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The Decision In The Last Fight Is A Blessing In Disguise For Pacquiao This Time

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Sometimes a great fighter can lose a fight, or a decision can go against him that most everyone felt that he won…and it can be a blessing in disguise.

That was exactly the case on March 8, 1971, when “Smokin” Joe Frazier beat Muhammad Ali conclusively via a 15-round unanimous decision in the “Fight Of The Century” when both were undefeated with the undisputed heavyweight title on the line.

The March 15th edition of Sports Illustrated had on its cover a picture of Ali falling to the canvas in the 15th round, with the caption “End Of The Ali Legend.”

And to this day it can be said with impunity that Ali, the most important boxer who has yet lived, actually lost the biggest and most widely anticipated sporting event, not fight, in history.

At the time many Ali fans were in tears and depressed immediately after Frazier defeated him. Yet, as history would unfold and now all these years looking back, the best thing to ever happen to Ali in the ring is that Joe Frazier beat him fair and square when they met the first time. Had Ali beaten Frazier by unanimous decision he may not be considered the greatest heavyweight ever as he is today, by many. Frazier’s defeat of Ali solidified Joe as an all-time great fighter and gave Ali something to prove since he really never had to overcome adversity before. However, before Ali got a chance to settle the score with Frazier, young George Foreman knocked Joe out for the undisputed title in two rounds. Foreman beating Frazier, who recently beat Ali, propelled him to the top of the food chain and provided Ali with two legitimate greats who stood in his way, two fighters that he would have to eventually defeat if he ever were to gain the title again.

As we saw Ali came back and beat Frazier in their rematch and then knocked out the undefeated Foreman nine months later to become only the second fighter in history to lose and regain the undisputed heavyweight title. After making three defenses of the title Ali stopped Frazier in their rubber match, “The Thrilla In Manila,” to retain the title. In short it’s Ali’s victories over Frazier and Foreman that are a monumental reason why he’s the icon and legend he is today. So remember, had he defeated Frazier the first time that wouldn’t have been possible and we probably would’ve never found out that Foreman was one of the greats as well. In essence, Ali losing the “Fight Of The Century” was really the best thing that ever happened to him. Today, the Sport Illustrated cover would show the same picture of Ali going down with the caption “Beginning Of The Ali Legend.”

Almost exactly 22 months ago to the day former WBO welterweight title holder Manny Pacquiao 55-5-2 (38) lost his title via a 12-round split decision to Timothy Bradley 31-0 (12). When the decision was announced favoring Bradley, Pacquiao and the boxing world were stunned. Virtually everyone who saw the fight live or on PPV-TV saw Pacquiao as the overwhelming winner. Even Bradley said he had to go home and watch the tape to see if he won. Since the decision in their first fight was rendered that’s all we’ve heard discussed regarding these two fighters.

Everybody has been in an uproar over what so many perceive as an unjust decision and view the winner of the fight as the loser, and the loser as the winner. Well, it just so happens that the decision that went against Pacquiao against Bradley in their first fight just may be the best thing that he has going for him when they meet in a rematch this coming Saturday night.

The stories surrounding Pacquiao since the fight, which only started after the decision was read, have been focused on what he needs to do to win this time and how he must re-discover his aggression and so-called eye of the tiger that he carried to the ring when he stopped Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto in consecutive fights circa 2008/2009. But that’s a little misleading… because if Manny really did handle Bradley the first time, which he did, then why does he have to practically reinvent himself this time? Really, he doesn’t.The last time they fought Manny was aggressive, but Bradley’s hand and foot-speed along with his unorthodoxy stymied Pacquiao a little bit. But as we saw, it wasn’t enough so that Bradley actually bettered him. What it did was basically help Bradley extend the fight and it forced Pacquiao to rush him, sometimes carelessly, which afforded a couple easy openings and counters for Bradley. However, this time that won’t be enough to carry Bradley to the decision and he and his trainer Joel Diaz know it.

Because of the decision in the last fight it’s Bradley who has to change and be better this time, not so much Pacquiao. In the rematch Saturday night Bradley has to try and win two fights in one and must prove that he really did deserve the decision in the first one. I’ve seen where so many, including myself, are picking Pacquiao to win this time because we feel that the bout will go the distance. Subconsciously, we believe that as long as the fight is relatively competitive and close, Pacquiao will get the makeup call, the decision, because he’s still the star and the draw in the fight. Plus, it makes for better business.. and if Manny wins the dream of a faux Super Fight with Floyd Mayweather lives on.

And guess what? Team Bradley is very cognizant of this too.

Since getting the decision over Pacquiao, Bradley has faced and legitimately beaten a beast named Ruslan Provodnikov and the other active boxing professor aside from Mayweather, Juan Manuel Marquez. There’s no way in the world that Bradley and his brain trust want to waste three consecutive big wins because they were tentative and didn’t do enough to convince the judges again that Timothy beat Manny. No, Bradley wants to put Pacquiao behind him and start campaigning for Mayweather. Bradley knows that the sentiment with the judges this time is going to lead them to look for every reason in the world to give the fight to Pacquiao if it comes down to a decision. Which means he’s really going to have to make a statement against Pacquiao in this fight. But how does he do that? He survived the last fight a lot because he kept it from becoming a war and an all out fight. This time Bradley will have to land as many memorable shots as Pacquiao and he may actually have to beat him up a little, something he didn’t do the last time. Well, Bradley cannot do that by simply trying to box and pick his spots. He’ll have to at different times during the bout take a chance and try to stand his ground against Manny and win the exchange with an exclamation point. And guess what, if Bradley fights like that and with a mindset that he really has to win it beyond a doubt this time, that works to Pacquiao’s advantage in a big way.

The best thing for Pacquiao would be to have in front of him is a Bradley who is willing to fight and trade, and not box. And say Bradley tries to fight Pacquiao straight up a few times during the fight and realizes it’s too risky and dangerous and reverts back to moving and boxing and only looking to react after he’s sure it’s safe. You know what, he’ll look like he’s running and trying to avoid fighting. Is there even a morsel of a doubt as to how that will look to the judges and fans? Of course not, and Pacquiao will have to get the decision.

Let’s play it from the other end and say Bradley actually engages with Pacquiao and does better this time than he did in their last fight, but still loses the decision. Then he’ll say afterwards that “he did better this time and should’ve won.” So as you can see the decision that went against Pacquiao the last time is the biggest thing he has going for him this time because Bradley is a victim of it and his hand is actually forced strategically in a way that it wasn’t the first time. No, it won’t hurt Pacquiao if he can fight with the urgency he used to have when he was knocking everybody out. But it’s obvious that he’s not the same fighter in 2014 that he was in 2009 and that tireless non-stop punching machine is gone forever. However, he may not have to be quite the supernova he was then because Bradley has to bring it a little more himself this time and he knows that. And that serves Pacquiao really well for the rematch.

The decision that went against Pacquiao the last time he fought Bradley will be a big plus for him on Saturday night, April 12, 2014, both in how the fight unfolds strategically in the ring and how it’s scored by the officials.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com.

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Charr-Oquendo Scuttled When Charr Tests Positive; the Odious WBA Saves Face

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Manuel Charr

Manuel Charr and Fres Oquendo were scheduled to fight in Cologne, Germany, later this month (Sept. 29). Charr would be defending his WBA world heavyweight title, the “regular” version of it, not the “super” version which rests in the hands of Anthony Joshua.

The bout was quickly cancelled when it was revealed that Charr had tested positive for two banned anabolic steroids. The test was performed by VADA, the anti-doping agency identified with Las Vegas neurologist Dr. Margaret Goodman.

The 33-year-old Charr, born in Lebanon but a resident of Germany since the age of three, won the belt in his last start with a unanimous decision over 281-pound Russian behemoth Alexander Ustinov in Oberhausen, Germany. The title was vacant. Charr won the right to fight for it with a 10-round decision over Albanian slug Sefer Seferi. The victory over Ustinov elevated his record to 31-4. He has been stopped three times, by Vitali Klitschko, Alexander Povetkin, and Mairis Briedis.

If it wasn’t for bad luck, as the old saying goes, Fres Oquendo wouldn’t have any luck at all. For various reasons, his fights keep falling out. Before long he’ll be drawing social security. Well, not exactly, but he turned 45 in April and hasn’t fought in more than four years.

Oquendo has competed for this belt before. In his last ring appearance in July of 2014, he lost a majority decision to Russia’s Ruslan Chagaev in Grozny, Russia. As a concession for taking the fight on short notice, Team Oquendo negotiated a rematch clause in the contract, but a shoulder injury prevented Fres from activating it. When the injury healed, he had to go to court to compel Chagaev to fulfill his obligation. But then the Russian retired, muddling the water.

The WBA was legally bound to find Oquendo a title fight and in desperation turned to ancient Shannon Briggs. But the Oquendo-Briggs fight, scheduled for June 3 of last year in Hollywood, Florida, fell out when Briggs’ urine specimen showed an abnormally high level of testosterone.

Fres Oquendo was dogged by bad luck even before these recent developments. His professional record, 37-8, is somewhat misleading as six of his eight defeats were razor-thin including his 2003 setback to Chris Byrd and his 2006 setback to Evander Holyfield. However, Oquendo, something of a cutie, was never a crowd-pleaser and in none of his narrow defeats was there a public clamor for a rematch.

The cancellation of Charr-Oquendo cuts the World Boxing Association out of a sanctioning fee, but one would think that the WBA honchos are actually rather pleased by this turn of events. The fight, more precisely the WBA’s world title imprimatur, would have brought more unwanted publicity to the Panama-based organization.

ESPN’s Dan Rafael, who has the largest platform of any boxing writer, has been a persistent critic of the organization which once recognized 41 “champions” in 17 weight classes. In 2009, Rafael wrote, “(The WBA) has become such an absolute farce that even somebody like me, who follows boxing closely, sometimes has a hard time keeping track of all the nonsensical so-called world title belts the WBA has been doling out at an alarming rate. It almost reminds me of the ladies at Costco who hand out various samples on a busy Saturday afternoon.”

Rafael took note when WBA president Gilberto Mendoza promised to cull the herd by eliminating “regular” titles, and then became more caustic when Mendoza didn’t follow through. Recently, in one short, punchy diatribe, Rafael blistered the WBA as wretched, vile, and rancid.

Regardless of your opinion, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Fres Oquendo who keeps getting stranded at the altar. No, he’s not fun to watch and a man of his age shouldn’t be taking any more punches, but he has always been an honest workman and by all accounts he’s a very decent man. Born in Puerto Rico but raised in Chicago, Oquendo pitched right in when the island nation of his birth was ravaged by Hurricane Maria. He was personally responsible for relocating Puerto Rican boxing legend Wilfred Benitez and Benitez’s sister, his caregiver, to Chicago where their lives wouldn’t be as hard.

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Bob Arum Hails Terence Crawford (not Lomachenko) as Boxing’s Next Superstar

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Arum says Terence

Top Rank’s Bob Arum says Terence Crawford will become this generation’s Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao–elite boxers who became worldwide celebrity sensations. Arum, who promoted both Mayweather and Pacquiao on the way to their historic crossover statuses expects big things from the undefeated Crawford over the next few years.

“He’s the best fighter in the United States, and he’s so charismatic,” said Arum. “He comes from middle America, and In the next year or so, he will be huge.”

Arum’s assertion is noteworthy for two reasons. First, Arum is also the promoter for Vasyl Lomachenko. Lomachenko is ranked No. 1 pound-for-pound by The Ring, the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. More importantly, Lomachenko seems to have a groundswell of support behind him both in the media and among fight fans.

Lomachenko has also been heavily featured through Top Rank’s television partnership with ESPN. While Crawford has achieved more in his career than Lomachenko (at least in my eyes) and, as noted by Arum, is a homegrown American talent, Lomachenko seems to be considered the more marketable commodity to that network judging by the amount of promotional materials ESPN has pumped out about the fighter over the last year.

The other reason Arum’s claim about Crawford is interesting is the performance of Canelo Alvarez over the weekend in his majority decision rematch win over Gennady Golovkin. Besides Mayweather and Pacquiao, Alvarez is the clear PPV leader among all of boxing’s current commodities, and his status as boxing’s new money fighter should only grow stronger after the best win of his career.

Still, Crawford is one of the few very elite fighters in all of boxing. He’s ranked No. 2 pound-for-pound by The Ring, the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.

While Lomachenko and Alvarez are also candidates to become boxing’s next big thing, there’s no doubt Crawford is also one of the few boxers in the sport right now with the right things in place to become the next Mayweather or Pacquiao.

Omaha’s Crawford is in the midst of an historic run. When he stopped Jeff Horn in round 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in June, Crawford captured a world title in his third different weight class, welterweight. This after Crawford had already captured two lineal boxing championships, as well as multiple alphabet titles, in both the lightweight and junior welterweight divisions.

By any measure, Crawford is truly one of the best boxers in the sport. Not only does he look the part in the ring on fight night (something more and more writers seem to value most when voting for pound-for-pound lists), but the fighter has already accomplished so much in his career that it seems Arum is doing more than the fiduciary duty of promoting his fighter when he ascribes to Crawford such lofty praise.

Crawford, still just 30 years old, is already halfway to matching Mayweather and Pacquiao’s shared record of most lineal championships. Over the course of his career, Mayweather captured lineal championships at junior lightweight, lightweight, welterweight, and junior middleweight. Pacquiao won his as a flyweight, featherweight, junior lightweight, and junior welterweight.

In order for Crawford to grab lineal championship No. 3, most believe he’ll have to go through welterweight phenom Errol Spence. While promotional entanglements might keep this superfight on the shelf for a while, Arum said he had no problem pitting Crawford against Spence in what would be one of the best matchups in recent memory.

“Absolutely,” said Arum when asked about working with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions, who represents Spence, to make the fight. Could any response from him be more exciting? Crawford vs. Spence might be the next superfight in boxing. Both fighters are among the very elite, and unlike what ultimately happened with Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, who fought each other well past their peak years, both would be in the prime of their careers.

Winning that fight would certainly go a long way to making Arum’s vision of Crawford’s future come true. And who knows? Maybe Crawford really is the next Mayweather or Pacquiao. Heck, for all we know, he could even be on his way to doing something more.

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A Kaleidoscope of Boxers Guaranteed to Provide Action: Past and Present

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Marvelous Marvin

To set the tone for this article, one needs only to watch the way in which Thomas Hearns came out in the first round against Marvelous Marvin Hagler. He was ready to rock and roll as was his fearsome looking opponent. The ensuing unmitigated savagery was the quintessential illustration of full-tilt boogie.

For most boxing fans, the anticipation of an all-out action bout gets the chills running down spines faster than anything else. But not all, as some prefer a tactical or clinical fight that someone like Mikey Garcia can orchestrate and others –but not many—enjoy a defensive gem via a Willie Pep, Nicolino Locche, or Pernell Whitaker. A few love a genuine blood fest that a Gabe Rosado-type can provide, and who doesn’t like seeing something special as in Sugar Ray Leonard, Kostya Tszyu, Terence Crawford or Vasiliy Lomachenko?

Chill-or-be-chilled types like Bob Satterfield and Tommy Morrison were super exciting. In this connection—a certain cadre of warriors, past and present, would come out charging and stalking as soon as the bell rang. Many demonstrated a marked disdain for defense and used a non-stop, no let-up pressure that discouraged their opponents, especially in the late rounds. The anticipation from the crowd was palpable because it sensed some form of destruction was on its way. The cheering would start during the instructions and sometimes did not let up until the concussive end.

This cadre included Rocky Marciano, Tony Ayala, Vicious Victor Galindez, Jeff Fenech, Roberto Duran, and Julio Cesar Chavez (who sapped the spirit of his opponents by ripping away at their mid-section). Also, Carl “The Cat”  Thompson , chill-or-be-chilled Ricardo “Pajarito” Moreno (60-12-1 with 59 KOs),  Ron Lyle, the ultra-violent Edwin Valero, the appropriately nicknamed JulianMr KO” Letterlough, James “The Outlaw” Hughes and his mindboggling ability to snatch victory from certain defeat, Thai stalking monster Khaosai Galaxy (47-1),  the first version of George Foreman (pictured with the aforementioned Lyle), Ji-Hoon “Volcano” Kim, Ruslan  Provodnikov, Orlando “Siri” Salido, Marcos Maidana, Lenny Z, Alfredo “Perro” Angulo, Mike Alvarado, Brandon Rios, and Mickey Roman (the later four are still fighting but past their primes).

Others who presently incite the anticipation of something special include (but are not limited to) Naoya “Monster” Inoue (16-0), Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr (24-0), Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (46-4-1), Alex Saucedo (27-0), and, of course, Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (38-1-1) who now has become slightly more tactical like his nemesis, Canelo Alvarez (50-1-1).

These stand out as representative.

Past

A prime Mike Tyson—and the emphasis is on prime– was the epitome of a boxer who guaranteed action. One simply would not leave his or her seat when “Iron Mike” was doing his highlight reel thing, and his blowout of Michael Spinks punctuated his standing at the top of all-action type fighters, even if the action was usually non-mutual.

Joe Frazier came out smokin’ and would not let up until either he or his opponent were done. For the most part, decisions were not in Joe’s DNA and his left hook was as malicious as a hook can be. With Joe, you just sat back and enjoyed the action. Frazier, wrote boxing historian Tracy Callis,  “was a strong, ‘swarmer’ style boxer who applied great pressure on his opponent and dealt out tremendous punishment with a relentless attack of lefts and rights; His left hook was especially stiff and quick when delivered during his bob-and-weave perpetual attack; he fought three minutes per round and never seemed to tire.”

Carlos “Escopeta” (Shotgun) Monzon (87-3-9) was a powerful and rangy Argentinean killing machine, built like an iron rod. Some said he pushed his punches. Well if he did, he pushed 87 opponents to defeat. He also became only the second man to stop former three-time world champion Emile Griffith, turning the trick in the 14th round. Blessed with great and deceptive stamina and a solid chin, he seemingly was an irresistible force. He was unbeaten over the last 81 bouts of his career, a span of 13 years, and defended his title 14 times. “One would need to write a book in order to do justice to comparing a fighter of Carlos Monzon’s calibre to his fellow all-time greats,” wrote Mike Casey.

Arturo Gatti and Irish Micky Ward were the quintessential action fighters. One is gone amidst controversy, and hopefully the other will not pay a price for his many ring wars. With these two, just count up the Fights-of-the-Year and the rest is history. Suffice it to say that Gatti and Ward will be forever linked in boxing lore.

Until his fateful fight with Nigel Benn (another all-action fighter), Gerald McClellan was absolutely, positively, a stalking monster with dynamite in his gloves. It was ferocity and fury at its highest level and it was something to behold. Sadly, his fight with Benn left him permanently disabled; his story remains a dark stain on boxing. As Ian McNeilly notes, “one man’s finest hour was the end of another man’s life as he knew it.”

Michael “The Great” Katsidis’s all-action style made thrilling fights a lock. The Kat” was willing to take three to deliver one. It was blood and guts to the last drop. Whether he too exacted a heavy price for this style remains to be seen.

Lucia Rijker, AKA “The Dutch Destroyer,” lived up to her moniker and destroyed everyone in her path. Again, it wasn’t “if,” it was “when.”

Christy Martin (49-7-3) put female boxing on the map in the ‘90s and she did it by going undefeated in 36 straight encounters, running roughshod over her opponents as evidenced by her 25 wins by stoppage during this run. She also managed to steal the show from a Mike Tyson main event in 1996 during her memorable and bloody battle with Deirdre Gogarty.

Present

Deontay Wilder, aka “The Bronze Bomber,” has a record of 40-0.  With 39 wins coming by KO—many in spectacular fashion, The “Bomber” brings with him that same sense of anticipation that Tyson did. It’s not if; it’s when and “when” can occur at any time. But unlike Tyson, there is a vulnerability that Luis Ortiz exposed that makes the excitement index go even higher.

Dillian Whyte (24-1) has seldom been in a dull affair. His vulnerability combined with his mode of attack ensures thrilling action and the possibility of a stoppage at any time. Unlike Dereck “Del-Boy” Chisora, Whyte is consistently aggressive and dangerous.

Manny Pacquiao (60-7-2) has slowed down considerably but his recent stoppage win over Lucas Matthysse offers hope that he can still conjure up his exciting whirlwind style of fast in-an-out movements that allowed him to win multiple titles over several future Hall of Fame opponents between 2005 and 2011. A rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr., if rumors are true, would allow Pac Man an opportunity to accomplish a number of extraordinary things including avenging a prior defeat and ruining Mayweather’s undefeated record. Time will tell.

Though he appears to have shot his wad, a prime Antonio Margarito was the classic stalk, stun, and kill fighter. Heck, he belonged on the Discovery Channel. His two blowouts of Kermit Cintron showed the “Tijuana Tornado” at his most brutal. His come-from-behind demolition of Miguel Cotto stands out for its drama and bloodletting—and subsequent speculative controversy.

David Lemieux (39-4) always brings the heat. His fights seldom end as scheduled. With KO power in both hands and a propensity to rehydrate by 20 pounds, he is the essence of danger and attendant excitement. “With the sheer power he carries, Lemieux will always have a shot at beating any middleweight, and he is almost always involved in good action fights,” says James Slater.

Amanda Serrano (35-1-1) is the only women’s boxer to win world titles in six divisions. The “Real Deal” is unique in that she has a high KO percentage (74 percent) which is rare for female boxers. Amanda is 120 seconds of guaranteed action for each round.

                                                         **********

While Iron Mike Tyson is THE MAN, Matthew Saad Muhammad also warrants special billing as he embodied what this article is all about. Steve Farhood summed up the essence of Saad Muhammad with an observation that would be appropriate for his tombstone: “Eddie Gregory (Mustafa Muhammad) has a better jab, Marvin Johnson wields more power, James Scott does more sit ups. But, Muhammad’s heart is the size of a turnbuckle, and it anchors his title reign.”

Who did I leave out? Whose name or names would you add to this list?

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