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The Patterson-Johansson Rubber Match: The Capstone to a Lusty Trilogy

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Patterson-Johansson Rubber Match

Patterson-Johansson Rubber Match – The Capstone to a Lusty Trilogy – Neither man’s name is apt to be found on anyone’s top 10 list of the great heavyweight champions. So lightly regarded in some quarters were Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johansson that, when each was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame (Patterson in 1991, Johansson in 2002), dissenters groused that the bar for entry had been lowered.

But if their respective credentials for being officially immortalized are a bit sketchy when compared to others, even their critics would have to admit that, on three nights spread over two years, the introspective American and the Swedish bon vivant made ring magic. Their trilogy – which, all told, consisted of only 14 rounds – produced 12 knockdowns, nine of which were registered by the guy, Johansson, who lost two of the three bouts.

Once, when advised that he had set the dubious record of having been floored 17 times in heavyweight title bouts, Patterson, who was 71 when he died on May 11, 2006, said, “That’s true, but I also hold the record for getting up the most times.”

Of the three-bout passion play that has proved to be a greater whole than the sum of the participants’ individual parts, boxing historian Bert Sugar observed that “the unique chemistry of their combined flaws and strengths produced one of the most exciting rivalries in the history of boxing’s glamour division.”

March 13 marks the 55th anniversary of the rubber match of that rivalry, when Patterson overcame two first-round knockdowns to put down “Ingo” for the full count in the sixth round at Miami Beach’s Convention Hall. And while it was the end of an era in more ways than one – after retaining his title one more time, on a fourth-round knockout of Tom McNeeley, Patterson was then clubbed out in the first round in back-to-back blowout losses to Sonny Liston – it was also the figurative beginning of another. To help him prepare for his final showdown with the much quicker Patterson, Johansson hired 19-year-old Cassius Clay, then 5-0 as a pro and just seven months removed from having won the light heavyweight gold medal at the Rome Olympics, to serve as a sparring partner. The teenaged phenom, who would soon change his name to Muhammad Ali, would later go on to twice thrash Patterson, taking particular delight in brutalizing the former champ in their first clash, on Nov. 22, 1965, because of Patterson’s continuing references to him as “Clay.”

There are other historical reference points that add significance to the Patterson-Johansson trilogy, although not all of them were immediately evident at the time. They were the first men to be paired in three heavyweight title bouts since Ezzard Charles and Jersey Joe Walcott tangled with the title on the line each time from 1949 to ’52, a distinction only earned since then in a much-less-heralded series involving Evander Holyfield and John Ruiz. Patterson and Johansson had both competed at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, in which Patterson captured the middleweight gold medal and Johansson was disqualified for non-effort in his gold medal bout against American Ed Sanders, which resulted in his being stripped of his silver medal and being sent home in disgrace.

There was an ugly racial element to the series, with many white U.S. fight fans opting to openly root for Johansson over their black countryman, the Olympic hero Patterson. But over time Patterson and Johansson became good friends, as is often the case with those who have forged the kind of mutual respect that can only be distilled in the crucible of the ring. Patterson became a virtual adopted son in Sweden, where he later fought four times, and he and Johansson even ran a couple of marathons together, going the distance in a way they never were able to inside the ropes.

Finally, and sadly, each waged a losing battle with the insidious effects of Alzheimer’s disease. Although he didn’t succumb until eight years later, by 1998 it had become apparent that Patterson, then the chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission, had had so many of his mental faculties wiped clean that he could not even remember the name of his own secretary. The story was much the same for Ingo, who was 76 when he passed away after a 10-year struggle with Alzheimer’s on Jan. 30, 2009. He was too ill to attend his IBHOF induction ceremony in Canastota, N.Y., in June 2002.

In describing the epic and decisive third clash involving Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, Jerry Izenberg, the great sports columnist for the Newark Star-Ledger, told Ali biographer Thomas Hauser that “What it came down to in Manila wasn’t the heavyweight championship of the world. They were fighting for the championship of each other.”

And so it was for Patterson and Johansson that spring evening in Miami Beach, a much-anticipated bout witnessed by 15,000 on-site spectators and untold more at closed-circuit venues, CC being the height of technological innovation to that point. It was, by all accounts, very similar to Ali-Frazier III, “The Thrilla in Manila,” in that it was widely considered the most competitive and emotionally draining episode in the series, but the climactic final act should only be viewed as part of a broader perspective.

Patterson was just 21 when he squared off against 43-year-old Archie Moore on Nov. 30, 1956, in Chicago Stadium for the heavyweight championship that had been vacated just six weeks earlier by the retired Rocky Marciano. It was an interesting matchup of youthful vitality against a wily veteran’s experience, with Patterson becoming the youngest heavyweight titlist ever (a distinction he would later yield to Mike Tyson) when he won by fifth-round knockout, in the process depriving “The Mongoose” of his chance to become the oldest man to win the heavyweight championship.

There are those who believe that Patterson’s manager-trainer, Cus D’Amato, did his fighter something of a disservice by having him campaign as a heavyweight, which his relatively slight dimensions – most of Patterson’s big fights were fought at or slightly over 180 pounds, at a time when anyone over 175 was deemed to be a heavyweight – and dubious chin could be considered liabilities. But there was more money and prestige to be garnered competing against boxing’s big boys, and D’Amato endeavored to protect Patterson – who might have become a truly exceptional light heavyweight – by matching him in title bouts against mostly fringe contenders. Since besting ancient Archie Moore, Patterson had made successful defenses against a non-Murderer’s Row consisting of Tommy “Hurricane” Jackson, Pete Rademacher (the 1956 Olympic gold medalist who was making his pro debut), Roy “Cut and Shoot” Harris and Brian London.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Johansson was in the process of restoring his smudged reputation in his homeland by winning his first 21 pro bouts (all in Europe), including 13 by knockout. But it wasn’t until his first-round blowout of highly regarded American Eddie Machen – a fighter D’Amato had taken care to keep away from Patterson – that Ingo established himself as a viable opponent for the champion.

Truth be told, D’Amato considered Johansson – whose preferred weapon, a thunderous overhand right, had two nicknames (“The Hammer of Thor” and “Ingo’s Bingo”) – to be nothing more than another overrated European pretender, whose straight-up style consisted of a decent jab and the straight right. And so the fight was made, with Patterson an opening-line 4-1 favorite.

Patterson-Johansson Rubber Match

The lead-up to fight night was almost better than whatever could possibly transpire in the ring, at least in the opinion of some veteran sports writers. Johansson, with matinee-idol looks and a swagger that would later call to mind the antics of New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath, set up camp at Grossinger’s in the Catskills, where the media took notice of his stunning brunette girlfriend, Birgit, and speculated as to whether Ingo was sticking the jab and going to the body more behind closed doors than he was in his daily sparring sessions.

If D’Amato and Patterson had indeed taken Johansson lightly, it proved to be a disastrous mistake when finally they met on June 26, 1959, in Yankee Stadium. In the third round Ingo connected with his signature shot, the overhand right, and Patterson went down in a heap. But although the champion beat the count, he was so discombobulated that he thought that it was he who had scored the knockdown, not the other way around. He was headed to a neutral corner, offering no defense, when Johansson ran alongside him and dropped him again with a free-shot left hook and follow-up right. In all, the Swede decked Patterson seven times in that crazy Round 3 before referee Ruby Goldstein decided enough was enough and awarded Johansson a TKO victory after an elapsed time of 2 minutes, 3 seconds.

Johansson’s victory – and the way in which it was achieved – made him an instant international celebrity, both in America and in Europe. One magazine dubbed Ingo, the first heavyweight champion from Europe since Italy’s Primo Carnera in 1934, “Boxing’s Cary Grant,” and The Associated Press voted him Male Athlete of the Year.

The rematch was held on June 20, 1960, at New York’s Polo Grounds and it was evident from the moment Johansson took off his robe that he had spent more time sipping cocktails in the company of beautiful women at nightclubs than slipping punches in training in the company of tough guys who could get him ready to defend his title. Patterson, meanwhile, had prepared with even more zealous dedication than usual, and that also was soon obvious. The end came in the fifth round, when Patterson connected with two crushing left hooks, the first of which rendered Johansson woozy, and the second which sent him crashing to the canvas, unconscious, blood trickling from his mouth and his left foot twitching uncontrollably. It was five minutes before Johansson was able to sit up, another 10 minutes before he was able to leave the ring, still in a dazed condition.

But it was what happened immediately after the most savage knockdown ever authored by Patterson that stamped him as a compassionate and caring man, an image he would carry for the remainder of his career, and life. He knelt alongside the stricken Johansson, gently cradling his head until medical personnel arrived. Just like that, the cloak of perceived villainy Patterson had unfairly worn in Sweden was forever removed.

So it was on to the rubber match, which in alternating parts consisted of swatches of the two bouts that had gone before. The first round was reminiscent of the premiere clash in Yankee Stadium, with Johansson twice decking Patterson with that big right hand. But Patterson, whose recuperative powers were as notable as his chin was fragile, scrambled to his feet each time. The fact that a relatively new wrinkle – the standing eight-count – was in effect, having been agreed to in advance by both camps, might have given Patterson a precious few additional seconds to refocus.

Fighting as if his life was on the line – and, in a professional sense, that may well have been the case – Floyd rallied well enough before the opening round ended that he was able to drop Johansson, the first time both fighters had been down in the initial stanza of a heavyweight title bout since the Jack Dempsey-Luis Firpo bout 40 years earlier.

Johansson had his moments thereafter, but he again had trained indifferently and it gradually became apparent that Ingo’s Bingo had lost its zingo. On those occasions when he landed his right hand, Patterson remained upright, and he finally sealed the deal with a sixth-round knockout.

The passage of time has a way of parting clouds and providing clarity. Was Johansson’s overhand right really as devastating as advertised? It was good enough to put Patterson on the deck nine times, but Patterson, following one more successful defense, against Tom McNeeley, failed to make it out of the first round in two bouts against the fearsome Sonny Liston.  But comparative results is like weighing the merits of apples against oranges; Eddie Machen was taken out in one round by Johansson, but the clever veteran was able to go the 10-round distance against Liston.

So maybe it’s best to simply say that the Patterson-Johansson trilogy deserves to be commemorated on its own merits, not in relation to any other rivalry for historical purposes. Human nature being what it is, we cherish those memories we so choose, and discount others not to our liking.

To this child of the late 1950s and early ’60s, Patterson-Johansson will always have a reserved section in the warehouse of fond boxing remembrances.

 

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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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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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