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The Hauser Report: Bernard Hopkins, the Heavyweights, and More

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THE HAUSER REPORT — HBO and Showtime rang down the curtain on their live 2016 boxing telecasts with a flurry of activity on December 10 and December 17 that said good-bye to the past and offered a glimpse of the future.

Let’s begin at the end. Bernard Hopkins fought Joe Smith on December 17 in a fight televised by HBO.

Hopkins (now 55-8-2, 32 KOs) will turn 52 years old next month and had pledged that, win or lose, this would be his last fight.

Smith was born on September 20, 1987, eleven months after Hopkins turned pro. Joe entered the ring with a 22-1 (16 KOs) record that had been cobbled together against mostly pedestrian opposition. The one bright spot on his ledger was a first-round upset victory over Andrzej Fonfara earlier this year.

Hopkins-Smith shaped up as a match between a very old, skilled veteran against a tough club fighter. Prior to the bout, Smith voluntarily entered a VADA testing program designed to detect the presence of performance-enhancing drugs. Hopkins declined to do so.

Last month, I spoke with Ron Katz (possibly the best matchmaker in the United States east of the Nevada-based Bruce Trampler) and asked Katz what he thought would happen in Hopkins-Smith.

“Joe will knock him out,” Katz said.

Of course, Katz is the matchmaker for Star Boxing (Smith’s promoter).

“Are you just saying that because Smith is your guy?” I pressed.

“You know me better than that,” Katz countered. “There have been times when I told you our guy had next-to-no chance. Hopkins is an old man, and he’s a lot older now than he was when he fought Kovalev [in November 2014]. Unless Joe freezes, he’ll walk through Bernard.”

HBO’s telecast was packaged as The Final Fight of The Legendary Bernard Hopkins.

Smith ruined the script.

In round one, it was clear that Hopkins isn’t close to being a great fighter anymore. Smith went after him from the opening bell and kept the pressure on throughout the fight.

Smith suffered a cut along his left eyebrow from a headbutt in round two that HBO blow-by-blow commentator Jim Lampley observed “wasn’t anything near accidental.” But as the fight progressed, Joe began landing to the body and hit Hopkins with increasingly clean punches up top that wouldn’t have landed on Bernard several years ago. Hopkins fought mostly to conserve energy and avoid punishment while attacking occasionally with right hands that carried less power than in years past. Also, Bernard began to tire.

Early in round eight, Smith cornered Hopkins and connected with a series of punches punctuated by a solid right hand and two hooks to the head that blasted Bernard through the ropes. Hopkins was unable to make it back into the ring within the twenty seconds allotted for such matters and was counted out at 53 seconds of the round. It was the first “KO by” loss of Bernard’s 65-bout career.

“He got frustrated,” Hopkins said after the fight. “And I might have gotten glazed [SIC] with a left hook and next thing I know he was throwing me out of the ring. I injured myself and hit my head first and hurt my ankle. I knew of the 20 seconds but couldn’t stand up on my feet because my ankle was injured. I could walk but I couldn’t box.”

At the time of the stoppage, Smith was ahead on two of the judges’ scorecards by margins of 69-64 and 67-66. The third judge (Pat Russell) had an inexplicable 67-66 score in Bernard’s favor.

According to CompuBox, Smith outlanded Hopkins in seven of the eight rounds en route to an 86-to-54 advantage in punches landed.

“I came here to do my job,” Smith said afterward. “I had to finish him. His career was going to end, but I needed mine to continue.”

Mythmakers were quick to note that Hopkins, like Joe Louis, ended his career after being knocked through the ropes en route to an eight-round knockout defeat. The difference is that Louis was knocked through the ropes by Rocky Marciano. Hopkins was knocked through the ropes by Joe Smith. Also, after Louis lost, The Brown Bomber acknowledged, “What’s the use of crying. The better man won. That’s all.”

Bernard’s end game saw him win four of nine fights subsequent to April 2010.

In other bouts of significance . . .

Jermall Charlo’s defense of his IBF 154-pound belt was the best of Showtime’s December 10 fights. Charlo (now 25-0, 19 KOs) was a slight favorite over Julian Williams (22-1-1, 14 KOs) and made a definitive statement with a fifth-round knockout. A devastating right uppercut ended the fight for all practical purposes, although Williams lifted himself off the canvas to absorb more (and unnecessary) punishment before referee Wayne Hedgpeth stopped the carnage.

 

Abner Mares (now 30-2-1, 15 KOs) won a split decision over Jesus Cuellar (28-2, 21 KOs) on the same telecast to claim Cuellar’s WBA featherweight belt.

On HBO undercards . . .

On December 10, Raymundo Beltran (now 32-7, 21 KOs) scored a workmanlike seventh-round stoppage of Mason Menard, whose (now 32-2, 24 KOs) record was devoid of credible opponents.

On December 17, featherweight Joseph Diaz (22-0, 13 KOs) won a 100-to-90-times-three decision over Horacio Garcia (30-1, 22 KOs), and Oleksandr Usyk (now 11-0 with 10 KOs) defeated Thabiso Mchunu (17-3, 11 KOs).

The 29-year-old Usyk is the latest in a string of fighters from the old Soviet Union who are seeking to leave a mark on the sweet science. He won a gold medal in the heavyweight division at the 2012 Olympics, defeating Artur Beterbiev along the way. His most impressive professional win to date was a unanimous decision over Krzysztof Glowacki (conqueror of Marco Huck) in a WBO cruiserweight title bout in September of this year.

Mchunu entered the bout as a 15-to-1 underdog. After a slow start of the kind that two counterpunching southpaws can infict on viewers, Usyk picked up the pace and stopped Mchunu in the ninth round.

In HBO’s December 10 main event, Terence Crawford (now 30-0, 22 KOs) easily disposed of 30-to-1 underdog John Molina Jr. (30-7, 23 KOs), outlanding his foe by a 184-to-41 margin on the way to an eighth-round stoppage.

Crawford is an elite fighter, who holds the WBC and WBO super-lightweight titles. Crawford-Molina showed again (for those who haven’t figured it out yet) that matching an elite fighter against a mediocre opponent isn’t particularly entertaining.

Prior to the bout, Molina showed a lack of professionalism by weighing in four pounds over the junior-welterweight limit. Two hours later, given a second chance, he tipped the scales at 3.4 pounds over.

Crawford-Molina might have entertained Omaha residents who wanted to see a performance by their hometown hero. But for boxing fans who wanted to see a competitive sporting event, it wasn’t much.

Five days after the bout, Crawford was sentenced to ninety days in jail, having been found guilty of property damage and disorderly conduct in conjunction with an incident that occurred in an Omaha automobile repair shop in April of this year. On the surface of things, the sentence seems a bit severe. Terence is currently out on bail pending appeal.

There was also action on the heavyweight front.

Showtime began its December 10 festivities with a live telecast of the IBF heavyweight title fight in Manchester, England, between Anthony Joshua (now 18-0, 18 KOs) and Eric Molina (who was knocked out for the fourth time). The U.S. telecast began at 5:30 PM eastern time. Unfortunately, Showtime was taking an international feed from Sky-TV and wound up with a ninety-minute delay from 5:30 until the fight started. That left Brian Custer, Al Bernstein, Paulie Malignaggi, and Deontay Wilder with a lot of dead air to fill and not much to fill it with.

When Joshua-Molina finally began, Molina fought like the 25-to-1 underdog he was and was stopped in three rounds. Next up for Joshua is Wladimir Klitschko in a bout scheduled for April 29 at Wembley Stadium in London. Joshua-Klitschko will be interesting.

Also on December 10, HBO showed a tape delay of the WBO “world heavyweight championship” fight between New Zealand’s Joseph Parker (now  23-0, 18 KOs) and California’s Andy Ruiz (29-1, 19 KOs).

Parker-Ruiz would have been acceptable as the main event at a good club show. To call it a world championship fight was absurd.

Ruiz deserves respect as a professional fighter who’d won all of his previous bouts, albeit against limited opponents. That said; he looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy when he toppled the scales at 255-3/4 pounds and fought in a manner that evoked images of an overweight competitor in a toughman contest. Parker won a narrow majority decision. It doesn’t say much for Joseph that Ruiz had him in retreat for much of the night.

Alexander Povetkin was supposed to face Bermane Stiverne in a WBC “heavyweight championship elimination bout” in Russia on December 17. But the fight was called off twenty hours before the bell for round one was scheduled to ring because a blood sample taken from Povetkin by VADA on December 6 tested positive for ostarine (a banned drug that produces effects similar to anabolic steroids). After the positive result (the second for Povetkin this year) was reported, the WBC announced that it was withdrawing its sanction of the fight and Stiverne withdrew from the contest. Povetkin then knocked out late-substitute Johann Duhaupas in the sixth round.

Congratulations to the WBC and VADA for their commitment to a clean sport. Shame on Povetkin.

Finally; the point was made during HBO’s telecast of Hopkins-Smith that Hopkins has fought during the administration of five presidents of the United States: Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.

It’s a sad commentary on the state of boxing that Barack Obama has served during the reigns of twelve so-called heavyweight champions of the world: Nikolay Valuev, Vitali Klitschko, David Haye, Wladimir Klitschko, Alexander Povetkin, Bermane Stiverne, Ruslan Chagaev, Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury, Charles Martin, Anthony Joshua, and Joseph Parker

 

*     *     *

Thank you to Canadian journalist Ariel Helwani, who put talk of a boxing match between Floyd Mayweather Jr and Conor McGregor in perspective with the observation that, after the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA championship last June, no one asked how the Cavaliers would fare in a football game against the Denver Broncos.

And thank you to Ronda Rousey for telling to ESPN: The Magazine, “Money Mayweather, Money McGregor. The worship of money in our society is so deep. But just because that’s the easiest way to keep people’s attention or entertain them doesn’t mean that’s the right way.”

“That loss [to Holly Holm],” Rousey continued, “saved me from becoming what I hate. One of those people who live their lives to impress everyone else. Who put up a front for the world to admire. Who make sure every charitable act is posted and shared for their own image gain.”

 

*     *     *

While Showtime was struggling to fill ninety minutes of air time prior to Anthony Joshua walking to the ring to obliterate Eric Molina, a different sports drama was unfolding on CBS. December 10 marked the 117th game between Army and Navy in one of college football’s most storied rivalries.

There was a time when Army was among the best college football teams in the country with Navy close behind. The Cadets were the consensus choice for #1 in 1944, 1945, and 1946. Only a loss to Texas in the Cotton Bowl at the end of the 1963 season kept Navy out of the top spot that year. Doc Blanchard (Army 1945), Glenn Davis (Army 1946), Pete Dawkins (Army 1958), Joe Bellino (Navy 1960), and Roger Staubach (Navy 1963) won the Heisman Trophy. Army vs. Navy has been televised each year since 1945. The 1963 contest (played in the aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s assassination) marked the first use of instant replay on a sports telecast.

But the glory days for Army and Navy football are long gone. High academic entrance requirements, limitations on height and weight, and the multi-year post-graduation service commitment required of all Cadets and Midshipmen decimated recruiting. There have been only three occasions in the past 53 years (2016 being one of them) when both Army and Navy entered their annual gridiron confrontation with winning records. The last great player to come out of the game was Roger Staubach, who quarterbacked Navy from 1962 through 1964 and, after fulfilling his service commitment, embarked upon a Hall-of-Fame career with the Dallas Cowboys that included two Super Bowl rings.

Going into this year’s game, Navy led the series with 60 wins against 50 losses and 7 ties. More significantly, the Midshipmen were riding the crest of a 14-game winning streak in the series.

On December 10, Army jumped to a 14-0 lead, fell behind 17-14, and rallied late for a 21-17 victory. Boyd Melson, a 2003 United States Military Acadamy graduate and now a professional boxer with a 15-2-1 ring record, was at the game.

“I’ve been to a dozen Army-Navy games,” Melson recounted two days after Army’s triumph. “The first was in Philadelphia during my plebe year. Attendance at the game is mandatory for all cadets. It was freezing cold, and we were all told that, if anyone was caught in the bathroom not using the bathroom but just trying to stay warm, they’d receive a brigade board. That’s loss of privileges for up to sixty days and other punishment. Navy won that year. We won two years later. Then things got not so good. We came so close last year; it was heartbreaking to lose the way we did (21-17 on a late touchdown). Army can lose every game of the year and, if we beat Navy, it’s a winning season.”

Melson was at the December 10 game with friends from West Point, Their seats were high up on the 30-yard-line. It was freezing cold, so he wore a black jacket over a sweatshirt over an Army-issued thermal top in addition to jeans over thermal leggings and a West Point snapback cap.

“It’s not combat,” Melson says. “It’s a game. But it’s more than a game. It’s a reflection of how your school is preparing you to lead people in battle. And it was demoralizing to lose year after year to our chief rival. We’re brothers; I know that. In the end, we’re all on the same team. But there’s a lot of pride involved. So what can I say. We beat Navy. We lost fourteen games in a row. This was round fifteen. It’s about time. I’m still riding the high.”

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book – A Hard World: An Inside Look at Another Year in Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism.

 

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The BWAA Shames Veteran Referee Laurence Cole and Two Nebraska Judges

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In an unprecedented development, the Boxing Writers Association of America has started a “watch list” to lift the curtain on ring officials who have “screwed up.” Veteran Texas referee Laurence Cole and Nebraska judges Mike Contreras and Jeff Sinnett have the unwelcome distinction of being the first “honorees.”

“Boxing is a sport where judges and referees are rarely held accountable for poor performances that unfairly change the course of a fighter’s career and, in some instances, endanger lives,” says the BWAA in a preamble to the new feature. Hence the watch list, which is designed to “call attention to ‘egregious’ errors in scoring by judges and unacceptable conduct by referees.”

Contreras and Sinnett, residents of Omaha, were singled out for their scorecards in the match between lightweights Thomas Mattice and Zhora Hamazaryan, an eight round contest staged at the WinnaVegas Casino in Sloan, Iowa on July 20. They both scored the fight 76-75 for Mattice, enabling the Ohio fighter to keep his undefeated record intact via a split decision.

Although Mattice vs. Hamazaryan was a supporting bout, it aired live on ShoBox. Analyst Steve Farhood, who was been with ShoBox since the inception of the series in 2001, called it one of the worst decisions he had ever seen. Lead announcer Barry Tompkins went further, calling it the worst decision he has seen in his 40 years of covering the sport.

Laurence Cole (pictured alongside his father) was singled out for his behavior as the third man in the ring for the fight between Regis Prograis and Juan Jose Velasco at the Lakefront Arena in New Orleans on July 14. The bout was televised live on ESPN.

In his rationale for calling out Cole, BWAA prexy Joseph Santoliquito leaned heavily on Thomas Hauser’s critique of Cole’s performance in The Sweet Science. “Velasco fought courageously and as well as he could,” noted Hauser. “But at the end of round seven he was a thoroughly beaten fighter.”

His chief second bullied him into coming out for another round. Forty-five seconds into round eight, after being knocked down for a third time, Velasco spit out his mouthpiece and indicated to Cole that he was finished. But Cole insisted that the match continue and then, after another knockdown that he ruled a slip, let it continue for another 35 seconds before Velasco’s corner mercifully threw in the towel.

Controversy has dogged Laurence Cole for well over a decade.

Cole was the third man in the ring for the Nov. 25, 2006 bout in Hildalgo, Texas, between Juan Manuel Marquez and Jimrex Jaca. In the fifth round, Marquez sustained a cut on his forehead from an accidental head butt. In round eight, another accidental head butt widened and deepened the gash. As Marquez was being examined by the ring doctor, Cole informed Marquez that he was ahead on the scorecards, volunteering this information while holding his hand over his HBO wireless mike. The inference was that Marquez was free to quit right then without tarnishing his record. (Marquez elected to continue and stopped Jaca in the next round.)

This was improper. For this indiscretion, Cole was prohibited from working a significant fight in Texas for the next six months.

More recently, Cole worked the 2014 fight between Vasyl Lomachenko and Orlando Salido at the San Antonio Alamodome. During the fight, Salido made a mockery of the Queensberry rules for which he received no point deductions and only one warning. Cole’s performance, said Matt McGrain, was “astonishingly bad,” an opinion echoed by many other boxing writers. And one could site numerous other incidents where Cole’s performance came under scrutiny.

Laurence Cole is the son of Richard “Dickie” Cole. The elder Cole, now 87 years old, served 21 years as head of the Texas Department of Combat Sports Regulation before stepping down on April 30, 2014. At various times during his tenure, Dickie Cole held high executive posts with the World Boxing Council and North American Boxing Federation. He was the first and only inductee into the inaugural class of the Texas Boxing Hall of Fame, an organization founded by El Paso promoter Lester Bedford in 2015.

From an administrative standpoint, boxing in Texas during the reign of Dickie Cole was frequently described in terms befitting a banana republic. Whenever there was a big fight in the Lone Star State, his son was the favorite to draw the coveted refereeing assignment.

Boxing is a sideline for Laurence Cole who runs an independent insurance agency in Dallas. By law in Texas (and in most other states), a boxing promoter must purchase insurance to cover medical costs in the event that one or more of the fighters on his show is seriously injured. Cole’s agency is purportedly in the top two nationally in writing these policies. Make of that what you will.

Complaints of ineptitude, says the WBAA, will be evaluated by a “rotating committee of select BWAA members and respected boxing experts.” In subsequent years, says the press release, the watch list will be published quarterly in the months of April, August, and December (must be the new math).

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

 

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The Avila Perspective, Chapter 8: Competing Cards in N.Y. and L.A.

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Rival boxing shows compete this Saturday as light heavyweight world titlists are featured in New Jersey while former world champion welterweights and middleweights tangle in New York.

A mere 150 miles separate the two fight cards staged in Uniondale, N.Y. and Atlantic City.

But there’s no mercy inside the boxing ring and certainly no mercy between boxing promotions. While Main Events stages WBO light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev and WBA light heavyweight titlist Dmitry Bivol in separate bouts, DiBella Entertainment stacks former champs Andre Berto against Devon Alexander in a welterweight clash.

Take your pick.

Russia’s Kovalev (32-2-1, 28 KOs) has lost some luster and hopes to reboot his popularity with a win against Canada’s Eleider Alvarez (23-0, 11 KOs). But he will be directly competing against WBA champ Bivol (13-0, 11 KOs), also of Russia, who defends against Isaac Chilemba (25-5-2) of South Africa.

HBO will televise both light heavyweight title fights.

Bivol, 27, has slowly, almost glacier-like slow, picked up fans along the way by training in Southern California. The quiet unassuming fighter with a conservative style and cobra-like quickness appeals to the fans.

“I do not think that now I am the best light heavyweight, but I am now one of the best. One of four guys,” said Bivol during a press conference call. “But I hope in not the far future, we will know who is the best.”

That, of course, would mean a date with Kovalev should both fighters win on Saturday. Nothing is certain.

Kovalev, now 35, has lost some of that fear factor aura since losing back-to-back fights to now retired Andre Ward. Though he’s cracked two opponents in succession by knockout, many are pointing to the potential showdown with Bivol as the moment of truth.

“Most likely this fight is gonna happen since both Sergey and I are HBO boxers and as long as that’s what the people want, most likely the fight will happen,” said Bivol. “Me and Sergey will make sure to give this fight to the people.”

It’s time for the build-up and it starts on Saturday Aug. 4, on HBO.

“That’s certainly a goal of Sergey’s and he’s made it very clear to me that that’s what he wants to do,” said promoter Kathy Duva, CEO of Main Events. “He wants to do unification fights if he is successful with Eleider Alvarez. That’s what he wants to do next; he’s been very clear about that.”

DiBella

Five former world champions stack the fight card at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.

Former welterweight world champs Andre Berto (31-5, 24 KOs) and Devon Alexander (27-4-1, 14 KOs) lead the charge in a 12-round clash. FOX will televise the main event and others at 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET.

Berto, 34, has been fighting once a year so it’s difficult to determine if age has crept into his reflexes. When he knocked out Victor Ortiz in a rematch two years ago Berto looked sharp and dangerous. But against Shawn Porter a year ago, the crispness seemed gone and he quickly lost by knockout.

Alexander, 31, has the advantage of being a southpaw. But he always seems to do the minimum when he fights. Last February he slowed down and allowed Victor Ortiz to steal the fight. All the commotion by the announcers was for naught. Defense does not win fights, it allows you to win fights. The lack of offense in the latter rounds cost Alexander a win in a match that entered the books as a majority draw.

It’s a curious matchup of former world champions.

Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin (33-1-1, 23 KOs) the former WBO middleweight titlist meets J’Leon Love (24-1-1, 13 KOs) in a super middleweight bout set for 10 rounds. It’s another intriguing fight especially between two fighters with great personalities.

Quillin, 35, was ambushed by Daniel Jacobs in the first round a year ago in losing the title. Was it bad luck, age or both? As a fighter the Brooklyn-based prizefighter has a ton of followers who like him as a person. Few are as classy as Quillin.

Love, 30, has long been a mainstay in Las Vegas and since his amateur days his abilities have been touted. Throughout the years Love has shown that charm and friendliness can go a long ways, even in the bitter wars of prizefighting. But the time has come to see if he belongs in the prizefighting world. Quillin will present an immense challenge for Love.

A number of other interesting fights are slated to take place among former world champions including Sergey Lipinets who lost the super lightweight title to Mikey Garcia this past winter. There’s also Luis Collazo in a welterweight match.

One world title fight does take place on the card.

Female WBA super middleweight titlist Alicia Napoleon (9-1) makes the first defense of her title against Scotland’s Hannah Rankin (5-1). It’s a 10 round bout and the first time Napoleon defends the title since winning it last March against Germany’s Femke Hermans. Ironically, Hermans now has the WBO super middleweight title after defeating former champ Nikki Adler by decision this past May.

L.A. Congestion

Next week the city of Angels will be packed with three fight cards in four days.

First, on Wednesday Aug. 8, 360 Promotions stages Abraham Lopez (9-1-1, 3 KOs) versus Gloferson Ortizo (12-0-1, 6 KOs) in the main event at the Avalon Theater in Hollywood, Calif. This is Filipino fighter Ortizo’s ninth fight this year. You read that correctly.

All of Ortizo’s fights have taken place across the border in Tijuana. The 32-year-old now returns to California against another Californian in Lopez. He’ll be looking for his fourth consecutive knockout, but Lopez, 22, has not lost a fight since his pro debut. Inactivity might come into play for Lopez who hasn’t stepped in the boxing ring in over a year.

New York’s Brian Ceballo (3-0) returns in a six round welterweight bout against local fighter Tavorus Teague (5-20-4). Ceballo, who is promoted by 360 Promotions, looked good in his last appearance. The amateurish punches seen in his first two bouts were gone by his third pro fight. His opponent Teague has ability and can give problems if Ceballo takes his foot off the pedal.

One of Gennady “GGG” Golovkin’s training partners Ali Akhmedov (11-0, 8 KOs) makes his California debut when he meets Jorge Escalante (9-1-1, 6 KOs) in a light heavyweight match.

Female super lightweight Elvina White (2-0) is also slated to compete. The entire fight card will be streamed at www.360promotions.us and on the 360 Promotions page on Facebook. First bell rings at 6:15 p.m.

Belasco Theater in downtown L.A. is the site of Golden Boy Promotions fight card on Friday Aug. 10. A pair of young prospects will be severely tested.

San Diego’s Genaro Gamez (8-0, 5 KOs) meets Filipino fighter Recky Dulay (10-3, 7 KOs) for the vacant NABF super featherweight title. For Dulay it’s always kill or be killed. Five of his last fights have ended in knockout wins or losses.

Gamez, 23, seems to thrive under pressure and broke down two veterans in back-to-back fights at Fantasy Springs Casino. Now he returns to the Belasco, a venue where he has struggled in the past. But this time he’s the main event.

Another being severely tested will be Emilio Sanchez (15-1, 10 KOs) facing veteran Christopher Martin (30-10-3, 10 KOs) who is capable of beating anyone.

Sanchez, 24, lost by knockout in his last fight this past March. He’s talented and fearless and one mistake cost him his first loss as a pro. He’s not getting a break against Martin, a cagey fighter who has upset many young rising prospects in the past. Martin also has experience against world champions. It’s an extremely tough matchup for Sanchez.

The fight card will be televised by Estrella TV beginning at 6 p.m.

World Title Fight

On Saturday, boxing returns to the Avalon Theater in Hollywood.

The main event is a good one as Puerto Rico’s Jesus Rojas (26-1-2, 19 KOs) defends the WBA featherweight world title against Southern California’s Jojo Diaz (26-1) in a 12 round clash. It’s power versus speed.

Rojas, 31, is one tough customer. When he took the interim title against Claudia Marrero last year he chased down the speedy southpaw Dominican and blasted him out in the seventh round. Several months earlier he obliterated another Golden Boy prospect, Abraham Lopez (not the same Abraham Lopez that is fighting on the 360 Promotions card), in eight rounds. Now he has the title and defends against the speedy southpaw Diaz.

Diaz, 25, just recently lost a bid for the WBC featherweight title against Gary Russell Jr. Though he lost by decision three months ago, that fight might be easy in comparison to this challenge against Rojas.

The former Olympian won’t be able to take a breath against the Puerto Rican slugger who is about as rough as they come.

Two more undefeated Golden Boy prospects get a chance to eliminate each other when Philadelphia’s Damon Allen (15-0-1) meets East L.A.’s Jonathan Navarro (14-0, 7 KOs) in a super lightweight fight set for 10 rounds.

Phillie versus East LA is like fire versus fire in the boxing ring. Boxers originating from those two hard-bitten areas usually have go-for-broke styles that result in pure action. Allen versus Navarro should not disappoint.

Allen, 25, is not a hard puncher but he’s aggressive and like most Philadelphia fighters, he’s not afraid to mix it up.

Navarro, 21, lives in East L.A. but trains in Riverside under Robert Garcia. He’s slowly finding his timing and will be facing the fastest fighter since his pro debut in 2015.

Others featured on the card will be Hector Tanajara, Aaron McKenna and Ferdinand Kerobyan.

The card will be streamed on the Golden Boy Fight Night page on Facebook beginning at 6 p.m.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

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What’s Next for Manny Pacquiao?

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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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