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The 50 Greatest Lightweights of all Time Part One: 50-41

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The 50 Greatest Lightweights

The 50 Greatest Lightweights – When I composed a list of The Fifty Greatest Middleweights I thought, probably, I had reached the nadir of boxing excellence, that there would likely be no division that would equal the assorted wonderment boxing history presents us at 160lbs.

I was wrong.  The lightweights are just as deep, and, due to the incredible array of talent that passed through it without taking up residence, monstrous fighters wash up as early as the thirties and forties.  This mixture of career lightweights building deep resumes and wonder-making pound-for-pound beasts paying a fleeting visit has produced a list as stuffed with talent as middleweight; with a gun to my head, I’d probably name lightweight the deepest division in boxing history, although this is debatable.

The boring stuff: this is a complete process running from heavyweight down to flyweight taking in the eight classic divisions.  In the course of this process, no fighter is credited more than once for any given win.  This means that defined weight ranges are required in order to appraise these fighters divisionally.  In this case, we are looking at fights that were fought within the lightweight range plus 2.5lbs; anything over this is appraised as a welterweight (or light-welterweight) contest and anything below it will be appraised at featherweight.  Furthermore, the heaviest fighter denotes the weight class; if one fighter weighs 136lbs and the other weighs 142lbs, that is a welterweight contest.  I have made an exception, which will be explained in due course for Henry Armstrong.  One often has to make exceptions for Henry.

As to what is considered for each fighter’s placement, opposition bested is the most pressing consideration.  “Who did he beat?” is always the first question I ask, quickly followed by “how?”  Ability on film, when it can be seen, plays a part, as do prime losses, dominance and certain other intangibles that can make a difference between a lower spot and a higher one as they throw indistinct shapes from history into focus.

That’s the dull stuff out of the way – now let me introduce you to the fifty greatest lightweights of all time.

This is how I have it:

 #50 – Juan Manuel Marquez (50-7-1)

Juan Manuel Marquez (pictured) was the king of the lightweights for three years between 2008 and 2011.  He was beaten in that time, in a depressingly one-sided match with the great Floyd Mayweather at welterweight and in a desperately close encounter with Manny Pacquiao at the same poundage; at lightweight, he was never beaten and departed the division as the undefeated champion of the world.

That said, Marquez did not spend a lot of time in the division he ruled over and his defenses were limited, as was his overall presence.  Marquez was a great fighter, so far as I am concerned, but he was not a great lightweight. Still, despite the wealth of contenders for the #50 spot, guys like Ray Mancini, Sammy Fuller and Johnny Dundee (who we will be hearing from at featherweight), Marquez is the guy that has landed here, not least due to his status as lineal champion and pound-for-pound excellence in his own era.

Marquez’s most impressive outing at the weight, and perhaps his most impressive performance full stop, was in his 2009 encounter with Juan Diaz.  Diaz, a younger, stronger, volume-puncher held every conceivable advantage that mattered, except for all the ones that counted.  The most brilliant technical boxer in the world at the time outside of Mayweather, Marquez weathered an early storm. Seen live, I thought Marquez was in trouble; he was certainly losing rounds.  In fact he had already developed a program of block and counter so deep and varied that the ninth round knockout he would go on to score seems almost inevitable in retrospect.  His fight plan of volume and war stood in contradiction to his age and his strengths but the end result was a championship clinic for the uppercut as spectacular as any.

The two fought a rematch which was considerably less thrilling only because it was a more consummate display by Marquez.  Diaz tried to mix boxing in with his pressure and for all that his commitment to his jab was impressive, Marquez was always going to find him with punches and won most of the rounds in doing so.

Marquez only fought a handful of contests at the weight and his two best performances were against the same man but his reign was a lengthy one and I suspect he would do very well against some of the men ranked above him.  The #50 spot is his due, for all that it could equally have belonged to someone like Joe Shugrue or Benny Valgar.

#49 – Ray Miller (66-28-4; Newspaper Decision 12-8-6)

Ray lost plenty, hence the ranking in the low forties; but he is buoyed by some very credible wins.

They fed him the great but faded contender Sid Terris in 1928 and Miller, whose left hook was already considered that of an artist, blasted him out in a single round.  Four months and a typically patchy 2-2 ledger later he was matched with the anointed Jimmy McLarnin, already an icon to New York City’s Irish.  McLarnin doesn’t quite make the list.  One of the great welters, he was far less a force at lightweight, as Ray Miller underlined, crushing him seven one-sided rounds that same November.  It was not a close fight.

Miller moved on to a ranked man, Tommy Grogan, in 1928, matching him twice in quick succession.  Their first fight was one of the greatest in lightweight history not to have survived on film.  Had it done so, Miller would likely be a cult hero rather than a shadowy contender.  By some accounts, Miller was down six times in the first three rounds, caught with a perfect one-two in the opening frame and blasted about the ring for much of the following nine minutes.  But Miller was made of granite; despite all those losses he was never stopped.  Grogan, himself, was hard even for the era, and himself had never been dropped for the count.  Miller changed that in the fourth.

“Grogan, like Jimmy McLarnin several weeks ago,” wrote the Associated Press, “dropped his right hand for an instant, and the touted left crushed him to the canvas.”

That’s all it took with Miller – an instant.  But he was also capable of laying siege, as he did in the rematch, taking a ten round decision upon being unable to find a way through against a naturally more cautious Grogan.

Miller went 1-1-1 with Billy Petrolle and took the scalp of the capable Johnny Jadick, and that’s just enough to see him over the line; no more though – too many obscure names troubled him.

#48 – Rocky Kansas (65-11-6; Newspaper Decisions 59-15-9)

It is hard to imagine the frustration of a fighter doomed to share an era with the great Benny Leonard.  All great fighters torture the ambitions of their peers but fewer fighters can have blunted more dreams in a single division than the great Leonard.  Rocky Kansas can number himself among them.

The two first shared the ring in February of 1916 with Kansas fresh from the featherweight division and Leonard not yet the fistic god he would become.  Nevertheless, Leonard was dominant and Rocky, who fought gamely, “wilted every time” Leonard “crushed over his right.”  The two wouldn’t meet again until 1921, an absolute age in the parlance of the time, Leonard’s title on the line.  Despite Rocky’s strong finish, Leonard was once again triumphant.  But Rocky just wouldn’t go away.  He went unbeaten in nine, including a victory over Lew Tendler, forcing Leonard to give him a second title shot in their third fight.  “He is strong, willing and has plenty of courage,” noted the Quebec Telegraph.  “He likes to fight.  That makes him dangerous.”

He was dangerous enough to go six rounds without losing one to the great man, winning the first four in some accounts; thereafter, the champion ran away with the fight and Rocky was sent spinning out of title contention once more.  But such was the impression that he had made with those opening eighteen minutes that two wins later he was back in the ring with Leonard once more.

This time Leonard crushed him, beating him into submission in just eight rounds.  It seemed that Rocky’s title aspirations were finally at an end.

What are they made of, these boys who keep coming back for more, who cannot be turned away?  When Benny Leonard retired in 1925, Jimmy Goodrich, a fine fighter, became the champion.  And Rocky was still winning.  He had been in the ring for fourteen hard years but against Goodrich, he found himself with one last chance.

The Associated Press reported a near universal feeling at ringside that he would once again fade, that he could not possibly sustain the savage pace he set at the bell; that feeling was born out.  But this time, he did not wilt.  Kansas split lightweight series with the likes of Johnny Dundee and Jack Bernstein but when his last best chance presented itself, he took it.  The veteran threw the championship aloft at the bell.

I love Rocky’s narrative.  He was a lion who had the terrible luck to share a cage with a tiger who, despite all those maulings, had enough to see off the cub they tried to move on to his territory.

#47 – Jose Luis Ramirez (102-9)

A boxing centurion is a rare and wonderful thing, and one that fought his last fight in the 1990s is even rarer.  Ramirez pulled the trick of winning a hundred fights and, barely, the trick of boxing in three distinct decades, turning professional in 1973 and retiring in 1990 having lost three of his last four fights.

One of those losses was a clear decision dropped to Pernell Whitaker.  This was their second meeting and the record books show that Ramirez won the first; in reality, Whitaker had perhaps the worst decision in boxing history perpetrated against him – Ramirez receives no credit for that “win” here.

Ramirez spent almost his entire career in the lightweight division and that means that the overwhelming bulk of those 100 wins belong to that division.  Among those fights, certainly, there are more than a few fighters of low repute, and it is also true that almost every time he stepped up to the highest level – against Whitaker, against Hector Camacho, against Julio Cesar Chavez, against Ray Mancini, against Alex Arguello (where he was perhaps a little unlucky) – he was beaten, but there are some very nice wins tucked away in that enormous ledger.  Principal among them is his 1984 stoppage of Edwin Rosario.

This fight was a rematch and a fascinating one.  Rosario looked a class above in the first fight, until he didn’t, at which point Ramirez took over completely.  The theory is that Rosario didn’t quite have the engine to measure up to the relentless stalking that Ramirez brought to the table.  Rather than go through that again, Rosario brought destruction, looking for the knockout.  When an almost casual right dropped Ramirez apologetically on the seat of his trunks just seconds in, this strategy seemed justified; a brutal thrashing inflicted upon Ramirez in the second precluded a more serious knockdown.  But as well as serious power (that brought him eighty-two knockouts) Ramirez had a chin of granite and the heart of a lion.  He fought back in the third and by the end of that round was coming on strong.  In the fourth, he sent Rosario to a dark place and won what remains one of the best fights of the 1980s.

A narrow decision win over Terrence Alli and a knockout of Cornelius Boza-Edwards were other highlights and get him into the fifty.

#46 – Stevie Johnston (42-6-1)

Even after thirteen years fighting in the lightweight division, Stevie Johnston leaves a legacy as something of a nearly-man.  In part, this is due to the high expectations foisted upon him by an American press hungry for success but it is true that he boxed in the shadow of Shane Mosley as it is true that he was never the lineal lightweight champion.  An amateur rival for Mosley, he was expected to rekindle that rivalry in the pro ranks, and it wasn’t hard to find people who expected Johnston to emerge from that rivalry the victor.

That was not to be, but Johnston did spend more time in the division than Mosley, and did assemble more scalps in that time.  His first win of real significance was over Senegalese Frenchman Jean-Baptist Mendy.  Mendy had served his apprenticeship in defense of the European title and was the more storied of the two.  Johnston, who had travelled to France for the contest, showed his inexperience in the fifth when, after a bright start, he sustained a cut in an accidental clash of heads.  He abandoned what had been a savage body-attack and reverted to the type imbued in him by a lengthy amateur career and Mendy took over.  But Johnston had a wonderful habit of finishing fights with phenomenal strength.  He closed out wonderfully here to edge a decision and pick up a strap on the road.  A lop-sided decision win over the ranked John Scott followed before Johnston was matched with the giant Cesar Bazan.

How Bazan made the 135lb weight limit is beyond me.  He was 5’11 and heavy-boned, a veritable giant and for the 5’4” Johnston a unique challenge.  It was a challenge Johnston treated uniquely, coming all the way inside to try to out-fight his enormous foe in the pocket.  It made for a fascinating squabble and a match I scored a draw – the judges gave it to Bazan.  So the two met again in a fight that saw Johnston turn in the best performance of his career.

Another fascinating pair followed for Johnston, against one Jose Luis Castillo.  Castillo was a relative unknown at the time of this fight, but he was not inexperienced, having duked it out with the snarling ranks of featherweights and lightweights in Mexico for a number of years, a grossly underestimated apprenticeship.  Knowing what we know now, the regularity with which Castillo began to land his left hook to the body in the second is more than ominous; but Johnston was equal to the punch, and almost equal to Castillo, losing the fight by a single round on my card.  Their rematch was a heartbreak for Johnston, who scored a draw for me but a narrow win on the judge’s cards – at the time of the first reading.  When a mistake in the arithmetic of one scorecard was corrected, Johnston slipped into Castillo’s dressing room and returned to him the strap he had retained via what was in fact a majority draw.

Johnston’s career was full of such little oddities, but I feel he’s good for this spot.  It’s a shame he never met Mosley – he could have caused him problems, I think – but in addition to Mendy, Scott and Bazan, he beat ranked men Angel Manfredy and Alejandro Gonzalez.

A car crash and a reported hundred stitches in his face ended his time as a top contender in 2003.

 #45 – Shane Mosley (49-10-1)

I think a lot of readers will be disappointed to see Shane Mosley ranked in the bottom clutch; it’s pleasing, then, that he appears on the same page as a breakdown of my criteria.  For all that Mosley is a brutal and dynamic head-to-head threat to the men who are ranked above him, his actual labors in the lightweight division are not comparable to the leviathans who lurk below.

That said, he went unbeaten at the weight, putting together a ledger close to 30-0, and picking up a strap during that run – but he was never lineal.  In obtaining and defending that trinket, he managed to round up only three men to appear at that time in the Ring rankings, arriving in earnest in 1999, out-pointing the well regarded Philip Holiday.

Holiday was a volume puncher, but Mosley shut him down, out-working him over the first six so completely that a mid-fight lag didn’t hurt him.  A mature body-assault made a late-fight rally unlikely and although Holiday was pretty much unstoppable at 135lbs, Mosley did everything but, dropping either two or three rounds only.

This performance bought Mosley his strap, but in defending it, he was underwhelming.  He never again faced a man ranked in the top five, and the unranked opposition he met, men like Demetrio Ceballos and Wilfrido Ruiz, provided no test.  To be fair to him, nor did the ranked opposition; Holiday was out-classed, the veteran John John Molina was brought to a shuddering halt in the eighth and Jessie James Leija was driven repeatedly to the canvas before refusing to answer the bell for the tenth.  In these latter two efforts, Mosley exemplified the “power-boxing” style he laid claim to, (mostly) slick moves complimented by a serious punch.

But most of Mosley’s big nights lay north of 135lbs against men like Oscar De La Hoya and Antonio Margarito.

#44 – Terence Crawford (28-0)

Terence Crawford’s career echoes Mosley’s in many ways.  Like Mosley, he is unbeaten at the weight and now that he has departed it for 140lbs, he will remain so.  Like Mosley, he only found the time to tangle with three ranked men.  Unlike Mosley, he lifted the lineal title, starting a new lineage with his defeat of Raymundo Beltran late in 2014, a contest fought between the #1 and #2 lightweights in the world.  Crawford never defended that most important of titles, departing the division for his next contest, but it is this detail that edges him in front of Mosley, although he did manage to beat two fighters ranked in the divisional top five to Mosley’s one.  So small are the differences that separate these lightweights.

Crawford’s lineal title win was a performance of the highest quality.  Beltran, every inch the honest pro, never gave up on his quarry but he didn’t win a single round on my card.  Crawford totally dominated with a smooth-boxing switch-hitting style barracked by a judge of distance so wonderful that he maintained it almost throughout the entire twelve rounds.  By the end, Crawford was spending more and more time on the front foot (one or the other) while Beltran had been reduced to a square, narrow stance, practically hobbled by his opponent’s superiority.

Crawford had arrived in earnest in the division earlier in 2014 with a similarly dominant twelve round domination of #3 lightweight Ricky Burns.  This was seen as a rather pedestrian performance at the time, perhaps, but Burns has since become the first Scotsman to hold straps at three different weights.  Crawford’s ownership of Burns looks more impressive in retrospect.

In between taking on these two top ranked lightweights he dispatched the mercurial Yuriorkis Gamboa by a knockout, the maturation of his southpaw ventures, the fight that rendered him a true switch-hitter of the highest quality.

Crawford’s potential is enormous – alas, it will be spent at 140lbs and above, as he departed the division after his victory over Beltran.

#43 – Battling Nelson (59-19-22; Newspaper Decisions 10-14-5)

Battling Nelson lost to Freddie Welsh, Ad Wolgast, Leach Cross, Jimmy Britt and Terry McGovern.  In short, he lost to every top man he ever met, including  Joe Gans; he also beat Gans – twice.

The value of a single great scalp, one of the hallowed fighters in the top ten no less, is a problem I am familiar with.  How to rate Lennox Lewis conqueror, Hasim Rahman at heavyweight?  What to do with a problem like Buster Douglas?  Nelson, “The Durable One”, isn’t quite as one-dimensional as those two, having once bested Jimmy Britt, the excellent featherweight Young Corbett II and Dick Hyland, but his presence here hangs almost exclusively on his two defeats of the Old Master.  It is certainly true that Gans was ripe, but someone has to do the plucking; that someone was Nelson.

Gans won their first fight via a “wonderful endurance and willpower” By 1908, his endurance if not his willpower had slipped as illness and wear and tear bore down on the Old Master.  Nelson was described by the San Francisco Call as a “combination of youth, perpetual motion and a concrete wall,” and this seems apt.  Gans, meanwhile, looked “as though his heart had been broken” as early as the end of the eighth, while Nelson “hardly drew a long breath all fight.”  Gans, shaking with apparent exhaustion, still covered up beautifully in the seventeenth, but Nelson’s body attack was among the most terrible of his era; Gans crumbled.

So wonderful a fighter was he that he was able to carry Nelson all the way to the twenty-first before he crumbled in the rematch just over two months later.  Reading the round-by-round accounts of this second fight are fascinating, as despite Joe’s trickery and generalship, Nelson whittles the ring down to more claustrophobic dimensions almost by the round.

Nelson was champion, but he shared an era with a fighter he could never best: Ad Wolgast.  Wolgast beat him three times, taking his title from him in 1910.  Yet Wolgast does not appear on this list, and Nelson does.  Like Nelson, Wolgast lost to most of the best men he faced, including Freddie Welsh, Rocky Kansas, Leach Cross, Willie Ritchie and Joe Rivers.  In total, he lost more than thirty contests in his career.  He redeemed himself with his domination of Nelson, but it is not enough to pry open the top fifty.

Nelson, on the other hand, in twice defeating Gans and in taking his title from him, is awarded with guaranteed immortality.  To put it more simply, beating an ageing Gans is more impressive than beating Nelson himself.

#42  – Lew Jenkins (73-41-5)

A savage puncher despite his gaunt appearance Lew Jenkins was a horrible opponent for even the best of fighters, but he sabotaged himself.  Better than his record indicates, better than this slot on the list, he was, in his early incarnation, a horror-show of a fighter, a terminator type with an axe to grind with whoever was unlucky enough to stand in the opposite corner come bell.

But he had vulnerabilities.  His chin was certainly not soft, but nor was it rock, and he could be out-boxed by the best boxers just as he could be unexpectedly stopped by good punchers.

He became a fully fledged lightweight around the same time that he abandoned the eight-round contests that litter the first part of his career, perhaps without the expectation that he would shake the world in the way he did given his patchy form over the shorter distance.  But when he arrived in earnest against Mike Belloise on the eve of the 1940s, it was with a bang, breaking one of Mike’s ribs on the way to a stoppage win.  Tippy Larkin followed in a single round and Jenkins was granted on the strength of these knockouts a title shot against the brilliant Lou Ambers.

At one point a 13-5 favorite, Ambers was in the prime of his life and had lost just one of his previous twenty-eight fights – to Henry Armstrong.  Never stopped, Ambers was considered too clever and tough to fall prey to a fighter who had spent the same years the champion had spent contesting the title treading water.  Jenkins cocked his right hand, breathed air into his slender body and blasted Ambers apart in three rounds, twice dropping him, stopping him on his feet.

Jenkins came very close to dropping his title in his very first defense against Bob Montgomery, a deadly fighter who would go on to help define the stacked division in the decade ahead, but he rallied in the tenth to eke out the closest of decisions in another career-defining bout.  The grim destruction of Pete Lello, then ranked #3 in the world, followed, and Jenkins seemed to be threatening to clean out the division.  It was not to be.  Jenkins lived with the same fierce intensity that he fought and the two are not compatible.

Although a draw with the great welterweight Fritzie Zivic and another victory over Ambers (who then retired) followed, a love of fast cars and allegedly faster women mixed caustically with a fondness for whisky and the wheels flew violently from the wagon.  He lost 13 of his next 16 fights, and although few of them were at lightweight (and thus, are not considered here) he never recaptured his devastating form.

Boxing was the loser.

#41 – Jack Blackburn (46-9-12; Newspaper Decisions 69-16-11)

Jack Blackburn has become one of the most celebrated fighters of the pre-film era, a drunken terror who did time for manslaughter in between matching the best fighters in five different weight divisions, winning more than his fair share.  He was a wonderful fighter, with a wonderful left hand, a left-hand that no less a fighter than Sam Langford spoke of in awe; Joe Gans claimed that Blackburn was the single fighter he had met that he feared.

So why the relatively low ranking?

Blackburn emerged from an era when boxing was semi-legal.  The Emancipation Proclamation was not yet twenty years old when he was born; he remained a second class citizen; a young African-American fighter took his living where he could, regardless of weight class.  A fighter’s poundage was not only rarely recorded it was often of no consequence.

Long story short: Boxrec records but four occasions upon which Blackburn fought in a weight range that interests us for the purposes of this list.  Furthermore, conversations with the owner and operator of the wonderful Senya 13: Annals of  Boxing History blog underlined to me the likelihood that Gans made the lightweight limit far less frequently than is assumed.  Certainly proof of his doing so is almost non-existent.  Despite this, he is usually reported online as occupying the weight range of “132-142lbs”, probably because he was referred to as weighing “between 132 and 140 lbs” in the July 1942 edition of Ring Magazine.  Research has since revealed that he weighed in over 150lbs as often as he weighed in under 135lbs.  This makes sense.  Blackburn was 5’11 in an era where 5’7 made a tall lightweight.

In discussions for his 1908 meeting with Jack O’Brien, Blackburn spoke candidly about his weight, The Washington Evening Star noting that “Blackburn, while posing as a lightweight, weighs many pounds more.”  This was a rare occasion where the weights had been agreed by contract prior to the fight and sure enough, Blackburn weighed in at ringside at just over the modern welterweight limit.  The same newspaper reported that Blackburn was in better condition than O’Brien on fight night; there is no reportage of his having fought overweight or out of shape.

That said, Blackburn did fight in contests where he was weighed in in a similar fashion and fought and won at or near the lightweight limit.  Unfortunately, the opposition in these fights often did not, thus rendering even these fights welterweight contests on occasion.

Still, he famously edged Joe Gans over six rounds after coming off the canvas in the first (Gans twice avenged this defeat), and he won other lightweight contests for all that the opposition was less impressive. What all this adds up to is a ranking in the forties and an enhancement in my eyes to his pound-for-pound standing which should never be in doubt.  Blackburn was a great fighter.  But he probably wasn’t a great lightweight.

We will be edging closer to the legitimately great ones by the end of Part Two.

The 50 Greatest Lightweights / Check out Mcgrain’s Top 50 Welterweights starting right here.

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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.

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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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