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Eleider Alvarez Forged the 2018 TSS Upset of the Year

Jeffrey Freeman

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Alvarez

HBO World Championship Boxing called it quits in 2018 but not before airing the Sweet Science (TSS) Upset of the Year: Eleider “Storm” Alvarez’s jaw dropping seventh round knockout of Sergey Kovalev to win the WBO light heavyweight title at Atlantic City’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, formerly President Trump’s Taj Mahal.

The legendary cable network that broadcast the Douglas-Tyson shocker in February of 1990 retained its reputation as a theatre of the totally unexpected on that Saturday, August 4. It was supposed to be a return to elite form for the Russian Kovalev (now 32-3-1 with 28 knockouts) and a chance for promoters to make boardwalk boxing great again.

For the 34-year-old Colombian Alvarez, successfully transplanted to Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 2009 by Groupe Yvon Michel, it was the realization of a bold prediction that fell upon mostly deaf ears: “Kovalev will be a very difficult fight but I will be the new WBO champion of the world.”

Right on both counts.

Alvarez (booked as a +400 underdog) appeared to gain an early advantage with impressively aggressive boxing skills but Kovalev wasn’t going anywhere without a fight and he pummeled Alvarez in the fourth round with his long jab and solid power punches—outlanding him 3 to 1.

Alvarez returned to his corner down on the scorecards.

Max Kellerman may have been able to see what Alvarez was doing to win the first three rounds but ringside judges Carter, Pasquale and Ortiz did not. Regardless, Alvarez pumped his fist in celebration, well aware he’d just taken the best of ‘The Krusher’ without being too badly hurt by any of it. “I wanted to show him I have a good chin,” he said after the fight of the assault.

The fifth and sixth were fiercely competitive with both rounds being won legitimately by Kovalev who presently began showing signs of fatigue while Alvarez (24-0 with 12 knockouts) recovered from the fourth round drubbing he’d proudly endured; his left cheek bloodied. If Kovalev’s plan was to outbox Alvarez and win a decision, he lacked the stamina needed to go six more rounds.

Alvarez answered the bell for the seventh ready to make good on his stormy forecast calling for rain on Kovalev’s parade. With a minute and twenty seconds left in the frame, Alvarez feinted a left jab to the body; following up full-speed with a looping right hand to the side of Kovalev’s unprotected head. Kovalev wobbled backwards onto the seat of his pants, decked by a jabby boxer assumed to be a light hitter with a trio of surgically repaired right knuckles.

Up fast at the count of “four” from American referee David Fields, Kovalev was in the eye of the storm now. Alvarez went for the kill with poise and precision. A right uppercut rocked Kovalev’s head back. A left jab had a similar effect. A right cross strafed his face. With 40 seconds left in the round, Alvarez connected with a ferocious left-right combination and Kovalev fell again. And again—Kovalev got up quickly but this time in no condition to continue and he could no longer protect himself. Alvarez walked straight in and landed a clubbing right around Kovalev’s guard. Kovalev collapsed onto all fours and Fields immediately waved it off as Alvarez celebrated.

A new light heavyweight star was being born.

Asked if he wanted to face HBO undercard winner Dmitry Bivol in a WBO/WBA unification match-up, Alvarez indicated a willingness to face all comers. “I’ve been waiting five years to fight the best in the division. I’m now among the best at 175. Whatever comes, I’m ready.”

It won’t be a long overdue confrontation with promotional stablemate Adonis Stevenson. The 41 year-old “Superman” was beaten into a medically induced coma by new WBC champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk on December 1 in Quebec City. What’s coming instead is an immediate rematch with Kovalev, scheduled for February 2, 2019 in Frisco, Texas—streaming live on ESPN. Alvarez probably needs another KO to retain his new title. The three official judges in the first fight did him no favors and Texas is infamous for dodgy officiating and sketchy scoring.

Believing that he needs to be in better shape if he hopes to avenge his latest defeat, Kovalev is fielding yet another new trainer, new International Boxing Hall of Famer, James “Buddy” McGirt. Says Krusher of this ‘last chance’ sequel: “I’ll be ready [this time] and I will take back my title.”

Time will tell.

Despite taking an ambulance ride to the hospital after getting his ass officially kicked, Kovalev went on record claiming Alvarez was “lucky” to get the knockout victory. Kovalev’s loyal promoter Kathy Duva may have convinced her guy it was a fluke but a result like that is surely no accident. “Sergey was clearly winning when he just got caught,” she casually explains. “It happens.”

No Kathy, it happened. It happened. The Sweet Science 2018 Upset of the Year. My Alvarez-Kovalev II prediction: It happens again. Alvarez TKO in nine, Kovalev calls it quits.

Other Notable 2018 Upsets: Roberto “Rifle” Ramirez’s second round beat down of Dejan Zlaticanin in June, Francis Chua’s split decision over Kye McKenzie on the Horn-Mundine undercard Down Under, Emanuel Navarrete’s victory against Isaac Dogboe for the WBO 122 lb. title on the Lomachenko-Pedraza undercard at MSG, and as written about by TSS’s own Matt Andrzejewski, Hassan Mwakinyo’s shocking TKO of Sam Eggington in the United Kingdom.

UPSET PICK POSTSCRIPT

It’s funny how “boxing experts” often claim to have picked the surprise winner of a prize fight only after said fight is over. At a packed press conference in New York City to announce the summer title bout between Kovalev and Alvarez, I couldn’t find a single media member or industry insider willing to entertain the notion of an upset, much less an Alvarez knockout.

Face-to-face with Kovalev, Alvarez looked and sounded like a sure-fire winner to me. Where Alvarez appeared fit and ready to fight that day if need be, Kovalev struck me as a little too fat and happy for his own good. After Kovalev was knocked down and out on HBO, social media was full of ‘I told you so’ tweets from ex post facto smart alecks and keyboard warriors.

What I observed in the lead-up to the fight led me to conclude the 35 year-old Kovalev was not taking his relatively unknown opponent as seriously as he should have been. Kovalev’s middle finger morphed into a peace symbol. He actually said it wasn’t his goal to knock Alvarez out!

Ultimately, I was the only reporter out there who could read the writing on the wall, noting last May what a “high risk, low reward” fight this was for Kovalev; one with the potential to “go all wrong” for him. I couldn’t have been more right. While most (if not all) fans and media regarded the result as a foregone conclusion, I wrote that Kovalev would be UPSET by Eleider Alvarez.

He told me, I told you.

It happened.

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Hard Times: The Resurrection of Angel Camacho Jr.

Jeffrey Freeman

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Camacho

A junior is following in his father’s fighting footsteps and he’s taking strides beyond those made by Angel Camacho Sr., a tenacious power punching former Golden Glover from Puerto Rico. And although he’s not related in any form or fashion to the late Hall of Famer Hector “Macho” Camacho, you probably should have heard about the 35-year-old Angel Camacho Jr. by now.

The Providence, Rhode Island born light heavyweight (16-0, with 5 KOs) is currently on the third of three comeback trails from three lengthy periods of career inactivity totaling over nine years.

He knows it’s now or never.

“I still have to grind,” he says.

If things had gone according to plan, Camacho Jr. may have by now added a victory over Peter Manfredo Jr. to his resume. Instead, the talented boxer lost his biggest opportunity to a foot injury suffered while running on an outdoor trail just two weeks before the biggest fight of his life.

“I don’t run on trails anymore.”

Making his pro debut in 2006 at age 23 after a brief 1996 stint in the amateurs where he competed in only fifteen bouts, Camacho racked up eleven wins in two years on the New England circuit before a domestic assault situation landed him in jail; derailing his true passion.

He ultimately served nine months.

When Camacho came back in 2011, he was matched against local gatekeeper Keith Kozlin on a Big Six Entertainment card in West Warwick. It was obvious to everyone who saw him that the quick-fisted Camacho could still move his hands. Using his height and reach advantages, the six foot tall Puerto Rican American busted up Kozlin’s right eye and scored a unanimous four round decision while wearing an RI-DOC issued ankle bracelet as a condition of his parole.

FALL BACK

Rather than building on the momentum of victory, what followed was three more years of inactivity. “It was just life’s hurdles. Life’s complications,” explains Camacho. “I had a divorce. I was dealing with my significant other wanting me to spend more time at home. I’ve gone through a lot—drug issues, self-medicating because of depression, to now being clean and focused.”

Currently estranged from his second wife, Camacho freely admits that women are his downfall. “I’m addicted to them,” he tells me with a grin. “But in jail I turned a negative into a positive. I got my GED while I was in there. I stayed in great shape. I worked with a big guy named ‘Moose’ who’d wrap his mattress around his body and let me punch with towels wrapped on my hands.”

When he came back again in 2014, Camacho, signed and promoted by Jimmy Burchfield’s Classic Entertainment & Sports, faced another stiff test in Paul Gonsalves. Camacho notched a unanimous six round decision win at CES’s homebase of Twin River Casino in Lincoln, R.I.

Things were looking up in 2015 for the local standout and he was starting to show up on my radar as a New England fight writer. Five months after the Gonsalves win, Camacho was back in a CES ring, stepping up against tough super-middleweight southpaw trial horse Chris Chatman. Camacho scored another unanimous six round win but it was quite a struggle.

Originally scheduled to fight Kevin Cobbs at 178, Camacho had two weeks to get down 168. “I was dead in that fight, drained. My legs were like noodles. I had nothing in me but pure heart.”

Five months later in September at Twin River, Camacho faced his sternest test yet, a ten round scheduled matchup against Rich Gingras for a vacant UBF 175 pound title belt. In a high contact local throwdown, Camacho stopped Gingras in the eighth round to grab the biggest victory of his on-again, off-again career. The fight was an absolute war of attrition won big by Camacho after uncorking a highlight reel worthy nine-punch combination to end it. The brutal loss effectively ended the boxing career of Gingras who came back unsuccessfully three years later in 2018.

Using social media, Camacho reached out to me after the Gingras TKO wondering why I hadn’t yet written a story about him. He encouraged me to do so and I set out to pay extra close attention to his development. I could see he was clearly a cut above the locals he was being matched with and that good things were in his future. Instead, Camacho dropped off a cliff.

He didn’t stop training but Camacho did stop fighting. It’s a shame too because even though the title belt he won in the Gingras fight is a minor one, Camacho was enthusiastic and excited about defending it. In May of 2016, he was scheduled to put it up for grabs in an all-Providence vs. Providence battle with former Contender star Peter Manfredo Jr. in a huge CES main event.

This high profile encounter with Manfredo was supposed to be the fight that propelled Camacho beyond New England, to the next level, to the bigger and better things that boxing offers winners.

It wasn’t meant to be.

Camacho pulled out with a foot injury. Manfredo fought replacement opponent Vladine Biosse instead. The ‘Pride of Providence’ was held to an eight round split draw and has not fought again since. From ringside, Camacho could see the decline of the ring rusted Manfredo as clearly as anyone else around him. Had they fought as scheduled, it’s likely that the slick and aggressive Camacho would have upset Manfredo, kept his title and maybe even earned another one as the new Pride of Providence.

“I should’ve fought him with the bad foot,” says Camacho, only half-joking. “I know I would have beaten him. I was doing everything right in training,” he laments. Pridefully, Camacho still holds out hope that Manfredo might attempt another money making comeback and that a Manfredo-Camacho bout could still become a reality. “I would love for that to happen. I’m pretty sure if they offer him what they offered him before, he’d come back for it. I can still beat him.”

Slated to return just a few months later on July 15, 2016 in defense of his beloved UBF title against “Vermont Bully” Kevin Cobbs, Camacho saw another CES main event opportunity slip through his fingers when a devastating shoulder injury occurred in training. Camacho was in the gym throwing his right hand at the heavy bag when he felt a terrible shoulder pain. He’d injured his rotator cuff and he now needed surgery to repair it. The recovery was long and grueling.

It looked like Camacho was no mas.

“I was in a sling for forever. I was done,” he recalls. “But I finished most of my physical therapy knowing that I needed to get back into boxing. Today my shoulder feels better than it ever has.”

Frustrated with boxing’s ups and downs, Camacho started working manual labor jobs to support his family. Days turned into weeks and into months and then into years. I never got to write that story about the up-and-coming Angel Camacho Jr. because there was no longer one to tell.

SPRING FORWARD

It’s three years later.

Camacho (who insists he’s really a hungry super middleweight) got himself back into the ring and had his hand raised for the sixteenth time as a professional on March 15, 2019. He describes himself as still being in his “peak” physical prime. “I’m probably in the best shape of my life,” he says after officially weighing-in at 171 lbs. He doesn’t want to live with the regret of never knowing what he could have accomplished in the sport he loves and thinks of like chess.

Last Friday night in Massachusetts, the comebacking Camacho appeared on the undercard of rookie promoter Chuck Shearn’s debut Worcester Palladium fight card entitled Every Man For Himself—a local club show full of pawns making their opening moves in the boxing game.

Camacho had to work to defeat his 40 year-old opponent Larry Smith, a 10-40-1 Texas fall guy who always shows up and tries to win even if he rarely does. Camacho showed no sign of his two previous injuries (he led with his left foot and threw strong right hands at Smith) but he complained of a new issue after the fight in the dressing room, revealing an unknown chest injury suffered in sparring with previous opponent and now good friend Keith Kozlin.

“It hurts when I take a deep breath.”

Camacho did show some signs of ring rust after his long layoff but he stayed busy to the body and was rewarded with a clear unanimous decision. There was also an angry little nick under his right eye from being thumbed by Smith. The judge’s scores were 60-54 and 59-55 twice.

“This is the first step in my comeback,” says Camacho. Speaking of which, he almost tripped on the metal ring steps on his way into the ring and in the third, with Smith leaning on him, he nearly fell out of the ring and onto the photographers on the ring apron. Trying to hurt him but not get him hurt, Smith held onto Camacho and prevented him from falling clear out the ring.

“I love him,” the respectful Smith said of the winner. “It could have been a win for me to let him go but to see him fall out the ring, come on, he got kids. Just look at Prichard Colon right now, perfect example. He can’t box. Can he talk? He can’t talk. He can’t walk. He in a wheelchair.”

“I love you Larry,” Angel said before the men parted ways.

REVELATIONS

Humble so as not to be humbled, Camacho puts his resurrection as a man and as a fighter in His hands. “God gave me the talent to do this,” he says. “I’ve been boxing since I was 12 years-old after being terrorized and bullied as a little kid by a much bigger kid who really tortured me.”

Nick Tucci, a guardian angel the same age as Angel’s tormentor, stopped the bullying from “Bubba” and in 1995 introduced Camacho to trainer Artie Artwell at the Phantom Boxing Club on Branch Avenue in Providence. “I learned how to fight and I won the silver gloves in 1996.”

“That was the beginning of my boxing career,” Camacho recalls. “I owe it to Nick and to my grandfather who’d bring me to the gym. It’s time to get back in there and see what happens.”

According to his management team, Camacho is now looking at a return to Twin River casino on April 26 and then a possible June appearance against local upstart Richie “Popeye The Sailor Man” Rivera, an undefeated 10-0 (9) light heavyweight puncher from Hartford, Connecticut.

“I wasn’t meant to just stop fighting,” insists Camacho. “There’s more to do. I want to spread the word of God and help young people. I want to use boxing as a platform to reach out to kids in need. That’s why we set up the Angel Wings Foundation to raise money for those kids in the inner city. If I can help one so-called misfit kid by sharing my story, it makes it all worthwhile.”

Amen to that Angel.

Photo credit: Emily Harney

Boxing writer Jeffrey Freeman grew up in the City of Champions, Brockton, Massachusetts from 1973 to 1987, during the marvelous career of Marvin Hagler. He then lived in Lowell, Mass during the best years of Micky Ward’s illustrious career. A new member of the Boxing Writers Association of America, Freeman covers boxing for The Sweet Science in New England.

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Fast Results from New York: Conlan Pitches a Shutout but the Leprechaun Loses

Arne K. Lang

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Conlan

For the third straight year, Top Rank honcho Bob Arum brought New Yorkers a boxing card on St. Patrick’s Day. And for the third straight year his primary allurement was Michael Conlan, the former Olympian from Belfast. Conlan made his pro debut at this venue and his bout tonight in the Hulu Theater of Madison Square Garden was his fifth visit to the Big Apple.

In his last start, in Manchester, England, Conlan stepped up in class against clever Jason Cunningham and was extended the 10-round distance for the first time in his career. His opponent tonight, Ruben Garcia Hernandez (24-3-2 heading in) was seemingly a notch above Cunningham. Hernandez’s first two losses were to undefeated fighters and his third was a loss on points to Nonito Donaire, a world title-holder several times over. But Hernandez brought nothing to the table and Conlan, now 11-0, won every round on all three cards in a bout without an indelible moment.

The opposite side of the coin is that Conlan never had an anxious moment. One could say that he put on a clinic while keeping his undefeated record intact.

Paddy Barnes, dubbed the Leprechaun during his storied amateur career, wasn’t so fortunate.

In a major upset, the two-time Olympian from Belfast, lost a 6-round split decision to Dallas bantamweight Oscar Mojica (12-5-1). Two judges favored Mojica 58-56. The third gave it to Barnes by the same score, but Barnes had no quibble with the decision, saying in his mind he lost every round.

It was the second straight loss for Barnes (5-2), a two-time Olympian from Belfast who was dubbed the Leprechaun during his storied amateur career. He came in at 119 pounds, seven more than he weighed in his last start against Cristofer Rosales, but Mojica, who had a three-inch height advantage, was still the bigger man. The Texan bloodied Barnes’ nose in the first round and landed the harder punches.

Barnes was walked into the ring by his Belfast bosom buddy Carl Frampton, Top Rank’s newest signee. After the fight, he indicated that he would likely retire.

In the televised co-feature, a battle of two heavily tattooed welterweights, 37-year-old southpaw Luis Collazo, a 19-year pro, scored a 10-round split decision over Samuel Vargas. The scores were 98-92, 96-94, 94-96.

Way back in 2005, Collazo, a Brooklynite, won the WBA version of the world welterweight title on the road in Worcester, Massachusetts. Tonight’s win advanced his record to 39-7 (20). Vargas, a 29-year-old Columbian who fights out of Toronto, falls to 30-5-2 (14).

Both Collazo and Vargas went 12 rounds with Amir Khan who fights here next month in the big room against Terence Crawford.

Other Bouts

Josue Vargas, a 20-year-old Bronx lad of Puerto Rican descent, showboated his way to a shutout over Adriano Ramirez (10-3) of the Dominican Republic in a 6-round junior welterweight contest. Vargas is now 13-1 (8). His lone defeat was via a disqualification.

Joseph Adorno, who was 11-0 going in with 10 knockouts, seven in the opening round, had a harder time than expected in turning away Victor Rosas in a 6-round lightweight contest. Adorno prevailed by scores of 58-54 on all three cards. From Allentown, Pennsylvania, the 19-year-old Adorno is of Puerto Rican descent. Rosas, a tough Tex-Mex from Laredo, has lost five of his last six but is yet better than his 10-9 record would suggest.

Junior welterweight John Bauza, a  20-year-old Puerto Rican who currently resides in North Bergen, New Jersey, punished Ricardo Maldonado across six lopsided rounds, winning by scores of 60-54 on all three cards. Bauza improved to 12-0 (5). The stubborn Maldonado, from Arlington, Washington, declined to 8-9-1.

Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin, a recent Top Rank signee, improved to 3-0 with a six-round majority decision over Brownsville, Texas, campaigner Juan Tapia (8-4). One judge had it even but the other two favored Nikitin 59-55.

Nikitin, whose style appears better suited for the amateur game, outpointed Michael Conlan at the Rio Olympics, a decision that unleashed a storm of protest. He and Conlan will undoubtedly meet up again soon.

In a 4-round welterweight match, Lee Reeves (3-0) won all four rounds on all three cards vs. San Antonio’s Eduardo Torres (1-2). The 23-year-old Reeves, from Limerick, Ireland, is a two-time national Irish amateur champion.

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By Winning Too Easily, Errol Spence Jr. May Have Diminished His Options

Bernard Fernandez

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Spence vs Garcia

It was easy. Ridiculously easy. And, just maybe, too much so for the winner’s own good in some ways.

On the one hand, IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr.’s absolute domination of future Hall of Famer Mikey Garcia, achieved before 47,525 presumably impressed spectators in AT&T Stadium and a Fox Sports Pay Per View audience, certified the winner as a superstar and a rapid climber in everyone’s pound-for-pound ratings. If Spence (25-0, 21 KOs) hadn’t been widely recognized as such beforehand, his shocking (well, at least to a lot of people) shutout of Garcia (39-1, 30 KOs) likely moved him into one of the boxing penthouses reserved exclusively for fighters who not only are highly skilled inside the ropes but so marketable that their appearance in a bout virtually guarantees intense public interest and torrents of cash flowing into any promotion in which they happen to be involved.

OK, so maybe Spence did not “massacre” Garcia, as he had vowed to do, which suggested victory by knockout, boxing’s standard exclamation point. Hey, you can’t have everything. But a knockout can come on a lucky punch, or during a competitive fight in which the outcome might still be in question. The scorecards submitted by the judges in Arlington, Texas – Glenn Feldman had it 120-107, with Alex Levin and Nelson Vazquez just a tick behind with identical 120-108 tallies – tell a perhaps even more telling tale, of one terrific champion almost toying with another, albeit one who was so confident in himself that he not only agreed to move up two weight classes to make this particular match, he virtually demanded it.

Having great fighters he admired siding with the underdog stung Spence more than any of the few punches landed by Garcia, who must have known he had no chance of winning in the later rounds but allowed himself to be further battered for the small consolation and “moral” victory of making it to the final bell. In the 11th round, with Spence connecting almost at will, two-time former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, one of the commentators for the telecast, said of Garcia, “He’s being a punching bag right now.”

When it was over, and Spence had done all that he knew he was capable of doing, he took a few verbal swipes at the legends of the ring who had questioned whether he could solve so clever and versatile a fighter as Garcia.

“So many so-called experts were writing me off,” Spence said of what had to be a source of additional motivation. “I felt insulted during training camp that people were saying he was smarter than me and I felt insulted that lot of these reporters were agreeing with them. Top guys like Sugar Ray Leonard were going for Mikey Garcia. Guys like (Juan Manuel) Marquez and (Marco Antonio) Barrera were going for him. (Mike) Tyson and Leonard saying Mikey Garcia was going to win kind of rubbed me the wrong way, too.”

Given the nature of his victory, and on so large a stage, the case can be reasonably made that Spence has entered a select circle presently occupied by such proven fillers of stadiums as Anthony Joshua and Canelo Alvarez, an exclusive address to which not even such undeniably terrific fighters as Vasiliy Lomachenko and Terence Crawford have been able to take up residence. Spence might still be perceived in some quarters as a lesser fighter than fellow welterweight Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs), the WBO champion, but until further notice he likely will be acknowledged as the reigning king of boxing’s most-stacked and top-heavy division, with all manner of megafights seemingly available to him, including a pairing with 40-year-old Manny Pacquiao, a former occupant of that figurative penthouse whose name value and brand are so established that he would be at or near the top of every prominent 147-pounder’s wish list.

After he had exposed Garcia’s foolishness in calling him out, Spence, before doing an in-ring interview with Fox’s Heidi Androl, did the same by calling out Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs), who holds a secondary WBA welterweight title. “Pac-Man” had flown in with his wife, Jinkee, to see the fight on what can only be surmised as a scouting mission.

“Tell Manny Pacquiao to come back over here,” Spence said to Androl, motioning for Pacquiao, who had entered the ring, to join him on-camera. “Manny, come on over here, man. He been here before (Pacquiao had fought twice in 2010 in what is now known as AT&T Stadium, on each occasion before a crowd in excess of 40,000). He done broke records here before. He’s a legend of the sport. It’d be my honor to fight him next.”

Asked flat-out if he would consent to being Spence’s next opponent, perhaps in AT&T Stadium before another huge crowd, Pacquiao responded with what might be described as less-than-sincere enthusiasm. The only man to have won championships in eight separate weight classes, the Pacquiao of five or six years ago surely would have been a worthy opponent for the Spence of today, but his sights are set on another golden-oldies money grab in a rematch with the retired, 42-year-old Floyd Mayweather Jr., who even at his best was not stylistically suited to beat the snot out of the other guy.  If you exclude his 10th-round stoppage of mixed martial artist Conor McGregor in their dog-and-pony show on Aug 26, 2017, “Money” had not won inside the distance in six years, a span of seven fights.  Spence, meanwhile, had whacked out 11 consecutive opponents until the proud but outclassed Garcia hung around until the scheduled finish.

“Yeah, why not?” Pacquiao said when asked if Spence might be next on his dance card. “It’d give the fans a good fight. I’d be happy to be here (at AT&T Stadium). I’m hoping that I will be back here. Soon.”

Yeah, but maybe not against Spence. And therein lies the problem for Spence, the southpaw from DeSoto, Texas, whose nickname, appropriately, is “The Truth.” The truth just might be that Pacquiao and other elite or semi-elite welterweights might prove unavailable to him because of conflicting promotional affiliations or the simple desire to not be thumped by someone with the skills and power to win with either finesse or force.

Richard Schaefer, the former Golden Boy executive who now heads up Ringstar Sports, was in Arlington and it was his opinion that Spence might have been too good for his own good.

“If you think Spence had problems getting guys to fight him before, he’s really going to have a problem now,” Schaefer told ESPN’s Steve Kim.

WBO welterweight champ Shawn Porter (30-2-1, 17 KOs), who would be a significant underdog should he get a unification gig with Spence, immediately volunteered to accept generous hazardous-duty pay for the assignment, to which Spence sniffed, “Shawn can’t sell out a family dinner.” Upon further reflection, Spence allowed that a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, if it comes to that.

“If Manny Pacquiao doesn’t want to fight, I’ll smoke Shawn, too,” he said.

The matchup that would make the most sense is a unification showdown that would pit Spence against Crawford. But that fight might require some marination to attain its full flavor, and Crawford is a Top Rank fighter and thus aligned with ESPN+, putting him, in Spence’s words, “across the street” from where Spence is obliged to work. That narrows the field somewhat to still-attractive options Pacquiao, Porter, Keith Thurman (29-0, 22 KOs), the “super” WBA welter titlist, and former WBC welterweight ruler Danny Garcia (34-2, 20 KOs). Contract kinks would need to be worked out, but any of the aforementioned fighters would be more than acceptable to Fox PPV and Showtime PPV, with which Premier Boxing Champions, which holds paper on Spence, has working arrangements. Spence, however, has reservations about some of the top guys whose names have been floated, the theory being that they’d rather protect their own little slices of the championship pie for less money than to risk a beatdown in going for a larger piece, unless, of course, the financial compensation is too enticing to pass up.

It could be that Spence eventually might have to look down or up for the kind of high-visibility fights that will allow him to remain in the penthouse on a long-term lease. Might the potential talent pool include WBC super lightweight champion Regis Prograis (23-0, 1 KOs), who at some point is likely to move up to welterweight? Would Spence consider going up to super welter to challenge IBF/WBA super welterweight titlist Jarrett Hurd (23-0, 16 KOs) or WBO champ Jaime Munguia (32-0, 28 KOs)? Is it too much of a stretch to believe he might even try to do what Garcia did so unsuccessfully, which is to bulk up two weight classes, to middleweight, where WBA/WBC king Canelo Alvarez (51-1-2, 35 KOs), IBF champ Daniel Jacobs (35-2, 29 KOs) – Alvarez and Jacobs square off on May 4 in Las Vegas – and former IBF/WBA/WBC titlist Gennady Golovkin (38-1-1, 34 KOs) reside?

For now, it must be said that what Spence did to Garcia is reminiscent of a book about a World War II battle, A Bridge Too Far, authored in 1974 by Cornelius Ryan. Adapted into a 1977 movie of the same name, the ambitious Allied strategy was to launch a surprise attack and capture several bridges behind German lines in the occupied Netherlands. But in the words of British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, the plan failed because its reach exceeded its grasp and went, well, a bridge too far.

In Mikey Garcia’s case, his bold bid definitely went at least one bridge too far, because Errol Spence Jr. was on the other side and resolute in his determination to not yield an inch of ground.

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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