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Monday Morning Cornermen (April 9 edition)

Maidana is Still Pitching Cookie Sandwiches – Literally

The scene may have gone unnoticed to many people across the globe, but it did not go unnoticed in Argentina. Back on May 3, 2014, right after his failed title bid

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Pitching Cookie Sandwiches

In this section of The Sweet Science, we step back and take a critical look at the fights that took place on the previous weekend to create a final wrap-up of all the major boxing events. Follow us every Monday at #MMCatTSS and @TSSboxingnews  

Maidana is Still Pitching Cookie Sandwiches – Literally

The scene may have gone unnoticed to many people across the globe, but it did not go unnoticed in Argentina. Back on May 3, 2014, right after his failed title bid against Floyd Mayweather Jr. at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, welterweight contender Marcos Maidana opened a small package and pulled out a white, powdery cookie that he proceeded to eat in front of an exaggeratedly bewildered Jim Gray, his interviewer, proudly displaying the blue-and-yellow package in front of the cameras, live for the world to see as he gave his final remarks of the night.

That moment (which, curiously enough, was the culminating point of a card called “The Moment”), became one of the greatest “product placement” events in history for Argentina. The cookie sandwich covered in white frost that Maidana ate (called “alfajor” in his native country) was already among the most popular quick bites available in kiosks and candy stores everywhere. But sales for that particular brand skyrocketed overnight, forcing his owner Nestor Hugo Basilotta to increase production and take orders from countries all around the world and from people trying to get a taste of the miraculous nourishment that brought “Chino” so close to defeating the best fighter on the planet.

In his new life as a boxing promoter, which got its kickstart last Friday, April 6, in the town of Quilmes, Maidana continued pitching the “Guaymallén” brand (still visible in broad yellow patches on the trunks of fighters such as Jesus Cuellar and many others) – and this time, he did it in the most literal possible way. With Basilotta by his side, and with the ring’s corners and turnbuckles exhibiting the yellow Guaymallén patch that he displayed so proudly on his own trunks back in the day, Maidana proceeded to “make it rain” on the live audience, tossing a few dozen “alfajores” into the crowd with the help of his cousin and sidekick “Pileta” Gomez, in what became his first official act as a boxing promoter.

I could write more, but then this entire column would turn into a “product placement” effort instead. We’ll leave that task to Maidana, who will probably take on the job as happily and gratefully as he did it in that historic “moment within a moment” back in 2014.– Diego M. Morilla

Mayweather Is done With boxing, but Not With the Fight Game

He has retired and unretired so many times that it is almost impossible to hold him accountable or to believe his words any longer, and yet he continues putting our credulity (and our patience) to the test. Speaking with Showtime’s Jim Gray during Saturday night’s Hurd-Lara bout, Floyd Mayweather Jr. said that he is considering coming out of retirement to become a mixed martial arts combatant in the near future.

Of course, with Mayweather being the consummate teaser that he is, there had to be a caveat. And that caveat is the fact that his most likely opponent is currently headed to a long stretch in jail, if we’re to believe the accounts of his most recent misdeeds. We’re talking of course about UFC multiple champ Conor McGregor, who is facing all kinds of charges after leading a throng of thugs in an attack on a bus full of other MMA fighters. Allegedly, of course.

Mayweather (50-0, 27 KOs) famously stopped McGregor, UFC’s biggest star, in the 10th round of their only boxing match back on August 26 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, in what was McGregor’s debut against boxing’s biggest star and one of its most accomplished practitioners. Mayweather would be happy to flip that equation, of course, as long as the most important equation (the one that ended up with him pocketing the lion’s share of the 4.3 million Pay-Per-View buys for that fight) remains practically unchanged.

True to his moniker, the 41-year-old “Money” Mayweather would only consider a deal that would earn him as much or more than the undisclosed nine-figure amount he received for his boxing bout against McGregor. But for that, he would have to wait for McGregor to unshackle himself from the charges and the possible prison stint that looms in his future.

As for Mayweather, he has unshackled himself from the constraints of his own previous statements so many times that it is now possible to say that every one of his retirements have been mere twists in a plot that keeps producing new characters and situations in an exasperatingly long play that does not have an end in sight. – Diego M. Morilla

Mayorga Trudges On in his Suicidal Quest

Boxing is such a difficult and dangerous sport that hardly anyone should do it without a clear purpose. Sure enough, supporting your family and earning a living are more than valid purposes, but risking your life in each outing has the power to cancel out any good intentions that you may have had going in. That seems to be the case with former champ Ricardo Mayorga, now 45 and still lending his name as a loser du jour against journeymen and rising stars across the globe.

There is no other way to explain his most recent effort (or lack thereof), a stoppage loss in eight rounds against Rodolfo “La Cobrita” Gomez Jr. (13-4-1, 8 KOs) in Laredo, Texas, on Saturday night. At 45, Mayorga (32-11-1, 26 KOs), a notorious party animal who hardly ever trained even for his most demanding bouts and became infamous for drinking beer and smoking cigarettes in the ring during his post-fight interviews, is so woefully out of shape that even his own life is in jeopardy, let alone his already-dead boxing career, when he enters the ring. Mayorga is a tragic story already, and we can only hope that he does not add another dark chapter to it by continuing to fight to the point of risking his life. – Diego M. Morilla

Lara Risked It All Against Hurd, but… Was it Worth the Effort?

Jarrett Hurd promised that a “storm” would hit Erislandy Lara during their April 7 bout at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. And “The American Dream” responded in kind, signaling from the very beginning that he was more than willing to trade leather with a younger, taller and hungrier opponent.

The resulting bout was a pleasant spectacle for the live audience and the thousands following the proceedings through Showtime. The close but fair victory of the still unbeaten “Swift” Hurd (22-0-0, 15 KOs) over Lara (25-3-2, 14 KOs) is already being hailed as one of the best fights of 2018 thanks to the intensity displayed by both fighters. Of course, the style of the fight suited Hurd much better, given his larger physique (a jump to the middleweight division would not be too difficult for the American fighter in the near future), and he engaged in it with gusto. But was this Lara’s best course of action. Obviously not. Lara is a technical fighter, a counterpuncher, a fast and elusive boxer who executes his plan from beginning to end in each fight.

Which leads to an important question: did his handlers tell him to engage Hurd in this fashion, or was it all Lara’s initiative? Did the Cuban fighter choose voluntarily to demonstrate that he can mix it up and come up victorious anyway, neglecting his own established style. The evidence displayed in the figures provided by the judges’ scorecards (Dave Moretti and Glen Feldman gave it to Hurd by 114-113 while Burt Clements had it for Lara in the same numbers) shows that the entire result of the bout hinged on the dramatic final knockdown that came in the final round with only 37 seconds left on the clock. Lara had not been knocked down since 2015, when he dropped to the canvas against Alfredo Angulo, and exhibited a great deal of technical superiority, but Hurd’s consistency and volume punching ended up making the difference.

Lara crossed over to enemy territory and paid the consequences. It is now time to evaluate whether this is the right path going forward for him.  – J.J. Álvarez

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The BWAA Shames Veteran Referee Laurence Cole and Two Nebraska Judges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Controversy has dogged Laurence Cole for well over a decade.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Popo vs. “La Hiena”: Blast From the Past – Episode Two

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Freitas

When WBA/WBO super featherweight champion Acelino “Popo” Freitas met Jorge Rodrigo “Il Hiena” Barrios in Miami on August 8, 2003, there was more on the line than just the titles. This was a roughhousing 39-1-1 Argentinian fighting an equally tough 33-0 Brazilian. The crowd was divided between Brazilian fans and those from Argentina. To them this was a Mega-Fight; this was BIG.

When Acelino Freitas turned professional in 1995, he streaked from the gate with 29 straight KOs, one of the longest knockout win streaks in boxing history. He was fan-friendly and idolized in Brazil. Barrios turned professional in 1996 and went 14-0 before a DQ loss after which he went 25-0-1 with 1 no decision.

The Fight

The wild swinging “Hyena” literally turned into one as he attacked from the beginning and did not let up until the last second of the eleventh round. Barrios wanted to turn the fight into a street fight and was reasonably successful with that strategy. It became a case of brawler vs. boxer/puncher and when the brawler caught the more athletic Popo—who could slip and duck skillfully—and decked him with a straight left in the eighth, the title suddenly was up for grabs.

The Brazilian fans urged their hero on but to no avail as Barrios rendered a pure beat down on Popo during virtually the entirety of the 11th round—one of the most exciting in boxing history. Freitas went down early from a straight right. He was hurt, and at this point it looked like it might be over. Barrios was like a madman pounding Popo with a variety of wild shots, but with exactly one half of one second to go before the bell ending the round, Freitas caught La Hiena with a monster right hand that caused the Hyena to do the South American version of the chicken dance before he went down with his face horribly bloodied. When he got up, he had no idea where he was but his corner worked furiously to get him ready for the final round. All he had to do was hang in there and the title would change hands on points.

The anonymous architect of “In Boxing We Trust,” a web site that went dormant in 2010, wrote this description:

“Near the end of round 11, about a milli-second before the bell rang, Freitas landed a ROCK HARD right hand shot flush on Barrios’ chin. Barrios stood dazed for a moment, frozen in time, and then down he went, WOW WOW WOW!!!! Barrios got up at the count of 4, he didn’t know where he was as he looked around towards the crowd like a kid separated from his family at a theme park, but Barrios turned to the ref at the count of 8 and signaled that he was okay, SAVED BY THE BELL. It was panic time in the Barrios corner, as the blood continued to flow like lava, and he was bleeding from his ear (due to a ruptured ear drum). In the beginning of round 12, Freitas was able to score an early knockdown, and as Barrios stood up on wobbly legs and Freitas went straight at him and with a couple more shots, Barrios was clearly in bad shape and badly discombobulated and the fight was stopped. Freitas had won a TKO victory in round 12, amazing!!!!”

Later, Freitas tarnished his image with a “No Mas” against Diego Corrales, but he had gone down three times and knew there was no way out. He went on to claim the WBO world lightweight title with a split decision over Zahir Raheem, but that fight was a snoozefest and he lost the title in his first defense against Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz.

Freitas looked out of shape coming in to the Diaz fight and that proved to be the case as he was so gassed at the end of the eighth round that he quit on his stool. This was yet another shocker, but others (including Kostya Tszyu, Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya and even Ali) had done so and the criticism this time seemed disproportionate.

Popo had grown old. It happens. Yet, against Barrios, he had proven without a doubt that he possessed the heart of a warrior.

The Brazilian boxing hero retired in 2007, but came back in 2012 and schooled and KOd the cocky Michael “The Brazilian Rocky” Oliveira. He won another fight in 2015 and though by now he was visibly paunchy, he still managed to go 10 rounds to beat Gabriel Martinez in 2017 with occasional flashes of his old explosive volleys. These later wins, though against lower level opposition, somewhat softened the memories of the Corrales and Diaz fights, both of which this writer attended at the Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut. They would be his only defeats in 43 pro bouts.

Like Manny Pacquiao, Freitas had a difficult childhood but was determined to make a better life for himself and his family. And, like Manny, he did and he also pursued a career in politics. Whether he makes it into the Hall will depend on how much a ‘No Mas’ can count against one, but he warrants serious consideration when he becomes eligible.

As for the Hyena, on April 8, 2005, he won the WBO junior lightweight title with a fourth round stoppage of undefeated but overweight Mike Anchondo. In January 2010 he was involved in a hit and run accident in which a 20-year-old pregnant woman was killed. On April 4, 2012 Barrios was declared guilty of culpable homicide and sentenced to four years in prison. He served 27 months and never fought again, retiring with a record of 50-4-1.

Ted Sares is one of the oldest active full power lifters in the world. A member of Ring 10, and Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame, he was recently cited by Hannibal Boxing as one of three “Must-Read” boxing writers.

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The Avila Perspective Chapter 6: Munguia, Cruiserweights and Pacman

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Adjoining states

Adjoining states in the west host a number of boxing cards including a world title contest that features a newcomer who, before knocking out a world champion, was erroneously categorized by a Nevada official as unworthy of a title challenge.

Welcome to the world of Mexico’s Jaime Munguia (29-0, 25 KOs) the WBO super welterweight world titlist who meets England’s Liam Smith (26-1-1, 14 KOs) at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Saturday, July 21. HBO will televise

Back in April when middleweight titan Gennady “GGG” Golovkin was seeking an opponent to replace Saul “Canelo” Alvarez who was facing suspension for performance enhancement drug use, it was the 21-year-old from Tijuana who volunteered his services for a May 5th date in Las Vegas.

Bob Bennett, the Executive Director for Nevada State Athletic Commission, denied allowing Munguia an opportunity to fight Golovkin for the middleweight titles. Bennett claimed that the slender Mexican fighter had not proven worthy of contesting for the championship though the tall Mexican wielded an undefeated record of 28 wins with 24 coming by knockout.

To be fair, Bennett has seen many fighters in the past with undefeated records who were not up to challenges, especially against the likes of Golovkin. But on the other hand, how can an official involved in prizefighting deny any fighter the right to make a million dollar payday if both parties are willing?

That is the bigger question.

Munguia stopped by Los Angeles to meet with the media last week and spoke about Bennett and his upcoming first world title defense. He admitted to being in the middle of a whirlwind that is spinning beyond his expectations. But he likes it.

“I’ve never won any kind of award before in my life,” said Munguia at the Westside Boxing Club in the western portion of Los Angeles. “I’ve always wanted to be a world champion since I was old enough to fight.”

When asked how he felt about Nevada’s denying him an attempt to fight Golovkin, a wide grin appeared on the Mexican youngster.

“I would like to thank him,” said Munguia about Bennett’s refusal to allow him to fight Golovkin. “Everything happens for a reason.”

That reason is clear now.

Two months ago Munguia put on a frightening display of raw power in knocking down then WBO super welterweight titlist Sadam Ali numerous times in front of New York fans. It reminded me of George Foreman’s obliteration of Joe Frazier back in the 1970s. World champions are not supposed get battered like that but when someone packs that kind of power those can be the terrifying results.

Still beaming over his newfound recognition, Munguia has grand plans for his future including challenging all of the other champions in his weight category and the next weight division.

“I want to be a great champion,” said Munguia. “I want to make history.”

The first step toward history begins on Saturday when he faces former world champion Smith who was dethroned by another Mexican named Canelo.

Cruiserweight championship

It’s not getting a large amount of attention in my neighborhood but this unification clash between WBA and IBF cruiserweight titlist Murat Gassiev (26-0, 19 KOs) and WBC and WBO cruiserweight titlist Oleksandr Usyk (14-0, 11 KOs) has historic ramifications tagged all over it.

The first time I ever saw Russia’s 24-year-old Gassiev was three years ago when he made his American debut at the Quiet Cannon in Montebello. It’s a small venue near East L.A. and the fight was attended by numerous boxing celebrities such as James “Lights Out” Toney, Mauricio “El Maestro” Herrera and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. One entire section was filled by Russian supporters and Gassiev did not disappoint in winning by stoppage that night. His opponent hung on for dear life.

Ukraine’s Usyk, 31, made his American debut in late 2016 on a Golden Boy Promotions card that staged boxing great Bernard Hopkins’ final prizefight. That night the cruiserweight southpaw Usyk bored audiences with his slap happy style until lowering the boom on South Africa’s Thabiso Mchunu in round nine at the Inglewood Forum. The sudden result stunned the audience.

Now it’s Gassiev versus Usyk and four world titles are at stake. The unification fight takes place in Moscow, Russia and will be streamed via Klowd TV at 12 p.m. PT/ 3 p.m. ET.

Seldom are cruiserweight matchups as enticing to watch as this one.

Another Look

A couple of significant fights took place last weekend, but Manny Pacquiao’s knockout win over Lucas Matthysse for the WBO welterweight world title heads the list.

Neither fighter looked good in their fight in Malaysia but when Pacquiao floored Matthysse several times during the fight, it raised some red flags.

The last time Pacquiao knocked out a welterweight was in 2009 against Miguel Cotto in Las Vegas. Since then he had not stopped an opponent. What changed?

In this age of PEDs there was no mention of testing for the Pacquiao/Matthysse fight. For the curiosity of the media and the fans, someone should come forward with proof of testing. Otherwise any future fights for the Philippine great will not be forthcoming.

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