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Fighters as Writers

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Vegas

“It’s easy to like Las Vegas the same way it’s easy to like an honest hooker. Neither one pretends to be anything but what they are. They just flash you a little thigh, give you an honest price, and then screw you. You might blow your paycheck in an afternoon, but you just keep smiling because you’re having a good time spending it and you knew you were going to get ripped off when you got there.”

That’s good writing. It comes from a novel about boxing entitled Cornered, written by a former fighter named Rick Folstad.

A small group of fighters have put their experiences into words as writers. This column isn’t about boxers whose names were attached to autobiographies that someone else wrote for them. It’s about fighters who’ve done serious writing on their own.

James J. Corbett, who defeated John L. Sullivan in 1892 to claim the heavyweight throne, wrote articles about boxing and an autobiography, The Roar Of The Crowd.  Former light-heavyweight champion Jose Torres was the primary author of books about Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson and wrote dozens of articles for the Spanish-language press.

One writer reversed the order. Jack McKinney was a respected sports columnist for the Philadelphia News. Athletically gifted, McKinney worked out regularly, had more than his share of bar fights, and decided he wanted to have one fight as a pro.

On June 29, 1963, McKinney scored a first-round knockout at St. Mary’s Gym in Painesville, Ohio. As befitting an event of that nature, Don Elbaum promoted the card.

“There were five fights that night,” Elbaum recalls. “I was the promoter and I also refereed Jack’s fight. In those days, they let me do things like that in Ohio. Jack came out like a wild man, throwing punches like crazy, and knocked the other guy down. I counted to ten real fast, like in about four seconds, and that was it.”

The identity of McKinney’s opponent that night is uncertain. Some accounts say it was a club fighter with an 0-and-4 ring record. Elbaum recalls a different set of circumstances, saying, “The original opponent fell out at the last minute. I think someone might have seen him working out in the gym and decided that he looked a little better than we wanted him to look. So I called Billy Gutz, who managed fighters in Ohio. And Billy sent a last-minute substitute.”

According to BoxRec, the opponent was Alvin Green, a 26-year-old journeyman with a 22-10-3 record. If so, one can be forgiven for suspecting that Green was “doing business” that night. Several years earlier, he’d gone the distance with an aging Ezzard Charles in the final fight of Charles’s distinguished ring career.

Tris Dixon was born in 1979 and boxed on and off as an amateur between the ages of 16 and 26. His literary resume includes a stint as the editor of Boxing News, numerous articles, and two books about the sweet science: The Road to Nowhere (Pitch Publishing) and Money: The Life and Fast Times of Floyd Mayweather (Arena Sport).

“I was a rugby player,” Dixon recalls. “Some of the guys I played with said they boxed for fitness and asked if I wanted to try it. I went to the gym with them and, after a few months, the coach asked, ‘Do you want to spar?’ It’s a macho environment, so you don’t say ‘no.’ Then, after a year of sparring, it was, ‘How about a fight?’ And it’s still a macho environment, so you say ‘sure.’”

Dixon had 20 amateur fights en route to a 13-and-7 ring record.

“I remember my first fight very clearly,” Tris says. “I was quite nervous. I was losing. At the end of the second round, I caught the guy with a right hand. Before the third round, my trainer told me, ‘Use the right hand. He’s a southpaw.’ And I said to myself, ‘Oh, yeah. He’s a southpaw.’ I’d been fighting for two rounds and hadn’t noticed he was a southpaw. That’s how nervous I was. So in the third round, I used the right hand and got stopped.”

“I liked the training,” Dixon continues. “I was proud to be a fighter. For me, every waking moment in the month before a fight was about the fight and trying to cope with the pre-fight pressure and pre-fight fear. I read a lot about what Cus D’Amato said about fear. If you’ve never fought, it’s hard to appreciate the fear and pressure involved.”

Why did Dixon stop fighting?

“Over time, I stopped caring as much as I had before,” Tris answers. “I no longer had the same motivation to go to the gym. I was never massively hurt, but I wasn’t very good at it. Sometimes I still go back to it in my mind. But I’m twelve years removed from being an active boxer now, so it’s less raw and there’s less of an overlap in my mind between being a writer and a fighter than there used to be.”

Rick Folstad played football and baseball when he was growing up in Little Falls, Minnesota.

“But I was a terrible basketball player,” Folstad recalls, “so there was nothing to do in the winter. One day, I was in a high school play. We were rehearsing in a gym. Duane and Rodney Bobick [American heavyweights who plied their trade the 1970s] were there. And I got interested.”

Folstad had 60 amateur fights. In 1974, he journeyed to Denver to compete in the National Golden Gloves.

“My first two fights were pretty easy,” Rick recounts. “Then, in the quarter-finals, I fought a guy named Aaron Pryor. I did pretty well in the first round. After the second round, I went back to my corner and asked, ‘Who is this guy?’ I lost a decision but I went the distance. I think that’s pretty cool. I went the distance with Aaron Pryor.”

Folstad turned pro in 1975 and remembers, “When I put on the small gloves [eight ounces instead of ten] for my first pro fight, I said to myself, ‘I’m going to be able to really nail this guy with these.’ Then I realized, ‘Hey, wait a minute! He’ll be wearing the same gloves. He’ll be able to really nail me.’”

Fighting professionally for four years, Folstad amassed a 20-2 (8 KOs) record. “I loved the one-on-on, being under the lights, seeing my name on posters,” he says.

Then he suffered a detached retina and retired as an active fighter.

“Sugar Ray Leonard fought after he’d had a detached retina, but he was making millions of dollars a fight. I couldn’t risk losing an eye for twelve hundred dollars.”

Then Folstad turned to writing. “As far back as I can remember,” he notes, “I always liked writing and I always wanted to be a writer.” Now 65, he lives in Florida with his wife (a one-time sportswriter and former features editor for the Tampa Tribune). Over the years, he has written for numerous publications and covered two Super Bowls for the Rocky Mountain News. He’s at his best when recreating the gritty details of the sport and business of boxing.

“The fact that I was a fighter still defines me,” Rick says. “I’m proud that I did it.”

Frank Lotierzo writes regularly for TheSweetScience.com. BoxRec.com lists him as having had one pro fight, a draw in 1982. But he had an impressive amateur career.

Lotierzo fell in love with boxing on the day that Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston to annex the heavyweight crown.

“From that time on,” Frank says, “all I wanted to do was box. My parents hated the idea, but eventually they let me do it. I started going to the Cherry Hill PAL as soon as I got my drivers license. My first trainer was Joey Giardello. After a while, Joey asked me, ‘Frank, do you want to be a champ in Cherry Hill or do you want to get better?’ I said I wanted to get better. So he told me to go to Joe Frazier’s gym in Philadelphia, ask for George Benton, and tell him that Joey sent me.”

Lotierzo trained at Joe Frazier’s Gym from 1978 to 1982. Frazier was there on a regular basis, working with his son, Marvis. Great fighters like Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, and Michael Spinks were always passing through.

Lotierzo remembers, “I hated it when I pulled up to the gym and saw Michael Spinks’s silver Corvette parked outside because I knew George Benton would make me spar with him. I sparred over a hundred rounds with Michael starting in 1979. And I sparred with Ray Leonard once. Ray came to the gym to train for a week before he fought Tony Chiaverini. George Benton had trained Benny Briscoe when Benny fought Chiaverini the year before, and Angelo Dundee thought Ray could learn something from Benton. I was in awe of Ray. He was so fast. I was an aggressive fighter so he had to hit me to keep me off, but he took it easy on me.”

“I was in the gym every day,” Lotierzo continues. “I loved going to the gym to train, and I was always willing to spar with those guys. In my mind I was telling myself, ‘I’m going to be fighting them for real some day.’ But the actual fights were something else. Every time I was scheduled to fight, I’d think about a way to get out of it. That was how I handled the pressure leading up to a fight. I’d tell myself, ‘If I say I injured this, if I say I can’t fight because there’s something else important I have to do that day.’ It wasn’t until my hands were wrapped and the gloves were on that I said to myself, ‘Okay. I have to fight.’”

Fighting at weights from 154 to 175 pounds, Lotierzo compiled a 52-and-2 amateur record and won the 1977 New Jersey Golden Gloves at 165 pounds.

“I was a swarmer,” Frank recalls. “Like a 165-pound Ray Mancini. Then I broke my jaw, sparring. I let it heal. It happened again in sparring. I let it heal again. And then I broken it sparring a third time. I didn’t have a glass jaw. A glass jaw is when you get knocked out. In all my fights, I was knocked down once and never knocked out. It had to do with the calcium in my bones. That’s just the way it was. So I stopped fighting.”

Lotierzo had worked as a bartender and bouncer while training at Joe Frazier’s Gym. He also attended Camden Community College and Rutgers. Later, he made good money as a stockbroker for Prudential-Bache. He now works for Dun & Bradstreet.

“After I stopped fighting,” Lotierzo reminisces, “there were so many thoughts pent up inside me. Then one night, I was having dinner with my fiancee and her sister and brother-in-law. Her brother-in-law said, ‘You should write. You have so much to say about boxing. I’d thought about writing before. That night was when I decided to do it. The first article I wrote was about Joe Frazier. That was around 2001, and I’ve been doing it ever since. I don’t talk much about what I did as a fighter. I never saved my own boxing memorabilia. But I have my memories.”

Chris Arreola once declared, “I don’t care what the writers say. They don’t throw punches. They probably never got punched in the face in their entire life. They don’t live my life.”

Tris Dixon, Frank Lotierzo, and Rick Folstad have all been punched by men trained in the art of hurting. So what they have to say about boxing is instructive, as are their thoughts on boxing writing.

Dixon: “There are some very good writers out there today. But with the Internet the way it is, things are a bit of a free-for-all. Everybody can have their voice heard. Some of them are incredibly poor writers. Some of them are incredibly good and just need a break. But I don’t know how many of them fully appreciate the difficulty of the journey, where the fighters come from and what it takes to get to the top.”

Lotierzo: “I don’t like it that anyone with a laptop can say they’re a boxing writer, and then they go out and write just to say something controversial. So many times, I see someone write, ‘He stopped fighting. He stopped throwing punches. He stopped trying to win.’ Well, things change when you get hit. When a fighter gets hit, he gets a lot more judicious with his punches.”

Folstad: “Most of the boxing media doesn’t understand what it means to be a fighter; the demands that boxing puts on you, how much it takes out of you, how intense it is. They criticize fighters without knowing any better. They don’t understand what’s involved. If the average person gets a bad cut, it’s ‘Help! Stop everything. Get me to a doctor.’ When a fighter gets cut, it’s the opposite. You’re not worried that you’re bleeding. You’re not worried about getting to a doctor. You’re worried that they might stop the fight. How many people really understand that?”

In other words, boxing looks easier from outside the ring than it does from inside the ropes.

 

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).

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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.

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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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