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Bernard Hopkins, Channeling his Inner Peter Marciano, Picks Jacobs over GGG

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Bernard Hopkins has never been a shrinking violet when it comes to offering strong opinions, on anything, so perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he is making a somewhat bold prediction concerning Saturday night’s big middleweight title fight between Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (36-0, 33 KOs) and Daniel “The Miracle Man” Jacobs (32-1, 29 KOs) at Madison Square Garden.

The bout, widely perceived as the most difficult test yet faced by Golovkin, will be televised via HBO Pay Per View.

“I see one of the biggest upsets ever coming,” said the 52-year-old Hopkins, a former middleweight and light heavyweight champion who will be a surefire first-ballot inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame once he goes onto the ballot in 2021. “I see Danny Jacobs winning a hard-fought decision, but it won’t be a fight so hard to score that the outcome will be debated, like we had with Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward. I just think Danny (an 8-to-1 underdog) is prepared to do something great.”

Hopkins holds the record for most successful middleweight title defenses with 20, so maybe his pick of Jacobs is at least partially influenced by the fact that Golovkin, with 17 defenses of his various middleweight belts (WBC, IBF, IBO and WBA “super”) is closing fast on an historic achievement that B-Hop thought might last forever, or at least for a couple of decades.

Should Golovkin, 34, get past Jacobs, the WBA’s “regular” middleweight champ, he’d be only two successful defenses from tying Hopkins and three from eclipsing him. The Philadelphian makes no secret of his desire that the Kazakh slugger stub his toe somewhere along the way to Nos. 20 and 21.

“Yeah, because it came so quick,” Hopkins said of Golovkin’s surge into second place (the late, great Carlos Monzon is now third, with 14) on the winning middleweight title defenses list. “I thought I’d be around 70 before somebody got close to my record, based on the trend of fighters going for titles in different weight classes rather than to stay in one class that long. I really thought my record would last a long, long time, and maybe it will.

“It ain’t broken yet, but it ain’t too far off. Would I be joyful if it was broken? Hell, no. Would I accept it? Of course. I would have no choice but to accept it. Records are meant to be broken. But, you know, that don’t mean I’d have to like it if mine is broken.”

The prideful Hopkins might just be channeling his inner Peter Marciano, the youngest brother of the late former heavyweight champion, Rocky Marciano, whose 49-0 record (with 43 knockouts) is one of the more iconic standards in boxing history. Peter Marciano didn’t bother to disguise his glee when bulked-up light heavy titlist Michael Spinks scored a razor-thin unanimous decision over the long-reigning Larry Holmes on Sept. 21, 1985. Holmes was 48-0 going into that bout.

But if Peter Marciano didn’t want Holmes – indisputably one of the all-time greats – from matching The Rock, he was absolutely apoplectic when 7-foot, 330-pound Russian Nikolay Valuev, then the WBA champion, made it to 44-0. It would have been an absolute miscarriage of justice, the younger Marciano said, if a hulking clod like Valuev were to keep winning and somehow surpass his legendary brother’s record. That threat passed when Valuev was dethroned in his 47th fight (not counting one no-decision) on a majority decision against Ruslan Chagaev on April 14, 2007.

“Quite honestly, I never want to see Rocky’s record broken,” Peter Marciano said in September 1985 with the same refreshing if self-serving candor as members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the only  NFL team to finish a season undefeated and whose players and coaches still pop champagne corks whenever the last unbeaten NFL team in any subsequent season is defeated. “As a sports fan, as a boxing fan, if someone is good enough to ever do it, I would tip my cap to him. But I’m not going to lie. I hope it never happens.”

One can only surmise that Peter Marciano is praying that Floyd Mayweather Jr., who did make it to 49-0, either stays retired or lets his guard down and gets coldcocked should his curiosity of a proposed boxing match with mixed martial arts sensation Conor McGregor ever take place. But make no mistake: Daniel Jacobs is no clumsy bear, like Nikolay Valuev, or a fish out of water, like McGregor likely would be if he stepped inside the ring instead of the octagon against Money May.

“On paper, `GGG’ has to be the favorite,” Hopkins allowed. “He’s got all those knockouts in a row (the streak is now up to 23) and very few of those times has he been challenged a little bit, much less seriously challenged. He’s been steamrolling guys. There are some people who have been suggesting that he’s shown some vulnerability in his last two fights (against Dominic Wade and Kell Brook) because he’s been hit with punches he normally doesn’t get hit with, but he’s enough of a veteran to know what kind of power a guy packs, or doesn’t pack, right from the jump. If you don’t get his respect early, he’ll go right to you and eventually through you.

“But Danny Jacobs … he’s a different story, for several reasons. This man got a second chance at life. He beat a disease (cancer) that’s wiping out millions. `GGG’ is dangerous all right, but he’s not cancer. This is not the biggest fight Danny Jacobs has ever fought. He’s already fought that fight, and won.

“The biggest upset in boxing history came when Buster Douglas got up off the canvas and beat somebody (Mike Tyson) who supposedly couldn’t be beat. Buster showed that anything can happen in that ring. But what was he motived by? He was fighting to honor the memory of his mother, who had just recently passed away. Being inspired by something that’s bigger than you, that’s bigger than winning a belt, is powerful stuff. It can make you go on to do great things.”

Jacobs, however, has more going for him than the knowledge he is a beacon of hope for so many others battling the Big C and hoping they, too, can outpoint it. He has skills, maybe the right package of them to nullify Golovkin’s reputation as a downsized version of the vintage Tyson who terrified most opponents before knocking them stiff. Jacobs and his trainer, Andre Rozier, even go so far as to suggest that the Brooklyn, N.Y., native (who is on his own 12-bout knockout streak) is a more lethal puncher than the man who has the highest knockout percentage (91.7) of any middleweight champion.

“I have a different type of power. I have athletic power that people can’t see,” said Jacobs, 29, who, at 6-feet tall and with a 73-inch reach, has certain physical advantages over the 5-10½ Golovkin, who has a 70-inch reach.

Added Rozier: “Danny actually has more first-round knockouts (13) than Golovkin has (5). Golovkin has good punching power, but I will not say he has hellacious punching power. He doesn’t hit people with one shot and then they go away. Most of his knockouts come through attrition, where he is constantly banging at you and wearing you down. A lot of Danny’s knockouts come from punches that guys just don’t see because his hands are so quick.”

Hopkins hears what Team Jacobs is saying, and he doesn’t necessarily disagree.

“Danny Jacobs is the sharper, crisper, more accurate puncher,” Hopkins said. “`GGG’ is more of a thumper. He’s heavy-handed. He’s like a quicker, smaller George Foreman, who clubs you upside the head. I never had either kind of power, but I fought guys who were thumpers. Joe Lipsey was like that, and Robert Allen and Antwun Echols, too. Now, Roy Jones Jr. in his prime was not a thumper; he was a quick, sharp accurate puncher. When you get hit just right by a guy like that, which Danny Jacobs is, he can turn the lights off just like that, and not with a dimmer. Thumpers turn the lights off with a dimmer. It goes down slow.

“I saw Willie Monroe Jr. (a fifth-round TKO victim of Golovkin on May 16, 2015) and he talked about fighting `GGG.’ He told me he had more of a thumping kind of power, like getting hit with a log or a bat. He said you start getting numb, until your whole body shuts down.”

So how does Hopkins envision Golovkin-Jacobs playing out?

“What I see is Danny Jacobs boxing the hell out of `GGG’ in the first half of the fight, then the real fight begins,” he said. “Wait and see.”

Although Hopkins’ choice of Jacobs over Golovkin might be influenced by his desire not to see his record broken, conspiracy theorists are likely to see a more sinister reason. Hopkins is an executive with Golden Boy Promotions, whose cash cow is Canelo Alvarez (48-1-1, 34 KOs). Alvarez squares off with fellow Mexican Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (50-2-1, 32 KOs) on May 6 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, and there are those who would suggest that Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya has and will continue to evade Golovkin as a possible opponent for his premier attraction.

“I’m excited about this fight (Golovkin-Jacobs) and I’m excited about Canelo-Chavez Jr., which also could be a great fight,” Hopkins said. “These fights are kind of like a kickoff to something like the middleweight tournament we had in 2001 (the finale of which saw Hopkins stop the favored Felix Trinidad in 12 rounds on Sept. 29 of that year). Somebody’s going to come out the undisputed middleweight champion, or at least be recognized as such by most people, kind of like we had with a Marvin Hagler, a Carlos Monzon and, yeah, a Bernard Hopkins.

“Who wins or loses a fight like these ones isn’t the main thing. The worst thing for boxing is bad fights, and I don’t see any way that’s going to happen with these two fights. If Danny Jacobs beats `GGG’ and it’s a great fight, or it goes the other way, that’s all that anyone will care about. It’s all anyone should care about.”

Hopkins was asked if he could envision how he’d fight Golovkin, if such a matchup could be made, prime-on-prime. It is something that has crossed his mind.

“I know how I’d go about it,” he said. “He’s a stalker, an intimidator, coming to seek-and-destroy with power and constant pressure. I had good success against guys like that because I had the mental discipline to take away what they did best.

“It comes down to either you get, or be gotten. That’s it. That’s boxing.”

For his part, Golovkin – whose preference is not to publicly look past his opponent of the moment – is only thinking of Jacobs, not Alvarez or Hopkins’ record which is almost within his grasp. But it’s not like he hasn’t mentally flirted with the notion of executing “The Executioner.”

“I hope I can beat (Hopkins’) record,” he said in April 2016, before he knocked out Wade in two rounds. “It’s very important to me and my team. It would be great.”

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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).

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Popo vs. “La Hiena”: Blast From the Past – Episode Two

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Freitas

When WBA/WBO super featherweight champion Acelino “Popo” Freitas met Jorge Rodrigo “Il Hiena” Barrios in Miami on August 8, 2003, there was more on the line than just the titles. This was a roughhousing 39-1-1 Argentinian fighting an equally tough 33-0 Brazilian. The crowd was divided between Brazilian fans and those from Argentina. To them this was a Mega-Fight; this was BIG.

When Acelino Freitas turned professional in 1995, he streaked from the gate with 29 straight KOs, one of the longest knockout win streaks in boxing history. He was fan-friendly and idolized in Brazil. Barrios turned professional in 1996 and went 14-0 before a DQ loss after which he went 25-0-1 with 1 no decision.

The Fight

The wild swinging “Hyena” literally turned into one as he attacked from the beginning and did not let up until the last second of the eleventh round. Barrios wanted to turn the fight into a street fight and was reasonably successful with that strategy. It became a case of brawler vs. boxer/puncher and when the brawler caught the more athletic Popo—who could slip and duck skillfully—and decked him with a straight left in the eighth, the title suddenly was up for grabs.

The Brazilian fans urged their hero on but to no avail as Barrios rendered a pure beat down on Popo during virtually the entirety of the 11th round—one of the most exciting in boxing history. Freitas went down early from a straight right. He was hurt, and at this point it looked like it might be over. Barrios was like a madman pounding Popo with a variety of wild shots, but with exactly one half of one second to go before the bell ending the round, Freitas caught La Hiena with a monster right hand that caused the Hyena to do the South American version of the chicken dance before he went down with his face horribly bloodied. When he got up, he had no idea where he was but his corner worked furiously to get him ready for the final round. All he had to do was hang in there and the title would change hands on points.

The anonymous architect of “In Boxing We Trust,” a web site that went dormant in 2010, wrote this description:

“Near the end of round 11, about a milli-second before the bell rang, Freitas landed a ROCK HARD right hand shot flush on Barrios’ chin. Barrios stood dazed for a moment, frozen in time, and then down he went, WOW WOW WOW!!!! Barrios got up at the count of 4, he didn’t know where he was as he looked around towards the crowd like a kid separated from his family at a theme park, but Barrios turned to the ref at the count of 8 and signaled that he was okay, SAVED BY THE BELL. It was panic time in the Barrios corner, as the blood continued to flow like lava, and he was bleeding from his ear (due to a ruptured ear drum). In the beginning of round 12, Freitas was able to score an early knockdown, and as Barrios stood up on wobbly legs and Freitas went straight at him and with a couple more shots, Barrios was clearly in bad shape and badly discombobulated and the fight was stopped. Freitas had won a TKO victory in round 12, amazing!!!!”

Later, Freitas tarnished his image with a “No Mas” against Diego Corrales, but he had gone down three times and knew there was no way out. He went on to claim the WBO world lightweight title with a split decision over Zahir Raheem, but that fight was a snoozefest and he lost the title in his first defense against Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz.

Freitas looked out of shape coming in to the Diaz fight and that proved to be the case as he was so gassed at the end of the eighth round that he quit on his stool. This was yet another shocker, but others (including Kostya Tszyu, Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya and even Ali) had done so and the criticism this time seemed disproportionate.

Popo had grown old. It happens. Yet, against Barrios, he had proven without a doubt that he possessed the heart of a warrior.

The Brazilian boxing hero retired in 2007, but came back in 2012 and schooled and KOd the cocky Michael “The Brazilian Rocky” Oliveira. He won another fight in 2015 and though by now he was visibly paunchy, he still managed to go 10 rounds to beat Gabriel Martinez in 2017 with occasional flashes of his old explosive volleys. These later wins, though against lower level opposition, somewhat softened the memories of the Corrales and Diaz fights, both of which this writer attended at the Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut. They would be his only defeats in 43 pro bouts.

Like Manny Pacquiao, Freitas had a difficult childhood but was determined to make a better life for himself and his family. And, like Manny, he did and he also pursued a career in politics. Whether he makes it into the Hall will depend on how much a ‘No Mas’ can count against one, but he warrants serious consideration when he becomes eligible.

As for the Hyena, on April 8, 2005, he won the WBO junior lightweight title with a fourth round stoppage of undefeated but overweight Mike Anchondo. In January 2010 he was involved in a hit and run accident in which a 20-year-old pregnant woman was killed. On April 4, 2012 Barrios was declared guilty of culpable homicide and sentenced to four years in prison. He served 27 months and never fought again, retiring with a record of 50-4-1.

Ted Sares is one of the oldest active full power lifters in the world. A member of Ring 10, and Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame, he was recently cited by Hannibal Boxing as one of three “Must-Read” boxing writers.

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The Avila Perspective Chapter 6: Munguia, Cruiserweights and Pacman

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Adjoining states

Adjoining states in the west host a number of boxing cards including a world title contest that features a newcomer who, before knocking out a world champion, was erroneously categorized by a Nevada official as unworthy of a title challenge.

Welcome to the world of Mexico’s Jaime Munguia (29-0, 25 KOs) the WBO super welterweight world titlist who meets England’s Liam Smith (26-1-1, 14 KOs) at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Saturday, July 21. HBO will televise

Back in April when middleweight titan Gennady “GGG” Golovkin was seeking an opponent to replace Saul “Canelo” Alvarez who was facing suspension for performance enhancement drug use, it was the 21-year-old from Tijuana who volunteered his services for a May 5th date in Las Vegas.

Bob Bennett, the Executive Director for Nevada State Athletic Commission, denied allowing Munguia an opportunity to fight Golovkin for the middleweight titles. Bennett claimed that the slender Mexican fighter had not proven worthy of contesting for the championship though the tall Mexican wielded an undefeated record of 28 wins with 24 coming by knockout.

To be fair, Bennett has seen many fighters in the past with undefeated records who were not up to challenges, especially against the likes of Golovkin. But on the other hand, how can an official involved in prizefighting deny any fighter the right to make a million dollar payday if both parties are willing?

That is the bigger question.

Munguia stopped by Los Angeles to meet with the media last week and spoke about Bennett and his upcoming first world title defense. He admitted to being in the middle of a whirlwind that is spinning beyond his expectations. But he likes it.

“I’ve never won any kind of award before in my life,” said Munguia at the Westside Boxing Club in the western portion of Los Angeles. “I’ve always wanted to be a world champion since I was old enough to fight.”

When asked how he felt about Nevada’s denying him an attempt to fight Golovkin, a wide grin appeared on the Mexican youngster.

“I would like to thank him,” said Munguia about Bennett’s refusal to allow him to fight Golovkin. “Everything happens for a reason.”

That reason is clear now.

Two months ago Munguia put on a frightening display of raw power in knocking down then WBO super welterweight titlist Sadam Ali numerous times in front of New York fans. It reminded me of George Foreman’s obliteration of Joe Frazier back in the 1970s. World champions are not supposed get battered like that but when someone packs that kind of power those can be the terrifying results.

Still beaming over his newfound recognition, Munguia has grand plans for his future including challenging all of the other champions in his weight category and the next weight division.

“I want to be a great champion,” said Munguia. “I want to make history.”

The first step toward history begins on Saturday when he faces former world champion Smith who was dethroned by another Mexican named Canelo.

Cruiserweight championship

It’s not getting a large amount of attention in my neighborhood but this unification clash between WBA and IBF cruiserweight titlist Murat Gassiev (26-0, 19 KOs) and WBC and WBO cruiserweight titlist Oleksandr Usyk (14-0, 11 KOs) has historic ramifications tagged all over it.

The first time I ever saw Russia’s 24-year-old Gassiev was three years ago when he made his American debut at the Quiet Cannon in Montebello. It’s a small venue near East L.A. and the fight was attended by numerous boxing celebrities such as James “Lights Out” Toney, Mauricio “El Maestro” Herrera and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. One entire section was filled by Russian supporters and Gassiev did not disappoint in winning by stoppage that night. His opponent hung on for dear life.

Ukraine’s Usyk, 31, made his American debut in late 2016 on a Golden Boy Promotions card that staged boxing great Bernard Hopkins’ final prizefight. That night the cruiserweight southpaw Usyk bored audiences with his slap happy style until lowering the boom on South Africa’s Thabiso Mchunu in round nine at the Inglewood Forum. The sudden result stunned the audience.

Now it’s Gassiev versus Usyk and four world titles are at stake. The unification fight takes place in Moscow, Russia and will be streamed via Klowd TV at 12 p.m. PT/ 3 p.m. ET.

Seldom are cruiserweight matchups as enticing to watch as this one.

Another Look

A couple of significant fights took place last weekend, but Manny Pacquiao’s knockout win over Lucas Matthysse for the WBO welterweight world title heads the list.

Neither fighter looked good in their fight in Malaysia but when Pacquiao floored Matthysse several times during the fight, it raised some red flags.

The last time Pacquiao knocked out a welterweight was in 2009 against Miguel Cotto in Las Vegas. Since then he had not stopped an opponent. What changed?

In this age of PEDs there was no mention of testing for the Pacquiao/Matthysse fight. For the curiosity of the media and the fans, someone should come forward with proof of testing. Otherwise any future fights for the Philippine great will not be forthcoming.

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