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DELIVERANCE: Sept. 16, 1981

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Deliverance

Your anniversary. Your wife’s birthday. Valentine’s Day. Your kid’s birthday(s). These are dates you had best remember. Or, put another way, these are dates you had better not forget!

I have a thing for remembering dates. In my head, months and days are swirling around and around. With me, however, it’s not just important, better-not-forget dates of my ever-expanding family: The birthdays of Roni, Shari, Traci, Ali, Michael, Greer, Jon, Andrew, Mel, Dave and Michele. Each of their anniversaries. My grandkids’ birthdays. Then, there are the boxing dates. You say a day of the month and I recall a fight that happened on that date.

January 22. February 25. March 8. March 31. June 9. June 11. June 20. September 25. October 1. November 22. Those dates are George Foreman’s stoppage of Joe Frazier; Cassius Clay’s TKO of Sonny Liston; Muhammad Ali v Joe Frazier; Eddie Mustafa Muhammad’s winning of the light heavyweight title from Marvin Johnson and Mike Weaver’s knockout of John Tate (on the same card); Larry Holmes W 15 against Ken Norton; Larry Holmes over Gerry Cooney; Roberto Duran over Sugar Ray Leonard; Sonny Liston KO 1 Floyd Patterson and Muhammad Ali over George Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle.”

Right now, being we’re in September, I have September 16 on my mind. September 16, 1981, to be exact. This week marks the 33rd anniversary of one of the most exciting night of boxing I have ever had the privilege of attending and, in this case, being a part of.

On September 16, 1981, in a makeshift arena that was the parking lot of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, “The Showdown”—as promoter Dan Duva called it—or “Superfight”—as much of the media dubbed it—took place. In one corner stood the swift-handed, fleet-footed, once-beaten WBC welterweight champion of the world. In the other corner stood the undefeated knockout artist, the WBA welterweight champion of the world. In an era that produced many highly-anticipated fights, this was one of the most highly-anticipated of them all.

Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns.

Leonard was 29-1, his only loss being the 15-round decision to Roberto Duran 15 months earlier. He eradicated that defeat five months later with perhaps the finest outing of his career, shutting out and stopping Duran in the eighth round of their title bout which has become known as the “No Mas” fight.

Just three months before facing each other in Las Vegas, Leonard and Hearns had fought in Houston, Texas, but not against each other. They were the star attractions in a title doubleheader. If both won their bouts, they’d go on to face each other in one of the most anticipated matches in the history of boxing.

Hearns took his 31-0 record into the ring first. Twenty-nine of those victories had come by knockout. His opponent was the tough Pablo Baez. Hearns upheld his end of the promotion, putting Baez to sleep in the fourth round. He made it look easy. It was then Leonard’s turn. He was in against WBA Jr. Middleweight champion Ayub Kalule and his 36-0 record. Half of those wins were by knockout.

The contest was competitive throughout the first eight rounds, with Leonard holding a slight edge. The promoters and their families were edgy. A mega-million dollar fight loomed if Leonard won. There were no talks of Hearns-Kalule. Suddenly, in the ninth round, Leonard broke through. His speed and power were unleashed in a blur against the Ugandan. In a heartbeat, the fight was over. Leonard had won. He was now the WBC Welterweight Champion and WBA Jr. Middleweight Champion.

The superfight—the fight the boxing world had been waiting for—would now happen. It would match Sugar Ray Leonard against Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns. The date: September 16, 1981. The venue: Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada.

* * *

While many fans and members of the media took to rightfully calling this matchup “Superfight,” promoter Dan Duva named it “The Showdown.” Either way, this showdown was indeed a superfight.

The fight card began late in the afternoon, somewhere around 4:00. Without the TV lights above the ring, it was nearly 115 degrees at ringside. The main event was still around four hours away.

I arrived shortly before the start of the first undercard fight, and was joined in the next half hour by Albert, then Pacheco, then Dunphy. We did microphone and voice checks during the heavyweight prelim between Marvis Frazier and Guy “The Rock” Casale, a fight won by Frazier on a fourth-round TKO.

The ABC-TV crew of Howard Cosell and Alex Wallau (who would go on in later years to become President of the ABC television network) showed up shortly after the arrival of Don Dunphy. Cosell, who drew one of the biggest ovations of the night from the still-filing-in-crowd, was dressed in one of ABC’s cheap-but-colorful sport jackets, emblazoned with the ABC logo. In his mouth was one of the longest cigars I have ever seen.

Shortly before the start of the fight card, a honeymoon couple approached the ringside gate which separated the ringside ticket holders from the working press.

“Mr. Cosell, Mr. Cosell!” called the pretty, new, young wife. “Mr. Cosell, Mr. Cosell! She called, waving a fight program.

I tapped Cosell—who was wearing his headset while reading a local paper—on his right shoulder. He looked at me.

“Howard, a young lady is frantically trying to get your attention,” I said to him, then pointed the couple out. He turned to look at her. Then he turned to thank me. He stood up and walked towards the newlyweds.

I watched as he approached them.

“Mr. Cosell, Mr. Cosell. My husband and I are on our honeymoon. We’re big boxing fans and also big fans of yours. Could you please sign this program for us?”

“Of course, my dear. I’ll gladly sign it. What are your names?” She told him. He signed the front page of their program. Then he shook both of their hands and kissed the young bride on her cheek. The joy on her face was obvious and her smile was radiant as her husband took a photo of his new bride with the heavyweight champion of sportscasters.

As he walked back to his ringside seat, Cosell said, in a loud voice to the newlyweds, “This must be a bigger thrill than the honeymoon itself!”

Columnist Dick Young shook his head and said to Cosell, whom he was at verbal war with for years, “You’re an egotistical maniac, Howard!”

“And you’re just a jealous bastard!” Cosell shot back.

* * *

We sat through the searing desert heat for several more hours and a few more undercard fights. Included was a knockout victory for teenage sensation Tony Ayala.

Finally, it was time for the main event. I took a thermometer which the TV production crew had given me and placed it on one of the ring’s turnbuckles. I left it there until it was time for Leonard and Hearns to make their respective ring walks.

Although the setting of the desert sun had “cooled” the arena to 92 degrees, the television lights had jacked the ringside temperature up by 35 degrees. Inside the ring, it was 127 degrees. Picture getting into your car on a summer day after it had been baking—windows up—in the sun for hours. Imagine getting into that car and staying in that heat for close to an hour. Now imagine working out in the car! It was unthinkable that any two athletes could perform the way they did in such stifling, searing heat on the night of September 16, 1981.

I looked around. The arena was packed. Flashes on cameras were going off all over the arena. Most fans were on their feet, waiting for the fighters. On my left, Howard Cosell was doing his stand-up open.

“HELLO AGAIN EVERYONE. THIS IS HOW/AHD COE/SELL.”

On my right were three sweating announcers on whom I was placing frozen bottles of water and mopping with towels provided by the hotel. I was wearing a suit and tie and could not have been wetter had I jumped in the pool at Caesars Palace. The judges were in place. The ring was clear, except for referee Davey Pearl and ring announcer Chuck Hull.

Then came the voice of Mike Weisman in our headsets.

“The fighters are on their way!”

***

Thomas Hearns entered the ring first. He was loose. Sweat glistened off his lean, rail-thin and almost weak-looking 147-pound body. Yet, despite his lack of musculature, there was no getting away from the fact he was crushing welterweights with relative ease. Only two out of 32 opponents had lasted the distance with him. Both of them took such a beating over 10 rounds that they would been better off getting knocked out. He had won the title from Pipino Cuevas 13 months earlier. In that fight, Hearns used a frightening right hand to the chin to lay the rugged Mexican face down—and out—in round two, for the WBA Welterweight Championship.

Hearns was taller than Leonard by nearly four inches, outreached him, outgunned him in the power department and seemed to be near Leonard’s equal in speed. That’s why Hearns was made a 6 ½ -5 favorite. That’s why I bet my moustache of 10 years on with a friend that Hearns would win. He’d pay me $500 if Hearns won. I’d shave my moustache if Leonard won.

On the back of Leonard’s robe was the word “DELIVERANCE.” Nobody realized it, but that word conveyed the feelings Leonard carried into this fight. So many fans and members of the boxing press thought he was nothing more than a fluffed-up media darling and pretty boy. Leonard was out to prove them wrong. The fighters bounced in their respective corners. My heart was racing as if I had been working out. The most-anticipated fight I had ever seen was about to start, and I had one of the best seats in the house!

For the first two rounds, Hearns patiently stalked Leonard, who bounced left, then right, then back again, never giving “The Hitman”—one of Hearns’ two nicknames—a clear shot at him with his vaunted, powerful right. When Hearns did land, it was with a stinging left jab to the face.

By the third round, a small mouse appeared under Leonard’s right eye. It was in that round that Leonard absorbed, for the first time in the fight, a sharp right to his chin. Hearns had landed what looked to be his “Sunday Punch,” but Sugar Ray was still on his feet.

The temperature inside the ring was close to 130 degrees. It was around 35-40 degrees cooler at our ringside positions, but all of us at ringside were drenched in sweat.

“How could these two fighters possibly be performing at this level under such extreme conditions?” we wondered.

Late in round three, Leonard turned his laser hands loose, scoring with a fast combination to the head. Hearns looked surprised, though not hurt, by the assault. Then he continued to pursue Leonard. As Hearns pressured him, Leonard danced and made Hearns miss.

At the end of the round, Leonard threw his hands into the air as if in victory. For him, the round was a positive step. He now knew, not only that he could win, but that he would win.

Rounds four and five were much like the first two—with Hearns pursuing behind controlled aggression and a long, hard, steady jab to Leonard’s puffing left eye.

Round six would be a turning point in the fight. Leonard knew he was behind on the scorecards and realized he couldn’t allow Hearns to build much more of a lead. He began to take the fight to the “Motor City Cobra”—Hearns’ other popular nickname. For the first time, Leonard’s hand speed was very apparent. His right shot over Hearns’ low-held left. His left zeroed in on Hearns’ just-as-low right. Hearns was content to keep spearing Leonard with his jab, and the mouse under Leonard’s left eye grew nastier and nastier.

Suddenly, Leonard ripped a vicious left hook to the side. Hearns doubled in agony.

“THE RIBS OF THOMAS HEARNS ARE BROKEN! THEY ARE BROKEN!” screamed Howard Cosell, who was two seats away from me.

I looked at Cosell and shook my head, trying to tell him I didn’t believe Hearns’ ribs were broken. Cosell, however, stayed with his thought.

“THE RIBS OF HEARNS ARE BROKEN, AND HE’S IN BIG TROUBLE!” Cosell announced.

I wrote a note and passed it to the man on my left, ABC-TV’s Alex Wallau.

“I don’t think the ribs are broken. Wind just knocked out of him.” I wrote. Wallau nodded. He kept it to himself, though. When Cosell said something while on-air, he usually tended to stay with that thought. There was no way he was going to change his broken rib theory.

At this point, Marv Albert, who was providing between-rounds commentary for closed-circuit viewers (ancestors of pay-per-view buyers) of the “Showdown,” hit his “Cough Button,” which turned his microphone off. He leaned over to me and asked, “I can hear Cosell and what he’s saying. Do you think Hearns’ ribs are broken?” I shook my head, but told him I’d find out by running over to Hearns’ corner and asking Emanuel Steward, Hearns manager and trainer.

Our announcing position was in a neutral corner, and I ran around and over to Hearns’ corner. I waited for Steward to come down and take his corner position on a stool between rounds eight and nine.

“Manny, Howard Cosell is announcing that Hearns’ ribs are broken. Are they broken? Should we go with that for the closed-circuit telecast?” I asked him.

“They’re not broken,” Steward told me. “He had the wind knocked out of him, that’s all.”

I said “Thank you,” and ran back to tell Albert. He looked at me, anxiously awaiting my answer.

“Steward said they are not broken,” I told Albert. “Hearns just had the wind knocked out of him.”

Cosell heard me tell that to Marv. He leaned in front of Wallau and towards me.

“I’m telling you,” said Cosell, “that Hearns’ ribs are broken. It’s obvious.”

Through the seventh and eighth rounds it certainly looked to be that way. Every time Leonard moved in close, Hearns would tuck his right elbow in close to his body to protect his side from the onslaught which he knew was coming.

“BODY, RAY, BODY!” screamed a voice from Leonard’s corner. “BODY!

In the ninth round, tired of the beating he was taking, Hearns reverted to becoming the boxer he was as an amateur, when he won almost 170 fights, but knocked out only 11 opponents.

With all that was inside him, he pecked and poked away with jab after jab at Leonard’s puffing left eye. Suddenly, the vaunted slugger had become the masterful boxer. And just as suddenly, the masterful boxer had become the aggressor.

Leonard’s problem was that every time he stepped within range, he got popped by a jab and then his target moved away. And so it went from the ninth round through the 11th. Hearns moved and boxed, Leonard pursued and stalked, though rather ineffectively.

Because of the buildup of points early in the fight by Hearns, and because of the success he was having in this portion, it was obvious who was headed towards victory.

However, Emanuel Steward didn’t like what he was seeing from his fighter, despite the fact that he was boxing and winning. The almost-frightened look on Hearns’ face told him something. Steward implored him, “If you’re not going to fight, then I’m going to stop it!”

Over in the other corner, Angelo Dundee was even more animated.

“You’re blowin’ it, son!” he exhorted. “You’re blowin’ it!”

Leonard didn’t need an explanation. He came out for the 13th round knowing what he had to do.

He went right after Hearns, whose legs looked wobbly, as much from the blistering heat as from the 36 previous minutes against his WBC counterpart.

Working in close, Leonard leaned on Hearns, who toppled backwards. Then, in an effort to stay up, his legs entwined with Leonard’s and he went down. He was up right away, but Leonard was on him again. This time, “The Hitman” was hit. Again and again. Hearns backed to the ropes. Then, with Leonard still in pursuit and still throwing, Hearns folded up at the middle and began to slide through the ropes. He was as much outside the ropes as he was inside them. Referee Davey Pearl then told Hearns to “get up.”

Angelo Dundee was enraged. He had felt Hearns exiting the ring was because of punches. He jumped up on the ring apron screaming “B—-t!” Pearl was quick and adamant in telling Dundee to get down from the ring apron.

Leonard was quick to pounce back on Hearns. Another flurry put him down. This time, Pearl ruled it a knockdown. Somehow, a weary Hearns managed to rise at the count of nine, just as the bell sounded.

As tired and battered as Leonard was, one glance across the ring let him know that Hearns was in worse shape. Far worse shape.

Leonard knew this would be the last round of the fight. So did the 23,615 fans in attendance and millions watching on worldwide closed-circuit.

Leonard doubled his hook to the body and head, following with crisp rights to the head. Yet, Hearns remained upright. Leonard punched in volleys, then motioned to Pearl to stop the fight. When the ref did not end it, Leonard hammered away at Hearns some more. At that point, at 1:45 of the round, Pearl stepped in a pushed Leonard off of Hearns.

At that point, I was very curious as to which of the two warriors had been leading at the time of the stoppage. I jumped into the ring and waited until Chuck Hull had made his announcement.

“…NOW THE UNDISPUTED WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD, SUGAR…RAY…LEONARD!”

I then asked the commission member who was holding the three scorecards if I could see them for a moment. I said I needed the scores for television. There is no way that commission official should have given them to me without checking with Nevada’s Executive Director, first. But he did. For some reason, he simply handed them to me. I scooted across the ring and threw them to Marv Albert, who began to read them to the audience. Incredibly, all three judges—Lou Tabat, Duane Ford and Chuck Minker—had Hearns ahead. They had him ahead by four, three and two points, respectively.

Thankfully, the scoring didn’t matter. What mattered was the heart and effort by both of these ring legends. They were Herculean in both victory and defeat.

And for Ray Leonard, the victory gave him what he had stepped into the ring for, what he wore on his robe: DELIVERANCE. The fight also gave credence to him, from that moment forth, to be called “Sugar Ray.” He had certainly earned the name.

Ahh! The memories of an incredible night will live forever.

EXTRA ROUNDS:

Following the “Showdown” and Leonard’s Deliverance, I saw the friend with whom I made the bet. He looked at me and smiled, then made a shaving motion with his finger under his nose. What he meant was my moustache, not his. He didn’t have one. I lost the bet. I had to shave. Afterwards, I complied, and told him he could see the results on ESPN the next night from Atlantic City, where Sal Marchiano and I would be. A red eye would take us from Las Vegas to Los Angeles and across the country to Philadelphia, where we would then rent a car and drive the one hour to Atlantic City.

When we came on the air, my then-four-year-old daughter, Ali, was watching ESPN, waiting for her daddy to appear on the screen.

“Here comes daddy,” said her mom.

Ali just stared in disbelief, then broke into tears.

“That’s not my daddy!” she sobbed. In her four years, she had never seen me without a moustache. That moustache she once knew has made only one, quick appearance, since.

Who would have thought, that almost 23 years to the day of “The Showdown,” my Ali would be honeymooning with longtime boyfriend/new husband, Dave, in Hawaii.

Ahh, the 33rd anniversary of a classic.

The memories are beautiful!

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

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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

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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

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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.

Past

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.

Present

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.

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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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