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15 Years Ago Today: Hopkins Thrashes Trinidad; The Apex of B-Hop’s Amazing Career

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By BERNARD FERNANDEZ

               Revenge is a dish best served cold.Unknown

There are great artists whose work is routinely excellent, but even they are apt to say there was one shining moment when they were at the absolute peak of their powers, when they found a way to reach deep inside themselves and achieve perfection, or as close to it as any living, breathing human being ever comes.

Bernard Hopkins turns 52 on Jan. 15 of next year and boxing’s ageless wonder continues to pine for one final fight that might further demonstrate that his amalgamation of skill, focus and longevity are unmatched in the annals of the ring. But even if B-Hop were to procure such a bout, and school still another high-level opponent young enough to be his son, it would not – could not – be considered the apex  of a career that is sure to eventually gain him first-ballot induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

No, that ascent to the loftiest peak his sport has to offer will for Hopkins forever remain the night of Sept. 29, 2001, when the then-36-year-old, as a 3½-1 underdog, systematically dismantled 28-year-old Felix “Tito” Trinidad en route to a 12th-round technical-knockout victory in Madison Square Garden.  The supposed upset in the final of a four-man middleweight unification tournament made Hopkins the consensus Fighter of the Year and, finally, gained him recognition as a megastar after he had labored for years in the shadow of other elite boxers who were, at best, on something akin to his level but probably a cut below.

“I don’t know if I can label him as a superstar or not. Only the fans can grant that status, and it isn’t solely determined by how well someone fights or how much talent he has,” Kery Davis, then the senior vice president of HBO Sports, said after Hopkins had shocked the world, if not himself, with his virtually flawless performance. “But from a strictly boxing standpoint, Bernard Hopkins has legitimized himself as one of the greatest middleweights of all time. He clearly is the best middleweight in the world, and no one can dispute that. All roads in the division lead through Bernard right now.”

But on this, the 15th anniversary of Hopkins-Trinidad, what happened inside the ropes before a desperate, pro-Trinidad crowd of 19,075 and a TVKO Pay-Per-View audience tells only part of the story.  Amazingly, the run-up to the bout – delayed two weeks from its originally scheduled date of Sept. 15 by the deadly terrorist attacks on New York City’s World Trade Center on 9/11 – was just as compelling, if not more so, than anything two men wearing padded gloves could generate.  Other prefight developments came in the form of two incidents in which a defiant yet coolly calculating Hopkins threw the Puerto Rican flag to the ground at press conferences, enraging Trinidad and his followers; the apparent bias shown by Don King, who promoted all four fighters in the tournament, toward Trinidad, and a hand-wrap controversy that ultimately would cast at least the appearance of a shadow on “Tito’s” otherwise sun-bathed legacy.

“I had come in from my morning run in Central Park when I turned on the TV and saw the coverage of the first crash,” Hopkins, a few days before the rescheduled fight took place, recalled of the horrifying sight of the first of the WTC’s twin towers ablaze after being struck by a hijacked airliner. “I thought it might have been an accident, a really terrible accident, but then I saw the second plane come in and hit the second tower.

“My first reaction was that this was no accident, it was a terrorist act. You see something like that, you’re not thinking about boxing. Trinidad was the furthest thing from my mind just then. What I was thinking about was getting the hell out of town. I ain’t no crying guy. Where I came up (on the mean streets of the “Badlands” in North Philadelphia), crying was, like, a sign of a punk. But I got teary-eyed then. I thought about the people in those buildings who were dead (the final body count was 2,996) or hurt. I thought about maybe never seeing my wife or my daughter again. For all I know, another plane might be on the way to hit my hotel. Someone might have planted a nuclear bomb in the city. I mean, you just don’t know.”

It would not have surprised anyone had the powers-that-be ordered at least a temporary shutdown of everything that constituted regular life in a stricken and grieving city. But, well, the NFL staged games only two days after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963 (a decision then-NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle always regretted), and the feeling was that America needed to show the perpetrators of this most heinous of acts that its citizens were strong enough and resilient enough to press on despite having endured unspeakable tragedy. After some debate, the decision was to delay the fight a mere two weeks instead of cancelling it outright.

For his part, Hopkins had enough room in his heavy heart to readily recommit to the task at hand. Asked if his animosity toward Trinidad was genuine or merely a ploy to get inside the Puerto Rican slugger’s head, B-Hop suggested that maybe it was a little bit of both.

“People think I hate Trinidad,” he said of the figurative villain’s cloak he had no hesitation in wearing, at least as far as Puerto Rico’s 3.8 million residents were concerned. “I don’t hate Trinidad. I don’t like Trinidad. There’s a difference. I hate this (Osama) bin Laden guy. I hate the guys who killed Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy.”

Part of the emotional fire that has always roared inside Hopkins is his belief that he has always been somehow disrespected, disregarded and relegated to a lesser seat at the table of premier fighters. Even though his unification bout with Trinidad (who, in just his second bout as a full-fledged middleweight, went in as the WBA champion while Hopkins held the IBF and WBC titles) would be, if successful, his 13th defense, one shy of the record held by the legendary Argentine, Carlos Monzon, the ex-con and reformed street tough from Philly remembered every perceived slight as if it were a freshly delivered slap to his face. Hadn’t he had to make a couple of those defenses on someone else’s undercard? Sometimes in off-the-beaten-track burgs like Shreveport, La., Upper Marlboro, Md., and Indio, Calif.? And how about the time he was obliged to accept a paltry $100,000 payday as a defending world champion?

Hopkins’ mindset thus was that of the perpetual underdog, forever having to prove himself to the doubters who were reluctant to acknowledge his greatness. He had a particular disdain for Olympic gold medalists, believing that they entered the pro ranks with silver spoons in their mouths and paths to the top cleared of most of the obstacles he’d had to overcome. Trinidad, although not an Olympian, had won world titles at welterweight and super welterweight while forging not only an undefeated record (40-0, with 33 knockouts), but a reputation as a devastating puncher, especially with the left hook.

After Trinidad had dethroned WBA middleweight champion William Joppy on a fifth-round stoppage on May 12, 2001, in the first semifinal of the unification tournament, Joppy, who had previously derided the Puerto Rican as “a little overrated” and “someone who doesn’t belong in the same ring with me,” was singing a different tune.

“I never thought he would be able to hit like that,” said Joppy, who was floored in the first, fourth and fifth rounds. “I didn’t think he’d have that much power, moving up from 154 pounds to 160. I have never been hit like that before.”

Said Al Mitchell, whose fighter, 1996 Olympic gold medalist David Reid, had been dropped four times in losing a one-sided unanimous decision and his WBA super welterweight title to Trinidad on March 3, 2000: “(Trinidad) reminds me of Joe Frazier. His offense is his defense. Trinidad bends, but he doesn’t break. He’s always putting pressure on you.”

But Hopkins, taking note of the fact that Trinidad had been knocked down seven times in the past, wasn’t buying into the prevailing notion of Tito’s invincibility. He saw weaknesses he believed he could exploit, weaknesses that would be even more apparent on fight night if he could play the kind of mind games at which he was so adept and would serve to throw Trinidad off his game.

“Trinidad hasn’t had to go to a Plan B his entire career,” Hopkins proclaimed. “But when it’s time to get down in the trenches, he’ll do what he always does, which is to charge in and throw bombs – and that’s when he’ll play right into my hands. Trinidad can’t cope with all the things I’m going to show him. He won’t be able to settle into a comfort zone. I’m going to show him a little Gypsy Joe Harris, a little Jersey Joe Walcott, a little Bennie Briscoe. He’s going to see more than he’s ever seen in 12 rounds, if it goes 12 rounds.”

As part of his preparations, Hopkins formulated Operation Piss-Tito-Off, which began on the first leg of a four-day, three-city promotional tour in July, when B-Hop snatched a Puerto Rican flag out of his opponent’s hands and flung it to the ground in New York City. Amazingly, or maybe not, he did the same thing two days later in San Juan, P.R., nearly inciting a riot and obliging him and his support team to literally flee for their lives. But a seed had been planted that later would bear fruit.

The act of an out-of-control madman or brilliant tactics?

“I think before I do something,” Hopkins said after the first flag toss, adding that he would (throw the Puerto Rican flag to the ground again), if I had to.”

Trinidad, who had calmly reacted to a certain amount of yapping from such previous foes as Joppy, Pernell Whitaker, Hector Camacho and Fernando Vargas, professed to be unaffected by Hopkins’ antics. “I don’t care what he says,” Trinidad insisted. “He can talk all he wants, as far as I’m concerned. It won’t make any difference once the bout begins.”

Still, Trinidad seemed legitimately shaken by Hopkins’ first snatching of the Puerto Rican flag from his hands, and downright dumbfounded when he did it again in San Juan. This went beyond the standard trash-talk that many fighters engage in.

“Every punch I give Bernard Hopkins will be like punching the bell of liberty,” Trinidad said during the Philadelphia stop, where homeboy B-Hop also met with some degree of hostility from those attending: “Puerto Rico must be respected.”

Hopkins, who feeds as much off negative reaction from the crowd as from positive energy, figured his strategy was working even better than he had intended. Now, he reasoned, Trinidad had no alternative but to come after him with everything he had, to uphold the honor of his island, a heaping plate of revenge Tito would attempt to serve hot, not with cold detachment.

“I can’t beat 12,000 people all at once,” Hopkins said of his estimate of the number of Puerto Rican fans or sympathizers who would be lustily backing Trinidad at the Garden. “But I can take something they love and hit them with the equivalent of a right hand to the stomach, and that was the thing with the flag. I got mine in first.”

Moreover, Hopkins added, “I saw fear in Antwun Echols’ eyes (when they fought). I saw fear in Robert Allen’s eyes, in Keith Holmes’ eyes. And I saw it when I took the flag out of Trinidad’s hands in New York. People used to be petrified when I was young and they saw me on the street. I’m not proud of that. But that’s what I saw in Trinidad’s eyes. Maybe for the first time ever, he’s not sure that he can win.”

Nor was Trinidad the only object of Hopkins’ discontent. It irked him that King, at every press stop, would wave a tiny Puerto Rican flag and cackle “Viva, Puerto Rico!” To B-Hop’s way of thinking, his Hairness couldn’t have made his preference as to the fight’s outcome more obvious.

“Don King has an agenda,” Hopkins said prior to the terrorist attacks on the WTC. “I understand that. Bu there’s a price to be paid for having that agenda. On Sept. 16, the day after I beat Trinidad, King is going to be knocking on my door, sending me flowers and candy, trying to make nice. And that’s when he’ll find out I have an agenda, too. I don’t like it when my own promoter doesn’t treat me with the same respect he’s showing the other guy. I’m not asking for favoritism; I’m demanding equality.”

Those hijacked airliners crashed into the twin towers and everything connected to the fight, understandably, was put on hold. Additional security measures were instituted, mostly because of lingering fear of another terrorist attack but also because Garden officials, aware of Hopkins’ incendiary mistreatment of the Puerto Rican flag, worried about a replay of the riot that erupted following foul-prone Andrew Golota’s disqualification loss to Riddick Bowe on July 11, 1996. In any case, Hopkins’ grand scheme was brought back into sharp focus when he learned that the Sugar Ray Robinson Award, which was to be presented to the winner of the unification tournament, had already been pre-inscribed with Trinidad’s name on it.

Another sidelight to what already was shaping up as a fight perhaps unlike any other occurred when Hopkins’ assistant trainer, Brother Naazim Richardson, observed what he said was the improper taping of Trinidad’s hands, which he said was not in accordance with New York State Athletic Commission rules and might have added to his already vaunted punching power. Richardson said Trinidad’s wraps were “layered” —  tape, gauze, tape, gauze, etc. — with tape directly over the knuckles. The rules stipulate tap cannot be applied directly over the knuckles and that the required 10 yards of gauze and two yards of tape must be applied in “one winding,” without layering. The NYSAC observer agreed, and he ordered Trinidad’s hands to be taped to specifications.

“If you put on tape, then gauze, then tape, then gauze, it’s like a (plaster) cast,” Hopkins would say later. “It’s like being hit with a baseball bat. I’m giving out some secrets here, but you can dip your hands in ice water and that tape will, like, marinate and become harder. But it’s only cheating if you get caught. Personally, I think Vargas’ and Reid’s people dropped the ball. Naazim did a brilliant job in spotting what (Felix Trinidad Sr., his son’s trainer) was doing with the wraps.”

All that remained was for the fight to begin, and it wasn’t long before it became apparent to everyone that Hopkins couldn’t have written a script that would have played out any better than what actually took place. After a mostly uneventful, feel-out first round that ended with Trinidad returning to his corner and mistakenly telling his pop that “(Hopkins has) got nothing. He’s mine,” the Philadelphian put on a clinic in the administration of purposeful and precise punishment. Hopkins wobbled Trinidad with a right uppercut in round 10 and, in the 12th, he whiffed on a left hook but came back with a right hand over the top that caused the badly battered Tito to crash to the canvas as if he had been pole-axed. Thinking he had won by knockout, B-Hop fell onto his back in celebration. But referee Steve Smoger ruled that Trinidad had risen at the count of nine, and he was prepared to wave the fighters together again when Felix Sr. entered the ring and threw in the towel. The end officially came after an elapsed time of 1 minute, 18 seconds.

When the end came, Hopkins led on the official scorecards by margins of 109-100 (once) and 107-102 (twice).

“To be great, you have to do great things,” said Hopkins, who was paid a then-personal-best $2.2 million and who reportedly bet $100,000 on himself. “You can’t just talk great. You got to fight your way through it.

“I knew I was headed for destiny. I was prepared to show that I am what I always said I am: the best middleweight in the world. My actions speak louder than my words. People are judged by their performance. They should be. Judge me by what you saw.”

Trinidad, who did not attend the post-fight press conference, grudgingly allowed in the ring that “Hopkins is a great champion. He is better than I thought.”

Perhaps, had there been a rematch, Trinidad might have reversed the outcome, as Sugar Ray Leonard had done in a do-over after he had been outpointed in the first of his three meetings with Roberto Duran. Then again, probably not, as the arc of both men’s careers provided ample evidence that Hopkins was simply a better fighter, and probably would be again if he and Trinidad had crossed paths a second time. But circumstances dictated that such a meeting would never take place.

After he knocked out Oscar De La Hoya in nine rounds on Sept. 18, 2004, to add “The Golden Boy’s” WBO middleweight belt to his collection of 160-pound straps, Hopkins, by then no longer part of the Don King stable, said King would almost certainly insist on options on B-Hop as a prerequisite for making Hopkins-Trinidad II.

“If it’s Trinidad, do I have to give Don King options on me?” asked Hopkins, who said such an arrangement was not acceptable to him, and never would be. “I’d fight Trinidad, but only if it’s a one-and-done.

“To me, Trinidad was the easiest fight of the last eight or nine that I had. I’m not saying that to be bragging. Look at the tape. Trinidad will never beat Bernard Hopkins because styles make fights and he’s one-dimensional. I’d just beat him up and knock him out. But people would want to see it, though.”

That assertion by Hopkins never seemed more accurate than in the aftermath of Trinidad’s embarrassingly wide unanimous-decision loss to Winky Wright on May 14, 2005. In the next-to-last bout of Trinidad’s career, Wright won all 12 rounds on one judge’s card, and 11 of 12 on those submitted by the other two judges. Tito followed that defeat with another near-shutout points setback to Roy Jones Jr. on Jan. 19, 2008, before deciding to hang up his gloves.

Noting that he had registered a unanimous-decision victory over Wright (on July 21, 2007) and Jones (on April 3, 2010), Hopkins said that the question as to who is the better fighter, he or Trinidad, should forever have been put to rest.

“I softened up Trinidad real good for Winky or anybody else that can box a little bit,” Hopkins said after Wright’s romp past Tito. “I opened the floodgates. It’s like when guys started standing up to Mike Tyson. The intimidation factor was gone. Same thing here. Nobody’s scared of Trinidad now.”

Trinidad was inducted into the IBHOF in 2014, his first year of eligibility, and deservedly so. But boxing is like life in many respects, one of which is that there probably is someone better than you at a given point in time, and some who are worse as well. Arrogance and humility live side by side in the crucible that is the ring, one or the other always ready to intrude upon one’s expectations and sensibilities.

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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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