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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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Will a Canelo Alvarez Trilogy Turn ‘Triple G’ into a Mexican Style Piñata?

Jeffrey Freeman

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We’ve all seen the birthday video of some poor kid swingin’ for a strung-up stuffed toy but getting back in the face something other than the expected bounty of candies and treats. Dizzy from being spun around in circles and blindfolded against a moving target, a child is beaten by paper mache. Score one for the much-abused piñata. It can only take so much punishment.

Before it opens up—explodes!

Perhaps that’s 37-year-old Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin now in his single-minded desire to fight world middleweight champion Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez, 28, for a third time following a successful comeback KO of Steve Rolls at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Maybe he’ll bust Canelo’s belly open. Or maybe this time he’ll get busted up? Three strikes in this game; sorry Buster.

“I’m ready. Bring on Canelo,” Golovkin told DAZN’s Chris Mannix after improving to 39-1-1 with 35 big knockouts. “A third fight is more interesting because we both have experience against each other. I come to open up, he comes to open up…the next fight will be amazing for us.”

Their first two title bouts were amazing for fans but they lacked a sense of finality. Neither boxer was ever visibly hurt and there were no knockdowns registered. In two fights, only six points divided the combatants and that includes the despicable 118-110 score from Adalaide Byrd in favor of Canelo in the first meeting. In the rematch, Alvarez was superior—but not by much.

The piñata is still in play.

In his many swings in two HBO-PPV tries against Alvarez, Golovkin came up short of bursting the economic bubble that surrounds Canelo and appears to protect him at all times. Their 2017 contest was ruled a split draw and their 2018 rematch was won by Canelo via majority decision. If Golovkin was cloaked in an aura of invincibility, it was Alvarez who stripped him naked but helped fund a brand-new wardrobe by providing Golovkin with his two biggest paydays by far.

Golovkin’s ability to knock out ordinary fighters and second-tier contenders like Vanes Martirosyan remains intact. The offense looks good. Punches still fly like hatchets. However, GGG’s defense looked third-rate against Rolls and he’s back to taking punches in the face in order to connect with harder punches of his own to end matters early as a “gift” for fans.

New trainer Johnathon Banks wasn’t impressed.

As a student of the late trainer Emanuel Steward and caretaker of his KRONK legacy, ‘Mister Banks’ is a fine human being and an honest man in an industry full of lies told to sell fights.

“It was very uncomfortable for me,” said Banks at the post-fight press conference of having to watch Golovkin, now without Abel Sanchez, take shots he shouldn’t be taking. On the other hand, Canelo’s Golden Boy Promotions promoter Oscar De La Hoya had to like what he saw.

The TSS Truth: The Golovkin who beat Rolls didn’t look ready at all for the Canelo who beat Jacobs. And if you listened carefully to the post-fight breakdown by Banks, the trainer knows it’s true. What’s also true is that as Canelo approaches his peak, Golovkin is approaching age 40.

Can Banks teach Golovkin to correct his mistakes and be better than Alvarez in September—in three months? “If we can grow day to day as trainer and fighter, that can change the outcome.”

I’m not so sure.

THE BANK STATEMENT

After getting his head bobbled around by Rolls before dropping the boom in the fourth, GGG didn’t sound too interested in a New York rematch with Danny Jacobs or a shot at Providence, Rhode Island’s Demetrius Andrade for Boo-Boo’s new WBO trinket—and who can blame him at this point? The only big money fight out there for GGG is still against Canelo Alvarez.

It’s all about his legacy now. Uno mas en Las Vegas. Third times a charm?

As Golovkin gets another year older, his red-headed target grows another year wiser. Canelo’s 24 rounds of experience in the ring with GGG have taught him how to do what nobody else before him could do which was beat Golovkin back and take his unified middleweight titles.

Ask Canelo, as DAZN’s Mannix did, and he’ll say a third fight with Golovkin is unnecessary. “For me, we are done, but if the people want to see it, we can do it again. And I’ll beat him again.”

But can Alvarez finish the job and be the first to finish off Golovkin inside the distance? If he wants to get the critics off his back who insist he received two gifts against Golovkin, he’ll want to. It worked for Andre Ward against Sergey Kovalev but even then fans cried foul over the TKO.

Can Alvarez make GGG quit?

The way Golovkin got hit by Steve Rolls has me wondering if the counterpunching Canelo has been setting him up all along for a trilogy winning knockout of some sort. Is the rock-solid chin of Golovkin finally ready to burst after years of getting whacked at by eager-fisted title challengers?

Canelo is by no means a knockout puncher against fully fleshed out middleweights but he has grown into the 160-pound division very well over time. His recent unanimous decision victory over Danny Jacobs didn’t feature any knockdowns but his win over the ‘Miracle Man’ was more conclusive than was Golovkin’s in 2017. Nobody was claiming afterwards that Jacobs deserved the decision while some still insist that Danny actually beat GGG. If Golovkin is right and both of them open up more in a third fight, Canelo-Golovkin III could exceed expectations.

We’ve all heard the saying: Be careful what you wish for. Because you just might get it!

There wouldn’t be a bigger Big Drama Show in all of boxing than to see the once seemingly invincible Gennady Golovkin dropped and/or stopped by the Mexican Style of Canelo Alvarez.

Boxing Writer Jeffrey Freeman grew up in the City of Champions, Brockton, Massachusetts from 1973 to 1987, during the Marvelous career of Marvin Hagler. JFree then lived in Lowell, Mass during the best years of Irish Micky Ward’s illustrious career. A new member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a Bernie Award Winner in the Category of Feature Under 1500 Words, Freeman covers boxing for The Sweet Science in New England.

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Tyson Fury Blasts Out Germany’s Tom Schwarz in Las Vegas

David A. Avila

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Tyson Fury vs Tom Schwarz

LAS VEGAS-In his first Las Vegas show Great Britain’s Tyson Fury showcased a neon light kind of performance with a second round knockout over Germany’s Tom Schwarz to retain the lineal heavyweight world championship on Saturday.

“I came to put on a show for Las Vegas and I hoped everyone enjoyed it,” Fury said.

Though facing an undefeated fighter like himself, Fury (28-0-1, 20 KOs) proved to Schwarz (24-1, 16 KOs) and the more than 9,000 fans at the MGM Grand there are elite levels in the prizefighting world with a quick, decisive knockout victory.

The heavyweight known as the “Gypsy King” had recently signed with Top Rank after giving a riveting and inspiring performance last December against WBC heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder. Both electrified the crowd in Los Angeles and around the world proving the heavyweight division is alive and well.

It had been decades since heavyweights had sparked interest outside of Europe. But Fury and Wilder’s performance proved exciting despite ending in a majority draw after 12 rounds.

On Saturday, Fury met Schwarz and in his first fight in Las Vegas and easily out-classed Schwarz with his ability to use distance, slip punches and basically hit the German fighter with ease, even as a southpaw.

“Key tonight was telling myself to use the jab, and slip to the side,” said Fury.

After a rather tepid first round Fury changed to a southpaw stance and invited Schwarz to try and hit him. In one flurry the German fired a six-punch combination and every blow was slipped by the smiling Fury. He then smoothly slipped around Schwarz and fired his own six punch combination and capped it with a right to the chin that dropped the German to his knees. Schwarz got up and was met with another dozen blows that forced referee Kenny Bayless to end the bludgeoning at 2:54 of the second round. Fury was declared the winner by technical knockout.

“I put on an extra 12 pounds. This time it was only a few months out of the ring and I’m back,” said Fury. “I came here a southpaw and I hoped everybody enjoyed it.”

When asked if a Wilder rematch was on tap Fury was effusive and declared that promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank assured it would be in September or October.

“I’ve never seen promoting like this,” said Fury. “God bless America.”

Once again the heavyweights seem to be the darling division with Fury, Wilder, Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua the leading heavyweights.

Mikaela

Mikaela Mayer (11-0, 4 KOs) started slowly but once she figured out the awkward aggressiveness of Lizbeth Crespo (13-4, 3 KOs) she slipped into overdrive with the right cross and right uppercuts and rolled to victory by unanimous decision after 10 rounds. The former American Olympian retains the NABF super featherweight title.

For the first two rounds Crespo scored well with overhand rights and constant punching. Though Mayer scored with solid left jabs, she was countered by looping rights and lefts that caught the taller American fighter pulling out.

Adjustments were made and by the third round Mayer was staying close and using lethal right hands that boomed off Crespo’s head and body. After charging hard for two rounds those blows suddenly slowed down the Argentine’s attack.

Mayer took over after the third round and kept the momentum going with that lethal right and check left hook. Crespo tried but couldn’t solve the right of Mayer.

After 10 rounds the judges scored it 100-90, 99-91, and 98-92 for Mayer.

“Crespo was a tough challenge, but I got through it and I’m ready to move on to bigger things,” said Mayer. “I am ready for a world title fight next. It’s time for the champions to step up and get in the ring with me.”

Other Bouts

Albert Bell (15-0, 5 KOs) proved a little too slick for Northern California’s Andy Vences (22-1-1, 12 KOs) and won the WBC Continental America’s super featherweight title by unanimous decision after 10 rounds. The scores were all 97-93 for Bell.

WBC International featherweight titlist Isaac Lowe (17-1-3, 6 KOs) won a boring unanimous decision over Wisconsin’s Duarn Vue (14-2-2, 4 KOs) after 10 rounds. Lowe ran and ran some more with occasional pot shots but there were long stretches where it was more a track meet than a prize fight. It was like amateur boxing for 10 rounds. The scores were 98-92, 97-93 and 99-91 for Lowe.

Italian heavyweight Guido “The Gladiator” Vianello (4-0, 4 KOs) showed off agility and power before knocking out Louisiana’s Keenan Hickman (6-4-1, 2 KOs). Vianello, who is trained by Abel Sanchez in Big Bear, floored Hickman three times before the fight was stopped at 2:22 of the second round.

Germany’s Peter Kadiriv (4-0) had no problems with Houston’s southpaw heavyweight Juan Torres (3-2-1) and won every round with a steady lead right and occasional combinations. All three judges scored it 40-36 for Kadiriv.

Philadelphia’s Sonny Conto (3-0, 3 KOs) knocked out Youngstown, Ohio’s Daniel Infante (1-2) with an overhand right at 2:08 of the second round of their heavyweight confrontation. Conto had floored Infante earlier in the round with a seven-punch flurry.

Fight of the Night

In the final fight of the night super middleweights Cem Kelic (14-0, 9 KOs) and Martez McGregor (8-2, 6 KOs) electrified the small audience remaining in the crowd with a memorable slugfest.

Chicago’s McGregor started quick and floored Los Angeles-based Kelic in the first round with a right cross. That was only the beginning.

For the next seven rounds the two 168-pounders blasted each other with blows that would have taken out normal human beings. Both gave super human performances until Kelic connected with a left hook that staggered McGregor forcing referee Tony Weeks to halt the fight at 1:45 of the eighth and final round.

It was truly the best fight of the night.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank

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Fast Results From Latvia: Mairis Briedis and the KO Doctor advance in the WBSS

Arne K. Lang

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Briedis vs Glowacki

The semifinal round of the Wold Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament played out today in Riga, Latvia, the hometown of Mairis Briedis who was matched against Poland’s Krzysztof Glowacki. Both fighters had only one blemish on their ledger and in both cases their lone defeat came at the hands of Oleksandr Usyk.

The fans left happily after Briedis (26-1, 19 KOs) knocked out Glowacki (34-2) in the third frame. But it was messy fight that invites a lot of second-guessing and likely a challenge from the Glowacki camp.

After a feeling-out first round, Briedis cranked up the juice. An errant elbow landed behind Glowacki’s head, putting him on the canvas. For this discretion, Briedis was docked a point. A legitimate knockdown followed — Glowacki was hurt — and then another knockdown after the bell had sounded. The referee could not hear the bell in the din. It was a wild scene.

The fight was allowed to continue, but didn’t last much longer. Coming out for round three, Glowacki wasn’t right and Briedis pounced on him, scoring another knockdown, leading referee Robert Byrd to waive the fight off at the 27 second mark. It wasn’t Byrd’s finest hour.

The tournament organizers anticipated the complication of a draw and assigned extra judges to eliminate this possibility. They did not anticipate the complication of a “no-contest.” If the outcome isn’t overturned, Briedis, a former WBC cruiserweight champ, is the new WBO title-holder.

Dorticos-Tabiti

In the co-feature, Miami-based Cuban defector Yunier Dorticos, nicknamed the KO Doctor, lived up to his nickname with a smashing one punch knockout of previously undefeated Andrew Tabiti. The end for Tabiti came with no warning in round 10. An overhand right left him flat on his back, unconscious. Referee Eddie Claudio didn’t bother to count. The official time was 2:33.

It was easy to build case for Dorticos (24-1, 22 KOs). He was three inches taller than Tabiti, packed a harder punch, and had fought stronger opposition. But it was understood that Tabiti, now 17-1, had a more well-rounded game. Moreover, there were concerns about Dorticos’ defense and stamina.

Dorticos was ahead on the scorecards after nine frames. He rarely took a backward step and let his hands go more freely. And it didn’t help Tabiti’s cause that he was docked a point for holding in the sixth frame. Earlier in that round, an accidental clash of heads left Dorticos with a cut over his right eye. The ringside physician was called into the ring to examine it and let the bout continue.

With the victory, Dorticos became the IBF world cruiserweight champion and moved one step closer to acquiring the coveted Muhammad Ali trophy in what will be, win or lose, the most lucrative fight of his career.

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