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The Night Randall “Tex” Cobb Made Howard Cosell Quit (and More)

the night that Randall “Tex” Cobb, the heavyweight contender whose greatest asset was a sponge-like ability to absorb pain, soaked up

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Some stories require context – lots and lots of context. The story you are about to read originally was to be about a one-off event, the night that Randall “Tex” Cobb, the heavyweight contender whose greatest asset was a sponge-like ability to absorb pain, soaked up as much punishment as WBC champion Larry Holmes was able to dish out, which was considerable, and referee Steve Crosson declined to step in and award the “Easton Assassin” a technical-knockout victory because, well, the never-say-die Tex was fighting back, as always, seemingly unflustered by the bludgeoning he was taking or the hopelessness of his situation. The date was Nov. 26, 1982, in the Astrodome in Houston, and where Crosson was prepared to passively observe the full 15 rounds of mostly one-sided violence, ABC broadcaster Howard Cosell, who throughout the beatdown pleaded into his microphone for a mercy stoppage, was not.

Toward the end, as Cosell’s impatience with Crosson’s patience reached critical mass, the acerbic commentator posed a rhetorical question to his audience: “I wonder if that referee is constructing an advertisement for the abolition of the very sport that he is a part of?” Although he never admitted as much, the suspicion is that a disgusted Cosell – who never called another fight for ABC after Holmes-Cobb – was already mentally prepared to step away from boxing as the result of the Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini-Duk Koo Kim death bout which had taken place 13 days earlier and was televised by CBS.

When the decision in the Astrodome was announced, perhaps the only surprise was that Tex, a character’s character in a sport brimming with, um, unique personalities, somehow had managed to bouncy castle water slide win one of the 15 rounds on judge Chuck Hassett’s scorecard. The other two judges, Chuck Minker and Arlen Bynum, each had Holmes pitching 150-135 shutouts. None of those rounds received a 10-8 tally, although several could have, because Tex never went down and, I suspect, the guys with the pencils admired the challenger’s cojones enough to refrain from further deductions to his point totals.

Thirty-five years have passed since that fight, which, rightly or wrongly, continues to stand as the most enduring footnote to Tex Cobb’s better-than-many-would-suspect boxing career, in which he posted a 42-7-1 record with 35 knockouts and just one loss inside the distance. That outlier, a one-round KO against an otherwise undistinguished Dee Collier on Oct. 29, 1985, in Reseda, Calif., gave rise to rumors that Tex, who had taken the best shots of Holmes, Earnie Shavers and other big boppers while barely flinching, had gone into the tank, a stinging slap to the pride of a man whose remarkable life deserved so much more than to be the butt of jokes from those who knew nothing more about him than the bloody waltz with Holmes. Worse yet, that defeat might have contributed to the overturning of a $10.7 million jury judgment for Tex in his libel suit against Sports Illustrated.

I do not claim to know him well enough to understand just how much those rebukes affected Tex, who turns 64 on Dec. 10 and has become something of a recluse in recent years. He did not respond to my interview request made through his attorney and friend, George Bochetto. What I do know is that he is a lot smarter and funnier than his rough-hewn visage and take-three-to-land-one style would suggest, his keen sense of humor able to convert any mean-spirited putdown into a joke that had people laughing with him instead of at him, and led to a long career as a character actor in movies and television, in which he invariably was cast as a villain or a comic foil. He always referred to his part in driving Cosell from ringside as “my gift to the sport of boxing,” adding that “if it gets him to stop broadcasting NFL games, I’ll play football for a week, too.”

That football reference is legit; born in Bridge City, Texas, and raised in Abilene, Texas, the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder was a fullback at Abilene Christian University, serving as a lead blocker for future Philadelphia Eagles star running back Wilbert Montgomery. But Tex left school at 19, perhaps because he understood that he wasn’t NFL material or perhaps because he was a bit of a hell-raiser back then. Switching his athletic aspirations from the gridiron to kick boxing, he put together a 9-0 record, with nine knockouts, whereupon matchmaker Paul Clinite suggested he go to the great fight town of Philadelphia to try his hand at boxing, where the recognition and paydays were bigger for those with the right stuff to rise above the crowd.

It is upon his arrival at the Joe Frazier Gym in North Philly that the story of Tex Cobb – make that the legend of Tex Cobb – began to take firmer root. In time he befriended Philadelphia Daily News general-interest columnist Pete Dexter, whose gift was – and still is, although he now lives in the state of Washington — an uncanny ability to wring compelling tales of everyday life from those he met, often in rough neighborhoods with Tex in tow. Dexter’s feistiness as a writer sometimes rubbed his subjects or their buddies the wrong way, a trait that would eventually cast a shadow upon his large and steadfast companion.

Not surprisingly, Dexter’s columns sometimes focused on Tex’s bruised and bumpy ride up the rankings. Dexter was in the house in Detroit on Aug. 2, 1980, when Tex – then 16-0, with 15 KOs – took on Earnie Shavers, whom many believe is the most devastating puncher in heavyweight history. It was rock ’em, sock ’em robots from the opening bell until the eighth round, when Tex connected with a left uppercut that broke Shavers’ jaw and gave Dexter’s friend a particularly brutal TKO win.

Dexter’s column described Tex thusly:

His face looked exactly the way a face is supposed to look after Earnie Shavers has been beating on it half the night … His body was rope-burned and turning black and blue, and the end of his nose was red like he was four days into a bad cold. I said, “I wish you wouldn’t fight Earnie Shavers anymore.”

 “I absolutely promise,” he said.

 All those epic ring wars, of course, did not go Tex’s way. He lost decisions to past or future world champions Ken Norton, Michael Dokes (twice) and Buster Douglas, but all came away with the sense that the guy they had just beaten had a chin of granite, considerable power in his punches and an iron will that was leavened with a wink and a smile. In scoring a seventh-round stoppage of Jeff Shelburg on April 19, 1982, in Atlantic City, Tex told Shelburg, whom he had battered to a fare-thee-well in the fourth round, “Hang in there, Jeff. After this is over we’re going to go out and get drunk.”

Even after Holmes had unloaded his entire arsenal in a futile attempt to put him down and out, or at least to get Crosson to step in, Tex remained upbeat and jovial. He impishly said he simply had run out of rounds, that his fight plan had been to beat up Holmes’ hands with his face, and that he’d be open to a do-over. “Hey, baby, that was fun,” Tex told a disbelieving Holmes as they embraced after the final bell. “Let’s do it again – in a phone booth.”

In many ways, the fighter to whom Tex Cobb can be most likened is another large (6-foot-5, 225), not particularly stylish heavyweight of better than modest accomplishment who came to be known as the “Bayonne Bleeder.” Chuck Wepner (35-14-2, 17 KOs), now 78, also became something of a sensation in losing a doomed bid for the world title, flooring WBA/WBC champion Muhammad Ali in the ninth round of their March 24, 1975, bout in Richfield, Ohio, although Ali always maintained that he went to the canvas because the courageous but outclassed Wepner had stepped on his foot. But Ali arose and went back to carving up the notoriously cut-prone Wepner like a Thanksgiving turkey, finally stopping him in the 15th and final round.

Decide for yourself whose path to notoriety is the more compelling saga. Wepner, who had served in the Marines, became something of a folk hero in North Jersey and beyond, and he has largely been given a pass by the public despite having served three years in prison for possession of cocaine. His brush with fame against Ali was depicted, with Liev Schreiber in the lead role, in the 2016 biopic Chuck, as is his serving as the inspiration for Sylvester Stallone’s creation of the Rocky Balboa character.

Compare that to Cobb, who went the distance with Holmes; stopped Shavers; played college football; resumed his studies and graduated magna cum laude from Temple University, at 57, with a bachelor’s degree in sport and recreation management; won a $10.7 million libel judgment ($8.5 in compensatory damages, $2.2 million in punitive damages) against Sports Illustrated in 1999 which was overturned in 2002 by a federal appeals court, which concluded the article was not published with “actual malice”; and appeared in dozens of movies and TV series, generating goodwill all along the way.

In a story that appeared in the September 2001 issue of Texas Monthly which detailed Tex’s appearance in the series finale of Walker, Texas Ranger, writer John Spong noted that Cobb had barely 20 words of scripted dialogue, but wherever he went, a segment of the mongrel pack of extras went with him. Small children, pretty girls, one-eyed drunks – all kinds were drawn to the deliberate, pug-faced lug with a laugh that shook the Old West movie set like a series of cannon shots.”

But if there is one event from Tex’s life that is worthy of cinematic treatment, it might be the night that he saved Pete Dexter’s life, and arguably damaged his own boxing career, a tale even more unlikely than the suicide mission he undertook against Holmes. It was played out on a tapestry of dubious judgment and of courage that surpasses anything Tex Cobb ever demonstrated inside the ropes against a single opponent wearing padded gloves.

In a Dec. 9, 1981, column detailing another senseless death, of a young man named Buddy Lego from a blue-collar, Irish Catholic section of Philadelphia known as Grays Ferry, Dexter wrote that Lego “was from the neighborhood, a good athlete, a nice kid. Stoned all the time. The kind of kid you think could be saved.”

After the column came out, Lego’s brother, Tommy, a bartender in Grays Ferry, angrily called Dexter at his office and demanded a retraction of the passage that depicted Buddy as a habitual drug abuser. Dexter said he’d drop by the bar to talk it over with Tommy. The conversation did not go well; Dexter said there would be no retraction, that his information was solid. The next thing he knew, he was on the floor, having been sucker-punched by someone who came up alongside him, knocking out several teeth.

Instead of driving himself to a hospital, Dexter showed up at Tex’s residence, where the fighter was hosting a party, and told him of the reason he suddenly needed extensive dental work. Tex said the incident required retribution of some sort, so he, Dexter and a couple of party guests hopped into a car and drove back to the bar to settle the score. Not long only after their arrival, a bar patron slipped out a side door to summon reinforcements. Within minutes, 25 to 30 neighborhood guys brandishing tire irons and bats showed up.

“I hope that’s the softball team,” Tex told his outnumbered crew before everyone went outside, ostensibly to calm things down. But the tension only ratcheted higher, and soon Dexter was attacked on all sides by angry objectors to his column clearly intent on beating him to within an inch of his life, or worse. That’s when Cobb – armed with nothing but his fists – stepped in. “If he’s dead, every one of you is dead, too,” he announced to the mob.

No one died that bitterly cold night, but Dexter suffered a broken pelvis, cracked femur, nerve damage to his hands, a concussion, brain bleed, spine fractured in two places and a lacerated scalp that required 90 stitches. Cobb got off relatively easy with just a broken arm, but the injury knocked him out of a proposed bout with Muhammad Ali.

Tex fought only once, the win over Shelburg, between the near-tragic confrontation in Grays Ferry and his challenge of Holmes. There are those who insist Cobb was never the same boxer after that night. Maybe they’re right, maybe they aren’t, but consider this:  If you found yourself surrounded by a group of armed thugs, who would you want watching your back more than the boxer-turned-actor with the raucous laugh, deep and abiding sense of loyalty to his friends and the determination to never, ever give up?

Sorry I didn’t get another chance to speak to you, Tex. But wherever you are or whatever you’re doing, you were and are one of a kind, someone who might have lost fights but never considered himself defeated.

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

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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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