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The 50 Greatest Lightweights of all Time Part Four: 20-11

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Lightweights

Lightweights – I must apologize for the endlessly spiraling word count.  The difference between these fighters is tiny, but as the fighters get greater the increments by which they are separated become smaller and my explanations become longer.  My advice to those still interested enough to read every word: do it in two spells.

That will be considerably fewer than the spells it took me to write it.

#20 – Barney Ross (72-4-3; Newspaper Decisions, 2-0)

The mighty Barney Ross (pictured), all heart and speed and action, dropped a couple of decisions early in his career but from 1932 onward, he was a lightweight invincible.  This is also the year he stepped up to the higher levels of competition.

He took a decision from the fighter that had been Ray Miller in August of that year, Frankie Petrolle and Battling Battalino in the following months, both of whom are more than trial horses.  In early 1933 he moved on from Frankie to Billy Petrolle, but continued to win at a canter.  Joe Gnouly was next, a fighter who had just pushed Benny Bass to a majority decision, and then those steering the precious cargo decided to chance it against the great Tony Canzoneri, with both the lightweight and light-welterweight titles on the line.  The championship changed hands on a ten round decision in Chicago Stadium, Ross taking a majority decision based upon a brilliant left-handed performance in the last round, all hooks and jabs, baffling and driving back the electrifying Canzoneri.

The crowd didn’t care for the decision, although those at ringside were more clearly divided.  The great Packey McFarland was ringside and felt it was Ross all the way; whichever side of that coin you prefer, the two rematched over fifteen in New York just three months later in front of 40,000, who witnessed another close, sometimes unsatisfactory affair, with the split going to Ross, who then departed the division, never to return.

This leaves us in a quandary.  Yes, Ross is one of the very greatest fighters in history, but his ranking at lightweight is hung upon two desperately close wins over Canzoneri; without them, Ross just wouldn’t figure.  There is, of course, the small matter of his being one of the very finest fighting machines south of middleweight, in the whole history of boxing, but I feel, nevertheless, that Ross can’t rank much higher here, based upon his actual achievements in the actual division: 2-0 in title fights, one successful defence.

#19 – Willie Joyce (72-21-10)

In March of 1943, Willie Joyce defeated Henry Armstrong over ten rounds in Los Angeles.  Armstrong was past his prime, of course, but was riding a twelve fight winning streak going in, a streak that included victories over welterweight Fritzie Zivic and the excellent Juan Zurita.  Slender at the weight, Joyce was as tough a fighter that ever lived; he was never stopped despite trading shots with some of the most hellish pressure fighters and punchers as has been assembled at the poundage.  He didn’t need the full extent of that toughness to best Armstrong, however; he had the 3-1 favorite, “missing wildly” according to the Associated Press and took a close but clear decision.  Elusive, stiff of jab and quick of feet, Joyce has sharpened his tools previous to his meeting with Armstrong against aggressive strong-man Slugger White, with whom he went 1-1.   And yet Joyce enjoys not a tenth of the exposure enjoyed by some of his peers – a lack of quality scalps to accompany the Armstrong and White victories?  No.

Just before his defeat of Armstrong, Joyce defeated the highly ranked John Thomas, heavily favored to beat him but outpointed by a “steaming” Willie Joyce who boxed with real aggression.  Better yet, Joyce won an extraordinary four fight series with Ike Williams who, nobody will be surprised to read, holds a top ten slot.  When Joyce first defeated the terrifying Williams, he was on an incredible fifty fight run during which he had lost just one engagement.  This was the very streak which made Williams great, but Joyce brought it to a juddering halt in November 1944. Made an underdog once more, Joyce brought a withering left-hook to bear, both out-fighting and out-boxing the great Williams to eke out a ten round split.  Williams avenged himself just weeks later in the rematch, but Joyce very nearly scored a stunning knockout in the process of taking a twelve round decision from him in March of 1945.  Winning at a canter with his left-jab, it was a doorknocker right hand that stopped Williams in his tracks in the twelfth and saw him holding on.  Williams fought him for a fourth time in June but the result was the same, this time over ten.  Williams, a vaunted puncher, probably thought he had finally seen Joyce off in the tenth when he finally dropped him, only to have Joyce clamber off the canvas and deck him in turn.

It was the last word between them.

#18 – Bob Montgomery (75-19-3)

Bob Montgomery, out of South Carolina, was a part of the mad scramble to crown a new lineal champion in the wake of Sammy Angott’s 1942 retirement, finally losing out to Ike Williams who would go on to hold the title until 1951, a fact even more difficult for Montgomery to stomach given that in 1944 when he and Williams crossed swords, it was Montgomery who emerged with the victory.

Montgomery and Williams did not care for one another, the source of their bitterness remarks made by Williams about knockout victim Johnny Hutchinson, a sparmate of Montgomery.  The spite seemed to infuse the punches in both contests.  Williams was riding a thirty fight unbeaten streak into their first contest; Montgomery beat him mercilessly, tanning his body two-handed before dropping him face-first into the typewriters in the press-row in the final ten seconds of the twelfth and final round.  As far as “watch your mouth” goes, it was a noteworthy effort.

Montgomery had already boxed a career by the time of that, the first knockout ever perpetrated against Williams.  Before he had even fought two years as a professional, Montgomery was thrown in with Lew Jenkins who had beaten all-time great Lou Ambers four months earlier and was the reigning lightweight champion of the world.  Montgomery drilled him to the canvas in the third and dropped a narrow non-title fight over ten.  The Associated Press scored the fight a draw.  Jenkins, in a bid to save face without putting too much on the line, provided a rematch and Montgomery provided a beating.  Even more impressive, Lew’s “Sunday Punches” bounced “harmlessly off Montgomery’s jaw” while his own shots opened up three cuts on the champion, who declined to provide a title shot.

Montgomery fought aggressively from a crouch that put some sportswriters in mind of Henry Armstrong, an odd way for a tall fighter to approach boxing from a modern perspective, but actually not that rare in this time.  It brought Montgomery victories over Beau Jack, Joey Peralta, Max Shapiro and Bobby Ruffin, all significant scalps.  His resume is starting to read like one that would demand a higher ranking, but the kicker is that Montgomery lost to a lot of these men too.  He went 2-2 with Jack, 1-1 with Shapiro and Williams avenged himself upon Montgomery late in his career.

But in his prime, and even before he hit his peak, Montgomery was a terrifying lightweight who was only denied the lineal lightweight championship by the matchmaking policy of Lew Jenkins’ management.

#17 – Henry Armstrong (151-21-9)

No, you are not seeing things.  That’s Henry Armstrong, ranked in the teens, below fighters whose names you will not see mentioned among the greatest of all time.

Armstrong is one of the greatest fighters of all time, #4 on my pound-for-pound list and as reasonable a selection for #1 as exists.  But he was also considered for the welterweight list published by this website (and will doubtless be considered at featherweight, too).  No fighter is credited twice for any given fight; Armstrong’s movement through the weight classes was so fluid that he becomes one of the very few fighters affected.

In order to maintain internal logic, this project requires rules.  The rules describe the weight range that will be allowed in judging whichever given weight class is being considered, in this case, lightweight plus 2.5lbs (it can’t be an exact weight range because the limit has changed over the years).  Above this weight range, the contest is a welterweight fight, and the fighter was credited accordingly during that analysis.  Armstrong, as mentioned in the introduction to part one, is the exception.

This is because Armstrong, during his astonishing twenty-plus welterweight title fights, sometimes fought against men who weighed in as lightweights, and weighed in as a lightweight himself.  The question then becomes, is a welterweight title fight contested for the welterweight championship by two lightweights to be treated as a lightweight combat or a welterweight combat?  I have taken the decision to treat it at welterweight.  Therefore, Armstrong is not credited at lightweight for his welterweight title fights with the likes of Joe Gnouly (135.5lbs), or Baby Arizmendi (136lbs); he was credited at welterweight.

Apologies for the technicalities, but I feel it’s important that readers understand what it is that has led Armstrong to this slot.

Moving on to what he is credited for, it must be reported that Armstrong’s resume is not earth-shattering.  His third most impressive win is probably over Baby Arizmendi.  Arizmendi troubled Armstrong down at featherweight and he troubled him again in their 1938 lightweight contest, a toe-to-toe war that finished in a decision for Henry.  His 1937 knockout of Benny Bass must rank as second, given that it is the only time in his career Bass was knocked out (he was stopped on his feet versus Kid Chocolate).

As for his best win, there is only one contender, his fifteen round split decision over world champion Lou Ambers from 1938.  “I’m not going to bleed any more,” Armstrong told his corner between rounds as he beheld the slew of blood that had poured from his cut mouth onto the canvas, a fact that was making the referee a little uncomfortable.  “I’m not going to spit it on the floor.  I’m going to swallow it.  I’m going to win this title.  Take the mouthpiece out.  Don’t give me no mouthpiece.  Just let me go…”

And they did.

But he staged only one defense before losing it right back to Ambers one year later.  Repeatedly penalized for low blows, as he was in their first fight, it made for a far less impressive title reign than that which Armstrong enjoyed at welterweight.

Naturally enough, this has led to a less impressive divisional ranking.

#16 – Sammy Angott (94-29-8)

Sammy Angott’s welterweight career was a disaster.   He was battered from pillar to post by fighters like Sugar Ray Robinson, Ike Williams, Henry Armstrong; lesser lights, too, had their way with him.  The first two years of his career were no kinder to him.  A ledger of 16-10-2 details his shortcomings as a prospect.  When he hit his lightweight stride, however, he did damage to the division so severe as to be directly comparable to that wrought by contemporary Lou Ambers.

It began for him with a trilogy against the sometime #1 contender Davey Day, who he “whirlwind punched” to a standstill in their first October 1939 contest, earning himself a unanimous decision.  Day, who was famous for his slow starts, rallied wonderfully in the final two rounds of their rematch two months later to take a split, Angott perhaps hampered a little by his determination to stay busy, a fact that saw him beat no less a figure than Baby Arizmendi between his first two matches with Day.  Whatever the truth of that, he won the rubber staged at the dawn of the 1940s to lift a lightweight strap.

By the end of 1941 he was undisputed and lineal having hoovered up the other lightweight belt taking names like Bob Montgomery and Lew Jenkins on the way, although he was beaten by a lightweight Ray Robinson in this period – something in which there is certainly no shame.  Matching the bigger Robinson for a second time up at welterweight reeks of kamikaze; a few months after his second loss to Robinson, Angott retired amid the astonishing news that he had been fighting with a bum right hand ever since his 1940 contest with Montgomery.

This represents the end of Angott as a lineal champion, but he did return to the ring and with matching Robinson deemed futile he instead met Willie Pep.  Pep, perhaps the greatest featherweight in history, was less lethal at lightweight but still represents a significant scalp; according to one ringside report, Angott won all ten rounds against the legendary Pep, an astonishing performance from the 3-1 underdog who certainly re-earned his nickname, “The Washington Windmill.”  Allie Stolz, Slugger White and Bobby Ruffin were additional ranked victims in this second career which was dominated by his welterweight disasters but saw him continue his good work at lightweight.

At his best, Angott was brutal.  He stayed close to his foe, punching perpetually and although he was too given to holding to ever become wildly popular he was still something of a fan favorite during his title years.  Early inconsistencies and his injury-hampered run as king exercise some drag on his placement here, but he was a great lightweight and one who was never stopped at the poundage.

#15 – George “Kid” Lavigne (36-6-10; Newspaper Decisions 1-3-1)

In perhaps the finest era in lightweight history, George “Kid” Lavigne has not a single recorded loss during the first ten years of his incredible ring career although it is possible that he posted losses in bare-knuckle contests lost to the sands of time.  But if, as the record books indicate, he turned professional in 1886 and didn’t post his first loss until 1897 when he dropped a couple of Newspaper Decisions in six round contests, that is as astonishing a feat as detailed in this series.

More astonishing, perhaps, are his dual wins over “The Demon” Joe Walcott.  Walcott, even smaller than Lavigne’s 5’3, was the terror of his day, perhaps the hardest pound-for-pound puncher in an era that included the likes of Sam Langford and Aurelio Herrera.  Their two contests fought two years apart for the lightweight title may have been the occasions upon which the two hardest hitters ever to share a ring met.  So naturally, their first fight went the distance.

Things get a little complex now, in keeping with the traditions of the era.  To obtain a title shot, Walcott had to agree to the title only changing hands in case of a knockout (much like a no decision bout).  This limited him tactically, for obvious reasons.  That said, despite the fact that he does not feature on this list due, in part, to these two losses and in part due to a lack of depth on his lightweight resume, seek and destroy was very much Walcott’s preferred approach.  A legitimately thunderous puncher with a rough-hewn chin to match his bombs, Lavigne happily met him ring center.  Each man had in his corner one of the greatest technicians of the pre-WW1 era, George Dixon seconding for Walcott, Tommy Ryan seconding for Lavigne, but their fight was a bloodbath; it ended with Walcott cut to the forehead and one of Lavigne’s ears sliced almost from his head but most of all with a Lavigne rally.

Still, the agreed rules make the reporting confused; was Lavigne greeted enthusiastically as a winner because he had actually won 8 or more of 15, or was it the case of an audience impressed with his bravery and pigmentation?  Fortunately Lavigne cleared the matter up by re-matching Walcott in 1897.  Still the world champion, he won on this occasion clearly, one California newspaper stating that “Lavigne whipped Joe Walcott and whipped him thoroughly.”  Walcott quit at the end of the twelfth, weight-drained and battered.

Other notables dispatched by this lightweight ferocity include Kid McPartland, Andy Bowen and Jack Everhardt.  As a combination of punch, heart and chin he may be unequalled at the weight.  Or any weight.

But there was one man he could never beat.

#14 – Frank Erne (30-6-16)

Frank Erne’s legacy relationship with Kid Lavigne reminds me a little of that between Ken Buchanan and Ismael Laguna in the sense that Lavigne would have ranked above Erne had the two never met.  That they did and that Erne proved the better of the two head-to-head just edges the Swiss in front.

According to The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, there was a sense by 1898 that Lavigne had gone back, and there were those who were willing to back Erne with cash for their fight that year; the result was a draw, but there were many in attendance who fancied Erne with the edge, and as The Eagle reported, had the fight been slated for twenty-five rather than twenty rounds, he might have got the job done.

Their rematch, fought ten months later, was slated once more for twenty and was fought in Erne’s hometown of Buffalo.  Game to the core, Lavigne was in serious trouble as early as the seventh round and was saved only by the bell.  Erne simply “battered his opponent out of the title” “never once losing his cool” as Lavigne strained with every sinew to remain upon his feet.  It was a masterful performance from a speedy, clever, self-possessed fighter, perhaps one of the ring’s great jackals.

Between his first title tilt and his second, Erne took a moment to eliminate George McFadden from contention.  As described in Part Three, McFadden became that year the first man to stop both Lavigne and Gans but found Erne a different matter.  Erne also turned the trick with Gans, stopping him on a reportedly awful cut in the twelfth round of their title fight.  McFadden, Lavigne, then Gans, it’s an astonishing trio of scalps and it took the phenomenon that was Terry McGovern to bring that run to an end, at a catchweight that stretched Erne across the bones.  He lost his title in a rematch with Joe Gans who stunned all by blasting him out in a round, but only after staging one more defense against the wonderfully named Curly Supples.

#13 – Jack McAuliffe (28-0-10, Newspaper Decisions 1-0)

Dominated, as it is, by fight figures from the often distant past, it is likely that any modernists reading this installment of the series might become frustrated with its subject matter.  Most beloved by the modernist is the hallowed “0”.  Modernists, I give you the wholly unbeaten Jack “Napoleon” McAuliffe, the first of the lightweight boxing champions.

McAuliffe was bequeathed his nickname for the outstanding generalship during his title reign which ran from 1886 to 1893, whereupon he retired.  Whilst labelling James J Corbett “the grandfather of boxing” is inaccurate due the fact that boxing evolved as a culture, not at the behest of a single champion, if that title is to be handed to anyone, it should be handed to McAuliffe.  His “ring science” as his advanced technique was labelled in the press of the day was one of the defining attributes of his reign.  More important given the ruleset of the day – finish fights were the norm – was his incredible stamina and endurance which saw him win through in numerous wars of attrition where punch resistance and durability proved even more important than technical acumen.

McAuliffe, originally out of Cork, Ireland, first came to prominence in twice beating Jack Hopper for the American lightweight title before besting Bill Frazier in an over the weight match in Boston, in 1886.  This is the year from which McAuliffe’s claim to the world title is generally recognized, a recognition that birthed true legitimacy for the lightweight division.  This led, in 1887, to his twenty-eight round knockout of Canadian Harry Gilmore in defense of the title.  Such were the difficulties of finding premises for fights during this era of semi-legality that the two ended up contesting the world’s championship in either a barn or a blacksmith’s with three ropes barracking a structural wall which formed the fourth.  It was the twenty-seventh round before Gilmore gave ground and the twenty eighth before McAuliffe “struck him fully ten blows to the face…Gilmore finally fell senseless to the floor.”

His next defense was perhaps the most extraordinary fight in the pre-history of boxing, a seventy-four round war with a cobbles fighter named Jem Carney (or Carnay).  An Irish immigrant in Birmingham, England, Carney found work hard to come by but was welcomed to the blood-soaked arms of skin fighting like a son.  He set his old ways against the new ways of McAuliffe in a contest that was decided over a period of hours, not minutes.  In the early 1880s he killed a man named Jimmy Highland in combat and embarked for America as feared as any prizefighter ever was.  Taller by an inch and younger by a decade, McAuliffe was favored but Carney just refused to be broken.  Dropped three times in the very first round, by the forty-fifth he “seemed a sure winner.”

McAuliffe stayed with him but by the seventy-first was “a gone man” with his corner repeatedly claiming for fouls that either didn’t exist or that did but were generally accepted as the price of doing business.  It was now McAuliffe who suffered repeated knockdowns when the social compact that bound such early prizefights together began to unravel.  News reached the ear of the barn’s owner that it was to be torched if McAuliffe lost.  What happened next is uncertain, but one story that is told sees Dick Roche, a gambler from St Louis who had backed McAuliffe big, rush the ring with a wrecking crew in tow and the ring collapsing.  Even as Carney roared for the fight to continue the referee named it a draw.  There was no rematch.

He crushed Billy Dacey the following year and then met the celebrated Billy Myer in another draw, this time over sixty-four rounds.  Once more the fight was controversial, this time because it was not brutal enough, but a scientific encounter that contained much “sparring.”  His defeat the following year of Jimmy Carroll, too, was revelatory, Carroll dominating the late stages only for McAuliffe to save himself with a single punch in the forty-seventh.

McAuliffe is a figure of huge importance in historical terms and the defenses he staged after Carroll – knockouts of Austin Gibbons and Myer in a rematch – help stoke his fire.  Boxing in its infancy is hard to trace and there are some long shadows cast over McAuliffe’s legacy but I suspect that his placement just inside the top fifteen is about right.

#12 – Sammy Mandell (88-22-10)

When Canzoneri first came calling upon the lightweight division in 1929, Sammy Mandell gave him a bloody good hiding for his temerity.  It was not a close fight.  According to the Associated Press, Mandell gave Canzoneri “the boxing lesson of his life.”

Jimmy McLarnin was deemed ready for a title shot in 1928 having just obliterated Sid Terris, with whom readers of this series will be familiar.  In but a single round, Mandell tore him into pieces, thrashed him blind in what the Associated Press named “the most important lightweight battle in the past five years.”  Mandell had reigned for two of those years having taken the title from Rocky Kansas in 1926.  Before being matched for the title he had slaughtered a red wall of ranked men, toughs like Jimmy Goodrich, Solly Seeman, Sid Barbarian and Terris, all of whom ranked in the top five at the time of their dispatch.

Once he had the title he held it for four years, and while the turning away of Canzoneri and McLarnin alone are enough to make it a storied reign, he found time to defeat Billy Petrolle, who pushed him far harder than either of those two more famous men.

Yet, in reading about boxing history it is possible to find tales of McLarnin and Canzoneri – and indeed, even of Petrolle – far more readily than it is to find stories about Sammy Mandell.  He is listed neither upon the IBRO all-time top twenty, nor the top twenty-five at Boxing Scene.  Having studied the lightweights it is my guess that Mandell is the most underrated of all of them, a true genius of a boxer who has hard to hit, quick to react and held so much poise as to perhaps be labelled liquid.  Films show, quite clearly, that he was both faster and a more accurate puncher than McLarnin, at least at lightweight.

He doesn’t make the top ten for two reasons.  First, the quality of the division’s history is such that some wonderful fighters are bound to miss out.  Second, he had the title wrenched from him in 1930 by Al Singer who blasted him to the canvas four times in one round and sent him scurrying for an awful second career up at welterweight.  Like Erne, having his title annexed in less than three minutes limits his standing among the other great lightweight champions.

#11 – Joe Brown (116-47-14)

Joe Brown has been unfashionable for so long it has almost become fashionable to laud him.  So let’s get the particulars out of the way and explain what he is doing in the #11 slot up front: he is 12-1 in lightweight title matches.  He defeated no fewer than three #1 contenders.  He was champion of the world in six calendar years.  These raw statistics are impressive.  Behind them, is an impressive fighter.

After losing the title to the mighty Carlos Ortiz in 1962, aged 36, Brown’s career became a disaster; he won just twenty of the forty-six fights he slogged through.  His championship years, however, were sparkling.

I would guess that he hit his absolute prime while in the ring with the champion, in 1956, in a non-title fight, contested above lightweight.  That champion was Bud Wallace, the definition, perhaps of a caretaker but a fine fighter; such was the ease with which Brown defeated him, Wallace burst into tears in the dressing room.

In their rematch for the title, a disaster so severe befell Brown that many other men – even great ones – would have folded.  He broke his right wrist, in just the second round, but fought so brilliantly with his left that the two knockdowns he scored in the fourteenth when he reintroduced his right were enough to bring him the title on a split decision.  In the title rematch, he staged a successful first defense, busting Wallace up so badly that he was pulled at the end of the tenth.

Brown was a quick, spritely mover who relied upon mobility for his defense, and it worked.  A fast, sharp jab was often a pre-cursor to a torpedo right hand that was responsible for many of his fifty-two knockouts.  Over the years it has come to be accepted that Brown was solid, consistent, steady but not extraordinary – I don’t think that is true at all, and I don’t think that the readily available footage describes that position.  But even if it did, Brown had one of the most exceptional title reigns in the history of the division, king for more than five years, posting better than two championship wins per year.  The number one contenders he defeated – David Charnley, Paulo Rosi, Kenny Lane – are not now household names, but they were the next best fighters in his division.  He brooked no resistance from these pretenders.  Orlando Zuleta, Joey Lopes, Johnny Busso, Cisco Andrade and Ralph Dupas were also ranked when he fought them.  It is often said of great champions that they “cleared out the division.”  It’s almost never true, but in Brown’s case, I’ll stand the point.

Until Ortiz came along and battered “Old Bones” out of his championship.  I suspect few fighters have cherished the title more when in ownership.  Imagine, if you will, the champions that keep him from the Ten?

Lightweights / Check out more boxing news and videos at The Boxing Channel.

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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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Canada & Usa

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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