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Canelo vs Trout Spanish philosopher/poet George Santayana once observed that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” He meant it as a warning to future generations, that no mistake from another time should be expected to be forever corrected.

But the past is repeated, more often than we might think, because there are only so many sets of circumstances that it probably is inevitable that what goes around, probably will come around again with a new set of characters. And so it is with Saturday night's super welterweight unification showdown of WBC champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (41-0-1, 30 KOs) and WBA titlist Austin Trout (26-0, 14 KOs), in San Antonio's Alamodome.

Does that matchup remind a lot of you of what took place, in the same city and stadium, the night of Sept. 10, 1993? Nearly 20 years have passed, and here boxing fans are, with the same drama – albeit with a possibly different outcome – being played out by fighters whose characteristics are strikingly similar to those of their predecessors. It's like a hit movie being remade with other actors, in this instance the role of Julio Cesar Chavez filled by Alvarez and the role of Pernell Whitaker assigned to Trout. But until the final punch is thrown, the final scene remains a mystery. The past is not necessarily prologue, at least not yet. We are left in doubt until the closing credits roll.

What happened on Sept. 10, 1993, forever shall remain one of the fight game's more unsatisfying controversies. There was no winner, no loser in the passion play that pitted a Mexican national hero (Chavez) against a slick African-American southpaw (Whitaker). The majority draw – judge Jack Woodruff, from Dallas, had Whitaker winning, 115-113, while cohorts Mickey Vann, of England, and Franz Marti, of Switzerland, each saw it as a 115-115 standoff – left some people enraged, many others relieved, and almost everyone perplexed.

Bottom line: Whitaker, whose WBC welterweight championship was on the line, retained his belt, although, because of the boxing skills and ring generalship “Sweet Pea” had demonstrated over 12 nearly flawless rounds, he and his backers felt he clearly deserved the victory and the distinction of becoming the first man to defeat the man known as “JC Superstar.” Chavez fans – and they comprised the vast majority of the 63,000-plus who jammed the Alamodome – seemed relieved to have come away with the proverbial half-a-loaf, although some suggested that their man's unstinting attempts at forcing the action should have been credited more than Whitaker's duck-and-dodge tactics.

There was no rematch, and the suspicion has lingered to this day that the Mexico City-based WBC and its president, Jose Sulaiman, did not mandate one for fear that the second time around would produce even more of the same frustration that had marked Chavez's attempts to track down and, you know, actually hit Whitaker.

Ferdie Pacheco, a color analyst for the Showtime pay-per-view telecast, had perhaps the most prescient take on what eventually happened.

“With a tremendously pro-Chavez crowd on hand, Whitaker is going to have to win decisively – very decisively – to get a decision if it goes the distance,” Pacheco had predicted. “Don't tell me the judges won't be affected by 70,000 screaming Hispanics. They're only human. (Muhammad) Ali won fights he should have lost because, well, he was Ali.

“If Whitaker wins, it'll probably be one of the stinkingest fights of all time because that means he'll have been able to stay away from Chavez for 12 rounds. It takes incredible discipline to do that, and, let's face it, nobody has done it yet.”

In some ways, perhaps Whitaker-Chavez more closely mirrors what took place just this past weekend, when a defensively brilliant Cuban southpaw, Guillermo Rigondeaux, played keepaway, stepping in for the occasional stinging counterpunch, to win an action-starved unanimous decision over Nonito Donaire in their 122-pound unification bout in New York City's Radio City Music Hall. There's that George Santayana thing again.

But Alvarez-Trout … even Stevie Wonder can see how the storylines are lifted almost verbatim from Whitaker-Chavez. Put it all together and you can almost hear the theme from The Twilight Zone in the background.

A crowd of 40,000 is expected, and maybe even more will be in the stadium if there's a strong walk-up. An impressive turnout, no doubt, if not quite as large as the standing-room-only turnout for Whitaker-Chavez. Showtime Championship Boxing again will televise. You have Alvarez, the undefeated Mexican icon, replicating Chavez and Whitaker, whose fancy moves are a reasonable facsimile of Whitaker's, taking over for a fighter he readily admits is one of his pugilistic role models.

“It's a very similar fight,” Alvarez said when asked about the eerie parallels between then and now. “I've watched (Whitaker-Chavez) on video several times. Austin Trout, like Pernell Whitaker, is a southpaw. He's slick, a very difficult fighter. But that's what we're training hard for.

“Come the night of the fight, we're going to make it where it's not so difficult.”

Trout says virtually the same things. “I do see a very similar comparison,” he said about links to Whitaker-Chavez. “First of all, 'Sweet Pea' is one of my favorite fighters. But the difference between me and him is I can punch a bit.

“There are things that I saw (Whitaker) did in that fight that would have made it a lot less close, things he could have done to pull away from Chavez. The best way to not let history repeat itself is to know history. I know what happened in that fight. Just remember that Chavez is not Canelo and I'm not 'Sweet Pea.'”

In some ways, the scene-setting in advance of Whitaker-Chavez was more intriguing than the fight itself. Chavez's promoter, Don King, and Whitaker's promoter, Dan Duva, were hardly tight, and each man did his part to keep the pot boiling until the opening bell rang. King's preferred method was typical heh-heh-heh humor, while Duva, who since has passed away, saw possible conspiracies at every turn.

“The slogan for this fight will be 'Remember the Alamo,'” His Hairness had harrumphed during a prefight press conference, referencing the legendary three-day siege in 1836 at San Antonio's most famous landmark. “And this time, the Mexicans will win.”

King was then reminded that the numerically superior Mexicans actually won at the Alamo.

“Well, this time they'll win again,” King said while citing such historic Alamo defenders as Davy Crockett and Sam Bowie.

Sam Bowie? The 7-foot Portland Trail Blazers center with the chronically sore feet?

“Aw, well, you know who I mean,” King said, finally correcting himself. “I meant to say Jim Bowie, the guy with the big knife.”

Duva, who once dressed his toddler son in a Don King fright wig for Halloween, didn't think jokes or malapropisms by his opposite number should mask what he feared would be a bias, intentional or not, against his fighter by those with the power to decide the outcome.

“Walking forward and getting hit in the face is not boxing,” Duva, as serious as could be, said beforehand. “This is not a Toughman contest or a barroom brawl. It's who controls the ring. That's boxing. Pernell Whitaker is a master boxer and he's going to box Chavez's ears off.”

But it wasn't only the promoters who got in on the act. At the press conference to officially announce the bout, Chavez, who was 87-0 with 75 knockouts, opined that Whitaker (32-1, 15 KOs at the time) lacked the “essentials” to defeat him. He then made a motion with his right hand that would not be unfamiliar to anyone who ever saw a Michael Jackson or Andrew Dice Clay crotch-grab. Gladys Rosa, serving as the interpreter for the Spanish-speaking Chavez, tried to explain his meaning to the English-speaking portion of the audience, only to be met with a howl of laughter from all present. It was a gesture that required no interpretation.

Not surprisingly, Chavez went off as a 2-1 favorite. And, given what had happened in one of the earlier bouts on the card, the apprehension voiced by Duva and Pacheco did seem to have at least some basis in fact. WBC super featherweight champion Azuman Nelson, of Ghana, retained his title on a split draw against popular San Antonio resident Jesse James Leija, but ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr., after several tense minutes, said there had been a miscalculation on judge Daniel Van Del Wiele's scorecard. Instead of Nelson winning by 116-115, Van Del Wiele's card should have read 115-115. Leija – who, ironically, is a co-promoter of Alvarez-Trout – thus left the ring with his half a loaf.

Some observers had suggested that there would be a something akin to a riot were Whitaker to win a close decision in the main event. But as round by round went by, with Whitaker employing his signature duck-waddle – instead of moving side to side, he frequently went down on his haunches while Chavez's punches sailed over his head – even the challenger's most vocal partisans sensed that this might not be his night. When Lennon announced the majority draw, the mood in the arena was more of relief than of outrage. The idol of the assembled masses was still technically unbeaten.

Duva, of course, wasn't buying any of it. “All those officials are regular guys who fly first-class all over the world, to Tokyo or Thailand or whatever, to judge WBC fights,” he fumed. “WBC judges will tell you that when they go against the house fighter, they're not chosen to fight another fight for a while. That's the way it's done.”

Vann, in his debut column for England's Boxing News, defended – sort of – his scorecard for Whitaker-Chavez without specifically mentioning it.

“Now, after multiple international, British, Commonwealth, European title and 174 world championship fights, you will be able to read about my opinions and see, after all that experience, I still don't have a clue about the fight game,” he wrote.

“…referees and judges will always have their critics. We all see the sport differently. Boxing is so subjective, and that subjectivity can vary depending on how you watch a fight. There isn't any black and white in our sport; it is an opinion of a selected few. It has been said that my opinion and verdicts are at times controversial, but they have all been honest, and I stand by them all.”

Whitaker and Chavez quite properly have been enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y. Their plaques would have been hung regardless of what transpired on Dec. 10, 1993. Their body of work is unassailable, and it probably is pointless to speculate on what might have happened for either had there been different judges, or the judges who were on hand had submitted cards with markedly different scores. What was is what is. The draw is on the books, forever.

And, really, Trout is right. He is not Whitaker, and Alvarez is not Chavez. Whether they like it or not, they may have been thrust into predetermined roles, but it is within their power to script their own finish.

Because if we must have reruns, there's always M*A*S*H on TV Land.

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Charr-Oquendo Scuttled When Charr Tests Positive; the Odious WBA Saves Face



Manuel Charr

Manuel Charr and Fres Oquendo were scheduled to fight in Cologne, Germany, later this month (Sept. 29). Charr would be defending his WBA world heavyweight title, the “regular” version of it, not the “super” version which rests in the hands of Anthony Joshua.

The bout was quickly cancelled when it was revealed that Charr had tested positive for two banned anabolic steroids. The test was performed by VADA, the anti-doping agency identified with Las Vegas neurologist Dr. Margaret Goodman.

The 33-year-old Charr, born in Lebanon but a resident of Germany since the age of three, won the belt in his last start with a unanimous decision over 281-pound Russian behemoth Alexander Ustinov in Oberhausen, Germany. The title was vacant. Charr won the right to fight for it with a 10-round decision over Albanian slug Sefer Seferi. The victory over Ustinov elevated his record to 31-4. He has been stopped three times, by Vitali Klitschko, Alexander Povetkin, and Mairis Briedis.

If it wasn’t for bad luck, as the old saying goes, Fres Oquendo wouldn’t have any luck at all. For various reasons, his fights keep falling out. Before long he’ll be drawing social security. Well, not exactly, but he turned 45 in April and hasn’t fought in more than four years.

Oquendo has competed for this belt before. In his last ring appearance in July of 2014, he lost a majority decision to Russia’s Ruslan Chagaev in Grozny, Russia. As a concession for taking the fight on short notice, Team Oquendo negotiated a rematch clause in the contract, but a shoulder injury prevented Fres from activating it. When the injury healed, he had to go to court to compel Chagaev to fulfill his obligation. But then the Russian retired, muddling the water.

The WBA was legally bound to find Oquendo a title fight and in desperation turned to ancient Shannon Briggs. But the Oquendo-Briggs fight, scheduled for June 3 of last year in Hollywood, Florida, fell out when Briggs’ urine specimen showed an abnormally high level of testosterone.

Fres Oquendo was dogged by bad luck even before these recent developments. His professional record, 37-8, is somewhat misleading as six of his eight defeats were razor-thin including his 2003 setback to Chris Byrd and his 2006 setback to Evander Holyfield. However, Oquendo, something of a cutie, was never a crowd-pleaser and in none of his narrow defeats was there a public clamor for a rematch.

The cancellation of Charr-Oquendo cuts the World Boxing Association out of a sanctioning fee, but one would think that the WBA honchos are actually rather pleased by this turn of events. The fight, more precisely the WBA’s world title imprimatur, would have brought more unwanted publicity to the Panama-based organization.

ESPN’s Dan Rafael, who has the largest platform of any boxing writer, has been a persistent critic of the organization which once recognized 41 “champions” in 17 weight classes. In 2009, Rafael wrote, “(The WBA) has become such an absolute farce that even somebody like me, who follows boxing closely, sometimes has a hard time keeping track of all the nonsensical so-called world title belts the WBA has been doling out at an alarming rate. It almost reminds me of the ladies at Costco who hand out various samples on a busy Saturday afternoon.”

Rafael took note when WBA president Gilberto Mendoza promised to cull the herd by eliminating “regular” titles, and then became more caustic when Mendoza didn’t follow through. Recently, in one short, punchy diatribe, Rafael blistered the WBA as wretched, vile, and rancid.

Regardless of your opinion, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Fres Oquendo who keeps getting stranded at the altar. No, he’s not fun to watch and a man of his age shouldn’t be taking any more punches, but he has always been an honest workman and by all accounts he’s a very decent man. Born in Puerto Rico but raised in Chicago, Oquendo pitched right in when the island nation of his birth was ravaged by Hurricane Maria. He was personally responsible for relocating Puerto Rican boxing legend Wilfred Benitez and Benitez’s sister, his caregiver, to Chicago where their lives wouldn’t be as hard.

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Bob Arum Hails Terence Crawford (not Lomachenko) as Boxing’s Next Superstar



Arum says Terence

Top Rank’s Bob Arum says Terence Crawford will become this generation’s Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao–elite boxers who became worldwide celebrity sensations. Arum, who promoted both Mayweather and Pacquiao on the way to their historic crossover statuses expects big things from the undefeated Crawford over the next few years.

“He’s the best fighter in the United States, and he’s so charismatic,” said Arum. “He comes from middle America, and In the next year or so, he will be huge.”

Arum’s assertion is noteworthy for two reasons. First, Arum is also the promoter for Vasyl Lomachenko. Lomachenko is ranked No. 1 pound-for-pound by The Ring, the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. More importantly, Lomachenko seems to have a groundswell of support behind him both in the media and among fight fans.

Lomachenko has also been heavily featured through Top Rank’s television partnership with ESPN. While Crawford has achieved more in his career than Lomachenko (at least in my eyes) and, as noted by Arum, is a homegrown American talent, Lomachenko seems to be considered the more marketable commodity to that network judging by the amount of promotional materials ESPN has pumped out about the fighter over the last year.

The other reason Arum’s claim about Crawford is interesting is the performance of Canelo Alvarez over the weekend in his majority decision rematch win over Gennady Golovkin. Besides Mayweather and Pacquiao, Alvarez is the clear PPV leader among all of boxing’s current commodities, and his status as boxing’s new money fighter should only grow stronger after the best win of his career.

Still, Crawford is one of the few very elite fighters in all of boxing. He’s ranked No. 2 pound-for-pound by The Ring, the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.

While Lomachenko and Alvarez are also candidates to become boxing’s next big thing, there’s no doubt Crawford is also one of the few boxers in the sport right now with the right things in place to become the next Mayweather or Pacquiao.

Omaha’s Crawford is in the midst of an historic run. When he stopped Jeff Horn in round 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in June, Crawford captured a world title in his third different weight class, welterweight. This after Crawford had already captured two lineal boxing championships, as well as multiple alphabet titles, in both the lightweight and junior welterweight divisions.

By any measure, Crawford is truly one of the best boxers in the sport. Not only does he look the part in the ring on fight night (something more and more writers seem to value most when voting for pound-for-pound lists), but the fighter has already accomplished so much in his career that it seems Arum is doing more than the fiduciary duty of promoting his fighter when he ascribes to Crawford such lofty praise.

Crawford, still just 30 years old, is already halfway to matching Mayweather and Pacquiao’s shared record of most lineal championships. Over the course of his career, Mayweather captured lineal championships at junior lightweight, lightweight, welterweight, and junior middleweight. Pacquiao won his as a flyweight, featherweight, junior lightweight, and junior welterweight.

In order for Crawford to grab lineal championship No. 3, most believe he’ll have to go through welterweight phenom Errol Spence. While promotional entanglements might keep this superfight on the shelf for a while, Arum said he had no problem pitting Crawford against Spence in what would be one of the best matchups in recent memory.

“Absolutely,” said Arum when asked about working with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions, who represents Spence, to make the fight. Could any response from him be more exciting? Crawford vs. Spence might be the next superfight in boxing. Both fighters are among the very elite, and unlike what ultimately happened with Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, who fought each other well past their peak years, both would be in the prime of their careers.

Winning that fight would certainly go a long way to making Arum’s vision of Crawford’s future come true. And who knows? Maybe Crawford really is the next Mayweather or Pacquiao. Heck, for all we know, he could even be on his way to doing something more.

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A Kaleidoscope of Boxers Guaranteed to Provide Action: Past and Present



Marvelous Marvin

To set the tone for this article, one needs only to watch the way in which Thomas Hearns came out in the first round against Marvelous Marvin Hagler. He was ready to rock and roll as was his fearsome looking opponent. The ensuing unmitigated savagery was the quintessential illustration of full-tilt boogie.

For most boxing fans, the anticipation of an all-out action bout gets the chills running down spines faster than anything else. But not all, as some prefer a tactical or clinical fight that someone like Mikey Garcia can orchestrate and others –but not many—enjoy a defensive gem via a Willie Pep, Nicolino Locche, or Pernell Whitaker. A few love a genuine blood fest that a Gabe Rosado-type can provide, and who doesn’t like seeing something special as in Sugar Ray Leonard, Kostya Tszyu, Terence Crawford or Vasiliy Lomachenko?

Chill-or-be-chilled types like Bob Satterfield and Tommy Morrison were super exciting. In this connection—a certain cadre of warriors, past and present, would come out charging and stalking as soon as the bell rang. Many demonstrated a marked disdain for defense and used a non-stop, no let-up pressure that discouraged their opponents, especially in the late rounds. The anticipation from the crowd was palpable because it sensed some form of destruction was on its way. The cheering would start during the instructions and sometimes did not let up until the concussive end.

This cadre included Rocky Marciano, Tony Ayala, Vicious Victor Galindez, Jeff Fenech, Roberto Duran, and Julio Cesar Chavez (who sapped the spirit of his opponents by ripping away at their mid-section). Also, Carl “The Cat”  Thompson , chill-or-be-chilled Ricardo “Pajarito” Moreno (60-12-1 with 59 KOs),  Ron Lyle, the ultra-violent Edwin Valero, the appropriately nicknamed JulianMr KO” Letterlough, James “The Outlaw” Hughes and his mindboggling ability to snatch victory from certain defeat, Thai stalking monster Khaosai Galaxy (47-1),  the first version of George Foreman (pictured with the aforementioned Lyle), Ji-Hoon “Volcano” Kim, Ruslan  Provodnikov, Orlando “Siri” Salido, Marcos Maidana, Lenny Z, Alfredo “Perro” Angulo, Mike Alvarado, Brandon Rios, and Mickey Roman (the later four are still fighting but past their primes).

Others who presently incite the anticipation of something special include (but are not limited to) Naoya “Monster” Inoue (16-0), Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr (24-0), Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (46-4-1), Alex Saucedo (27-0), and, of course, Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (38-1-1) who now has become slightly more tactical like his nemesis, Canelo Alvarez (50-1-1).

These stand out as representative.


A prime Mike Tyson—and the emphasis is on prime– was the epitome of a boxer who guaranteed action. One simply would not leave his or her seat when “Iron Mike” was doing his highlight reel thing, and his blowout of Michael Spinks punctuated his standing at the top of all-action type fighters, even if the action was usually non-mutual.

Joe Frazier came out smokin’ and would not let up until either he or his opponent were done. For the most part, decisions were not in Joe’s DNA and his left hook was as malicious as a hook can be. With Joe, you just sat back and enjoyed the action. Frazier, wrote boxing historian Tracy Callis,  “was a strong, ‘swarmer’ style boxer who applied great pressure on his opponent and dealt out tremendous punishment with a relentless attack of lefts and rights; His left hook was especially stiff and quick when delivered during his bob-and-weave perpetual attack; he fought three minutes per round and never seemed to tire.”

Carlos “Escopeta” (Shotgun) Monzon (87-3-9) was a powerful and rangy Argentinean killing machine, built like an iron rod. Some said he pushed his punches. Well if he did, he pushed 87 opponents to defeat. He also became only the second man to stop former three-time world champion Emile Griffith, turning the trick in the 14th round. Blessed with great and deceptive stamina and a solid chin, he seemingly was an irresistible force. He was unbeaten over the last 81 bouts of his career, a span of 13 years, and defended his title 14 times. “One would need to write a book in order to do justice to comparing a fighter of Carlos Monzon’s calibre to his fellow all-time greats,” wrote Mike Casey.

Arturo Gatti and Irish Micky Ward were the quintessential action fighters. One is gone amidst controversy, and hopefully the other will not pay a price for his many ring wars. With these two, just count up the Fights-of-the-Year and the rest is history. Suffice it to say that Gatti and Ward will be forever linked in boxing lore.

Until his fateful fight with Nigel Benn (another all-action fighter), Gerald McClellan was absolutely, positively, a stalking monster with dynamite in his gloves. It was ferocity and fury at its highest level and it was something to behold. Sadly, his fight with Benn left him permanently disabled; his story remains a dark stain on boxing. As Ian McNeilly notes, “one man’s finest hour was the end of another man’s life as he knew it.”

Michael “The Great” Katsidis’s all-action style made thrilling fights a lock. The Kat” was willing to take three to deliver one. It was blood and guts to the last drop. Whether he too exacted a heavy price for this style remains to be seen.

Lucia Rijker, AKA “The Dutch Destroyer,” lived up to her moniker and destroyed everyone in her path. Again, it wasn’t “if,” it was “when.”

Christy Martin (49-7-3) put female boxing on the map in the ‘90s and she did it by going undefeated in 36 straight encounters, running roughshod over her opponents as evidenced by her 25 wins by stoppage during this run. She also managed to steal the show from a Mike Tyson main event in 1996 during her memorable and bloody battle with Deirdre Gogarty.


Deontay Wilder, aka “The Bronze Bomber,” has a record of 40-0.  With 39 wins coming by KO—many in spectacular fashion, The “Bomber” brings with him that same sense of anticipation that Tyson did. It’s not if; it’s when and “when” can occur at any time. But unlike Tyson, there is a vulnerability that Luis Ortiz exposed that makes the excitement index go even higher.

Dillian Whyte (24-1) has seldom been in a dull affair. His vulnerability combined with his mode of attack ensures thrilling action and the possibility of a stoppage at any time. Unlike Dereck “Del-Boy” Chisora, Whyte is consistently aggressive and dangerous.

Manny Pacquiao (60-7-2) has slowed down considerably but his recent stoppage win over Lucas Matthysse offers hope that he can still conjure up his exciting whirlwind style of fast in-an-out movements that allowed him to win multiple titles over several future Hall of Fame opponents between 2005 and 2011. A rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr., if rumors are true, would allow Pac Man an opportunity to accomplish a number of extraordinary things including avenging a prior defeat and ruining Mayweather’s undefeated record. Time will tell.

Though he appears to have shot his wad, a prime Antonio Margarito was the classic stalk, stun, and kill fighter. Heck, he belonged on the Discovery Channel. His two blowouts of Kermit Cintron showed the “Tijuana Tornado” at his most brutal. His come-from-behind demolition of Miguel Cotto stands out for its drama and bloodletting—and subsequent speculative controversy.

David Lemieux (39-4) always brings the heat. His fights seldom end as scheduled. With KO power in both hands and a propensity to rehydrate by 20 pounds, he is the essence of danger and attendant excitement. “With the sheer power he carries, Lemieux will always have a shot at beating any middleweight, and he is almost always involved in good action fights,” says James Slater.

Amanda Serrano (35-1-1) is the only women’s boxer to win world titles in six divisions. The “Real Deal” is unique in that she has a high KO percentage (74 percent) which is rare for female boxers. Amanda is 120 seconds of guaranteed action for each round.


While Iron Mike Tyson is THE MAN, Matthew Saad Muhammad also warrants special billing as he embodied what this article is all about. Steve Farhood summed up the essence of Saad Muhammad with an observation that would be appropriate for his tombstone: “Eddie Gregory (Mustafa Muhammad) has a better jab, Marvin Johnson wields more power, James Scott does more sit ups. But, Muhammad’s heart is the size of a turnbuckle, and it anchors his title reign.”

Who did I leave out? Whose name or names would you add to this list?

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