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GOLOVKIN MUST LIVE IN PRESENT AND LOOK TO FUTURE, NOT BE COMPARED TO PAST LEGENDS JUST YET

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For someone with so relatively limited a professional resume, WBA/IBO middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin finds himself in a curious position.

The 32-year-old Golovkin (29-0, 26 KOs), who defends his alphabet titles against former IBF/WBA 160-pound champ Daniel Geale (30-2, 16 KOs) in the HBO-televised main event Saturday night in Madison Square Garden’s big arena, just might be, as a growing number of his devotees are claiming, the most pulverizing knockout artist in boxing today. His KO rate (a tick below 90 percent) is the highest ever for any middleweight champion. Pretty impressive stuff, right? But probably the most notable entry on “Triple G’s” list of victims is Curtis Stevens, whom the Kazakhstan-born, Germany-based fighter pounded so thoroughly that Stevens’ corner did not let their guy come out for the ninth round of a Nov. 2, 2013, title bout in Madison Square Garden Theater.

Stevens is a good fighter and a pretty tough customer, but is there anyone who would dare to compare him to, say, Sugar Ray Robinson? Bernard Hopkins? How about Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard?

The career of any fighter is gauged in large part by the quality of opponents he has faced and defeated. But some of the legendary names listed above already have been floated by Golovkin’s trainer, Abel Sanchez, as measuring sticks against whom Golovkin eventually will be compared, if he hasn’t reached that rarified level of accomplishment already. It is a giant leap of faith, but then again, there was a high school junior from Akron, Ohio – I believe his name is LeBron James – who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated – years ago. That kid – “The Chosen One,” SI proclaimed — was said to have the potential to become the best basketball player of all time. It seemed preposterous to lay that kind of burden on a 17–year-old, but, well, look at where King James is now.

Sanchez, in an interview with RingTV.com’s Lem Satterfield, had the temerity to suggest that Golovkin was currently behind Robinson and Hopkins in the highly exclusive pantheon of middleweight greats, but was moving up fast on the outside. Then, in a teleconference with the international media last Thursday, he added Hagler and Leonard to the star-studded items from Column A. Who knows? If Golovkin blows away Geale swiftly and emphatically, Sanchez might be inclined to expand Column A – that would be a lineup of historically revered middleweights that Golovkin could be paired against only in the realm of imagination – to include Harry Greb, Carlos Monzon and Jake LaMotta. Hey, it doesn’t cost anything to speculate.

“Ranking them behind those two people (Robinson and Hopkins), I was hoping that we could get the kind of fights that would showcase (Golovkin) in a way that would prove that statement that I made,” Sanchez explained of the more significant purpose of the matchup with Geale. “He definitely needs to fight Daniel in the manner that he’s fought some of his past opponents. Daniel has the ability to go 12 rounds. That is going to be the big issue for Gennady – to see if he can control and dominate a man who’s used to going 12 rounds and who throws as many punches as Daniel.”

No disrespect to Geale, whose only previous ring appearance in the United States saw him relinquish his IBF title to England’s Darren Barker on a mildly controversial split decision on Aug. 17, 2013, at the Revel Resort in Atlantic City, but the Aussie veteran doesn’t provide so stern a test that his conquest would serve to zoom Golovkin much further up the ladder to middleweight nirvana that Sanchez sees as his destiny. But there is a very real, and very intriguing, alternative for Golovkin to the dreamy mindscape of Column A. Let’s call it Column B, the names listed therein all belonging to active fighters who could offer “Triple G” the sort of matchups that actually would further advance his claim to indisputable greatness.

Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions, notes that Golovkin is already well on the way to becoming a household name among even fringe fight fans. He will be appearing in his third bout at Madison Square Garden, but his first in the lower bowl of the big room, which is scaled for 11,000 seats or so with a near-capacity turnout expected. Should Golovkin extend his knockout streak to 17 against so credible an opponent as Geale, it could vault him to the fringes of real superstardom, a status which is partly based in boxing talent and partly in marketability. He’s not that far removed from such a designation already, having been a finalist for 2013 Fighter of the Year from the Boxing Writers Association of America (the winner was Floyd Mayweather Jr.) and being voted last year’s top fighter by readers of The Ring magazine.

Loeffler’s future wish list for Golovkin, whose power-punching has elevated his visibility in much the same way that heavyweight contender Deontay Wilder’s has (Wilder has won all 31 of his pro bouts inside the distance) and Mike Tyson’s did a generation earlier, is topped by newly crowned WBC middleweight titlist Miguel Cotto (39-4, 32 KOs), the future Hall of Famer who became the first Puerto Rican to win world championships in four weight classes when he forced Argentina’s Sergio Martinez to quit on his stool after 10 rounds on June 7 in Madison Square Garden. A unification showdown with Cotto, who has fought 11 times in all in New York City with nine of those bouts coming in the Garden, would be one of the most eagerly anticipated bouts that conceivably could be made at this time.

“My job as Gennady’s promoter is to look forward and to plan ahead,” Loeffler said. “Nobody on our team is underestimating what Daniel Geale brings to the table. He’s clearly the biggest challenge (to this point) for Gennady. With that being said, if everything goes the right way on July 26, it’s my job to strategize ahead for him. Certainly with Cotto and his big win against Sergio Martinez to win the WBC middleweight championship, he moves to the top of our list.

“But Gennady’s up for fighting anybody. If it’s a compelling fight, a pay-per-view fight, he would move up (to super middleweight) or he would move down (to junior middleweight). Right now he’s focused on Daniel Geale. The priority, if he beats Daniel, would be to start unifying the middleweight titles.”

At 32, Golovkin, a silver medalist at the 2004 Athens Olympics, does not have the luxury that higher schooler LeBron James had of a sun-kissed future that stretched to some far-off horizon. Golovkin is one of the fight game’s more delectable flavors of the moment, a solid foundation upon which to build, and he is in a deep weight class that offers lucrative options as well as those at 154 and 168 pounds. In addition to Cotto, mix ’n’ match possibilities include IBF middleweight champ Sam Solimon (44-11, 18 KOs), WBO champ Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin (31-0, 22 KOs), WBA super middleweight champ Andre Ward (27-0, 14 KOs), IBF super middle champ Carl Froch (33-2, 24 KOs), WBA junior middle champ Canelo Alvarez (44-1-1, 31 KOs) and maybe even WBC/WBA welterweight ruler Mayweather (46-0, 26 KOs), should he come up to meet Golovkin at some mutually acceptable catchweight. Even super middle contender Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (48-1, 32 KOs), who was in negotiations to fight Golovin until the deal fell apart, could work his way back into the mix.

Big fights, however, aren’t always that easy to put together, especially in today’s landscape of dueling promoters and pay-cable entities, which could have the effect of pushing some of the possibilities for Golovkin in Column B as far off to the side as those in Column A.

Still, it’s fun to daydream. Is Golovkin really as devastating a puncher as he appears to be? Or is this son of a Russian father and Korean mother mostly a product of manufactured hype, as is the case with doubting-Thomas types who are hesitant to climb aboard the Deontay Wilder bandwagon? Golovkin stands at a crossroads of sorts, where one path leads to certification as a fighter for the ages and another to possible exposure as something far less.

Asked about the source of his formidable power, Golovkin answered, “It is natural. My strength, my speed, my timing. It’s all that together.”

So we will all check in on Saturday, for any additional hints as to what makes Gennady Golovkin tick. If Geale’s trainer, Graham Shaw, is correct – he said that “if Daniel fights his absolute best, believe it beats Gennady’s best” – the legend of “Triple G” could be quashed in its relative infancy. Anything less than an exclamation-point victory also could have a deleterious effect, and maybe more so if the lead-in HBO bout, a WBC heavyweight eliminator between Bryant Jennings (18-0, 10 KOs) and Mike Perez (20-0-1, 12 KOs), proves to be a tough act to follow.

Sanchez thinks he knows how it all turns out.

“All those little attributes, all those pluses that Gennady has in my comparing him to Hagler and to Leonard and to Sugar Ray Robinson, those things will all be seen in time as he fights great fighters like he’s fighting on July 26,” he predicted with the confidence of someone who has looked into the future and been pleased by what he saw.

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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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