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The Old Master: Analyzing The Subtle Sophistication Of Joe Gans

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Old Master

Old Master – Just as it behooves politicians to go back and revisit the actions of marvels like Abraham Lincoln, fighters of today would be well served to study the old masters like “The Old Master,” Joe Gans. Some of his tricks of the trade could be made use of in the rings of today.

Known as the first black American prizefighter to ever capture a world championship, Joe Gans would soon become better known for his exquisite boxing skill. A pioneer in the art of scientific boxing -hitting without being hit in return- Gans could make an opponent fall just short with a subtle turn of the head, before countering with ultra-precision. While facing formidable opposition like Sam Langford, Battling Nelson, Jack Blackburn, Young Griffo, Dave Holly, “Barbados” Joe Walcott, Frank Erne and Terry McGovern, Gans became distinguished for his ability to determine his opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, and then play out the fight to his own strengths and his opponent’s weaknesses. Gans was the ultimate student of the game. Borrowing from the likes of James J. Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons, Gans would absorb what was useful and integrate his findings into his own style. He even devised some new techniques and strategies of his own. Gans may or may not have invented the jab, but the way Gans used it, employing it both as a defensive weapon to intercept the attack of his opponents and as an offensive weapon to create openings and set up his right hand and his uppercut –another punch Gans has been credited with inventing–was considered revolutionary at the time.

A thinking fighter if ever there was one, Gans, alongside the likes of Bob Fitzsimmons, Benny Leonard and Archie Moore, is one of the smartest fighters to have ever lived. One example of his vast ring IQ came in 1902, during the rematch with Frank Erne. Having previously lost to Erne, Gans trained for the rematch with the intention of implementing something he had noted in their first fight –just as Erne would initiate his left, he would check his opponent’s reaction. If his opponent brought their rear hand down to parry the left jab, he’d turn it over into a left hook. On the other hand, if the opponent would cover the right side of their head in anticipation of a left hook, he’d shoot a jab straight up the middle. Fueled with this knowledge, Gans waited for Erne to telegraph his left hand. Instead of trying to block the attack, Gans came inside it with a right hand and ended matters with a little over one minute remaining in the very first round.

Although there isn’t a great deal of film available on him, the footage we do have of Gans is extensive enough to a garner a real appreciation of the man’s craft and acumen. Here, using the Joe Gans-Kid Herman fight from 1907, I’d like to highlight some of the time tested techniques that Gans used. Although the footage is lacking in quality and is a little grainy at times, I consider it a real treasure chest of technical gems!

Here’s a little reminder before viewing.

While watching the fight, it’s important to realize that boxing has changed an awful lot between then and now. For instance, fights went on a lot longer and the gloves were a lot smaller. As a result, different circumstances called for different styles and strategies and there was more emphasis placed on in-fighting which included extensive holding and wrestling for position. Also, because those gloves were a lot smaller, it was far more difficult for a fighter to simply apply the ear muffs and shell up when defending. Far more thought had to be placed on hand evasions such as glove blocking, hence, boxing had a different look and feel to it back then.

The Fight

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As the footage starts at the beginning of the round two, notice the stance and posture of Joe Gans. Although many have claimed that the famous Jack Blackburn/Joe Louis’ stance was based around Gans’, there are some notable differences which I’ve highlighted below.

Joe Gans

Here, Louis’ weight is slightly over on his front leg. With his body turned to the side, his knees are bent and his head is slightly off center and tilted to his right. Louis’ lead hand is carried quite low, but his rear hand is a little higher and in a position to parry. Overall, Louis’ stance was really more of a crouch. This stance allowed Joe to shuffle forward behind his jab where he could catch his opponent’s jab and counter.

Joe Gans

By contrast, Gans’ (on the right) more upright stance was more like that of Jack Johnson or Benny Leonard. This was the more traditional on-guard stance that was also used in fencing. Instead of the weight being over on the front leg, the weight is over on the back leg (notice there’s almost a direct line between Gans’ back leg and head). This was more of an elusive stance which gave a fighter (a) a lot more freedom to move around the ring with (especially when evading quickly in a straight line) while still allowing them to maintain excellent balance, and (b) a greater distance between an opponent’s lead hand and their head. Gans’ hands seem to be carried a little low, but remember, fights could surpass forty rounds or more back in those days. Keeping the hands held high for such a prolonged period of time would have been very tiresome. It was all about preserving energy back then -another reason you rarely saw fighters wasting energy by throwing combinations during this period.

Let’s get back to the fight…

Within the opening moments, Gans ties Herman up. Immediately afterwards, we see an example of Gans’ elusiveness. At around 0:40 mark, we see Gans foil two attempted lefts by Herman. On both occasions, Gans diffuses the blows by moving away on his back foot while placing his left glove just below Herman’s left shoulder, killing the blow before it picks up a head of steam. At the 0:43 mark, we see Gans’ mastery in full flow. First, Gans throws a non-committal jab to set up a short right hand. Within as instant, Gans pulls back and moves off at an angle, where he catches Herman as he’s turning with a right uppercut and left hand. Throughout the whole sequence, Gans’ footwork is brilliant –always positioning himself in a way so that his centerline is away from Herman’s but Herman’s is still within punching range. This is a prime example of how to take an angle on an opponent.

For the next few moments, we begin to see a pattern emerge. Gans is on his back foot looking to counter, while Herman is coming forward looking to land his left hook. At 1:45, we see more of Gans’ defensive genius. As Herman is pressing the attack, Gans feints with a right uppercut, before landing a jab and rolling under Herman’s left hook. More genius soon follows. After taking up the center of the ring, Gans takes a small step backwards to draw Herman in. As Herman comes forward, Gans feints a jab and connects with a jolting right uppercut.

Joe-Gans 3

Here, Gans feints a jab. As Herman reacts, Gans throws a non-committal jab (feint) followed with a right uppercut as Herman is stepping inside. This is brilliant strategy –shoulder feint, non-committal jab (to open Herman up) then a rear uppercut.

Gans was masterful in tying up his opponent. If you look at the 2:07 mark, you’ll see Gans block yet another attempted left by Herman before tying him up on the inside. Rather than describe every single clinch that takes place in the fight (as I said earlier, clinching occurred more often than not during this time and it happens a lot in this fight) I’ll just go over what can be considered a common occurrence during most of the clinches that take place. Notice the following;

  • Gans nearly always secures bicep control over Herman. By clamping down on Herman’s biceps with open gloves, Gans is able to manipulate and maneuver Herman around while also preventing him from throwing anything noteworthy on the inside. Jack Johnson was another great exponent of this technique and not too long ago, Floyd Mayweather had great success over Miguel Cotto on the inside using bicep control also.
  • Whenever Gans secures over-hooks, notice that Gans’ head is nearly always placed on Herman’s shoulders. It’s impossible for him to be hit with anything while his head is in this position.
  • On the over-under tie up, Gans nearly always has his free hand clamped down on Herman’s left arm. Again, Gans must have been very conscious of Herman’s left hand threat.

It’s clear that Gans was just as skilled on boxing on the inside as he was boxing at range. Gans wasn’t the biggest lightweight you’ll ever see, but the way he positioned himself in close, using smart clinching tactics as well as leverage to unbalance, allowed him to control Herman in most of the clinches.

Moving on to the 2:33 mark, we see Gans back on the offensive, while also showing superior defense. With both men posturing from the outside, Gans steps in and lands a right uppercut. As Herman recovers, he leads with a left/right which Gans evades by rolling with each blow before forcing another clinch, where he lands a flush right hand immediately after breaking away.

Joe-Gans 4

Here, Gans lands a right uppercut. As Herman regroups, he comes in with a left/right. Notice in the 5th photo how Gans’ left hand is traveling across his body to meet Herman’s left arm. As the hook arrives, Gans meets it with the inside of his left glove, almost forming a vice between the inside of his left glove and right shoulder. From here, Gans intercepts the right, placing his left glove near Herman’s right shoulder, and rolls with the punch.

At 3:12, Gans’ superb counter-punching skills are on display (it won’t be the last time we see them). Again, Herman leads with a left hook followed by a right cross. Gans anticipates both the left and right, rolling with each before countering with a straight right hand to the body.

Joe-Gans 5

Here, Gans blocks a wide left hook using his right forearm. As Herman comes back with a right hook, Gans picks that shot of using his left forearm. Gans punctuated the sequence with a straight right hand to the body underneath Herman’s left elbow. Notice the whole time Gans is blocking that he’s rolling with the blows. If one of Herman’s shots managed to sneak past Gans’ forearms, the fact that Gans is rolling and turning with the punches by moving his head, would likely result in the shots missing the mark anyway.

As both fighters come out for the beginning of the third round, the pattern is still very much the same. Gans continues to probe and assess, while Herman continues to load up with lefts and rights. At around the 4:19 mark, as Gans begins to apply a little more in the way of pressure, Herman attempts to land a wide left hook to the body, where Gans executes a perfectly timed elbow spike.

Joe-Gans 7

As Herman comes inside with a wide left hook aimed towards Gans’ midsection, Gans intercepts, coming down on top of the blow with the point of his right elbow. Notice as Gans’ blocks the left, he throws a simultaneous jab. This attack is known as a stop-hit. This is the act of blocking an attack with an attack. It’s a technique that is rarely used anymore.

At 4:45, we see an example of Gans’ brilliant foot speed and reactionary skills. As Herman leads with a wide right cross, Gans takes two (yes, there’s two, he just moves so quick you don’t see them) steps back. Notice as Gans is stepping back, how his feet never cross one another. Also, Gans’ back foot moves away first, followed by his front foot. This gives good balance and it is how all fighters should move around the ring –the foot nearest the direction you’re moving in should always move first.

As Gans begins walking Herman down, we see him perform yet another stop-hit at the 5:29 mark.

Joe-Gans 8

As Herman steps in to throw what looks like a left jab, Gans intercepts the blow with a perfectly timed stop-hit. As Herman steps in, Gans plants his left hand on top of Herman’s left shoulder, thus diffusing the blow before it picks up a head of steam. Also notice Gans’ right glove during this sequence. Should Herman’s jab get beyond Gans’ extended left, Gans’ right glove would likely block the shot anyway.

At 5:40, we see Gans inching forward. As he shortens up the distance, notice the subtle feints he’s throwing. Because he’s reacting to the feints by backing up and flinching, Herman decides to come forward and ends up walking onto a Gans uppercut. These subtle feints, that had Herman overreacting every time he threw one, were easily Gans’ most effective weapons during the fight. Moving on, after flooring Herman with a right hand (although it didn’t seem to be counted) Gans continued to apply pressure. After evading a left and a right using stellar footwork, at around 6:30, we see Gans execute yet another beautifully timed stop-hit.

Joe-Gans 9

As Herman throws a left hook, Gans blunts the blow, trapping it between his extended left arm (pushed in towards Herman’s left armpit) and open right glove (placed on the back of Herman’s left shoulder).

Moving on to the eighth and final round, at 6:53 Gans is in full pursuit of his man. Closing the distance behind stop-hit after stop-hit, Herman is forced onto his back foot and is struggling to get off. By now, Gans has him timed to the point where he knows when every single one of Herman’s attacks is coming. Even though Gans is now walking his man down, notice that he’s not doing it behind relentless pressure, or by throwing ridiculous amounts of punches. Instead, Gans is intelligently cutting the ring off using small shuffling steps, along with throwing subtle feints and well-timed stop-hits. Imagine what Herman must have be thinking? Here he is being systematically broken down and Gans isn’t really throwing anything. It’s severe mental pressure that Gans has put Herman under here. As Gans continues to maneuver Herman around the ring using stop-hits, the action falls just out of range of the camera. Although it’s difficult to see, at 7:52 Herman throws a right cross which Gans evades by rolling with the blow. After evading the cross, Gans waits for a moment, feints and then throws a right uppercut before moving off to a different angle.

Joe-Gans 10

Here, Gans feints before throwing a right uppercut. After landing, Gans adjusts his feet and moves to the side of Herman. Again, Gans shows his understanding of working angles by moving his centerline away from Herman.

Soon after, we see Gans at his most aggressive. As Herman is still in the corner, Gans goes to work. After rolling with a left hook and a right cross, Gans clamps down on the back of Herman’s neck and lands a right uppercut, before turning his man behind a short right hook. As Herman begins to back-pedal away, Gans cuts the ring off, blocking Herman’s exit and forces him towards the far corner of the ring. As Herman moves toward the ropes, Gans follows and knocks him out with a counter right hand.

It’s important to notice during this final sequence how patient Gans was. As Herman’s back almost touched the ropes, notice how Gans shortened up his steps as he was advancing, giving Herman a false sense of distance. Gans was fully aware that Herman was likely to come back with something the moment his back touched the ropes. Also, notice how Gans’ left hand was extremely low, probably lower that it had been at any point during the fight. This is what is called an attack by drawing –offering up a target so that as your opponent attacks your perceived vulnerable spot, they themselves leave an opening for a counter of your own. In this case, Gans gave Herman the impression that his left side was vulnerable. By taking the bait, Herman over committed with his right cross. Knowing what was likely to present itself, Gans rolled with the punch and countered in a flash with a beautifully timed right hand.

Joe-Gans 12

As Gans approaches with his left arm low, Herman attempts to take advantage with a wide right cross. Just as the blow is about to reach half way, Gans intercepts, slowing it down by jamming his left hand into Herman’s right shoulder, before rolling with the punch and coming back with a short right hand. Take a look at Herman’s positioning in photo 3. This was no accident. The knockout is one of the finest examples of counter-punching you’re ever likely to see inside a boxing ring.

I’m pretty certain that some of these old fighters from yesteryear aren’t for everyone. Whether that’s because of the way they fought back then, or because of the quality of the actual footage, it doesn’t really matter.

What matters for me though, when watching the subtle skills of Joe Gans in the Kid Herman fight, is realizing that in terms of the way he could set a man up -feinting him out of position or by offering up targets to draw him in and counter- Gans was clearly light years ahead of his time.

Joe Gans is by far and away one of the most intelligent, cerebral fighters that I’ve ever seen on film. This footage is more than 100 years old. Yet what he did here seems innovative even today.

Old Master

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The BWAA Shames Veteran Referee Laurence Cole and Two Nebraska Judges

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In an unprecedented development, the Boxing Writers Association of America has started a “watch list” to lift the curtain on ring officials who have “screwed up.” Veteran Texas referee Laurence Cole and Nebraska judges Mike Contreras and Jeff Sinnett have the unwelcome distinction of being the first “honorees.”

“Boxing is a sport where judges and referees are rarely held accountable for poor performances that unfairly change the course of a fighter’s career and, in some instances, endanger lives,” says the BWAA in a preamble to the new feature. Hence the watch list, which is designed to “call attention to ‘egregious’ errors in scoring by judges and unacceptable conduct by referees.”

Contreras and Sinnett, residents of Omaha, were singled out for their scorecards in the match between lightweights Thomas Mattice and Zhora Hamazaryan, an eight round contest staged at the WinnaVegas Casino in Sloan, Iowa on July 20. They both scored the fight 76-75 for Mattice, enabling the Ohio fighter to keep his undefeated record intact via a split decision.

Although Mattice vs. Hamazaryan was a supporting bout, it aired live on ShoBox. Analyst Steve Farhood, who was been with ShoBox since the inception of the series in 2001, called it one of the worst decisions he had ever seen. Lead announcer Barry Tompkins went further, calling it the worst decision he has seen in his 40 years of covering the sport.

Laurence Cole (pictured alongside his father) was singled out for his behavior as the third man in the ring for the fight between Regis Prograis and Juan Jose Velasco at the Lakefront Arena in New Orleans on July 14. The bout was televised live on ESPN.

In his rationale for calling out Cole, BWAA prexy Joseph Santoliquito leaned heavily on Thomas Hauser’s critique of Cole’s performance in The Sweet Science. “Velasco fought courageously and as well as he could,” noted Hauser. “But at the end of round seven he was a thoroughly beaten fighter.”

His chief second bullied him into coming out for another round. Forty-five seconds into round eight, after being knocked down for a third time, Velasco spit out his mouthpiece and indicated to Cole that he was finished. But Cole insisted that the match continue and then, after another knockdown that he ruled a slip, let it continue for another 35 seconds before Velasco’s corner mercifully threw in the towel.

Controversy has dogged Laurence Cole for well over a decade.

Cole was the third man in the ring for the Nov. 25, 2006 bout in Hildalgo, Texas, between Juan Manuel Marquez and Jimrex Jaca. In the fifth round, Marquez sustained a cut on his forehead from an accidental head butt. In round eight, another accidental head butt widened and deepened the gash. As Marquez was being examined by the ring doctor, Cole informed Marquez that he was ahead on the scorecards, volunteering this information while holding his hand over his HBO wireless mike. The inference was that Marquez was free to quit right then without tarnishing his record. (Marquez elected to continue and stopped Jaca in the next round.)

This was improper. For this indiscretion, Cole was prohibited from working a significant fight in Texas for the next six months.

More recently, Cole worked the 2014 fight between Vasyl Lomachenko and Orlando Salido at the San Antonio Alamodome. During the fight, Salido made a mockery of the Queensberry rules for which he received no point deductions and only one warning. Cole’s performance, said Matt McGrain, was “astonishingly bad,” an opinion echoed by many other boxing writers. And one could site numerous other incidents where Cole’s performance came under scrutiny.

Laurence Cole is the son of Richard “Dickie” Cole. The elder Cole, now 87 years old, served 21 years as head of the Texas Department of Combat Sports Regulation before stepping down on April 30, 2014. At various times during his tenure, Dickie Cole held high executive posts with the World Boxing Council and North American Boxing Federation. He was the first and only inductee into the inaugural class of the Texas Boxing Hall of Fame, an organization founded by El Paso promoter Lester Bedford in 2015.

From an administrative standpoint, boxing in Texas during the reign of Dickie Cole was frequently described in terms befitting a banana republic. Whenever there was a big fight in the Lone Star State, his son was the favorite to draw the coveted refereeing assignment.

Boxing is a sideline for Laurence Cole who runs an independent insurance agency in Dallas. By law in Texas (and in most other states), a boxing promoter must purchase insurance to cover medical costs in the event that one or more of the fighters on his show is seriously injured. Cole’s agency is purportedly in the top two nationally in writing these policies. Make of that what you will.

Complaints of ineptitude, says the WBAA, will be evaluated by a “rotating committee of select BWAA members and respected boxing experts.” In subsequent years, says the press release, the watch list will be published quarterly in the months of April, August, and December (must be the new math).

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

 

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The Avila Perspective, Chapter 8: Competing Cards in N.Y. and L.A.

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Rival boxing shows compete this Saturday as light heavyweight world titlists are featured in New Jersey while former world champion welterweights and middleweights tangle in New York.

A mere 150 miles separate the two fight cards staged in Uniondale, N.Y. and Atlantic City.

But there’s no mercy inside the boxing ring and certainly no mercy between boxing promotions. While Main Events stages WBO light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev and WBA light heavyweight titlist Dmitry Bivol in separate bouts, DiBella Entertainment stacks former champs Andre Berto against Devon Alexander in a welterweight clash.

Take your pick.

Russia’s Kovalev (32-2-1, 28 KOs) has lost some luster and hopes to reboot his popularity with a win against Canada’s Eleider Alvarez (23-0, 11 KOs). But he will be directly competing against WBA champ Bivol (13-0, 11 KOs), also of Russia, who defends against Isaac Chilemba (25-5-2) of South Africa.

HBO will televise both light heavyweight title fights.

Bivol, 27, has slowly, almost glacier-like slow, picked up fans along the way by training in Southern California. The quiet unassuming fighter with a conservative style and cobra-like quickness appeals to the fans.

“I do not think that now I am the best light heavyweight, but I am now one of the best. One of four guys,” said Bivol during a press conference call. “But I hope in not the far future, we will know who is the best.”

That, of course, would mean a date with Kovalev should both fighters win on Saturday. Nothing is certain.

Kovalev, now 35, has lost some of that fear factor aura since losing back-to-back fights to now retired Andre Ward. Though he’s cracked two opponents in succession by knockout, many are pointing to the potential showdown with Bivol as the moment of truth.

“Most likely this fight is gonna happen since both Sergey and I are HBO boxers and as long as that’s what the people want, most likely the fight will happen,” said Bivol. “Me and Sergey will make sure to give this fight to the people.”

It’s time for the build-up and it starts on Saturday Aug. 4, on HBO.

“That’s certainly a goal of Sergey’s and he’s made it very clear to me that that’s what he wants to do,” said promoter Kathy Duva, CEO of Main Events. “He wants to do unification fights if he is successful with Eleider Alvarez. That’s what he wants to do next; he’s been very clear about that.”

DiBella

Five former world champions stack the fight card at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.

Former welterweight world champs Andre Berto (31-5, 24 KOs) and Devon Alexander (27-4-1, 14 KOs) lead the charge in a 12-round clash. FOX will televise the main event and others at 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET.

Berto, 34, has been fighting once a year so it’s difficult to determine if age has crept into his reflexes. When he knocked out Victor Ortiz in a rematch two years ago Berto looked sharp and dangerous. But against Shawn Porter a year ago, the crispness seemed gone and he quickly lost by knockout.

Alexander, 31, has the advantage of being a southpaw. But he always seems to do the minimum when he fights. Last February he slowed down and allowed Victor Ortiz to steal the fight. All the commotion by the announcers was for naught. Defense does not win fights, it allows you to win fights. The lack of offense in the latter rounds cost Alexander a win in a match that entered the books as a majority draw.

It’s a curious matchup of former world champions.

Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin (33-1-1, 23 KOs) the former WBO middleweight titlist meets J’Leon Love (24-1-1, 13 KOs) in a super middleweight bout set for 10 rounds. It’s another intriguing fight especially between two fighters with great personalities.

Quillin, 35, was ambushed by Daniel Jacobs in the first round a year ago in losing the title. Was it bad luck, age or both? As a fighter the Brooklyn-based prizefighter has a ton of followers who like him as a person. Few are as classy as Quillin.

Love, 30, has long been a mainstay in Las Vegas and since his amateur days his abilities have been touted. Throughout the years Love has shown that charm and friendliness can go a long ways, even in the bitter wars of prizefighting. But the time has come to see if he belongs in the prizefighting world. Quillin will present an immense challenge for Love.

A number of other interesting fights are slated to take place among former world champions including Sergey Lipinets who lost the super lightweight title to Mikey Garcia this past winter. There’s also Luis Collazo in a welterweight match.

One world title fight does take place on the card.

Female WBA super middleweight titlist Alicia Napoleon (9-1) makes the first defense of her title against Scotland’s Hannah Rankin (5-1). It’s a 10 round bout and the first time Napoleon defends the title since winning it last March against Germany’s Femke Hermans. Ironically, Hermans now has the WBO super middleweight title after defeating former champ Nikki Adler by decision this past May.

L.A. Congestion

Next week the city of Angels will be packed with three fight cards in four days.

First, on Wednesday Aug. 8, 360 Promotions stages Abraham Lopez (9-1-1, 3 KOs) versus Gloferson Ortizo (12-0-1, 6 KOs) in the main event at the Avalon Theater in Hollywood, Calif. This is Filipino fighter Ortizo’s ninth fight this year. You read that correctly.

All of Ortizo’s fights have taken place across the border in Tijuana. The 32-year-old now returns to California against another Californian in Lopez. He’ll be looking for his fourth consecutive knockout, but Lopez, 22, has not lost a fight since his pro debut. Inactivity might come into play for Lopez who hasn’t stepped in the boxing ring in over a year.

New York’s Brian Ceballo (3-0) returns in a six round welterweight bout against local fighter Tavorus Teague (5-20-4). Ceballo, who is promoted by 360 Promotions, looked good in his last appearance. The amateurish punches seen in his first two bouts were gone by his third pro fight. His opponent Teague has ability and can give problems if Ceballo takes his foot off the pedal.

One of Gennady “GGG” Golovkin’s training partners Ali Akhmedov (11-0, 8 KOs) makes his California debut when he meets Jorge Escalante (9-1-1, 6 KOs) in a light heavyweight match.

Female super lightweight Elvina White (2-0) is also slated to compete. The entire fight card will be streamed at www.360promotions.us and on the 360 Promotions page on Facebook. First bell rings at 6:15 p.m.

Belasco Theater in downtown L.A. is the site of Golden Boy Promotions fight card on Friday Aug. 10. A pair of young prospects will be severely tested.

San Diego’s Genaro Gamez (8-0, 5 KOs) meets Filipino fighter Recky Dulay (10-3, 7 KOs) for the vacant NABF super featherweight title. For Dulay it’s always kill or be killed. Five of his last fights have ended in knockout wins or losses.

Gamez, 23, seems to thrive under pressure and broke down two veterans in back-to-back fights at Fantasy Springs Casino. Now he returns to the Belasco, a venue where he has struggled in the past. But this time he’s the main event.

Another being severely tested will be Emilio Sanchez (15-1, 10 KOs) facing veteran Christopher Martin (30-10-3, 10 KOs) who is capable of beating anyone.

Sanchez, 24, lost by knockout in his last fight this past March. He’s talented and fearless and one mistake cost him his first loss as a pro. He’s not getting a break against Martin, a cagey fighter who has upset many young rising prospects in the past. Martin also has experience against world champions. It’s an extremely tough matchup for Sanchez.

The fight card will be televised by Estrella TV beginning at 6 p.m.

World Title Fight

On Saturday, boxing returns to the Avalon Theater in Hollywood.

The main event is a good one as Puerto Rico’s Jesus Rojas (26-1-2, 19 KOs) defends the WBA featherweight world title against Southern California’s Jojo Diaz (26-1) in a 12 round clash. It’s power versus speed.

Rojas, 31, is one tough customer. When he took the interim title against Claudia Marrero last year he chased down the speedy southpaw Dominican and blasted him out in the seventh round. Several months earlier he obliterated another Golden Boy prospect, Abraham Lopez (not the same Abraham Lopez that is fighting on the 360 Promotions card), in eight rounds. Now he has the title and defends against the speedy southpaw Diaz.

Diaz, 25, just recently lost a bid for the WBC featherweight title against Gary Russell Jr. Though he lost by decision three months ago, that fight might be easy in comparison to this challenge against Rojas.

The former Olympian won’t be able to take a breath against the Puerto Rican slugger who is about as rough as they come.

Two more undefeated Golden Boy prospects get a chance to eliminate each other when Philadelphia’s Damon Allen (15-0-1) meets East L.A.’s Jonathan Navarro (14-0, 7 KOs) in a super lightweight fight set for 10 rounds.

Phillie versus East LA is like fire versus fire in the boxing ring. Boxers originating from those two hard-bitten areas usually have go-for-broke styles that result in pure action. Allen versus Navarro should not disappoint.

Allen, 25, is not a hard puncher but he’s aggressive and like most Philadelphia fighters, he’s not afraid to mix it up.

Navarro, 21, lives in East L.A. but trains in Riverside under Robert Garcia. He’s slowly finding his timing and will be facing the fastest fighter since his pro debut in 2015.

Others featured on the card will be Hector Tanajara, Aaron McKenna and Ferdinand Kerobyan.

The card will be streamed on the Golden Boy Fight Night page on Facebook beginning at 6 p.m.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

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What’s Next for Manny Pacquiao?

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Manny Pacquiao isn’t quite ready to retire, and more big-money fights against high-level competition seem to be on the 39-year-old’s way.

“I feel like I’m a 27-year-old,” Pacquiao told GMAnetwork.com’s Jamil Santos last week. “Expect more fights to come.”

Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39 KOs) looked exceptionally sharp in his seventh-round knockout win over former junior welterweight titleholder Lucas Matthysse on July 15 at Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was Pacquiao’s best performance in at least four years, netting Pacquiao a secondary world title at welterweight along with a slew of renewed public interest in the boxing superstar’s career.

But what comes next for the only fighter in the history of boxing to capture world titles in eight different weight classes? TSS takes a detailed look at the potential opponents for one of the sport’s most celebrated stars.

Cream of the Crop

Pacquiao looked good enough against Matthysse to suggest he’d make a viable candidate to face either Terence Crawford or Vasyl Lomachenko next. Crawford is ranked No. 2 on the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board’s pound-for-pound list while Lomachenko slots at No. 1.

While Pacquiao is no longer under contract with longtime promoter Bob Arum at Top Rank, most industry insiders expect he will continue working with Arum’s team in some capacity so long as his career keeps moving forward. Pacquiao started his own promotional venture, MP Promotions, to co-promote the Matthysse bout with Oscar De La Hoya, but Top Rank was still involved in the fight which is why the bout ended up streaming on ESPN+.

Top Rank’s two hottest commodities at the present are Ring Magazine and WBA lightweight champ Lomachenko and welterweight titlist Crawford. Both are highly-regarded, multi-division world titleholders in the primes of their careers who are universally considered the top fighters in boxing.

Lomachenko and Crawford would each present a unique set of problems for Pacquiao stylistically. Of the two, Pacquiao probably matches up best with Lomachenko at this point in his career. Crawford (33-0, 24 KOs) is much larger and heavier than both Pacquiao and Lomachenko, and unless Pacquiao just really wants to test himself against someone incredibly dangerous, it’d probably be best for Team Pacquiao to avoid fighting Crawford at all costs. Crawford would be a heavy favorite against Pacquiao and most boxing insiders don’t believe this version of Pacquiao could compete with Crawford.

Lomachenko (11-1, 9 KOs) is naturally smaller than Pacquiao and has never fought above 135 pounds. If Pacquiao could lure Lomachenko to 140 pounds or above, he’d find himself in a winnable fight against a top-notch opponent. Lomachenko would probably be the slight favorite based on age alone but Pacquiao’s power and athleticism would give him a realistic chance to pull the upset.

Other Notable Possibilities

Former junior welterweight titleholder Amir Khan has long been angling for a bout against Pacquiao. Khan faces Samuel Vargas on Sept. 8 in another comeback bout against lower level competition. Khan (32-4, 20 KOs) bravely moved up to middleweight to fight Canelo Alvarez in 2016 but was knocked out in the sixth round. He left the sport for a spell but returned to boxing in February as a welterweight with a sensational first round knockout win over Phil Lo Greco. A win over Vargas puts Khan in good position to secure a bout with Pacquiao, and the fight is a reasonable move by both camps. Pacquiao would probably be the heavy favorite, but Khan’s speed and long reach give him a decent chance to pull the upset.

Former welterweight titleholder Jeff Horn won a controversial decision over Pacquiao last year in Australia. The bout grabbed huge ratings for ESPN and there have been many debates since it happened as to which fighter truly deserved the nod from the judges. Horn (18-1-1, 12 KOs) doesn’t possess elite level talent, but he’s huge compared to Pacquiao and fights with such ferocity that the two can’t help but make an aesthetically pleasing fight together. Pacquiao would be the heavy favorite to defeat Horn if the two fight again.

Pacquiao vs. PBC fighters?

Boxing’s current political climate and the ongoing battle of promoters and television networks for the hearts and minds of boxing fans usually leaves many compelling fights between top level stars off the table. Fighters promoted by Top Rank and Golden Boy are almost never able to secure bouts with fighters signed to Al Haymon to appear under the Premier Boxing Champions banner and vice versa. But Pacquiao’s free agent status opens up new and interesting possibilities for the fighter to pursue noteworthy PBC fighters.

There had been lots of chatter about Pacquiao facing Mikey Garcia next. Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs) has been decimating competition at both lightweight and junior welterweight. Garcia is considered by most experts to be one of the top 10 pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. He’s the TBRB junior welterweight champion and a unified lightweight titleholder (WBC, IBF). While Garcia is hoping to land a big money bout against IBF welterweight titleholder Errol Spence, most boxing experts believe the jump up to 147 pounds would be too much for the diminutive Garcia who began his career at featherweight. A better welterweight target for Garcia would be Pacquiao who also began his career in a much lower weight class.

Spence (24-0, 21 KOs) is probably the best of the PBC welterweights. He’s considered by many to be on par with Crawford at 147 so it would be an incredibly dangerous bout for Pacquiao to go after at this point in his career. But Spence is aggressive and fights in a style that Pacquiao traditionally matches up very well against. Spence would be the favorite based on size, age and skill.

Slightly less dangerous to Pacquiao would be facing the winner of the Sept. 8 battle between Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter. Garcia (34-1, 20 KOs) and Porter (28-2-1, 17 KOs) are fighting for the vacant WBC welterweight title and the possibility of capturing another world title in his career could sway Pacquiao to seek out the winner. Pacquiao could find himself a slight favorite or underdog depending on which of the two fighters he would face, but both would be winnable fights.

The WBA welterweight champion is Keith Thurman. Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs) is a good boxer with tremendous power but Pacquiao’s speed and athleticism would probably give him the leg up in that potential matchup. Thurman hasn’t fought in over 16 months though and recent pictures suggest he’s not in fighting shape at the moment, so the likelihood of a Pacquiao vs. Thurman fight is pretty much nil.

Some fans want Pacquiao to face Adrien Broner. Broner (33-3-1, 24 KOs) is a solid contender at 147 but probably doesn’t have the skill to seriously compete with Pacquiao. Pacquiao would be a significant favorite and would likely stop Broner if the two were able to meet in a boxing ring.

Mayweather-Pacquiao 2?

Pacquiao lost a unanimous decision to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2015, but the circumstances surrounding the fight, and the fact it was the biggest box office bash in the history of the sport, have led many to suspect the two fighters would meet again in a rematch.

Yes, Mayweather (50-0, 27 KOs) is retired, but he’s unretired several times in his career for big money fights including last year’s crossover megafight with UFC star Conor McGregor. While it seems unlikely to happen, Mayweather-Pacquiao 2 would still be a huge worldwide event worth millions of dollars to both fighters so those following the sport can never say never to the idea of it happening again.

While Mayweather is 41, he’d still get the nod as the betting favorite should he fight Pacquiao again based on what happened in the first fight as well as his stylistic advantage over Pacquiao.

Pacquiao vs. McGregor?

McGregor’s bout against Mayweather last year was such a financial success and the MMA star made so much more money in the boxing ring than he did as a UFC fighter that the idea of him returning to the sport to face Pacquiao isn’t as far-fetched as one might think.

Pacquiao vs. McGregor would be an easy sell to the general public. According to CompuBox, McGregor landed more punches against Mayweather than did Pacquiao, and the general consensus is that Mayweather-McGregor was more fun to watch than Mayweather-Pacquiao.

The size difference between the two would lead to an easy promotion. McGregor is a junior middleweight and Pacquiao has only competed at the weight once back in 2010. Despite all that, Pacquiao would be a significant favorite to defeat McGregor and rightly so. He’s too fast and too good a boxer, and his aggressive style would likely lead to a stoppage win.

Pacquiao’s Top Targets

Pacquiao’s top targets should be Mayweather, McGregor and Lomachenko. Pacquiao would stand to make the most money facing either Mayweather or McGregor. Pacquiao’s reportedly injured shoulder heading into 2015 bout left many wondering how the fight might be different had the Filipino gone into things at his best, and Mayweather’s age might play more of a factor in the second fight than it did in the first. A Pacquiao-McGregor fight would be a worldwide spectacle, one Pacquiao would be heavily favored to win. Besides, it’d be interesting to see if Pacquiao could stop McGregor sooner than historical rival Mayweather. Finally, Lomachenko might be trying to climb up weight classes too fast, and Pacquiao would certainly be fit to test the validity of that theory. It’d be one of the biggest fights in boxing and a win for Pacquiao would be another huge feather in the cap of one of boxing’s true historically great champions.

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