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Five Big Holes in the Non-Boxer Wings of the Boxing Hall of Fame

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The International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, NY, sorts inductees into five categories. Fighters are classified as “Modern,” “Old Timer,” or “Pioneer.” There are two divisions for non-boxers. The “Non-Participant” category is open to “those who have made contributions to the sport apart from their roles as boxers and observers” (e.g., promoters, trainers, referees, matchmakers, administrators and press agents). The “Observer” wing recognizes “print and media journalists, publishers, writers, historians, and artists.”

Promoters Klaus-Peter Kohl and Lorraine Chargin and ring announcer Johnny Addie are the newest Non-Participants. They will be formally inducted during Hall of Fame Induction Weekend, an annual event held each year in the month of June. Chargin and Addie are going into the Hall posthumously. Broadcasters Steve Albert and Jim Gray were chosen in the Observer category.

With the addition of the newbies, the two non-boxer wings now have 146 members; 106 Non-Participants and 40 Observers.

In recent years, these categories have been swelled by some curious picks. The vote counts remain secret, an invitation to “fudging” (a story for another day). With each questionable pick, the omission of others far more worthy becomes that much more disconcerting. Here are five that hopefully won’t be Frozen Bouncy Castle overlooked indefinitely.

Bat Masterson

Akin to his great friend and fellow boxing aficionado Wyatt Earp, there’s been a lot of hogwash written about Bat Masterson. The famed western lawman, ever-ready to regale a gullible young writer with a fanciful yarn, encouraged the malarkey. The six-shooter he proudly displayed had 27 notches on the handle, but Bat shot and killed three people at the most, not counting that poor saloon woman caught in the crossfire.

There’s nothing phony, however, about his IBHOF credentials.

Those who only know Bat Masterson as the lawman who “cleaned up Dodge City” are surprised to learn that he spent the last decade of his life in New York City where he covered boxing for the New York Morning Telegraph, eventually becoming the paper’s sports editor. A fearless reporter, he wasn’t shy about exposing corruption in boxing or taking a fighter to task for rendering a poor effort.

Prior to his New York days, Masterson was involved in prizefighting in many capacities. He promoted fights in Denver. He refereed dozens, perhaps hundreds, of matches including two world title fights. He was Jake Kilrain’s timekeeper when Kilrain fought John L. Sullivan in 1889 and Jim Corbett’s timekeeper when Corbett fought Sullivan in 1892. He was in the small contingent at the bizarre heavyweight title elimination match between Bob Fitzsimmons and Peter Maher near Langtry, Texas in 1896. In the papers, his role was described as “master of ceremonies and chief sergeant-at-arms.”

Masterson died at his desk in 1921 at age sixty-seven. The honorary pallbearers at his funeral included Damon Runyon, Tex Rickard, William Muldoon, Hype Igoe, and Tom O’Rourke, all five of whom would be enshrined in the IBHOF. The poor fellow reposing there in the casket ought to be in there too.

Robert Edgren

The New York World, a Pulitzer paper, was the first metropolitan daily with a separate sports department. From 1904 to 1919, the sports editor of the evening edition was Robert Edgren. A triple threat, Edgren was an editor, a columnist, and a sports cartoonist. Abetted by the power of syndication, he likely had the largest readership of any sportswriter in the country.

In common with many sportswriters of the era, Edgren was a noted athlete. At the University of California, he set records in the shot put and discus. Before leaving the Bay Area, he befriended Jim Corbett and James J. Jeffries and sparred with both. He was one of the sparring partners that Corbett brought to Carson City to help him prepare for his 1897 match with Fitzsimmons.

Bob Edgren wrote about many sports but was partial to boxing. He came to the fore in an era when prizefights were illegal in most jurisdictions and promoters in New York were thwarted from promoting their shows with billboards and such because of the “club membership law.” As much as anyone, he kept the sport in the mainstream until the shackles were lifted.

Edgren was Tex Rickard’s first choice to referee the historic Dempsey-Carpentier fight, the first fight with a million dollar gate. Edgren, who had no experience in this vein, respectfully declined (a moot point as Jersey City political boss Frank Hague had the final say).

Edgren continued to write about boxing after returning to California where he worked on his golf game as he lived out his days, winning several regional tournaments. He served for a brief time on the California Athletic Commission.

(Note: The sports pages of the New York Evening World are an invaluable resource for anyone interested in learning more about boxing in the U.S. during the first two decades of the last century. Thanks to the Chronicling America project, a joint venture of the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Arts, anyone can access them for free on the Internet.)

National Digital Newspaper Program

Dan Tobey

Counting the newcomer Johnny Addie, New York’s leading ring announcer in the days when Madison Square Garden was the Mecca of boxing and the sport was a staple on radio and on the new medium of television, five ring announcers have plaques in the Hall of Fame. The others are Joe Humphreys (who wore other hats; he was the co-manager of Terry McGovern), Michael Buffer, and the two Jimmy Lennons, the elder of which was enshrined last year. They were all solid picks and Dan Tobey belongs right there with them.

Born in the little town of Ulysses, Nebraska, Tobey moved to Los Angeles as a young man and quickly became an important cog in the LA prizefighting machinery. He announced fights at such storied venues as Naud’s Junction and Vernon, and was the MC for the first-ever boxing and wrestling shows at Hollywood Legion Stadium, the first iteration of which opened in 1919, and the hallowed Olympic Auditorium (1925). When both arenas were going full blast, Tobey was a busy beaver, typically working four shows each week.

When Tobey was first getting started, the prerequisite for a ring announcer was a strong set of lungs. This was before the advent of electronic voice amplification. What little footage of him exists is found in old movies such as “The Prizefighter and the Lady,” the 1933 MGM release starring Max Baer and Myra Loy. What stands out in these clips is that he was far more animated than modern ring announcers who are compelled to stand like wooden soldiers as they look into the TV camera. Although hardly svelte, Tobey had a bounce in his step. He drew the audience to him with his body language as well as the words that came out of his mouth.

Dan Tobey’s announcing career spanned parts of six decades. When he retired in 1952, he literally passed the torch to Jimmy Lennon Sr. Lennon was the master of ceremonies at Tobey’s farewell banquet.

Dan Tobey article published on Dec. 20, 2016

George Barton

A boxer, a reporter, a ring official, a boxing commissioner, a reformer, George Barton, “Mr. Boxing” in Minnesota, did it all. That he has yet to be recognized by the IBHOF is an egregious oversight.

In 1904, at age 19, Barton won a 6-round decision over barnstorming Terry McGovern. Terrible Terry’s best days were then behind him, but McGovern was still a major player in the featherweight division.

The match with McGovern is one of only four pro fights listed for Barton at BoxRec, but there were dozens more of the bootleg variety. Minnesota’s anti-prizefighting law was haphazardly enforced, but the hassle of circumventing it led Barton to hang up his gloves and abort a promising career.

The year before he fought the fabled McGovern, the teenage Barton was named the assistant sports editor of the Minneapolis Daily News. His career in journalism would span parts of six decades.

For many years, Barton was a boxing instructor at the Minneapolis YMCA. From about 1915 to about 1930, he was Minnesota’s top referee. His assignments included the 1918 match between Jack Dempsey and Billy Miske and the 1925 match between Gene Tunney and Harry Greb. He later had a long run as the head of the Minnesota Boxing Commission.

In 1952 and 1953, Barton was the president of the National Boxing Association, the forerunner of the World Boxing Association (WBA), the oldest of the sport’s four major sanctioning bodies. During his tenure, the organization introduced the 10-point scoring system, which would eventually become the standard worldwide, and the mandatory 8-count following a knockdown. This important safety measure gave referees precious extra seconds to determine whether a fighter was fit to continue.

In 1961, Barton was in the forefront of the effort to create a federal boxing commission. The effort stalled but had an important side benefit as it curbed the infiltration of the racketeering element. Eight years earlier, he was the recipient of the Boxing Writers Association of America’s James J. Walker Award for long and meritorious service, the most prestigious of the annual BWAA awards.

Ham Fisher

If a poll were taken to name the world’s most famous fictional boxer, Rocky Balboa would win in a landslide. His creator Sylvester Stallone was ushered into the IBHOF in the Observers category in 2011. Oddly, the creator of a fictional boxer who was even more famous has yet to get the call.

Ham Fisher, who died in 1955 at age 55, created the comic strip boxer Joe Palooka. At its peak during the 1940s, the strip ran in more than 800 papers and had more than 50 million readers.

Virtuous to a fault and completely without guile, Joe Palooka, a country boy, the son of a coal miner, was a paragon of innocence in the Machiavellian world of prizefighting. While he was merely a character in the funny pages, one could argue that he was the greatest ambassador for boxing that the sport has ever known.

Joe Palooka’s imaginary ring battles were morality plays with stereotyped heroes and villains. During World War II, he was enlisted to fight the Nazi menace. His face on recruiting posters and his exploits in the comic strip were credited with stimulating enlistments and the sale of war bonds. It has been speculated that the term “GI Joe” originated with him.

Ham Fisher’s comic strip spawned 12 feature-length Joe Palooka films, a short-lived radio series, a short-lived TV sitcom, comic books, a board game, and sundry items for young boys such as the Joe Palooka metal lunchbox.

The comic strip wasn’t phased out until 1984, by which time many newspapers had discontinued their comic strips or sharply curtailed the number that they ran. Joe Palooka wasn’t indomitable, but he outlived his creator Ham Fisher by almost three decades.

I’ve been down this road before, beating the drum for Ham Fisher, a dour man who had few friends to take up the cudgel.

Ham Fisher story that ran on the old forum on Dec. 27, 2013.

– – –

It’s plain that the selection process in the non-boxer categories has been compromised by economic considerations. Inductees long dead don’t have much value. The sands of time have erased their name recognition among all but a handful of boxing enthusiasts. Acknowledging someone like George Barton would rectify an oversight, but it wouldn’t pump up attendance at Hall of Fame Induction Weekend where fight fans gather to rub elbows and take selfies with active and recently retired boxers and other ring personalities.

The International Boxing Hall of Fame cannot survive without the annual June bash which reportedly draws as many tourists to Canastota as in all the other days of the year combined. A good turnout is deemed essential to renewing the annual grant that comes from the state treasury.

As I have written before, I have yet to meet someone who attended Hall of Fame Induction Weekend and wasn’t keen to go back and do it again. The entire community gets behind this four-day jamboree to create a memorable experience. The dignitaries in attendance, so I am told, are invariably approachable and friendly. Kudos to IBHOF head honcho Ed Brophy and his colleagues and the townsfolk for putting on a good show.

However, the IBHOF has a higher mission which is to paint an accurate picture of the history of boxing. To this end, it’s imperative that the unidentified gate-keepers are well-versed in that history and free of bias, or else certain wings of the Hall of Fame are doomed to take on the coloration of a good ol’ boys network.

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.

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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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