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Old School Fighters of the Modern Era: 33 Noted Boxing Buffs Weigh In

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Old School

When applied to boxing, the term “Old School” has many meanings. That said, in this, our latest survey, we asked our respondents which boxer of the modern era — active or retired – struck them as most Old School, limiting the choice to just one. Here are their picks. As always, the respondents are listed alphabetically.

MATT ANDRZEJEWSKI–TSS boxing writer: Emanuel Augustus. Augustus was a guy who was literally willing to fight anyone anywhere. He traveled wherever needed and fought whenever the phone rang. He amassed over 600 professional rounds. Look at what he did in 2001. After beating Orlando Milian on February 10th, he accepted a short notice fight on February 16th against Mike Griffith whom he dominated and stopped in Griffith’s backyard of Cleveland. Later that year, Augustus engaged in a fight-of-the- year type bout against Micky Ward and just two months after that brawl he was back in the ring against then undefeated Leonard Dorin. That’s old school.

JIM AMATO–author, writer, historian and collector: I think Mikey Garcia is as close to old school as anyone around today. No frills, just solid in everything he does. I enjoy watching him fight.

RUSS ANBER–trainer, elite cornerman and owner of Rival Boxing Equipment: My choice would have to be Bernard Hopkins. His approach to training, coupled with a disciplined lifestyle which allowed him to stay atop the middleweight hill for a record number of title defenses, clearly makes him the undisputed “Old School” fighter of our modern era.

PHIL ANSELMO–boxing writer and lead vocalist for heavy metal bands including Pantera: My pick is Terence Crawford.  From his attitude to his resumé, the man handles business in a vein similar to Pernell Whitaker, but out of an orthodox stance and with a KO punch. Regarding his attitude, he’s humble but truthful, he’s  always in top shape and he steps up intensity each round with a strategy intact, ready to go from plan A to Z if need be.  Damned good boxer coming into his own, the old school way. If he keeps on track, like I believe he will, he’ll leave a great legacy.

DAVID AVILA–TSS West Coast Bureau Chief: James “Lights Out” Toney best typifies old school for me. He’s the Sam Langford of the 21st century.

JOE BRUNO–former New York City sportswriter, prolific author: Evander Holyfield was a perfect example of an old school fighter. Nothing fancy about Holyfield who came to fight every time he entered the ring. Even though his talent level for a heavyweight was less than the norm for world champions, his great conditioning made each of his fights a gem to watch.

TRACY CALLIS–renowned boxing historian: Bernard Hopkins was old school in attitude, old school tough, and old school in the ring. He possessed the physical tools and the mindset to make things happen, much like an old-school fighter. He was careful, cautious, durable, and well-schooled in solid fundamentals. He studied his opponents, figured out a plan that would beat them, and executed that plan while attacking upstairs and down. He was not flashy, sometimes even boring, but always alert for whatever his foe might try. When he was fighting, it was almost like an old-timer telling the moderns “shut up, anything you can do, I can do better.” 

STEVE CANTON–author and the face of boxing in Florida: Modern boxers, in my opinion, have zero chance against the masters of old. There are no boxing “teachers” today, so today’s boxers have no opportunity to learn the subtle techniques which made the older generation of boxers more complete and versatile. Old School boxers fought more times within a couple of years than today’s boxers fight in an entire career. Today’s boxers don’t have an opportunity to “practice” their craft. If you practice a guitar every day you will be a better guitar player than if you practiced once a month. Today’s generation of boxers don’t exhibit the same hunger, discipline and dedication. All that being said, I cast my vote for Mikey Garcia.

JILL DIAMOND–International Secretary, WBC: To me, this is more of an attitude than a style. I’d say GGG. He never complains. He says nothing negative. He trains, stays focused, gets in the ring and is always aggressive. I’ve never seen him back away. I’ve never seen him on the canvas.  I’ve never heard him make excuses. He just boxes.

CHARLIE DWYER-retired referee and member of the Marine and Ring 4 Boxing Halls of Fame: I would say Bernard Hopkins. He was not great but did a lot of things well. He had a nice repertoire of punches, good defensive skills, and knew more than a few tricks. He lived clean, had no entourage, and was always in top shape.

BERNARD FERNANDEZ–TSS mainstay and lifetime member of the BWAA: “Irish” Micky Ward gets the nod from me, given the parameters for consideration. He should be known for more than those three incredible wars with Arturo Gatti. Fans in Atlantic City and in New England loved the guy well before those fights. No, he wasn’t a precursor to Terence Crawford, but he switched from orthodox to southpaw seamlessly, could hook to the body with either hand and just about always gave as good, or better, than he got.

JEFFREY FREEMAN–TSS boxing writer and the man behind KO Digest: Marvelous Marvin Hagler was a very old school fighter from Marciano’s hometown of Brockton, MA. He competed in only one division and avenged his early losses. He earned his world title shots the old-fashioned way by terrorizing top contenders. He became the undisputed champion in one of the original eight weight classes. He went 15 rounds more than once, defending his crown 12 times. He stayed with the same trainers his whole career. He trained like a Warrior Spartan in the marvelously strong Petronelli Triangle. Greatness mattered to him in the squared circle. He flattened Tommy Hearns in “The War.” He was crushed by defeat when, IMO, the economic politics of boxing favored Sugar Ray Leonard in 1987.

CLARENCE GEORGE–boxing writer and historian: Who was more of a throwback than David Tua? Unlike almost all of today’s behemoth-like heavyweights, he was a fireplug — short, heavy, and built like a barroom brawler. The very antithesis of the body-beautiful physique first introduced by Ken Norton, he was reminiscent of a couple of Depression-era Tony’s — Galento and Musto. He also had more than his share of the rough-and-tumble fights so characteristic of the 1930s. Finesse? What the hell is that, a French dessert? Set ’em up and knock ’em down. That was Galento. And that was Tua.

LEE GROVES–author, writer and the Wizard of CompuBox: I’d say Julio Cesar Chavez in this respect: he maintained a breakneck schedule even during his championship reigns. He fought numerous non-title fights in Mexico so that his most passionate fans could see him in action, which meant he truly cared about the people who paid to see him. He also was an action fighter who went at his opponents and wore them down with pressure and precision.

JEFF JOWETT–longtime boxing scribe and heir to the late Jack Obermayer as an authority on East Coast diners:  Many years back I read a great story about Marvin Hagler…can’t remember who wrote it…about how he didn’t fire anybody, didn’t change trainers every time he lost a fight, didn’t make excuses, etc. I saw him at the Hall of Fame this past weekend. Looked great! He rode a bike during the race and went back and forth encouraging the runners. Old school.

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“Fifty years from now someone will juke twice at different angles with the front foot, then instantly dart to the other side and land two body shots and finish with a jab hand uppercut and a commentator will say “that’s old school.  Just like Vasyl Lomachenko.” – Jim Lampley

 

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BRUCE KIELTY–boxing matchmaker, manager, and historian: Bernard Hopkins. He was competent offensively, defensively, always in shape and ducked no one.

JIM LAMPLEY–2015 IBHOF inductee and long-time anchor of HBO’s boxing team:  So difficult to limit to one because fighters take pride in that identity and you want to pay credit to all who have worked hard to achieve it. I could list ten in short order. But if I must choose only one, it’s Bernard Hopkins and not just because he is doing such magical work on The Fight Game. More because of all those wicked right crosses, perfectly timed check hooks, and carefully chosen transgressions against the rules (but not the code). BHop is the latter-day trademark for “Old School”.

ARNE LANG–TSS editor-in-chief: It’s been my impression that folks that use the term “old school” over-romanticize athletes of earlier generations. That being said, Marvin Hagler jumps to mind. For his fight with Thomas Hearns, Marvin balked at holding public workouts in a Caesars Palace ballroom, fleeing to Tocco’s, a dank and smelly little boxing gym where he felt more at home. That was old school!

RON LIPTON–former fighter, veteran boxing referee, boxing historian, retired police officer: GGG who trains and carries himself in a way that reminds me of the late Dick Tiger. To me, a fighter who falls into the niche of old school adheres to a spartan existence in training, adhering to the old boxing axioms of no sex before the fight, no drinking, hard sparring, not missing roadwork and coming in on time. Also, making weight, running when it is snowing or raining, getting up early, no insulting the opponent at the weigh-in, and staying hard core. I lived and trained as a paid sparring partner with some of the best fighters from the 60’s. The one who was the epitome of old school was Dick Tiger. He was all business; no women, no smoking, no drinking, no trash talk, totally dedicated and in superb physical condition at all times. At his zenith he was a middleweight force of nature and a man that garnered and radiated respect.

FRANK LOTIERZO–former boxer, TSS writer, and lead analyst for The Boxing Channel: I’d say stylistically Mikey Garcia is the closest to an old school fighter. He uses a high guard with his elbows tucked in and his chin down, looks to establish his jab and throws everything tight and concise while stepping in. He guards the center and forces his opponents to pick a side to have to punch around, and none of his movements or punches are for show or wasted. Mostly everything is done to set off the next sequence and he usually answers his opponent right back when they punch first.

ADEYINKA MAKINDE–boxing writer, law school lecturer, author: James Toney. For me, “old school” suggests a breadth and a formidability of a skill-set which is not predicated on one or two overwhelming strengths. Toney was slick, relaxed, and balanced and that melded perfectly with the science of the ring “mechanic” adept at fighting both at long range and on the inside. He was excellent in “the pocket,” utilizing the defensive maneuvers of head movement, body swerves and the shoulder roll, while picking at his opponent with a judicious selection of precision jabs, hooks and crosses. He was also a quite proficient practitioner of the supposed lost art of body punching and a counter-puncher par excellence. The essence of Toney’s art was arguably best encapsulated in his 2003 performance against Vassiliy Jirov.

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Old school was a behavior influenced by the mores and values of another era. If someone calls me a throwback, I kind of like it — Anonymous

 

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LARRY MERCHANT–journalist, HBO boxing commentator emeritus, 2009 IBHOF inductee: “Old School” suggests a certain professionalism and toughness and hard purpose: the boxers could bang  some, the bangers could box some, the givers could  take and the takers could give. Danny Jacobs and Mikey Garcia could be that kind of fighter in this era. And the elites of the last generation, I believe, would have been elite in any era, and vice versa.

FRED ROMANO–author, former HBO researcher, and historian: Since Arguello, Hagler and Duran and that generation were already past their primes during the modern era as defined, going with the 1985 date, I like Julio Cesar Chavez for his number of fights, aggressiveness, body punching, and overall skill. He was a throwback.

LEE SAMUELS–longtime Top Rank publicist: Vasiliy Lomachenko would have been a star performer for sure beginning in the 1920s and 30s against all of the champions in his division.

 TED SARES–TSS writer: Like others, I’ll go with GGG. Treats his sport like a craft, is always in superb shape, and fights anyone – a pleasure to watch, especially when he adjusts to what his opponent has. No diva-like behavior, no PEDSs, very manageable, just boxes—and wins. Why GGG over Hopkins or Toney? Simple. No trash talk.

ICEMAN JOHN SCULLY–former boxer, trainer, commentator, he’s done it all: James Toney is the most “old school’ guy I’ve seen. He was fearless, fought anyone and everyone. Faced and defeated every style — power punchers, slick boxers, strong guys, much bigger guys, didn’t matter. Stood in front of most of them and made them miss and expertly countered them. Moved to heavyweight and didn’t complain about catch weights and glove and ring size. The most old school guy we’ve had in the last 30 years.

PETER SILKOV–writer and manager of The Boxing Glove: My pick would be Bernard Hopkins. He learned his skills ‘on the job’ and as champion ducked no one. His development from an aggressive knockout artist in the beginning of his career into one of the best counterpunchers I’ve seen is ‘old school’ all over IMO.

MIKE SILVER–noted author and boxing historian: There have been very few boxers over the past 25 years who have exhibited the combination of superior boxing technique, seasoning, toughness and quality competition that defined the old school champs and contenders of decades past. In my opinion the one who comes closest is Gennady Golovkin. He is an exciting boxer/puncher whose determination, toughness and extraordinary power is wedded to excellent balance, good fundamentals and superior ring intelligence.

ALAN SWYER–documentary filmmaker, writer and producer of El Boxeo: Though much of his career took place before 1985, the fact that Sugar Ray Leonard beat Hagler, Hearns, and Duran after his initial retirement makes him my choice. Only an all-time great could do justice to the nickname sported by the original Sugar Ray, which he did. A superb boxer-puncher, he headlined the post-Ali era with a rare combination of style, charisma, and power.

BRUCE TRAMPLER–Top Rank matchmaker, 2010 IBHOF inductee: The last of the old school fighters that I knew personally was George Foreman and before him, Marvin Hagler. There may have been others since, maybe GGG, but the two bald guys stand out.

GARY “DIGITAL” WILLIAMS–voice of “Boxing on the Beltway”: He was never a world champion but Darryl “Terrible T” Tyson defined old school. The native of Washington, DC was a multi-time regional champion and was the last boxer from Washington, DC to compete in a scheduled 15-round contest (his IBF world lightweight title bout against Jimmy Paul in August of 1986 in Detroit, MI).  Tyson always had an old school mentality in his boxing and training.  He fought just about everyone relevant in the lightweight and junior welterweight divisions

PETER WOOD–1971 New York City Golden Gloves middleweight finalist and author: Mike Tyson was old school. He cut his hair old school, wore old school boxing attire, studied vintage fight films, and mimicked the mannerisms of some of the great old-time fighters. I’m not certain he practiced the old-time ritual of toughening up the skin of his face by washing it with piss, but I would not be surprised.

BOB YALEN–Director of Sports at Mohegan Sun and former head of boxing for ESPN: I’m going to go with Mike Tyson…Mike worked hard at the basics, respected the game, and fought with intensity because he enjoyed the battle…for Mike it was about the fight itself and not about everything else surrounding it, much like the old pros who fought out of necessity or out of love for the sport. If I put Mike in a room with Harry Greb, Henry Armstrong, Sugar Ray Robinson or any of the other greats it would be a terrific conversation about the sport and all aspects of it…I’m not sure I can say the same for many of the other pros of the modern era.

Observation:

Hopkins, Toney, GGG, Mikey Garcia, and Mike Tyson got the most mentions from this very knowledgeable pool of respondents. No surprises there.

Ted Sares is an active full power lifter and will soon be attempting a 4 in 4 (4 meets in 4 months) something never before done by an octogenarian. A member of Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame, he was recently cited by Hannibal Boxing as one of three “Must-Read” boxing writers.         

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

To comment on this article at The Fight Forum, CLICK HERE.

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.

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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.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

To comment on this article at The Fight Forum, CLICK HERE.

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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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