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TONY AYALA JR.: THE GLORY OF WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN, THE HORROR OF WHAT WAS

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The news that former junior middleweight contender Tony Ayala Jr., 52, was found dead early Tuesday morning in San Antonio, Texas, shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the turbulent and troubled life of the onetime boy wonder who was known as “El Torito,” the Little Bull, when he was blasting his way to a 22-0 record with 19 knockouts and a No. 1 ranking from the WBA before his 19th birthday.

Perhaps the only stunner is that Ayala passed away so apparently peacefully, slumped over in the otherwise empty Zarzamora Street Gym where he had again been trying to dig out from the wreckage of a lifetime of abhorrent behavior and disastrous decisions, this time as a boxing trainer.

There are those who would have wagered heavily that Ayala’s end would have come violently or under suspicious circumstances, befitting someone who squandered his once-prodigious talent, and huge chunks of his time on earth, behind prison walls for crimes that even now that are chilling to polite society.

Thus are there two schools of thought that are invariably intertwined when recalling Ayala: one is the potential all-time great who might have been held in the same lofty esteem as contemporaries Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns; the other is an emotionally disturbed, heroin-addicted volcano always threatening to erupt. That Ayala went on drug binges and brutalized women whenever his inner demons could no longer be suppressed.

Of Ayala the fighter, his former manager, Lou Duva, once observed: “Forget Leonard, forget Hagler and, yeah, forget Mike Tyson. Rocky Marciano and Tony Ayala were the guys. Not even Muhammad Ali, great as he was, had it quite like those two.”

Dispute Duva’s take on Ayala the fighter if you must, but the prevailing viewpoint of the man outside of the ring is not in such glowing terms.

“I hope they prosecute him to the max in San Antonio,” Passaic County (N.J.) assistant district attorney Marilyn Zbodinski, who prosecuted Ayala for the 1983 rape convicted that landed him in prison for 16 years, said upon learning he had been arrested for a strikingly similar transgression in 2000. “He is a habitual, vicious criminal, and he’s not going to change.”

In many ways, the Tony Ayala Jr. story is reminiscent of another extremely gifted but tortured fighter, Johnny “Mi Vida Loca” Tapia, who was just 45 when his finally heart gave out on May 27, 2012. If there is a difference between them, it is that Tapia stayed out of trouble long enough to capture world championships at super flyweight, bantamweight and featherweight, and whose lengthiest period of inactivity was 3½ years. Ayala on the other hand, did not box for nearly 17 years, his first conviction forever erasing his already-agreed-upon title challenge of WBA 154-pound champ Davey Moore.

Were Ayala and Tapia victims of unfortunate circumstances that predisposed them to tragedy and heartbreak, directed at themselves as well as others? Were they deficient in some way that prevented them from rising above those circumstances? Or, especially in the case of Ayala, was he simply an inherently bad seed who pondered at length the forces that shaped his destiny?

For Tapia, the compelling reality of his life was the rape and murder of his mother, Virginia Tapia Gallegos, when Johnny was eight years old. The pain of her absence in his life drove him to dull the most jagged edges of his psyche with narcotics, and to take his anger out on opponents inside the ropes.

During his first incarceration, Ayala admitted to having been sexually abused as a boy by a male acquaintance of his family, something he was unable to speak about to his parents, Tony Sr. and Pauline, and then-wife Lisa for many years.

B. “I kept this from everybody, especially the people I care about,” Ayala told me during a two-hour interview session at Bayside State Prison in Cumberland County, N.J., in January 1998. “I kept it from my mother, my father, my wife. The first person who ever heard about it was my prison psychologist (Brian Raditz, who became Ayala’s manager upon his release).

“My drug use was more of an open secret. Other people knew about it. My dad didn’t. My dad is very ignorant about things like drugs and drug use. My dad never did anything like that in his life and he couldn’t imagine anyone he loved doing that either. He couldn’t detect the signs and the behavior that are associated with drugs.”

Not that Ayala’s personal failings or his heroin habit prevented him from battering his way toward the top of his profession.

“It became a situation where I had to prove myself constantly,” he said during the same interview. “Everything I did, including boxing, became about my machismo, my manhood, my ability to dominate and control my world and the people in it. It was about imposing my will on another person.

“It affected my sexuality as well. I felt a constant need to prove myself to be straight and strong and virile. There was this cycle that kept repeating itself. I’d fight and receive a great deal of praise. I was everybody’s favorite child. Then, within a short period of time, I would get arrested for being drunk, getting into a brawl, breaking into somebody’s house or whatever. Then I would fight again and the bad things would be more or less forgotten. Until I did them again, and I always did.”

The insanity came to a boil in the early-morning hours of Jan. 1, 1983, when a booze-fueled Ayala committed an act so heinous it could no longer be swept aside with by his boxing fame. No longer would he be everybody’s favorite child.

According to testimony presented at Ayala’s trial, a 30-year-old woman living in his apartment complex in West Paterson, N.J., was awakened by the sound of her bedroom doorknob turning. The door opened to reveal a man, a man she saw only by the light of a clock radio. The intruder produced a knife, tied her to the bed with her socks, blindfolded her, then had his way with her. In the next room, the woman’s 29-year-old roommate was awakened when a man entered her bedroom. He warned her that her roommate was tied up, and would be killed if she attempted to call the police. Minutes later, the roommate jumped out of her first-floor window and ran to a neighbor’s house, where she called the police. When the cops arrived at the apartment complex at 5:30 a.m., they found Ayala, clad only in blue jeans, wandering the grounds and smelling of alcohol. He claimed he was going to his car for cigarettes, but he fit the description of the assailant and was arrested.

At his trial, Ayala contended that the victim had invited him into her apartment and that they had engaged in consensual sex. The jury wasn’t buying it, and after deliberating for only 3½ hours, Ayala was found guilty on six charges: burglary, aggravated sexual assault, two counts of possession of a knife for an unlawful purpose, threatening to kill, and terroristic threats.

In noting Ayala’s history of violent behavior – at 15 he was placed on 10 years probation after pleading guilty to aggravated assault in the beating of an 18-year-old woman in the restroom of a San Antonio drive-in theater – the presiding judge sentenced him to a 15- to 35-year prison term, ordering that he serve at least 15 years without the possibility of parole. An appellate court later adjusted the sentence to 15 to 30 years.

B b“I can’t express how much regret that I allowed myself to get to a point where I had to commit this terrible crime to recognize what I was doing to myself,” said Ayala in admitting that his claim of consensual sex was a blatant falsehood. “I deserved to be punished for what I did. I am remorseful beyond words that I caused pain that person will have to carry for the rest of her life.

“But you know what? I don’t blame anyone or anything else for my circumstances. It was me. It’s not society’s fault. It isn’t mommy and daddy’s fault. It’s not because I’m Hispanic (of Mexican descent) and not white. It’s not because I’m misunderstood. That’s a crock of crap.”

Well-spoken and seemingly sincere, Ayala talked a good game, but he was denied early release on several occasions despite being what he termed a “model prisoner,” and one who even served as a counselor to fellow inmates. He served the full 15 years mandated by the presiding judge because, according to Andy Consovoy, then a member of the New Jersey Parole Board, the nature of his crimes indicated an especially high recidivism rate.

“John Douglas (an FBI profiler who was a consultant in the making of the Academy Award-winning “The Silence of the Lambs”) talks about something called `precipitating stress,’ Consovoy said. “Once Ayala (lost a fight), he was going to go off. There was no doubt.”

Having regained his freedom, Ayala vowed he would never again put himself in a situation that might again entrap him in a cage with iron bars.

V “I want to live a good, positive life, not just in boxing,” he said. “My life isn’t boxing. Boxing is only a small part of my life. After I fight two, three, four years, I fold that tent and go on with the rest of my life. I won’t lay down and die. I didn’t spend all those years in prison to get out and make a comeback. I prepared myself for life in its entirety, with all its problems and its choices. I want to make good choices from now on.”

For a time, Ayala’s impossible dream of rediscovered contention seemed, well, maybe not quite so impossible. He won five fights as a super middleweight, lost to Yori Boy Campas, then won four times more before Consovoy’s dire prediction came true, not long after the erstwhile “El Torito” was stopped in 11 rounds by Anthony Bosante on April 25, 2003. In 2014 he completed a 10-year prison sentence in Texas for burglary of a habitation.

But there was still a bit deeper toward rock-bottom that Ayala had to sink. His father, a trainer to world champions John Michael Johnson, Jesse Benavides, Gabby Canizales and Maribel Zurita and who pulled all four of his sons out of high school to concentrate on boxing, was 78 when he died of complications of diabetes on April 10, 2014. Even in Tony Jr.’s darkest hours, his dad had been the closest thing he had to an emotional anchor, and now that anchor line had been cut, leaving the son to drift away.

One wonders what might have happened had Ayala, during his first incarceration, cooperated with Sylvester Stallone on a movie project that would have taken an unstinting look at Ayala’s ruined life and career.

“He offered good money to do my story,” Ayala said in 1998. “But I didn’t want my story being told then because the movie would have had to end one way and one way only, with me in prison. It would have been a sad ending. I’d rather be forgotten than to have my story end that way.”

Now the story has its ending, and it’s still sad. All that remains is the speculation and conjecture as to what a focused and trouble-free Ayala might have accomplished in the ring. Ayala thought about that, and often, given all the years he had to contemplate the might-have-beens.

“Hagler, to me, was a great fighter, a great warrior,” he said of one of the dream matchups that never became reality. “I think me and him would have been one of the greatest fights in history. One of us would have gone down.

“Duran, I would have blown out. At any time in my career I would have knocked him out. Duran punked out and I still hold it against him. He punked out before `No Mas’ (his surrender in his second fight with Leonard), as far as I’m concerned. Duran’s place in history is undisputed, but if he had come into my territory, he would have been mine. I owned the junior middleweight division.

“To beat Leonard, I would have had to knock him out. I wouldn’t have won a decision because he was America’s poster boy. He was everything America tells blacks they can be. And he played the role good. He was a great fighter. Bu he was so popular, he won some fights he shouldn’t have won, against Hagler and the second one against Hearns.

“Tommy Hearns and I would never have fought. That was an agreement made between Emanuel Steward (Hearns’ manager-trainer) and my dad. Emanuel and my dad were real good friends from the amateur days. Anyway, Emanuel knows I would have taken Tommy apart.”

This is where any story about the death of a notable boxing figure is supposed to end with the expressed wish that he rests in peace. Here’s hoping that peace also extends to the victims of the uncontrollable rages that took Ayala down a road no one should ever have to travel.

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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.

                                                         **********

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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