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“Hands of Stone” — The Movie Got It Right For The Most Part

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They got it right, for the most part. But also somewhat wrong.

“Hands of Stone,” the biopic about the legendary Roberto Duran, opened in wide release nationwide on Aug. 26 and, on my personal 1-to-10 scale for grading movies, I’d give it, oh, a 7.8, which is a pretty high rating but maybe more generous a score than from anyone who isn’t a boxing buff, and especially a Duran fan. Being a nitpicker for detail, especially when it comes to films about boxing, I tend to subtract points for any inaccuracies about non-fictitious characters, and my experience is that the motion picture industry has an unnerving habit of routinely twisting real life into “reel life,” the better to heighten dramatic effect or to fit a particular director’s narrative, regardless of what the facts are.

What’s good is really good in “Hands of Stone.” Perhaps most importantly, the fight sequences are well-choreographed and believable (every punch doesn’t land flush, like in the “Rocky” series) and the acting solid, particularly so when Academy Award winner Robert De Niro as Duran’s crusty and knowledgeable trainer, Ray Arcel, and Argentinian actor Edgar Ramirez, as Duran, are on the screen, which is most of the time. And it’s hard to keep your eyes off Ana de Armas, a 28-year-old Cuban-Spanish actress cast in the important role of Felicidad Duran, Roberto’s devoted but frequently ticked-off-at-her-hubby wife. De Armas not only holds her own with the formidable male leads, but is so strikingly beautiful it calls to mind those scenes stolen in the superb 1980 Jake La Motta biopic, “Raging Bull,” by Cathy Moriarty as Jake’s coolly blonde wife Vicki.

Now for the nitpicks, some more consequential than others. Roberto Duran is 5-foot-7, and Martinez is clearly several inches taller. No big deal in most instances, but Ramirez appears to stand at least eye-level with Reg E. Cathey, wearing a fright wig as 6’5” promoter Don King, and who, with typical bluster, threatens a lawsuit if Duran, not given nearly enough time to adequately pare the 40 pounds for the rematch that he packed on while partying after his first, victorious meeting with Sugar Ray Leonard (portrayed convincingly, and somewhat surprisingly, by pop icon Usher, who is billed in the credits as Usher Raymond IV), doesn’t comply with the contract date agreed to by Duran’s manager, Carlos Eleta (Ruben Blades). It’s the same reason why readers of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels have a difficult time accepting Tom Cruise, who, like Duran, is 5’7”, as the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Reacher. You’d think someone would have thought to at least have Cathey wear some padding and to stand or sit on boxes to create the illusion of His Hairness’ actual height and bulk.

But a more troubling deviation from strict fact is the assignment to Arcel of such a disproportionate share of credit for Duran’s rise to greatness by Venezuelan-born director Jonathan Jakubowicz. An indisputably great trainer who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in the non-participant category in 1991, Arcel arrives at Madison Square Garden just in time to see a-then 20-year-old Duran, in his U.S. debut, stop a decent journeyman, Benny Huertas, 66 electrifying seconds into the first round to run his record to 25-0, with 22 KOs. Just like that, Arcel decides to end his 20-year retirement from boxing (brought about by his having run afoul of the Mob) for a chance to work, for no pay, with the black-haired Panamanian destroyer.

Arcel’s instant fascination with Duran isn’t really hard to believe. Ed Schuyler Jr., the longtime Associated Press boxing writer, was at ringside for Duran-Huertas – part of the undercard of a show headlined by WBA lightweight champ Ken Buchanan’s 15-round unanimous decision over Duran’s countryman, Ismael Laguna – and was similarly struck by the Duran thunderbolt. “Benny Huertas wasn’t a great fighter, but he was a tough guy who could have gone 10 rounds with the 82nd Airborne Division,” Schuyler once told me in recounting his own introduction to a fighter that became one of his favorites to cover. “Duran got him out of there in a flash. You could see he was something special. It was evident to me that this was someone who was just born to fight.”

What didn’t quite ring true with me was the near-total absence from the movie of Freddie Brown, who co-trained Duran along with Arcel but is mentioned only once, during a press conference scene in which he and Arcel flank their fighter. The actor who played Brown, Hector Tarpiniani, is on screen maybe four seconds and has no lines. In the film credits listed on IMDb, his name comes after those of 63 others, including those who are credited as “Cop at fish stand,” “Restaurant patron,” “Man in the crowd,” “Prison guard,” “Black man” and “Black groupie girlfriend to Pachanga Lopez.”

Prior to my trip to my local multiplex theater to see “Hands of Stone,” I called Christian Giudice to gain insights into whatever it was about Duran that I didn’t already know. Although he now lives in North Carolina, Giudice is at heart still a Philadelphia guy, a graduate of Temple University with a master’s degree in journalism, who was so into Duran that, in order to author the comprehensive biography that he believed Duran’s life and career merited, he quit his job in 2003, became fluent in Spanish and set off to Panama to get at the heart of who and what boxing’s quintessential warrior was, and is. The result was “Hands of Stone: The Life and Legend of Roberto Duran,” a 384-page, meticulously researched spellbinder published in 2006 which was hailed by “The Times of London” as “A brilliantly detailed biography … Giudice’s book has successfully done Duran justice.”

Although Wikipedia lists “Hands of Stone,” the movie, as being “based on the book by Christian Giudice,” the author’s name does not appear in the closing credits, nor, I was surprised to learn, was he ever consulted by director-screenwriter Jakubowicz.

Asked if he would see the film, Giudice said he would, because … well, just because.

“I’ll watch it on Aug. 26 with everyone else,” he said. “It was a story bound to be told on-screen at some point. I’m not really hung up over how good (Ramirez) comes off in the fight scenes. I do hope the different nuances of Duran’s character are portrayed accurately. It seems they’re really going to play up the Ray Arcel connection, but I would rather hear about the young Duran who learned how to fight on the streets of Panama. There was a guy named Chaflan, who kind of created who Duran was. I don’t know if those early relationships are going to be in the movie in any meaningful way. I just hope it’s not just Duran and Arcel because I never got the sense that was Duran’s strongest relationship. I always felt he had a stronger relationship with Freddie Brown.”

Duran’s impoverished childhood, the street fights he picked so that adult spectators might toss him a few pesos, Chaflan and his relentless courtship of Felicidad, who was socially above his station, were all depicted with reasonable detail. But Jakubowicz, in an interview with Sean Crose of “Boxing Insider,” said it was exhilarating to “work with geniuses,” which might be a reference to Sugar Ray Leonard, who served as a technical adviser to help Usher prepare for his fight scenes, especially the “No Mas” (to this day Duran insists he never said those words) rematch with Duran in New Orleans. More likely, it was a nod toward De Niro, who might have passed on the project had his role not been substantially built up to reflect his iconic status in the industry. Jakubowicz even admits to accepting De Niro’s recommendations for script revisions that would make it easier for De Niro “to find Ray Arcel’s voice,” which is heard almost immediately.

But while the Arcel character might be more prominently featured than he otherwise would have been, there can be no denying that De Niro, 36 years after his Oscar-winning performance in what I believe to be the best boxing movie ever, “Raging Bull,” still is at or near the top of his game at age 73, so much so that I’m willing to forgive him (and Sylvester Stallone) for 2013’s “Grudge Match.” In any case, those close-to-authentic fight scenes are enough for me to overlook, for the most part, any missteps in the making of “Hands of Stone.”

In my estimation any sports movie ultimately succeeds or fails, regardless of its other virtues, if the action sequences fall flat. Two made-for-TV movie about Rocky Marciano, 1979’s “Marciano” and 1999’s “Rocky Marciano,” were KO’ed by reviewers, including me, because the lead actors couldn’t sell the in-ring stuff, even though the later version featured a De Niro-level acting genius in George C. Scott, as The Rock’s Italian immigrant father, Piero. At least the Marciano character in that one, played by Jon Favreau, was marginally more acceptable than Tony Lo Bianco, who in the 1979 version delivered filmed punches that wouldn’t have knocked down a third-grader.

Kudos thus must be awarded to De Niro for “Raging Bull” (although director Martin Scorsese went a bit overboard in making those scenes artistic), Daniel-Day Lewis for 1997’s “The Boxer,” Will Smith for 2001’s “Ali” and Russell Crowe for 2005’s “Cinderella Man,” because they understood that the importance of being able to convincingly deliver jabs, hooks and uppercuts was as important to selling their characters to audiences as delivering their lines.

Smith not only spent enough time in the gym in his preparations to play Muhammad Ali to add 35 pounds of muscle to his slim, 185-pound frame, he also put in 12 to 16 hours a day honing Ali’s signature moves. It set a standard that Ramirez and Usher appear to have taken to heart.

“I prepared (Smith) like he was getting ready for a world-title bout, not a movie,” Darrell Foster told me shortly before “Ali” was premiered on Christmas Day 2001. “It wasn’t unusual for us to work 12 to 16 hours a day on the fight scenes, and he never complained. The biggest problem with most boxing movies is that you have actors who fight like actors. They move like actors, they throw punches like actors and they are not believable at all in the fight sequences.”

Unfortunately, for Ali, the movie’s otherwise perfectionist of a director, Michael Mann, had the confrontational scene between Ali and his then-wife Belinda take place in Africa instead of the Philippines, because he wanted to include it and the picture ends with “The Greatest’s” triumph over George Foreman in “The Rumble in the Jungle.” I had to deduct major penalty points to the finished product for that glaring falsehood, as I also did with “The Hurricane,” the 1999 biopic about Rubin “Hurricane” Carter in which director Norman Jewison and screenwriters Armyan Bernstein and Dan Gordon shamelessly demeaned middleweight champion Joey Giardello by depicting his wholly justified points victory over Carter as a racial robbery. The now-deceased Giardello sued, and received an out-of-court settlement and a halfhearted apology from Jewison. Still, Hall of Famer Giardello’s legacy was somewhat besmirched, at least among moviegoers who didn’t know what actually went down the night he clearly outboxed Carter.

Bottom line: “Hands of Stone” – which concludes with Duran’s post-Leonard II embarrassment beatdown of Davey Moore — is worth a look, and maybe it is even good enough to rate inclusion on the list of upper-echelon boxing movies, all in all which make for the best celluloid treatments of sports because simple logistics dictate that it be so.

In “The Ultimate Book of Sports Movies,” published in 2009, co-authors Ray Didinger and Glen Macnow list the 100 best sports movies of all time, 14 of which are about boxing, far more than any other sport. If they were to update that list today, fight flicks undoubtedly would be mentioned even more often.

Didinger and Macnow make a compelling case for the sweet science as the most audience-friendly sport in a chapter entitled “Boxing Movies: The Winner and Still Champion.” They note the obvious warts – “too many sanctioning bodies, too many titles and too little star power have caused fans to drift away” – but “that has not stopped Hollywood from making movies about boxing. It has been a popular subject for more than a century (Thomas Edison filmed a James J. Corbett exhibition match in 1892) and it is likely to remain so whether anybody can name the current heavyweight champion or not.”

Why?

“For one thing, it is the easiest sport to film,” they explain. “There are two fighters, face to face in a confined space. It is not like nine players spread out on a baseball diamond or 22 men in helmets and pads sprawling across a football field. For the purposes of lighting and camera placement, a boxing ring is the perfect stage. It makes for a quicker and therefore cheaper shot.

“But more than that, boxing lends itself to melodrama. It is about an individual, not a team, so the writer can focus on the storyline. There is also the backdrop of vengeful mobsters (i.e., — John Turturro as the nefarious Frankie Carbo in “Hands of Stone”), double-crossing managers and other shady characters that populate the sport and provide a wealth of material for movies.”

Let it be noted here that Christian Giudice has authored two more boxing biographies since “Hands of Stone” came out — “Beloved Warrior: The Rise and Fall of Alexis Arguello,” published in 2012, and “A Fire Burns Within,” about Wilfredo Gomez, which came out just this year. Here’s hoping that if either one becomes someone else’s film project, Giudice will be allowed enough input to ensure that the “based on a true story” is as close to being completely true as La-La Land dares to allow.

But even Giudice acknowledges that Arguello and Gomez, as outstanding as they were at their craft, can’t command the attention that has clung and will continue to cling to Duran like lint on Velcro.

“He’s the one name from that time period that’s really kind of stayed fresh in people’s minds,” Giudice said. “I don’t know if that’s because of my book, the `30 for 30’ (special that was on ESPN) or this movie. I really feel people can relate with Duran through different generations.

“They just finished a `30 for 30’ on Arguello, but it hasn’t resonated with people the same way. It’s like there’s Duran, then everybody else from that time period.”

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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).

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

 

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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.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

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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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