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BOOK EXCERPT–AL BERNSTEIN: 30 Years, 30 Undeniable Truths

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UNDENIABLE TRUTH #3: UNLIKE REALITY TV, LIVE SPORTS TELEVISION IS ACTUALLY REAL

In the wonderful movieMy Favorite Year, set in the 1950s, aging movie star Alan Swann (played expertly by Peter O’Toole) is just about ready for his guest appearance on The King KaiserShow, and he says, “I feel so good I think I’ll get it in one take.” A young producer responds with a chuckle, “Here we always get it in one take—it’s live.” A horrified Swann asks, “Live, what do you mean live? You mean everything we say just spills out there for people to hear?”. The producer says, “Well…yes.” Alan replies, “I can’t do that. I’m not an actor. I’m a movie star.”

In live sports television it all just “spills out” to everyone as it happens. And so it is exhilarating to do live sports television—but there is no delete button. In thirty years of doing this I have seen, and been responsible for, some noteworthy gaffes. Except for the only perfect sportscaster, Bob Costas, we have all had our moments. Well, come to think of it, even Bob may have made a mistake once in the 1990s…or was it the 80s?

If sportscasters have had their share of imprudent or mistaken comments, active participants in sporting events have had even more. These things happen either because someone is nervous about being on television or they are so relaxed they forget they are on television. Except for comedians on cable networks who do it on purpose, most people curse on TV because it is part of their DNA and they forget they are live to the world.

One such person was a lightweight boxer named Kenny “Bang Bang” Bogner, who was a frequent combatant on theESPN Top Rank Boxingseries in the early 1980s. He was always in exciting fights—his 1982 win over Kato Wilson was judged the best ESPN fight of that year. He had a large and vocal fan base in the Atlantic City, New Jersey, area, and they were there in force for his fight with Wilson. I was trying to interview him in the ring after the win, and his adoring fans were still cheering wildly. I asked him a question about how he achieved his victory and he squinted at me as though he could not hear, so I repeated the question. He responded, “Al, I didn’t hear a f$@#ing word you said.” So, I leaned in closer and asked the question as loud as I could. He responded, “Oh! Now I hear you. I didn’t hear a f$@#ing word you said before.” After that, his answer to the question was a bit anticlimactic.

As a side note to this, a year later Kenny was scheduled to fight Ray Mancini for the world lightweight title, but a Mancini shoulder injury derailed the match. For that fight Frank Sinatra was actually scheduled to be a commentator at ringside and do interviews on the telecast. I’ve always wondered—if Old Blue Eyes would have been faced with a similar situation with Bogner inside the ring—I’m sure Frank would have been deeply offended, having never heard that kind of language before.

Ever since microphones found their way into boxing corners in the 1980s, we have been treated to some colorful and entertaining monologues from trainers. I remember one who spent about fifty seconds of the one-minute break berating his fighter with a profanity-laced diatribe that would make Sarah Silverman blush. Then he looked at the cameraman, got a horrified look on his face and shouted “Oh f$@#, I’m on TV.”

Many have been mistaken about the round number as they dispensed advice to a fighter. On an ESPN show in the early 1990s, a trainer told his fighter that it was the last round coming up. The boxer looked at him and said, “No it’s not.” Trying to save face, the trainer said, “Oh, right, I was testing you.” Gee, the previous thirty minutes of him getting punched wasn’t the real test?

Another time a trainer got into the ring and started his instructions when a particularly exquisite ring-card girl went by their corner. As if it were choreographed, both the trainer and fighter swiveled their heads to follow her progress. The trainer interrupted his instructions with one word, “Jeez.” Then he went back to talking boxing. When the scene ended, my witty broadcast partner Barry Tompkins wryly commented, “See, it takes concentration to be a great athlete.” So, there was an example of perfectly chosen words delivered well by a sportscaster. Oh, if it were only always so.

After Sal Marchiano left ESPN in 1982, there was a six-year period before Barry Tompkins arrived for his almost eight-year stint as my partner. During that six-year interim period just about everyone who ever passed through ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut, appeared at least once as my broadcast partner. During one stretch of our weekly boxing series I worked with eight different partners in eight weeks. One fellow, whose name mercifully I really can’t remember so he can be anonymous, was as nervous as anyone I have ever worked with. He had a deer-in-the-headlights look on his face for two-and-a-half hours and hung on by his fingernails until the final moments of the telecast, and then he lost his grip. He closed the show by saying, “So I’m Al Bernstein for my partner [his name], saying goodnight.” Ouch.

Wit was not restricted to Barry on theESPN Top Rank Boxingseries. Sal demonstrated it while covering up for a rookie mistake I made in 1981. We were in an empty arena in Worcester, Massachusetts, doing the close of a show. Normally, when we went to video highlights of the show on screen, we were never put back on camera again. So, while Sal was wrapping things up with the highlights showing, I took off my microphone, got up, and started to leave. At that precise moment they came back to us on camera, just in time to see me exiting the shot. Sal said, “We will see you next week in Atlantic City, and that’s Al getting a head start.” I never did that again, but I have done other things.

As of the writing of this book I am still gainfully employed as the boxing analyst onShowtime Championship Boxing—by far the best job I have ever had on television. The fact that I still have that job is an indication that the folks who run Showtime have a sense of humor. I’ll explain. We were doing a match in 2009 from the Home Depot Center, just outside of Los Angeles. I was on camera with Steve Albert, and I was supposed to make a comment about the fans who had braved rain showers to come out to the event. When it was my turn to talk I said, “And these great fans have braved the elements to see boxing tonight at the Home Box Office Center.” Home Box Office, of course, stands for HBO, Showtime’s competitor. At that moment the sound I imagined hearing was the gnashing of teeth by Showtime executives across the country in New York. Steve rescued the moment by saying, “Well, Al, I guess you just had your YouTube moment.” Indeed I had.

Some sixteen years earlier I barely escaped what surely could have been an embarrassing episode. I was assigned to do a pay-per-view fight and arrived in Phoenix two days before the card. Then I contracted perhaps the worst stomach flu I have ever had. For about forty-eight hours I stayed in my hotel room and threw up. It was beyond horrible. On the day of the fight I was barely able to get dressed and go to the arena. My broadcast partner for the evening was the very gifted Sam Rosen. He took one look at me and said, “You need help.” That was an understatement. Someone found the ring doctor and brought him over. I explained what was going on and he said, “No problem, I’ll fix you up.” He gave me a shot for the nausea and I was feeling better in a remarkably short period of time.

What that doctor forgot to mention is that those shots can also make you very drowsy. About thirty minutes into the telecast my eyelids were drooping. Every time my head slumped forward a bit, Sam elbowed me in the side to wake me up. I contributed precious little of note to that telecast—Sam carried me through the whole thing, and I know there were a few rounds where I nodded off to sleep briefly. The intriguing part of all of this is that no one commented on my lack of contributions, which either spoke to Sam’s excellence or the low expectations people had of me. I’m rooting for the former, not the latter. We can all name television personalities who have put viewers to sleep with their commentary—but I may be the only one who ever succeeded in puttinghimselfto sleep during a broadcast. That takes true talent.

I admire and respect Marvin Hagler as much as any athlete in history. He’s a great boxer and a stand-up guy. He and I have always had an excellent relationship. So, it is ironic that my two worst on-the-air mistakes were saved for Marvin’s fights. Both mistakes slightly tarnished important moments in his career.

The first came in 1985 after his win over Tommy Hearns. I announced the fight with Al Michaels on pay-per-view, and after Hagler’s stirring KO win in round 3, I said the following: “This amazing victory more than compensates for his loss to Roberto Duran.” Well, as any casual boxing fan knows, Marvin didnotlose to Duran, something I certainly knew, since I also announced that fight on pay-per-view.

Hagler won a close decision over Duran in which many felt he was too passive against the smaller Hands of Stone. He won nonetheless, and probably by a wider margin than the judges’ scorecards indicated. I wanted to say in my comment after the Hearns win that Hagler had surely put to rest any criticism he may have gotten for not stopping Duran. What came out of my mouth was unfortunatelynotthat thought.

We now flash forward to 1986 and the fight between Hagler and John Mugabi. Hagler had scored an exciting TKO win in the 11th round, and I was up in the ring interviewing him about the win. We were nearing the end of the interview and the producer said something in my ear that went a little longer than it should have, and I did not hear all of one of Marvin’s statements. The part I heard was: “Would you all mind if I left?” I thought he meant he wanted to end the interview, so I said, “No problem Marvin, you worked hard enough tonight, congratulations.” Then I turned back to the camera to do a final analysis of the evening, as planned, leaving a slightly befuddled Marvin Hagler in my wake. As the great Paul Harvey used to say, here is the rest of the story.

The full comment that Marvin had made in the interview was, “Since this is my 12th title defense, maybe it’s time to retire, would you all mind if I left?” Well, by missing the first part of that statement, and dismissing Marvin, I was ignoring a potential retirement announcement on the air from boxing’s biggest name. So…that went well. Only later did I find out about my blunder—I did not sleep very much that night.

These two incidents make it look like I was dedicated to trying to ruin Marvin Hagler’s legacy. However, in between these two incidents I gave him hundreds of richly deserved compliments on the air. So, apparently I was actually more intent on ruiningmycareer. Somehow I survived those two mistakes made on boxing’s center stage.

Sometimes on live television, craziness is thrust upon you through no fault of your own. We often did our ESPNTop Rank Boxingshows from various spots in Massachusetts. A good number of the fans there were, well, let’s say enthusiastic. Ok, maybe I can go so far as to say they were a little out of control. Wait, what’s the word I’m searching for…oh, yes…NUTS! Alcohol was usually involved in their erratic behavior. Some of it was a bit hostile, like the time in Brockton when Sal Marchiano and I were doing our on-camera open to the show, and for reasons known only to them, the fans right in front of us started to chant, “You guys suck.” I was only about one-and-a-half years into my sportscasting career, and I don’t mind telling you I was a bit rattled. I fought my way through the comments I was supposed to make, looking at these angry and raucous souls out of the corner of my eye—to make sure they weren’t rushing us. Sal, on the other hand, was chuckling and said on the air, “I guess you can hear how much they love us here in Brockton, we’ll be back with our first bout right away, so stay with us.” As we sat down at ringside during the commercial I said to Sal, “Wow, this is crazy.” He said, “Hey, it could be worse, at least nobody’s throwing anything. Wait until that happens.”

Well, I knew that from time to time fans at a boxing match would get a bit disturbed at a decision or a fight stoppage and toss a few items toward the ring— you know, coins, bottles, spouses…whatever they could lay their hands on. But, what I did not realize, and most people don’t think about, is that a television commentator is the most vulnerable person in that arena under those circumstances. Why?Because we can’t move.We are tied to our spot by the cords of the headsets and the fact that we are on live television, so we can’t leave.

Over these thirty some years I have been ringside when crowds have been a bit distressed and chose to vent their anger by throwing things at the ring. Amazingly, for almost twenty-nine of those years, I avoided any genuine direct hits—oh, once or twice something grazed off my back, but nothing worrisome. Then came San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 2011. Hometown hero Juan Manuel Lopez was defending his featherweight title against Mexico’s Orlando Salido. Lopez was undefeated and the favorite in the fight. But, apparently no one told Salido this, and he spent the first seven rounds blasting Lopez around the ring—even putting him down once. In the 8th round Salido landed a couple of good punches and stunned Lopez, but Lopez had actually been hurt worse earlier in the fight, and he is famous for his resiliency. And, the referee was from Puerto Rico. So, you wouldn’t expect a quick stoppage there. You wouldn’t expect it, but that’s exactly what happened.

Even though Lopez may well have been stopped in the next minute or next round or later, this was odd timing for the stoppage. The fans were somewhat justifiably upset. So naturally, they started pelting the ring with objects. I was a bit oblivious to the items raining down at first, because I was concentrating on doing the replays. Ironically I was in midsentence suggesting that the booing fans may have a point about the stoppage being a bit too soon, when a full water bottle hit me about a quarter-inch from my right eye. It hit so hard the thud could be clearly heard on the air through my microphone. I gave an audible groan from shock and pain. Gus Johnson, my broadcast partner for the evening, announced, “My partner has been hit.”

One of Gus’ charms as a sportscaster is his ability to capture the drama of the moment, and perhaps enhance it a bit—well, one might surmise from his call that a sniper had shot me. But, however heated, his description was accurate—and I had a cut and a bruise under my right eye to prove it. I took my headset off to get myself together—I was dazed to be sure. A minute later I was talking on the broadcast again, but with an aching face and a headache to beat the band. It dawned on me later that I could have said something really loopy on the air—I was still a bit groggy. But, then, given some of the on-air gaffes I have admitted to in this chapter, how much worse could I have done, and in this case I would have had a built-in excuse.

It’s actually a miracle that it took twenty-nine years of broadcasting fights to get hit on the head with something. It’s as if all the people throwing things all those years had the kind of aim it takes to be a Chicago Cubs pitcher. I received e-mails, tweets, and letters from many Puerto Rican fans who apologized for their countrymen—which was very nice but completely unnecessary. The Puerto Rican boxing fans are among the nicest and most knowledgeable in the world. Besides, I’m sure that bottle wasn’t meant for me…unless of course, Marvin Hagler was there that night and he was just getting even.

AL BERNSTEIN: 30 Years, 30 Undeniable Truths is now available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Kobo.

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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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