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Part of Hagler’s Great Legacy Is Remaining at 160

Marvin Hagler was the undisputed middleweight champ from 1980 to 1987. It’s hard to fathom he just turned 64 (May 23rd), but from what I’ve seen

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Marvin

Marvin Hagler was the undisputed middleweight champ from 1980 to 1987. It’s hard to fathom he just turned 64 (May 23rd), but from what I’ve seen he still looks great. And like most all-time greats, the further away we get from his prime the more dominant he looks in hindsight. Hagler also has a huge fan base and his fans are very adamant about defending his legacy. And if ever there was a fighter who earned and deserves that type of support, it’s Hagler.

Most boxing fans know Marvin’s history. He was the 1973 National AAU middleweight champ and turned pro in May of that year. Early in his pro career he was avoided. Joe Frazier said to him, “you have three strikes against you, you’re black, you’re a southpaw and you’re good.”  He was a ranked middleweight contender long before he finally got his first title shot in 1979.

To get a shot at name fighters Marvin had to fight in his opponent’s hometown, and ironically it was Frazier’s adopted city of Philadelphia where Hagler would suffer his first two losses. The first was to Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts in January of 1976 and the second was to Willie “The Worm” Monroe who was trained at one time by Frazier’s trainer Yancey Durham. Both fights were held at the Spectrum, the city’s largest indoor arena.

I attended both the Watts and Monroe bouts, and the loss to Watts was an outright hometown decision. However, Monroe beat Hagler legitimately and handled him at times during the fight. Hagler admitted after the fight that Monroe beat him and stated so in the Philly papers the next day.

Hagler avenged both losses by knockout and cleaned out an entire division of outstanding middleweights before getting his first title shot against Vito Antuofermo in November, 1979. The Antuofermo fight ended in a disputed draw and Vito, the defending champ, held the title. Ten months later Hagler took apart Alan Minter to capture the title. Minter won the title from Antuofermo and then beat him again in a rematch before losing it to Hagler. After beating Minter, Hagler made 12 consecutive title defenses with Roberto Duran and Thomas Hearns among his failed challengers. And then in his final defense, Hagler lost a 12-round split decision to Sugar Ray Leonard as a 4-1 favorite with only his WBC title on the line. Due to the bitterness he felt over the result, being totally convinced that he was robbed, Hagler never fought again.

Looking back it’s easy to glean that Marvin was special. In the ring, especially stylistically, Hagler was not the destruct and destroy killer he’s portrayed by many today. His shredded muscles and bald head projected he was an Earnie Shavers/Mike Tyson clone knockout specialist at 160, but he wasn’t. Marvin Hagler was a very good boxer-puncher with great foot work and balance. He had a great right jab and his money punch was his right hook. His left hand from his southpaw stance wasn’t close to special, but he used it to set up his right hook beautifully. He also never failed to let his hands go and his ring IQ processed things quickly; it didn’t take him long to figure out whom he needed to box and who he needed to go after.

The only time he miscalculated occurred during the first three or four rounds of his fight with Sugar Ray Leonard, and sadly that error in judgement cost him the decision. The fallacy regarding Hagler stylistically was that to beat him you had to back him up, but that was wrong. Marvin was at his best when his opponents brought the fight to him. He was more vulnerable fighting as the attacker as we saw in his bouts before he won the title and as the defending champ versus Duran and Leonard. The one outlier was the Hearns bout, in which he had no choice but to carry the fight and get inside on Hearns.

Hagler wasn’t a great puncher but he could punch, although he was mostly right hand reliant when fighting in his southpaw stance. His reputation as a puncher is based on one fight and that was the one with Hearns. Because it ended in three rounds it was assumed he was a puncher. The fallacy of that is that he hit Hearns cleanly more times flush in those eight minutes than he did most of his other title challengers their entire fight and with the exception of Caveman Lee and Mustafa Hamsho II, they all went beyond three rounds. Defensively, Hagler was solid. He could be caught between and during exchanges, but you couldn’t hurt him. And his condition was something to marvel at. The only time he even appeared to be breathing hard was during the later stages of his first bout with Antuofermo, a 15-round contest that was fast paced with a lot of give and take action.

There’s nothing to ding Marvin Hagler on as a fighter. He fought the best, never ducked anyone, always showed up in great shape and came to fight. And in 67 pro bouts (62-3-2) he was never really hurt, due to owning a cast iron chin, nor was he ever really beaten up by any opponent. It was some career!

Today, due to former middleweight champs Roy Jones and Bernard Hopkins moving up to challenge for and win the light heavyweight title, some excoriate Hagler for not doing the same. Instead he fought the likes of Duran, Hearns and Leonard who moved up in weight to challenge him at his best weight.

Don’t count me among that group admonishing him. Hagler was a natural middleweight and not a particularly big one at that. He wasn’t Jake LaMotta who often struggled to make the 160 limit. Hagler never sweated making weight. It wasn’t until Oscar De La Hoya entered boxing in 1992 as a junior lightweight and began compiling titles every five pounds that it became a big deal. Fighters move up in weight for one of three reasons….1) because they get lazy and are no longer disciplined enough to make weight…..2) they’ve legitimately outgrown their division….or 3) they’re chasing a big fight or view the bigger title holder as a favorable matchup. In Hagler’s case, the most money for him was to remain as middleweight champ and defy Duran, Hearns and Leonard to challenge him, something all three of them did in the years 1983-87.

Carlos Monzon, who Hagler is most often measured against, never moved up to challenge Bob Foster. And two of Monzon’s most high profile defenses were against former welterweight champ Emile Griffith and reigning welterweight champ Jose Napoles.  Neither Monzon nor Hagler were capable of carrying 175 pounds effectively and the light heavyweight champ in both cases was a killer. For Monzon, Foster was certainly a bridge too far and Carlos knew it. And in Hagler’s case, there were two light heavyweight titlists, Michael Spinks, an all-time great, and Dwight Muhammad Qawi, a near-great, during his title reign.

There was never public clamor for Monzon to fight Foster or for Hagler to fight Spinks or Qawi. I trained and sparred with both Michael and Dwight during the years 1978-82. And circa 1980-82, when the talk of Hagler fighting Leonard and Hearns was big news, they both were frustrated and thought Hagler was being a bully. There was a time a little before the fight between Michael and Dwight grew into a super fight that Hagler represented big money for them, and both felt Hagler couldn’t tickle either of them. And looking back, they’re right. I remember both hounding boxing writers that came into the gym, asking to be quoted that they wanted some of Hagler and would even drop in weight to meet him. In Michael’s case, that was plausible, but Dwight, not so much. It wasn’t always a breeze for him to get down to light heavyweight.

Marvin Hagler was a true middleweight if there ever was one. There wasn’t a viable super middleweight division at the time for him to test like there would be for Jones and Hopkins. I respect that Hagler knew his limitations and crafted a true legacy as a middleweight great. I think that’s better than doing what De La Hoya, Mayweather, and Pacquiao did…winning a title up a few pounds against a beatable title holder only to do it again and again

Anyone who denigrates Hagler for not moving up to fight Spinks or Qawi for the light heavyweight title is wrong. Marvin created such a legacy as a middleweight that 30 years after his retirement, he’s still the fighter middleweight champs are measured against. And I seriously doubt Jones or Hopkins would have gone light heavyweight fishing if Spinks, circa 1981-85, or Qawi, circa 1981-83, awaited them.

Marvin Hagler is one of the top five middleweight champions in history. He didn’t need to fight the light heavyweight champ to justify his greatness. He achieved greatness the old fashioned way and never fought with a gimmick attached to any of his bouts!

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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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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