly the most “must-see” attraction in town.

At the Mirage, Vaccaro was the only department head among those that interacted with hotel guests who wasn’t made to wear a suit and tie. Sometimes he showed up for work in jeans. He was a “suit” by virtue of being a department head (a derogatory term in Las Vegas, similar in some respects to bean counter), but by all accounts he didn’t own an actual suit. Concordantly, his style of bookmaking, unrestrained by Wynn, could be described as freewheeling.

In bookmaking, unlike pari-mutuel horse racing, odds are posted on an event and then adjusted, if necessary, to stimulate more betting on the side that is under-bet. A perfectly balanced book — where there is an identical amount of money on each side — is an ideal construct, an abstraction, but bookmakers strive to achieve this by adjusting the odds to where they get two-way action and thereby stand to make roughly the same profit regardless of the outcome.

At the Mirage, Vaccaro often didn’t wait for the money to show to adjust a betting line. If he had a “dead number” – for example, a pointspread on a football game that wasn’t attracting any good-sized wagers – he would adjust it in hopes of stimulating activity. He did this on slow days, or during slow periods of a day, simply as an antidote to boredom.

On one particularly slow day, basically just for the fun of it, Vaccaro decided to post a line on the Tyson-Douglas fight. Tyson would obviously be such a heavy favorite that the proposition would attract little betting, likely just a few peanuts from the suckers in the “bet a toothpick to win a lumberyard” crowd, but, what the heck, there was nothing wrong with a little window dressing. None of the other books in Nevada had it and most hadn’t even bothered to offer odds on how long the fight would last. The wise-guys figured that Tyson would blow Douglas away within the first three rounds.

Then something incredible happened. The seemingly invincible Iron Mike Tyson lost. Buster knocked him out in the 10th round. In short order, Vaccaro was summoned to appear on “Good Morning America.”

Window dressing at the Mirage wasn’t like window dressing at other properties. At other properties, a proposition designed as a conversation piece would be attached to a very low limit. The primary intent was free publicity. But the Mirage attracted a fair number of so-called whales, men (mostly from Asia) who would bet more in a short fling at baccarat than an average workingman would earn in an entire year. If inclined to bet on a sporting event, a whale could get down pretty much whatever he wanted. The sky was the limit.

Vaccaro has said that he took a $160,000 wager on Mike Tyson at 40/1 odds, a wager that would have won $4,000. That’s plausible given the clientele of the Mirage, but it’s a figure that I have always taken with a grain of salt. I say this because my friend Jimmy Vaccaro has tossed out different numbers over the years when asked about the betting.

According to various newspaper reports and what appears in certain books, the betting line opened at 27/1 (the consensus) or 35/1. It crested at 42/1 (the consensus) or 48/1.

Many years ago, Vaccaro told me for a book that I was writing that he accepted a $56,000 wager on Tyson at 28/1, a $64,000 wager at 32/1, and a $143,000 wager at 39/1. He would subsequently provide different figures (close, but different) to Las Vegas Review-Journal sportswriter Stephen Nover and others.

What is almost certainly true is that the odds hit 42/1 as they bounced around and that’s as good a number as any to illuminate the magnitude of Buster’s upset.

Nowadays, when so much betting is done online, one often sees fights where the odds are higher than 42/1. But usually these lines are just for show. Getting down a serious wager on the underdog is out of the question, although an exception would likely be made for a valued client who spreads his action around. In the old days, there were so-called newspaper lines, lines provided to newspapers for information purposes. If one wanted to bet into this line, he would likely be told, and gruffly, to go down to the newspaper office and talk to the sports editor. Good luck with that.

Odds play an important role in sports because they cut to the chase, knifing through the ballyhoo to inform us whether a match is likely to be competitive. And, as mentioned, they serve the purpose of quantifying the bigness of an upset. Before the Tyson-Douglas fight, the biggest upset in heavyweight boxing in recent times came when Leon Spinks upset Muhammad Ali in their first meeting. Ali was widely quoted as a 9/1 favorite.

Odds bedevil sportswriters, however, because they are not static and often vary from place to place. When a sportswriter weaves odds into his story, he is taking a snapshot of something that is fluid. It’s sort of like citing the distance from the shoreline to the lifeguard station at a beach. (As an aside, I would advise readers to be cautious of recycling odds that appear in old books. Most boxing historians have treated the odds very loosely and some have invented odds to imbue a storied fight with a higher shock quotient for dramatic effect.)

During my lifetime, there have been at least four instances where a baseball team available at 100/1 in April went on to win the World Series. The Leicester City soccer club overcame considerably higher odds to win the 2016 Premier League title. So, from a numbers standpoint, Buster Douglas’s upset was hardly the biggest upset in sports.

But there are upsets and then there are quantifiably lesser upsets that register much higher on the shock meter. I once met a person who told me that when he read in his Sunday morning newspaper that Mike Tyson had lost, the world stood still, as it did when JFK was assassinated and when OJ was acquitted. For some people, talk about the Tyson-Douglas fight brings back a flood of memories even if they never saw the fight.

By the way, Jimmy Vaccaro, who is prominently featured in “42 to 1,” is currently on the payroll at the South Point, a locals-oriented casino that is a good drive from the Strip, although it sits on the same boulevard. His main responsibility, so far as anyone can tell, is to hang around the sports book, one of the busiest in the city. His boss, South Point owner Michael Gaughan, once famously said, “I don’t know exactly what it is that Jimmy does around here.”

He’s still the most quotable sports betting personality in town, and as down-to-earth as ever, about what one would expect from a fellow whose father spent 42 years working in a Pennsylvania steel mill.

There are rumors that Vaccaro will be heading back to Pennsylvania before the Super Bowl and the odds of that happening, unfortunately, are a lot lower than 42/1. He’s the last of an era and the town would miss him.

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The Avila Perspective: Canelo in Manhattan and other Boxing Notes

David A. Avila




Amber alert. If you spot a muscular redhead walking through the streets of New York City don’t be surprised. It’s probably Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.

Once upon a time it was strange to see Mexicans in Manhattan, but today in the 21st century, plenty of Mexicans live in the city in areas like Hell’s Kitchen.

It figures that’s where the Mexicans would live.

Alvarez (50-1-2, 34 KOs) moves up a weight division to challenge England’s Rocky Fielding (27-1, 15 KOs) for the WBA super middleweight title at Madison Square Garden. DAZN will stream the world title fight and entire card free for new users.

The great experiment begins.

Fresh off his $300 million signed contract Alvarez makes his DAZN debut in New York City, an area famous for its ability to attract boxing connoisseurs. Few areas in the USA have boxing fans like those crowds attending big fights at the Garden.

“It fills me with a lot of pride because I know great fighters have fought there, like Muhammad Ali,” said Alvarez. “But to be the main event there at MSG, and if I’m not mistaken, the first Mexican there in a long time, it fills me with pride.”

Also filling up the boxing ring will be the much taller WBA champion Fielding who has a distinct height advantage. When they stood next to each other, the British fighter towered over Alvarez like the Chrysler Building overlooking the tallest tree in Central Park.

“It’s a massive fight for me at Madison Square Garden and a big challenge in Canelo Alvarez,” said Fielding, 31, who sports a five-inch height asset over Mexico’s Alvarez.

Fielding won the super middleweight title this past July when he knocked out undefeated Tyrone Zeuge in Offenburg, Germany. Knockouts have been a best friend for the Englishman in half of his last six fights.

Canelo will be carrying the load for the boxing card that features several other notable Golden Boy Promotions fighters. DAZN hopes that his star power can transfer from television to streaming.

Star power. It’s a crazy asset that can’t always be measured but in the case of Canelo he was able to attract around 1 million pay-per-views on several occasions.

From Morongo to MSG

Ten years ago an 18-year-old Canelo made his American debut at Morongo Casino, a venue that holds about 400 people. Max. I remember it well.

Located in the desert, few would have predicted that freckled face welterweight would become one of boxing’s biggest draws. Well, here he is poised to make an entrance like one of those divas on Broadway. What’s the male equivalent?

Canelo looks to become a three-division world champ of Mexican heritage. It’s a list rife with hall of fame names like Juan Manuel Marquez, Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales and of course Julio Cesar Chavez. That’s lofty company.

“Canelo is going to make history that night and be one on the shortlist of Mexicans to be a three-division world champion,” said Eric Gomez, president of Golden Boy Promotions.

“It’s very important to be in that list of about ten Mexicans to become three-division world champions, so very important to enter history. That’s why I’m here taking on this important fight, and it’s important that we win this title,” said Alvarez, 28, who lives in Guadalajara.

Facing someone as tall as Fielding does have its drawbacks, but the Mexican redhead has tangled with opponents equally as tall and heavy.

Does anyone remember Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

Back on June 2017, the battle of Mexicans saw Alvarez destroy Chavez Jr. over 12 one-sided rounds with his speed, skills and relentless attack. Can Fielding find a flaw in Canelo’s armor?

“I believe what we worked on and what I can do can cause a lot of damage and a lot of — a lot more than what people are thinking,” said Fielding.

It’s an intriguing matchup designed to entice New York area fans to watch the Mexican fighter perform just months after he toppled Gennady “GGG” Golovkin from the middleweight throne and handed him his first professional loss. In a nip and tuck display of trench warfare, Canelo traded hellacious blows with Triple G and emerged the victor by majority decision.

Golovkin’s team had dared the Mexican to fight Mexican style and he obliged and overcame the Kazakh assassin’s best blows.

Mexican style has its detriments too. Those who use the offensive go-for-broke fighting method can also be the victim. It’s a 50/50 style meant to display a kill or be killed attitude that goes back to the Mexican Revolution when Pancho Villa’s army would descend on machine gun nests on horseback or on foot and overrun them with brute force. It was kill or be killed. That’s Mexican style.

Will Canelo resort to Mexican style or will he utilize the boxing skills that have made him one of the top pound for pound fighters in the world?

On Saturday fans in New York will see firsthand and those watching on DAZN will too.

HBO Farewell

Last weekend the final boxing show by HBO featured top female fighters Cecilia Braekhus and Claressa Shields in separate world title fights at the StubHub Center on a cold night.

About 900 fans scattered around the outdoor arena to watch the event that pit Braekhus against Aleksandra Lopes in a welterweight match. It was not very interesting.

In the middleweight match Shields fought Belgium’s Femke Hermans in another very one-sided fight.

The challengers both looked to survive and were severely overmatched. Punches were seldom thrown by the challengers. It was pitiful.

HBO did not offer much money for the event and thus the opponents willing to fight for the agreed purses gave lukewarm performances.

Had a budget of at least $400,000 for each fight been offered, both title fights could have easily brought worthy opponents for Braekhus like Layla McCarter who was present for the boxing card or Kali Reis who fought the welterweight champion last May.

But HBO left the cupboard bare and offered crumbs on its final boxing show.

Shields and Braekhus would have been better off fighting each other. Perhaps that fight is in the future.

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