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In a purely boxing sense, Johnny Tapia’s greatest victory was his July 18, 1997, points nod over fellow Albuquerque fighter Danny Romero. His worst defeat would have to be the first fight he ever lost as a pro, to Paulie Ayala on June 26, 1999, a somewhat controversial decision which was replicated, and even more hotly disputed, in their rematch on Oct. 7, 2000.

But many boxers understand that the toughest fights don’t always take place in the ring. Life on the street can be daunting, and even more so when daily battles continue inside someone’s mind, against unseen demons that intrude with such regularity that they become so much harder to conquer than any flesh-and-blood human being in the opposite corner.

As a fighter, Johnny Tapia was so driven that he could not abide even the notion of defeat. As a child and then as a man, he could not escape the memory of the murder/rape of his mother, a traumatic event which so tortured him that he sought relief from cocaine, which only worked until he required the next high that would again allow him to escape from reality.

In “Tapia,” which makes its debut Tuesday (TONIGHT) at 11 p.m. EST on HBO, viewers again see the many sides of Johnny Tapia, a five-time world champion in three weight classes who was just 45 when his tortured heart finally gave out on May 27, 2012. In 60 compelling minutes, during which Tapia and his steadfast manager-wife, Teresa, tell their stories of public triumph and personal tragedy, viewers will come to understand, as much as possible, the forces that prompted one man’s frequent journeys to hell and back. The good Johnny – devoted husband, loving father of three sons, fierce competitor inside the ropes – was a fleeting presence in the lives of those he cared about, often replaced by a drug-addled stranger whose addiction proved stronger than the more admirable shadings of his nature.

“I was a broken puzzle, ready to be fixed,” Tapia, his voice anguished, says of Teresa’s refusal to give up on him, when arguably the sensible and prudent thing would have been for her to run away as far and as fast as she could. “I have put her through hell more than anybody. She went through all the downs I went through, and she went through all the ups that I had. She should have left a long time ago, but she knew that there was a better Johnny in me.”

Perhaps that “better Johnny” would have emerged sooner, and to stay, had his mom, Virginia Tapia Gallegos, decided not to go dancing one fateful night in May 1975. Just eight years old, her son had a premonition that something terrible might happen.

“It was a Friday afternoon,” Tapia recalled. “My momma said that I was going to my grandma’s house ’cause she was going to go dancing. She liked to go dancing on Fridays and Saturdays. I didn’t want her to go. I begged her not to go. And she never came back. “They found some of her jewelry. About three days later, they said she was in the hospital. Four days later they said she was dead. It’s not like she got hit with a car. I wish it would have happened that way, (rather) than her being stabbed 22 times with an ice pick and raped. I still remember waiting at that door for my mom to come and pick me up. Let’s just say I still wait at the front door for her. But she’s never going to come back.”

The heinous crimes that resulted in Virginia’s death went unsolved for 24 years because key evidence against the perpetrator was misplaced, and lingering questions about the case lit a fire inside Tapia that burned hotly the rest of his life. Even when the assailant was identified with enough certainty that he surely would have been convicted, it was too late to bring him to justice; he had been killed by a hit-and-run driver eight years after his unspeakable violation of Tapia’s mother.

“There was a closure, in my heart, in my soul,” Tapia said. “They finally found out. I was kind of pissed off it took so long, so many years when they had the right guy right there.

“I wanted at him first. I was going to hurt him. But he died. A car ran over him three times. Maybe it was for the best. I’d have stabbed the s— out of him like nobody’s business. I still think about him. I would have (spent) the rest of my life in prison, no problem. Just knowing that I got him. Nobody ever touches my momma. I don’t care who you are, what you are, how you are. Nobody puts their hands on my mom. That’s the love of my life. That’s my queen.

“The saddest part of my life is outliving my mother. I tried to kill myself so many times. I always seemed to come back. I struggle with that every day. I want my mom. I can’t have her today.”

Taken in by his grandparents, the young Tapia lived in abject poverty, which often is the breeding ground of elite fighters. His grandfather, a former boxer, was “a real rugged, tough macho man,” according to Tapia, which made it all the easier for him to gravitate toward boxing and the discovery of a natural gift that was fueled in part by pain and rage.

But, even as he turned pro and began to rise in prominence, the meaner streets of Albuquerque – hey, every city has them – began to divert him, with the lure of gangs and drugs that sink their hooks into so many desperate youths.

“The first time I did (cocaine) I was, like, wow,” Tapia said. “I enjoyed it. That’s why I kept doing it. It was my mistress.”

And a most possessive one at that. Tapia was becoming a fixture of televised boxing and nearing a world title shot when he failed his first drug test in June 1990, setting into motion more such positive tests and, eventually, his arrest by Albuquerque police. Another arrest – for threatening to kill a witness in the murder trial of his cousin – came at the same time the New Mexico boxing commission was calling a news conference to announce Tapia’s suspension after he had failed still another drug test, and thus was revoking the conditional boxing license it only recently had granted him.

The raft of legal problems kept Tapia out of boxing for 3½ years, but that didn’t prevent him from fighting. He helped make ends meet by being paid $300 a pop for bloody scraps in which he took on all comers in a seedy bar’s oversized cooler, with almost all rules of pugilistic civility set aside.

Fortunately for Tapia, during his suspension from boxing he met a 20-year-old beauty, Teresa Chavez. They soon married, and it wasn’t long before her own resilience was tested, to the max.

“She was a source of stability for the troubled fighter to grab a hold of,” narrator Liev Schrieber intones. Which was good, because Tapia was anything but stable.

“She didn’t know I was a bad drug addict,” Tapia said. “I hid it from her. A couple of guys told her, `If you want to know where Johnny is, go to the restroom.’ She caught me. She was mad, mad, mad. But she didn’t know the real me. That night, I ended up dying on her. That’s how it started out for her as Teresa Tapia.”

Nine months later, Teresa—who took on the role of her husband’s manager in 1995 — locked him inside their small, rented house to help him quit drugs, cold turkey. For three weeks, he was a basket case, breaking everything in the house. But Teresa didn’t waver.

“She said, `Go ahead and break it. You’re going to fight pretty soon, you’re going to pay for everything.’ She said, `You can break everything, but I’m still going to stay here.’”

Tapia did go on to fight again, and very well, the “Baby-Faced Assassin,” as he was then known, capturing the vacant WBO super flyweight belt from Henry Martinez on an 11th-round stoppage on Oct. 12, 1994, in Albuquerque. There would be many other such good nights within the relative safety of the boxing cocoon, Tapia continuing to excel there even as he occasionally and predictably slipped in his ongoing struggle with cocaine.

Tapia’s re-emergence as Albuquerque’s hometown hero more or less coincided with the rise of another fighter from the same city, Danny Romero, who was seven years younger and cloaked in a squeaky-clean image that had never fit Tapia.

“I was already kicked out of boxing and he was coming up,” Tapia noted. “I was the bad guy, he was the good guy. I did the drugs and went to jail. He did everything good, you know? I came back into boxing, I was taking his spotlight. That’s when he started calling me out.”

It took nearly three years for the Tapia-Romero fight to be made, and when it took place, it was at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas instead of Albuquerque because of fears a venue in New Mexico’s largest city might be disrupted by the presence of gang members who wanted in on the action. With a heavy security presence in the arena, Tapia dispatched Romero in a humdinger of a fight, by scores of 116-112 (twice) and 115-113, in the process claiming Romero’s IBF super flyweight championship to go with the WBO version he already held.

Tapia’s new trainer, Freddie Roach – one of 11 trainers Tapia employed at one time or another – knew all about his troubled past, which, to his way of thinking, made his assignment all the more intriguing.

“He’s one of the greatest fighters in the world today,” Roach said of Tapia. “He’s probably the most exciting fighter in the world today also. He wouldn’t be Johnny Tapia without those demons, I guess. He’s just a strait-laced, real nice guy. He probably wouldn’t be as good as he is.”

But the demons Tapia had always been able to displace on fight night, or at least use to his advantage, deserted him in his first confrontation with Ayala. He entered the ring at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas with a 46-0-2 record, but left with his first “L” and bereft of his WBA bantamweight title.

“I gave it my all,” Tapia said, which obviously was true as that bout, as disappointing as it was to him, was named “Fight of the Year” by The Ring magazine. “Hey, everybody loses. That’s not a problem. But you don’t have to steal it from me.”

Tapia said he was more upset about the loss for Teresa’s sake than for his own. The only place he had never disappointed her was on fight night, and now he had.

“She keeps me going in life,” he said. “She keeps me strong. What I seen in her eyes, I let her down. I have before, quite a few times. But in the ring, I would never do that.”

Shortly after Ayala had smudged his previously undefeated ring record, Tapia had two mental breakdowns, and was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. There were now explanations for his erratic behavior, if not necessarily excuses, but even prescriptions for symptom-alleviating medications could not rid him of his forever-present demons. He was getting older, not better, and, despite being paid a career-high $2 million for his Nov. 2, 2002, bout with Marco Antonio Barrera, he suffered a lopsided, unanimous-decision setback that again sent him careening to the edge of disaster. Another drug overdose left him in a coma. Again, he recovered. But he and Teresa must have sensed there are only so many comebacks anyone can make before that person runs out of miracles.

“Every time I look at Johnny, every minute we spend, I constantly will catch myself memorizing lines on his face and the way that he smiles because I always think that’s the last time I’ll see him,” Teresa said. “I’ve made it a habit, being married to him, not to think of tomorrow. You just don’t.

“And Johnny will tell you, `Never think of tomorrow because it may never come, and don’t think of yesterday because it’s gone. You have to live in today.’ That’s what I’ve learned to do with him.”

Perhaps there is no easily identifiable straw which broke the figurative camel’s back for Tapia, but if there were, it might have come while he was hospitalized after the Barrera fight. Robert Gutierrez, Tapia’s best friend, brother-in-law (he was Teresa’s brother) and nephew (he had married Tapia’s niece) was killed in an automobile accident as he sped to Albuquerque to be at Tapia’s bedside.

“That was my best friend,” a teary Tapia, no longer the “Baby-Faced Assassain,” said of still another heartbreak he had had to endure. “I felt that I killed him because I was in the coma. If I could take all that back, I would … I miss him.”

The heart failure that finally lifted Tapia from his earthly misery came one day after the 37th anniversary of his mother’s death. Call it a coincidence if you will, but the timing of his passing at least suggests that Tapia was simply ready to be greeted at heaven’s gate by the angel who had left him far too soon.

“I think if my mom was alive, I probably would have never fought,” Tapia said of the path onto which circumstances had steered him. It is a theory that can’t be proven, of course, but he leaves this mortal coil with indisputable words of caution for all who might be tempted to make some of the same mistakes he did.

“My message to the kids all over the world is, if you’ve never tried drugs, don’t do it,” he said. “The first time is a mistake, the second time’s a habit. Please, don’t do it.”

Kudos to those who make HBO Sports’ documentaries so compelling – executive producer Rick Bernstein and narrator Liev Schrieber, as well as fellow executive producers Lou DiBella and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and director Eddie Alcazar, who recognized a story that needed telling, and told it well.


Feature Articles

AJ Needs to Look Good Against Povetkin, but the Russian Won’t be a Free Ride



Golovkin broadcast

During the Canelo-Golovkin broadcast last weekend, it was mentioned that the two biggest star fighters in boxing were Canelo Alvarez and WBA/IBF/WBO heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua. Canelo, the newly crowned middleweight champion, was in need of a signature win over a marque opponent to strengthen his claim and Joshua is in the same position heading into his title defense against former WBA title holder Alexander Povetkin at Wembley Stadium Saturday night.

This time last year, being roughly two months out from his title defense against Carlos Takam, Joshua, 28, was the perceived alpha fighter in the heavyweight division. AJ had won all his fights by knockout and, other than a Wladimir Klitschko right hand that dropped him in the sixth round, looked as if he were a sure thing to be the future of the division. But then he looked average stopping Takam, a late replacement for Kubrat Pulev. Joshua cut Takam, dropped him in the fourth round and stopped him in the 10th, but the stoppage was a little bit of a quick hook in the eyes of most observers and it dulled the win.

Five months later Joshua fought undefeated WBO titlist Joseph Parker. Three weeks prior to this fight, Joshua rival and WBC title-holder Deontay Wilder, after nearly being stopped in the seventh round, knocked out the most avoided fighter in the division in Luis Ortiz to score the signature win of his career. So the pressure was on Joshua to win impressively.

Unknown to anyone, Parker showed up only interested in becoming the first fighter Joshua couldn’t stop. And AJ didn’t endear himself to any newly conformed fans when he fought with little urgency, content to win a lopsided decision. Relying almost exclusively on his jab, he made no real attempt to get Parker out of there. Compounding the shrinking perception of AJ, Takam, in his next bout, was beaten more definitively by Dereck Chisora than he was by Joshua.

When you take into account that Wilder scored an impressive KO in his last fight over the most formidable opponent he’s fought and Joshua only scored one knockdown in his last two fights combined, it’s easy to glean why Wilder has narrowed the gap regarding the public perception of them. What’s been missed about Joshua’s last two bouts, however, is that he was utterly dominant. It’s hard to find three rounds he lost of the 22 he was in the ring. But yet, the thing that is most remembered is that AJ didn’t look like the doctor of destruction that his physicality and ring record projected him as being.

When an elite fighter like Anthony Joshua is seen as being a knockout artist and then goes a few fights in a row without delivering a memorable KO, critics and fans begin to find things about their game that are suddenly alarming. And that’s why it’s imperative for Joshua not just to beat Povetkin; he must become the first fighter to stop him. That will get the attention of the right people and at the same time gain back some of the cachet he ceded to Wilder since March of this year.

According to The Ring magazine’s latest ratings…the top six heavyweights, in order, are Joshua, Wilder, Povetkin, Ortiz, Whyte and Parker. So of those ranked 3-6, Povetkin is the only one who hasn’t yet faced Joshua or Wilder. Many well-known observers who cover boxing also see Povetkin 34-1 (24) as the third best fighter in the division. In fact, the new narrative regarding this fight is that Povetkin is really dangerous. With his power, extensive experience and toughness, he’s not an automatic win or free ride for AJ this weekend.

Yes, that’s what they’re saying before they get into the ring – so let’s remember that after the bout, because if Joshua 21-0 (20) looks impressive and stops Povetkin, we’ll more than likely hear how Povetkin was washed up, having turned 39 earlier this month and having lost to the best fighter he ever touched gloves with in Wladimir Klitschko. In one night, Povetkin will go from being a real test for Joshua to an old man who couldn’t beat anybody in the top 10. Conversely, if Povetkin goes the distance and is competitive with Joshua, then, in a knee-jerk reaction and overstatement, many will label AJ a fraud and a sure loser when he faces Wilder.

The reality is a stoppage win by Joshua will be impressive because Povetkin has never been close to being stopped. Even after going down four times against Klitschko he never looked as if he wanted out and Wladimir was a single shot bigger banger than Joshua is with either hand (with the difference being Joshua gets off more freely and puts his punches together in combination, opposed to Klitschko who force-fed his opponents one-twos. Also, Joshua is quicker handed than Klitschko and that should enable him to land some big shots in succession on the presumably attacking Povetkin).

Povetkin most likely needs to be inside against Joshua. There’s only two ways to do it, either by pressing AJ or moving away and timing him, and the method he chooses will illustrate just how much AJ’s power is or isn’t too much for him to chance moving in on. If Povetkin pulls a Parker and the fight goes the distance, Joshua shouldn’t be excoriated because it’s hard to stop a fighter who is only looking to survive. At the same time Joshua will have to let his hands go and fight with more urgency and passion than he showed against Parker, because if he doesn’t that will raise my red flag.

When Joshua crashed the top-10 heavyweight rankings I thought, having watched him closely, that he had the potential of former champ Lennox Lewis. That hasn’t changed, but I’m beginning to see Lewis as being more of a natural fighter and AJ as the better athlete. On paper it’s close when comparing them, but Lewis, especially under the late Emanuel Steward, kept improving whereas Joshua, after looking so good and well-rounded stopping Klitschko, seems to have plateaued.

Alexander Povetkin is AJ’s twenty-second bout. In Lennox Lewis’s twenty-second bout, he fought Donovan “Razor” Ruddock.

Ruddock (27-3-1) was a 6’3”, 231-pound, well-built fighter with power in his left hand but limited skills. Povetkin is 6’2” and weighed in at 229 for his last bout. Ruddock’s left-hook/uppercut was probably a bigger single shot than anything in Povetkin’s arsenal but that’s about the only check Razor gets in his column over Povetkin. The Russian fighter has a much higher boxing IQ than Ruddock and is the more technically sound fighter with better structure and form.

Lewis destroyed Ruddock in two rounds in what was the signature performance of his career at the time. Joshua has already delivered a signature performance, his stoppage of Klitschko after knocking him down three times, but critics and fans have short memories so Joshua needs to deliver another eye opening performance. As was the case for Ruddock when he fought Lewis, Povetkin looks made to order for AJ to look good against. However, Povetkin, unlike Ruddock before he confronted Lewis, has never been stopped and is known for his durability and ruggedness.

Joshua says he is motivated for Povetkin and isn’t looking past him. He says he fears losing, and I don’t need him to confirm he has a gigantic ego and cannot be happy about some of the pageantry and attention that Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury have stolen from him. As for Povetkin, this is no doubt his last title shot and he certainly knows this is the fight he needs to put everything together…which should translate into him coming to win which means he’s going to fight instead of hoping for pats on the back for showing up. And if Povetkin comes to fight, Joshua should get some great opportunities to shine and post another signature win.

This is the ideal fight and opponent for AJ to show just what he has and to stay on the same trajectory that Lennox Lewis did after stopping Razor Ruddock.

Between 1977 and 1982, Frank Lotierzo had over 50 fights in the middleweight division. He trained at Joe Frazier’s gym in Philadelphia under the tutelage of the legendary George Benton. Before joining The Sweet Science his work appeared in several prominent newsstand and digital boxing magazines and he hosted “Toe-to-Toe” on ESPN Radio. Lotierzo can be contacted at

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Avila Perspective, Chapter 15: Las Vegas Boxing Journal

Usually the world of boxing has two massive fight weekends, but this year it was down to one. All of that pent-up energy had to be released



Usually the world of boxing has two massive fight weekends, but this year it was down to one. All of that pent-up energy had to be released and this past weekend, for Mexican Independence Day, it all came pouring out.

Las Vegas was my destination once again.

In the last four years the Nevada gambling capital has seen fewer and fewer boxing cards as other destinations like New York, Texas and California have gobbled up fight dates. What used to be almost a monthly journey has been whittled down to twice a year.

When it comes to staging a mega event, you just can’t beat Las Vegas. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez meeting Gennady “GGG” Golovkin for the second time definitely qualifies.

I was supposed to drive up Thursday morning with photographer Al Applerose but we could not coordinate our schedules. It was important to leave early to reach the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino where the Golden Boy Promotions card featuring Maricela Cornejo versus Franchon Crews for a world title was being held. Starting time for the fight card was 2 p.m. because of ESPN.

By the time I checked into my hotel and drove over to the Hard Rock, it was already 3 p.m. Surprisingly, a decent crowd was there mostly to see Cornejo vs. Crews. ESPN televised the event and despite the early start time fans and celebrities were in the house.

It had been 14 years since that network had televised a female world championship bout. I remember because I saw that fight in 2004 and it was a doozy.

Finally, another female world title fight and it was great to see two female warriors finally get their day under the spotlight. After 10 rounds Crews won by majority decision and the green WBC belt was wrapped around her waist. Watching the joy on her face was priceless.

If you have followed me as a reader then you know female boxing has been a favorite passion. I truly believe it will rival male prizefighting one day, maybe soon. The world of MMA has proven it can be done as Ronda Rousey so emphatically showed.

Women prizefighters will get their day.

After the fight we headed to the Pink Taco mainly because they serve decent margaritas. I’m kind of a connoisseur of the drink. The first one I received was passable, but that second one was pretty good. Our group consisted of two reporters from Japan and Applerose, the photographer. Tacos and margaritas for everyone.


No fights were scheduled for Friday but the weigh-ins and press conferences were stacked together. I moved from my hotel and drove to Summerlin where a friend of mine has a place. He had invited me to stay and was insistent.

My friend is known as “Mr. Las Vegas.” It’s a name given to him the great Fernando “El Feroz” Vargas who now lives in Vegas. He gave him this nickname because no one knows Las Vegas like this guy (that I won’t name unless he gives approval). This 40-something year old gentleman was born and raised in the casino city and has been involved in boxing, MMA and personally knows the high rollers and political powers of the city and state.

Mr. Las Vegas invited me months ago but he’s always on the go and sometimes it slips his mind so I booked a room just in case. But, he was adamant about me staying with him and we go back a ways.

He’s also a big proponent of women’s boxing.

I headed back to the Strip to the MGM media center where a press conference for Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell was taking place. The media was in force. Easily 200 were already in the David Copperfield Theater at 10 a.m.

Maybe it was the free breakfast that enticed reporters and photographers to get up early. It was amazing to see so many media members on a Friday morning. It was a mad scramble.

The theater is fairly large and from a distance I could spot many friends and colleagues. During the face-off Liddell and Ortiz squared off and Oscar De La Hoya looked like a midget between the two. They will be fighting at the Inglewood Forum on Nov. 24. Golden Boy Promotions is the promoter for the pay-per-view event. It will be the third time the MMA stars clash.

So while Dana White delves into boxing, De La Hoya delves into MMA. Strange happenings.

Later that Friday a press conference for Yuri Gamboa was staged by the Cuban fighter himself at Gonzalez Gonzalez restaurant in the New York, New York Hotel and Casino.

Gamboa briefly had a contract with Golden Boy, and had been connected to Top Rank and Fifty Cent. The slick southpaw (is there any other kind of lefty?) seeks another chance to hit a jackpot in the boxing ring.

About two dozen reporters met at the Mexican restaurant eatery. Gamboa was busy speaking to each reporter one-by-one and helped by a small group of publicists including New York sharp Ed Keenan. Food and drinks were great.

Last year Gamboa was quite busy and had four prizefights. His lone loss was against Mexico’s extremely dangerous Robinson Castellanos who stopped the Cuban at the end of the seventh round in Las Vegas.

So far this year, no fights. It’s a primary reason he’s doing it himself on a risky pay-per-view show.

“I can’t depend on anyone else,” said Gamboa. “If I want to advance. I feel I should do it myself. I have experience and knowledge in professional boxing.”

Gamboa, 36, will fight Mexico’s Miguel Beltran on Nov. 20, in Miami, Florida. He will be the main event. The co-main event will be Puerto Rico’s Juan Manuel Lopez meeting Jesse Rodriguez. If all goes well, the two former world champions will meet each other sometime next year.

“I still have goals to accomplish,” said Gamboa.

Super Lightweight Title Clash

While sitting around eating and drinking at the Mexican restaurant, the ESPN fight card featured Jose Carlos Ramirez and Antonio Orozco fighting for the WBC super lightweight world title. It was body puncher versus body puncher and that means fireworks.

Ramirez had not faced anyone who could match punch output with him until that Friday night. I expected Orozco to fire all his guns and that’s exactly what he did.

For 12 volatile rounds the two 140-pounders fought at 100 miles an hour and though Ramirez won the majority of the rounds according to the judges, each round in itself was a battle.

Orozco, 30, is a very mild-mannered gentleman outside the ropes, but inside he’s one of the most fierce body punchers in the business. He has fought for Golden Boy Promotions for a number of years and may have passed his peak two years ago.

Ramirez, 26, was making his second defense of the world title he won almost a year ago and fights under the Top Rank banner. Whenever these two promotion companies go against each other it’s like the Dodgers and the Giants. No mercy.

The titleholder Ramirez was fighting in front of the adopted hometown of Fresno and floored Orozco twice with body shots and head shots. You would have expected Orozco to wilt but every time he was dropped he came back with a ferocious attack.

It was a gripping fight to watch.

As I sat at the bar in the Mexican restaurant with photographer Applerose, we couldn’t help but admire the spirit that both fighters showed for 12 rounds. Crowds gathered around the bar to watch the final three or four rounds. A few had noticed us watching and stopped to see what had us glued to the television screen perched above the various liquors.

We had a few beers after that incredible title fight.

Ramirez won the fight and retained the world title but Orozco had won the hearts of everyone watching with his tremendous heart. Both fighters congratulated each other and showed sincere respect. If you haven’t seen it, watch the replay. You won’t be sorry.


The schedule for Saturday started early with two press conferences staged in the morning.

WBC super featherweight titlist Miguel Berchelt and challenger Mickey Roman met with media at Wolfgang Puck at 12 noon to talk about their pending clash on HBO. It’s another meeting between a Top Rank affiliated fighter and Golden Boy affiliated fighter.

Can it match Ramirez-Orozco?

Berchelt is a heavy-hitting but skilled fighter from the Yucatan area. Roman is a hard-nosed heavy hitter from Juarez, Mexico. Its North versus South in this Mexican battle that takes place on Nov. 3 in El Paso, Texas.

This could be extremely explosive.

Immediately after the Top Rank press conference, and a few feet away, another media luncheon took place for interim WBC super lightweight titlist Regis Prograis.

Prograis, 29, is an interesting cat.

Raised in New Orleans and Houston, the extremely strong Prograis will participate in the World Boxing Super Series that begins in late October. He faces former lightweight world champion Terry Flanagan of England.

“I chose to fight Terry Flanagan because he’s a former world champion,” said Prograis whose last fight was a knockout win over Argentina’s Juan Jose Velasco in New Orleans. “I’m trying to prove I’m the best. I don’t want an easy fight. It’s a waste of time.”

Of course he would love a match with current WBC titlist Jose Carlos Ramirez but he can wait.

“We’ll meet one day in the ring,” Prograis said.

The Rematch

After the pair of press luncheons we headed to the T-Mobile Arena for the Alvarez-Golovkin mega fight. It was an early 2 p.m. start so we missed a couple of early fights. I always try to watch every bout. It’s my duty as a reporter to cover all the fights that take place. Not just the headliners, but the afternoon press conferences held me up.

The best of the undercard saw Vergil Ortiz Jr. annihilate his former sparring partner Roberto Ortiz in two rounds.

Vergil Ortiz trains in Riverside, Calif. with Robert Garcia. He formerly was based in Indio, Calif. with Joel Diaz. Both trainers have excellent troops.

Ortiz, 20, has long limbs and fights long too. He’s buzzed through 11 straight opponents and kind of resembles late actor Jack Palance in the movie Shane. Vergil is a likeable guy who seems nothing like a feared monster in a boxing ring.

Golden Boy keeps stepping up the competition a notch and he keeps rendering them unconscious. The promoter doesn’t want to overstep the process with Ortiz so they are doing things de-li-cate-ly.

So far Ortiz has treated everyone who steps in the ring with him like fragile china. He touches them and they fall to pieces. Technically he is very sound. But the Golden Boy crew sees something very special in the kid from Dallas. He is one to watch.


After several fights including the main event that saw Alvarez win by majority decision, it’s important to note that the entire “ringside” media group was placed more than 50 yards away from the boxing ring. No one from the media had a sufficient view to analyze the fight that has been very disputed by fans and others.

But my question is: why did the promoters place the media a ridiculous 50 yards away?

Sadly, it’s a move that says to the media “we don’t need you.”

Maybe it’s time to organize.

Regis Prograis photo by Al Applerose

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An Unofficial Judge Scored 9 Rounds for Canelo; Feel Free to Hoot and Holler



auxiliary press

The auxiliary press section at the T-Mobile Arena is quite a distance from the boxing ring. I’ve been in auxiliary press sections before, but never one that was up so high. It was here that I found myself on Saturday night, peering down on the ring far below and like everyone else checking out the big screen between rounds for a closer look at key moments.

From this vantage point, the ring is both smaller and bigger. It’s bigger in the sense that it opens things up a bit. Your eyes see more space between the fighters and you are better able to judge which fighter is controlling the distance. Think of the picture from the overhead cam in a football game. Looking straight down, the playing field doesn’t look as congested. The holes that open for a North-South running back bursting into the secondary get wider and from this panorama you are better able to judge the work of the offensive line.

Having said that, this is really no place to adequately judge a boxing match, so I can be forgiven for scoring the fight 9-3 for Canelo. For what it’s worth, however, the fellow on my right had it the same. The fellow on my left had it somewhat tighter, but also scored it for Canelo. And for the record, neither of these guys were Hispanic so they weren’t blinded by tribal loyalty.

At the T-Mobile, when the main event ends, the scribes in the auxiliary press section are literally held hostage. They are prevented from going down to the post-fight press conference until the arena has thinned out.

This reporter couldn’t get his laptop to function properly and had no patience. I’m not comfortable working on my cellphone, so it was imperative that I get home in a jiff and be there when David Avila’s ringside report turned up in my e-mail. On a fight of this magnitude, the boss wants the bread-and-butter post-fight story up on the site in a hurry.

Aware of the hostage situation, and my own technological limitations, I had the foresight to scope out the arena for an escape route just in case I needed to get away fast. And so, before a hostage-taker could rope me in, I was off and running, scurrying down a little used staircase. I had my car parked in the right spot for a quick getaway, traffic was light, and I was home at my work desk in less than 30 minutes.

I didn’t wait around to hear the scores. To me it was a foregone conclusion that Canelo would have his hand raised. Heading home, I had the car radio tuned to an all-sports station. And when the scores came across the radio, I thought to myself, well, I was wrong and I was right. I thought GGG would win and I was wrong about that, but I was right, I thought to myself, that the judges would be disposed to give GGG the close rounds. In my mind, the scores (114-114 and 115-113 twice) gave GGG the best of it. Granted, several rounds were tough to score, but yet the fight wasn’t that close.

Au contraire !

To my amazement, the vast majority of those seated in the ringside press section scored the fight a draw or had it shaded toward Triple-G. In fact, according to one survey, which included those in the building and a select few watching at home or in a TV studio, only two of the 59 people that were polled had it for Canelo with 17 scoring it even. The most cantankerous of the GGG faction was ESPN analyst Teddy Atlas who apparently had it 117-112 and labeled the decision a robbery.

No I won’t defend my scoring. Let me see the fight on TV (and with the sound off, natch), and I’ll get back to you. But I’m still flabbergasted that my score was so out of whack with the consensus.

Odds and Ends

Although the fight was announced as a sellout, there were empty seats scattered around the arena. The announced attendance was 21,965, roughly 1,400 less than for the first encounter last September.

The first Canelo-GGG bout set the attendance record for an indoor fight in Nevada and came in third all-time in gate receipts, surpassed only by Mayweather-Pacquiao in 2015 and Mayweather-McGregor in August of last year. But that’s a distant third to the leader. The gross gate for Canelo-GGG I ($27,059,850) was far below Mayweather-Pacquiao which raked in an astounding $72,198,500.

Although there’s more money in circulation each year and more fat cats willing to pay an enormous sum to attend a mega-fight, I doubt the Mayweather-Pacquiao record for gate receipts will be broken any time soon.

The crowd, needless to say, was skewed heavily toward Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. And while it’s often said that members of this ethnic group are true fight fans, the reality is that when they come to Las Vegas they act just like the Anglo high rollers, which is to say that they arrive at a big fight fashionably late.

When the first of the four PPV fights started, the arena was not more than 15 percent full. When the semi-main started, the arena was perhaps one-third full, notwithstanding the fact that it was a title fight featuring a boxer from Tijuana.

The old outdoor fights at Caesars Palace were thick with celebrities who were acknowledged by the ring announcer. Saturday’s fight at the T-Mobile was something of a throwback. The roll call included movie stars Denzel Washington, Will Smith, and Mark Wahlberg, comedians Dave Chappelle and Cedric the Entertainer, and sports personalities Lebron James, Charles Barkley, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Triple H – to name just a few.

Standing in the ring as GGG and Canelo made their way from their dressing rooms was a fashionably dressed woman wearing a dress that one would associate with a Latin country. I assumed she was there to sing the Mexican National Anthem. In my younger days, the Mexican National Anthem was sung so often at big fights in Las Vegas that I could eventually mouth the words.

But no, there was no National Anthem whatsoever, neither U.S., nor Mexican, nor Kazakhstani. I was told that they did do anthems before the first of the preliminary fights. This would have been about 3:00 in the afternoon when there were not more than a few hundred people in the joint.

Was this a reaction to the brouhaha set in motion by Colin Kaepernick? That’s a fair assumption.

Not only were the anthems missing, but so also was Michael Buffer, a fixture at HBO shows for decades. I’m told that he now works exclusively for Eddie Hearn. He’ll be back on the job this coming Saturday at Wembley Stadium in London.

Joe Martinez, Buffer’s replacement, did a solid job, as did referee Benjy Estevez who was working his first big fight in Nevada. Of course, Canelo and GGG made it easy for him. No matter your opinion of the scoring, I think we can all agree that these two great warriors engaged in a very clean fight.

By all accounts, this was a very good fight for the bookies. The expectation that there would be late Canelo money in Las Vegas on Mexican Independence Day weekend wasn’t born out. At one establishment, the odds favoring GGG rose from 7/5 to 9/5 (minus-180) in the last few hours of betting. I’m told that it nicked above 2/1 at a few places offshore.

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