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THE MARKSMAN FIRES FILE: Q n A With Judge Robert Hoyle

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The business of boxing has multiple levels of understanding. Sports officials usually let their results do the talking and rarely reveal much about themselves, or the method to their madness. And from a distance, officials in sports are obsessed with perfection. But what gets lost in officiating is the passion for the sport.

Dancing boxers and Mike Tyson fights are some of the things that run through the mind of Robert Hoyle, the highly regarded boxing judge out of the state of Nevada.

Hoyle never fought professionally but grew up a fighter. He was in the military for 21 years before entering boxing.

In this interview, Hoyle reminds us that judges are not getting rich writing on scorecards. As Hoyle tells us, “No one has came up and said, ‘Hey, here is some money. Take care of my guy.’ But as sports are viewed as a level playing field where the best man usually wins, Hoyle oversees the outcome and senses the disconnection at times between the way fans and officials watch fights.

Hoyle’s boxing journey started in the 1980s when he worked security at Caesars Palace sports events, covering prizefights like Marvin Hagler vs. Ray Leonard. In 1992, Hoyle switched roles to be an inspector, working corners and overseeing fighters. In 1999, Hoyle seized the opportunity to become a boxing judge, and he has worked some of the more memorable fights in recent memory, including the third fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, and the Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto fight.

Read on as Hoyle explains the art of judging, the Mike Tyson mystic, and the myth behind “fixed fights.”

Ray Markarian: Thanks for taking the time, Robert.

Robert Hoyle: Well hey, you called me, man, this is a privilege. I didn’t want to miss the chance to get to talk to you.

RM: Well, you know, to speak to a respected boxing judge that has worked many high profile fights is my privilege. Let’s keep it free flowing…. Let’s start off by telling me why you wanted to be a boxing judge.

RH: You know, I’ll tell you, my first exposure to boxing was when I started out as an inspector. And, I am not sure if you are familiar with the duties of an inspector. We work the corners and work with the fighters before the fights…

RM: Yeah.

RH: OK. So, some of the fights that got me real charged up back in the day were the Tyson fights. Mike Tyson real made me a fan of boxing. From working security for events to becoming an inspector, I got the opportunity to go into the amateur program as a boxing judge and it became like a bug to me. And once you catch the bug in boxing you’re stuck. It’s the same reason why a lot of fighters can’t retire. They keep coming back because they got that bug. And that’s what I got. So, once I started as an inspector, I wanted to do more. I enjoyed what I was doing with the fighters in the dressing rooms and sitting ringside. It felt good to be a part of the event and actually make a difference. I think we all come across situations in life where we get an opportunity to make a difference, and I wanted to make a difference in boxing.

RM: So, how did you even get a job as an inspector? I’m sure it’s not easy.

RH: Yeah, it’s funny you say that. I saw your interview with Kenny (boxing referee Kenny Bayless.) Kenny and I have this six-degrees of separation. Kenny started off as an inspector. When he got called up to be a referee, I took his spot as an inspector.

RM: Wow. Small world.

RH: Yeah. I just happened to be in the right place at the time.

RM: What is the main thing that has changed about your experience as judge from when you started in 1999 to the present day?

RH: You never stop learning. I worked with a lot of officials that are more senior than I am, and they don’t think they need to learn anymore. They think they know it all. But you always see different angles when you learn.

RM: Then what makes you different from any other judge?

RH: Well, I wouldn’t say I am different. But I am constantly try to reinvent or recharge myself.

RM: You always want to stay sharp.

RH: Exactly. You see, as a judge, I learn a lot from referees and other judges. Referees need to know the rules. And judges need to know the rules. If a referee calls a knockdown, it’s a knockdown. But if he doesn’t see it, it didn’t happen.

RM: What is the biggest disconnection in your opinion between the way fans and officials sees fights?

RH: Everybody wants to believe that a fight is close. If one round is close, sometimes a fan thinks the entire fight was close. The casual fan needs to remember that a 12 round championship fight has 12 individual fights.

RM: So, do you use a basic criterion for every fight?

RH: Well, before every round I want to see who controls the action and who can do the most damage. In my opinion, the smart fighter will come out in the first round and jump on the other guy. That’s why we had so many knockouts in the first round back in the day… The best fighters never gave their opponent the chance to get into his groove. The smartest thing to do is catch the opponent off guard in the first round.

RM: What are you looking for when there isn’t a knockout?

RH: Well, I am still looking at scoring blows. Fans don’t remember a scoring zone. As a judge you have to remember if a punch landed on the opponents’ back or back of the head, then it’s not a scoring blow. It may have caused some damage, but it’s not a scoring blow.

RM: So, tell me more about that. What is a scoring blow?

RH: A scoring blow is any punch that lands between the navel and top of the forehead. You split the ears and go back down to the body. Any punch on the back, I don’t care how strong of a punch that is… You have a lot of boxers that like to turn their back defensively; they are forcing their opponent outside of the scoring zone.

RM: Do you remember the first fight between Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe?

RH: Yeah I do.

RM: Well, Bowe knocked Holyfield down with a blow to the back of the head. In the 11th round, Bowe kind of got out of his way and Holyfield fell into the ropes, and took an illegal shot. The referee scored that a knockdown. Is that a scoring blow?

RH: Well, that’s the referee’s call. In a particular fight, if a fighter is throwing a punch and you turn your head to cause that blow to land outside the scoring zone, the referee can call it a knockdown. The name of the game is to hit and not get hit.

RM: But if the referee did not call it a knockdown, then it’s a rabbit punch, and you just keep going?

RH: Right. But you do consider the attacking fighter’s aggression. Let me just tell you this; if the round is really close, you must identify the effective aggressor. Now, that Bowe punch wasn’t an effective, aggressive punch because it was outside the scoring zone but he was still aggressive. He was trying to win the fight. Out of everything I tell you, you have to remember that a boxing judge is looking for that guy who is trying to win.

RM: Looking for that guy who is trying to win?

RH: Yeah.

RM: Well, most times both of the fighters are trying to win, right?

RH: Very true.

RM: So how do you prepare to judge a fight?

RH: People ask me that question all the time. But you never know who is going to show up in the ring on that particular night. It could be Tyson and Holyfield. Everybody knows those fighters but I don’t know where Tyson’s mind is going to be on that (fight) night and I don’t know where Holyfield’s mind is going to be that (fight) night. I just know that someone is going to establish that dominant authority when they come together in the ring. And that’s what I am looking for, I am looking for that fighter that is establishing dominant authority in that ring for that particular round.

RM: How much does momentum play into a fight?

RH: Look, I am not a fortuneteller. You can look at all of the history you want. I can’t tell you which fighter is coming in that ring the hungriest. If Fighter A and Fighter B jump in the ring today and then fight again six months from now, I expect the fight to be completely different, because you don’t know what’s going on in their head. Boxing is a mental sport. If your mind is not ready for what you are about to engage in, it will take you out of the fight.

RM: What do you think it takes to get recognized as a “good” judge?

RH: Well, I am just very lucky to grow up as an official around the top guys in the game, here in Las Vegas. I am fortunate enough to pick their brains to ask what they are looking for, and how they identify who is causing the most damage. I say the word “damage” sort of nonchalantly but to me boxing is like a dance. If you watch two people dancing together, you automatically can spot who is leading the dance.

RM: Referee Jack Reiss once told me that there are a lot of posers in boxing. He said that many officials do not know what it feels like to take a punch. Do you agree with his thoughts on poser officials?

RH: Well, there are a lot of officials that don’t know what it takes to step in the ring. Sometimes it is good to know what a fighter is feeling. There are many officials that have not hit a punching bag. I am positive most officials have not laced up a pair of boxing shoes and stepped in the ring, not to fight an opponent, but just hop around in that ring. That boxing mat feels like sand after a while. You start feeling heavy around your feet. You begin to gain a different level of respect for fighters that can fight for 12 rounds, and still fight strong in that 12th round. You gain a whole new respect for them. If you don’t understand and see what happens in the gym, whether it’s sparring or just working out, you are doing yourself a disservice as an official.

RM: What is the first thing you are looking for when the round starts?

RH: One thing I can spot right away is when a particular fighter is moving in the wrong direction. The best fighters come with a plan. If you watch a fight closely and think of boxing as a dance, you can see one guy leading the other guy into a big punch. And that tells me the best fighters come with a plan. There’s guys that come to fight and there’s the ones that come with a plan. The fighters with a plan are like fortune tellers because they see the end coming. They watch their opponent’s movement.

RM: I hear you. One fighter will throw a punch to set it up for three or four punches later.

RH: That’s right. That’s exactly right.

RM: But we are talking about the casual fan that does not see it.

RH: No. They don’t see it. One thing I will tell you about becoming an official is that it robs you of the fandom. I watch fights at home like it is work. I don’t enjoy fights anymore. It’s work. I remember the last time I was a fan. Before I became an inspector, I was working security for a Tyson fight. Tyson used to create so much electricity in the arena. He made me feel like I was fighting.

RM: Sounds intense.

RH: I am not knocking any of the guys that are fighting today. There’s some great talent right now. But Tyson used to make you feel like you were a part of the event. I was a fan of Mike Tyson because he was so destructive and explosive.

RM: Which Tyson fight are you talking about?

RH: The Frank Bruno fight.

RM: Oh, the first fight?

RH: Yeah. You have to remember, Frank Bruno was a big guy. Tyson used to fight some massive guys. And Bruno was huge, but he was breathing so hard because he was nervous…. I was sitting ringside for that fight and Bruno’s abs looked like bricks. I remember thinking that if I fought this guy (Bruno) and punched him in the stomach I would probably break my wrist. When Mike comes out of the dressing room he was menacing. He had the look of, “Man, I am going to kill this guy.” We all know the end result. Tyson destroyed (Bruno). See, that’s the mental side of the sport that I am talking about. Bruno had the looks of a winner that night, but a lot of guys have the fight taken out of them before the walk in the ring.

RM: Can you give me an example of a time you worked a fight when a guy lost it mentally before he entered the ring?

RH: Well, I will tell you about the time when Mike Tyson fought Bruce Seldon. I worked as an inspector in Seldon’s corner, and we could hear Tyson warming up in his dressing room. And, when I am talking about warming up, I am talking about Tyson throwing punches at a wall.

RM: Tyson was shadow boxing?

RH: Yeah. But in Seldon’s dressing room we were thinking, “What is that noise? What is going on?” But Bruce knew what was going on… He knew what he was about to face. So, only a fighter can decide if he is ready to face that.

RM: That is a crazy story.

RH: Yeah. As an inspector, you have to stay neutral but I was just thinking about Seldon’s stress at the moment.

RM: You know, these stories are fun to talk about but I remember during that particular time, a lot of people thought the Tyson/Seldon fight was fixed.

RH: They can say what they want. But if you are not mentally prepared for someone like Mike Tyson, he will scare the hell out of you.

RM: OK.

RH: I mean, that’s just the truth. I think Bruce was ready for the fight physically. But he didn’t have the mental toughness like Holyfield. Holyfield made up his mind that he wasn’t going anywhere. Holyfield said he was good or better than Mike Tyson. And Holyfield went after him.

RM: But as a judge, I am sure you hear about “fixed fights” often…. I’ll be honest, I Googled your name before we got on the phone, and one of the first things that came up was an article written to the Nevada State Athletic Commission criticizing you about a fight that you judged. The article was basically declaring the fight corrupt partially because of your scorecard. How do you feel when you hear that?

RH: Well Ray, I am glad you asked me that question. I am fortunate enough to judge fights in the fight capital of the world. I mean there are some other great cities and states that hold amazing fights including California and New York. But let me just tell you this, Las Vegas is not a fighter-dependent city.

RM: What does fighter-dependent city mean?

RH: Some places have fighters that go to the top level and they represent a city, or state, or even a country. Las Vegas does not have that. Mike Tyson, Holyfield, and Mayweather, they built this city. Now, this guy that wrote an article about me, and I will tell you, I am in awe that he even took the time to pen that much about me, but no one in Las Vegas can even tell you about the fighters he is talking about. You know?

RM: And you always have to do a good job because your name is on the line.

RH: Exactly Ray. You can’t get discredited as an official and keep going. Everything that I do is critiqued so heavily. Most fighters will live to fight another day. An official is only as good as his last fight. I have to do a good job tonight because I have to work tomorrow. And I have to do a good job as the fans, the media, and the commission interpret it.

RM: Did you get any backlash from the commission for that article?

RH: I didn’t. But would they be eager to assign me to one of those fighters again? I don’t know. It is what it is.

RM: I hear you.

RH: I have no hidden agenda with any fighter. I feel like the justice of the sport is in my hands. If I don’t do the right thing, not only do I fail the fighters, but also I fail myself and my family, and my credibility in the sport.

RM: It is easy to question the credibility of a judge, right?

RH: Look Ray, I have done fights all over the world and I’ll be honest with you, I have seen home cooking. But for me, I don’t care who is the hometown or visiting guy. I just care about who wins that round.

RM: OK. But what does that say about the sport? How do you expect boxing fans to feel about the sport when they hear a professional judge talk about home cooking? Not about you, but about the sport.

RH: Well, what I will say about it is that a lot of the commissions and sanctioning bodies are aware of it. They know, and hear all the criticism. Nowadays, officials are not going to get away with it because someone is always watching. Being an official, I can watch a fight and read a scorecard, and I know what that judge was doing by reading the scorecard. It’s like reading a book. A long time ago, judges used to give a courtesy round.

RM: A courtesy round?

RH: Yeah. You know, if you have a guy that is winning eight or nine rounds straight, some judges used to start feeling bad for the guy that is losing and they say, “oh well, let’s give him a round.”

RM: OK.

RH: That type of stuff doesn’t work today. Every round is counted and scrutinized. You have to be on your A game every round. If an official makes a mistake, somebody is watching you do that and they will ask, “Why did you give him that round when he didn’t win it?” and you have to have a clear answer to justify it. Because you have the TV crew and the fans watching closely as well, sometimes you even have a fighter that says he didn’t win a round in a fight. So, as an official you have to be on your ‘A game.’ You cannot make a mistake. Good thing for the fans is that the officiating is continuing to get better. Everyone is working to get it better. There are more eyes on it. I will tell you what, for any fight that anyone feels challenged by me, one thing I will do is I will take the video and I will watch it with my director or other judges that I respect. I will ask them what they see.

RM: You want to use every fight as a learning tool.

RH: Correct.

RM: You are considered an expert but at the end of the day you want to continue to learn and become even better at what you do.

RH: That is right.

RM: What’s the best advice anyone has given you about your profession?

RH: Best advice?

RM: Yeah.

RH: Richard Steele once told me before one of the first big fights that I got assigned to, he said, “Don’t start doing something new today. What you have done has gotten you this far. Don’t change that and start something new.” I have always kept those words with me.

RM: What does boxing mean to you as a sport?

RH: You know, it’s just like for you in writing. I have read your articles. I saw your interview with Kenny. I know Kenny. You captured his essence. I visualized it. It was like I saw him talking. I wish I could write like you. But that wasn’t my calling. I don’t know how you found your calling, but you found it. I used to box when I was younger. I had some street fights when I was younger. So boxing was in me, but I joined the military so I didn’t really have a chance to pursue the sport. I didn’t choose boxing I fell into it. Something clicked.

RM: The passion for boxing just oozes out of you. I love it.

RH: Look man, we are not going to retire off of this sport. We do this for the love. Going back to how people say they pay us (judges) off. No one is coming up to us saying here’s 10 million dollars when their fighter is getting paid 30,000.

RM: That’s true.

RH: I’ll be honest with you, no one has came up and said, “Hey, here is some money. Take care of my guy.” Look, promoters and managers are paid to do what they do. It’s their job to hype up their guy. But I am going to tell you just like I would tell them, “the responsibility falls on your fighter. He needs to get in the ring to do what he is supposed to do because I have to do my job. And my job is score each round fairly for both fighters.”

RM: You have to look out for yourself first, right?

RH: Well, it’s like I said, I live and die by each fight.

You can follow Ray on Twitter @raymarkarian or email him here raymond.markarian@yahoo.com.


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

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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 GlovedFist@gmail.com

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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

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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.

Friday

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.

Saturday

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.

Boycott?

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

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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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