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The Four Faces on the Mount Rushmore of Boxing: A New TSS Survey

In this survey we posed a hypothetical question: Suppose that there was going to be a Mount Rushmore of Boxing with the faces of four boxers carved on to a granite mountain




In this survey we posed a hypothetical question: Suppose that there was going to be a Mount Rushmore of Boxing with the faces of four boxers carved on to a granite mountain. Further suppose that a duly authorized panel decided that Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Muhammad Ali would be three of the four, but could not agree on who warranted the fourth slot. Which fighter would you pick?

We posed this question to more than 30 respondents. As the person that ran the survey, I have the honor of going first. I gave the fourth slot to WILLIE PEP. He had an incredible record of 230-11-1 with 65 KOs and is considered one of boxing’s all-time great defensive artists. He turned pro in 1940 and won his first sixty-three fights. After serious injuries suffered in a plane crash in 1947, he came back and continued to win and win and win.

Here are the other picks. The respondents are listed alphabetically.

JIM AMATO, author, writer, collector: As much as I’d like to say my favorite fighter, Roberto Duran, I’ll have to go with HENRY ARMSTRONG. Hank’s accomplishments will never be duplicated.

RUSS ANBER, trainer, cornerman, and owner of Rival Boxing Equipment: You simply cannot add anyone to the Holy Trinity! There is the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. These three greats are undisputed. The fourth can never be! No other fighter in history transcended the sport as did these three. Nuff said!

MATT ANDRZEJEWSKI, TSS writer: HARRY GREB. In my opinion, Greb is the best pound for pound fighter of all time. He was known as a punching machine and for throwing punches at all sorts of differing angles that often overwhelmed his opposition. His resume and ring accomplishments speak for themselves. Incredibly, many of his best wins came after he suffered an injury to his right eye that caused vision problems.

JOE BRUNO, former New York City sportswriter; prolific author: ROCKY MARCIANO is the only undefeated heavyweight champion and he fought everyone who was around at the time. I’d have him there even before Ali. And what about Jack Dempsey, who was the leading figure in boxing in the Roaring Twenties, the Golden Age of Boxing? Say what you want about Ali, but he lost five fights, including one to Leon Spinks, who was fighting in only his eighth pro fight.

ANTHONY CARDINALE, former manager of several top fighters including John Ruiz: ROCKY MARCIANO, 49-0, heavyweight champion from Massachusetts. Enough said.

JILL DIAMOND, WBC/NABF supervisor and award-winning voice in female boxing: ROCKY MARCIANO would be my choice. My second would be Floyd. Both undefeated and, depending on your point of view, 49 or 50 wins.

CHARLIE DWYER, retired referee and member of the Marine Boxing Hall of Fame: WILLIE PEP. In his prime he was practically untouchable. A classic boxer personified.

BERNARD FERNANDEZ, journalist; one of only eight lifetime members of the Boxing Writers Association of America: Lots of possibilities and most are worthy of that fourth slot. But upon further reflection, I’m going with HENRY ARMSTRONG.

PEDRO PETE FERNANDEZ, former boxer and manager of Ring Talk: I select ROBERTO DURAN. Hands down.

JEFFREY FREEMAN, aka KO DIGEST, TSS writer: The fourth carved rockhead for the fantasy Mount Rushmore belongs to the immortal “Brockton Blockbuster,” ROCKY MARCIANO, an undefeated heavyweight champion who personified both toughness and sportsmanship. The name “Rocky” is synonymous with boxing like no other (okay, perhaps “Sugar Ray.”) Behold my Fab Four of Sugar Ray Robinson, Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, and Rocky Marciano.

HENRY HASCUP, historian and long-time President of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame: HENRY ARMSTRONG held three world titles at the same time. Armstrong defended the world welterweight championship a division record 19 times. Armstrong was 27-0 with 26 knockouts in 1937, 14-0 with 10 knockouts in 1938, and 59-1-1 with 51 knockouts from December 1936 to October 1940. Armstrong defeated sixteen world champions.

CLARENCE GEORGE, boxing writer: So many worthies….John L. Sullivan, Jack Dempsey, the absurdly untitled Sam Langford, Harry Greb, second only to Sugar Ray Robinson (and arguably his superior) in what has always been boxing’s richest division; and Henry Armstrong, the first three-division world champion at a time when there were only eight divisions. But I have to go with WILLIE PEP. I can’t help but be in awe of his justifiably legendary record  and against a slew of amazing fighters, including the superb Sandy Saddler. What astonishing skill and technique, particularly in terms of defensive wizardry. The greatest featherweight of all time? To be sure. But more, so much more, than that.

IVAN GOLDMAN, author and boxing write: I wracked my brain, but all the names I tried were ultimately indefensible. I know of no fighter to equal the stature of these three men. But I don’t pretend to know everything, and perhaps someone will come up with a name that makes sense. Plenty of quality fighters never got the right fights at the right time.

LEE GROVES, author, writer and Wizard of CompuBox: Very difficult question. I  choose HENRY ARMSTRONG because Mount Rushmore is supposed to embody the four greatest in a certain area, and I have him as the second greatest pound-for-pound fighter in history. At his best, there were few better and he holds the unique record of holding three divisional championships simultaneously, which is made much more impressive by the fact he did it during the one champ per division era. He also would be a terrific standard bearer for the smaller weight classes.

BRUCE KIELTY, boxing matchmaker, manager, and historian: JACK DEMPSEY because he represented the era that brought boxing into mainstream acceptance.

STUART KIRSCHENBAUM, former amateur boxer; co-founder of the National Association of Boxing Commissioners: JACK DEMPSEY is my choice. Other boxers have had more impressive records but talking about being enshrined entails social significance. Dempsey, a cultural icon of the 20’s…the golden age of sports, could also be considered the most popular athlete in American history for his media dominance of that era. During his reign from 1919-1926, Dempsey drew boxing’s first million-dollar gate and over 100,000 live for a single fight. He put boxing as the King of Sports.

JIM LAMPLEY, 2015 IBHOF inductee; centerpiece of the HBO broadcasting team: JACK JOHNSON because without him the lives of the other three could have been quite different.

ARNE LANG, author, historian and TSS editor-in-chief: The question becomes whether to choose someone who was indisputably great — someone like Joe Gans or Sugar Ray Leonard — or someone whose greatness is open to question but who transcended the sport. If the latter — and this is the way I lean — the nod goes to JACK DEMPSEY. No athlete was more celebrated during America’s Golden Era of Sports.

RON LIPTON, former fighter, boxing referee, boxing historian, retired police officer: If, in addition to Ali, Robinson and Louis, a recognizable iconic boxing figure should be chosen to be in their illustrious company and that would be JACK DEMPSEY. Only true boxing aficionados would recognize any of the other well deserving boxing legends from all weight classes which we could go on naming for hours.

FRANK LOTIERZO, former boxer, writer, and lead analyst for The Boxing Channel: I would give the open spot to HARRY GREB because he has the deepest and most complete resume and his accomplishments in the ring are more overwhelming than any other fighter I know of.  Greb defeated the best quality of opposition and Hall of Fame fighters, often giving away height, reach and weight, more than any other fighter who has yet lived. He defeated 18 men who held, had held, or would hold world championships, and this at a time when there were only eight divisions in boxing and one champion in each division. He was a physical beast with power blended with non-stop aggression. He’s the only fighter to beat Gene Tunney who out-weighed him by 13 pounds. And did all that while being blind in his right eye.

PAUL MAGNO, author, writer and boxing official in Mexico: The logical choice is HENRY ARMSTRONG. He belongs for everything he accomplished and everything he could do. There’s a legit case for placing him number two or number three of all-time and, for me, he’s a no-brainer as the fourth face on boxing’s Mount Rushmore

ADEYINKA MAKINDE, author, boxing writer and UK barrister: I suggest JOE GANS, “The Old Master” himself, who was the first American of African descent to win a world title in the 20th century, thus paving the way for Louis, Robinson and Ali. He was a dominant fighter like they were and also a beloved figure because of his personality and his skills, achieving mainstream acceptance.

GORDON MARINO, philosophy professor, Wall Street Journal boxing writer, and trainer: The “Human Windmill” HARRY GREB. (107-8-3) but surely a lot more fights than that. At 5’8” and a middleweight, he fought and beat most everyone, including Gene Tunney.

DIEGO M. MORILLA, award winning bi-lingual boxing writer from Argentina: HENRY ARMSTRONG. He embodies his era like no one else: the fighter who had to take on all comers on short notice with no preparation and at any weight, and still succeeded in ways that we cannot even imagine today. His numbers are mind-boggling in every sense: his record defenses of the lineal welterweight crown, his fights in four of the original eight divisions with titles in three of them and a dubious draw against the middleweight champ Ceferino Garcia. Willie Pep and Jack Johnson deserve consideration as well, but “Homicide Hank” takes the laurel — and the marble — or whatever that big mountainside is made of.

JOHN RAFUSE SR., former professional boxer: My pick is ROCKY MARCIANO.

FREDERICK ROMANO, author, historian, formerly with HBO: Tough assignment. Henry Armstrong at his peak is a good choice in my opinion as is a prime WILLIE PEP.

LEE SAMUELS, Top Rank publicist emeritus: MARVIN HAGLER was the first star champion we ever worked with at Top Rank. Hagler’s firefight against Hitman Tommy Hearns at Caesars Palace was one of the greatest fights of all time. Hagler in the 80’s was all fighter, one of the greatest in boxing history. He was inducted into the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame a few years ago and when he went to the podium, he wept and said the Petronelli brothers – Pat and Goody – “were like my fathers who cared for me so much.”

ICEMAN JOHN SCULLY, elite trainer, former title contender, commentator: WILLIE PEP. No question.

PETER SILKOV, writer and manager of The Boxing Glove: I’m torn between Jack Johnson and Henry Armstrong; it’s a shame we can’t choose five!  Overall, I choose JACK JOHNSON as his feat of securing his shot at the world heavyweight title is one of the greatest acts of courage and perseverance in the history of boxing, and without him there would have been no Louis or Ali.

MIKE SILVER, author, writer, historian: For me this is a no brainer. The fourth face should be HARRY GREB. His almost superhuman record speaks for itself. He was the ultimate fighter. I didn’t say boxer, for he was not a boxer, at least not in the traditional sense. Harry Greb was a pure fighter whose unorthodox windmill style has never been duplicated. All of the greats he fought spoke of him with awe and considered him their toughest opponent.

BRUCE TRAMPLER, Top Rank matchmaker; 2010 IBHOF inductee. I’d suggest Jack Dempsey who meant so much to the sport as Babe Ruth did for baseball, but I’ll go with the great HENRY ARMSTRONG.

GARY “DIGITAL” WILLIAMS, boxing writer and voice of Beltway Boxing: That’s a tough one but for me, it would be SUGAR RAY LEONARD.  He’s a six-time world champion and he, after Ali, was the next boxer to go mainstream as far as commercial endorsements are concerned.

PETER WOOD, 1971 New York City Golden Gloves middleweight finalist and author: JOHN L. SULLIVAN is my choice. This bare-knuckle champion was a hard rock, a badass, and our glorious American Hercules. He could “lick any son-of-a-bitch in the house.”


The final tally of votes yielded Henry Armstrong as a narrow winner with a secondary cluster around Dempsey, Greb, Marciano, and Pep following closely behind.

Some went as far back as Jack Johnson and Joe Gans, some went modern with Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard, and some simply could not come up with a selection that matched the three already on the mountain.

Peter Silkov and Jim Lampley had almost identical responses,

A sincere “Thank You” to all the participants.

Ted Sares is one of the oldest full power (raw modern) lifters in the world and is a four-time winner of the EPF’s Grand Master championship. He also is a member of Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame.

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A native of Chicago, Ted resides in the White Mountain area of Northern New Hampshire with his wife Holly and dog Kater from which he manages a number of private investments. He has closely and passionately followed boxing for over 60 years and has written three related books including the popular “Boxing is my Sanctuary.” He also has written a true crime book titled “Shattered.” Ted has written for many different on-line boxing sites and publications and enjoys a strong international following. An elector for inductees into the International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF), he is a member of Ring 4 (New England) and its Boxing Hall of Fame and also is a member of Ring 10 (New York). Sares is also one of the oldest active powerlifters and strongman competitors in the world. He is currently the four- time EPF Grand Master Nationals Champion.

Feature Articles

An Unofficial Judge Scored 9 Rounds for Canelo; Feel Free to Hoot and Holler



auxiliary press

The auxiliary press section at the T-Mobile Arena is quite a distance from the boxing ring. I’ve been in auxiliary press sections before, but never one that was up so high. It was here that I found myself on Saturday night, peering down on the ring far below and like everyone else checking out the big screen between rounds for a closer look at key moments.

From this vantage point, the ring is both smaller and bigger. It’s bigger in the sense that it opens things up a bit. Your eyes see more space between the fighters and you are better able to judge which fighter is controlling the distance. Think of the picture from the overhead cam in a football game. Looking straight down, the playing field doesn’t look as congested. The holes that open for a North-South running back bursting into the secondary get wider and from this panorama you are better able to judge the work of the offensive line.

Having said that, this is really no place to adequately judge a boxing match, so I can be forgiven for scoring the fight 9-3 for Canelo. For what it’s worth, however, the fellow on my right had it the same. The fellow on my left had it somewhat tighter, but also scored it for Canelo. And for the record, neither of these guys were Hispanic so they weren’t blinded by tribal loyalty.

At the T-Mobile, when the main event ends, the scribes in the auxiliary press section are literally held hostage. They are prevented from going down to the post-fight press conference until the arena has thinned out.

This reporter couldn’t get his laptop to function properly and had no patience. I’m not comfortable working on my cellphone, so it was imperative that I get home in a jiff and be there when David Avila’s ringside report turned up in my e-mail. On a fight of this magnitude, the boss wants the bread-and-butter post-fight story up on the site in a hurry.

Aware of the hostage situation, and my own technological limitations, I had the foresight to scope out the arena for an escape route just in case I needed to get away fast. And so, before a hostage-taker could rope me in, I was off and running, scurrying down a little used staircase. I had my car parked in the right spot for a quick getaway, traffic was light, and I was home at my work desk in less than 30 minutes.

I didn’t wait around to hear the scores. To me it was a foregone conclusion that Canelo would have his hand raised. Heading home, I had the car radio tuned to an all-sports station. And when the scores came across the radio, I thought to myself, well, I was wrong and I was right. I thought GGG would win and I was wrong about that, but I was right, I thought to myself, that the judges would be disposed to give GGG the close rounds. In my mind, the scores (114-114 and 115-113 twice) gave GGG the best of it. Granted, several rounds were tough to score, but yet the fight wasn’t that close.

Au contraire !

To my amazement, the vast majority of those seated in the ringside press section scored the fight a draw or had it shaded toward Triple-G. In fact, according to one survey, which included those in the building and a select few watching at home or in a TV studio, only two of the 59 people that were polled had it for Canelo with 17 scoring it even. The most cantankerous of the GGG faction was ESPN analyst Teddy Atlas who apparently had it 117-112 and labeled the decision a robbery.

No I won’t defend my scoring. Let me see the fight on TV (and with the sound off, natch), and I’ll get back to you. But I’m still flabbergasted that my score was so out of whack with the consensus.

Odds and Ends

Although the fight was announced as a sellout, there were empty seats scattered around the arena. The announced attendance was 21,965, roughly 1,400 less than for the first encounter last September.

The first Canelo-GGG bout set the attendance record for an indoor fight in Nevada and came in third all-time in gate receipts, surpassed only by Mayweather-Pacquiao in 2015 and Mayweather-McGregor in August of last year. But that’s a distant third to the leader. The gross gate for Canelo-GGG I ($27,059,850) was far below Mayweather-Pacquiao which raked in an astounding $72,198,500.

Although there’s more money in circulation each year and more fat cats willing to pay an enormous sum to attend a mega-fight, I doubt the Mayweather-Pacquiao record for gate receipts will be broken any time soon.

The crowd, needless to say, was skewed heavily toward Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. And while it’s often said that members of this ethnic group are true fight fans, the reality is that when they come to Las Vegas they act just like the Anglo high rollers, which is to say that they arrive at a big fight fashionably late.

When the first of the four PPV fights started, the arena was not more than 15 percent full. When the semi-main started, the arena was perhaps one-third full, notwithstanding the fact that it was a title fight featuring a boxer from Tijuana.

The old outdoor fights at Caesars Palace were thick with celebrities who were acknowledged by the ring announcer. Saturday’s fight at the T-Mobile was something of a throwback. The roll call included movie stars Denzel Washington, Will Smith, and Mark Wahlberg, comedians Dave Chappelle and Cedric the Entertainer, and sports personalities Lebron James, Charles Barkley, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Triple H – to name just a few.

Standing in the ring as GGG and Canelo made their way from their dressing rooms was a fashionably dressed woman wearing a dress that one would associate with a Latin country. I assumed she was there to sing the Mexican National Anthem. In my younger days, the Mexican National Anthem was sung so often at big fights in Las Vegas that I could eventually mouth the words.

But no, there was no National Anthem whatsoever, neither U.S., nor Mexican, nor Kazakhstani. I was told that they did do anthems before the first of the preliminary fights. This would have been about 3:00 in the afternoon when there were not more than a few hundred people in the joint.

Was this a reaction to the brouhaha set in motion by Colin Kaepernick? That’s a fair assumption.

Not only were the anthems missing, but so also was Michael Buffer, a fixture at HBO shows for decades. I’m told that he now works exclusively for Eddie Hearn. He’ll be back on the job this coming Saturday at Wembley Stadium in London.

Joe Martinez, Buffer’s replacement, did a solid job, as did referee Benjy Estevez who was working his first big fight in Nevada. Of course, Canelo and GGG made it easy for him. No matter your opinion of the scoring, I think we can all agree that these two great warriors engaged in a very clean fight.

By all accounts, this was a very good fight for the bookies. The expectation that there would be late Canelo money in Las Vegas on Mexican Independence Day weekend wasn’t born out. At one establishment, the odds favoring GGG rose from 7/5 to 9/5 (minus-180) in the last few hours of betting. I’m told that it nicked above 2/1 at a few places offshore.

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How Much Is Left for Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez?

I first wrote about Roman Gonzalez in 2010. He was a baby-faced 105lb shotgun then, but was not widely known. I predicted that he would be the world’s number



I first wrote about Roman Gonzalez in 2010. He was a baby-faced 105lb shotgun then, but was not widely known. I predicted that he would be the world’s number one fighter one day and also that when he eventually came undone, it would be against a southpaw.

I also predicted that, for Gonzalez, there would be no second act. Once undone, he would stay undone. Gonzalez was no Jake LaMotta, no sponge for acid, and to describe him as face first would be to do a disservice to the high guard and sleek slippage of punches that, even as a minimumweight, he was already exhibiting. I felt, however, that the purity of the violence he dealt in required a commitment that a hurtful defeat might undo. I also felt that super-flyweight would be his roof and that when he landed there he might find himself tangling with various immovable objects, where once give had been guaranteed.

So I was not surprised when southpaw superflyweight deluxe thug Srisaket Sor Rungvisai dropped him like a stone down a well late last year. I did have a bad feeling as regarded his comeback this weekend though.

An earlier aborted attempt at a return to action seemed to have been caused by the most disappointing of reasons, his perceived inability to make the 115lb limit in time. Once a fighter has decided to eat himself into the divisions above it’s rare to see him back at his old trim; the nightmarish vision of Gonzalez trying to compete with Naoya Inoue and Zolani Tete reared its ugly head momentarily, but Gonzalez set to work and made the grade, like he so often has.

A fight with Moises Fuentes at 115lbs was his reward.

Quantifying this opponent is important. Fuentes had, at one time, been ranked among the very best light-flyweights in the world. He exited that division after winning a crackling match with perennial warmonger Francisco Rodriguez and then losing by knockout to Kosoei Tanaka. After straying dangerously close to 120lbs and splitting a pair with Ulises Lara, he struggled back down to 112lbs only to be brutalized by Japanese prospect Daigo Higa in a single round. The word “shot” started to be muttered in connection with Fuentes in the wake of this result.

Gonzalez meanwhile was being marooned on the wrong side of history in his native Nicaragua as the country fell down around his ears. The political disaster wrought upon his people left him in an isolated position politically and, undoubtedly, with severe personal financial problems of his own.

So there were two desperate men sharing the ring on the undercard of Golovkin-Alvarez contest but to my eye, Gonzalez-Fuentes was far and away the most interesting match.

Gonzalez looked old and dry during the referee’s instructions, his expression hangdog, new folds of expression on his once smooth features. He looked down, not unusual, but he radiated a sliver of defeat where once there had been only surety.

Until the bell rang.

Gonzalez, in his prime, was among the best combination punches of the modern era. This has always been his stated mode of expression, eight to twelve punches his declared and terrifying target and he has proven himself capable of landing at the lower end of this range. Nor are these the “mixing” punches of, say, Joe Calzaghe, who cuffed and slapped and looked to land a meaningful punch in among the a stream of less hurtful shots. Gonzalez meant business.

As business boomed and he became the lineal flyweight champion of the world, he continued to add layers. By the time of his flyweight reign he had developed one of the most dangerous right hands in the world. He shaped it in all ways, he threw it at all ranges, he targeted head, body, chest, and such was his balance and stance that he did all of this without selling the punch. When Gonzalez dipped his left shoulder to throw a left-hook or uppercut, he could instead transplant that punch with a straight right.

Certainly not all of the above was confirmed against Fuentes. He wasn’t buying the space like he used to, developing strange angles to begin the withering barrages that we saw in his prime, but we did see him throw the same explosive and unexpected combinations, sometimes leading with the left-uppercut, a suicide punch for many fighters. And we saw him use that right hand.

We saw him feint with it to open up for the left and we saw him use it as a prop punch for a hook or uppercut, and we finally saw him unleash it, on the button, for what may be the knockout of the year.  Gonzalez rounded the brave Fuentes up, cornered him, and then knocked him unconscious with a punch that traveled through the target and “frightened” Gonzalez into thinking that he had legitimately hurt the Mexican.

His relief when Fuentes returned to us, cross-eyed and confounded, but unharmed, was palpable.

My pre-fight wish was that Gonzalez would look very bad and be forced to consider retirement, or very good, thereby hoping that my final prediction would be denied and “Chocolatito” could be declared back in the title hunt.

Though what we got is certainly more the latter than the former, in truth it is neither.

Gonzalez’s speed of foot had begun to betray him even before Rungvisai pole-axed him and although he looked sprightly at times here, he’s not going to be as quick at 115lbs as he was at 108. More, he landed a lot of punches on Fuentes and Fuentes stood up to them. When Gonzalez hit that kind of stride at 112lbs, even burning heart warriors like Akira Yaegashi wilted; Fuentes was able to rally several times which was good for the contest but makes clear that Gonzalez left his truly destructive power behind when he left his flyweight title behind. Murderous in landing the perfect shot, clubbing super-flyweight foes into submission is going to remain extremely challenging.

So when he comes up against a meaningful challenger, he will have to defeat him with craft, guile, and what remains one of the most fluid offenses in the sport. Many of his potential opponents will be faster than him and some will be able to hit as hard or harder.

Gonzalez will no doubt be in pursuit of a strap. This leaves him with three choices.

Rungvisai, the legitimate champion, we know about. Gonzalez may want a third fight and given the weakness of the matches on the most recent HBO Superfly card, it is far from impossible that it can be made. If it was made next, Rungvisai must be considered a heavy favorite.

The wonderful Filipino Jerwin Ancajas, too, holds a strap at the weight and he, too, should be avoided unless Gonzalez is determined to undertake an all-or-nothing swoop at a fighter entering his prime. This contest is not unwinnable for Gonzalez, but all things considered, it would arguably be the very best victory of his career if he were to pull it off.

Finally, there is Englishman Khalid Yafai.

Yafai is the right man. He is the type of fighter that Gonzalez has specialized in breaking since he turned pro; a fleet-footed, clever boxer short on dig and high on flurries. Yafai is definitely good enough to stay ahead for spells, he might even be good enough to win seven rounds, but he is not going to brutalize Gonzalez while he does it.    Here is a fight for a strap that Gonzalez would be favored to win.

Alas, promotional vagaries also make it the most difficult to make. But perhaps Gonzalez will bide his time. There are other meaningful contests to be made in a sprightly division undergoing yet another quality iteration.  Perhaps Gonzalez will seek a rematch with old foe Juan Francisco Estrada, still dangerous but underwhelming in his most recent contest. Perhaps a battle of the veterans can be sold to HBO and Gonzalez can tangle with Donnie Nietes. Or maybe power-brokers would be more excited to see him in with another mysterious old man from foreign shores and Gonzalez-Kazuto Ioka can be made.

These are all exciting fights and most of them can be made with a minimum of fuss.

So it’s Roman Gonzalez then, perhaps not quite back, but certainly warming up in the wings. And if the division isn’t quite trembling, it can at least be said to have thrown a quick look over its shoulder into the gathering gloom.

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A Tactical Change Paid Dividends for Canelo Alvarez vs. GGG

This past Saturday night Canelo Alvarez 50-1-2 (34) won a majority decision (114-114 and 115-113 twice) over Gennady Golovkin 38-1-1 (33) to capture Golovkin’s



night Canelo

This past Saturday night Canelo Alvarez 50-1-2 (34) won a majority decision (114-114 and 115-113 twice) over Gennady Golovkin 38-1-1 (33) to capture Golovkin’s three middleweight title belts at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. And like their first fight last September that ended in a majority draw, the decision has provoked controversy.

The amazing thing about Canelo and GGG is how evenly they’re matched and difficult their fights are to score. I scored the rematch 6-5-1 Canelo, (after seeing the first meeting 8-4 GGG) but it was so close that it could as easily gone to Golovkin by a point. But let’s get one thing clear: This fight was too close to be considered a robbery regardless of who had their hand raised. And when you take into account that Canelo forced Golovkin to fight in retreat, landed the more eye-catching shots, worked his body from the onset, and that Golovkin’s face was much more puffed up and lumpy at the end (although Canelo was cut), no way was the decision in favor of Canelo an injustice.

Stylistically, GGG is an attacker and Canelo is a counter-puncher. However, Canelo answered Golovkin’s trainer Abel Sanchez’s call and didn’t run. No, he didn’t run in the first fight either, but in this fight, unlike the first, Canelo moved forward and initiated the exchanges. Golovkin’s jab, which is always reliable, worked overtime and kept Canelo from owning the exchanges, but like most attackers, GGG can’t hit as hard or be as effective if forced back. And because of that Canelo had no reservation in regards to forcing the fight. So when looking at what stood out the most, it was Canelo’s more imaginative offense and body punching, thus forcing Golovkin to go away from what he’s done best and in every other fight of his career, and that no doubt influenced the judges. Moreover, Golovkin noticeably flinched a few times at feints and was unwilling to pay the price of going to the body entailed to win.

Prior to the rematch it was said in this space how two things would unfold when they met the second time. Quoting from the June 20th TSS preview:

Based on the strategic options for both, Canelo has more room to be better and change things up to level the fight. And then there’s the business side of the equation and I’ve been around too long to fathom that if it’s closer this time GGG will get the decision. A Canelo win sets the rubber match up perfectly because in the eyes of boxing fans and PPV buyers they’ll view them as being 1-1. For the reasons stated above, as much as I’d like to be wrong (and there’s no fun pouring cold water on something so widely anticipated), I don’t think that will be the case. It’s a monumental reach for me to think GGG can win a decision unless he beats Canelo beyond recognition – which I don’t believe he can. Therefore Canelo-GGG goes the distance and Alvarez, being more competitive this time, gets the decision and that sets up the rubber match for Cinco De Mayo weekend 2019.

The fact is, Canelo being the more versatile fighter completely flipped the script after fighting mostly in retreat and with his back to the ropes during most of their first encounter. His aggression and willingness to stand his ground the way GGG did the first time, projected that Canelo was the more willing fighter and he was obviously rewarded for that. Granted, Golovkin really dug down and showed his strong constitution during the second half of the fight after being told by his corner he was losing. He fought a terrific fight, as did Canelo, but it wasn’t enough for GGG because he left too many rounds up for grabs, which was suicide with Canelo forcing the fight.

The result shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone, especially since the fight was so close and could come down to whose style you liked better or who you were rooting for. There was no definitive winner of this fight. Sure, a draw would’ve been a fair call. The problem with that, however, is that Team Golovkin knew they had to be more assertive and erase any semblance of doubt this time, due to GGG being excoriated in some circles for not getting off enough in the last bout and never slamming the door to prevent Canelo from tightening the fight with a rally, the way he did down the stretch. This time GGG got off a little more, but that was because he was mostly fighting to prevent Canelo from overwhelming him with his aggression. In a way it’s ironic how Canelo accepted the challenge and fought Golovkin in a more macho way and it knocked Golovkin off his game.

One tries not to be redundant, but like the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB…..boxing is a business and is star driven. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is a superstar fighter in the eyes of the boxing establishment and many fans. There’s no guesswork needed to grasp that it’s good for business for him to keep winning. His determination, skill and toughness exhibited against a monster like Golovkin might endear him to fans more than ever. Canelo fought a better fight than the first time and put to rest the rumor that he was aided by PEDS.

The net result is exactly what the boxing establishment, not the fans, needed. And that was a win for Canelo in a fight where it was tough to pick the winner with Canelo acting as more the predator than the prey. By forcing GGG to break more exchanges, working both the body and head, along with never appearing tired or overwhelmed, it was just enough to win the borderline rounds in the eyes of the judges and tilt the fight in his favor. In fact, Golovkin, over Canelo’s protest, had Dave Moretti as a judge for the fight. He was the only judge who scored the first clash for Gennady. And this time he scored it for Canelo and may have tipped his hand when he gave the 12th round to Canelo, perhaps knowing it could swing the fight in his favor….and it did.

This decision cannot be lambasted like others we’ve seen. GGG didn’t suffer a loss of esteem in losing and Canelo finally has a statement win over a marque fighter. They’ll fight a third time and it will be perceived as a rubber match. Golovkin will be almost another year older and less than what he was this past weekend and Canelo will win more conclusively while avoiding the young lions nipping at his heels named Charlo, Saunders and Andrade.

Because boxing is and always has been star driven, Gennady just can’t put enough separation between he and Canelo to get the decision. Their rematch is one of the few fights I’ve seen that really could’ve gone either way – it’s just that a push usually goes to the combatant who is better for business.

The next time there’s a real close fight on paper, and it’s unlikely to end in a knockout or stoppage, you must ask what result better sets up the next big bout. The formula isn’t fool proof. De La Hoya-Trinidad and Pacquiao-Bradley I are glaring exceptions, but more often than not you’ll cash your ticket. In this case a Canelo win sets up fight three more than a Golovkin win would’ve….and knowing GGG won’t walk away from the fortune at stake, he’ll go for it.

Photo credit: Tom Hogan / Hoganphotos / Golden Boy Promotions

Between 1977 and 1982, Frank Lotierzo had over 50 fights in the middleweight division. He trained at Joe Frazier’s gym in Philadelphia under the tutelage of the legendary George Benton. Before joining The Sweet Science his work appeared in several prominent newsstand and digital boxing magazines and he hosted “Toe-to-Toe” on ESPN Radio. Lotierzo can be contacted at

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