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We Should Have PROOF Before We Label Marquez A Cheater…Shouldn’t We?

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People smelled smoke, and assume that there is fire, and it was lit by Heredia, at Marquez’ behest. But…don’t we need more than circumstantial evidence to decide this is so? (Chris Farina-Top Rank)

Americans are big fans of conspiracy theories these days. Not a tremendous surprise; during tough times, some cling to religion, some to guns, and some to whacky, unproven narratives which help to tame the insecurities rife in their heads.

The other day, I was in my favorite coffee shop, talking with a young lady working behind the counter. The topic of guns, and the culture of violence, the casual acceptance of regular shootings, was being discussed.

The young lady dropped her voice and made an admission to me. “I think that shooting at that theater in Colorado, I think that guy was set up.”

“Wait…the killing of 12 innocents who went to see the new Batman movie in Aurora, Colorado in July by a nut named James Holmes…you think he didn’t do it, and was set up?”

Holmes was apprehended at the theater, in his warrior gear, and told cops, it was reported, that he’d booby trapped his apartment so they’d get blown up after he got locked up. He has not denied that he went on this murderous rampage.

Now, I wasn’t able to decipher why my barista friend is ignoring what looks like overwhelming evidence that Holmes was the lone gunman who committed this atrocious act. But this situation came to mind the day after Saturday’s KO shocker, win which 39 year-old Juan Manuel Marquez dropped and stopped Manny Pacquiao as if he tazed him at the MGM in Las Vegas.

Whispers turned to screams that this thing wasn’t on the up and up, that Marquez surely was juicing, that the result was tainted because…why, again? I waited for some evidence. I searched for a concrete, or even a semi concrete explanation why so many folks were fixated on PEDS in the aftermath of the fight of the year.

Instead of “concrete” I found and heard circumstantial chatter. Mostly, the “Marquez cheated” crew seems to focus on the presence of his strength and conditioning coach, Angel Heredia. The fighter hired Heredia before his third fight with Pacquiao, and has now used his services for three fights. The stern eyed crew points out that Heredia has a dirty–filthy, actually–past, as a peddler of steroids and other chemicals taken to improve performance during athletic events. When pinched for being a pusher to world class athletes, Heredia rolled over, received immunity from the Feds, and helped put away Trevor Graham, coach to elite sprinters Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery. Back then, Heredia was described as a Texas resident, and shot-putter who got roids in Mexico, and then doled them out to other athletes. Graham was described when that scandal blew up, in 2006,  by his defenders as a whistleblower who sent a syringe of a designer PED dispensed by the notorious Victor Conte out of his BALCO shop in San Francisco to the US Anti-Doping Agency. That alert some said caused the investigation which snagged Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and other MLB long-ball artists in a snare to snag cheaters.

Now, as far as circumstantial evidence goes, Heredia admittedly is a sweet target for smack talk. The guy is a rat, who gave up friends and associates, so he’d get off easier in the eyes of the law. When he re-appeared on radar screens as Marquez’ coach, he was using a different name, for cripes sake; he was calling himself “Angel Hernandez.” Memories were refreshed, and Conte spread the word that Heredia got off scot free, and did no time, while he was sent to jail for four months for his involvement in illegal chemical performance enhancers. MaxBoxing’s dogged anti-doping crusaders Gabriel Montoya before the fourth Pacquiao-Marquez fight alerted people to a German documentary which features Heredia injecting a PED into his own belly, on camera, and then going into a pharmacy in Mexico and buying PEDs over the counter and then concocting a syrup which will aid performance and then not get flagged by drug testers. (It is not clear what Heredia had to gain by pointing out how simple it is to score PEDs and administer them. Was he compensated to appear in the doc? Was he simply bragging, portraying himself as a mover and shaker in sports, someone who is tacitly responsible for the superior performances offered by our heroes? Was he trying to wake us all up to the overwhelming prevalence of PEDs in basically all big-time sports?)

Further circumstantial evidence offered by those who feel there is a humongous black cloud over the Marquez win? They point to the weak performance by Marquez in his loss to Floyd Mayweather in 2009, and the bulbous shoulder muscles and over-all sterling physique he now boasts. And as of Sunday morning, they point to a newfound level of power possessed by Marquez that wasn’t, they say, present before. That single shot, that right counter which felled Pacquiao, was just too good to be true, they are saying. Oh, and what about that acne on Marquez, they say, isn’t that damning?

How in God’s name could a 39-year-old man, 12 or so year’s after the average male’s physical gifts begin to deteriorate, improve so dramatically at such a late stage.

These are all good questions, great questions…but we need answers, in the form of proof, smoking gun level, irrefutable proof, before we smear Marquez, or Heredia.

Is it fishy that Marquez showed a heretofore unseen brand of power against Pacquiao? The true believer in me, the part of me who wants to believe in the goodness that is there, even if buried, in most souls, doesn’t want to leap to conclusions. I prefer to believe that Marquez doesn’t cheat, that hard work and overwhelming desire and clean methods in training him brought him to victory Sunday. Maybe I am naive; I admit that possibility must be explored. Maybe, after all the dirt that has been laid out, all the positives, all the seemingly ludicrous explanations offered by the boxers who were busted, maybe I need to wake up, smell the stink in the air, and assume that the majority of the top tier performers are using illegal performance enhancers to get ahead.

But I’d rather all of us stopped trafficking in theories, and instead focused on reality. Until PROVEN otherwise, I think we should assume that Marquez didn’t cheat. I think we should embrace the reaction of Team Pacquiao and Manny, who congratulated Marquez for a job well done. (Will some of you assume that Pacquiao is able to clap Marquez on the back because you think he too uses chemicals to aid his strength and stamina, and thus, he feels the two were on an even playing field at the MGM in their fourth fight? Yes. Can part of me understand that urge? Again, yes.)

I am not condemning anyone for yelling fire, really, because smoke has been wafting. But our society has become all too willing to substitute facts and theory and gut instincts for proof, and dispense those theories all over the world in 140 characters or less.

Happily, there are bulldogs like Montoya who have the time, energy, effort and principles to pursue this most pressing issue in our game. I do hope that the continuing investigations into the usage of PEDs in the sport yield facts that cannot be explained away, or dismissed with doctors’ “the dog ate my homework” type notes. Because this sort of black cloud that is dumping a toxic rain of doubt and cynicism on this Fight of the Year diminishes the impact and intensity of the drama. I can only urge the power brokers in the game, the HBOs, Showtimes, Arums, Schaefers, et al, to solve this issue, and embrace random testing for the biggest of the big bouts, so we can cease the whispering and dispel that cloud of suspicion which now helps erode the enjoyment we derive from watching the best athletes in the greatest sport known to man do their thing.

Readers, weigh in with your suggestions on how to solve the PED problem. Hey, maybe you think that PEDs should be allowed and regulated, assuming that the cheaters will always be ahead of the good guys and the testers, so we should capitulate to sad reality and proceed accordingly. Go to our Forum, and add your three cents.

Follow me on Twitter here https://twitter.com/#!/Woodsy1069.

 

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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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