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Did Mayweather Carry McGregor? No, That Doesn’t Pass the Eye Test

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carried

The thought that Floyd Mayweather carried Conor McGregor last Saturday night is something I’m not on board with. I’d like to believe it was true, but I’ve watched too much boxing and am confident of what I saw. No, I never felt while watching the fight that Mayweather was in jeopardy of losing, but there are many reasons why the fight lasted until one-minute into the 10th round. No one will ever know for sure if Mayweather helped extend the fight, but I don’t think so. He was methodical like he’s always been and had to address and adjust to a few things that he was never confronted with before.

When Mayweather-McGregor was announced I referred to it as the “Sting” and it was – in that many were led to believe that McGregor had a chance to win and because of that people would buy it in record numbers. I was also leery of a deal between Floyd and Conor because they were perfect for what the other needed. Mayweather knew he no longer had it as an elite fighter physically but wanted to get that 50th win. McGregor, although the biggest star in MMA history, had never grossed more than five million dollars fighting in the octagon (he is rumored to gross 100 million from the Mayweather bout). So McGregor fighting the best known boxer in the world who was 40 years old and smaller than him was the perfect gimmick. As I said before the fight, Mayweather, who seldom miscalculates, misjudged how much bigger McGregor was than him (Conor weighed between 170-175 on the night of the fight)….but knew it wouldn’t have any bearing on the result.

Awkwardness with the Bonus of Physicality and Size

Nothing throws off a fighter more than an unconventional opponent, even one who is a novice. And that’s two-fold if you’re a fighter like Mayweather who is fundamentally sound with excellent boxing structure and technique. McGregor’s reach was significantly longer than Mayweather’s; add to that he was not only a southpaw, but an erratic herky-jerky one. Mayweather had never been confronted by a fighter as big and unorthodox as McGregor.

If you don’t think McGregor’s almost comical movement didn’t mess with Floyd and had him thinking – “what the hell is this crap he’s doing” – then you haven’t been in that predicament before. Boxing a bigger and longer opponent, who hit him with a big uppercut in the first round that stood him straight up, a punch that he didn’t see, definitely caused Floyd to take a step back. If you noticed, especially early, Mayweather attempted to set McGregor up with his jab and right hand and didn’t look to hook or set him up with his uppercut, because he wanted to keep the most distance between he and Conor until he had a better read on him.

Once Mayweather had McGregor a little wound down, understanding the biggest threat from him was his unorthodox style, he began to pick it up. And even then he missed a ton of punches. Floyd, after feeling McGregor wasn’t close to being a big puncher and couldn’t hurt him – processed that he’d open McGregor up more with pressure, forcing him to punch instead of trying to counter shots he never had a good read on where they were coming from. And the bonus was that along with getting cleaner shots against a more open opponent, he’d wear him down at the same time.

Mayweather missed so many punches because his reflexes are shot and not because McGregor evaded them, and he wasn’t missing on purpose. Floyd aged in dog years between fighting Manny Pacquiao in May of 2015 and McGregor in August of 2017. While McGregor was fresh and full of adrenaline, his unorthodox slaps and quick flurries troubled Floyd to the point that he wasn’t immediately going to try to impose himself physically and, as usual, he didn’t.

McGregor Wasn’t a Guy off the Street

The first combat sport McGregor ever engaged in was boxing so he’d been in a boxing ring before. If you’ve watched much MMA lately, most of the fights have ended by knockout and not submission. UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley said after the Mayweather-McGregor fight that most of his training involves boxing. And if you’ve seen Woodley fight, he’s one of the better punchers in MMA. McGregor is the best boxer/striker in MMA and isn’t known for submissions. He dropped Nate Diaz during their rematch with a single left cross and the commentators suggested he had bricks for fists. While he was down, Diaz motioned for McGregor to go to the ground and get him, but Conor ignored him and walked away, forcing Diaz to get up and trade with him. Diaz, who has done some sparring with light heavyweight champ Andre Ward, isn’t completely foreign to boxing, but he didn’t really want to touch hands with McGregor despite being the bigger man.

In the octagon Conor McGregor has scored some of the fastest and most explosive knockouts in the sport, using his fists. So to think McGregor was a novice before fighting Mayweather is wrong. As we saw, his boxing compared to a real boxer is pretty weak, but it’s not like he had just began punching and getting hit two months before he fought Mayweather. Obviously, McGregor has no future as a boxer. If he were forced to fight one of the elite middleweights in boxing – men his own size — he would be knocked out or TKO’d quickly. But he wasn’t a complete beginner at boxing and he was training for one specific opponent, an opponent with 49 fights of data on him. McGregor’s striking experience was just enough for Mayweather not to totally disrespect him, and he smartly gave Conor the benefit of the doubt until he was sure there was nothing there.

Have you ever watched Mayweather fight?

Since winning a world title, Mayweather has only had two fights that ended before the sixth round, Angel Manfredy (TKO-2) and Victor Ortiz (KO-4). And it really should be only one because Floyd nailed Ortiz who was looking to touch gloves as the referee was separating them after Victor had fouled him. Had that not occurred, there was no indication the fight would end inside the distance. Also, Mayweather doesn’t start fast. He looks to gather data in the early rounds and doesn’t seek the KO, unless it presents itself during an exchange. Everyone reading this knows that if Mayweather were fighting Granny Clampett from the Beverly Hillbillies, he’d start slow and she’d probably be around for the third round, because that’s how Floyd goes about it regardless of the opponent. Add to that he was fighting an opponent who was bigger than any fighter he had faced before, and knew nothing about him or his style – what are the odds he is going to go after him right out of the gate? Mayweather stated after the bout that he wanted to see what McGregor had and how he wanted to feel his power before he picked it up. To think Floyd was going to start the fight like Thomas Hearns because McGregor wasn’t a professional boxer was never a possibility.

Mayweather Had the Look of a Frustrated Fighter During the Early Rounds

Mayweather was more cautious than he needed to be, but that’s who he has always been. The way he was getting touched and how he reacted had the exact look of a fighter who is flustered and saying to himself, “how am I getting caught with that junk?” And it’s not a look you can fake. When you’re a fighter who relies on your reflexes a lot, being 40 and having not fought in a couple of years is going to tell. Floyd was never more rusty. His timing was off, his sense of distance wasn’t near what it used to be, and he couldn’t put combinations together.

I’m the biggest boxing guy alive and would love to elevate the perception of the sport by trying to convince others that Mayweather carried McGregor to put on a show for the fans, but that’s not what I observed. Perhaps Mayweather could’ve stepped on the gas a little earlier, but that’s not Mayweather, and certainly not against an opponent he knows nothing about, an opponent who happens to be bigger and stronger. Adding to his degree of difficulty, he isn’t close to being a big puncher. His knockouts have been attributed to his accuracy and hitting his opponents with shots they never saw or anticipated. It’s not like he could’ve gambled and turned it on like a switch and put McGregor away. Compounding his problem was that despite landing a high percentage of his punches, he missed a ton.

Had it been prime Floyd fighting McGregor I have no doubt the fight would’ve been shorter. But three things enabled McGregor to make it into the 10th round. Foremost, Mayweather is shot and nowhere close physically to the fighter he once was. Had Errol Spence or Terence Crawford been in front of him last Saturday night, Floyd would’ve left the ring 49-1. After that, it was McGregor’s awkwardness that caused Floyd to step back and fight a little more judiciously. He probably figured going into the fight that McGregor was going to be a heavy bag with eyes and that he wouldn’t miss with a single punch. Had McGregor done what everybody thought he was going to do, going after Mayweather like Marcos Maidana did, he wouldn’t have lasted nearly as long because Conor doesn’t take a great punch and Floyd would have nailed him clean as he was moving in.

Moreover, McGregor flipped the script and smartly forced Mayweather to push the fight. When was the last time Floyd had to do that? How about very seldom since he’s been an elite fighter….and that’s because most believed the way to beat Mayweather was with pressure, but someone convinced McGregor that he might get better shots on Floyd if he was coming after him, and he did, but he couldn’t hurt Mayweather. Lastly Floyd was bothered by McGregor’s size and physicality. Conor was just too big for Mayweather to pot-shot and take liberties with until he had slowed down and was a little winded. During the ninth round when McGregor was dead tired, Floyd was looking to end the fight but was missing a ton of punches. And the ones that did get through knocked Conor back but didn’t come close to finishing him. The reality is that Mayweather needed to get McGregor tired before he could work him over, and that took rounds to accomplish.

Had the referee allowed the fight to continue, Mayweather would’ve really devastated McGregor. With McGregor on the canvas literally beaten to a pulp and struggling to move, boxing fans would be more satisfied with the result. As it is, Mayweather at 40 years old and having not fought in two years, knocked out McGregor who is in his physical prime at 29. But he didn’t carry him.

Mayweather’s recent quote to ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna says it all:

“Because you must realize, that I’m 40 years old and I’ve been off almost 800 days….he’s active, he’s training, he’s competing. These other fighters, these young lions, they’re throwing a lot more combinations than I’m throwing. I was just in the pocket, shooting one shot here and there, and breaking him down slowly. Whereas you got these young active guys who are throwing a lot of combinations and would get him out of there a lot earlier!”

Photo credit: Idris Erba / Mayweather Promotions

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com.

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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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