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It’s Up To You, New York, New York: Tough Times for NYS Boxing

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NYS Boxing

 

 

If you can afford it there,

 You can afford it anywhere,

It’s up to you, New York, New York

TOUGH TIMES FOR BOXING IN NY: OK, so I have somewhat altered the lyrics of the song made famous by Frank Sinatra for a 1977 movie appropriately titled New York, New York. The Big Apple, and especially midtown Manhattan, has always been an expensive proposition for anyone, including its own reasonably prosperous citizens, but especially so for visitors from the hinterlands who  show up expecting a fun time in the big city and head home with a severe case of wallet-emptying sticker shock.

The almost incomprehensible cost of doing business in New York won’t exactly be reaffirmed Saturday night, when UFC 205 — the first mixed martial arts event to be held in the state in almost 20 years, following Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signing of legislation legalizing MMA on April 14 — plays to the glitz and bright lights of Madison Square Garden. The company was sold to its new owners for $4 billion on July 11, a cash infusion so massive (it was the most expensive transaction for an organization in sports history) that everyone involved in the Garden show should be able to comfortably pay for food, lodging and taxes without having to declare bankruptcy.

But yet …

Even as the UFC folks tap-dance into the spotlight, that other, more traditional combat sport is being forced out by the inordinately high cost of operating in what was once rightly known as the “Mecca of boxing.” Just as the sweet science was in the midst of a welcomed revival in New York, with the Garden and Barclays Center in Brooklyn waging a healthy competition for the big cards that once routinely were staged at various points in the five boroughs, another new regulation has less-well-heeled promoters being shuttled to the sideline and asking, “What about us?”

The last professional boxing card staged in New York was on Aug. 21 at the Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island in Brooklyn. More were scheduled throughout the balance of 2016, but were either canceled or moved out of state by a new requirement authorized by the New York State Athletic Commission on Aug. 31 that significantly raised the insurance premiums that promoters must pay to put on a show. Minimum coverage skyrocketed from $10,000 to $50,000 for general medical coverage per fighter on each card, but the new law also mandated a controversial $1 million brain-injury insurance policy for any fighter who might be stricken.

Two New York-based promoters, Lou DiBella and Joe DeGuardia, essentially have been driven out of their hometown for business purposes, perhaps never to return unless the insurance premiums can be made more affordable.

DiBella, for one, wonders why Gov. Cuomo —  who, with much fanfare, was at the Garden on April 14 to sign into law the bill authorizing MMA – can roll out the red carpet for the new kid in town while effectively pulling the rug out from longtime boxing guys who are, or at least were, keeping alive the New York legacy created and embellished by the frequent appearances of such legendary fighters as Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Louis.

“I didn’t understand it,” DiBella said of Cuomo’s unabashed enthusiasm for the revenue UFC 205 and subsequent events figure to generate for the city and state while at the same time perhaps putting boxing on the endangered-species list. “I didn’t understand what one thing had to do with the other. If they’re trying to scapegoat boxing for what happened to Magomed (Abdusalamov, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in his Nov. 2, 2013, 10-round points loss to Mike Perez at Madison Square Garden Theater), what with the lawsuits (the NYSAC) were facing, I think it should be noted that the commission didn’t follow its own regulations that night.

“Is it a coincidence that they’re putting on that big (UFC) show at the Garden when there’s no competition from boxing for the rest of the year? Boxing is dead in New York right now because you can’t get an insurance policy, even if you could afford one. There is still no insurance policy available that’s been approved by the state for boxing to cover this ($1 million) liability.

“Look, I don’t believe in coincidences. I don’t think it’s any accident things are the way they are.”

The situation provides much grist for the conspiracy-theory mill hinted at by DiBella, but at least two aspects of the developing story can be backed with irrefutable evidence. One is that, well, New York is the place where almost everyone can make a small fortune. They just have to start out with very large ones. The other is that, well, the NYSAC, despite the state’s reputation as an enduring magnet for the biggest and best fights, has often covered itself with soot and shame as well as glory.

NYS Boxing

On April 26, 2005, I authored a column for the Philadelphia Daily News that detailed just how pricey doing a fight card in the New York could be. Part of that column reads thusly:

For years I have jokingly referred to midtown Manhattan as the “land of the $300 hotel room,” but it seems inflation has rendered that description obsolete. When I called my preferred inn to reserve a room for Saturday night’s John Ruiz-James Toney WBA heavyweight title bout at Madison Square Garden, I was advised that the going rate was now up to $479 per night … or, if I so desired, $499 for a room with a view of Times Square.

When you consider that taxes tack on another $50 or so, and overnight parking goes for $45, a guy driving up from Philadelphia with an interest in seeing something other than an alley upon looking out the window could take a $600 hit for a night’s sleep. And that’s not counting the $17 breakfast buffet or $45 room-service steak.

I was able to procure suitable lodging for a “mere” $302, at a nearby chain hotel whose overnight charge in, say, a York, Pa., or Manhattan, Kan., equivalent likely would go for $240 less.

In following the money, as we investigative reporters are wont to say, I placed a call to the same midtown Manhattan hotel to see what the same room with a view of Times Square would cost if I were in town to cover UFC 205. Answer: $684, excluding taxes, overnight parking if I happened to drive up, and meals costly enough to feed entire neighborhoods in Bangladesh or Calcutta. That same night’s sleep that might have cost me six bills in 2005 would now run nearly a grand.

Here is where I might once have offered a moment of silence in appreciation of expense accounts, except that most newspapers in these cruel economic times are harder-pressed to pay the freight than boxing promoters in Brooklyn.

Bobby Goodman, then director of boxing for Don King Promotions and a former director of Madison Square Garden’s boxing department, gave me some insight 11 years ago as to why the fight game’s love affair with the Big Apple has a big, costly worm in it.

“It’s incredibly expensive in New York,” Goodman said. “You have to bring the boxers in early because there are so many medical tests and licensing procedures.

“And you can’t always get the blocks of rooms you need for the promotion. People are scattered around different hotels, and nobody is comping you for rooms or even giving discounts. Everything is high. That’s just the reality of it.”

Still, Goodman allowed, New York has a vibe that is difficult for anywhere else to match when the really heavy hitters roll into the media capital of the world, drawing global attention like moths to a flame.

“I don’t think it can ever be like it was,” he said, noting that in the 1940s and ’50s a feeder system of club fights around the city ran as often as six nights a week, with its graduates moving on to the Garden. “But for a big event, there’s no feeling quite like it in the world. That’s the big top, baby. And every person in there has paid for their tickets. It’s not like anyone is being comped by a casino.”

In a sense, New York City was, as Sinatra sang, “king of the hill, top of the heap,” almost in spite of itself. Think about it: the NYSAC, which was founded in 1920, when the Walker Law legalized prizefighting, has too often been a thinly disguised patronage mill, with key positions not going to knowledgeable and incorruptible professionals, but to political appointees who coincidentally happened to be major contributors to the governor du jour.

It’s a Cliff’s Notes list, to be sure, but here are just some of the lowlights which the New York commission should be trying to scrub clean instead of adding to:

*In the 1940s, the infamous Frankie Carbo virtually controlled boxing in New York, operating under the unobservant or perhaps complicit eyes of NYSAC officials. In a 2002 interview with The Observer, Budd Schulberg observed that “Frankie Carbo, the Mob’s unofficial boss of boxing, controlled a lot of the welters and middles. Not every fight was fixed, of course, but from time to time Carbo and his lieutenants, like Blinky Palermo in Philly, would put the fix in … It was an open secret.”

*A lifetime ban was issued by the NYSAC against trainer Carlos “Panama” Lewis in 1986, who had served hard time for his role in a 1983 fight in the Garden in which Lewis’ fighter, Luis Resto, effectively ended “Irish” Billy Collins’ career by bludgeoning him with gloves made dangerously thin by the intentional removal of much of the horsehair padding with tweezers. Commission inspectors assigned to Resto’s dressing room somehow missed the egregious and obvious infraction of the rules.

*Former heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson, an honorable man, served for a time with distinction as chairman of the NYSAC, but by 1998 the effects of the Alzheimer’s disease that contributed to his death in 2006 could no longer be overlooked. Somehow, Patterson, his condition worsening, remained as head of the NYSAC for months even though he could no longer remember the names of his wife or his secretary.

*On July 2, 2001, super middleweight Beethaeven “Bee” Scottland died from brain injuries he sustained in a 10th-round TKO loss to George “Khalid” Jones six days earlier on the deck of the U.S.S. Intrepid, a World War II era aircraft carrier docked in the Hudson River, off midtown Manhattan. It was obvious from the fourth round on that Scottland was taking a fearful beating, leading ESPN analyst Max Kellerman to lambast NYSAC officials, who might have intervened, as “political hacks.”

*More recently, a widely respected and committed boxing man, David Berlin, left his post as executive director of the NYSAC in May of this year, after having been on the job only two years, ostensibly because of friction between himself and commission chairman Tom Hoover, a Cuomo appointee, whose management style might be described as brusque and dismissive. Hoover’s main qualification to head up the NYSAC apparently was that he had once played for the New York Knicks.

“He has a passion for boxing,” longtime ESPN commentator and noted trainer Teddy Atlas said of Berlin, who also serves as legal counsel and member of the board of directors for the non-profit Dr. Theodore Atlas Foundation. “He’s been involved in the business of boxing and he’s been involved in the sports side of boxing. And there’s the human part, too. He cares about people and he cares about these fighters.”

A source familiar with the situation said that Berlin “didn’t resign (as was announced), he was pushed out.” Another opportunity to right a listing ship, gone.

So now comes the great insurance-premium conundrum, which threatens to drive a stake into the very heart of a sport with which New York has been so closely identified for nearly a hundred years.

The good news is that there is wiggle room built into the law that might allow the NYS Boxing Commision to modify the requirements so as to give boxing in New York a chance to survive in the foreseeable future and in the long term. The bad news is that the five-member commission has two vacancies, and history suggests that those slots aren’t always filled by qualified individuals who have the best interests of the sport at heart.

“I’m speaking to the Governor’s office and people who are working on oversight of these agencies,” Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle said in an exclusive interview with Bloody Elbow. “This is a priority for them and they are trying to make sure that they’ve identified the best candidates to run the athletic commission. They are trying to make sure they get it right. They clearly know this is an issue that has to be addressed and they are working as swiftly as they can.”

Swift action is good. Swift, sure and effective is better, but there are precedents that might cause some to wonder if doing the right thing is an accomplishable goal for a commission that too often hasn’t been able to identify the target, much less hit the bull’s-eye.

In August, DiBella and DeGuardia co-authored a letter to the New York Department of State claiming that boxing is “under an immediate danger of extinction.”

As for me, I no longer get to, you know, sleep in the city that never sleeps. When I do cover a fight in New York, budgetary constraints oblige me to take the late-night Megabus back to Philly. I usually crawl into bed around 4 a.m., dog-tired. But it’s better to be exhausted and there at ringside than rested and absent.

It’s up to you, New York, New York.

NYS Boxing / Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.

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The BWAA Shames Veteran Referee Laurence Cole and Two Nebraska Judges

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In an unprecedented development, the Boxing Writers Association of America has started a “watch list” to lift the curtain on ring officials who have “screwed up.” Veteran Texas referee Laurence Cole and Nebraska judges Mike Contreras and Jeff Sinnett have the unwelcome distinction of being the first “honorees.”

“Boxing is a sport where judges and referees are rarely held accountable for poor performances that unfairly change the course of a fighter’s career and, in some instances, endanger lives,” says the BWAA in a preamble to the new feature. Hence the watch list, which is designed to “call attention to ‘egregious’ errors in scoring by judges and unacceptable conduct by referees.”

Contreras and Sinnett, residents of Omaha, were singled out for their scorecards in the match between lightweights Thomas Mattice and Zhora Hamazaryan, an eight round contest staged at the WinnaVegas Casino in Sloan, Iowa on July 20. They both scored the fight 76-75 for Mattice, enabling the Ohio fighter to keep his undefeated record intact via a split decision.

Although Mattice vs. Hamazaryan was a supporting bout, it aired live on ShoBox. Analyst Steve Farhood, who was been with ShoBox since the inception of the series in 2001, called it one of the worst decisions he had ever seen. Lead announcer Barry Tompkins went further, calling it the worst decision he has seen in his 40 years of covering the sport.

Laurence Cole (pictured alongside his father) was singled out for his behavior as the third man in the ring for the fight between Regis Prograis and Juan Jose Velasco at the Lakefront Arena in New Orleans on July 14. The bout was televised live on ESPN.

In his rationale for calling out Cole, BWAA prexy Joseph Santoliquito leaned heavily on Thomas Hauser’s critique of Cole’s performance in The Sweet Science. “Velasco fought courageously and as well as he could,” noted Hauser. “But at the end of round seven he was a thoroughly beaten fighter.”

His chief second bullied him into coming out for another round. Forty-five seconds into round eight, after being knocked down for a third time, Velasco spit out his mouthpiece and indicated to Cole that he was finished. But Cole insisted that the match continue and then, after another knockdown that he ruled a slip, let it continue for another 35 seconds before Velasco’s corner mercifully threw in the towel.

Controversy has dogged Laurence Cole for well over a decade.

Cole was the third man in the ring for the Nov. 25, 2006 bout in Hildalgo, Texas, between Juan Manuel Marquez and Jimrex Jaca. In the fifth round, Marquez sustained a cut on his forehead from an accidental head butt. In round eight, another accidental head butt widened and deepened the gash. As Marquez was being examined by the ring doctor, Cole informed Marquez that he was ahead on the scorecards, volunteering this information while holding his hand over his HBO wireless mike. The inference was that Marquez was free to quit right then without tarnishing his record. (Marquez elected to continue and stopped Jaca in the next round.)

This was improper. For this indiscretion, Cole was prohibited from working a significant fight in Texas for the next six months.

More recently, Cole worked the 2014 fight between Vasyl Lomachenko and Orlando Salido at the San Antonio Alamodome. During the fight, Salido made a mockery of the Queensberry rules for which he received no point deductions and only one warning. Cole’s performance, said Matt McGrain, was “astonishingly bad,” an opinion echoed by many other boxing writers. And one could site numerous other incidents where Cole’s performance came under scrutiny.

Laurence Cole is the son of Richard “Dickie” Cole. The elder Cole, now 87 years old, served 21 years as head of the Texas Department of Combat Sports Regulation before stepping down on April 30, 2014. At various times during his tenure, Dickie Cole held high executive posts with the World Boxing Council and North American Boxing Federation. He was the first and only inductee into the inaugural class of the Texas Boxing Hall of Fame, an organization founded by El Paso promoter Lester Bedford in 2015.

From an administrative standpoint, boxing in Texas during the reign of Dickie Cole was frequently described in terms befitting a banana republic. Whenever there was a big fight in the Lone Star State, his son was the favorite to draw the coveted refereeing assignment.

Boxing is a sideline for Laurence Cole who runs an independent insurance agency in Dallas. By law in Texas (and in most other states), a boxing promoter must purchase insurance to cover medical costs in the event that one or more of the fighters on his show is seriously injured. Cole’s agency is purportedly in the top two nationally in writing these policies. Make of that what you will.

Complaints of ineptitude, says the WBAA, will be evaluated by a “rotating committee of select BWAA members and respected boxing experts.” In subsequent years, says the press release, the watch list will be published quarterly in the months of April, August, and December (must be the new math).

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

 

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The Avila Perspective, Chapter 8: Competing Cards in N.Y. and L.A.

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Rival boxing shows compete this Saturday as light heavyweight world titlists are featured in New Jersey while former world champion welterweights and middleweights tangle in New York.

A mere 150 miles separate the two fight cards staged in Uniondale, N.Y. and Atlantic City.

But there’s no mercy inside the boxing ring and certainly no mercy between boxing promotions. While Main Events stages WBO light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev and WBA light heavyweight titlist Dmitry Bivol in separate bouts, DiBella Entertainment stacks former champs Andre Berto against Devon Alexander in a welterweight clash.

Take your pick.

Russia’s Kovalev (32-2-1, 28 KOs) has lost some luster and hopes to reboot his popularity with a win against Canada’s Eleider Alvarez (23-0, 11 KOs). But he will be directly competing against WBA champ Bivol (13-0, 11 KOs), also of Russia, who defends against Isaac Chilemba (25-5-2) of South Africa.

HBO will televise both light heavyweight title fights.

Bivol, 27, has slowly, almost glacier-like slow, picked up fans along the way by training in Southern California. The quiet unassuming fighter with a conservative style and cobra-like quickness appeals to the fans.

“I do not think that now I am the best light heavyweight, but I am now one of the best. One of four guys,” said Bivol during a press conference call. “But I hope in not the far future, we will know who is the best.”

That, of course, would mean a date with Kovalev should both fighters win on Saturday. Nothing is certain.

Kovalev, now 35, has lost some of that fear factor aura since losing back-to-back fights to now retired Andre Ward. Though he’s cracked two opponents in succession by knockout, many are pointing to the potential showdown with Bivol as the moment of truth.

“Most likely this fight is gonna happen since both Sergey and I are HBO boxers and as long as that’s what the people want, most likely the fight will happen,” said Bivol. “Me and Sergey will make sure to give this fight to the people.”

It’s time for the build-up and it starts on Saturday Aug. 4, on HBO.

“That’s certainly a goal of Sergey’s and he’s made it very clear to me that that’s what he wants to do,” said promoter Kathy Duva, CEO of Main Events. “He wants to do unification fights if he is successful with Eleider Alvarez. That’s what he wants to do next; he’s been very clear about that.”

DiBella

Five former world champions stack the fight card at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.

Former welterweight world champs Andre Berto (31-5, 24 KOs) and Devon Alexander (27-4-1, 14 KOs) lead the charge in a 12-round clash. FOX will televise the main event and others at 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET.

Berto, 34, has been fighting once a year so it’s difficult to determine if age has crept into his reflexes. When he knocked out Victor Ortiz in a rematch two years ago Berto looked sharp and dangerous. But against Shawn Porter a year ago, the crispness seemed gone and he quickly lost by knockout.

Alexander, 31, has the advantage of being a southpaw. But he always seems to do the minimum when he fights. Last February he slowed down and allowed Victor Ortiz to steal the fight. All the commotion by the announcers was for naught. Defense does not win fights, it allows you to win fights. The lack of offense in the latter rounds cost Alexander a win in a match that entered the books as a majority draw.

It’s a curious matchup of former world champions.

Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin (33-1-1, 23 KOs) the former WBO middleweight titlist meets J’Leon Love (24-1-1, 13 KOs) in a super middleweight bout set for 10 rounds. It’s another intriguing fight especially between two fighters with great personalities.

Quillin, 35, was ambushed by Daniel Jacobs in the first round a year ago in losing the title. Was it bad luck, age or both? As a fighter the Brooklyn-based prizefighter has a ton of followers who like him as a person. Few are as classy as Quillin.

Love, 30, has long been a mainstay in Las Vegas and since his amateur days his abilities have been touted. Throughout the years Love has shown that charm and friendliness can go a long ways, even in the bitter wars of prizefighting. But the time has come to see if he belongs in the prizefighting world. Quillin will present an immense challenge for Love.

A number of other interesting fights are slated to take place among former world champions including Sergey Lipinets who lost the super lightweight title to Mikey Garcia this past winter. There’s also Luis Collazo in a welterweight match.

One world title fight does take place on the card.

Female WBA super middleweight titlist Alicia Napoleon (9-1) makes the first defense of her title against Scotland’s Hannah Rankin (5-1). It’s a 10 round bout and the first time Napoleon defends the title since winning it last March against Germany’s Femke Hermans. Ironically, Hermans now has the WBO super middleweight title after defeating former champ Nikki Adler by decision this past May.

L.A. Congestion

Next week the city of Angels will be packed with three fight cards in four days.

First, on Wednesday Aug. 8, 360 Promotions stages Abraham Lopez (9-1-1, 3 KOs) versus Gloferson Ortizo (12-0-1, 6 KOs) in the main event at the Avalon Theater in Hollywood, Calif. This is Filipino fighter Ortizo’s ninth fight this year. You read that correctly.

All of Ortizo’s fights have taken place across the border in Tijuana. The 32-year-old now returns to California against another Californian in Lopez. He’ll be looking for his fourth consecutive knockout, but Lopez, 22, has not lost a fight since his pro debut. Inactivity might come into play for Lopez who hasn’t stepped in the boxing ring in over a year.

New York’s Brian Ceballo (3-0) returns in a six round welterweight bout against local fighter Tavorus Teague (5-20-4). Ceballo, who is promoted by 360 Promotions, looked good in his last appearance. The amateurish punches seen in his first two bouts were gone by his third pro fight. His opponent Teague has ability and can give problems if Ceballo takes his foot off the pedal.

One of Gennady “GGG” Golovkin’s training partners Ali Akhmedov (11-0, 8 KOs) makes his California debut when he meets Jorge Escalante (9-1-1, 6 KOs) in a light heavyweight match.

Female super lightweight Elvina White (2-0) is also slated to compete. The entire fight card will be streamed at www.360promotions.us and on the 360 Promotions page on Facebook. First bell rings at 6:15 p.m.

Belasco Theater in downtown L.A. is the site of Golden Boy Promotions fight card on Friday Aug. 10. A pair of young prospects will be severely tested.

San Diego’s Genaro Gamez (8-0, 5 KOs) meets Filipino fighter Recky Dulay (10-3, 7 KOs) for the vacant NABF super featherweight title. For Dulay it’s always kill or be killed. Five of his last fights have ended in knockout wins or losses.

Gamez, 23, seems to thrive under pressure and broke down two veterans in back-to-back fights at Fantasy Springs Casino. Now he returns to the Belasco, a venue where he has struggled in the past. But this time he’s the main event.

Another being severely tested will be Emilio Sanchez (15-1, 10 KOs) facing veteran Christopher Martin (30-10-3, 10 KOs) who is capable of beating anyone.

Sanchez, 24, lost by knockout in his last fight this past March. He’s talented and fearless and one mistake cost him his first loss as a pro. He’s not getting a break against Martin, a cagey fighter who has upset many young rising prospects in the past. Martin also has experience against world champions. It’s an extremely tough matchup for Sanchez.

The fight card will be televised by Estrella TV beginning at 6 p.m.

World Title Fight

On Saturday, boxing returns to the Avalon Theater in Hollywood.

The main event is a good one as Puerto Rico’s Jesus Rojas (26-1-2, 19 KOs) defends the WBA featherweight world title against Southern California’s Jojo Diaz (26-1) in a 12 round clash. It’s power versus speed.

Rojas, 31, is one tough customer. When he took the interim title against Claudia Marrero last year he chased down the speedy southpaw Dominican and blasted him out in the seventh round. Several months earlier he obliterated another Golden Boy prospect, Abraham Lopez (not the same Abraham Lopez that is fighting on the 360 Promotions card), in eight rounds. Now he has the title and defends against the speedy southpaw Diaz.

Diaz, 25, just recently lost a bid for the WBC featherweight title against Gary Russell Jr. Though he lost by decision three months ago, that fight might be easy in comparison to this challenge against Rojas.

The former Olympian won’t be able to take a breath against the Puerto Rican slugger who is about as rough as they come.

Two more undefeated Golden Boy prospects get a chance to eliminate each other when Philadelphia’s Damon Allen (15-0-1) meets East L.A.’s Jonathan Navarro (14-0, 7 KOs) in a super lightweight fight set for 10 rounds.

Phillie versus East LA is like fire versus fire in the boxing ring. Boxers originating from those two hard-bitten areas usually have go-for-broke styles that result in pure action. Allen versus Navarro should not disappoint.

Allen, 25, is not a hard puncher but he’s aggressive and like most Philadelphia fighters, he’s not afraid to mix it up.

Navarro, 21, lives in East L.A. but trains in Riverside under Robert Garcia. He’s slowly finding his timing and will be facing the fastest fighter since his pro debut in 2015.

Others featured on the card will be Hector Tanajara, Aaron McKenna and Ferdinand Kerobyan.

The card will be streamed on the Golden Boy Fight Night page on Facebook beginning at 6 p.m.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

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What’s Next for Manny Pacquiao?

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Manny Pacquiao isn’t quite ready to retire, and more big-money fights against high-level competition seem to be on the 39-year-old’s way.

“I feel like I’m a 27-year-old,” Pacquiao told GMAnetwork.com’s Jamil Santos last week. “Expect more fights to come.”

Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39 KOs) looked exceptionally sharp in his seventh-round knockout win over former junior welterweight titleholder Lucas Matthysse on July 15 at Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was Pacquiao’s best performance in at least four years, netting Pacquiao a secondary world title at welterweight along with a slew of renewed public interest in the boxing superstar’s career.

But what comes next for the only fighter in the history of boxing to capture world titles in eight different weight classes? TSS takes a detailed look at the potential opponents for one of the sport’s most celebrated stars.

Cream of the Crop

Pacquiao looked good enough against Matthysse to suggest he’d make a viable candidate to face either Terence Crawford or Vasyl Lomachenko next. Crawford is ranked No. 2 on the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board’s pound-for-pound list while Lomachenko slots at No. 1.

While Pacquiao is no longer under contract with longtime promoter Bob Arum at Top Rank, most industry insiders expect he will continue working with Arum’s team in some capacity so long as his career keeps moving forward. Pacquiao started his own promotional venture, MP Promotions, to co-promote the Matthysse bout with Oscar De La Hoya, but Top Rank was still involved in the fight which is why the bout ended up streaming on ESPN+.

Top Rank’s two hottest commodities at the present are Ring Magazine and WBA lightweight champ Lomachenko and welterweight titlist Crawford. Both are highly-regarded, multi-division world titleholders in the primes of their careers who are universally considered the top fighters in boxing.

Lomachenko and Crawford would each present a unique set of problems for Pacquiao stylistically. Of the two, Pacquiao probably matches up best with Lomachenko at this point in his career. Crawford (33-0, 24 KOs) is much larger and heavier than both Pacquiao and Lomachenko, and unless Pacquiao just really wants to test himself against someone incredibly dangerous, it’d probably be best for Team Pacquiao to avoid fighting Crawford at all costs. Crawford would be a heavy favorite against Pacquiao and most boxing insiders don’t believe this version of Pacquiao could compete with Crawford.

Lomachenko (11-1, 9 KOs) is naturally smaller than Pacquiao and has never fought above 135 pounds. If Pacquiao could lure Lomachenko to 140 pounds or above, he’d find himself in a winnable fight against a top-notch opponent. Lomachenko would probably be the slight favorite based on age alone but Pacquiao’s power and athleticism would give him a realistic chance to pull the upset.

Other Notable Possibilities

Former junior welterweight titleholder Amir Khan has long been angling for a bout against Pacquiao. Khan faces Samuel Vargas on Sept. 8 in another comeback bout against lower level competition. Khan (32-4, 20 KOs) bravely moved up to middleweight to fight Canelo Alvarez in 2016 but was knocked out in the sixth round. He left the sport for a spell but returned to boxing in February as a welterweight with a sensational first round knockout win over Phil Lo Greco. A win over Vargas puts Khan in good position to secure a bout with Pacquiao, and the fight is a reasonable move by both camps. Pacquiao would probably be the heavy favorite, but Khan’s speed and long reach give him a decent chance to pull the upset.

Former welterweight titleholder Jeff Horn won a controversial decision over Pacquiao last year in Australia. The bout grabbed huge ratings for ESPN and there have been many debates since it happened as to which fighter truly deserved the nod from the judges. Horn (18-1-1, 12 KOs) doesn’t possess elite level talent, but he’s huge compared to Pacquiao and fights with such ferocity that the two can’t help but make an aesthetically pleasing fight together. Pacquiao would be the heavy favorite to defeat Horn if the two fight again.

Pacquiao vs. PBC fighters?

Boxing’s current political climate and the ongoing battle of promoters and television networks for the hearts and minds of boxing fans usually leaves many compelling fights between top level stars off the table. Fighters promoted by Top Rank and Golden Boy are almost never able to secure bouts with fighters signed to Al Haymon to appear under the Premier Boxing Champions banner and vice versa. But Pacquiao’s free agent status opens up new and interesting possibilities for the fighter to pursue noteworthy PBC fighters.

There had been lots of chatter about Pacquiao facing Mikey Garcia next. Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs) has been decimating competition at both lightweight and junior welterweight. Garcia is considered by most experts to be one of the top 10 pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. He’s the TBRB junior welterweight champion and a unified lightweight titleholder (WBC, IBF). While Garcia is hoping to land a big money bout against IBF welterweight titleholder Errol Spence, most boxing experts believe the jump up to 147 pounds would be too much for the diminutive Garcia who began his career at featherweight. A better welterweight target for Garcia would be Pacquiao who also began his career in a much lower weight class.

Spence (24-0, 21 KOs) is probably the best of the PBC welterweights. He’s considered by many to be on par with Crawford at 147 so it would be an incredibly dangerous bout for Pacquiao to go after at this point in his career. But Spence is aggressive and fights in a style that Pacquiao traditionally matches up very well against. Spence would be the favorite based on size, age and skill.

Slightly less dangerous to Pacquiao would be facing the winner of the Sept. 8 battle between Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter. Garcia (34-1, 20 KOs) and Porter (28-2-1, 17 KOs) are fighting for the vacant WBC welterweight title and the possibility of capturing another world title in his career could sway Pacquiao to seek out the winner. Pacquiao could find himself a slight favorite or underdog depending on which of the two fighters he would face, but both would be winnable fights.

The WBA welterweight champion is Keith Thurman. Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs) is a good boxer with tremendous power but Pacquiao’s speed and athleticism would probably give him the leg up in that potential matchup. Thurman hasn’t fought in over 16 months though and recent pictures suggest he’s not in fighting shape at the moment, so the likelihood of a Pacquiao vs. Thurman fight is pretty much nil.

Some fans want Pacquiao to face Adrien Broner. Broner (33-3-1, 24 KOs) is a solid contender at 147 but probably doesn’t have the skill to seriously compete with Pacquiao. Pacquiao would be a significant favorite and would likely stop Broner if the two were able to meet in a boxing ring.

Mayweather-Pacquiao 2?

Pacquiao lost a unanimous decision to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2015, but the circumstances surrounding the fight, and the fact it was the biggest box office bash in the history of the sport, have led many to suspect the two fighters would meet again in a rematch.

Yes, Mayweather (50-0, 27 KOs) is retired, but he’s unretired several times in his career for big money fights including last year’s crossover megafight with UFC star Conor McGregor. While it seems unlikely to happen, Mayweather-Pacquiao 2 would still be a huge worldwide event worth millions of dollars to both fighters so those following the sport can never say never to the idea of it happening again.

While Mayweather is 41, he’d still get the nod as the betting favorite should he fight Pacquiao again based on what happened in the first fight as well as his stylistic advantage over Pacquiao.

Pacquiao vs. McGregor?

McGregor’s bout against Mayweather last year was such a financial success and the MMA star made so much more money in the boxing ring than he did as a UFC fighter that the idea of him returning to the sport to face Pacquiao isn’t as far-fetched as one might think.

Pacquiao vs. McGregor would be an easy sell to the general public. According to CompuBox, McGregor landed more punches against Mayweather than did Pacquiao, and the general consensus is that Mayweather-McGregor was more fun to watch than Mayweather-Pacquiao.

The size difference between the two would lead to an easy promotion. McGregor is a junior middleweight and Pacquiao has only competed at the weight once back in 2010. Despite all that, Pacquiao would be a significant favorite to defeat McGregor and rightly so. He’s too fast and too good a boxer, and his aggressive style would likely lead to a stoppage win.

Pacquiao’s Top Targets

Pacquiao’s top targets should be Mayweather, McGregor and Lomachenko. Pacquiao would stand to make the most money facing either Mayweather or McGregor. Pacquiao’s reportedly injured shoulder heading into 2015 bout left many wondering how the fight might be different had the Filipino gone into things at his best, and Mayweather’s age might play more of a factor in the second fight than it did in the first. A Pacquiao-McGregor fight would be a worldwide spectacle, one Pacquiao would be heavily favored to win. Besides, it’d be interesting to see if Pacquiao could stop McGregor sooner than historical rival Mayweather. Finally, Lomachenko might be trying to climb up weight classes too fast, and Pacquiao would certainly be fit to test the validity of that theory. It’d be one of the biggest fights in boxing and a win for Pacquiao would be another huge feather in the cap of one of boxing’s true historically great champions.

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