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You’re Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

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Borrowing from the classic style and prose of hall of fame sportswriter Jimmy Cannon (April 10, 1909 – December 5, 1973), the writer takes a look at the career of Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and discovers that time is not the only vandal.

You’re Floyd Maweather, Jr., aged thirty-five, the preeminent star in the sport of boxing. People love you, and they hate you. They love you because of how great you could be. They hate you because you seem unwilling to prove it. Still, you are the alpha figure in boxing today, and you love it. You make more money than any other fighter in the sport. In fact, you have the fantastic ability to make in one night more than what ninety-nine percent of fighters make for their whole careers. You’re Floyd Mayweather, and you’re the best fighter in the world…maybe.

Oh sure, you’re still undefeated. No one can take that away from you. You wouldn’t give them the chance. Yeah, you’ve beaten some of the very best fighters of your era. The names on your resume are nothing to scoff at. Not at all. Ricky Hatton, Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez, Miguel Cotto. Big names. Huge. But there’s more to a legacy than just “names,” isn’t there?

You started out the right way. No doubt about it. You began your career as good a prospect as any. Your hands were fast; your feet too. You were an exceptional amateur talent with the litany of accomplishments to prove it. You weren’t just another athlete who boxed, you were a real fighter, born and bred. That picture of you in the gym as a tyke with boxing gloves on, it’s legit. That was you. You were born for this. God made you to be a boxer.

You won amateur titles all through your youth, national titles even. Then you went to the Olympics and did your country proud. You earned a bronze medal in the 1996 Olympics. Almost everyone thought you got jobbed in your loss to eventual silver medalist Serafim Todorov of Bulgaria. That Bulgarian judge did all he could for the other kid. He did you in. You won it for sure, and you would’ve won the gold medal, too. Impressive stuff. Men have been well reasoned to be prouder for doing less. Not you, though. You aspired for something more. Greatness.

You were a “can’t miss” prospect, and you didn’t. You coasted through the rite of passage palookas and hobos they put in front of you with ease, just like you should. Your handlers did everything right. They lined up marks for you to look good against, and you did. They patted you on the back. Said you’d be champion one day. Told you that you could be the greatest. You ate it up. We all did. You were something special. Everybody saw it. Heck, after your seventh professional fight, Manny Steward said he thought you’d go on to be the best ever. Ever!

You won your first title in 1998 at junior lightweight by obliterating tough guy Genaro Hernadez. You’d been a professional for just two years, and you were already champion. By the end of the year, you started getting listed among the pound-for-pound elites. All you did was win, no matter who or what they put in front of you, and you did it convincingly. You started getting noticed. You said you wanted to be like Oscar De La Hoya and Roy Jones, Jr. You didn’t just want to be the best in the business, you wanted to make the most money, be the biggest star.

Your junior lightweight run culminated in maybe the most impressive win of your career. When you met undefeated slugger Diego Corrales in 2001, you were sure to be up against your stiffest test. But you weren’t. You beat Corrales like he was an amateur, knocking him down five times en route to the TKO.

After a few more wins, you were ready to move up in weight. You had dreams to chase. And money. Then it happened, the unthinkable. You almost lost. You! Lightweight champion Jose Luis Castillo gave you all you could handle. Kept you on the ropes with punches coming from all angles. Worked you over good. You were lucky. The judges gave you the nod, even though Castillo out-landed you, even though the crowd booed you. It was close. Too close.

You did the right thing. You took an immediate rematch. At the end of it, the official scorecards were closer than last time, but you got the call again. It was a tough test, but you passed. They wouldn’t have robbed Castillo twice, right? You deserved to win. Maybe you learned something there, though. Maybe you learned taking the toughest fights might not be all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe you learned you liked winning more than anything else. Winning and money.

You didn’t let it deter you. Not at first. You moved up in weight again. You potshotted Demarcus Corely to an easy decision win in your junior welterweight debut. By now, you were one of HBO’s bell cows. You were setting up big PPV dates, so they gave you something easy. It’s understandable. You’d earned it. Next up, was blood and guts warrior Arturo Gatti. He had world class heart, but not the skills to match it. Not like you. You destroyed him. Easy money, and lots.

You skipped over light welterweight champion Kostya Tszu and moved up to welterweight instead. People were disappointed, but it wasn’t like you had some kind of history with this type of thing. Not yet. HBO gave you another gimme in Sharmba Mitchell. It was your first fight at the weight, after all. You had big fights to set up. You wanted Zab Judah and you got him, even though he lost the championship in his previous fight against Carlos Baldomir. You beat Mitchell and got what you wanted.

Against Zab Judah, you really showed your stuff. He was just as fast as you. Maybe faster. You found that out quickly. You adjusted, though. You had more than just fast hands. Much more. You had skill. You had stamina. After maybe losing three of the first four rounds, you won the last eight with ease. It was vintage stuff. A glimpse of perfection, perhaps. You showed how great you can be. For good measure, you followed it up by nabbing that linear title from Baldomir. He probably didn’t win a round against you.

Your ship was about to come in. You figured out you didn’t just want to be like Oscar De La Hoya, you wanted to beat him. A fight against the Golden Boy would open a lot of doors for you, and you knew it. You even moved up to junior middleweight to do it. It would be a tough test, but you believed in yourself. Besides, you reasoned, you’d make more money than you had ever made before in your life. It was worth the risk. It had to be. He was passed his best. You were not.

The fight was close. De La Hoya was bigger than you, and it showed. You made the adjustments. You eked out a majority decision win. Most people didn’t see it that close. You were the clear winner. Your undefeated record remained intact. You took De La Hoya’s title, but more than that, too. You took over his mantle as boxing’s biggest draw. You called yourself “Money” Mayweather now, and for good reason. Money became your primary reason for fighting. You didn’t care about titles. Or history. Or legacy. After all, you said you had proved all you needed to prove. What else could keep you fighting? Not the challenge of Miguel Cotto or Antonio Margarito at welterweight. Let them fight each other, you told yourself. Not Paul Williams. He was too big, a freak of nature. Not anyone that presented too much risk, you told yourself.

You saw an opportunity in Ricky Hatton. The junior welterweight from Britain was undefeated but a little crude. He was a huge draw like you, though, and you knew it. You signed the fight, and had him come up to welterweight to do it. You wanted all the advantages you could get. As boxing’s new golden goose, you deserved them. Hatton came out fast. He knocked you off balance with a jab, but you settled in. He was no match for you. By the middle of the fight, you were dominating. You knocked him out in picturesque fashion in round number ten. He had rushed at you like a bull, and you made him pay.

After defeating Ricky Hatton in December of 2007, you decided to do that thing fighters do where they say they’re retiring from the sport only to resurface a year or so later. Everybody knew it. You wanted some time off. It’s understandable.

That’s when you saw him for the first time really. Everybody did. He was smaller than you. He had all those losses. But he was mesmerizing now. How did he destroy Oscar De La Hoya like that? How? How could he be so fast, so strong, so terrifying? That’s when you decided to come back. Was it that he was taking attention away from you? Did you intend to fight him? It certainly seemed so at the time.

You returned in September of 2009. You picked the guy he had all that trouble with, Juan Manuel Marquez. You needed a tune-up first, and what better way to prove your superiority over him than by using his big nemesis as a tune-up? You made Marquez jump a couple weight classes to do it, but he took the fight. He was no match for you, especially after you didn’t even bother to make weight. You won a wide, unanimous decision victory. You promised to fight him soon.

You decided to go after Shane Mosley first. Mosley was older than you, but he was one of the best of his era. He caught you with a huge right hand in the second round and almost put you down. You recovered nicely though. You still had your legs. His were gone. You out boxed him like everyone thought you would. It was a nice win, but it wasn’t the win people wanted for you. You knew it. You promised to fight him next. You just wanted him to take drug tests. That’s all. You’re cleaning up the sport. He had to be on PEDs, you reasoned. He just had to.

You didn’t fight again for sixteen months. When you decided to come back this time, you chose Victor Ortiz reasoning it’d be good preparation for who you really wanted to fight. At least it seemed that way. Why else would it have been Ortiz? Was he on your level? He had lost to Marcos Maidana. Still, both Ortiz and the one you said you really wanted to fight if only Bob Arum weren’t stopping it, were hard-hitting southpaws. Ortiz was young and strong, but you would handle him. He proved to be dumb in that he let his hands down in front you after he tried to intentionally foul you. You starched him without mercy and won by knockout. It was all set up again.

You didn’t fight again until May of the next year. You decided not to fight him this time because he wouldn’t take the drugs tests or something. People started to lose track of the reasons. You decided to take on Miguel Cotto instead. You didn’t want to fight him at MSG. After all, one of his opponents likened it to fighting the devil in hell. Why would you do that? You took home court in Las Vegas, just like the big money guy should. It was a big event. Cotto wasn’t the same Cotto you didn’t fight all those years ago. Antonio Margarito had suspiciously beat much of that out of him. What was left was demolished by the fighter you said you wanted to fight but never did. Still, Cotto had rebounded nicely of late. He’d won three in a row, including a redemption match against Margarito.

The fight was more than you bargained for. He bloodied your nose. Nobody does that, but he did. He out-boxed you at times. You were winning, but you started to look your age. You seemed slower, more tired. You beat him with grit and determination. It was a good win. You closed the show like you should have. You swept him over the championship rounds. That’s what you do. Those were your rounds, champ. In the last round, you staggered him. He looked like he was ready to fall. But there was that risk there. You saw it. You knew you had the fight won. Why risk losing your undefeated record? You didn’t have anything to prove, you said to yourself. You’d play it safe. It doesn’t matter what that other guy did against him. You were still undefeated. He wasn’t.

Your outside the ring lifestyle may have gotten out of control a little bit. You liked partying with people you shouldn’t be around. You liked going to the club and making a scene. You loved the attention, the worship of the sycophants. The Money Team, you called them. They’re still with you. They’re still your people. They weren’t there when you went to jail, though. You were alone. That’s okay. Everybody makes mistakes. It happens. You had a lot of time to think in there. No one messed with you. They knew who you were. You liked it.

When you got out, you didn’t rush right back into boxing. Why would you? You’d been behind bars for three months. You weren’t in a rush. Your legacy was secure, at least to you. You didn’t need to fight him. Not yet.

He lost that December. That guy you beat easily a few years before, his nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez, knocked him out cold in the fifth round. See? You didn’t need to prove anything against that guy. See?

You’re getting ready for your return now. Time for you to fight again. You’ve targeted Cinco de Mayo weekend. After all, that’s the most lucrative date in the sport, and you’re boxing’s big money star. You have to fight. You’ll make more than anyone else in the world that night, and that’s what it’s all about, you say. You don’t have anything else to prove. You’ve done it. You’re the money man, now. Money Mayweather. And you’ll make plenty of it fighting guys like Robert Guerrero or Devon Alexander, guys who you’ll be heavily favored against just like always, for as long as you want. What else does a guy fight for?

But to some it seems that it should have been for more than just money. You could’ve been the greatest, just like Steward said, but you’re not. And it’s too late for it now. Too late. That’s why you’ve affected people so. You can’t help it if a whole lot of people feel lousy every time you fight now. But they do. They do.

 

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Peter Broudy Remembers… Don Chargin and The Olympic Auditorium

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Over the past fifteen years, TSS has had the good fortune of featuring the works of highly talented boxing authors and journalists. We have a loyal fan base and we also have a loyal following from within the industry itself.  We are going to be reaching out to those who answer the bell every day, those that add to the fabric of the sport, to pen something more personal and unique that may have escaped the eyes and ears of the boxing public. 

The first article up is a request made upon promoter Peter Broudy, regarding the recent passing of Don Chargin, a legendary boxing figure on the West Coast. Considering Chargin’s friendship and mentoring, Peter was the perfect guy for the task, not to mention their involvement with the historic Grand Olympic Auditorium, which is part of the sport’s rich history. What follows are some of Peter’s recollections of Don, the Olympic Auditorium, and a few other names you might recognize.

Peter Broudy Remembers… Don Chargin and The Olympic Auditorium

In the fifties and sixties, boxing was a prominent sport in the United States. I was a young boy and I could hardly wait for the weekly fights. That is when I first heard the name Chargin, as he was the promoter. The fights were held in the most famous boxing venue in the world, The Olympic Auditorium at 18th and Grand in Downtown Los Angeles. Built in 1924, The Olympic hosted the best fighters in the world from the 1920’s through the 1990’s.

The fights were broadcast on local TV, long before cable TV existed.  KTLA Channel 5 televised the weekly fights from the Olympic, with legendary TV and radio personality Jim Healy calling the action along with Dick Lane.  This is when I first heard the phrase “War-a-Week” Chargin.

Don became known as “War-a-Week” Chargin because of his great matchmaking ability. He managed to put together competitive fights each and every week, and even with free local TV, the Olympic was busting at the seams to hold over 10,000 jammed-in fans, with standing room only. And there was a wide spectrum of fans in attendance… from the most glamorous Hollywood movie stars arriving in chauffeur driven limousines, to fieldworkers from Tijuana, and everybody in between.

The fights brought the best in professional sports entertainment to Los Angeles. At that time, professional sports were limited to the Los Angeles Rams that had recently moved to LA from Cleveland, and the Dodgers that had relocated from Brooklyn in 1958.  Unlike today, boxing was front-page news every week.

Besides the great wealth of world class professional fighters, Chargin also featured amateur fights before the weekly pro card began, and those fights were also televised.  Many of the amateurs went on to very successful pro careers and some became world champions.  Many became household names such as Mando Ramos, Frankie Crawford and Joey Orbillo. The fans loved these young stars of the future, almost as much as Los Angeles’ “Golden Boy” Art Aragon, the most popular fighter to this day in Los Angeles.

The name Don Chargin will forever be linked to the nearly 100-year-old Olympic Auditorium.  Chargin will be remembered along with the great personalities of the Olympic.  Aileen Eaton (the female promoter), Luis Magaña (the legendary publicist), the original ring announcer, Jimmy Lennon (father of Jimmy Lennon, Jr.) the great fight doctor, Dr. Bernard Schwartz (always wearing the white doctor smock), managers like Jackie McCoy, Benny Georgino, and never to be forgotten, “El Ruso Loco” “Da Beegman” Harry Kabakoff with those wild, crazy Hawaiian shirts.

Chargin was every bit as significant as any of the great names that fought at the Olympic Auditorium on a regular basis, such as Mando Ramos, Frankie Crawford, Joey Orbillo, Ray “Windmill” White, Big Ernie “Red” Lopez, his younger brother and future world champion Danny “Little Red” Lopez, Hedgemon Lewis, Carlos Palomino, Jesus Pimentel, Ruben Navarro, and of course, the “Golden Boy” Art Aragon. All of these individuals became famous because of the platform to excel that was provided to them by “War-a-Week” Chargin.

Don’s name is synonymous with all things Olympic Auditorium, including 18th and Grand, Giant Felix Chevrolet on Figueroa, the beautiful marquis on the front of the Olympic, the “celebrity section”, the gamblers section, KTLA channel 5, Jim Healy & Dick Lane, the wannabes and the something specials, and who could forget the famous sign above the ring with the following: RI 9-5171 (The Olympic’s phone number RI-Richmond long before area codes were used). This is the building that Don was influential in shaping and helped make boxing must see entertainment in Los Angeles.

Don Chargin was both my friend and mentor for well over 30 years. I love him like family. I first met him when I attended a California State Athletic Commission monthly meeting in the early 1980s in Palm Springs, California.  I was lucky enough to meet both Don and his lifetime partner and love of his life, Lorraine. At the commission meeting, Don kindly introduced me to Aileen Eaton, the legendary promoter at the Olympic Auditorium. Though she was wheelchair bound, she was, even at her advanced age, a remarkable woman. Aileen, Lorraine and Don were all involved with the Olympic, and “War-a-Week” Chargin is known for the memorable bouts featured there from 1965-1984.

He was a licensed promoter for 69 years and became the most knowledgeable man in boxing. For over half a century, he taught many people about boxing and the art of promoting. From the day I first met him, he was always there for me to answer any questions I had. When I took over promotions at the Olympic Auditorium in the mid 1990’s, Don’s advice was invaluable.

The Needleman family were the owners of the Olympic Auditorium. While we were negotiating, I made a promise to them that I could fill the Olympic and bring it back as close as possible to the glory days of Eaton and the Chargins.  I reached out to Don and we discussed the formula required in order to bring instant success back to the grand old building that, since being renovated, had still not had much success in that first year under Bob Arum’s Top Rank. Chargin knew that I wanted to bring the spotlight back to the greatest venue in the world, rather than simply using the Olympic as a sound stage for ESPN shows.

At that time Don, along with Dan Duva, was managing the career of Ramon “Yory Boy” Campas. In a fight for the IBF welterweight title in September of 1994, Campas experienced his first loss to rising star, Puerto Rico’s Felix Trinidad. There were many fight fans who wrote “Yory Boy” off after the fourth round TKO, especially those from his home country of Mexico. We decided that Campas was the right guy for the Olympic.

The LA Times printed a story by Tim Kawakami on June 18th, 1995 entitled “From Glory Days to Yory Days. Campas has breathed new life into Grand Olympic Auditorium.” Chargin is quoted as saying, “I told Peter he’d be the guy to draw at the Olympic. Number 1, he’s a real Mexican. He’s from there. He’s had the majority of his fights in Mexico, he will take two punches to land one, and he’s a puncher, which they like.” The way the guy meets the people and shakes hands, he just typifies the fighter from below the border that they really like.  Don continues, “I will admit they needed each other,” Chargin said of the fighter and the old building. “His career after losing to Trinidad needed a boost, and the Olympic needed a boost.”

The rest is history, as “Yory Boy’” brought a huge turnout to the Olympic. And not just once, he came back a short time later and again delivered a full house and thrilling fight. The fans loved it. “Yory Boy” was back. At the end of Tim’s article about “Yory Boy” and the venue, Chargin emphasized that the key was to do what the old Olympic did, keep finding young fighters who can draw the real fight crowd. “Peter’s not afraid to work, so he’s probably going to be successful,” stated Chargin. Which is something Top Rank, for all its power and name fighters, could not do.  Chargin also said,“I heard that Arum told (Top Rank Matchmaker) Bruce Trampler ‘Your friend Chargin gave the new promoter “Yory Boy”. Why didn’t he give him to us?’” “Thing was,” Chargin said, “they never asked.”

Don Chargin must be credited for The Olympic Auditorium taking off again in the 90s.

Don and I talked every day and each conversation always evolved into a discussion of what fighters to bring to the Olympic.  Once again, Don helped me out and was able to get Hector “Macho” Camacho, who was one of my most favorite fighters.  We both were very confident that Hector was the type of fighter that could fill the Olympic Auditorium. Even though Hector was not a Mexican National, we both felt that the type of fans at the Olympic appreciated Hector’s immense talent.  And because he fought in weight divisions that Mexican fans follow closely, they had seen him fight many times on TV.  It is important to note that in boxing, not only was Hector not a Mexican, he was also the natural enemy, a Puerto Rican.  Best of all, Hector had never fought in Southern California, in fact, the only time Hector fought in California was many years before, when he fought for my man Don in Northern California. We both knew that the Los Angeles fans would appreciate being treated to this great showman.

The only thing was that I had some reservation in the back of my mind because of all the crazy stories that were out there about Hector. Don assured me that I would love working with Hector, to forget all the craziness that people saw on TV. Don told me that Hector was a real gentleman, very business-like, and was a promoter’s best friend because no one could hype a fight the way Hector could. Hector understood that promoters and fighters needed to work together so that the show would be highly anticipated and a truly memorable night for the fans.  Everything Don told me about Hector was true, and the Olympic Auditorium was rockin’ the night Hector fought.

Don shared a funny story about Hector.  Years before, when Hector fought for Don, after the fight was over, Hector asked Don to please hold his money and later, he would let Don know where to send it to.  I believe his purse was $80,000, so we are talking about a significant amount of money.  Don deposited Hector’s purse into a separate account.  Years went by, and Don told me Hector finally called him. To the best of my recollection, the conversation went almost exactly as follows: Hector introduced himself, “Mr. Chargin, this is Hector.”  After Don acknowledged him, Hector said, “Mr. Chargin, do you still have the $80,000?”  Don told me that although he had a big smile on his face, he said with a serious tone, “Hector, I don’t have the $80,000.” Don waited for Hector to say something, but there was just silence on the other end.  Don finally spoke up, saying “Hector, I don’t have the $80,000, but what I do have is your $80,000 plus whatever interest has accrued after all these years.”  Hector laughed and told Don how much he loved him and then gave him the address of where to send the money.

What’s ironic about this story is that after Hector fought for me at the Olympic, we had a similar situation.  After Hector’s fight, which the crowd loved, I went down to Hector’s dressing room.  I wanted to thank him for a great show and tell him what a pleasure it was working with him and his team.  Hector pulled me into an adjoining room, so that we were alone and could have a private conversation.  Things proceeded as follows: Hector said to me, “Peter, the whole experience of fighting at the Olympic was great. I enjoyed the public workouts every day at Brooklyn Gym and I was happy doing all the interviews.” (Hector went by limo every night to different radio and tv stations, hyping the fight.  He was even a guest on the Monday Night Football game telecast the week of the fight.  I never saw any fighter work that hard to help a promotion, he really understood the whole boxing business.) Hector continued the conversation and said, “Look Peter, I know you took a big risk putting me on a show with no television.  I know I am expensive, especially with all the plane flights I requested and that you housed us in a beautiful hotel for almost two weeks.  Even though I know it was a great show and a big crowd, I know you couldn’t have made any money, and you may have even lost money.  I know what you’re doing with the Olympic and I feel honored to have fought in a building with such history. Why don’t you hold my $25,000 and in a month or so, you can start sending me $5000 a month until the entire purse is paid.”

That was the Hector Camacho I knew, not the Hector “Macho” Camacho the public saw on their TVs.  Once again, it all happened because of Don Chargin and Hector’s manager Mice Acri.  I could never thank Hector, Mike and especially Don enough.

I wanted to share another side of Don Chargin with you.  He was co-promoting a world championship fight with Don King. They were all busy during the week leading up to the fight. One day Don was in his hotel room with some people involved with the show.  There was a loud knock on the door and Don answered it.  One of the individuals involved with the promotion was there, out of breath, and excitedly telling Don he had to get down to the lobby as fast as possible.  Don told the guy to calm down, catch his breath, and tell him what the problem was.  The guy told Don that his wife Lorraine was arguing jaw to jaw with Don King in the lobby and he needed to get down to the lobby asap to save Lorraine from King.  With a big smile on his face, he told the guy that Lorraine wasn’t the one who needed saving, it was King! Lorraine was as tough as anyone in boxing and that is one of the reasons why Don and Lorraine Chargin made such a great match as partners in promoting and partners in life.

Don has had a huge impact both on my life and on the sport of boxing. He was not only instrumental, but also essential to the success of the Grand Olympic Auditorium. Chargin was a remarkable matchmaker and promoter. Personally, I consider him to be the Godfather of professional prizefighting. The boxing world has lost a legend in Don Chargin, he will be greatly missed.

By Peter Broudy

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When Fighting in a Ballpark Really Meant Something

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Nowadays, in the technologically advanced age of satellite communications and pay-per-view, live attendance at a boxing match is not nearly as consequential to the bottom line as it once was. Remember when the guaranteed purses of $2.5 million apiece for Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, for the first of their three epic fights, on March 8, 1971, in Madison Square Garden, was as jaw-dropping as the action in the ring? There were fighters – superb, Hall of Fame fighters — who never came close to grossing that kind of money in their entire careers. The “Fight of the Century” was seen via closed-circuit in 50 countries by 300 million people, which largely contributed to total revenues of nearly $20 million, also numbers that were then record-shattering and considered astounding.

But the sellout, in-house crowd of 20,455, all of whom paid premium prices to be in attendance for Smokin’ Joe’s rousing, 15-round unanimous-decision victory, left the arena with the satisfaction of having experienced something that could not possibly be matched by those watching in a movie theater in, say, Shreveport, Louisiana.

From the giddy heights of Ali-Frazier I, let us flash forward to the most financially profitable boxing event of all time, the much-anticipated, long-delayed pairing of welterweight superstars Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao on May 2, 2015, at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas. Mayweather’s 12-round unanimous decision, a relative exercise in tedium compared to the mega-wattage generated by Ali and Frazier 44 years earlier, was of more interest to readers of Forbes than of The Ring, with 4.6 million pay-per-view buys, $600 million in gross revenues and a live gate of $72,198,500 on a paid attendance of 16,219, according to records furnished by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. For a night’s work, Mayweather came away with roughly $250 million before taxes and Pacquiao with somewhere between $160 million to $180 million.

Recent bouts in soccer stadiums involving WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua have served to remind the boxing world that, despite the convenience of someone being able to kick back in his living room to watch a fight on large-screen, high-definition television, there still is nothing quite like the sense of purpose that comes from sharing the moment with tens of thousands of fellow fans. And make no mistake, performing before massive crowds can be as much of an aphrodisiac to a fighter as it is to a rock musician, calling to mind the sad lament of Marlon Brandon’s ex-pug Terry Malloy character in the 1954 Academy Award-winning film, On the Waterfront.

“Remember that night in the Garden you came down to my dressing room and you said, `Kid, this ain’t your night. We’re going for the price on Wilson,’” Malloy tells his mobbed-up brother Charley, played by Rod Steiger. “You remember that? This ain’t your night? My night! I coulda taken Wilson apart! So what happens? He gets the title shot outdoors in a ballpark and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palooka-ville!”

Outdoors in a ballpark.

That line calls to mind boxing’s glory days, before television and even to some extent afterward, when the most compelling fights almost necessarily had to be staged in baseball or football venues such as Yankee Stadium, the Polo Grounds, Soldier Field in Chicago and long-gone Sesquicentennial Stadium in Philadelphia. Spectators were like moths drawn to a flame because the mere fact of being there was important to them, even if it required binoculars for those in the cheap seats to see what was taking place down in the ring.

For a fight to be staged “outdoors in a ballpark” – or even indoors, after the advent of domed stadiums or those with retractable roofs – usually required the participation of two elite fighters, or just one, if he was prominent enough or popular enough to draw in the masses on his own. But sometimes there are other factors involved, as was apparently the case on Oct. 20, 1979, when white South African Gerrie Coetzee (then 22-0, 12 knockouts) squared off against black American “Big” John Tate (19-0, 15 KOs), a bronze medalist at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, for the vacant WBA title which had been relinquished by Muhammad Ali.

Apartheid was still the official national policy in South Africa then, which no doubt played as much a factor in a huge – and segregated – crowd of 86,000 packing Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria, South Africa. Although each fighter was undefeated, Coetzee had never fought outside his home country, with the exception of a one-round stoppage of washed-up former champion Leon Spinks in Monte Carlo, which led to his being paired with Tate. It could be argued that neither man had established himself as a fully legitimate aspirant to a throne only recently vacated by the great Ali. Coetzee’s most significant wins had come against fellow white South Africans Pierre Fourie and Kallie Knoetze, as well as one against former world title challenger Ron Stander, who had been beaten to a pulp by Joe Frazier. Tate’s resume was similarly thin, buoyed somewhat with wins over Knoetze and the overrated Duane Bobick.

What happened throughout the remainder of their careers stamps their confrontation as an outlier in the otherwise significant history of major fights contested before exceptionally large stadium crowds. Although Tate won a 15-round unanimous decision over Coetzee, in his first title defense he was dethroned on a 15th-round knockout by Mike Weaver in a bout Tate was winning handily on points, and even as his promoter, Bob Arum, was negotiating at ringside for him to be matched with Ali in his next outing. It was a fight that never would happen; Tate basically unraveled in finishing with a career mark of 34-3 (23) and weighing a jiggly 281 pounds for his final bout, losing on points to Noel Quarless on March 30, 1988. Even before then, Tate had fallen victim to cocaine addiction and constant scrapes with the law. His boxing earnings gone, he panhandled on the streets of his hometown of Knoxville, Tenn., and reportedly ballooned to over 400 pounds. He was just 43 when he died on April 9, 1998, of a massive stroke.

Coetzee fared somewhat better. He wangled two more shots at a world title; a 13th-round knockout loss to Weaver in Sun City, South Africa, that preceded an upset, 10th round KO of WBA champ Michael Dokes on Sept. 23, 1983, in Richfield, Ohio. Alas, Coetzee would hold onto the title as briefly as Tate had, losing on an eighth-round knockout by Greg Page on Dec. 1, 1984, in Sun City. The “Boksburg Bomber” would retire with a 33-6-1 (21) record.

Clearly, Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs), the WBA/IBF/WBO champion and a super-heavyweight gold medalist for England at the 2012 London Olympics, is a significantly superior talent to Tate and Coetzee, and enough of a national hero in the United Kingdom to fight before 90,000 for his 11th-round stoppage of Wladimir Klitschko on April 29, 2017, in London’s Wembley Stadium. He since has posted victories over Carlos Takam (TKO10) and Joseph Parker (UD12) that each drew more than 78,000 in Wales’ Principality Stadium, and another 80,000 for his seventh-round stoppage of Alexander Povetkin on Sept. 22 in Wembley Stadium. If and when he takes on WBC champ Deontay Wilder, that unification extravaganza likely will take place in Wembley before another capacity-straining throng of 90,000-plus.

Almost single-handedly, Joshua has revived the tradition of fighting “outdoors in a ballpark” (although Principality Stadium has a roof), which largely owes, if not exclusively, to the generational allure of history’s finest heavyweights.

Although the largest live attendances for boxing matches involved non-heavyweights – middleweight champion Tony Zale knocked out Billy Pryor in nine rounds in a free, non-title bout staged by the Pabst Brewing Company before a crowd of 135,000 at Milwaukee’s Juneau Park on Aug. 16, 1941, and WBC super lightweight titlist Julio César Chávez stopped Greg Haugen in five rounds with 132,274 in the stands at Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium on Feb. 20, 1993 – the big boys otherwise rule supreme.

There were 120,757 on hand at Sesquicentennial Stadium on Sept. 23, 1926, to watch Gene Tunney lift the legendary Jack Dempsey’s heavyweight crown on a 10-round unanimous decision. A year less a day later, Tunney retained the title on another 10-round unanimous decision in the famous “Long Count” bout, before 104,943 at Soldier Field.

Dempsey, along with baseball’s Babe Ruth, football’s Red Grange, golf’s Bobby Jones and tennis’ Bill Tilden, was one of the seminal figures in sports’ “Roaring ’20s” golden age. Dempsey drew 91,613 for a fourth-round knockout of George Carpentier in Jersey City, N.J., on July 2, 1921, and 80,000-plus for bouts with Luis Angel Firpo (KO2) at the Polo Grounds on Sept. 14, 1923, and Jack Sharkey (KO7) in Yankee Stadium on July 21, 1927.

Former world champion Max Schmeling kayoed fellow German Walter Neusel in nine rounds before a crowd of 102,000 on Aug. 26, 1934, at Hamburg’s Sandbahn Loksgtedt, a European attendance record for boxing attendance that still stands and may be out of the range of even Anthony Joshua, unless a more spacious stadium than Wembley is constructed. Schmeling was on the wrong end of his one-round beatdown by Joe Louis in their much-anticipated rematch on June 23, 1938, in Yankee Stadium, which drew 70,043 and held the world’s attention to a degree that few if any fights before or since could approach.

Rocky Marciano’s largest live crowd was the 47,585 that showed up on Sept. 21, 1955, for the final fight of his career, a ninth-round knockout of Archie Moore in Yankee Stadium.

Ali, of course, was no stranger to fights that filled stadiums. The largest attendance for any of his ring appearances was the 63,350 that filed into the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans to see him become a three-time world champion when he avenged an earlier upset loss to Leon Spinks by scoring a 15-round unanimous decision on Sept. 15, 1978. However, of far greater significance to his legacy was his stunning, eighth-round knockout of seemingly invincible champion George Foreman in their “Rumble in the Jungle” fight on Oct. 30, 1974, in Kinshasa, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). That fight was seen by “only” 60,000 spectators in Stade du 20 Mai, but in truth the entire world was watching by whatever means were available.

There are drawbacks, of course, to stadium fights, particularly those without a roof. Such fights have been staged in blistering heat, numbing cold, and sometimes pelting rain. It also stands to reason that the larger the crowd, the more difficult it is to later work your way free of the exiting masses in a reasonable amount of time. The trade-off is the sense of community when attending a sold-out event in a massive venue, which contributes to the electricity that one feels emanating from the event itself. That’s the way it is for Super Bowls, World Series and the World Cup, and it’s the way it should be, at least occasionally, in boxing.

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Three Punch Combo: Jacobs-Derevyanchenko on HBO, Baranchyk-Yigit and More

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This Saturday, Daniel Jacobs (34-2, 29 KO’s) takes on Sergiy Derevyanchenko (12-0, 10 KO’s) for the vacant IBF middleweight title. The fight, which headlines an HBO World Championship Boxing tripleheader, is highly anticipated in boxing circles as on paper it is an evenly matched contest with a wide range of potential outcomes. The fight also bears an eerie resemblance to another middleweight title fight from more than twenty years ago.

On March 16th, 1996, then IBF middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins (28-2-1, 21 KO’s) faced off against the IBF’s number one ranked contender in Joe Lipsey (25-0, 20 KO’s). Opinions were split as to who would come out as the victor. It was televised live in the United States on ABC in the afternoon and served as a precursor for that evening’s big pay-per-view event between Mike Tyson and Frank Bruno.

Hopkins, 31 at the time, had fought much better opposition and those who favored him thought his experience along with his better athleticism would lead him to victory. Lipsey, who was 29, had a burgeoning reputation in the fight game and was known for his relentless pressure style. In addition, he had displayed devastating one punch knockout power in both hands that had many thinking he had a bright future in the sport.

It was the experience and ring savviness of Hopkins versus the untapped raw potential of Lipsey.

As it played out, Hopkins’ skill proved too much for Lipsey. After effectively out-boxing and neutralizing the aggression of Lipsey for three rounds, Hopkins landed a perfectly placed counter right uppercut using Lipsey’s forward momentum against him that instantly ended matters. It was a statement making performance for Hopkins.

Jacobs, 31, is in a similar spot to that of Hopkins when he faced Lipsey. With two losses on his ledger, Jacobs is in need of a statement making victory. One of those losses was to Gennady Golovkin and, of course, Hopkins entered the Lipsey contest with one of his losses to all-time great Roy Jones Jr.

Jacobs holds a significant experience edge in the pro game compared to that of Derevyanchenko. Jacobs is also the more athletic fighter. Similar to that of Hopkins against Lipsey, Jacobs will look to play the role of the boxer-puncher and use his experience along with athleticism to dictate the tempo of the fight.

Derevyanchenko, 32, comes in highly touted. Similar to Joe Lipsey in 1996, he enters with an undefeated record along with a glossy knockout percentage and many in the sport see a fighter with raw untapped potential.

The similarities between Jacobs-Derevyanchenko and Hopkins-Lipsey are striking. Will history repeat itself or will Derevyanchenko be able to rise to the occasion?

Baranchyk-Yigit

The World Boxing Super Series 140-pound tournament resumes this week with a pair of fights in New Orleans. While the fans will be mostly showing up to watch the main event between hometown rising star Regis Prograis (22-0, 19 KO’s) and Terry Flanagan (33-1, 13 KO’s), it is the other WBSS fight, pitting Ivan Baranchyk against Anthony Yigit for the vacant IBF title that piques my interest.

Baranchyk (18-0, 11 KOs) is well known to US fight fans from his multiple appearances on the ShoBox series on Showtime on which he has scored some highlight reel knockouts. He is an aggressive pressure fighter with heavy handed power. He has been showing signs of improved boxing skills of late and is coming off a career best performance in knocking out former world title challenger Petr Petrov.

Yigit (21-0-1, 7 KOs) is a former decorated amateur who participated in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. A southpaw with quick feet and good hand speed, Yigit is an excellent counterpuncher who is adept at using feints to bait his opponents to throw to set up counter opportunities. He is also very slick and uses good head movement, making him not an easy target to hit.

This is a classic matchup of an aggressive pressure fighter against a skilled slick boxer. Baranchyk has the buzz and will be favored, but Yigit’s style and skill could present a major challenge for him. It’s a very compelling fight,.

The Journey of Yuandale Evans

On April 24th, 2010 I hit the road to attend a club show in a suburb of Cleveland. I wanted to get a firsthand look at a local fighter named Yuandale Evans who was headlining the 6-fight card. The venue was a small indoor soccer complex and tickets were only $20. There was no assigned seating and I had no problem finding a ringside seat for the evening’s festivities.

Evans did not disappoint. Fighting in front of the sparse audience, he dispatched an opponent named Reymundo Hernandez in the first round. I liked what I saw from Evans and thought he had a bright future in boxing.

A year later, Evans found himself on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fight Series in a step-up fight against veteran Emmanuel Lucero. This was a coming out party for Evans as he impressively took apart the former world title challenger. There was speed, athleticism and power in his game and many took notice.

Nine months later, Evans found himself in a significant fight. It was another date on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fight Series but this time against a fellow undefeated fighter in Javier Fortuna. Fortuna had been getting a lot of buzz and if Evans could defeat him then he’d find himself on the brink of a world title opportunity.

But the Fortuna fight did not go well for Evans. As a matter of fact, it was disastrous.  Fortuna scored a vicious, highlight reel first round knockout, the kind of knockout loss that many fighters never recover from.

It appeared for a while that Evans would not get back in the game. Out for three years, he finally returned in 2015 with two wins against less than stellar competition. These wins were needed confidence boosters.

After those bounce back wins, it took another 17 months for Evans to return to the ring. This time, in his first major test since the Fortuna loss, he faced Billel Dib. Brought in as the “B” side, Evans was supposed to be a name on the resume for Dib, but he flipped the script, scoring a clear ten round unanimous decision.

The win against Dib, which took place in the 130-pound division, put Evans back on the radar. But it was his next performance that put him into contention. Dropping down to featherweight and again coming in as the underdog, he scored a rousing split decision win against Louis Rosa in November of 2017 in a fiercely fought contest that received Fight of the Year consideration. Evans fought with passion and determination to secure the best win of his career.

Evans, now 20-1 with 14 KO’s, will challenge undefeated 130-pound world title holder Alberto Machado next week. Evans is once again an underdog. Not many are giving him much of a chance. But if Evans fights like he did against Rosa and can stay inside on Machado, applying constant pressure, we could be in for another surprise.

Evans has come a long way since I first saw him fight at a small indoor soccer venue in Ohio and I for one do not discount his chances to lift Machado’s world title belt.

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