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Avila’s Las Vegas Journey: Marquez-Pacquiao

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An historic prizefight weekend began on a Thursday afternoon as we roared through the high deserts of Victorville-Barstow, then the low desert that passes through Baker at an estimated speed that could be a smidge faster than a thrown ball. Temperatures ranged from 70 to 75.

Three days of boxing cards were being staged in various parts of Las Vegas beginning with the Mirage Casino Resort on the Las Vegas Strip. We had just enough time to make the opening of the arena doors around 4 p.m.

Whenever there’s a big fight weekend you can bet that the boxing journalists are going to descend on the glitzy strip from all over the world. Even on Thursday evening several dozen reporters from Asia, South America and Europe were already checked into their hotels. Sitting in the arena were the Las Vegas regulars and a number of celebrities.

Over the years I’ve made a number of friends in Las Vegas such as journalist Chuck Giampa and his wife Lisa who is currently a boxing judge in Nevada. Other recognizable faces are Richie Sandoval the former bantamweight world champion who now works for Top Rank. And, also Bob Arum, the head man at Top Rank. And then there are the numerous match makers such as Brad Goodman, Bruce Trampler and Sean Gibbons who were waiting to observe the various boxing matches. Those are just a few of those in attendance. Matchmakers catch as many fights as possible. Their job depends on it.

A crowd began to form midway through the second fight as both Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns walked into the arena. After all these years they still carry an air of royalty from the boxing crowd that saw them fight in person or on television. Even those born after their last mega fight know that they’re the elite of the elite. People can thank ESPN, HBO and Fox for airing many of their old fights.

Also in the second row was Oxnard’s Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios who has suddenly streaked like a meteor especially after his big knockout win over Colorado’s Mike Alvarado a few months back in California. The hard-hitting Rios is scouting possible opponents. One is Manny Pacquiao. In two nights that dream fight will burst like a water bubble.

It’s a very long night as several of the match ups go the entire route. One of the most exciting is the lightweight clash pitting Raymundo Beltran against Ji-Hoon Kim of South Korea. In the first round they blast each other down via the left hook. But the two warriors fought the entire 12 rounds with Beltran, who is trained by Freddie Roach, going the distance and winning the unanimous decision. Both fighters belted each other.

The other interesting fight was Las Vegas boxer Jessie Magdaleno fighting Ontario’s Jonathan Arellano in a junior lightweight bout. Magdaleno erupted looking for the early knockout but Arellano’s speed and defense allowed him to escape the big blows. He would get knocked down a few times but finished the fight on his feet. Magdaleno is looking tougher and tougher.

After the final match my photographer Al Applerose and I headed toward the casino area to look for a place to eat. The National Rodeo tournament is being held at the Thomas & Mack Center and cowboys from all over the country are roaming inside the Mirage and every spot on the Strip. It reminds me of the late 60s and early 70s when cowboys were a common sight in Las Vegas. Now it’s merely nostalgia. I remember when anything west of the Strip was vast desert sands. No buildings and no homes. Only sand.

Where the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino currently is perched used to be the old Hacienda Hotel and Casino. They had sawdust on their floors among the slot machines. Visitors used to come in trucks, campers and trailers and all wore cowboy hats. A few blocks north were the Aladdin Hotel where guys with New York and Chicago accents were plentiful. In those days there we no sports books inside the casinos. One of the few sports books was next door to the Aladdin and Tropicana Hotel. Inside the room was filled thick with cigar smoke and deli sandwiches were the meal of choice. Chalk boards had numbers written on them representing racetracks and sporting events throughout the country. It was loud and crazy with mostly men inside hooting and hollering. Boxing was also a favorite pastime to put a wager on. I remember wanting to put a bet on the Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman fight. But I had already bet at my work with a dozen people. Everyone at my plant wanted to take Foreman who they felt surely would massacre Ali. They all were certain I was a fool for taking Ali. I didn’t have any more money to bet in Las Vegas in 1974. But later I’d clean up and return to Las Vegas with my Ali winnings. It was a good year.

After munching on some $12 hamburgers in the Mirage we headed back to the hotel. I was groggy from the long fight card and wanted to get an early start on Friday.

Friday

I have this habit of getting up at 7 a.m. no matter what time I go to sleep at night. Downstairs I grab a coffee and open up my laptop to see if I missed any important messages. Nothing going on. The coffee at the Orleans is not very good. Plus, I won’t drink that toilet coffee they leave in the rooms. Who knows what they do to those coffee makers.

Applerose meets me downstairs and we grab something to eat for breakfast. While eating an omelet we plan out the day. After a few hours we head to the MGM Grand to the press room set up next to the MGM Garden Arena. It’s already crowded with journalists, fighters and promoters.

I found an open spot to plug in the computer and while doing it someone tells me that there is no food. Journalists love free food, especially photographers. If you ever look at a boxing photographer notice that they’re mostly all beefy guys. They all know each other and if you ever want to know when the food is going to arrive, just ask a photographer.

A commotion stirs toward the back with dozens of people following a bald guy who I can’t distinguish at first. So I walked toward the back of the large convention room and see that it’s Iron Mike Tyson about to give a radio interview. Nobody is more popular than Tyson, well, perhaps Muhammad Ali, but that’s it. Whenever Tyson appears at an event of any kind the focus goes to him. Recently he has agreed to do a nationwide tour of a one-man show where he talks to the audience and answers any questions. He seems very happy about the tour and patiently answers the questions of the radio jock. When he leaves an entourage of 30 people leave with him. Suddenly it’s quiet again.

As Tyson leaves another boxer enters the press room: middleweight world champion Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez. He’s wearing a t-shirt and looks fit and ready to go. He had just endured a knee surgery but says everything is ok. One journalist after another questions the Argentine who is extremely honest.

Finally the weigh-in begins and crowds can be heard shuffling toward the arena. I stay in the press room and watch the proceedings on a large television screen. I’m surprised that Manny Pacquiao weighs 147 and Juan Manuel Marquez only 143. Usually Pacquiao comes in much lighter. The crowd is mostly pro-Marquez which is another surprise. Pacman’s fans are usually rabid and come in droves. I guess they’re expecting another ho-hum victory. After all, it is the fourth fight. Not many people want to see the fourth encounter.

A friend based in Las Vegas, who is quite a boxing historian, says that any fight between Marquez and Pacquiao is worth seeing. “These are two of the elite fighting each other,” he says. “They’re possibly the greatest fighters of their generation. Who would not want to see them fight each other?”

It’s a very good point.

After the weigh-ins we head through the crazy Vegas after work traffic. I zigzag through various streets to get to the Texas Station Casino north of downtown Las Vegas. We make it but the fights have already started. Luckily, the fight I want to see is up next. It’s the heavyweights.

Usually I don’t like heavyweight fights. They’re too ponderous and don’t throw as many punches as the smaller guys. But on this night undefeated Andy Ruiz, a Mexican heavyweight, is going to face Elijah McCall, the son of former heavyweight champion Oliver McCall.

Ruiz does what I expected especially with those fast hands and surprising footwork for a heavy guy. He opens up with some strong counters that force McCall to unload with bigger bombs. It only leaves him open for Ruiz’s fast counters. The Mexican heavyweight plows through McCall with some big shots and knocks down the other prospect. Eventually, the referee stops the fight when it gets too one-sided. Ruiz is a heavyweight to keep an eye on. I saw his first two fights in Mexico and also saw him spar Riverside’s Chris Arreola and Lateef Kayode. Ruiz can fight.

I receive a telephone call and have to leave the arena. I head toward one of the ritzy hotels where I meet a few business partners to discuss some issues. Later, I head back to the MGM where we run into a few boxing trainers, cut men and journalists near the hotel reservation area. We spend two hours talking about the big fight and one of the trainers asks who we’re all picking. I tell him for the first time I’m picking Marquez. I tell him that Pacman didn’t look good against Timothy Bradley and could not fight the entire three minutes of a round. He opted to fight in the last 30 seconds and do what is called “stealing a round.” Against Marquez, that’s a bad idea.

As we’re talking, Marquez’s conditioning coach stops by and shares some insight on the recent debates. One of the other journalists, Lem Satterfield, recently interviewed him and he just wants to thank him for the fair journalism. While we talk about boxing several cowboys see the Marquez coach and ask to take a photo with him. He obliges and spends the next hour doing it. Poor guy.

Me and Applerose break off and I hear someone calling my name. It’s Tony Rivera, one of the great cut men in boxing and a veritable historian as well. In his career he worked the corner of Alexis Arguello, Roberto Duran and Marco Antonio Barrera. As we talk a bit another guy comes up to shake my hand and say hello. It’s 50 Cent, but I didn’t recognize him without his hat and gear at first. I wish him luck. His fighter is Cuba’s Yuri Gamboa who fights Filipino southpaw Michael Farenas.

We spend another three hours in the bar where we sit and talk with ace flack Mario Serrano who handles the “Ghost” Robert Guerrero among many others. But Guerrero is his main guy. They came up together in the boxing world. A few other journalists stop by and before you know it, its 4 a.m.

Saturday

I get three hours of sleep and get up at 7 a.m. I can’t seem to fool my internal alarm clock. I head to Starbucks and make some calls to start the busy day. It’s a big fight and we have to pick up credentials, find parking and get something to eat.

After setting up my computer in the press room, I look for a place to eat inside the MGM. We were supposed to meet a boxer but she can’t make it. So we decide to get something to eat at a pizza place. While we’re eating I spot IBF lightweight titlist Miguel Vazquez waiting in line to grab a Nathan’s hot dog. He downs the hot dog then later I see him with an ice cream cone munching like a contented kid. I ask Applerose if that’s a good thing to do? We’ll find out later that night.

Inside the press room reporters are scurrying around the tables and preparing for the fight card to begin. It’s around 4 p.m. and I head toward the arena. Top Rank’s Lee Samuels is walking toward the arena at the same time. We walk in as one fight has already commenced.

Unlike mixed martial arts, boxing fans do not begin arriving until 6 p.m. or later. Most only want to see the main event. They’re nuts, especially those who spend $500 and up.

A few fights have passed when Bob Arum shouts to Satterfield and I that Republican governor Mitt Romney will be in the audience today. Some mutter a few things upon hearing the news. I begin thinking Romney is going to be smack in the middle of a boiling ethnic melting pot filled with mostly Mexicans and Filipinos. It makes me chuckle. It would have been better served if he had experienced it before the election. Romney attends with his wife.

Several fights pit Mexicans or Latinos versus Filipinos. On this night, only one Filipino Dodie Boy Penalosa emerges victorious. All three of the other Filipinos including Pacquiao will go down in defeat.

When the Marquez-Pacquiao fight begins I look at their stares. Both have done this three times before so there should be no changes or surprises technically. At this stage of their career they are what they are. The big surprise however, is when Marquez decks Pacman with a long overhand right from seemingly across the ring. Pacquiao hits the deck hard with his black hair flopping wildly. The fight resumes but the Filipino southpaw doesn’t seem hurt, just upset.

Marquez looks confident until Pacquiao catches him walking into a short left cross. Down goes the Mexican boxer extraordinaire. When he gets up Pacman attacks as if his life depends on it. In some ways it does.

In the sixth round Pacquiao tries to knock Marquez out but the Mexican knows all of the tricks. After about one minute I noticed that Pacquiao’s legs are quivering as if he’s tiring rapidly. He shakily begins to move toward Marquez who stands in front and receives a volley of punches. Marquez suddenly moves backwards, but almost as if he’s setting a trap. Pacquiao moves in and feints once and Marquez reads the feint and holds back his counter, then Pacman attempts to fire the left and is met with a short right cross to the chin that catches Pacman walking into the punch. Boom. Down he goes. An entire arena jumps in surprise, including Jim Lampley who is sitting in front of me. Fans along ringside can be seen with their mouths opened wide and some with hands to their face. Even Romney has a look of shock. Pacquiao is down for the count.

But after that savage knockout, many of the fans are somewhat quiet. Pacquiao is still on the floor, not moving. Minutes pass and still no movement. Then, he slowly is raised to his feet and the pro-Marquez fans can finally cheer in earnest.

I’ve been following Pacquiao since the Lehlo Ledwaba fight and Marquez since his days at the Inglewood Forum. Now here they are at the top of the pyramid. Temporarily, Pacquiao has been toppled like all other kings have been toppled in the past. It’s another era gone. Not just for the Filipino slugger but for Marquez too. Both should end their careers on this note.

After the fights, its pandemonium in the MGM Grand. We leave the arena and meet friends including Melinda Cooper, the beautiful and talented boxer from Las Vegas. About 10 of us spend four hours at a sushi bar until 3:30 a.m. I head to the hotel and sleep at 4 a.m. and get up at 7 a.m. Then I head back to California all the while talking to Applerose about the tiring but exciting journey.

Oh yeah. And about the lightweight champ Vazquez who we saw eating hot dogs and ice cream. He won by unanimous decision. I guess that stuff is good for you.

Next stop is California.

 

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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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