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MAY-PAC: “HIGHEST-GROSSING” DOESN’T NECESSARILY MEAN “BIGGEST” OR “BEST”

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There are many ways to keep score, but in today’s bottom-line world, whoever racks up the most cash often is presumed to be the winner. And when you’re talking about a boxing match whose principal revenue-producer’s nickname is “Money,” it’s only natural that the magnitude of the financial bonanza is a major topic of discussion.

There is no disputing that the May 2 pay-per-view pairing of WBA/WBC welterweight champion Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. (47-0, 26 KOs) and WBO welter titlist Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38 KOs) will be the highest-grossing prizefight ever. Projections are for total revenues exceeding $300 million, which would shatter all records, with Mayweather expected to add another $120 million or so to his net worth of $280 million. Pacquiao, on the short end of a 60-40 split, will have to “settle” for $80 million or so to add to a personal fortune estimated at $100 million, although it can be said that a dollar buys a lot more in his native Philippines than it does in the United States.

As might be expected, the income-generating aspects of Mayweather-Pacquiao were a major topic of discussion at Wednesday’s press conference at the Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles, which was nearly as glitzy as the Academy Awards show in the same city just 18 days earlier. There was a red carpet, of course, and over 700 credentialed media from around the world were in attendance. It’s almost amazing that Floyd and Manny didn’t wear designer tuxedos when they stepped onto the stage.

It didn’t take long for anyone holding a microphone to focus on the almost incomprehensible amount of money this fight – which had been in a holding pattern for five years – figures to tally.

“They’re calling this the biggest payday in sports,” said Brian Custer, who, along with Kieran Mulvaney, co-hosted the offstage portion of the globally streamed presentation. “There’s no other sporting event that has generated the type of money that they expect that this fight will generate. When Floyd Mayweather fought Oscar De La Hoya, it set so many box-office records, especially when you talk about pay-per-view buys – 2.48 million. Bob Arum (the CEO of Top Rank, who promotes Pacquiao) says he expects this fight to do three to four million. Oscar De La Hoya-Floyd Mayweather generated $150 million. They expect this fight to generate $300 million.”

Leonard Ellerbe, the CEO of Mayweather Promotions, got the gig as emcee at the podium and he, too, hammered home the point that every revenue stream is apt to turn into a raging, flood-level river.

“Hello, welcome to this amazing moment in boxing and sports history,” Ellerbe said. “We’re very excited to be making history today by officially announcing the biggest boxing event in the history of the sport, and one of the biggest events ever in all of sport – Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao.”

In introducing Mayweather, Ellerbe again referenced the spreadsheet logic that the worth of this fight is largely tied to its financial implications, and to Mayweather’s status as the world’s No. 1 PPV attraction.

“He’s been named the world’s highest-paid athlete by Forbes magazine, ESPN the Magazine and Sports Illustrated, which is truly a testament to his great popularity around the world,” Ellerbe said. Showtime ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. also touched on the familiar theme, calling Mayweather “the pay-per-view king” who is “recognized as the world’s highest-paid athlete, for good reason.”

All well and good. But to me, and I’m sure a lot of other fight fans, rich guys getting richer isn’t a reason to pony up wallet-draining amounts for tickets in the arena (face values range from $1,500 to $7,500, with scalpers likely to get much more) or for PPV subscriptions set at $89.95 (regular TV) or $99.95 (high-definition). What matters is this: Can the action in the ring possibly live up to the incredible hype? Because if it’s one thing that we all ought to know by now, it’s that, in boxing, “highest-grossing” isn’t necessarily tantamount to “biggest” or “best.”

There have been fights that were bigger and better than Mayweather-Pacquiao is likely to be, despite technological that have made the concept of superstardom in sports a much more lucrative proposition. Consider this: Maybe the most dominant lefthanded pitcher ever, Sandy Koufax, was paid $125,000 by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1966, and he had to hold out to get that. In today’s dollars, Koufax’s career-high salary equates to $904,440. Another Dodgers southpaw ace, Clayton Kershaw, recently signed a seven-year, $215 million contract, with an annual payout of $30.7 million. Anyone who saw Koufax in his prime would dispute the notion that Kershaw, as good as he is, is 30 times better than Koufax, if at all.

Money skews all debate. Are Mayweather and Pacquiao, at 38 and 36, respectively, better fighters than, say, Micky Ward and the late Arturo Gatti? They are, without question. But will their May 2 showdown approach the fury and competitiveness of any or all of the three fights in the Gatti-Ward trilogy? That remains to be seen, although it wouldn’t surprise a lot of people if May-Pac doesn’t rise to the excitement level of those bouts, and any number of others involving lesser talents.

There have been highly anticipated bouts involving big-name fighters that were aesthetic disappointments, such as the welterweight unification pairing of WBC champ De La Hoya (who at the time was 31-0 with 25 knockouts) and IBF titlist Felix Trinidad (35-0, 30 KOs) on Sept. 18, 1999, at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Believing himself to be too far ahead to be in danger of losing on points, the “Golden Boy” played keepaway the final three rounds and was shocked to lose a 12-round majority decision to Trinidad, whose largely ineffective aggression was nonetheless rewarded. Statistics compiled by CompuBox revealed that De La Hoya had landed 263 punches to 166 for Trinidad.

In his account of that fight in The Ring magazine, editor Nigel Collins wrote: “The real loser, regardless of what you thought of the official verdict, was boxing. When the spotlight shone the brightest and the challenge was the greatest, neither risked all in the pursuit of ultimate glory, settling for a restrained, conservative approach.”

In truth, De La Hoya-Trinidad was a decent fight if viewed from the perspective of normalcy. Given the exaggerated expectations, though, it fell short. And therein lay the danger of everyone who presumes that Mayweather and Pacquiao will engage in a war for the ages simply because the stacks of high-denomination bills are so high. Consumers contributing to the fighters’ windfall are going to assume they will be rewarded with their money’s worth of spills and thrills, which is at best an iffy proposition.

Mayweather might still be the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet, but his age suggests he has at least started on the downhill slope of a remarkable career. He is also known for his splendid defense, which could make it difficult for Pacquiao, who also isn’t quite all that he once was, to find openings. If Pacquiao, a 3-to-1 underdog, finds himself constantly flailing at empty air, as some are predicting, the latest “Fight of the Century” could turn tedious fast.

Face it: if these guys give fans merely a good fight, it won’t be enough, just as De La Hoya-Trinidad wasn’t enough. Risks will have to be taken, caution thrown to the wind, and mindsets will have to be shoot-the-works. Even if all that happens, magic isn’t always made. You never know what’s going to happen until you get there. Prefight hype does not a great event make.

The bar that Mayweather and Pacquiao will try to clear has been set very, very high by fighters from other eras whose historical significance on certain dates might be unapproachable in any case. Even if “Money” and “Pac-Man” fling themselves at each other with reckless abandon, the end result won’t – can’t – approach that of these classic bouts:

Jack Johnson-James J. Jeffries: July 4, 1910, Reno, Nev.

Johnson became the first black heavyweight champion when he defeated Tommy Burns in Sydney, Australia, and his convention-flouting ways – openly consorting with white women, among other perceived transgressions – made white America nervous. Jack London – yes, the same Jack London who authored “Call of the Wild” — was at ringside for Johnson’s victory over Burns, and, writing for the New York Telegraph, he urged retired heavyweight champ James J. Jeffries to come back and restore the fight game to its proper order.

“Jeffries must emerge from his alfalfa farm and remove that smile from Johnson’s face,” London wrote. “Jeff, it’s up to you!”

Jeffries, who hadn’t fought since 1904 and was fat and happy in California, didn’t want the fight. But as public pressure mounted for him, or someone else, to put Johnson in his place, he returned to training.

The first so-called “Fight of the Century” was staged in a temporary stadium specifically erected for this fight, and from the opening bell it was obvious that Jeffries, who had had to lose 70 points to get back into fighting trim, was no match for Johnson, who openly taunted him. Johnson floored him in the first round, the first time Jeffries had ever been on the canvas, and he went down twice more before promoter/referee Tex Rickard stepped in and put a stop to the slaughter in the 15th round of the scheduled 45-rounder.

Johnson walked away with $120,00 – that’s $2,918,100 in today’s dollars – and Jeffries with a nice parting gift of $117,000. He never fought again.

Joe Louis-Max Schmeling II: June 22, 1938, New York City

Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler had hoped the 1936 Berlin Olympics would serve as a showcase to promote the notion of Aryan supremacy, but black American sprinter Jesse Owens put the kibosh to that by winning four gold medals. Still, the German hierarchy saw the outcome of the first Louis-Schmeling fight, on June 19, 1936, in Yankee Stadium, as proof that their ideology was correct. Schmeling, a former heavyweight champion, floored the favored and undefeated Louis with an overhand right in the fourth in the fourth round and he remained in control until closing the show on a TKO in Round 12.

For the rematch, President Franklin D. Roosevelt told Louis, “Joe, we need muscles like yours to beat Germany,” an allusion to the likelihood of America entering the burgeoning global conflict that became World War II. Louis took the admonition to heart and, before a crowd of 75,000, again in Yankee Stadium, he went right at Schmeling from the opening bell, knocking him down four times in Round 1 before the German’s corner threw in the towel.

In Germany, the radio broadcast – which began at 3 a.m. local time – was cut off before the final knockdown. In the U.S., the victory by the “Brown Bomber” was hailed by whites and blacks alike as an affirmation of American values. Modest and clean-living, Louis was widely seen as the antithesis of Johnson.

“He’s a credit to his race – the human race,” New York sports columnist Jimmy Cannon wrote of Louis’ avenging his only previous loss with the emphatic dispatching of Schmeling.

Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier I: March 8, 1971, New York City

In “Boxing,” the epic coffee-table publication authored by Bertram Job, he notes that Ali-Frazier I “was not simply just one more heavyweight world championship bout. It was the greatest event that had taken place since two men walked on the surface of the moon three years before.”

Ali had been stripped of his title for refusing to be inducted into the Army, which had resulted in an enforced 3½-year absence from boxing. During the interim, Frazier had rose up to claim the title, with their first meeting also the first time that two undefeated heavyweight champions: Ali went in at 31-0, with 25 KOs, while Frazier was 26-0 with 23 wins inside the distance. In demeanor, style and appearance, the two men could hardly be more dissimilar: Ali was tall, lithe, narcissistic and controversial; Smokin’ Joe was short, stumpy, taciturn and relentless.

If the old bromide that “styles make fights,” then Ali and Frazier were made for one another. Before a sellout crowd in Madison Square Garden, the two – each man was paid a then-record $2.5 million ($14.64 million in today’s dollars) – gave every bit of themselves. Frazier, however, came away with a unanimous decision, punctuating his performance with a leaping left hook that deposited Ali onto his back in the 15th and final round.

Ali would win two subsequent matchups, and it can be argued that Part III in the series, the “Thrilla in Manila,” was even more riveting. But the anticipation of something great, which was delivered in full, and then some, in Part I perhaps is unmatched in the history of boxing.

If there is a fight that, hopefully, holds the most potential parallels to Mayweather-Pacquiao, it is Sugar Ray Leonard-Thomas Hearns I, which took place on Sept. 16, 1981, in the outdoor stadium at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. It also was a welterweight unification fight, with Leonard, the WBC 147-pound champion, coming in with a record of 30-1 (21) to 32-0 (30) for Hearns, the WBA ruler.

Perhaps because he had that one loss – to Roberto Duran – Leonard was the underdog, albeit a close one, at 6½-5 odds. There was a feeling in some quarters that the 6-1½ “Hitman,” with his imposing 78-inch reach, would put his physical advantages and superior punching power to good use against the quicker, more mobile Leonard.

But the action didn’t follow the script most had visualized. Hearns boxed, and masterfully, for long stretches, so much so that he began to build a substantial lead on the scorecards. Leonard, his left eye swelling, had little choice but to become the aggressor as the fight entered the championship rounds. Advised by his chief second, Angelo Dundee, that “You’re blowin’ it, son,” after the 12th round, he hurt Hearns in the 13th and was able to close the deal with a barrage of blows along the ropes in the 14th.

Six years ago, Leonard looked back at that first scrap with Hearns as the highlight of professional career, even more so than his stunning upset of Marvelous Marvin Hagler in 1987.

“To me, those were the great days of boxing, when there were rivalries, personalities, legends,” Leonard said. “There was such an abundance of talent in every division.

“Tommy Hearns seemed like an indestructible machine, so to beat him, I think that was my defining moment, the pinnacle. Those kind of matchups don’t come along too often.”

They seem to come along less often now, in an era where there are fewer great rivalries, personalities and legends. We look to Mayweather-Pacquiao because, where Leonard, Hearns, Duran and Hagler were able to test each other on almost a rotating basis, May and Pac were left with few attractive options except each other.

And so we pay, and pay big, for an oasis of a big in a parched landscape. Here’s hoping that Floyd and Manny provide us with the cool sip of pugilistic refreshment to carry us through until the next water hole shimmers somewhere off in the distance.

Photo by: Chris Farina / Top Rank

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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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