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Trainer Talk: Don Turner Reflects on His Days With Evander and “Krusher”

“I want to ask you a question,” Don Turner said in his slight rasp, as he finished reminiscing about moving to New York in 1959 and watching

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“I want to ask you a question,” Don Turner said in his slight rasp, as he finished reminiscing about moving to New York in 1959 and watching an over-the-hill Sugar Ray Robinson still dazzle in the gyms. “How does a fighter know he overtrained? You tell me.”

Turner already knows the answer to his own question, but he wants you to make a go at it, anyway. Call it a coarse rendition of the Socratic method. So a few responses are bandied about, none of which satisfy the veteran trainer.

“It’s impossible to overtrain if you train yourself right,” he went on. “You get up every morning you run. You run five days a week. You spar three, four days a week. You okay.” He phrases the question a different way. “How do you get overprepared?”

These days, there is only so much Turner is willing to put up with. He is 78 now, 79 next spring. He likes to remind people that he has trained 24 world champions, that as a child he lived four blocks from Ezzard Charles in Cincinnati, and that boxing trainers nowadays are nothing more than con artists trading in flashy mitt work. “I’m an old man,” he remarked over the phone in early October from his home in North Carolina. Turner does not say this to draw attention to his leathery voice or the frayed white of his goatee, but only to point out that he has been around this game for a while, has seen a few things, and that as he approaches the eighth decade of his life, his fifth as titanic inflatable slide a boxing trainer, he is no longer open to the idea of compromise. “Listen, man,” Turner said. “I don’t listen to these fighters. It’s a whole different ball game now.”

Holyfield, Holmes, McCallum, Pryor: There was a time when Turner did plenty of compromising for his clients, some he treated like a son. In 2003, Turner could not bear to see Holyfield take any more punishment from James Toney and made the tough decision to stop the fight in the 9th round. “I love him dearly,” he later told Michael Katz. “If he fights again I’ll probably be with him because somebody else might not be so passionate.” Holyfield fired him after the fight. Then there was the time he would try his mightiest to get Michael Grant to keep his guard up during camp. Whenever Grant dropped his right hand, Turner would start the round over. Then Grant got knocked out by Lennox Lewis and Turner got the boot. Trainers, like Jews and Huguenots, make for most convenient scapegoats.

“31 fights I was O.K., then he gets knocked out and it’s my fault,” Turner scoffed. “But that happens all the time. When a fighter loses he points the finger. When he’s winning, it’s all him. When he loses, it’s all the trainer. Now you figure that one out.”

So Turner, understandably, is less tolerant today. He may not have a world champion under his wing, but Turner does his small part to stay connected to the sport. More recently, he has been entrusted to guide the nascent careers of a few novices such as Durham native Marko Bailey, for whom Turner also provides room and board out of his gym, The Knock You Out Boxing Training Camp, located among the dirt paths and cornfields of Arapahoe, NC. Other than that, Turner’s commitment to the sport is modest, though his current arrangement means that he has full control over a fighter’s preparation, a notion he knows is unpopular with the “Me First” generation.

“Different times,” he noted solemnly, as he reflects on his old mentors Freddie Brown, Charley Goldman, Bobby McQuillar, and Bill Miller. “In the old days, the trainer was the boss. Today, the fighter is the boss. Two fights a year and he’s the boss. In the olden days, Ray Robinson fought 10, 15, 18, times a year and (George) Gainsford was the boss. Joe Louis had the same trainer for all his career.”

After a lifetime of being tethered to the whims of some of the sport’s more volatile members, Turner has come to appreciate the autonomy he has today. He does not have the patience, otherwise, to put up with or pander to fighters who do not know how to listen, who treat seniority with disdain, who think Floyd Mayweather Jr. is the nonpareil in any era. “I’m not going to sit up and listen to them. I’m not going to debate with these fighters. I’m not going to argue with them. Whatever they say, I guess that’s the way it’s supposed to be. But I won’t be a part of it.” Many fighters have tried to eke out a boxing life under Turner’s tutelage in snake-ridden rural Pamlico County; many end up leaving, sometimes even after a few months.

Hard-hitting Russian light-heavyweight Sergey Kovalev was one exception. As was the case for a number of Eastern European pros brought over to the US by manager Egis Klimas, Kovalev’s first trainer was Turner. Turner frequently points out, proudly, that he was the first to recognize Kovalev’s potential. “Get this guy here,” Turner remembers telling Klimas on a scouting trip, after he saw Kovalev, then still an amateur, shadowboxing. “As soon as you get him, give him to me for 12 fights.” Turner and Kovalev lasted together for about a year-and-a-half, or 10 fights, considerably longer than most of the fighters who pass through Arapahoe. (Evgeny Gradovich is the other Klimas fighter who trained with Turner for an extended period). Then Kovalev was gone, just like the rest of his former pupils. “We didn’t get along,” Turner said of their parting, unsentimentally. “I’d be telling him what to do and then he’d be wanting to tell me what to do.” Turner’s next words carried a tinge of regret. “I cooked for him. I did everything for that kid.”

On November 25th, “Krusher” Kovalev enters the ring to face solid but limited Vyacheslav Shabranskyy for the WBO title at Madison Square Garden in New York City. After two straight controversial losses to Andre Ward and an ugly divorce from his longtime trainer, John David Jackson, Kovalev is looking to reclaim his reputation as a malevolent knock-out artist. This time, Kovalev will be heeding instructions from a new face in his corner in Abror Tursunpulatov, an accomplished Uzbek trainer in the amateur ranks (he trains Olympian Fazliddin Gaibnazarov) who is otherwise largely unknown in the pros. Naturally, the boxing peanut gallery will be scrutinizing Kovalev for any signs of physical or psychological diminishment, and if the new training squad will make a difference. If he takes care of Shabranskyy the way many expect him to, Kovalev will be in line to take on some of the best names of a loaded division.

“He should beat this guy,” Turner said of Kovalev. “He can beat anyone. The thing with Sergey is that he can win as long as he trains hard — but he don’t train that hard. In boxing, you got winners and losers. The one who trains the hardest is gonna come out the winner.”

So it is with Kovalev in mind that Turner brings up the topic of overtraining. Overtraining, after all, was the principle excuse trotted out by Kovalev after the first Ward fight. He insisted he ran too many miles, worked out for longer periods of time than he should have, and as a result, found himself gassing out in the second half of a fight. Turner does not buy it.

“Well, I’m a tell you one thing,” Turner began. “I don’t know what happened because I wasn’t there [for Kovalev’s training camp for the first fight]. The overtraining don’t sound right to me. But if he says he overtrained I guess that’s what it is. But it don’t sound right. What is overtraining? I’ve been in boxing 55 years, what is overtraining? You tell me. Do you know what overtraining is?”

Again, no good answers.

“Overtraining is a word that fighters picked up because they don’t want to do something and they blame it on the trainer. They don’t want to accept their responsibility.”

“Sergey is hardheaded,” Turner stated, “but he can fight.”

Abel Sanchez, Kovalev’s former trainer for eight fights before he dropped him as a client, said as much about Kovalev: talented, but stubborn. Asked recently why the pair could never make it work, Sanchez said simply that a trainer “needs to feel that he can teach something to a fighter. Even if it’s a guy with a lot of losses, I want a guy that I get to teach. I didn’t think that Sergey could be guided like that. So better somebody else do that than me and I could stay home. Besides, I want to have fun when I go into the gym.”

For the rematch against Ward, Kovalev fired his conditioning coach and brought in a new one. It was around that time rumors began circulating that Kovalev was feuding with his then trainer — and former Turner pupil — Jackson, rumors that turned out to be largely substantiated after the fight. (Since the fight, Jackson has conducted his own “Tell all” media tour, telling anyone with a camcorder that his former charge drank excessively during camp and withheld his paychecks). In any case, whatever tweaks Kovalev made did not seem to matter much. At the Mandalay Bay in June, Kovalev looked as fatigued as he had ever been by the fifth round. He ended up losing by technical knockout after a series of low blows from Ward left him sagging on the ropes, forcing referee Tony Weeks to step in. After the fight, promoter Kathy Duva, Klimas, and Kovalev took to the podium in front of a hostile, pro-Ward crowd to air out their frustrations with what they believed was botchy officiating. Turner, in town as the cutman for Kovalev’s corner, lingered by the hallway. Asked for his thoughts on the fight, Turner responded bluntly, “He lost. That’s it.” Then he pointed over to the press conference. “That over there, that’s all bullshit.”

Excuses grate on Turner. “Nobody likes to tell the truth in boxing,” Turner grumbled. And excuses are eventually taken out on the trainers, who are too often held to an impossibly difficult double standard. Should the fighter win, they receive none of the credit; should he lose, they receive the brunt of the blame. Turner remains skeptical of Kovalev’s trainer change-up as being anything other the fighter stoking his own ego, turning away from his own foibles. “After so many fights why is John David Jackson no good now? You tell me that. [Kovalev] should’ve gotten rid of him three years ago, then. If he would train and let the trainer do his job he’d be alright. But he wants to do both of them. He wants to tell the trainer how much he wants to do and all that other (stuff). That’s crazy.”

With a new team in his corner, Kovalev hopes to reshape the narrative of his career. He indicated at a press conference in September that he seemed to understand that he had certain deficiencies that he needed to shore up. “I should spend more time in the gym,” he said, “not flying from here back to home, to Russia. I lost my shape.” Luckily for Kovalev, there are plenty of talented fighters at 175 through whom he can re-burnish his name, whether they be an established champion like Adonis Stevenson or an upstart like Dmitry Bivol.

As for Turner, he will be rooting for Kovalev, as he always does, on November 25th, this time perhaps from the living room sofa. At press time, Turner had yet to receive notice about working Kovalev’s corner. And that is fine with him. He is busy working on a new project these days, a middleweight with zero fights who “punches harder than any middleweight in the world. Good speed, too, and he wants to fight. But, boy, can he punch.”

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

To comment on this article at The Fight Forum, CLICK HERE.

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The BWAA Shames Veteran Referee Laurence Cole and Two Nebraska Judges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Controversy has dogged Laurence Cole for well over a decade.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

 

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

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

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

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

Take your pick.

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

HBO will televise both light heavyweight title fights.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DiBella

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

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

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

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

It’s a curious matchup of former world champions.

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

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

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

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

One world title fight does take place on the card.

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

L.A. Congestion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Title Fight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

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What’s Next for Manny Pacquiao?

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

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

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

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

Cream of the Crop

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

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

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

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

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

Other Notable Possibilities

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

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

Pacquiao vs. PBC fighters?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mayweather-Pacquiao 2?

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

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

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

Pacquiao vs. McGregor?

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

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

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

Pacquiao’s Top Targets

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

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