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Transgender Boxer Patricio Manuel Breaks New Ground at Fantasy Springs

Bernard Fernandez



Patricio Manuel

The continuing encroachment of something known as “political correctness” in American and global society sometimes comes as a jolt to stodgy traditionalists, like me. I just had to shake my head, incredulous, at a news report from 2014 I only recently came across that hinted at the radical changes that, for better or worse, are becoming more and more commonplace.

Four years ago the administrators who run the school system in Lincoln, Neb., launched a campaign to make their classrooms more “gender-inclusive,” meaning teachers could no longer refer to boys and girls as, well, boys and girls. “We have kids who come to us with a whole variety of circumstances, and we need to equitably serve all kids,” Brenda Leggiardo, the district’s coordinator of social workers and counselors, told the Lincoln Journal Star. So instead of asking boys and girls to line up as boys and girls, teachers were encouraged to segregate the children by whether they prefer skateboards or bikes, or whether they like milk or juice. The memo also suggested that all transgender students be referred to as “purple penguins,” presumably without regard for their preferences regarding liquid nourishment at lunchtime.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district in North Carolina later adopted similar “gender-inclusive” guidelines, which caused me to wonder when this small snowball rolling downhill would become an avalanche, and when a portion of the PC-orchestrated new world order would branch off into the sports world. And then it occurred to me: it already has.

The latest example of athletic gender-bending came on Dec. 8 at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, Calif., when Patricio Manuel, a 33-year-old transgender male who had fought in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials as a woman, scored a four-round unanimous decision over Mexican super featherweight Hugo Aguilar. It was the first sanctioned professional boxing match involving a transgender participant, and Manuel (pictured) vowed it won’t be the last.

“I wouldn’t trade any of it. It was worth everything I went through to get to this point,” Manuel, who underwent complex medical treatments, including surgery and hormone therapy, told the Los Angeles Times. “I’m a professional boxer now.

“I’ve got some naysayers out there – I need to prove that I deserve to be in there as well. I’m not in here for one show, one fight – this is something I love. I’m not done with this sport and I’ll be back.”

Well, maybe. But much will depend on the willingness of male-from-birth fighters in the “Me, Too” era –in which men who physically abuse women, or use positions of authority to take advantage of them sexually, are rightly chastised — to be paired with Manuel. Some men will reasonably believe that, if they defeat Manuel, and particularly by knockout, they would be criticized for beating up someone who used to be a woman. It is possible, and perhaps likely, that such criticism would arise; an online search I conducted produced a video of a female soldier in the U.S. Army who had bragged that she could whip any male Marine stationed at their joint base in a boxing match. Such a fight was arranged (it can be seen on YouTube) and the Marine pummeled the lady soldier from pillar to post in the first round, whereupon he was booed unmercifully, even by his fellow Marines.

I covered the flip side of such a transgender role reversal in the 1970s, when I authored a feature story on the opposition encountered by tennis player Renee Richards after her sex-reassignment surgery. Formerly known as Richard Raskind, in his earlier incarnation he was an excellent athlete, lettering in tennis, football, baseball and swimming in high school before going on to Yale, where he was captain of the men’s tennis team. In the 1970s, however, Raskind came to the realization that he had long felt more female than male and began the process of transition. The transformation complete, the renamed Renee Richards competed as a woman in the 1976 U.S. Open, and shortly thereafter the United States Tennis Association, in apparent reaction to her arrival on the scene, began requiring genetic screening for female players. Richards challenged that policy and the New York Supreme Court ruled in her favor, a landmark case in transgender rights.

But her victory in the courts was not so warmly received by many women on the court, who complained that the 6-foot-1 Richards, despite being in her early 40s, had physical advantages, such as a booming lefthanded serve, that blurred the line between who she had been as a man and who she had become through the auspices of modern medicine.

The most famous male vs. female matchup, one that drew 30,000-plus on-site spectators to the Astrodome in Houston and a huge nationwide television audience on Sept. 21, 1973, pitted 55-year-old former Wimbledon champion Bobby Riggs against Billie Jean King, 29, arguably the top woman player of her era and an unabashed proponent of the feminist movement. The “Battle of the Sexes” was spurred by Riggs’ 6-2, 6-1 victory over another standout female player, Margaret Court, and his constant chirping that, even at his advanced age, the chatty chauvinist could take down any of the sport’s top women. King accepted the challenge and struck a blow for her cause with 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 victory. She accepted the $100,000 winner’s check from, interestingly, smiling heavyweight champion George Foreman.

King’s coronation eventually helped bring about parity with the men in purse money at major tournaments, which was significant, but what, really, had it proved? Was it merely an evening of the score for Riggs having embarrassed Court? That a great woman player in her prime could beat the shorts off a geezer of a guy who had not played competitive tournament tennis in 22 years?

With apologies to William Shakespeare, another male vs. female pairing that was full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, took place on Oct. 10, 1999, in Mercer Arena in Seattle, Wash., when boxer Margaret McGregor scored a four-round unanimous decision over fill-in opponent Loi Chow, a jockey by trade who was 0-2 in pro bouts, the most recent coming three years earlier. The then-36-year-old McGregor, who had an extensive kickboxing and boxing background and was 3-0 in pro boxing matches against women, towered over Chow and dominated him from the outset. Snarky commentators regarded the fight as a farce, maybe more than they might have had not McGregor’s originally scheduled and more talented opponent, Hector Morales, dropped out.

There has not been a sanctioned boxing match between a man and a woman since, and, hopefully, there never will be another, not in an era when statistics indicate that every nine seconds a woman is facing domestic battery in America.

There is, admittedly, a curiosity element attached to these events. I was at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on Sept. 25, 1992, for an exhibition match pitting 40-year-old tennis great Jimmy Connors against a female counterpart, 35-year-old Martina Navratilova, in what was billed as “Battle of the Sexes II.” Rules aimed at leveling the playing field limited Connors to one serve and obliging him to cover half of each the doubles alleys, four additional feet in all. Despite those handicaps, Connors won, 7-5, 6-2, before a sellout crowd of 13,832 and a national pay-per-view TV audience.

Strangely enough, I have been portrayed as being on both sides of the philosophical divide concerning male/female issues. I strongly support the notion of equal pay for equal work for both genders, and I endorsed the creation of the Christy Martin Award that goes to the Female Fighter of the Year, which was presented by the Boxing Writers Association of America for the first time earlier this year to Cecilia Braekhus in New York. To one regular poster to the TSS site, who apparently is of the opinion that women are only good for baking cookies and bearing children, those positions stamped me as some sort of non-macho pansy. But I also oppose the notion of military women as combat troops, which some would say makes me as much of a hairy-knuckled Neanderthal as the now-deceased Riggs.

As the son of a wonderful mother, husband of a terrific wife, and father of two great daughters, I have always believed that anyone regardless of sexual orientation can achieve as much as their talent and ambition will take them. But whether the deep thinkers on the school boards in Lincoln and Charlotte care to admit it or not, there are some gaps, in an athletic sense, that political correctness cannot bridge. It is patently ridiculous to allow boys to compete in girls’ interscholastic sports because their schools don’t field boys’ volleyball, field hockey or softball teams. Size, strength and testosterone almost always give the guys a winning edge in those instances.

Boxing, more so than in other sports, represents a Grand Canyonesque chasm of separation. Claressa Shields is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, but no one expects her to swap punches with Canelo Alvarez or Gennady Golovkin now or ever. Braekus is undefeated and the undisputed women’s welterweight champion, but there is no groundswell to put her in the ring against Terence Crawford or Errol Spence Jr.

We should enjoy our sporting heroes, and heroines, for who and what they are. Let boys be boys and girls be girls and transgenders whatever the heck they choose to be. And a Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

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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Chris Arreola is Back!

Ted Sares



Chris Arreola

Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola is an emotional and very likable guy. Over the course of his career, there have been ups and downs providing the grist for a compelling story if one were inclined to write it. He’ll kiss a beaten opponent (Joey Abell) or cry if beaten (Vitali Klitschko) and his language during a post-fight interview is, well it’s special.

After his corner stopped the fight following the 10th round with Klitschko, and with tears streaming down his cheeks, he thanked the fans (as is his wont) and later, while being interviewed in the ring, said  “F–k that, I’m coming back.”

It was his first loss after 26 straight wins out of the professional gate. For that “terrible” indiscretion, he was punished by the selectively politically correct World Boxing Council. WBC president José Sulaimán proposed a six months ban for vulgar language and the ban was approved by the WBC Board of Governors.

Arreola, who rarely uses filters, was brutally candid again after his first round KO over Erik Molina in 2012. The Nightmare cut loose on Don King, Molina’s promoter, calling him a “f—ing a–hole and a racist,” causing Showtime’s Jim Gray to  terminate the post-fight interview forthwith. “Honestly Don King called me a wetback, and other Mexicans,” Arreola told “That’s a strong word. It’s like me dropping N bombs. You don’t say things like that.”

No ban this time.

Arreola’s weight varies but when he is fit and ready (and under 250), he is a very dangerous heavyweight, especially in the early rounds. Once he has his opponent hurt, there are few boxers who can close as well as this Southern California Mexican American tough guy who was an accomplished amateur fighter and knows his way around the ring.

His level of opposition has been stiff. In fact, his five losses have been to fighters who have held world titles at one time or another. Bermane Stiverne had Chris’s number and beat him twice—the second time by way of a nasty knockout. However, he has a number of solid wins over the likes of Malcom Tann, Chazz Witherspoon, Travis Walker, Jameel McCline, Brian Minto, Curtis Harper –yes, that Curtis Harper who gave Chris all he could handle — and many others who came in with fine records. His first round blowout of once promising Seth Mitchell was quintessential Arreola. Mitchell retired after the fight.

In July 2016, The Nightmare was stopped by Deontay Wilder in yet another title bid but he did not disgrace himself. He then took off for over two years to assess whether he wanted to continue. Boxing fans pretty much forgot about him. Few took notice when he came back to stop the very stoppable Maurenzo Smith on the Wilder-Fury undercard on Dec. 1 of last year.

Fast Forward

Last weekend, on the undercard of the huge Errol Spence Jr. vs. Mikey Garcia PPV fight in Dallas, “The Nightmare” was matched against unbeaten but unheralded Jean Pierre Augustin (17-0-1).

Chris, now 38, came in at a svelte 237 pounds and looked fit and ready to go. The weary look on Augustin’s face during the announcement said it all. True to form, Arreola was in blowout mode and stopped the Haitian who simply was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Arreola wobbled Augustin with a brutally hard jab that connected flush to his face in the third round. After more heavy shots, a bloodied Augustin went down and upon getting up, was battered until the referee halted matters. Chris closed things like he had done on so many other occasions and in front of millions of fans tuning in around the world.

With a female interviewer, the elated “Nightmare” was polite during the post-fight ceremonies and, holding his daughter, signaled that he is BACK! That’s good news for boxing fans because when Chris Arreola is fit and focused, he is entertaining and very competitive.

With a current record of 38-5-1 with 2 ND (the “no-contests” resulting from Chris‘s apparent affinity for non-medicinal marijuana), a fight with someone like Adam Kownacki would be a boxing fan’s dream.

Ted Sares is one of the world’s oldest active power lifters and Strongman competitors and plans to compete in at least three events in 2019. He is a lifetime member of Ring 10, and a member of Ring 4 and its Boxing Hall of Fame. He also is an Auxiliary Member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA).

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Nobody Wants to Fight Dillian Whyte

Kelsey McCarson



Dillian Whyte

Dillian Whyte is one of the most dangerous fighters in the world. The 30-year-old is a former British heavyweight titleholder, a former kickboxing prodigy and an undefeated mixed martial artist. Overall, Whyte’s professional fighting record is a sterling 46-2. He’s 25-1 as a boxer, 20-1 as a K1 kickboxer and 1-0 as an MMA fighter.

So while the battle rages on between various television networks and streaming platforms over securing the top talent in the heavyweight division, one that includes Tyson Fury signing a multi-fight deal with ESPN and Deontay Wilder reportedly mulling over his future with PBC, perhaps something just as important right now is that the single most dangerous and deserved heavyweight contender in the world remains without a dance partner for his next fight.

Never mind Whyte being the No. 1 ranked contender by the World Boxing Council. That sanctioning body instead deemed Dominic Breazeale the mandatory challenger to Wilder’s WBC title after the potential rematch between Wilder and Fury fell by the wayside.

Here’s all that needs to be said about that grift. Breazeale only had to defeat Eric Molina to get his mandatory title shot while the WBC wanted Whyte to face Cuban southpaw Luis Ortiz, one of the top heavyweights in the sport.

And nobody seems to care that Whyte gave unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua the toughest test of his career (this side of Wladimir Klitschko anyway), when the two squared off in 2015 for the British and Commonwealth titles. Despite the obvious talent gap between the two fighters, Whyte gave the young Joshua just about all the former Olympic champion could handle in a seven-round war.

To hear Whyte tell the story, promoter Eddie Hearn must have intentionally lowballed Whyte for the proposed 2019 rematch in order to ensure Joshua could invade America on June 1 against the likely less dangerous Jarrell Miller. That makes sense for Joshua from a monetary perspective, but it doesn’t do the same in terms of true competitiveness.

According to various reports, Whyte is currently considering a multi-fight deal to appear on ESPN, a move that would give the British battler a path to facing Fury who some consider the lineal heavyweight champion. Fury recently signed a multi-fight deal to be co-promoted by Bob Arum for appearances on the U.S.-based television network ESPN. It’s the move that shelved a potential Wilder rematch and also opened up a huge can of worms in regards to what kinds of fights Fury might actually be able to secure. Currently, the Top Rank-promoted stable of heavyweights is best characterized by fighters who don’t really move the needle in regards to title challenges, fighters like Oscar Rivas, Bryant Jennings and Kubrat Pulev.

Overall, though, the main problem about the heavyweight landscape is that there are three heavyweights who all have a claim to being heavyweight champion. IBF, WBA and WBO champion Joshua is promoted by Hearn and exclusive to DAZN. WBC champ Wilder is attached to the PBC whose television partnerships include Showtime and Fox. Fury is set to embark on his own ESPN crusade. Long story short, these guys probably aren’t fighting each other anytime soon.

Worse is that while all three men are in desperate need of viable opponents, none have seemed all that interested in tussling with Whyte.

It’s no wonder. As good as Whyte has been over the course of his 7-year professional boxing career, the scariest thing about the fighter is that he always seems to be getting better. In his last two fights, Whyte outfought talented former titleholder Joseph Parker and knocked out gritty UK heavyweight Dereck Chisora. In defeating Parker, Whyte was facing someone absolutely in need of a win to maintain his status among heavyweight contenders. In beating Chisora, Whyte was in tough against an opponent he had only defeated by split-decision two years prior. Both wins illustrate just how far Whyte has come as a professional prizefighter.

As it stands, Whyte is the clear top contender among all heavyweights, especially among those who have not yet been granted a shot at a world title. He’s ranked No. 4 behind Joshua, Fury and Wilder by The Ring magazine and the same by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.

The only question that remains is which title claimant will prove the toughest holdout. Whyte’s ultimate choice, in whether to stick with promoter Hearn on DAZN, link up with Arum and ESPN or continue playing the WBC shell game, will probably end up being tied to which path gets him the title shot that he so desperately craves first.

And it absolutely should happen. It’s one thing to crave title opportunities and another to have earned them. Whyte’s done both now, and it’s time for boxing fans and the media to take notice. Better yet, it’s time for Joshua, Fury and Wilder to pit themselves against their most dangerous competition. Since they’re not facing each other, Whyte become the next logical choice for any or all of them.

Because Dillian Whyte is one of the best heavyweight boxers in the world, and he’s done enough by now to warrant the chance to prove it.

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The Hauser Report: St. Patrick’s Day at Madison Square Garden

Thomas Hauser




Boxing’s three “major leagues” showed their respective wares this past weekend. On Friday night, DAZN presented a nine-bout card in conjunction with Matchroom USA. On Saturday, Fox and Premier Boxing champions teamed up for the Errol Spence vs. Mikey Garcia pay-per-view event. Then, on Sunday, ESPN and Top Rank had their turn in the form of a St. Patrick’s Day card at Madison Square Garden headed by Belfast native and former Olympian Michael Conlan.

The star of the show was St. Patrick, the fifth-century saint widely credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland. In his honor, there were three Irishmen on the card: Conlan, flyweight Paddy Barnes, and welterweight Lee Reeves. That said; there was a Hispanic flavor to the proceedings. The sixteen combatants included Eduardo Torres, Victor Rosas, Juan Tapia, Ricardo Maldonado, Adriano Ramirez, Oscar Mojica, Joseph Adorno, John Bauza, Luis Collazo, Ruben Garcia Hernandez, and two Vargases (Josue and Samuel).

Irish-Americans have a record of supporting Irish fighters, particularly on St. Patrick’s Day. This was no exception. The announced crowd of 3,712 arrived early. During the final pre-fight press conference, Top Rank president Todd duBoef had paid homage to the fans, although he did voice the view that, on St. Patrick’s Day, “Their cognitive behavior is manipulated by the beer.”

On fight night, the in-arena music was chosen accordingly. What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor? was played twice over the Hulu Theater sound system.

There was also green lighting.

Lee Reeves (2-0, 2 KOs) of Limerick, Ireland, opened the show with a four-round decision over Edward Torres.

In the third bout of the evening, Vladimir Nikitin (2-0, 0 KOs) won a majority decision over Juan Tapia. Nikitin defeated Conlan in the quarter-finals at the 2016 Olympics. Presumably, they’ll fight again at a time of maximum opportunity for Conlan.

Flyweight Paddy Barnes (5-1, 1 KO) of Belfast was a teammate of Conlan’s at the 2016 Olympics but lost in the first round to Spain’s Samuel Carmona. On St. Patrick’s Day, Barnes was matched against Oscar Mojica (11-5-1), who had one career knockout and had gone 3-5-1 in his previous nine outings.

Mojica broke Barnes’s nose in round one and knocked him down with a body shot in the second stanza (although to the mystification of those in the press section, referee Danny Schiavone waved off the knockdown). It was a spirited outing in which both men were too easy to hit for their own good. Barnes rallied nicely in the second half of the bout and arguably did enough to win the decision. But two of the three judges thought otherwise, leading to a 58-56, 58-56, 56-58 verdict in Mojica’s favor.

In the next-to-last fight of the evening, Luis Collazo (38-7, 20 KOs) took on Samuel Vargas (30-4-2, 14 KOs).

Collazo now 37 years old, reigned briefly as WBA welterweight champion twelve years ago. Since then, he had cobbled together twelve victories (an average of one per year) against six losses in eighteen fights. Vargas had one win in his previous three outings and has never been able to get the “W” against a name opponent.

It was a phone booth fight, which worked to Collazo’s advantage because Luis’s legs aren’t what they once were. The decision could have gone either way. Two judges scored the bout 96-94; one for Collazo and the other for Vargas. Frank Lombardi turned in a wide-of-the-mark 98-92 scorecard in Collazo’s favor.

Then it was time for the main event.

Conlan (10-0, 6 KOs) is best known to boxing fans for having given the finger (two middle fingers, actually) to the judges after coming out on the short end of a decision in the second round of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. His skill set is better suited to the amateur than professional ranks. But his Irish heritage is a significant marketing plus. And Top Rank specializes in both savvy matchmaking and building narratives.

This was the third consecutive year that Conlan, now a featherweight, celebrated St. Patrick’s Day weekend by fighting at Madison Square Garden. His ringwalk was marked by Irish-themed pageantry. And Ruben Garcia Hernandez, his opponent, was tailor-made for him.

Conlon controlled the fight with his jab. Nothing much else happened. “Mick” emerged victorious 100-90 on all three judges’ scorecards. And the fans went home happy because their man won.

*     *     *

The sad news that New York Mets pitching great Tom Seaver is suffering from dementia and will retire from public life is a reminder that all people from all walks of life are susceptible to the condition, not just fighters.

Seaver was on the list of A+ athletes who rose to prominence in the 1960s when advances in television were redefining the sports experience. Muhammad Ali was at the top of that list. Years ago, sportswriter Dick Schaap told me about an evening he spent with Ali and Seaver.

“In 1969, the year the Mets won their first World Series,”Schaap reminisced, “I spent the last few days of the regular season with the team in Chicago. Ali was living there at the time. I was writing a book with Tom Seaver, and the three of us went out to dinner together. We met at a restaurant called The Red Carpet. I made the introductions. And of course, this was the year that Tom Seaver was Mr. Baseball, maybe even Mr. America. Ali and Tom got along fine. They really hit it off together. And after about half an hour, Ali in all seriousness turned to Seaver and said, ‘You know, you’re a nice fellow. Which paper do you write for?’”

Thomas Hauser’s email address is His most recent book – Protect Yourself at All Times – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism.

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