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Joshua-Klitschko: The Future is Now (Part One)

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THE HAUSER REPORT: On April 17, 1860, in Farnsborough County west of London, England’s Tom Sayers and John Heenan from the San Francisco Bay area fought to a bloody 42-round draw in what was then called “The Fight of the Century.”

Sayers-Heenan ended in chaos without a winner being declared. Heenan was fighting blind in one eye with the other eye rapidly closing. Sayers was barely able to defend himself. At that point, the ropes on one side of the ring were cut, either to save Sayers from defeat or (if the alternative version is accepted) to prevent the Englishman from being strangled to death by Heenan, who allegedly was pressing Sayers’ neck against the top strand and pushing down with all his might on the Englishman’s head.

On April 29, 2017, England was again at the center of the boxing world. This time, Wladimir Wladimirowitsch Klitschko and Anthony Oluwafemi Olaseni Joshua did battle at Wembley Stadium in London.

It was a massive event and boxing’s most anticipated heavyweight title fight since Lennox Lewis vs. Mike Tyson fifteen years ago. It was generation versus generation with the past meeting the future in the present. Two men vying for the right to be called the best heavyweight on the planet on a night that the 90,000 fans who were in attendance will always remember.

Wladimir Klitschko is a man of intelligence and grace. He won a gold medal in the super-heavyweight division on behalf of Ukraine at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and embarked upon a pro career that has spanned more than two decades.

Entering the Joshua fight, Klitschko’s record stood 64 wins against 4 losses with 53 knockouts and 3 KOs by. His sojourn through the professional ranks began with 24 consecutive victories, all but one by knockout.

Then, in 1998, Klitschko fought Ross Puritty, a journeyman from Oklahoma who traveled to Ukraine with 13 losses on his record. Klitschko beat up on Puritty for ten rounds. But in round eleven, Wladimir crumbled from physical and mental exhaustion.

Sixteen Klitschko victories followed that defeat with only one opponent going the distance. In 2000, Wladimir annexed the WBO heavyweight crown with a unanimous-decision triumph over Chris Byrd. But three years later, South African Corrie Sanders knocked Klitschko down multiple times en route to a second-round blowout. In 2004, Wladimir dominated Lamon Brewster early but was unable to come out of his corner after the fifth round.

At that point, Klitschko reconfigured his fighting style under the tutelage of trainer Emanuel Steward, won 22 fights in a row, and earned recognition as the dominant heavyweight in the world. At various times, he held the WBA, IBF, and WBO crowns. His nine-year championship reign came to an end on November 28, 2015, when he turned in an embarrassingly lackluster effort en route to a unanimous-decision defeat at the hands of Tyson Fury.

When Klitschko lost to Fury, he was dismissed as a has-been by some and a never-was by others.

Adam Berlin wrote, “Klitschko deserves praise for carrying himself like a champion outside the ring. He is respectful. He is articulate. But inside the ring, Klitschko has never been great. He has fought carefully, relying on his physical attributes to wear his rivals down. He has made leaning on smaller men an art. It’s a rational style. It’s a logical style. It’s a careful style. And while a methodical approach to boxing can lead to success, it never leads to greatness.”

“Wladimir Klitschko,” Berlin continued, “was never great. He was very good during an era when the rest of the heavyweights were less than very good. Most fighters cement their legacy with a win. Klitschko’s legacy is cemented with this loss. In this loss, he didn’t even fight. It wasn’t age. It wasn’t a bad night. It was Wladimir Klitschko being Wladimir Klitschko. That’s who he is. That’s who he’ll always be. That’s how he’ll go down in history.”

Frank Lotierzo concurred, declaring, “After twelve rounds of inept boxing, two things are clear. Wladimir Klitschko won’t fight and Tyson Fury can’t fight, at least not at the championship level. Fury was very lucky to have been in with a fighter like Klitschko, who has gone back physically as a fighter and, on this night, demonstrated that, when he doesn’t own every physical advantage conceivable over his opponent, he is very limited and physically handcuffed by his mental trepidation.”

That was the biggest knock on Klitschko: his mental state. Older brother Vitali (who reigned first as WBO and then as WBC heavyweight champion for five years) was universally perceived as the tougher Klitschko. As Tom Gerbasi wrote, “Vitali finds a way to win. Wladimir finds a way to lose. That’s the difference.”

Years ago, I had breakfast with the Klitschko brothers and asked each one whether he was more nervous when he or his brother was fighting. Wladimir answered first: “When Vitali fights, I am more nervous than he is.”

Then Wladimir added with a smile, “And when I fight, I am more nervous than he is.”

Anthony Joshua was born in England. His parents are from Nigeria, where Anthony spent part of his early childhood with his mother, who was trying to conduct business in her native land.

Joshua was six years old when Klitschko won his Olympic gold medal. One day before Anthony turned eleven, Wladimir won his first world championship belt. In 2012, sixteen years after Klitschko accomplished the feat in Atlanta, Joshua won a gold medal in the super-heavyweight division at the London Olympics.

Prior to meeting Klitschko in the ring, Joshua had 18 knockout victories in as many professional fights. He’d claimed the IBF heavyweight belt by knocking out Charles Martin on April 9, 2016. Next, he successfully defended his title against Dominic Breazeale and Eric Molina. Everyone agreed that Joshua had a great deal of potential. But prior to facing Klitschko, he’d never fought a world-class fighter.

Eighty thousand tickets for Joshua-Klitschko went on sale in January and quickly sold out. Later that month, municipal officials approved the sale of an additional 10,000 tickets, raising the stadium capacity to 90,000. That broke the previous Wembley record set by the 2014 rematch between Carl Froch and George Groves and equaled the British attendance record for boxing established in 1939 when Len Harvey successfully defended his British and Commonwealth light-heavyweight titles against Jock McAvoy in London.

Joshua-Klitschko was televised on pay-per-view in the United Kingdom by Sky Sports. There was a delay in finding a TV home in the United States due to what Bart Barry called “a 100-day catfight between HBO and Showtime [that] may be a plot to drive the last 50,000 committed boxing fans in our nation to pirated streams but it probably isn’t.” Ultimately, HBO and Showtime shared TV rights.

The promotional narrative was keyed to Joshua. The fight would be “epic . . . a stepping stone toward greatness . . . a pivotal moment in boxing history.”

The fighters conducted themselves with sportsmanship and dignity throughout the promotion.

In a reference to erratic past behavior by Tyson Fury and Shannon Briggs, Klitschko began a January 31 press conference for Joshua-Klitschko in New York with the observation, “I’m used to fighters throwing tables or wearing batman costumes or chasing me in a speedboat. So this is very nice for me.”

Referring further to the Fury fight, Klitschko added, “What happened was a great experience for me. I always think that, as one window closes, another opens.

Something came out of me and I have tremendous motivation and I’m obsessed with the goal of getting the titles back.”

But Wladimir sounded a bit pensive when talking about the past (“It’s good to be young and ambitious”). And he conceded, “It’s strange to be the B-side. I’m not used to that.”

Joshua, for his part, was respectful toward Klitschko (“He’s the real deal. He’s proved it. He’s lived it. He’s walked it”). But Anthony was forthright in saying, “I’m going for the knockout. That’s what I do. This is my gold-medal fight all over again.”

Joshua was a clear betting favorite. His team wouldn’t have taken the fight if it hadn’t believed that the oddsmakers were right. But most predictions as to the outcome were qualified with a “but.” That uncertainty was crucial to the promotion.

“This is the perfect time for the fight because of the risk,” promoter Eddie Hearn said. “It’s a gamble. If it wasn’t a risk, if it wasn’t a gamble, do you think we’d break pay-per-view records? Do you think we’d have 90,000 in Wembley? To make a great fight, the timing has to be perfect and there has to be risks on both sides. Anthony Joshua can lose and that’s exciting.”

Thirty months earlier, Joshua had served as a sparring partner for Klitschko prior to Wladimir’s 2014 knockout victory over Kubrat Pulev. Now those sparring sessions were scoured for clues.

“I didn’t go to try to prove anything with the sparring,” Joshua told the media. “I mainly went to see how a champion sets up his training camp.”

Pressed for more, Anthony added, “Wladimir is technical. He will try to maneuver you with his left hand to put you in position to throw his right hand. He’s patient. He was trying to set me up so he could throw his shots. That’s what I got from sparring with him.”

Klitschko also had memories of their time together.

“There are up to fifteen sparring partners in every camp,” Wladimir recounted. “People are coming and going, and some of them I don’t remember. But I remember Joshua. He impressed me with his attitude. He was very raw, but he carried himself well. I liked his attitude. He was in the background, learning. Sometimes you need to be quiet and just watch. He was observing everything. That is unusual. I’ve had Olympic champions and former world champions in my camp, but his attitude was totally different. He was not trying to impress anybody. He was sitting on the side, not talking too much. He was watching, learning, asking questions. He was very polite. He was different from the others. We got a feeling for each other. We sparred fifteen or twenty rounds together.”

But that was in 2014. Joshua had gotten better since then. Klitschko had gotten older. And sparring isn’t fighting.

The case for a Joshua victory on April 29 rested in part on the age differential between the fighters. Wladimir is 41. Anthony is 27. Earlier in Klitschko’s career, he’d shown a tendency to fade as fights progressed. At 41, he was expected to tire if pressured by Joshua.

Moreover, Klitschko has compiled an impressive body of work. But the names on his ring ledger have been lacking, particularly in recent years.

Since the start of 2012, Wladimir had beaten Jean Marc Mormeck, Tony Thompson, Mariusz Wach, Francesco Pianeta, Alexander Povetkin, Alex Leapai, Kubrat Pulev, and Bryant Jennings, and lost to Tyson Fury. His last impressive performance had been against Povetkin four years ago.

Luis Ortiz’s 2015 knockout of Bryant Jennings (who’d gone the distance against Klitschko seven months earlier) cast further doubt on Wladimir’s standing. And Klitschko hadn’t fought since November 2015 when he lost to Tyson Fury. The 17-month layoff was the longest of his career. Would Wladimir come back against Joshua rested and strong or would he come back old, as Bernard Hopkins did when he creaked around the ring before being knocked out of it by Joe Smith last year?

Rob McCracken has trained Joshua since Anthony’s days as an amateur.

McCracken was deferential toward Klitschko in the build-up to the fight, saying, “He’s a very good fighter. He’s a former Olympic champion, been hugely successful as a heavyweight, been champion for a decade or so. Can box, can spoil, can punch, very experienced, very tricky. If you let Klitschko get going and he gets that jab going, he starts pushing and shoving and looking for the right hand, then he’s a real handful and difficult hard work. He’s been a tremendous fighter and he still is.”

But McCracked added, “As great a fighter as Klitschko has been, Father Time is a terrible person when he shows up. And he’s already shown up.”

Joshua sounded a similar note, saying, “Boxing is a young man’s sport. It’s my time now.”

Ricky Hatton concurred, noting, “Klitschko seems to have been around forever. And none of us go on forever.”

Still, Wladimir was a live underdog. Joshua’s chin was suspect. And Klitschko can punch.

“What does Anthony do when he gets hit again and again?” Wladimir asked at the New York press conference. “What does he do if he has to go backward? Is he the new Lennox Lewis, or is he the new Frank Bruno?”

Tyson Fury had been able to neutralize Klitschko’s power because he circled constantly and used side-to-side movement to keep Wladimir turning. That’s not Joshua’s style.

Also, the other side of the age coin is experience.

Klitschko had fought 68 times as a professional and gone into the tenth round or later on thirteen occasions. Joshua had logged a total of 103 minutes 27 seconds of ring time in his entire professional career and fought into the seventh round only twice (against Dillian Whyte and Dominic Breazeale). Each of Joshua’s other fights had ended inside of three rounds.

“A.J. has lots of energy,” Klitschko observed. “He’s young. He wants to show it. He has those big muscles that give him confidence. But did you hear about boxing? It’s the sweet science. Experience is something that you cannot buy in a shop. You gain it over the years. It is an advantage.”

“It’s hard to pick a winner,” Lennox Lewis said. “Anthony is a great young fighter. I have a lot of respect for him. He has worked hard and dealt with things well. But as far as experience goes, he is lacking a bit. You can go in there and knock out eighteen guys straight, but what have you learned? So you’ve got Joshua, who is young and strong. And you’ve got Klitschko, who is old but with so much knowledge and experience. That’s why it’s so intriguing.”

British boxing writer Gareth A. Davies framed the issue as follows: “It’s all about timing. Either Joshua and his team have got it spot-on and will feast on a great champion’s carcass; or Klitschko will delve into his memory bank, roll back the clock, get that jab pumping again, drain Joshua in clinches, and re-emerge as The Man, having taken a raw novice to school. Has the jump in class been carefully measured and timed to perfection or will the difference in levels be Joshua’s undoing?”

“Until you step into the ring with someone, you don’t know what you’re facing,” Joshua acknowledged.

“The question is out there,” Klitschko said. “Do I still got it, or is it too late?”

Then Wladimir put the fight in perspective in a way that suited him best: “Please excuse me as this may sound arrogant. But a parallel. Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. It’s been there for a long time and will be there for a long time. You can climb it during a certain period of time, during two weeks in April, I believe. You can get to the top and say, ‘I conquered Everest!’ Then you’ve got to run down because it’s going to take you down if you miss the time. A lot of people died there. Some made it back. But Mount Everest is still there. Is Mount Everest defeated? It’s still there and it’s going to take another life this April.”

Part Two of “Joshua-Klitschko: The Future is Now” will be posted on The Sweet Science tomorrow.

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

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book – A Hard World: An Inside Look at Another Year in Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism.

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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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retire

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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