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The Bernard Hopkins Saga is a Story for the Ages

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AGELESS WONDER

BERNARD HOPKINS, AGELESS WONDER — They are billing it as “The Final One,” which strongly suggests that Saturday night’s HBO-televised farewell to boxing by ageless wonder Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins, who turns 52 on Jan. 15 against 27-year-old Joe Smith Jr., somehow will mark the end of a fighter unlike any that has gone before, and the likes of whom may never come around again.

The fight game’s most drawn-out goodbye might have made more sense were it being held somewhere on the East Coast, closer to Hopkins’ Philadelphia roots, but somehow it is fitting that it will be staged at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., where 42-year-old Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was still sinking sky-hooks for the Los Angeles Lakers at an age well past most basketball players’ natural expiration dates. Hopkins has been poking fun at his senior-citizen status for at least 15 years, dating back to what arguably has been his seminal victory, a 12th-round stoppage of the undefeated and favored Felix Trinidad, when he was incorrectly dismissed by many as a 37-year-old on the downhill side of a very good career that wasn’t apt to achieve indisputable greatness.

Even if Hopkins holds firm to his vow to forever quit the ring – and that is hardly a guarantee, seeing as how he is still highly competitive in what should be his professional dotage and has come back from two previously announced retirements – there can never be an absolute and definitive finish to the public presence of a man who will continue to command attention as an executive with Golden Boy Promotions and commentator for HBO. Even in the misty future when he is at last outpointed by death, the one opponent no fighter can stave off indefinitely, there is a likelihood the legend of Bernard Hopkins will linger for decades, as is the case for a select few individuals who were so special as to become larger than life. It has been that way for Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Louis, and will be for Muhammad Ali, who was 74 when he passed away on June 3. While it can be argued that those superb champions were more accomplished than B-Hop, and thus hold a loftier place in the boxing pantheon, none had as much staying power at or near the top of that figurative mountain. It is his remarkable longevity in a sport that tends to chew up and spit out even its finest practitioners that sets Hopkins apart, even when measured against such oldies-but-goodies as Archie Moore and George Foreman.

“I rate people in three categories,” New Orleans-based fitness guru Mackie Shilstone, who has worked with over 3,000 professional athletes and helped bulk up longtime middleweight champion Hopkins  to 175 pounds for his winning light heavyweight debut against Antonio Tarver, said in 2011. “One is their chronological age, which you can’t do anything about. You are as old chronologically as it says on your birth certificate.

“There’s your `health’ age, which relates to your internal chemistry, such as percentage of body fat, triglycerides and other measurables. And there’s `performance’ age. There’s no question Bernard Hopkins is as close to a perfectionist with nutrition as anyone I’ve ever dealt with. Bernard’s body does not know what age it’s supposed to be. In theory, for him to be doing what he does at his age (then 46), his heart should explode. But Bernard has taken such good care of himself over such a long period, you can throw all the formulas out the window. Bernard Hopkins can out-condition anyone.”

Lest anyone think that Saturday’s scrap with Smith guarantees the conclusion of the Bernard Hopkins story, imagine how difficult it must be to pin down its beginning.  Was it Jan. 15, 1965, when another poor black child was born into the squalor of the North Philly ghetto? On the mean streets of a neighborhood called the “Badlands,” where that child, by now a teenager, was so menacing that he terrorized even fellow residents presumably accustomed to crime and violence? At Graterford State Correctional Facility, where the 17-year-old predator arrived and served 56 months of an 18-year sentence for strong-arm robbery? Might it have been on Oct. 11, 1988, when the paroled ex-con had an inauspicious professional boxing debut, dropping a four-round majority decision to another first-timer named Clinton Mitchell?

The correct answer is, of course, all of the above. The Bernard Hopkins of today is a patchwork quilt of the various Bernard Hopkinses of other times, his passages from one phase to another adding swatches to what has become a complex whole. It is impossible for anyone on the outside to step back and see enough of the big picture to put an improbable life into any kind of perspective. Depending upon the occasion of others’ dealings with him, his journey can be subdivided into those taken by Bernard the desperately hungry waif, Bernard the angry and dangerous adolescent, Bernard the incarcerated dreamer, Bernard the nonconformist, Bernard the despised, Bernard the beloved and, ultimately, Bernard the champion. He has been cursed and celebrated, seemingly in equal measures, but most of the way he has been resolute in his determination to chart his own course.

“You have to live with the choices you make,” he said a few weeks before he received his Manager of the Year Award for 2004 from the Boxing Writers Association of America. “I’ve had my destiny in my hands for a long time. I knew I couldn’t put the blame on nobody else if things didn’t go right, and I knew nobody else could take the credit if they did go right. It was all on me, and that’s just the way I wanted it.”

It could all have gone wrong, so terribly wrong, for the then-17-year-old Hopkins had he allowed himself to fall victim to the revolving door or one-way trip to the cemetery that often is the result for those jaded and disillusioned from doing hard time. In that way, his “graduation” from Graterford’s school of hard knocks represents as much or more of a success than even his ascension to the ranks of elite boxers. But guardian angels are where you find them, and such a savior presented himself in the form of a convicted murderer named Michael “Smokey” Wilson, a three-time middleweight titlist in the Pennsylvania correctional system.

“What I saw was someone who could be saved,” Wilson said in an interview behind prison walls in 2008. “I’d been in the system since I was 17. I didn’t see the extreme hardness in Bernard that a lot of boys come in here with. I saw in him a disposition that he wanted to show his mother that he wasn’t really the person he had been to wind up in this place. We started talking about boxing. He had kind of a tenacity to him, you know? He wanted to be a fighter. I just liked his attitude.

“Bernard was a natural. A lot of guys didn’t want to spar with him. He was that good. And he knew enough to stay away from the drugs and the guys who weren’t really about anything good.”

That spark of possible salvation Wilson detected in Hopkins wasn’t always apparent to everyone. Growing up in the Raymond Rosen projects, Hopkins’ gnawing hunger fueled an inner fire that threatened to consume not only him, but anyone unfortunate enough to cross his path.

“Ever take a piece of bread and have to pick the roaches off it before you eat it?” Hopkins, by then a world champion, said in speaking to kids at the Daniel Boone School, a remedial institution in North Philadelphia from which he was expelled in 1978. “Or open a can of beans and eat ’em right out of the can because the gas has been turned off? I’ve been there. It’s a big part of who I am.

“All of the hardships I’ve endured made me strong, but being strong is not about picking up a gun and preying on somebody else. Being strong is not about taking the easy way out. That’s only going to get you incarcerated, or killed.”

Did those words of wisdom sink in that day? Hopkins hoped they did, but no one knows better than he that the good intentions of today can morph into the bad deeds of tomorrow.

“I told them how adversity hit me upside the head, but I was able to find the strength to overcome it,” Hopkins told his captive audience. “I finally got myself turned around and became a productive citizen. Yeah, I have a nice car, nice clothes. But I got them honestly, through hard work. Sometimes life knocks you on your ass, but you can’t get discouraged. You can do right even when the people around you are doing wrong.

“These kids, they don’t respect themselves. They don’t respect their mamas, they don’t respect authority. They’re headed to where I was when I was their age. Somebody has to let them know there’s a better way.”

It was a lesson Hopkins admits to being slow to learn himself, especially the one about respecting certain kinds of authority. He has feuded with a succession of managers, promoters, trainers and TV executives, earning him a well-deserved reputation for being, well, difficult. But holding firm to his beliefs doesn’t mean he has always been wrong. When his patience for being told what to do at last was exhausted, he simply decided to go it alone, managing himself until he accepted an offer in 2005 to become a limited partner in Golden Boy Promotions by company founder and Hopkins knockout victim Oscar De La Hoya.

“How many stories have you heard about fighters who went broke?” Hopkins said after filing a lawsuit against his then-promotional company, America Presents, in May 1999. “There a lot of those. Now, how many stories have you heard about boxing promoters who went broke? There aren’t any. Promoters hold all the power. That’s the way it’s always been. They’re not going to give up that power and leverage to any fighter, not unless they absolutely have to.

“When you stand up for what you believe, when you’re not a good boy, they shut you down and put you on a shelf. People tell me to tone it down. They say, `Bernard, you’ve been blessed. You’ve got a nice house, a baby on the way (daughter Latrece is now 17). You’ve got some money in the bank. Be a part of the program.’ But I don’t want to be part of the program. I know when someone’s trying to bum-rush me.

“Yeah, I speak my mind. I understand the politics of boxing and, in some people’s eyes, that makes me dangerous. But I won’t be bullied. Bully tactics don’t work with me. If you try to bully me, I fight back. Just because I can fight don’t mean I can’t think.”

Dan Goossen, now deceased but then with America Presents, recalled his time and subsequent legal wranglings with Hopkins as “a nightmare. It’s probably the most disappointing relationship I’ve had in my 20-plus years in boxing. There was no argument as to how good Bernard was as a fighter. Even though I never did anything but try to advance his career, I still wound up in a court of law with him. And I’m not the only one. His track record speaks for itself. He doesn’t fight for what’s right. He just likes to fight, and I don’t mean inside the ring. The man doesn’t need enemies. He’s always been his own worst enemy.”

Similarly harsh opinions have been offered by Hopkins associates du jour Butch Lewis (“He’s an ingrate. I’m not going to let anybody kick me in the ass and take it when I know I’m doing right”), Don King (“A difficult guy who done won the lottery but can’t find the ticket”), Lou DiBella (“He’s dishonest and a punk”) and longtime trainer Bouie Fisher, who once had referred to Hopkins as being like one of his sons until changing his tune in a dispute over compensation (“Bernard wants all the glory, he wants all the credit, he wants all the money. It’s all about him, him, him”).

Those damning assessments, however, are balanced out, or at least softened, by others who see Hopkins in a much more positive light. The late Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward said Hopkins did not deserve to be excoriated for his two splits from his erstwhile father figure, Fisher, particularly for the second one.

“I am really supportive of Bernard,” Steward said in November 2005. “I think he was fair – more than fair – in his dealings with his trainer. Bernard is very sensitive about this. He’s gone through so much negative stuff that he’s getting from all sides. Everybody has something nasty to say about him.”

The kinder, gentler, more caring side of Hopkins has been attested to by the families of the late former WBA super middleweight champion Steve Little and the late Shaun Negler. When he defended his WBC/WBA/IBF middleweight belts against Carl Daniels on Feb. 2, 2002, in Reading, Pa., B-Hop gave $100,000 of his seven-figure purse to Wanda Little and her six children. Little, a former Hopkins sparring partner, was a Reading native who was 34 when he died of colon cancer on Jan. 30, 2000.

“There wasn’t anybody who didn’t love Steve, who was just a genuinely good person,” Hopkins said at the time. “I never heard anybody say a bad word against him. He was a good fighter, but a better man. I think of him as a hero, because he always did right by his wife and kids.”

Hopkins met Negler, then an 18-year-old former amateur boxer who had his left leg amputated below the knee after being diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma before his idol’s loss on points to Joe Calzaghe in Las Vegas on April 19, 2008. Negler, a huge Hopkins fan from Northeast Philadelphia, was there with his family through the auspices of the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

“Some people squander their talents in so many ways,” Hopkins told Shaun during a one-hour meeting in the fighter’s hotel suite. “For them, it’s always coulda, shoulda, woulda. They have that mindset. But you’re an inspiration to me, man. Here I am, about to fight Joe Calzaghe, but other people are fighting bigger fights, more important fights. You’re facing a much bigger fight.”

The Neglers and Hopkins remained in touch, and Hopkins attended a birthday party for Shaun for five hours. Shaun died five days after Hopkins’ Oct. 18, 2008, upset victory over Kelly Pavlik, but the young man was able to watch the fight on TV from home before slipping into a coma just an hour later.

“I will always believe that Shaun held on as long as he did because of Bernard,” said Michael Negler, Shaun’s father. “He refused to give in to death until he saw Bernard fight one more time.”

It should be noted that that the Neglers are white; Hopkins had come under fire as an alleged racist for telling Calzaghe, with reporters from the U.S. and Great Britain present, that he “would never lose to a white boy.” But those words more than likely were said simply to build interest in their impending bout.

“People choose up sides for whatever reason,” Hopkins later said by way of explanation. “Go back to Ingemar Johansson and Floyd Patterson. A lot of (white) Americans were for Johansson instead of Patterson. Go back to Larry Holmes and Gerry Cooney. That fight split along racial lines, with black people for Holmes and white people for Cooney. Those guys became very good friends afterwards, but their fights sold better because of the black-white thing. This is not anything new.”

Truth be told, Hopkins’ most impudent comments are usually by design. Take the time he threatened to pull out of his June 5, 2004, bout with Robert Allen because the Nevada State Athletic Commission had assigned referee Joe Cortez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, to serve as the third man in the ring. The supposed rationale for the request is that Cortez might be influenced by Hopkins having twice thrown down the Puerto Rican flag in the lead-up to his big fight with Puerto Rican superstar Trinidad.  In the end, Cortez did work the fight, so it might have appeared that Hopkins did not get his way. Then again …

“People say Hopkins is crazy, but he’s shrewd,” said another noted trainer who asked not to be identified. “He knows all the tricks and he can foul so subtly, even the most seasoned referee doesn’t always pick up on it. But Cortez is going to be so conscious of not being involved in any kind of controversy, Hopkins pretty much will be able to do whatever he wants in there without being penalized.”

The many sides of Bernard Hopkins also include his loquaciousness; he can trash-talk with the best of them, even when the give-and-take involves a would-be opponent he never actually faces inside the ropes. When there was talk of B-Hop moving up from middleweight – way up – to fight IBF cruiserweight champ James Toney, the long-distance sniping was especially classic.

“James Toney makes out like he’s this big gangsta,” Hopkins sneered. “Where I come from, we laugh at guys like him. He’s a wannabe. I was in Graterford, where there were guys who’d want to kill you if you looked at them wrong. James Toney wouldn’t have lasted five minutes behind those walls. And he makes out like he’s from Detroit. Come on, the man came up in Ann Arbor. The only Big House they got there is the Michigan football stadium.”

Toney countered with a snappy putdown of his own, saying, “I trained in Detroit. To be a real fighter, you have to go to Detroit. That’s the bottom line. Ain’t nobody ever come out of Philly, and that includes Joe Frazier. He’s really from South Carolina.”

But the idea of Hopkins moving way up in weight to get it on with fellow future Hall of Famer Toney was more than mere fodder for a back-and-forth comedy routine. Hopkins wanted that fight, very much so, and would have gotten it had not the financial arrangements hit a snag that could not be resolved. He also called out then-WBC heavyweight champion Oleg Maskaev, who was 6-foot-3 and 238 pounds. Hopkins figured that if Roy Jones Jr. could move that far up to dethrone WBA heavyweight king John Ruiz, which he did on March 1, 2003, why not him?

“It’ll be just like Rocky IV, with me beating a giant Russian,” said Hopkins, apparently unaware that Maskaev actually was from Kazakhstan.

Joe Smith (22-1, 18 KOs) might not be Toney or Maskaev, but he is a legitimate 175-pounder with a big punch who is coming off a first-round stoppage of world-rated Andrzej Fonfara on June 18. Smith has made no secret of the fact he wants to be the first man to ever defeat Hopkins inside the distance. But that’s just the way Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 KOs) likes it; he wouldn’t want to take a farewell fight, or any fight, that did not contain at least some element of risk. Hopkins took a huge gamble in his most recent fight, and for his trouble he lost every round in a unanimous-decision setback to the fearsome Sergey Kovalev on Nov. 8, 2014. Hopkins is thinking knockout, too, and if he can get Smith out of there it would be his first KO win since he put De La Hoya down and out with a left hook to the liver in the ninth  round of their Sept. 18, 2004, clash, a span of 17 fights spread over 12 years, three months.

“It’s the tightrope with no safety net,” he said after his May 21, 2011, dethronement of WBC light heavy titlist Jean Pascal in Montreal. “I need that to be on top of my game. How many people would risk that? A lot of fighters are afraid to fail, so they don’t try. I’m not afraid to try to do great things.”

Trying to do still another great thing 29 days before his 52nd birthday is even more mind-boggling. But don’t be surprised if he pulls another rabbit out of that proverbial hat; Hopkins is slightly more than a 3-1 favorite. He is knocking on history’s door again, and destiny awaits on the other side.

Check out more boxing news on video 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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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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