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2nd Annual Big Mac Awards: Rigo, Dibella, Bernstein Rule

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According to a person with knowledge of the situation, the Big Mac award is fast-becoming the most prestigious and important award in boxing today. In fact, recent data collected by one of the top-notch data collection agencies in America (McCarson Institute of Counting and Such) suggests this modest little end of year boxing award transcends the world of sports in general. A poll of one person (margin for error is plus/minus 99%) indicates everyone on the planet believes the Big Mac award is more prestigious than the Nobel, Peabody and Pulitzer prizes all rolled into one!

With that heavy burden, this egregiously monumental task proceeds. Please note: all votes are final unless there is a re-vote. In that case, those votes are final under same criteria (barring another revote, etc.).

(To help keep costs down this year, award winners are encouraged to print a copy of this article from the Internet, frame it as a keepsake and enjoy a Big Mac from McDonald’s at his/her expense.)

Fighter of the Year – By far, the Fighter of the Year is the most prestigious award given out every year. It’s true for the Big Mac award, and even for Big Mac’s main rival award giver, the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA). It’s important to note that every single year a Big Mac award for Fighter of the Year has been awarded, the BWAA has copied the Big Mac award winner as their own. A rate of 100% suggests this simply cannot be coincidence.

Knowing this made the selection of the Big Mac award winner that much more important. After much deliberation, this year’s winner was welterweight Timothy Bradley. Bradley was involved in both a Fight of the Year candidate against Ruslan Provodnikov as well as a sharpshooting competition with future Hall of Famer Juan Manuel Marquez, and he came out the better end of both. However, Bradley’s win was immediately revoked once it was brought to light that he still adamantly maintains he defeated Manny Pacquiao back in 2012. He didn’t. He just didn’t.

After more deliberation, the award was then presented to junior welterweight Danny Garcia, who knocked off Lucas Matthysse to become lineal champion of the 140-pound division. Unfortunately, Garcia’s father and trainer, Angel Garcia, has said and done enough dumb things this year to keep Danny Big Mac ineligible for the rest of his life. So while Garcia was the original award winner, he was quickly stripped of it before going to press.

Various other fighters were then considered, such as light heavyweight Adonis Stevenson, middleweight Gennady Golovkin and welterweight Floyd Mayweather until, at least, a verdict was reached unanimously.

The 2013 Big Mac for Fighter of the Year goes to Guillermo Rigondeaux. Rigo didn’t just have to defeat the 2012 award winner Nonito Donaire this year. He also had to overcome a promoter, Bob Arum, and a television partner, HBO, who didn’t quite know what to do with him. So while Rigo technically went 2-0 this year with wins over Donaire and Joseph Agbeko, in reality it took many more fights than that for the Rigolution to continue to be televised.

Rigo is a rare talent. His combination of speed, power and technical ability will not be soon defeated. And as wins pile up, don’t be surprised to see the absurdly talented fighter become quite popular with the bandwagon-boxing crowd, too. Everyone loves a winner, and Rigo is a winner.

Fight of the Year – There were a lot of good fights this year. Tim Bradley and Ruslan Provodnikov sure put on a good show in March. And James Kirkland outslugged Glen Tapia in December. But this year’s Big Mac is neither of those battles. Instead, the winner is Omar Figueroa vs. Nohito Arakawa. Why? Because I was finally there in person for a barnburner like that one, and for some reason the media relations folks accidently switched my seat with award-winning writer Bart Barry for the night. So not only was I finally in attendance at something like this, but I was really, really close to the action, too. Seriously, though, it was a great fight. Both men showed great courage and determination. While Figueroa won most of the rounds, the way Arakawa kept coming back with force and ferocity was truly something to behold. There were times when it appeared he just might overcome his more talented adversary. The bout went all 12 rounds, and every single one of them was entertaining. According to CompuBox, Figueroa landed an average of 40 of 79 punches per round, while Arakawa landed 23 of 98. Figueroa’s 450 landed power shots ranks No. 4 all time for all weight classes, and 716 of their combined 760 landed punches were power shots. What a fight!

Event of the Year – This year’s Floyd Mayweather vs. Canelo Alvarez bout was so big that promoters did a 10-city press tour where they gave out laptop bags to all the media in attendance. While I gave the free swag away to a Twitter follower, it also gave me a chance to interview both Mayweather and Canelo for The Boxing Channel. Moreover, the crowd in attendance, including a really, really long line in Houston, showed how big boxing can be under the right circumstances.

Upset of the Year – Almost no one predicted the epic beatdown Marcos Maidana gave the previously undefeated Adrien Broner this year. Broner was as arrogant as a man can be on his way to the ring that evening, and as humbled as one could be on his way back, too. Maidana knocked down Broner twice in the bout and outmuscled him for a clear and decisive 12-round win. It was Maidana’s best win ever, and it was almost universally celebrated in the boxing community.

Promoter of the Year – This was a two-horse race between local Houston promotional company Savarese Promotions and San Antonio’s Leija/Battah Promotions. Savarese puts on solid local Houston cards that are consistently some of the best fight nights I attend all year. Meanwhile, Leija/Battah has become a global player by helping bring shows like Alvarez-Trout, Berto-Soto Karass and Broner-Maidana to arguably Texas’ best fight town. But then Lou Dibella released heavyweight Tor Hamer from his contract via Twitter. And, yeah, that pretty much sealed the deal. I’m sure he did other important stuff this year, too. But even if he didn’t, he wins for dropping the hammer on Hamer via social media.

Knockout of the Year – Um…is there any doubt that this one would be Adonis Stevenson KO1 Chad Dawson? You can visit here and scroll down for some GIFs of it if you don’t know why. Not only did it come out of nowhere, but it secured Stevenson the lineal light heavyweight championship to boot. What a knockout!

Trainer of the Year – I’m not really sure what Andre Ward’s trainer, Virgil Hunter, does for him. Ward is so good at what he does that I’m starting to think a buffoon like me could train him, too. But man, that guy is super-intense. He wins this year’s Big Mac almost exclusively for that reason.

Most Underappreciated – Part of the reason why Rigo was given the Big Mac award is because he’s so underappreciated. Even after he dominated Donaire over 12 rounds, many in the boxing media were not impressed. So this year’s award for most underappreciated goes to Guillermo Rigondeaux, making him a double Big Mac winner.  In fact, Rigo is the one person who doesn’t have to buy his own Big Mac on his own. It’s on me, Rigo. Send me the bill.

Most Overappreciated – Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson could probably get this award every year. Look, Tyson is an important part of boxing history and was a great champion in his time. But honestly, I’ve never seen anyone more celebrated for things most of society would consider disturbing behavior. Tyson has struggled mightily in his life. To fight the good fight is commendable. But to be revered for failings is another thing all together. The takeaway? Let’s only cheer for Mike when he does things worth cheering for.

Boxing Writer of the Year – Me. Boom! Okay fine. Since I should probably be ineligible from my own award, I’ll give this award to the entire crew at The Sweet Science. From editor Michael Woods, technical expert Lee Wylie, essayist Springs Toledo, etc., etc., etc., TSS has the best boxing writers on the planet. Oh wait…did I just sort of give the award to myself again partially? Total accident.

Hall of Famer of the Year – This year’s award goes to Al Bernstein for being inducted into like eleventy billion HOFs this year. Runner up was Top Rank’s Carl Moretti, mostly because he was inducted in the NJHOF almost immediately after he admitted privately to me that NCAA record holder and current Houston Texans QB Case Keenum was awesome.

Prospect of the Year – If you don’t know who welterweight Alex Saucedo is yet, don’t worry. You will. Saucedo is technically sound and has stupid power in both hands. You can meet him over at The Boxing Channel. He’s a lean, mean fighting machine, and he has the look of a future world champion. Start talking him up to your friends now so you can look really smart a few years from now.

Person of the Year – Rachel Donaire, wife of Nonito Donaire, saved a drowning child this year while she was pregnant. So yeah, next time you’re feeling lazy about taking out the trash or something, think about her saving human life while simultaneously nurturing one inside of her body.

Twitter Follow of the Year – If you don’t follow Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza, you are using Twitter incorrectly. Espinoza will converse with anyone on just about anything, and if you bring nonsense to him, he will slap it down without mercy and humiliate you publically. Don’t believe me? Give it a try. I dare you: @StephenEspinoza.

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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.

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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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