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THE RASKIES: Raskin's Rants, From A. Ward to Awards

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02 Weigh-inAs you may have noticed, I haven’t had a byline here within the TSS universe in about three weeks. Time to come clean: I did 21 days in county for beating up one of Floyd Mayweather’s ex-girlfriends. For what it’s worth, she had her hands up and wasn’t looking at Joe Cortez at the time. I feel good about that part, at least.

Anyway, I’m back now, finding time for a final “Rants” column of 2011, except it doesn’t feature the usual bullet-pointed random Rants. Instead, I’ll do a one-email mailbag and then bust out a few year-end awards, since that’s what us boxing writers do in late-December. (And since Editor Mike specifically asked all of his contributors to do something awardsy.)

But first, the mini-mailbag, which in this case functions as an excuse for me to comment on the Andre Ward-Carl Froch fight that I haven’t yet written about:

Hey Eric,

What did you think of the Ward-Froch fight? I ask, because I have a theory regarding the scoring:

1. First, I did think the fight was a little closer than what the broadcasters were telling me. 8-4 really seemed right to me. I thought Froch did win the first round, and, if that fight was in England, he would have. So when I heard 115-113, which I agree seems closer than reality, I wasn’t that put off by it, because I just didn’t see what Gus Johnson was screaming about most of the time. I mean, Froch has a world class chin, so that was going to keep him upright all night, but didn’t Ward look tired down the stretch? He even got his mouthpiece knocked out, which may indicate it was a little harder in there than the Showtime guys were telling me it was. The 10-point system is incredibly flawed; either a close round or a dominant round minus a knockdown are still 10-9, so until that changes, we could have seen a very clear, “close” win for Ward, even if Andre Ward’s rounds were much more dominant and clear.

2. Just saw that it was the English judge who had Ward up the most, 118-110, while the American actually had it 115-113 for Ward (along with the Canadian’s card). I think we saw this because of what have been perceived as “hometown” decisions recently, particularly with such an international focus on this fight (I’m using international loosely, just referencing the Europeans in this tournament, not that the world was watching, lol). Favoritism in this tournament would wreck any chance at doing another one of these types of tournaments again, and I think the American judge gave Froch every possible close call, while the Englishman went the other direction, whereas of course it’s usually the other way around. Not that we should expect another one of these tournaments in the future. It’s a little too drawn out, and let’s face it, why would these Euros come over to fight in front of empty arenas where they lose their hometown advantage, especially after seeing the tournament winner, Ward, get unbelievable preferential treatment? (It’s okay, he was probably going to win this thing if it was on the moon.)

Anyway, now we can all turn our attention to not seeing Pac-May later next year.

–Nathan Branson

Nathan,

First off, thank you for writing half my column for me.

I didn’t see as close a fight as you did. I gave the first round to Ward—and didn’t hesitate at all on the scoring of that one—and ended up with a score of 118-110, though I could easily see 117-111. At 116-112, I think you were stretching a bit, but not beyond the bounds of reason. 115-113, however, was not an acceptable scorecard to me. And the interesting thing to note here is that not all 115-113 cards are created equal. Canadian judge Craig Metcalfe got there by having Froch rally to win three of the last five rounds and make it close—an only slightly ridiculous premise. American judge John Stewart apparently removed the “h” from his first name and thought he was working for Comedy Central, as he scored FOUR OF THE FIRST FIVE ROUNDS FOR FROCH. Then he had Ward dominating the rest of the way, winning six of the last seven to eke out the decision with an inspired rally. That is, simply put, as bad a scorecard as you will ever see, even if it ultimately tabbed the correct winner.

Your theory about judges bending over backward not to hand in regionally biased scorecards is a theory I’ve tossed out there from time to time myself, and there might be some truth to it. I remember thinking before the Lennox Lewis-Evander Holyfield rematch that, with the way the Madison Square Garden judges screwed Lewis the first time and created a full-on taxpayer-dollar-wasting “investigation,” the judges for the second fight could be expected to give anything close to Lennox just in case. Sure enough, in a fight I scored 114-114 from ringside at the Thomas & Mack Center, all three judges had Lewis winning. I don’t mean to imply any of them did a bad job scoring the fight; their tallies of 117-111, 116-112, and 115-113 were all reasonable reflections of reality. But the truth is that boxing judges, like anyone else, can either consciously or subconsciously try not to look biased and thereby end up presenting a reverse-bias. It’s possible that happened with the two judges who gave Froch five rounds.

In any case, I’m glad you pointed out that Ward would have won the Super Six on any continent or any sphere within our solar system. Sure, he got to fight exclusively in the U.S. and primarily in Oakland. But that didn’t make a damned bit of difference in the outcome, except to prevent him from being robbed in the other guy’s hometown.

As for Pacquiao vs. Mayweather, I actually wrote a small blurb for Grantland.com that was supposed to run this week, predicting that the superfight was going to happen in 2012. I really felt the stars were beginning to align, that Mayweather now had the 99 percent confidence in winning required to make him sign any contract, and that Bob Arum might see Pacquiao’s career winding down and be willing to gamble (while banking countless millions for his company and his family). Then Floyd got 90 days in the slammer. My prediction blurb had to be yanked, and I honestly have no idea whether Pacquiao-Mayweather is a possibility for the fall of 2012. And frankly, I can think of few things I want to do less right now than speculate about that subject.

Now, let’s move along to my 2011 year-end awards picks. Some of these were discussed on last weekend’s season finale episode of Ring Theory (http://ringtheory.podbean.com), but I’m beefing it up with a few extra awards. For the last dozen years or so, I always compiled the “Unofficial Official” awards for a certain magazine that is now dead to me, so I’ll borrow a handful of categories that I used to acknowledge on that two-page spread and note them here:

Fighter Of The Year: Andre Ward. There were no spectacular candidates this year. The 2007 runner-up campaign from Kelly Pavlik would have gotten him named Fighter of the Year for 2011 in a landslide. Giving the award to Ward is a little bit of a by-default judgment, and also an acknowledgement of his body of work required since 2009 to win the Super Six. Even on their own, his wins over Arthur Abraham and Froch are enough to edge out my runner up Brandon Rios, who hurt his case by failing to make weight for this third and final fight of the year.

Fight Of The Year: Akira Yaegashi KO 10 Pornsawan Porpramook. I’ve already written about this YouTube gem plenty. If you haven’t watched it, then you have no right to vote on the Fight of the Year.

Round Of The Year: James Kirkland vs. Alfredo Angulo, Round One. You can find a lot of rounds from 2011 that featured thrilling two-way action. You can even find a few other rounds this year that featured both guys hitting the canvas. But there was no round this year as staggeringly unpredictable—while offering bone-crunching action and multiple knockdowns—as these three minutes in Cancun.

Knockout Of The Year: Nonito Donaire KO 2 Fernando Montiel. Left hook. Dented head. End of discussion. Sure, ref Russell Mora failing to stop the fight scuffed up the aesthetics, but balancing that out is the fact that Montiel was an elite fighter coming in and he got absolutely wrecked. No other fighter anywhere near Montiel’s quality got obliterated half as violently in 2011.

Upset Of The Year: Orlando Salido KO 8 Juan Manuel Lopez. Talk about a loaded category: Nobuhiro Ishida KO 1 James Kirkland, Lamont Peterson W 12 Amir Khan, Marco Antonio Rubio KO 7 David Lemieux, Jorge Arce KO 12 Wilfredo Vazquez Jr., Antonio DeMarco KO 11 Jorge Linares, and Kirkland KO 6 Angulo all could have won this category in past years. But Salido outslugging Lopez in a thriller that saw the guy with 11 losses defeat the guy with zero losses stands above the rest.

Trainer Of The Year: Robert Garcia. Tragically, after the way Khan and Pacquiao finished their years, we are forced to deprive Freddie Roach of his 24th consecutive Trainer of the Year award. Garcia loses points for his work with the heinous Antonio Margarito, but no other cornerman comes close to what “Grandpa” did with Rios, Donaire, and Mikey Garcia this year.

Female Fighter Of The Year: Anne Sophie Mathis. Holly Holm is the Freddie Roach of this award from the “Unofficial Official Awards” pages, and Mathis went 5-0 this year including a knockout of Holm. Easy enough.

Robbery Of The Year: Paul Williams W 12 Erislandy Lara. It takes a lot to get punished as a boxing judge. All three of the judges for this fight got suspended for the scorecards they handed in. Hirings and firings at a certain boxing magazine aside, Williams over Lara was the most horrendous decision of the year in boxing.

Most Improved Fighter Of The Year: Carlos Molina. This is a tricky one, in that I don’t know if the Chicago-based junior middleweight has technically improved as a fighter—he was pretty good to begin with and had won nine straight coming into 2011. But in terms of recognition and opposition, Molina made the leap. He fought to an impressive draw against Lara, knocked out Allen Conyers, and then upset Kermit Cintron on Showtime. Next up is James Kirkland, which means Molina had better keep improving if he wants this winning streak to continue in 2012.

Facial Monstrosity Of The Year: Pawel Wolak. Since I’m the one who invented this “Unofficial Official” award, I’m going to keep handing it out. And as long as I’m handing it out, how do I not give it to the guy who inspired the Joe Tessitore call, “a left hook to the hematoma”? We didn’t get everything we wanted out of boxing in 2011. But you can’t deny that Wolak and Delvin Rodriguez did their part to make the year as swell as possible.

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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Charr-Oquendo Scuttled When Charr Tests Positive; the Odious WBA Saves Face

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Manuel Charr

Manuel Charr and Fres Oquendo were scheduled to fight in Cologne, Germany, later this month (Sept. 29). Charr would be defending his WBA world heavyweight title, the “regular” version of it, not the “super” version which rests in the hands of Anthony Joshua.

The bout was quickly cancelled when it was revealed that Charr had tested positive for two banned anabolic steroids. The test was performed by VADA, the anti-doping agency identified with Las Vegas neurologist Dr. Margaret Goodman.

The 33-year-old Charr, born in Lebanon but a resident of Germany since the age of three, won the belt in his last start with a unanimous decision over 281-pound Russian behemoth Alexander Ustinov in Oberhausen, Germany. The title was vacant. Charr won the right to fight for it with a 10-round decision over Albanian slug Sefer Seferi. The victory over Ustinov elevated his record to 31-4. He has been stopped three times, by Vitali Klitschko, Alexander Povetkin, and Mairis Briedis.

If it wasn’t for bad luck, as the old saying goes, Fres Oquendo wouldn’t have any luck at all. For various reasons, his fights keep falling out. Before long he’ll be drawing social security. Well, not exactly, but he turned 45 in April and hasn’t fought in more than four years.

Oquendo has competed for this belt before. In his last ring appearance in July of 2014, he lost a majority decision to Russia’s Ruslan Chagaev in Grozny, Russia. As a concession for taking the fight on short notice, Team Oquendo negotiated a rematch clause in the contract, but a shoulder injury prevented Fres from activating it. When the injury healed, he had to go to court to compel Chagaev to fulfill his obligation. But then the Russian retired, muddling the water.

The WBA was legally bound to find Oquendo a title fight and in desperation turned to ancient Shannon Briggs. But the Oquendo-Briggs fight, scheduled for June 3 of last year in Hollywood, Florida, fell out when Briggs’ urine specimen showed an abnormally high level of testosterone.

Fres Oquendo was dogged by bad luck even before these recent developments. His professional record, 37-8, is somewhat misleading as six of his eight defeats were razor-thin including his 2003 setback to Chris Byrd and his 2006 setback to Evander Holyfield. However, Oquendo, something of a cutie, was never a crowd-pleaser and in none of his narrow defeats was there a public clamor for a rematch.

The cancellation of Charr-Oquendo cuts the World Boxing Association out of a sanctioning fee, but one would think that the WBA honchos are actually rather pleased by this turn of events. The fight, more precisely the WBA’s world title imprimatur, would have brought more unwanted publicity to the Panama-based organization.

ESPN’s Dan Rafael, who has the largest platform of any boxing writer, has been a persistent critic of the organization which once recognized 41 “champions” in 17 weight classes. In 2009, Rafael wrote, “(The WBA) has become such an absolute farce that even somebody like me, who follows boxing closely, sometimes has a hard time keeping track of all the nonsensical so-called world title belts the WBA has been doling out at an alarming rate. It almost reminds me of the ladies at Costco who hand out various samples on a busy Saturday afternoon.”

Rafael took note when WBA president Gilberto Mendoza promised to cull the herd by eliminating “regular” titles, and then became more caustic when Mendoza didn’t follow through. Recently, in one short, punchy diatribe, Rafael blistered the WBA as wretched, vile, and rancid.

Regardless of your opinion, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Fres Oquendo who keeps getting stranded at the altar. No, he’s not fun to watch and a man of his age shouldn’t be taking any more punches, but he has always been an honest workman and by all accounts he’s a very decent man. Born in Puerto Rico but raised in Chicago, Oquendo pitched right in when the island nation of his birth was ravaged by Hurricane Maria. He was personally responsible for relocating Puerto Rican boxing legend Wilfred Benitez and Benitez’s sister, his caregiver, to Chicago where their lives wouldn’t be as hard.

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Bob Arum Hails Terence Crawford (not Lomachenko) as Boxing’s Next Superstar

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Arum says Terence

Top Rank’s Bob Arum says Terence Crawford will become this generation’s Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao–elite boxers who became worldwide celebrity sensations. Arum, who promoted both Mayweather and Pacquiao on the way to their historic crossover statuses expects big things from the undefeated Crawford over the next few years.

“He’s the best fighter in the United States, and he’s so charismatic,” said Arum. “He comes from middle America, and In the next year or so, he will be huge.”

Arum’s assertion is noteworthy for two reasons. First, Arum is also the promoter for Vasyl Lomachenko. Lomachenko is ranked No. 1 pound-for-pound by The Ring, the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. More importantly, Lomachenko seems to have a groundswell of support behind him both in the media and among fight fans.

Lomachenko has also been heavily featured through Top Rank’s television partnership with ESPN. While Crawford has achieved more in his career than Lomachenko (at least in my eyes) and, as noted by Arum, is a homegrown American talent, Lomachenko seems to be considered the more marketable commodity to that network judging by the amount of promotional materials ESPN has pumped out about the fighter over the last year.

The other reason Arum’s claim about Crawford is interesting is the performance of Canelo Alvarez over the weekend in his majority decision rematch win over Gennady Golovkin. Besides Mayweather and Pacquiao, Alvarez is the clear PPV leader among all of boxing’s current commodities, and his status as boxing’s new money fighter should only grow stronger after the best win of his career.

Still, Crawford is one of the few very elite fighters in all of boxing. He’s ranked No. 2 pound-for-pound by The Ring, the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.

While Lomachenko and Alvarez are also candidates to become boxing’s next big thing, there’s no doubt Crawford is also one of the few boxers in the sport right now with the right things in place to become the next Mayweather or Pacquiao.

Omaha’s Crawford is in the midst of an historic run. When he stopped Jeff Horn in round 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in June, Crawford captured a world title in his third different weight class, welterweight. This after Crawford had already captured two lineal boxing championships, as well as multiple alphabet titles, in both the lightweight and junior welterweight divisions.

By any measure, Crawford is truly one of the best boxers in the sport. Not only does he look the part in the ring on fight night (something more and more writers seem to value most when voting for pound-for-pound lists), but the fighter has already accomplished so much in his career that it seems Arum is doing more than the fiduciary duty of promoting his fighter when he ascribes to Crawford such lofty praise.

Crawford, still just 30 years old, is already halfway to matching Mayweather and Pacquiao’s shared record of most lineal championships. Over the course of his career, Mayweather captured lineal championships at junior lightweight, lightweight, welterweight, and junior middleweight. Pacquiao won his as a flyweight, featherweight, junior lightweight, and junior welterweight.

In order for Crawford to grab lineal championship No. 3, most believe he’ll have to go through welterweight phenom Errol Spence. While promotional entanglements might keep this superfight on the shelf for a while, Arum said he had no problem pitting Crawford against Spence in what would be one of the best matchups in recent memory.

“Absolutely,” said Arum when asked about working with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions, who represents Spence, to make the fight. Could any response from him be more exciting? Crawford vs. Spence might be the next superfight in boxing. Both fighters are among the very elite, and unlike what ultimately happened with Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, who fought each other well past their peak years, both would be in the prime of their careers.

Winning that fight would certainly go a long way to making Arum’s vision of Crawford’s future come true. And who knows? Maybe Crawford really is the next Mayweather or Pacquiao. Heck, for all we know, he could even be on his way to doing something more.

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A Kaleidoscope of Boxers Guaranteed to Provide Action: Past and Present

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Marvelous Marvin

To set the tone for this article, one needs only to watch the way in which Thomas Hearns came out in the first round against Marvelous Marvin Hagler. He was ready to rock and roll as was his fearsome looking opponent. The ensuing unmitigated savagery was the quintessential illustration of full-tilt boogie.

For most boxing fans, the anticipation of an all-out action bout gets the chills running down spines faster than anything else. But not all, as some prefer a tactical or clinical fight that someone like Mikey Garcia can orchestrate and others –but not many—enjoy a defensive gem via a Willie Pep, Nicolino Locche, or Pernell Whitaker. A few love a genuine blood fest that a Gabe Rosado-type can provide, and who doesn’t like seeing something special as in Sugar Ray Leonard, Kostya Tszyu, Terence Crawford or Vasiliy Lomachenko?

Chill-or-be-chilled types like Bob Satterfield and Tommy Morrison were super exciting. In this connection—a certain cadre of warriors, past and present, would come out charging and stalking as soon as the bell rang. Many demonstrated a marked disdain for defense and used a non-stop, no let-up pressure that discouraged their opponents, especially in the late rounds. The anticipation from the crowd was palpable because it sensed some form of destruction was on its way. The cheering would start during the instructions and sometimes did not let up until the concussive end.

This cadre included Rocky Marciano, Tony Ayala, Vicious Victor Galindez, Jeff Fenech, Roberto Duran, and Julio Cesar Chavez (who sapped the spirit of his opponents by ripping away at their mid-section). Also, Carl “The Cat”  Thompson , chill-or-be-chilled Ricardo “Pajarito” Moreno (60-12-1 with 59 KOs),  Ron Lyle, the ultra-violent Edwin Valero, the appropriately nicknamed JulianMr KO” Letterlough, James “The Outlaw” Hughes and his mindboggling ability to snatch victory from certain defeat, Thai stalking monster Khaosai Galaxy (47-1),  the first version of George Foreman (pictured with the aforementioned Lyle), Ji-Hoon “Volcano” Kim, Ruslan  Provodnikov, Orlando “Siri” Salido, Marcos Maidana, Lenny Z, Alfredo “Perro” Angulo, Mike Alvarado, Brandon Rios, and Mickey Roman (the later four are still fighting but past their primes).

Others who presently incite the anticipation of something special include (but are not limited to) Naoya “Monster” Inoue (16-0), Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr (24-0), Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (46-4-1), Alex Saucedo (27-0), and, of course, Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (38-1-1) who now has become slightly more tactical like his nemesis, Canelo Alvarez (50-1-1).

These stand out as representative.

Past

A prime Mike Tyson—and the emphasis is on prime– was the epitome of a boxer who guaranteed action. One simply would not leave his or her seat when “Iron Mike” was doing his highlight reel thing, and his blowout of Michael Spinks punctuated his standing at the top of all-action type fighters, even if the action was usually non-mutual.

Joe Frazier came out smokin’ and would not let up until either he or his opponent were done. For the most part, decisions were not in Joe’s DNA and his left hook was as malicious as a hook can be. With Joe, you just sat back and enjoyed the action. Frazier, wrote boxing historian Tracy Callis,  “was a strong, ‘swarmer’ style boxer who applied great pressure on his opponent and dealt out tremendous punishment with a relentless attack of lefts and rights; His left hook was especially stiff and quick when delivered during his bob-and-weave perpetual attack; he fought three minutes per round and never seemed to tire.”

Carlos “Escopeta” (Shotgun) Monzon (87-3-9) was a powerful and rangy Argentinean killing machine, built like an iron rod. Some said he pushed his punches. Well if he did, he pushed 87 opponents to defeat. He also became only the second man to stop former three-time world champion Emile Griffith, turning the trick in the 14th round. Blessed with great and deceptive stamina and a solid chin, he seemingly was an irresistible force. He was unbeaten over the last 81 bouts of his career, a span of 13 years, and defended his title 14 times. “One would need to write a book in order to do justice to comparing a fighter of Carlos Monzon’s calibre to his fellow all-time greats,” wrote Mike Casey.

Arturo Gatti and Irish Micky Ward were the quintessential action fighters. One is gone amidst controversy, and hopefully the other will not pay a price for his many ring wars. With these two, just count up the Fights-of-the-Year and the rest is history. Suffice it to say that Gatti and Ward will be forever linked in boxing lore.

Until his fateful fight with Nigel Benn (another all-action fighter), Gerald McClellan was absolutely, positively, a stalking monster with dynamite in his gloves. It was ferocity and fury at its highest level and it was something to behold. Sadly, his fight with Benn left him permanently disabled; his story remains a dark stain on boxing. As Ian McNeilly notes, “one man’s finest hour was the end of another man’s life as he knew it.”

Michael “The Great” Katsidis’s all-action style made thrilling fights a lock. The Kat” was willing to take three to deliver one. It was blood and guts to the last drop. Whether he too exacted a heavy price for this style remains to be seen.

Lucia Rijker, AKA “The Dutch Destroyer,” lived up to her moniker and destroyed everyone in her path. Again, it wasn’t “if,” it was “when.”

Christy Martin (49-7-3) put female boxing on the map in the ‘90s and she did it by going undefeated in 36 straight encounters, running roughshod over her opponents as evidenced by her 25 wins by stoppage during this run. She also managed to steal the show from a Mike Tyson main event in 1996 during her memorable and bloody battle with Deirdre Gogarty.

Present

Deontay Wilder, aka “The Bronze Bomber,” has a record of 40-0.  With 39 wins coming by KO—many in spectacular fashion, The “Bomber” brings with him that same sense of anticipation that Tyson did. It’s not if; it’s when and “when” can occur at any time. But unlike Tyson, there is a vulnerability that Luis Ortiz exposed that makes the excitement index go even higher.

Dillian Whyte (24-1) has seldom been in a dull affair. His vulnerability combined with his mode of attack ensures thrilling action and the possibility of a stoppage at any time. Unlike Dereck “Del-Boy” Chisora, Whyte is consistently aggressive and dangerous.

Manny Pacquiao (60-7-2) has slowed down considerably but his recent stoppage win over Lucas Matthysse offers hope that he can still conjure up his exciting whirlwind style of fast in-an-out movements that allowed him to win multiple titles over several future Hall of Fame opponents between 2005 and 2011. A rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr., if rumors are true, would allow Pac Man an opportunity to accomplish a number of extraordinary things including avenging a prior defeat and ruining Mayweather’s undefeated record. Time will tell.

Though he appears to have shot his wad, a prime Antonio Margarito was the classic stalk, stun, and kill fighter. Heck, he belonged on the Discovery Channel. His two blowouts of Kermit Cintron showed the “Tijuana Tornado” at his most brutal. His come-from-behind demolition of Miguel Cotto stands out for its drama and bloodletting—and subsequent speculative controversy.

David Lemieux (39-4) always brings the heat. His fights seldom end as scheduled. With KO power in both hands and a propensity to rehydrate by 20 pounds, he is the essence of danger and attendant excitement. “With the sheer power he carries, Lemieux will always have a shot at beating any middleweight, and he is almost always involved in good action fights,” says James Slater.

Amanda Serrano (35-1-1) is the only women’s boxer to win world titles in six divisions. The “Real Deal” is unique in that she has a high KO percentage (74 percent) which is rare for female boxers. Amanda is 120 seconds of guaranteed action for each round.

                                                         **********

While Iron Mike Tyson is THE MAN, Matthew Saad Muhammad also warrants special billing as he embodied what this article is all about. Steve Farhood summed up the essence of Saad Muhammad with an observation that would be appropriate for his tombstone: “Eddie Gregory (Mustafa Muhammad) has a better jab, Marvin Johnson wields more power, James Scott does more sit ups. But, Muhammad’s heart is the size of a turnbuckle, and it anchors his title reign.”

Who did I leave out? Whose name or names would you add to this list?

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