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RASKIN’S RANTS: The Musings Of A Man Who Has Never Tweeted With Oprah

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oprah-winfreyLast week was a busy one for your favorite TSS writers over on ESPN.com, between Editor Mike’s feature on bare-knuckle boxing and my column attempting to psychoanalyze Kelly Pavlik in the wake of his controversial withdrawal from a ShoBox fight and the revealing radio interview that followed. I got numerous emails reacting to my piece, and here’s one that was fairly representative of what emailers had to say:

Hi Eric,

Great article about Pavlik on ESPN. Almost every article I read about him pulling out was totally vicious and one-sided against him, and then there were one or two exceptions that went the other way and were overly sympathetic to him. Yours was the only one that took an even-handed look at it from both sides. I guess—please pardon the cuss word—most of the writers out there are “asinine.”

Anyway, I think your theory, that control issues are at the root of his decision, makes more sense than anything else I’ve heard.

One question about it: Do you think Kelly is right, that Top Rank was just looking to cash him out against Bute? Because it does feel to me like nobody was giving him a chance to win that fight.

Thanks for your time,

Scott

Scott,

Thanks for the kind words. An even-handed analysis was precisely what I was shooting for. Not surprisingly, as a result of me having the audacity to consider both sides, I got accused of being both a Pavlik hater and a Pavlik apologist in the comments section below the article.

Do I think Pavlik is correct about Top Rank, that they were cashing him out against Bute? If the basis for his argument is purely that the fight was going to be in Canada, where Pavlik would need to “put him on a stretcher to win,” then it’s a weak case; Bute draws huge in the Canada and that’s where the fight belongs. At this stage of his career, there’s no way Pavlik can still lure 5,000-plus Youngstown fans to Atlantic City. That said, logic tells you there was a certain amount of “cash out” going on. Maybe it was just the ring rust, but Pavlik didn’t look anything like an elite fighter in his lone post-rehab bout. “The Ghost” has looked for a couple of years like a guy caught between weight divisions, whereas Bute is peaking at 168 pounds. Pavlik’s the one who used the term “cash out” and he never refuted it, never claimed he could beat Bute. That’s a red flag. So, yes, I think Pavlik is correct to an extent, that Top Rank wants to get a payday out of him (and for him) while they still can. That’s not to say Top Rank wouldn’t be thrilled to see him upset Bute. But I agree with Pavlik that his promoters probably weren’t optimistic about the likelihood of that happening.

A final word on Pavlik: People tend to have short memories. I don’t believe his withdrawal from this fight with Darryl Cunningham is a career killer. He’s still young (29) and he can come back, assuming he has a little something left as a fighter. How many NFL teams showed Terrell Owens the money after he’d proven conclusively that he could destroy a locker room faster than a 350-pound offensive lineman with irritable bowel syndrome? Pavlik has a name, and if he wants another opportunity, he’ll get another opportunity. And if he fights well, the fans will forget all about his withdrawal from a fight they didn’t care about in the first place.

You know it was a slow week for boxing when a former champ NOT fighting was the central story, but there’s still plenty to Rant about, so let’s get to it:

• Never mind Editor Mike’s ESPN.com article. How about him getting The Oprah to talk to him on Twitter?! (Here's that situation…http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/01/oprah-own-ceo-job-10-time_n_915436.html)That was quite a coup. I can’t compete with that. About the best I can hope for is acknowledgement from @MarryLerchant.

• ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights delivered once again, with an excellent main event between Vernon Paris and Tim Coleman. And it was made even better by the extreme undersell from color analyst Sergio Mora, who went out of his way to promise a chess match. (In general, I like Mora as a broadcaster, but my one critique is that he sounds too laid back at times. I’m not saying he needs the artificial energy of Gus Johnson, but he could use a little volume boost and little more inflection in his voice. This is boxing, not “Delicious Dish.”)

• Some on Twitter criticized Coleman for wearing a Yankees hat during a prefight interview and then an Orioles shirt in the ring. I choose to criticize him just for wearing a Yankees hat, period.

• The only letdown of Paris vs. Coleman: No Roger Mayweather and no Floyd Mayweather Sr.! This is so unexpected, people named Mayweather not showing up for their appointments.

• I recommended this on Twitter, but I’ll recommend it here as well: Tim Starks’ two-parter on queensberry-rules.com on sanctioning groups and the question of whether the best way to get rid of them is to ignore them altogether. This comes at a time when The Ring Editor-in-Chief Nigel Collins has just begun speaking publicly about not using the alphabet groups’ names in print anymore and when maybe, just maybe, HBO and Showtime might be in a position to get on board with Ring championships the way ESPN did a decade ago. This mission will never be 100 percent unanimous among journalists. There will always be dissenters who lazily accept the way things are because that’s the only reality they’ve known, or who don’t want to get on board with the alternative because they didn’t come up with it themselves. But it feels like momentum is building. It’s been a slow process and it will continue to be a slow process, but I think if we all work together, the self-serving alphabets can eventually be killed off and boxing fans can return to a world in which we don’t say, “Hey, Champ!” and everybody within earshot turns around and answers.

• Congratulations to HBO for landing the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez III pay-per-view. And congratulations to Bob Arum and Top Rank for a masterfully orchestrated competition that will get this fight the maximum possible exposure. Also, great call by Arum letting Showtime remain the frontrunner for the Antonio Margarito-Miguel Cotto II PPV show, keeping the competition alive and spreading the profits around.

• It was a busy week in terms of PPV undercard news. Now that Erik Morales-Anthony Crolla has been upgraded all the way to Morales-Lucas Matthysse, the September 17 show is very strong from top to bottom. (By the way, I did some research on Crolla for a piece I wrote before the opponent changed twice, and he’s not bad at all. But he’s no Matthysse.) And the October 15 undercard (Jorge Linares-Antonio DeMarco, Kendall Holt-Danny Garcia) is decent too, considering all parties involved wanted to spend as little money as possible on it.

• Maybe I don’t follow amateur boxing closely enough and there’s something I’m simply not getting here, but where’s the logic in staging the Olympic trials 12 months before the Olympics? Who’s to say America’s best representatives now will still be our best a year from now? And who’s to say they’ll even be capable of making the same weight next summer?

• As a Philadelphian, it’s my duty to tell you to keep an eye on Jesse Hart, who won the middleweight tourney at the Olympic trials. Hart is the son of Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, a key figure in the 1970s golden age of Philly middleweights who fought all the best 160-pounders of his time and knocked out 28 of the 30 men he defeated.

 • As a Philadelphian, it’s also my duty to tell you that future Hall of Famer Nigel Collins joined us last week for what turned out to be one of the best episodes of Ring Theory (http://ringtheory.podbean.com) yet. Nigel provided the inside scoop on how Ross Greenburg muzzled his broadcasters during his highly criticized reign at HBO, then Nigel took part in spirited roundtable discussions about Mike Alvarado stripping himself of a belt, what might have been with Muhammad Ali, John Kerry’s doppelganger who disqualified Edison Miranda, and the global popularity of women’s boxing. And for those fight fans who were specifically waiting to subscribe to Ring Theory until Bill Dettloff whipped out his Ralph Kramden impression, the waiting is over.

Eric Raskin can be contacted at RaskinBoxing@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter @EricRaskin and listen to new episodes of his podcast, Ring Theory, at http://ringtheory.podbean.com.

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Terence Crawford Has Conquered the World, and Now He’s Won Over Nebraska

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It was a day of even more anguish for Nebraskans, making for a night of even more exultation in a state where boxing – or, at least a particular boxer – is emerging as a hero and much-needed source of pride for citizens left wondering about the sorry state of the once-mighty Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Hours after those Cornhuskers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, blowing a 10-point lead in the final 5 minutes, 21 seconds to fall 34-31 in overtime at Northwestern and begin a college football season 0-6 for the first time in program history, WBO welterweight champion Terence “Bud” Crawford defended his title with panache and power, stopping previously undefeated challenger Jose Benavidez, Jr. in the 12th round to buttress his argument that he is the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. There are still pockets of resistance to his claim to that designation, of course, but none coming from the ESPN broadcast crew of Joe Tessitore, Timothy Bradley Jr. and Mark Kriegel, all of whom intermittently offered their opinion that the switch-hitting Omaha resident has now firmly established himself as best of the best.

The 31-year-old Crawford’s latest bravura performance was met with shouted hosannas of approval from the sellout crowd of 13,323 in Omaha’s CHI Health Center, a record for a boxing event in Nebraska, and a stark contrast to the burgeoning sense of panic among Cornhusker partisans, who have to be wondering who these impostors in the red-and-white uniforms are.

Crawford grew up in a poor section of Omaha as an avid Nebraska fan, and after his latest demonstration of nimble footwork, fast, accurate hands and surprising power you could hardly blame his fellow home-state citizens from wondering if he might be persuaded to enroll at NU and play quarterback for his floundering favorite team. The ability to finish strong, taking the fight even harder to Benavidez in the final round when the more prudent move might have been to simply run out the clock, stamps Crawford as the pugilistic equivalent of Tommie Frazier, the option master who led the Huskers to back-to-back national championships in 1994 and ’95. But even the legendary Frazier wasn’t perfect; he was 43-3 as a starter during his four-year college career. Crawford, now 34-0 with 25 wins inside the distance, has a vision of someday retiring undefeated, a goal that at this stage seems entirely reasonable.

Top Rank founder and CEO Bob Arum, Crawford’s promoter, cited the fighter’s 12th-round mugging of Benavidez, the key blow being a ripping right uppercut that he had hidden up his figurative sleeve like a card sharp’s ace, as proof that the three-division world champion is indeed separate and above the madding crowd.

“Most fighters today, in that position, having clearly won the fight, would back off in the 12th round, not take any chances and run out the clock,” Arum said. “Not him. He’s a performer. He wanted to close the show, and that’s what he did. That’s what makes him special. That is not the mindset most (other fighters) have. But Terence is a showman. He wants to make a statement.”

He especially wanted to make it, and as loudly as possible, against the mouthy Benavidez (27-1, 18 KOs), who has been talking smack about Crawford for months and gave him a hard shove at Friday’s weigh-in, which precipitated a retaliatory right hook from the champion. It missed, thankfully, but no matter. Crawford landed plenty of shots that did when it mattered, smoothly alternating, as always, from an orthodox stance to southpaw and back again.

“We just took our time today,” Crawford said, referring to himself in the plural rather than the singular, a nod toward his support team, most notably manager-trainer Brian McIntyre. “Everything that went on this week, he was trying to get in my head, wanting me to have a firefight with him. I knew if we got in a rhythm we could do whatever we wanted, and that’s what we did.

“He made me work in the early rounds. He was trying to counter me, working on my distance. I couldn’t figure it out at first. But once I got my distance, it was a rout from there.”

Maybe the rout evolved methodically and in a controlled fashion because that’s what Crawford, who had vowed to “punish” Benavidez for his impertinence, had in mind all along. He is a man of his word, and, also as he had vowed, he declined to touch gloves with Benavidez or to offer even a halfhearted hug after the final bell. No surprise there; like fellow Omaha native Bob Gibson, the St. Louis Cardinals’ Hall of Fame pitcher, he regards all opponents as the enemy and thus off-limits to fraternization of any kind.

What about that kept-in-reserve uppercut, which sent Benavidez tumbling awkwardly to the canvas and in obvious distress?

“I’d been seeing it rounds and rounds ahead of time,” said Crawford, who is now 5-0 in Omaha and 6-0 in  Nebraska, counting a sole appearance in Lincoln. “I seen him pulling back,but then he stopped pulling back so I started leaning more and more because I was touching him to the body. Then I threw the shot, and it landed.”

For those with a need to crunch numbers, official scorecards through 11 completed rounds all had the overwhelming wagering choice – Crawford went off at minus-3,000, or a 1-to-30 favorite – winning big on the scorecards tallied by judges Levi Martinez (110-99), Robert Hecko (108-101) and Glenn Feldman (107-102). Punch statistics furnished by CompuBox also were conclusive if not necessarily off-the-charts, with Crawford landing 186 of 579, a decent but not overly so 32.1 percent, to 92 of 501 (18.4 percent) for the outclassed but game Benavidez. But boxing is basically  an art form, not math, and like all artists Crawford is more about aesthetic impression than raw data.

For his part, Benavidez, who had promised to “shock the world” by “exposing” Crawford, figured he had done as well, if not better, than most of Bud’s previous victims.

“I gave him a hell of a fight,” Benavidez reasoned. “But I got tired. Boxing, you know. I was pretty impressive. I wanted to give the fans a fight that they paid to come watch. I know he didn’t think I would be that good.

“I take nothing from him. He’s the best of the best for a reason. He’s a good fighter, you know? But I’m a good fighter, too. I had that fight close.”

In the co-featured bout, 21-year-old featherweight Shakur Stevenson (9-0, 5 KOs), a silver medalist at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, was much more dynamic than he had been in scoring a relatively pedestrian eight-round unanimous decision over Carlos Ruiz on Aug. 18 in Atlantic City, blasting out Romanian veteran Viorel Simion (21-3, 9 KOs) in one round. The southpaw Stevenson’s weapon of choice was the right hook, which he used to telling effect to floor Simion three times, prompting referee Curtis Thrasher to wave the bout off after an elapsed time of three minutes.

Simion, a 36-year-old Romanian whose previous losses were to former world champions Lee Selby and Scott Quigg, was penciled last in as a replacement for the injured Duarn Vuc, had never been stopped in his 12-year pro career and he looked askance at Thrasher, as if disbelieving that he would not be given the opportunity to fight his way out of trouble in the scheduled  10-rounder.  But, his legs still wobbly, he was not pleading a winnable case.

“My power was here tonight, and my speed,” said Stevenson, who claimed the vacant WBC Continental Americas 126-pound title. “Ain’t too much more that I can work on, but I’m going to keep staying sharp and get right back in the gym.”

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Close Early, Then All Crawford

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Terence “Bud” Crawford stopped Jose Benavidez, Jr at 2:42 of the 12th round. Benavidez came in with an unblemished record of 27-0. That run of success came to a screeching halt tonight. For the first half of the bout, Benavidez didn’t fight like the 20/1 underdog that the odds reflected in gaming shops across the globe. He made a good accounting for himself during the first six rounds, however the same can’t be said for the remainder of the fight, as Crawford dominated from the midway point on. It was the beginning of the end with Crawford landing a picture perfect uppercut that found it’s mark late in the final stanza. While Benavidez deserves credit for getting back to his feet, he only managed to prolong the inevitable for a handful of seconds more. Crawford goes to 34-0, with 25 by KO.

Story to follow.

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Kerobyan and Hovannisyan Score KO Wins in L.A.

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LOS ANGELES-Super welterweight prospect Ferdinand Kerobyan didn’t waste time and drilled Mexico’s Rolando Mendivil in less than a minute to win by knockout on Friday.

Kerobyan doesn’t get paid by the minute.

The North Hollywood fighter Kerobyan (11-0, 6 KOs) brought a large crowd to the Belasco Theater and didn’t give them much time to cheer as he blasted out Mendivil (10-6, 3 KOs) with an all-out attack.

Mendival never had a chance.

Kerobyan immediately connected with a three-punch combination capped with a left hook that dropped Mendivil in the first 15 seconds of the opening frame. The Mexican fighter got up and when the fight resumed Kerobyan clobbered Mendivil with a right cross and down he went on a knee. Referee Lou Moret had seen enough and stopped the fight at 49 seconds of the first round.

“I felt great. I never like to say that a fight is easy. I just make it look easy,” said Kerobyan. “I’m proud of my performance. I showed that I’m a warrior. I’m looking for bigger and better names. I want eight and 10 round fights only.”

In the co-main event, Azat Hovannisyan (15-3, 12 KOs) blitzed Colombia’s Jesus Martinez from the opening bell with an offensive attack void of any defense. He didn’t need any for the Colombian who was in full retreat until the fight was stopped. Hovannisyan unloaded a three-punch combination that included a left hook chaser and down went Martinez at 30 seconds into the fourth round of their super bantamweight clash.

“I feel stronger than ever before,” said Hovhannisyan. “Whatever has happened in the past is past. I’m ready for a world title fight. I know I still have a lot left in the tank.”

Other bouts

Richard “The Kansas Kid” Acevedo (4-0, 4 KOs) battered Mexico’s Javier Olvera (2-2, 1 KO) and ended the fight with three straight rights to the gut and head. Olvera flailed a few punches but other than that, it was all Acevedo as the fight ended at 2:30 of the first round of the super welterweight match.

Rudy “El Tiburon” Garcia (9-0, 1 KO) couldn’t miss with the left hook through all six rounds against Houston’s David Perez (10-5, 5 KOs) in their super bantamweight clash. Garcia fights out of L.A. but there was no hometown bias in this fight. He simply connected more with flush shots in every round. Perez showed a good chin and was never stunned or hurt. One judge scored it 59-56, the other two 60-54 all for Garcia.

David Mijares (6-0,3 KOs) won a hard fought split decision over Michael Meyers (2-1, 2 KOs) after four rounds in a super lightweight match. It had been over a year since Mijares had last fought, but the Pasadena fighter survived a last round knockdown and found a way past the strong Myers in winning the split decision 37-38, 38-37 twice.

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