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The James Toney vs Dave Tiberi Fight and What It Wrought

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James Toney vs Dave Tiberi Fight – Dave Tiberi has never seen “Rob Roy,” the 1995 movie about the head of an 18th-century Scottish clan with Liam Neeson in the title role. But the former world championship contender can identify with a line of dialogue in which Neeson’s character chooses to become a hunted outlaw rather than bear false witness against another, a blameless nobleman, thus violating his own code of conduct.

“Honor,” Rob Roy tell his wife, “is the gift a man gives himself.”

Tiberi, who has lived his life by similarly exacting standards, considers the significance of the legendary highlander’s message and is moved by what he considers to be the irrefutable truth contained therein.

“Wow,” Tiberi said. “That’s pretty profound stuff.”

Feb. 8 marks the 24th anniversary of a boxing match that, under relatively normal circumstances, would have been interesting but not particularly out of the ordinary. In an afternoon bout televised nationally by ABC, Tiberi, a 10-to-1 underdog, fought the fight of his life in losing a hotly disputed split decision to IBF middleweight champion James “Lights Out” Toney at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. And, although some ringsiders figured the scoring could have gone either way, the public, and those with voices powerful enough to influence the conversation, contended that a monumental injustice had been committed.

Donald Trump, whose casino hosted the event, said the nod for Toney was “disgraceful” and “an embarrassment,” and Alex Wallau, the color commentator for the ABC telecast, called it “the most disgusting decision I’ve ever seen.”

Although the outcome – judge Frank Brunette scored the 12-round bout 117-111 for Tiberi, while Frank Garza and Bill Leach saw Toney as the winner by respective margins of 115-112 and 115-11 – wasn’t the main focus of the boxing world at the time (Mike Tyson would be convicted of rape in an Indianapolis courtroom just two days later), it made Tiberi something of an overnight sensation and a sympathetic figure, the little guy whose hopes and dreams had been crushed by an entrenched system designed to always reward the bigger-name fighter.

Except that a financial windfall awaited to salve any wounded feelings that Tiberi, who earned a career-high but nonetheless modest $26,000 for the Toney fight, might have had. Top Rank honcho Bob Arum offered Tiberi an immediate rematch for April 11, with a guarantee of $250,000 along with two percent of pay-per-view revenues. Most fighters accustomed to taking short money while battling their way up through the club ranks would have jumped at the opportunity to cash in.

Then again, most fighters are not Dave Tiberi. One of 14 children born to a father who stressed the importance of doing the right thing, Tiberi said he considered himself to be the rightful champion and that he would only consent to a do-over if he was allowed to enter the ring as such. If the outcome was not reversed, he announced, he would hang up his gloves until justice was served. He was 25 years old then, married with a young child, and, although he had some leverage in contract negotiations, he hardly was in a position to dictate what would have been a historic shift in boxing politics.

Although the monetary enticements for him to return kept creeping upward – Tiberi said the top offer for a second Toney fight eventually climbed to $500,000, with three percent of the PPV revenues – he determinedly stuck to his guns. A little more than a quarter-century later, Tiberi is now 51 and at peace with his decision, which eventually led to a Senate investigation into professional boxing and the passage of two laws to modify and, hopefully, improve the sport. A book, “Tiberi: The Uncrowned Champion,” was quickly co-authored by Ed Okonowicz and Andy Ercole, and rushed into print, unreservedly backing Tiberi’s position.

“Financially, of course, it affected me in a big way,” he said of his refusal to bend on what he considered to be a matter of principle. “I wondered how I would feel 10 or 20 years down the road. Would I regret the decision that I made? I have to say I haven’t regretted it, not one bit. I knew I would have had a harder time living with myself knowing that rules had been broken and that I failed to take a stand on what I believed to be right.”

There are, of course, varying views of Tiberi’s Rob Roy-like commitment to his personal sense of honor. Some say he had to be crazy to turn his back on a mid-six-figure payday that would have ensured his family (he and his wife Angela later had two more children) a measure of financial security. Others wonder what all the fuss was about in any case, that the big brouhaha was and is much ado about nothing.

“Without a doubt, the fight was closer than it should have been,” said Jackie Kallen, Toney’s manager. “But when you get one guy on the best day of his career and another on the worst day of his career, this is what can happen.

“James didn’t have enough gas in the tank to be the same fighter that beat Michael Nunn and Iran Barkley. He was not nearly 100 percent. I don’t think it was because he didn’t take Tiberi seriously; we looked at everybody as a potential threat. But James always had a problem making weight, so some of the tactics he used to get down weakened him. James didn’t lose the weight in a healthy manner and he paid the price for that.”

The James Toney vs Dave Tiberi Fight and What It Wrought

Toney collapsed after the final bell and, severely dehydrated, he was taken to a local hospital where he was given IV fluids.

“It was a close fight that maybe went to an unpopular decision,” Kallen continued. “But I’ve seen much, much worse. Why this one sparked so much controversy, I don’t know. Maybe it was like the `Rocky’ story, with the white kid no one had heard much about going against the big, bad black champion. It was one of those instances where an underdog wins by losing simply by putting up such a valiant effort.”

From a purely boxing standpoint, Toney-Tiberi might never have come off in the first place had not the IBF ratings committee, acting on a request by Top Rank matchmaker Ron Katz, elevated Tiberi to a No. 10 ranking. Without a spot in the top 10, Tiberi – a resident of New Castle, Delaware, who had previously won the fringe IBC super middleweight title but had never fought a world-rated middleweight – would not have been eligible to get the slot opposite Toney.

Although Kallen had said prior to the fight that Toney wasn’t overlooking Tiberi, she outlined a timetable for the champ for the remainder of 1992 that suggested otherwise. “On April 11 we have a fight on the undercard of the George Foreman-Alex Stewart card in Las Vegas, which will be on HBO,” she said. “We’re looking at possible opponents right now. After that we’re looking at a June 6 rematch with (Mike) McCallum, and an Aug. 15 fight on ABC against an opponent to be named. Oh, and we want to finish the year with a big TVKO (which was what HBO’s pay-per-view arm was then called) fight in October or November.”

Isn’t it dangerous to speak about future fights before the one at hand is safely in the rear-view mirror?

“James Toney is not the kind of fighter who would give an underdog a chance to get lucky,” Kallen responded. “James, let’s face it, is an animal in the ring. He’s that way with everybody. In his mind, the person he’s fighting is trying to take what he has from him – and James is not about to give it up.”

For his part, Tiberi, who trained in Philadelphia and sparred regularly with such former or future world champions as “Prince” Charles Williams, Bernard Hopkins and Steve Little, believed himself to be up to the task. So did his veteran trainer, Marty Feldman, who thought he detected something in Toney’s makeup that made him susceptible to the fight plan he was devising for Tiberi to follow.

“Marty said, `I think we can stop Toney in the fifth or sixth round,’” Tiberi recalled. “He said, `You have a rock-solid jaw and Toney isn’t used to being pressured. He doesn’t punch backing up. You’re going to pressure him, and we’re going to shock the world.’”

The plan nearly blew up in the first round, when Toney connected with a big left hook to that rock-solid jaw that clearly hurt the challenger. But Tiberi made it to the end of the round, and, following Feldman’s instructions, thereafter took the fight right to Toney, despite the seeming disparity in punching power. (Toney came in 28-0-2 with 20 knockouts to Tiberi’s 22-2-2 with just eight wins inside the distance.)

When the final bell sounded, Tiberi thrust his arms into the air in exultation and was hoisted aloft by his manager, Mark Kondrath. And then came the decision that Tiberi still can’t quite believe.

“Seventeen years later, James Toney admitted that was a fight he did lose,” Tiberi said. “As a fighter, you know if you won or lost, regardless of what the scorecards say, and I definitely thought I won.”

James Toney vs Dave Tiberi Fight

If Tiberi had consented to accepting the big-money rematch, that likely would have been that. The furor would have dissipated over time. Maybe he would have won the second time around, maybe he wouldn’t have; a more fit Toney surely again would have been the favorite. But Tiberi said that rules had been broken, and what’s the point of even having rules if they’re disregarded?

“The two judges who had it for Toney were not licensed by the State of New Jersey,” he noted. “Their scorecards should have been null and void. It came out during the Senate investigation that the referee (Robert Palmer) was considered by Larry Hazzard (the head of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board) to be `green and incompetent.’ They just put him in there anyway, and he deducted a point from me in the sixth round for a low blow without giving me a warning.

“By no means am I a crybaby, but I follow the rules. The rules should be followed, especially for a world championship fight. To my way of thinking, the only scorecard that should have counted was the one submitted by the only licensed judge, Brunette, and he had me winning big.”

Among those outraged that Tiberi had seemingly been wronged was William Roth, the senior senator from Delaware and head of the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations whose interest in the matter no doubt was heightened by the fact that Tiberi was a constituent. Tiberi, Hopkins and Bobby Czyz were among the fighters called in to testify, and from those hearings came the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, authored by Arizona senator and future presidential candidate John McCain, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The Professional Boxers Safety Act was enacted shortly thereafter.

“The Ali bill is watered down,” Tiberi acknowledged, “but I feel that a first step was taken to bring reform to a sport badly in need of it. I feel like I’ve benefited the sport in so many ways, and have made a difference. I really believe God put me here to shine a light on what’s dark. There’s a lot of darkness in the world, and in boxing.”

Eight years ago Tiberi, who owns a successful security-system company, did return to boxing, as a promoter in his home state of Delaware until he concluded that he was devoting too much time to it to the detriment of his primary source of income.

“Boxing was a sport I loved and still do,” he said. “Doing those shows at Dover Downs was a lot of fun. We had some sellout crowds, too. But without television, it’s a pretty expensive hobby.”

As for Toney … well, he hasn’t done too badly by himself. Still active as of Aug. 8 of last year, when he lost a 10-round decision to Charles Ellis in St. Louis, the 47-year-old has held widely recognized world titles at middleweight, super middleweight and cruiserweight, as well as minor titles at light heavyweight, super cruiserweight and heavyweight. The Ann Arbor, Mich., native, who has fought as low as 157 pounds (for a second-round knockout of Ricardo Simpson on Oct. 12, 1989) and as high as 257 (for a 10-round unanimous decision over Damond Reed on Feb. 24, 2011) is now 76-10-3 with 46 KOs during his 27-year pro career, despite a history of difficulty making weight. He is a likely first-ballot inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible.

 

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The BWAA Shames Veteran Referee Laurence Cole and Two Nebraska Judges

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In an unprecedented development, the Boxing Writers Association of America has started a “watch list” to lift the curtain on ring officials who have “screwed up.” Veteran Texas referee Laurence Cole and Nebraska judges Mike Contreras and Jeff Sinnett have the unwelcome distinction of being the first “honorees.”

“Boxing is a sport where judges and referees are rarely held accountable for poor performances that unfairly change the course of a fighter’s career and, in some instances, endanger lives,” says the BWAA in a preamble to the new feature. Hence the watch list, which is designed to “call attention to ‘egregious’ errors in scoring by judges and unacceptable conduct by referees.”

Contreras and Sinnett, residents of Omaha, were singled out for their scorecards in the match between lightweights Thomas Mattice and Zhora Hamazaryan, an eight round contest staged at the WinnaVegas Casino in Sloan, Iowa on July 20. They both scored the fight 76-75 for Mattice, enabling the Ohio fighter to keep his undefeated record intact via a split decision.

Although Mattice vs. Hamazaryan was a supporting bout, it aired live on ShoBox. Analyst Steve Farhood, who was been with ShoBox since the inception of the series in 2001, called it one of the worst decisions he had ever seen. Lead announcer Barry Tompkins went further, calling it the worst decision he has seen in his 40 years of covering the sport.

Laurence Cole (pictured alongside his father) was singled out for his behavior as the third man in the ring for the fight between Regis Prograis and Juan Jose Velasco at the Lakefront Arena in New Orleans on July 14. The bout was televised live on ESPN.

In his rationale for calling out Cole, BWAA prexy Joseph Santoliquito leaned heavily on Thomas Hauser’s critique of Cole’s performance in The Sweet Science. “Velasco fought courageously and as well as he could,” noted Hauser. “But at the end of round seven he was a thoroughly beaten fighter.”

His chief second bullied him into coming out for another round. Forty-five seconds into round eight, after being knocked down for a third time, Velasco spit out his mouthpiece and indicated to Cole that he was finished. But Cole insisted that the match continue and then, after another knockdown that he ruled a slip, let it continue for another 35 seconds before Velasco’s corner mercifully threw in the towel.

Controversy has dogged Laurence Cole for well over a decade.

Cole was the third man in the ring for the Nov. 25, 2006 bout in Hildalgo, Texas, between Juan Manuel Marquez and Jimrex Jaca. In the fifth round, Marquez sustained a cut on his forehead from an accidental head butt. In round eight, another accidental head butt widened and deepened the gash. As Marquez was being examined by the ring doctor, Cole informed Marquez that he was ahead on the scorecards, volunteering this information while holding his hand over his HBO wireless mike. The inference was that Marquez was free to quit right then without tarnishing his record. (Marquez elected to continue and stopped Jaca in the next round.)

This was improper. For this indiscretion, Cole was prohibited from working a significant fight in Texas for the next six months.

More recently, Cole worked the 2014 fight between Vasyl Lomachenko and Orlando Salido at the San Antonio Alamodome. During the fight, Salido made a mockery of the Queensberry rules for which he received no point deductions and only one warning. Cole’s performance, said Matt McGrain, was “astonishingly bad,” an opinion echoed by many other boxing writers. And one could site numerous other incidents where Cole’s performance came under scrutiny.

Laurence Cole is the son of Richard “Dickie” Cole. The elder Cole, now 87 years old, served 21 years as head of the Texas Department of Combat Sports Regulation before stepping down on April 30, 2014. At various times during his tenure, Dickie Cole held high executive posts with the World Boxing Council and North American Boxing Federation. He was the first and only inductee into the inaugural class of the Texas Boxing Hall of Fame, an organization founded by El Paso promoter Lester Bedford in 2015.

From an administrative standpoint, boxing in Texas during the reign of Dickie Cole was frequently described in terms befitting a banana republic. Whenever there was a big fight in the Lone Star State, his son was the favorite to draw the coveted refereeing assignment.

Boxing is a sideline for Laurence Cole who runs an independent insurance agency in Dallas. By law in Texas (and in most other states), a boxing promoter must purchase insurance to cover medical costs in the event that one or more of the fighters on his show is seriously injured. Cole’s agency is purportedly in the top two nationally in writing these policies. Make of that what you will.

Complaints of ineptitude, says the WBAA, will be evaluated by a “rotating committee of select BWAA members and respected boxing experts.” In subsequent years, says the press release, the watch list will be published quarterly in the months of April, August, and December (must be the new math).

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The Avila Perspective, Chapter 8: Competing Cards in N.Y. and L.A.

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Rival boxing shows compete this Saturday as light heavyweight world titlists are featured in New Jersey while former world champion welterweights and middleweights tangle in New York.

A mere 150 miles separate the two fight cards staged in Uniondale, N.Y. and Atlantic City.

But there’s no mercy inside the boxing ring and certainly no mercy between boxing promotions. While Main Events stages WBO light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev and WBA light heavyweight titlist Dmitry Bivol in separate bouts, DiBella Entertainment stacks former champs Andre Berto against Devon Alexander in a welterweight clash.

Take your pick.

Russia’s Kovalev (32-2-1, 28 KOs) has lost some luster and hopes to reboot his popularity with a win against Canada’s Eleider Alvarez (23-0, 11 KOs). But he will be directly competing against WBA champ Bivol (13-0, 11 KOs), also of Russia, who defends against Isaac Chilemba (25-5-2) of South Africa.

HBO will televise both light heavyweight title fights.

Bivol, 27, has slowly, almost glacier-like slow, picked up fans along the way by training in Southern California. The quiet unassuming fighter with a conservative style and cobra-like quickness appeals to the fans.

“I do not think that now I am the best light heavyweight, but I am now one of the best. One of four guys,” said Bivol during a press conference call. “But I hope in not the far future, we will know who is the best.”

That, of course, would mean a date with Kovalev should both fighters win on Saturday. Nothing is certain.

Kovalev, now 35, has lost some of that fear factor aura since losing back-to-back fights to now retired Andre Ward. Though he’s cracked two opponents in succession by knockout, many are pointing to the potential showdown with Bivol as the moment of truth.

“Most likely this fight is gonna happen since both Sergey and I are HBO boxers and as long as that’s what the people want, most likely the fight will happen,” said Bivol. “Me and Sergey will make sure to give this fight to the people.”

It’s time for the build-up and it starts on Saturday Aug. 4, on HBO.

“That’s certainly a goal of Sergey’s and he’s made it very clear to me that that’s what he wants to do,” said promoter Kathy Duva, CEO of Main Events. “He wants to do unification fights if he is successful with Eleider Alvarez. That’s what he wants to do next; he’s been very clear about that.”

DiBella

Five former world champions stack the fight card at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.

Former welterweight world champs Andre Berto (31-5, 24 KOs) and Devon Alexander (27-4-1, 14 KOs) lead the charge in a 12-round clash. FOX will televise the main event and others at 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET.

Berto, 34, has been fighting once a year so it’s difficult to determine if age has crept into his reflexes. When he knocked out Victor Ortiz in a rematch two years ago Berto looked sharp and dangerous. But against Shawn Porter a year ago, the crispness seemed gone and he quickly lost by knockout.

Alexander, 31, has the advantage of being a southpaw. But he always seems to do the minimum when he fights. Last February he slowed down and allowed Victor Ortiz to steal the fight. All the commotion by the announcers was for naught. Defense does not win fights, it allows you to win fights. The lack of offense in the latter rounds cost Alexander a win in a match that entered the books as a majority draw.

It’s a curious matchup of former world champions.

Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin (33-1-1, 23 KOs) the former WBO middleweight titlist meets J’Leon Love (24-1-1, 13 KOs) in a super middleweight bout set for 10 rounds. It’s another intriguing fight especially between two fighters with great personalities.

Quillin, 35, was ambushed by Daniel Jacobs in the first round a year ago in losing the title. Was it bad luck, age or both? As a fighter the Brooklyn-based prizefighter has a ton of followers who like him as a person. Few are as classy as Quillin.

Love, 30, has long been a mainstay in Las Vegas and since his amateur days his abilities have been touted. Throughout the years Love has shown that charm and friendliness can go a long ways, even in the bitter wars of prizefighting. But the time has come to see if he belongs in the prizefighting world. Quillin will present an immense challenge for Love.

A number of other interesting fights are slated to take place among former world champions including Sergey Lipinets who lost the super lightweight title to Mikey Garcia this past winter. There’s also Luis Collazo in a welterweight match.

One world title fight does take place on the card.

Female WBA super middleweight titlist Alicia Napoleon (9-1) makes the first defense of her title against Scotland’s Hannah Rankin (5-1). It’s a 10 round bout and the first time Napoleon defends the title since winning it last March against Germany’s Femke Hermans. Ironically, Hermans now has the WBO super middleweight title after defeating former champ Nikki Adler by decision this past May.

L.A. Congestion

Next week the city of Angels will be packed with three fight cards in four days.

First, on Wednesday Aug. 8, 360 Promotions stages Abraham Lopez (9-1-1, 3 KOs) versus Gloferson Ortizo (12-0-1, 6 KOs) in the main event at the Avalon Theater in Hollywood, Calif. This is Filipino fighter Ortizo’s ninth fight this year. You read that correctly.

All of Ortizo’s fights have taken place across the border in Tijuana. The 32-year-old now returns to California against another Californian in Lopez. He’ll be looking for his fourth consecutive knockout, but Lopez, 22, has not lost a fight since his pro debut. Inactivity might come into play for Lopez who hasn’t stepped in the boxing ring in over a year.

New York’s Brian Ceballo (3-0) returns in a six round welterweight bout against local fighter Tavorus Teague (5-20-4). Ceballo, who is promoted by 360 Promotions, looked good in his last appearance. The amateurish punches seen in his first two bouts were gone by his third pro fight. His opponent Teague has ability and can give problems if Ceballo takes his foot off the pedal.

One of Gennady “GGG” Golovkin’s training partners Ali Akhmedov (11-0, 8 KOs) makes his California debut when he meets Jorge Escalante (9-1-1, 6 KOs) in a light heavyweight match.

Female super lightweight Elvina White (2-0) is also slated to compete. The entire fight card will be streamed at www.360promotions.us and on the 360 Promotions page on Facebook. First bell rings at 6:15 p.m.

Belasco Theater in downtown L.A. is the site of Golden Boy Promotions fight card on Friday Aug. 10. A pair of young prospects will be severely tested.

San Diego’s Genaro Gamez (8-0, 5 KOs) meets Filipino fighter Recky Dulay (10-3, 7 KOs) for the vacant NABF super featherweight title. For Dulay it’s always kill or be killed. Five of his last fights have ended in knockout wins or losses.

Gamez, 23, seems to thrive under pressure and broke down two veterans in back-to-back fights at Fantasy Springs Casino. Now he returns to the Belasco, a venue where he has struggled in the past. But this time he’s the main event.

Another being severely tested will be Emilio Sanchez (15-1, 10 KOs) facing veteran Christopher Martin (30-10-3, 10 KOs) who is capable of beating anyone.

Sanchez, 24, lost by knockout in his last fight this past March. He’s talented and fearless and one mistake cost him his first loss as a pro. He’s not getting a break against Martin, a cagey fighter who has upset many young rising prospects in the past. Martin also has experience against world champions. It’s an extremely tough matchup for Sanchez.

The fight card will be televised by Estrella TV beginning at 6 p.m.

World Title Fight

On Saturday, boxing returns to the Avalon Theater in Hollywood.

The main event is a good one as Puerto Rico’s Jesus Rojas (26-1-2, 19 KOs) defends the WBA featherweight world title against Southern California’s Jojo Diaz (26-1) in a 12 round clash. It’s power versus speed.

Rojas, 31, is one tough customer. When he took the interim title against Claudia Marrero last year he chased down the speedy southpaw Dominican and blasted him out in the seventh round. Several months earlier he obliterated another Golden Boy prospect, Abraham Lopez (not the same Abraham Lopez that is fighting on the 360 Promotions card), in eight rounds. Now he has the title and defends against the speedy southpaw Diaz.

Diaz, 25, just recently lost a bid for the WBC featherweight title against Gary Russell Jr. Though he lost by decision three months ago, that fight might be easy in comparison to this challenge against Rojas.

The former Olympian won’t be able to take a breath against the Puerto Rican slugger who is about as rough as they come.

Two more undefeated Golden Boy prospects get a chance to eliminate each other when Philadelphia’s Damon Allen (15-0-1) meets East L.A.’s Jonathan Navarro (14-0, 7 KOs) in a super lightweight fight set for 10 rounds.

Phillie versus East LA is like fire versus fire in the boxing ring. Boxers originating from those two hard-bitten areas usually have go-for-broke styles that result in pure action. Allen versus Navarro should not disappoint.

Allen, 25, is not a hard puncher but he’s aggressive and like most Philadelphia fighters, he’s not afraid to mix it up.

Navarro, 21, lives in East L.A. but trains in Riverside under Robert Garcia. He’s slowly finding his timing and will be facing the fastest fighter since his pro debut in 2015.

Others featured on the card will be Hector Tanajara, Aaron McKenna and Ferdinand Kerobyan.

The card will be streamed on the Golden Boy Fight Night page on Facebook beginning at 6 p.m.

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What’s Next for Manny Pacquiao?

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retire

Manny Pacquiao isn’t quite ready to retire, and more big-money fights against high-level competition seem to be on the 39-year-old’s way.

“I feel like I’m a 27-year-old,” Pacquiao told GMAnetwork.com’s Jamil Santos last week. “Expect more fights to come.”

Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39 KOs) looked exceptionally sharp in his seventh-round knockout win over former junior welterweight titleholder Lucas Matthysse on July 15 at Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was Pacquiao’s best performance in at least four years, netting Pacquiao a secondary world title at welterweight along with a slew of renewed public interest in the boxing superstar’s career.

But what comes next for the only fighter in the history of boxing to capture world titles in eight different weight classes? TSS takes a detailed look at the potential opponents for one of the sport’s most celebrated stars.

Cream of the Crop

Pacquiao looked good enough against Matthysse to suggest he’d make a viable candidate to face either Terence Crawford or Vasyl Lomachenko next. Crawford is ranked No. 2 on the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board’s pound-for-pound list while Lomachenko slots at No. 1.

While Pacquiao is no longer under contract with longtime promoter Bob Arum at Top Rank, most industry insiders expect he will continue working with Arum’s team in some capacity so long as his career keeps moving forward. Pacquiao started his own promotional venture, MP Promotions, to co-promote the Matthysse bout with Oscar De La Hoya, but Top Rank was still involved in the fight which is why the bout ended up streaming on ESPN+.

Top Rank’s two hottest commodities at the present are Ring Magazine and WBA lightweight champ Lomachenko and welterweight titlist Crawford. Both are highly-regarded, multi-division world titleholders in the primes of their careers who are universally considered the top fighters in boxing.

Lomachenko and Crawford would each present a unique set of problems for Pacquiao stylistically. Of the two, Pacquiao probably matches up best with Lomachenko at this point in his career. Crawford (33-0, 24 KOs) is much larger and heavier than both Pacquiao and Lomachenko, and unless Pacquiao just really wants to test himself against someone incredibly dangerous, it’d probably be best for Team Pacquiao to avoid fighting Crawford at all costs. Crawford would be a heavy favorite against Pacquiao and most boxing insiders don’t believe this version of Pacquiao could compete with Crawford.

Lomachenko (11-1, 9 KOs) is naturally smaller than Pacquiao and has never fought above 135 pounds. If Pacquiao could lure Lomachenko to 140 pounds or above, he’d find himself in a winnable fight against a top-notch opponent. Lomachenko would probably be the slight favorite based on age alone but Pacquiao’s power and athleticism would give him a realistic chance to pull the upset.

Other Notable Possibilities

Former junior welterweight titleholder Amir Khan has long been angling for a bout against Pacquiao. Khan faces Samuel Vargas on Sept. 8 in another comeback bout against lower level competition. Khan (32-4, 20 KOs) bravely moved up to middleweight to fight Canelo Alvarez in 2016 but was knocked out in the sixth round. He left the sport for a spell but returned to boxing in February as a welterweight with a sensational first round knockout win over Phil Lo Greco. A win over Vargas puts Khan in good position to secure a bout with Pacquiao, and the fight is a reasonable move by both camps. Pacquiao would probably be the heavy favorite, but Khan’s speed and long reach give him a decent chance to pull the upset.

Former welterweight titleholder Jeff Horn won a controversial decision over Pacquiao last year in Australia. The bout grabbed huge ratings for ESPN and there have been many debates since it happened as to which fighter truly deserved the nod from the judges. Horn (18-1-1, 12 KOs) doesn’t possess elite level talent, but he’s huge compared to Pacquiao and fights with such ferocity that the two can’t help but make an aesthetically pleasing fight together. Pacquiao would be the heavy favorite to defeat Horn if the two fight again.

Pacquiao vs. PBC fighters?

Boxing’s current political climate and the ongoing battle of promoters and television networks for the hearts and minds of boxing fans usually leaves many compelling fights between top level stars off the table. Fighters promoted by Top Rank and Golden Boy are almost never able to secure bouts with fighters signed to Al Haymon to appear under the Premier Boxing Champions banner and vice versa. But Pacquiao’s free agent status opens up new and interesting possibilities for the fighter to pursue noteworthy PBC fighters.

There had been lots of chatter about Pacquiao facing Mikey Garcia next. Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs) has been decimating competition at both lightweight and junior welterweight. Garcia is considered by most experts to be one of the top 10 pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. He’s the TBRB junior welterweight champion and a unified lightweight titleholder (WBC, IBF). While Garcia is hoping to land a big money bout against IBF welterweight titleholder Errol Spence, most boxing experts believe the jump up to 147 pounds would be too much for the diminutive Garcia who began his career at featherweight. A better welterweight target for Garcia would be Pacquiao who also began his career in a much lower weight class.

Spence (24-0, 21 KOs) is probably the best of the PBC welterweights. He’s considered by many to be on par with Crawford at 147 so it would be an incredibly dangerous bout for Pacquiao to go after at this point in his career. But Spence is aggressive and fights in a style that Pacquiao traditionally matches up very well against. Spence would be the favorite based on size, age and skill.

Slightly less dangerous to Pacquiao would be facing the winner of the Sept. 8 battle between Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter. Garcia (34-1, 20 KOs) and Porter (28-2-1, 17 KOs) are fighting for the vacant WBC welterweight title and the possibility of capturing another world title in his career could sway Pacquiao to seek out the winner. Pacquiao could find himself a slight favorite or underdog depending on which of the two fighters he would face, but both would be winnable fights.

The WBA welterweight champion is Keith Thurman. Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs) is a good boxer with tremendous power but Pacquiao’s speed and athleticism would probably give him the leg up in that potential matchup. Thurman hasn’t fought in over 16 months though and recent pictures suggest he’s not in fighting shape at the moment, so the likelihood of a Pacquiao vs. Thurman fight is pretty much nil.

Some fans want Pacquiao to face Adrien Broner. Broner (33-3-1, 24 KOs) is a solid contender at 147 but probably doesn’t have the skill to seriously compete with Pacquiao. Pacquiao would be a significant favorite and would likely stop Broner if the two were able to meet in a boxing ring.

Mayweather-Pacquiao 2?

Pacquiao lost a unanimous decision to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2015, but the circumstances surrounding the fight, and the fact it was the biggest box office bash in the history of the sport, have led many to suspect the two fighters would meet again in a rematch.

Yes, Mayweather (50-0, 27 KOs) is retired, but he’s unretired several times in his career for big money fights including last year’s crossover megafight with UFC star Conor McGregor. While it seems unlikely to happen, Mayweather-Pacquiao 2 would still be a huge worldwide event worth millions of dollars to both fighters so those following the sport can never say never to the idea of it happening again.

While Mayweather is 41, he’d still get the nod as the betting favorite should he fight Pacquiao again based on what happened in the first fight as well as his stylistic advantage over Pacquiao.

Pacquiao vs. McGregor?

McGregor’s bout against Mayweather last year was such a financial success and the MMA star made so much more money in the boxing ring than he did as a UFC fighter that the idea of him returning to the sport to face Pacquiao isn’t as far-fetched as one might think.

Pacquiao vs. McGregor would be an easy sell to the general public. According to CompuBox, McGregor landed more punches against Mayweather than did Pacquiao, and the general consensus is that Mayweather-McGregor was more fun to watch than Mayweather-Pacquiao.

The size difference between the two would lead to an easy promotion. McGregor is a junior middleweight and Pacquiao has only competed at the weight once back in 2010. Despite all that, Pacquiao would be a significant favorite to defeat McGregor and rightly so. He’s too fast and too good a boxer, and his aggressive style would likely lead to a stoppage win.

Pacquiao’s Top Targets

Pacquiao’s top targets should be Mayweather, McGregor and Lomachenko. Pacquiao would stand to make the most money facing either Mayweather or McGregor. Pacquiao’s reportedly injured shoulder heading into 2015 bout left many wondering how the fight might be different had the Filipino gone into things at his best, and Mayweather’s age might play more of a factor in the second fight than it did in the first. A Pacquiao-McGregor fight would be a worldwide spectacle, one Pacquiao would be heavily favored to win. Besides, it’d be interesting to see if Pacquiao could stop McGregor sooner than historical rival Mayweather. Finally, Lomachenko might be trying to climb up weight classes too fast, and Pacquiao would certainly be fit to test the validity of that theory. It’d be one of the biggest fights in boxing and a win for Pacquiao would be another huge feather in the cap of one of boxing’s true historically great champions.

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