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`NO MAS’ FIGHT SHOWED EVERY FIGHTER HARBORS A FEAR OF SOMETHING

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So many fighters say the same thing. “I’m ready to die if necessary,” they publicly pronounce, and some might even believe it. But while bravery is as much of a staple of winning boxing as talent, answering the bell against even the most fearsome puncher is not the same as a soldier charging a machine-gun nest or engaging in hand-to-hand combat with an enemy who is actually trying to end his life, not just knock him out. A fighter’s fortitude and strength of character certainly are tested in the ring, but all the convenient comparisons to war go way too far. Boxing is a sport, and not one for the faint of heart, but it is never a matter of kill-or-be-killed. At least it shouldn’t be.

The truth is every fighter – probably every human being, for that matter – is afraid of something. The seemingly meekest individual is capable of extraordinary heroism, given the proper circumstances, and the most blustery bully can be exposed as a paper tiger if confronted by someone made of sterner stuff. The only thing that holds true in either case is the observers who stand off to the side critiquing the actions of the actually involved as being courageous or cowardly. And once the more odious label is applied, it can be extremely difficult to scrape off.

There might never have been a boxing match to fuel as much armchair psychoanalysis as the second of the three bouts that pitted Panamanian tough guy Roberto Duran against flashy American Sugar Ray Leonard. Nov. 25 marks the 35th anniversary of that curious bout in the Louisiana Superdome, in which Duran, who had been widely perceived as the fight game’s most implacable and relentless destroyer, abruptly threw up his hands late in the eighth round, muttered something to Mexican referee Octavio Meyran and began to walk away. It was a blatant act of surrender by the one man from whom no one would ever have expected it.

The bout soon came to be known, rather notoriously, as the “No Mas Fight,” a reference to the words in Spanish Duran supposedly had said to Meyran, which meant “No more,” although Duran to this day steadfastly insists he never said any such thing.

A disgraced Duran went home to find his palatial home vandalized, his most ardent fans holding him in contempt and the Panamanian government, which had assured him he would get to keep all $8 million of his purse because of his status as a “national hero,” now disposed to nullify that exemption and take $2 million off the top in taxes.

Fortunately, for the “Hands of Stone,” his legacy has been largely restored. He went on to fight 21 more years after “No Mas,” winning another two world championships along the way, and, who knows, he might still be fighting today, at 64, had he not been forced to retire after being in a bad car accident in October 2001, when he was 50. Several historians today rate him higher on various all-time pound-for-pound lists than Leonard, who lost their first fight (which was terrific) on a close but unanimous decision before Sugar Ray won parts two and three of the trilogy.

“In New Orleans, Duran became the story,” Leonard said of the “No Mas” fight that, even in victory, didn’t turn out the way he had anticipated. “All everyone talked about was him quitting. He got more attention for quitting than I did for winning the fight.”

There have been, of course, other fights – major ones, too – in which one of the principals quit, if only in a manner of speaking, rather than allowing himself to be knocked out or his humiliation to be extended to the final bell. But it is “No Mas” that has become a case study of the swirling emotions that can engulf even a great fighter when he finds himself in a place where bravado cannot rescue him from a dark place he never expected to be thrust into.

At the press conference to officially announce Duran-Leonard II, Duran dismissed Leonard and brashly predicted he would beat him much worse than he had in their first bout, which took place in Montreal five months earlier.

“I don’t like to see clowns in the ring,” he sneered with undisguised contempt. “I like to see boxers. To fight and beat me, you have to come into the ring and fight me, hard. (Leonard) goes into the ring and tries to imitate (Muhammad) Ali, but an imitator is a loser.”

Leonard imitated Ali all right, and pretty damn effectively, the most obvious example coming in the seventh round, when Sugar Ray wound up his right hand in windmill fashion, as if he was going to throw a bolo punch, before delivering a stinging left jab to Duran’s nose, causing the WBC welterweight champion’s eyes to water.

William Nack, writing in Sports Illustrated, described that moment as “the most painful blow of Duran’s life. It drew hooting laughter from the crowd and made Duran a public spectacle – a laughingstock.”

Perhaps ironically, Duran – who was not in the same tip-top shape he had been for the first fight with Leonard, having had to take off anywhere from 40 to 70 pounds in a relatively short time, depending on which version of the tale you choose to believe – believed that by simply walking away he was putting himself in a better light than if he had continued to be the target of Sugar Ray’s largely successful attempts to embarrass him.

“In Duran’s mind I think he expected that the crowd would condemn Leonard for having made a mockery of the fight, rather than him for quitting,” said veteran trainer Emanuel Steward, who was in the Superdome with his fighter, WBA welterweight titlist Thomas Hearns, to agitate for a unification showdown with the winner.

It was an egregious miscalculation.

“He quit out of humiliation and frustration,” Leonard told the late George Kimball, author of “Four Kings: Leonard, Hagler, Hearns, Duran and the Last Great Era of Boxing.” “It’s one of those things that happens to bullies. Duran threw his hands up without realizing the repercussions it would have on his legacy.”

Not surprisingly, Duran’s people quickly put up a smokescreen in which they blamed their guy’s disappointing performance, and eventual surrender, on stomach cramps and an injured right shoulder more than on Leonard’s superior foot and hand speed.

“If Duran had stomach cramps,” wrote Al Goldstein, the boxing writer for the Baltimore Sun, “it must have been his guts shrinking.”

Ed Schuyler Jr. of The Associated Press, cracking wise to his colleagues in the press room, said, “They’re checking Duran’s birth certificate back in Panama. They think now he may be a Guatemalan.”

To appreciate and understand the furor attendant to “No Mas,” it is necessary to go back to their first encounter, on June 20, 1980, at Montreal’s Stade Olympique, in the same city in which Leonard was the breakout, gold-medal-winning star of the Olympic boxing competition.

Perhaps Duran’s resentment of Leonard went from slow boil to volcanic eruption when it became apparent that he and his team had been snookered at the negotiating table by the Sugar man and his savvy attorney/adviser, Mike Trainer. Trainer had arranged for Leonard to receive the entire site fee and 80 percent of the closed-circuit and foreign TV sales, which wound up being nearly $10 million, by far eclipsing the previous high payday for a fighter, which was the $6.5 million Ali got for his third bout with Ken Norton. Duran, meanwhile, had signed quickly for $1.65 million, which was his biggest purse to that point but so much less than he might have received had he sought a more equitable division of the financial pie.

In any case, this was a fight in which it was virtually impossible to sit on the fence.

“The casting is perfect,” said Angelo Dundee, Leonard’s chief second. “You have Sugar Ray, the kid next door, the guy in the white hat, against Duran, the killer, the guy with the gunfighter’s eyes. It’s the kind of fight where you can’t be neutral.”

Duran played his part to the hilt, except that he wasn’t playing. He insulted Leonard from the get-go, and his constant disparagement of the Olympic poster boy had Leonard convinced that his best course of action would be to beat the mouthy Panamanian at his own game.

“He had that bully’s mentality,” Leonard said after he was handed his first loss as a pro. “He always tries to intimidate opponents. He challenged my manhood, and I wasn’t mature enough to know how to respond. All I could think about was retaliating.”

Despite facing Duran on the Panamanian’s terms, Leonard met fire with fire. He barely lost on points, coming up short by margins of 146-144, 148-147 and 145-144 on the judges’ scorecards. And it wasn’t long before he concluded that he would fare much better with a revised fight plan, particularly in light of the nonstop celebrating engaged in by Duran, who now saw himself as invincible, or at least something close to it. So Leonard and Trainer pressed for a quick rematch, offering Duran that $8 million, but only if he agreed to the November date.

“I knew Duran was overweight and partying big time,” Leonard said. “I’ve done some partying myself, but I knew when to cut it out. I said to Mike, `Let’s do it now, as soon as possible.’ In retrospect, it was pretty clever of me.’”

So, how does “No Mas” look now, 35 years down the road? Should Duran have insisted on more time to get his body back in peak condition, and if so, would the outcome have been different? Might it have been preferable to chase after Leonard, slowly being beaten down and then stopped?

Duran, in an interview with Nack three years after “No Mas,” continued to give Leonard something less than full credit for winning while absolving himself of at least some of the blame.

“Leonard knew I had nothing,” Duran said. “He was running and clowning because he knew I couldn’t do anything. I wasn’t going to let myself get knocked out and look ridiculous in the ring.”

It is a mindset that is hardly unique to Duran. A two-time former heavyweight champion who had won a silver medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics as a 165-pounder, Chris Byrd made a career of flummoxing larger heavyweights who would have preferred being pounded into submission by someone more like them than to be shown up by the flitting Byrd.

“It’s called `getting clowned,’” Byrd said before his Dec. 14, 2002, bout with Evander Holyfield for the vacant IBF heavyweight title, which Byrd won by unanimous decision. “Nobody wants to get clowned. They’d rather get knocked out than to get frustrated and embarrassed at the same time. But I’ve been doing that to people for a long time … since I was a kid. I pride myself on that. I kind of make guys look foolish, particularly heavyweights since they’re a lot slower.”

Which brings us back to the subject of fear in the ring, in all its various forms. There is the most obvious application, which is the fear of being beaten bloody, the kind that virtually paralyzed some of the opponents faced by such devastating punchers as Sonny Liston, George Foreman and Mike Tyson. And there is the more subtle form of apprehension and dismay, the kind perhaps displayed by Tyson – a fighter who, by the way, has always looked upon Duran as a role model – when he got himself disqualified in his rematch with Holyfield, by twice chomping on Evander’s ears, a form of submission as much as Duran turning his back on Leonard, at least in the opinion of noted boxing commentator and former Tyson trainer Teddy Atlas.

One of the more gentlemanly fighters ever to have achieved significant success, the late two-time former heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson, was as far removed from Duran, both stylistically and personally, as anyone could be. But Patterson gave one of the most honest and insightful interviews ever to author Gay Talese in the March 1964 edition of Esquire magazine, in which Patterson spoke of the near-terror that gripped him before both of his clashes with Liston, who won each by first-round knockout.

“Oh, I would give up anything to just be able to work with Liston, to box with him somewhere where nobody would see us, and to see if I could get past three minutes with him,” Patterson told Talese. “I know I can do better. I’m not talking about a rematch. Who would pay a nickel for another Patterson-Liston fight? I know I wouldn’t. But all I want to do is get past the first round.

“It’s not a bad feeling when you’re knocked out,” Patterson said a bit further down in the article. “It’s a good feeling, actually. It’s not painful, just a sharp grogginess; you’re on a pleasant cloud. But then this good feeling leaves you. And what follows is a hurt, a confused hurt – not a physical hurt. It’s a hurt combined with anger; it’s a what-will-people-think hurt. All you want then is a hatch door in the middle of the ring, a hatch door that will open and let you fall through and land in your dressing room.”

For his first fight with Liston, Patterson – who had a sinking sensation he would lose in pretty much the manner that he did – brought a false beard, false mustache, hat and glasses to his dressing room so that he could slip away as quietly and anonymously as possible.

“You must wonder what makes a man do things like this,” Patterson told Talese. “Well, I wonder, too. And the answer is, I don’t know. But I think within me, within every human being, there is a certain weakness. It is a weakness that expresses itself more when you’re alone. And I have figured out that part of the reason I do the things I do is because … I am a coward. You see it when a fighter loses.”

So, Patterson was asked, could the menacing Liston be a coward as well?

“That remains to be seen,” he replied. “We’ll find out what he’s like after somebody beats him, how he takes it. It’s easy to do anything in victory. It’s in defeat that a man reveals himself.”

On Feb. 25, 1964, the big, ugly bear, Liston, got clowned big-time in his first meeting with Cassius Clay and quit on his stool after the sixth round, citing an injured shoulder which in retrospect appears as dubious an excuse as was to Roberto Duran’s stomach cramps.

The fights go on, and sometimes the hardest struggle is the one that a fighter wages within himself to tame the beast that gnaws at his insides when things aren’t going his way and the prospect for a turnaround are dimming fast. It calls to mind something written by Ernest Hemingway, not necessarily about boxing, although it very well might have been.

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places,” surmised Hemingway, who also noted that, “Man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” It is a point of view that would seem to be the basis of extensive debate.

“Papa” did not weigh in on the conundrum of a fighter being clowned. You’d have to think it would have been the basis for a terrific novel, though.

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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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