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Don King: The Last Roar of the Lion in Winter?

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It has been a remarkable run for a remarkable character, truly an American original, unique even by boxing’s fast-and-loose, anything-goes tolerance and even compliant acceptance of outrageous behavior.

But Don King, he of the electrified hair, bombastic personality and streetwise cunning, has slowed down from full-throttle manipulation of boxing to a minor role that seems to shrink with each passing day. The “Teflon Don,” as he once was dubbed for his ability to unstick himself from the many lawsuits filed against him, is 83 now, a graying lion in winter. Forty-plus years of wheeling and dealing can sap the vitality from even the most driven of alpha males, and especially so if the aging go-getter is an octogenarian who no longer is dealing from a position of near-absolute control.

That familiar, bellowing roar – well, more of a heh-heh-heh cackle – now comes with the volume turned low. At least the message being barked out isn’t reaching as many listeners. Maybe that is because the man himself is simply tuckered out, and maybe because his depleted stable of fighters is basically down to one lead pony that, upon further inspection, is lacking the regal bloodlines and staying power of many of his predecessors. But regardless of their place in boxing’s pecking order, King’s fighters during his glory days were obliged to pledge fealty (and hefty percentages of their purses) to the boss as a condition of their servitude.

Some observers have made the mistake of writing off King in the past, but whenever it appeared he was becoming less relevant, he simply found a way to restock his talent pool with a fresh influx of elite attractions, more than a few of whom were lured away from rival promoters. If it is indeed possible for a slick enough huckster to sell sand to Bedouin tribesmen, it was a near-certainty that DK would find a way to run the largest, most profitable concession stand in the desert.

All of which makes tonight’s Showtime-televised pairing at the MGM Grand King’s last, best hope for an important toehold in the sport, WBC heavyweight champion Bermane “B. Ware” Stiverne (24-1-1, 21 KOs), and challenger Deontay Wilder (32-0, 32 KOs) more notable than it might be solely on its pugilistic merits. Should Stiverne – a 36-year-old Haitian, formerly based in Quebec City, Canada, now living in Las Vegas – lose a fight that is by no means a sure thing either way, it could have the effect of ushering King off to the side, once and for all.

But if King is indeed on his way out, he’s going the same way he came in, with heaping measures of defiance, bluster and bullspit.

”This program is America’s return to glory in the heavyweight division,” King harrumphed, ignoring the fact that only one fighter, the one he doesn’t control, is a United States citizen. “It’s going to be a great event. This is a fight to bring boxing back to where it should be, and the glory back to the heavyweight division that has been lacking for quite a while now.

“A guy named Bermane Stiverne is an extension to (Mike) Tyson – awesome, brutal, a devastating puncher.”

Perhaps Stiverne will be all of that on Saturday night, or at least show flashes of the form King has assured everyone he possesses in sufficient supply to be compared to iconic heavyweights Tyson, Larry Holmes, Evander Holyfield, George Foreman and Muhammad Ali, all of whom His Hairness promoted at one time or another. But it seems more plausible that Stiverne is a cut or two below that uppermost tier, more in line with such King roster-fillers as Tim Witherspoon, Greg Page, Bonecrusher Smith, Tony Tubbs and Tony Tucker, talented bench guys whom he had rounded up primarily to serve as opponents for his marquee attractions. It was standard practice for King to arrange title fights between two of his fighters, assuring that the only guaranteed winner after the last punch was thrown was … Don King.

It is a ploy also used by King’s longest-running and most-bitter competitor for promotional domination, Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, 83, who, on the surface, is everything that King is not. But while their pre-boxing experiences are hardly identical, their management objectives are eerily similar: Always, always be the one calling the shots and directing the play.

Forget Ali-Frazier; that series was a fleeting blip on the radar screen compared to the decades-long blood feud between Arum, the “master of trickeration,” as so dubbed by King, and his hulking, flag-waving nemesis with the mountain-range coif. But it says something about the arch-rivals that they occasionally got together to do business because, well, declaring intermittent truces was good business.

A couple of months prior to the April 8, 2006, matchup of King’s Zab Judah and Arum’s Floyd Mayweather Jr. in Las Vegas, the enemies-turned-temporary-allies held a remarkable press conference in Atlantic City, N.J., to not only chat up the upcoming fight, but to turn their verbal guns on a nagging irritant, then-Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, whom each considered to be a threat to their established turf.

“If you were making a chart from zero to a hundred, Bob Arum – Harvard graduate, Kennedy raider, Jewish ethnic, got the complexion for the connection – would be the most likely to succeed,” chortled King as Arum sat close by, forcing a smile.

“Don King – African-American, ex-convict, served time in jail – on (a scale) of zero to 100, it would be 100 to zero for Bob Arum. But in reality, is hasn’t been that way because I’ve been extraordinary at what I do. Us playing off each other has been a blessing more than anything. At the end of the day, only the two of us are left standing. Collectively, the rest can’t tie our shoestrings.”

In the eight-plus years since that pronouncement, Arum has separated himself from King more than Dez Bryant putting a double-move on a confused rookie cornerback lacking top-end speed. Arum’s company remains a behemoth of the industry, with a deep roster ranging from the more-established likes of Manny Pacquiao, Timothy Bradley Jr., Nonito Donaire, Terence Crawford and Nicholas Walters to such emerging attractions Vasyl Lomachenko, Zou Shiming, Felix Verdejo and Jesse Hart … about 50 fighters in all.

And it’s not just the quantity and quality of Arum’s inventory that keeps Top Rank strong. Ever the globe-trotting entrepreneur, Arum has made Macau, China, boxing’s hot, new destination for major bouts, and the recent thawing of his company’s frosty relationship with Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy, facilitated in no small part by the departure of Schaefer, his King-like substitute as an object of derision, has further entrenched Top Rank as a major player going forward. Arum also has a successor waiting in the wings in Todd duBoef, his stepson, who for years has been groomed to keep the TR brand buffed and polished.

King’s operation hasn’t fared nearly so well by comparison.

The tried-and-true tricks King used to telling effect in the past – opening up a satchel of money, dumping it on a table, and telling a fighter raised in poverty that he had to sign multiple blank contracts with King if he wanted to leave with the booty, and maybe the keys to a new car – aren’t the guaranteed deal-closers that they once were. Nor is the race card King has been known to play with black fighters who were schmoozed into feeling more comfortable with one of their own.

Don King Productions moved from the Upper East Side of Manhattan – the tony section of New York that, rightly or wrongly, perceives itself as the center of the known universe – to Deerfield Beach, Fla., in the late 1980s. Once, DKP handled a Top-Rank-sized lineup of premier fighters, necessitating a staff of around 50 to keep the operation humming. Now, the number of employees has been pared to 10 or so, with many of King’s most trusted lieutenants having either died off or, sensing the seismic shift taking place within the organization, gotten out while the getting was good.

But the man himself remains in the game, even if marginalized, even if an increasing number of former employees and associates, having broken free from his iron grip, now excoriate him as a ruthless taskmaster whose public persona is as purposefully crafted as anything that has ever been sold to gullible consumers.

Bernard Hopkins was unhappily under contract to King when he won the middleweight unification tournament with a surprise (or so some thought), 12th-round stoppage of a King favorite, Felix Trinidad, on Sept. 29, 2001. It gnawed at Hopkins that the Sugar Ray Robinson Award, which had been commissioned to go to the ultimate victor, had been engraved with Trinidad’s name before the final. And if there is anything that can be said about B-Hop, it is that he files away all real and perceived slights, and draws upon them for inspiration as needed.

When Hopkins, no longer with King, was to take on King fighter Tavoris Cloud, the IBF titlist, on March 9, 2013, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., the then-48-year-old Philadelphian, who would go on to score a unanimous-decision victory, reveled in the notion that he was going to shovel the last spadeful of dirt upon the professional grave of his onetime promoter.

“I am surprised that King agreed (to make the fight) because Cloud losing to me will shut down what’s left of King’s company,” Hopkins said. “He’s pretty much down to Cloud. Cloud is Don King’s last big hope.

“Who would have thought that I would have stayed around long enough to destroy Don King? I started the process with Tito (Trinidad). Look, I made a history of beating Don King fighters. Robert Allen, John David Jackson, William Joppy, Keith Holmes, Trinidad. That’s five so far. There’s probably more.”

Nor is Hopkins the only former King fighter who has told tales of chicanery and financial improprieties of a colossal magnitude, which served to mostly enrich the promoter instead of the guy eating the punches. Former heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon filed a $25 million lawsuit against His Hairness in 1987, alleging that he had been bilked out of significant chunks of his purses. When Witherspoon, the WBA champ, fought Frank Bruno in London on July 19, 1986, for instance, HBO paid King $1.7 million to deliver “Terrible Tim,” and the Associated Press reported that his share of the pot would be $900,000, the same as Bruno’s. But although Bruno – a non-King fighter whom Witherspoon stopped in 11 rounds – received his full guarantee, ’Spoon was handed a check for $90,094.

“It’s like we’re racehorses,” Witherspoon, who after years of legal wrangling settled with King out-of-court for $1 million, said of his role as one of the King-controlled “Lost generation of heavyweights” in the 1980s. “They race us ’til we drop and then they shoot us. And if we win, they tie a blue ribbon around our neck.”

More damning accusations were cited, chapter and verse, in “Only in America: The Life and Crimes of Don King,” by Jack Newfield, which was published in 1995. In the book, Newfield, who died in 2004, wrote that Muhammad Ali was shorted about $1.2 million of his contracted $8 million purse for the horrific beatdown he suffered at the hands of Larry Holmes on Oct. 2, 1980. While a clearly diminished Ali was recovering, Newfield detailed how King got a trusted Ali associate, Jeremiah Shabazz, to bring “The Greatest” a suitcase filled with $50,000 and a contract that not only precluded him from pursuing punitive damages against King, but gave King the option to promote any of Ali’s future fights. Weary and confused, Ali signed the contract and took the cash.

By his own estimation, King has spent $30 million defending himself against lawsuits, and not only those filed by disgruntled fighters. The FBI went after him for tax evasion, among other things, but King beat the rap that landed Al Capone in Alcatraz. In 1995, he beat a nine-count indictment on insurance fraud. Almost without exception, King, claiming he was the target of jealous or unscrupulous adversaries, came away unscathed.

“They went down the list of every known charge conceivable to man,” he said after outpointing the feds on the tax-evasion beef. “Racketeering, skimming, kickbacks, ticket-scalping, fixing fights, preordaining fights, corrupting judges, all the way down to laundering money. Everything but the Lindbergh baby. Instead of using me as the true attestation of the American dream, they threw the book at me.”

The book missed King, as large as he is, but maybe Deontay Wilder will land the takeout shot to Stiverne’s jaw that will finish the job so many have taken upon themselves dating back to the 1970s. Then again …

There are two sides to every story, of course, and King has an array of accomplishments to counteract the impression that he is a shameless con artist who only takes and never gives anything back to the sport that made him a legend and instantly recognizable figure here, there and everywhere. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997, which is a pretty big deal, even though some critics said his enshrinement was akin to electing Willie Sutton or John Dillinger to the banking hall of fame. But, DK’s acknowledged warts aside, it is also undeniable that he has promoted more than 500 world championship fights and made millionaires (90 or so, at last count) of numerous children of poverty who were handy with their fists. OK, joke if you must about how he showed all those people how to make a small fortune: Start out with a large fortune, then watch as Don King chipped away at it with a laundry list of dubious deductions.

But even the most persistent snipers who have always taken aim at King would have to admit that boxing would seem, well, a little less interesting with him totally absent from the picture. And he was totally in the picture during his decades-long heyday, hogging more on-camera face time than even today’s most ubiquitous grandstander, Al Haymon associate Sam Watson, who is as out there as Haymon, boxing’s hermit-like Svengali, is not.

When King – who had been prohibited from doing business in Atlantic City for seven-plus years while his insurance-fraud case was pending (he finally was acquitted) – returned to the Jersey shore with a Dec. 5, 1998, show headlined by the matchup of WBA bantamweight champion Nana Konadu and popular challenger Johnny Tapia at the new Convention Center, the focus was on you-know-who. In King’s world, he is always the centerpiece, with the fighters playing support roles.

“I don’t understand this. I’m the one who’s fighting, right?” a perplexed Tapia, who claimed Konadu’s title on a 12-round majority decision, said of the prefight press conference whose prevailing theme appeared to be “Don King makes triumphant return to Atlantic City!”

King has his familiar props and mannerisms, from the electrified hair to the little flags he always waves to the brandished stogie to the malaprops he sprinkles into his every turn at the microphone or even in casual conversation. Ask him a question, about anything, and a reporter is apt to get 15 minutes of stream-of-consciousness, with King randomly dropping such names as W.E.B. duBois, Frederick Douglass, Machiavelli and Sun Tzu, occasionally making you chuckle with a misstatement that, upon further reflection, seems part of a well-rehearsed act.

This was – and probably still is, even in his dotage – one very shrewd dude. When I introduced my father to him at the second Mike Tyson-Razor Ruddock fight in Las Vegas, King immediately turned on the charm. “So you are the daddy of one of the boss scribes!” he bellowed, enveloping my 5-6½ father in a bear-hug.

“He must like you,” my dad said as we walked away.

“Depends on the most recent story I wrote about him or one of his fighters,” I replied.

But I wondered then, and still do, if King was playing me, the media being as susceptible to mind games and flattery as anyone else. And now Bermane Stiverne could be the last twitching fish on the end of King’s line, ready to be reeled in along with a new generation of willing and malleable reporters whose first rule of journalism is the insatiable need to find the most interesting story, and to ride it hard.

After all these years, Don King – Mr. Only in America – remains a story that can still be milked. He and I probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

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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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