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The Rise and Fall of the People’s Republic of Al Haymon

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Al Haymon

The year of 2016 was a rocky one for Al Haymon and his PBC outfit. And 2017 appears to hold a lot of gray clouds in the horizon, according to the latest forecasts.

Reports abound about the depletion of his war chest, the growing complaints by formerly pampered and overpaid fighters who feel abandoned by Haymon, the threat of lawsuits by fellow promoters and managers as well as from disappointed investors, and much more.

And because of this, perhaps now more than ever, there are more questions than answers about the dealings of boxing’s self-appointed almighty ruler. Is he out to monopolize boxing altogether in a UFC-style chokehold, or is he the guy who will free boxing from the shackles of its current business model to make it more profitable for fighters and more affordable for the fans? Did we expect too much from him or did he set himself up for something that he was unable to achieve?

Is the scheme working?

For an in-depth analysis, let’s allow the hand of history take us through a journey of enlightenment in our search for clues about the possible outcome of what is already considered the most ambitious power grab in all of boxing.

 

Chapter One: (Not Just) Another Brick in the Wall

Legend has it that the Jiayuguan Pass, one of the most magnificent gateways of the Great Wall of China built during the Ming Dynasty, was designed by an extremely meticulous architect who calculated that exactly 99,999 bricks would be needed to complete the project. Upon receiving his request for materials, his supervisor scolded him for his arrogance and told him that, if his calculations were short or long by as much as one brick, he would personally condemn the architect to three years of hard labor.

Here, the legend takes two different directions. One says that the architect stood by his calculation and, upon finding out that there was an extra brick left, placed it on a cornice to be seen by the supervisor and told him that a supernatural force had instructed him to place it there, in order to magically stabilize the entire building. Another version, however, says that the architect did indeed respond to his supervisor’s admonition by adding just one more brick to his request, and that after completing the building he left the extra unused brick on the cornice as a proof of his acumen.

In both versions, however, the brick remained on the cornice many years after they died – and it still does today.

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As true or not as this story can be, we can assume that nobody really bothered to count the bricks or to truly ascertain the architect’s arrogance in any other way. But we are in a different environment today, and Haymon’s bricks are being counted, one by one, as if boxing’s future depended on it.

The final count, as it turns out, might take some time. Just as in old-school masonry, Haymon has sought to keep his trade secrets in the hands of the architects, but a few lawsuits and public documents have given a few clues about the elusive Haymon’s business dealings. And the numbers, in some cases, don’t seem to add up.

Regardless of the final tally, it would now appear that the entire Haymon magic castle of the 99,999 bricks is indeed a Jenga game in which one or two missing bricks could cause a collapse of gigantic proportions. The problem is (and still is) that only Haymon seems to know which one of the bricks is going to cause his empire to collapse and which are the ones holding it together.

Since its inception in March of 2015, Premier Boxing Champions became a unique proposal with very few parallels in boxing history. No belts from any organization are shown or announced in the ring, especially since they removed the ring announcer altogether. A huge screen in the background provides information on both combatants as the fight goes on, a savvy promotional tool when it comes to building up young fighters. The ring area looks extremely neat, with blue and red enclosures preventing entourages and ringsiders into the work area of each fighter.  And no entourages or other side shows are allowed into the ring at any time.

The aesthetic changes, of course, paled in comparison with the deeper changes brought along by Haymon and his crew. Boxing made a triumphant return to free network television, with multiple shows on NBC, FOX, ESPN, CBS and as many as six to eight other networks. Fighters began making significantly better paydays than in their previous engagements, and they retained their ability to pick their opponent. Participants were mandated to take Olympic-style drug tests and periodic medical exams as part of their contract. Life was good.

But the problems would begin to surface soon enough. To some, the whole thing was missing a brick. To others, there was one brick too many in the already extensive new secret rulebook that exists only in the mind of boxing’s new Demiurge.

Without the title belts, there were no pressures and no mandatory challenges to keep the game interesting, as it turns out that overprotecting guys who are supposed to build up their dislike for each other and then turn it into a physical confrontation for profit and amusement tends to wax and wane their desire to engage in do-or-die fights. The free network TV model backfired when fans, far from being grateful about the outpour of fresh boxing action each week, began complaining about the quality of the action. Soon enough, the fighters began complaining about the lack of action after finding out that belonging to the same stable of fighters (with a roster going well into the hundreds) sometimes creates conflicts of interest that keeps certain fights from happening. Many headliners went from belle of the ball to booty call in a matter of months, and the unrest is growing.

The “payola” model denounced in several lawsuits against Haymon began imploding as well, with investors wondering out loud how wise it was to pay for air time that the networks used to pay for themselves in the good old days. The idea that Haymon receives a 10% fee from every fight he puts together, regardless of the income generated by the fight itself, turned the whole thing into a ‘pyramid with a revolving door’ in the minds of the already wary bankrollers.

And of course, all of those tribulations did not make the fine print on those contracts disappear at all. To some, the Olympic-style drug tests and periodic medical exams mandated by the company are thoughtful measures of care for their well-being, but there have been no shortage of questions about the true purpose of those tests, with a few people wondering out loud about who truly owns those medical records and whether they can be used against the fighters to extract information in the event of a lawsuit somewhere down the road.

Of course, all of these questions could be easily answered in a few interviews with the man himself, but Haymon’s reclusive nature is keeping the boxing world in the dark, and obtaining information about the underlying numbers of his operation has proven harder than obtaining Donald Trump’s tax return information. But there are enough clues out there to provide a more accurate overview of Haymon’s next steps.

The problem seems to be that those who hold the clues are the ones who benefit from them. But as the rewards thin out, so does their patience. And what used to be music to their ears is now an alarming, buzzing noise.

 

Chapter Two: Hooked on Haymonics

Legend has it that some 2066 years ago, a young Roman general found himself standing sleepless on the banks of a tumultuous river. Brash, arrogant and boastful, the young leader was making his way back home after spending most of his professional life conquering new land for his empire, hoping that his heroism would turn him into a hero and eventually propel him into power in spite of the opposition by the ruling class. As he stood facing the roiling waters, he kept reminding himself that taking his troops across the river would not only be considered an illegal action contrary to an order issued by the Senate, but it would also constitute treason and even the beginning of a civil war.

But as successful as he was fighting and conquering barbarians, he was defenseless against his own ambition. Undaunted, he summoned his troops at daybreak, and ordered them to cross the Rubicon towards Rome – and into the history books.

History is still inconclusive about the phrase that the great Julius Caesar used to usher himself into immortality. One version has him exclaiming “the die is cast” as he led the charge, some others have him saying “let the games begin.”

The inceptive nature of this brazen act of defiance as an inspiration to tyrants and despots worldwide for many years to come, however, remains undisputed.

 

Let’s talk a little bit about boxing business.

Boxing is the ultimate self-made-man scheme. It is a truth machine, both in and out of the ring. Each fight is a league or a season of its own. Each fighter is a small business and a one-man band. Success and failure are the product of impromptu decisions, be it the direction and trajectory of a punch or a decision to challenge one fighter instead of the other.

Haymon, a 62-year old Harvard educated former music and comedy promoter who made his mark in the business world promoting some of the most successful acts in the world, sought to reverse this entire model by going to a group investors and asking them for money to turn boxing into a hit-making machine. Boxing was to be sanitized, properly organized and turned into a UFC-like model in which fights are made by moving pins on a corkboard and organizing them into brackets leading to an imaginary championship or a once-in-a-lifetime payday.

The first leg of the PBC was meant to be the sport’s biggest infomercial ever, and then the orders would come in by the millions. But one thing is selling burger grills, and another one is selling trips to the slaughterhouse to see how burgers are made. The idea that more casual sports fans would turn to boxing overnight just because it is on free TV is akin to believing that people will become vegetarian in throes if we place enough juice-maker infomercials on late-night TV. And here we are, hundreds of billable hours later, and hours upon hours of juicing, and it seems that selling parsley and carrot juice is still as tough as it was on the first day.

Now, the model is being tested to the fullest. The teaser fees are disappearing, the funds are drying up, and all those juice makers are still gathering dust somewhere. And there’s still plenty of explaining to do with the investors. Beating the competition is the ultimate goal in capitalism, but eliminating the element of competition in a business built around the sport that exemplifies competition like no other sport on Earth is hardly a recipe to Make Boxing Great Again. It is increasingly clear that it will take much more than the will and the ambition to move troops across a river of doubt and reluctance to conquer the hearts and minds of the boxing faithful.

Matchmaking is an essential part of success in boxing, and it requires knowledge that transcends the sport to include many other variables, not just making fights that will look good on TV. Let’s imagine for a minute the chaos and disaster that would ensue if someone allowed TV ratings to dictate baseball lineups and basketball brackets. Sports leagues have a way of letting the athletes dictate their own success through their own talent and then allow the fans and the press to build storylines around that, and boxing invented that type of mobility. Trying to attack the problem from the opposite direction by hiring a group of talented fighters and dictating the networks how to showcase their inevitable progress and success is ignoring the true nature of the sport.

The comparisons with the control-heavy UFC model abound, but are there really any serious parallelisms? It can be argued that MMA has benefited from the creation of the UFC and the business savvy of its creator Dana White. Thanks to him, a fringe sport with unclear rules and practically no previous existence in the mainstream was sanitized, packaged and commercialized successfully. But boxing is a completely different sport, with only pain and blood to be accounted as similarities.

Boxing had its own way of creating and promoting fights, which by nature required hostile actions to be taken by fighters who commit to the destruction of their opponents as the main selling argument of their product. In the UFC, violence and gore are promised but not always delivered, fighters are apparently not free to challenge each other publicly, and matchups are dictated by the management. Boxing would survive for less than a week under those premises.

Haymon’s model so far seems to move freely between the socialist idea of paying more money to fighters for less work, and the ultra-capitalist idea of monopolizing all the action and making the most money and then allowing that money to trickle down to the less fortunate. But neither trick is working. The elite is becoming complacent and the working class is growing impatient. Stars sit at their homes waiting for the call to face the Rod Salkas du jour, while the second tier of champions and contenders languish in the backburner waiting for their annual event, at best.

Perhaps Haymon is imagining a scenario in which boxing becomes a show that people watch again and again regardless of their protagonists, just for amusement. But boxing is the realm of those who embrace drama as entertainment, not just an empty display of courage and will.  Boxing is not a song or an artist that you can turn into a hit and then cash in on them from a dozen different sources. Boxing is jazz with tickets priced at the Michael Jackson level, and on a huge worldwide stage. And we all know what boxing philosopher George Foreman has said: boxing is like jazz because the better it is, the less people understand it. It’s a one-time thing, each fight is a universe of its own, and each time has to count.

Even so, there are plenty of people who think that the model is not entirely wrong. Every grand plan has its fair share of miscalculations, and we could be the ones not doing the math correctly. But it is also possible that Haymon’s unrequested bailout of boxing could easily turn into the vaccine that no one ordered – and which may indeed cause autism.

But the clock is ticking, the bell is about to ring on the Boxing Stock Exchange and payment is due. Will the gamble be worth the risks? And if not, will boxing recover from this brutal reshuffling of its entire modus operandi?

 

Chapter Three:  Knocking on the Palace’s Door 

Legend has it that during the US-backed military coup in the Dominican Republic in 1962, president Juan Bosch sat in his office at the presidential palace, waiting peacefully to be removed by force as 42,000 Marines stormed into the country to support the rebels. During his final minutes as a democratically elected leader about to be overthrown by a foreign power, and as his spirit and his belief in justice were being tested, Bosch was asked by a journalist whether he hated America or not.

Bosch, a humanist and a brilliant writer and novelist in his own right, responded in a way in which only a veteran statesman could reply.

“I do not hate them, sir, because no one who has read Mark Twain could ever hate America,” said Bosch. “What I do hate is imperialism, which is a completely different thing.”

 

Legends and hearsay traveling through centuries and subjected to hundreds of misquotes and mistranslations are hardly reliable enough to be taken as reference. But in this case, legends and hearsay are pretty much all we have to decipher Haymon. The facts are scarce, but they are slowly coming to light.

The largely failing Muhammad Ali Act, an unpatrolled and unenforced piece of legislation, has created some grounds for oversight and legal action that has proved to be very revealing. But one of the big failures of the Muhammad Ali act is the childish semantic change from ‘manager’ to ‘advisor’ to define those who handle a fighter’s business. This has allowed Haymon to have some type of claim that he is neither, both or none of the above depending on his convenience.

But the truth is that (wait for it…) a promotional outfit needs a promoter. Yes. You can do away with the ring card girls, the ring announcer and other expenses, but you do need the gabby Harvard-grad orator or the loudmouth and colorful character with the funny hair on a podium claiming that there will be no other fight like this one ever in history and that you are a sucker if you don’t buy it, especially with that lovely PPV rebate offer on that six-pack of beer that you’re going to buy anyway. There is no replacement for that.

Granted, Haymon will never be Bob Arum or Don King, but he could have been the best of both worlds. As both a Harvard graduate (just like Arum) and an alumnus of Cleveland’s John Adams High School (where King graduated in 1951), Haymon could have conjured the Ivy League guile and the street smarts of the school of hard knocks to create a unique promotional persona. He didn’t, and as hard as it seems after years of putting up with both of them, boxing will one day miss the duels between Arum’s quick humor and King’s over-the-top flurries in his colorful ghetto-ese.

But barring a catastrophe, it is hard to envision a day in which Haymon will be remembered as a villain, because it is difficult to hate someone who has brought boxing back to free network and cable TV, who has worried about providing health care to his fighters, and who has sought to pay fighters their fair share while giving them the safest and easiest work possible.

What will tarnish Haymon’s legacy, we believe, is his shady and never fully explained motivation to turn boxing into his own little empire, a magical realm in which the most basic premises of a centuries-old sport and its time-honored customs are completely overhauled on a whim.

The change of year will provide an excuse for people to give him some more time before making a final judgment on Haymon’s business practices. But this task can’t wait. On what country, empire or leader is he basing his business model? Will Haymon be remembered as King of Haymonia, president of the Republic of Haymonica, or deposed dictator of the failed People’s Republic of Haymon? Should we ask Haymon what he has done for boxing, or shall we instead ask what boxing can do for Haymon to succeed?

Is there a magical brick that will hold Haymon’s grand structure together? Will the last brick remain on the cornice of his imperial compound as proof of his genius for us to see and humbly admire? Will he have to forcibly sail across yet another river to attempt another hostile takeover of boxing with a new magic formula?

Did Haymon fail boxing, or did boxing fail him?

Whatever happens, hopefully the world of boxing will not find enough reasons to hate him for his intrusion.

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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).

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Popo vs. “La Hiena”: Blast From the Past – Episode Two

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Freitas

When WBA/WBO super featherweight champion Acelino “Popo” Freitas met Jorge Rodrigo “Il Hiena” Barrios in Miami on August 8, 2003, there was more on the line than just the titles. This was a roughhousing 39-1-1 Argentinian fighting an equally tough 33-0 Brazilian. The crowd was divided between Brazilian fans and those from Argentina. To them this was a Mega-Fight; this was BIG.

When Acelino Freitas turned professional in 1995, he streaked from the gate with 29 straight KOs, one of the longest knockout win streaks in boxing history. He was fan-friendly and idolized in Brazil. Barrios turned professional in 1996 and went 14-0 before a DQ loss after which he went 25-0-1 with 1 no decision.

The Fight

The wild swinging “Hyena” literally turned into one as he attacked from the beginning and did not let up until the last second of the eleventh round. Barrios wanted to turn the fight into a street fight and was reasonably successful with that strategy. It became a case of brawler vs. boxer/puncher and when the brawler caught the more athletic Popo—who could slip and duck skillfully—and decked him with a straight left in the eighth, the title suddenly was up for grabs.

The Brazilian fans urged their hero on but to no avail as Barrios rendered a pure beat down on Popo during virtually the entirety of the 11th round—one of the most exciting in boxing history. Freitas went down early from a straight right. He was hurt, and at this point it looked like it might be over. Barrios was like a madman pounding Popo with a variety of wild shots, but with exactly one half of one second to go before the bell ending the round, Freitas caught La Hiena with a monster right hand that caused the Hyena to do the South American version of the chicken dance before he went down with his face horribly bloodied. When he got up, he had no idea where he was but his corner worked furiously to get him ready for the final round. All he had to do was hang in there and the title would change hands on points.

The anonymous architect of “In Boxing We Trust,” a web site that went dormant in 2010, wrote this description:

“Near the end of round 11, about a milli-second before the bell rang, Freitas landed a ROCK HARD right hand shot flush on Barrios’ chin. Barrios stood dazed for a moment, frozen in time, and then down he went, WOW WOW WOW!!!! Barrios got up at the count of 4, he didn’t know where he was as he looked around towards the crowd like a kid separated from his family at a theme park, but Barrios turned to the ref at the count of 8 and signaled that he was okay, SAVED BY THE BELL. It was panic time in the Barrios corner, as the blood continued to flow like lava, and he was bleeding from his ear (due to a ruptured ear drum). In the beginning of round 12, Freitas was able to score an early knockdown, and as Barrios stood up on wobbly legs and Freitas went straight at him and with a couple more shots, Barrios was clearly in bad shape and badly discombobulated and the fight was stopped. Freitas had won a TKO victory in round 12, amazing!!!!”

Later, Freitas tarnished his image with a “No Mas” against Diego Corrales, but he had gone down three times and knew there was no way out. He went on to claim the WBO world lightweight title with a split decision over Zahir Raheem, but that fight was a snoozefest and he lost the title in his first defense against Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz.

Freitas looked out of shape coming in to the Diaz fight and that proved to be the case as he was so gassed at the end of the eighth round that he quit on his stool. This was yet another shocker, but others (including Kostya Tszyu, Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya and even Ali) had done so and the criticism this time seemed disproportionate.

Popo had grown old. It happens. Yet, against Barrios, he had proven without a doubt that he possessed the heart of a warrior.

The Brazilian boxing hero retired in 2007, but came back in 2012 and schooled and KOd the cocky Michael “The Brazilian Rocky” Oliveira. He won another fight in 2015 and though by now he was visibly paunchy, he still managed to go 10 rounds to beat Gabriel Martinez in 2017 with occasional flashes of his old explosive volleys. These later wins, though against lower level opposition, somewhat softened the memories of the Corrales and Diaz fights, both of which this writer attended at the Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut. They would be his only defeats in 43 pro bouts.

Like Manny Pacquiao, Freitas had a difficult childhood but was determined to make a better life for himself and his family. And, like Manny, he did and he also pursued a career in politics. Whether he makes it into the Hall will depend on how much a ‘No Mas’ can count against one, but he warrants serious consideration when he becomes eligible.

As for the Hyena, on April 8, 2005, he won the WBO junior lightweight title with a fourth round stoppage of undefeated but overweight Mike Anchondo. In January 2010 he was involved in a hit and run accident in which a 20-year-old pregnant woman was killed. On April 4, 2012 Barrios was declared guilty of culpable homicide and sentenced to four years in prison. He served 27 months and never fought again, retiring with a record of 50-4-1.

Ted Sares is one of the oldest active full power lifters in the world. A member of Ring 10, and Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame, he was recently cited by Hannibal Boxing as one of three “Must-Read” boxing writers.

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The Avila Perspective Chapter 6: Munguia, Cruiserweights and Pacman

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Adjoining states

Adjoining states in the west host a number of boxing cards including a world title contest that features a newcomer who, before knocking out a world champion, was erroneously categorized by a Nevada official as unworthy of a title challenge.

Welcome to the world of Mexico’s Jaime Munguia (29-0, 25 KOs) the WBO super welterweight world titlist who meets England’s Liam Smith (26-1-1, 14 KOs) at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Saturday, July 21. HBO will televise

Back in April when middleweight titan Gennady “GGG” Golovkin was seeking an opponent to replace Saul “Canelo” Alvarez who was facing suspension for performance enhancement drug use, it was the 21-year-old from Tijuana who volunteered his services for a May 5th date in Las Vegas.

Bob Bennett, the Executive Director for Nevada State Athletic Commission, denied allowing Munguia an opportunity to fight Golovkin for the middleweight titles. Bennett claimed that the slender Mexican fighter had not proven worthy of contesting for the championship though the tall Mexican wielded an undefeated record of 28 wins with 24 coming by knockout.

To be fair, Bennett has seen many fighters in the past with undefeated records who were not up to challenges, especially against the likes of Golovkin. But on the other hand, how can an official involved in prizefighting deny any fighter the right to make a million dollar payday if both parties are willing?

That is the bigger question.

Munguia stopped by Los Angeles to meet with the media last week and spoke about Bennett and his upcoming first world title defense. He admitted to being in the middle of a whirlwind that is spinning beyond his expectations. But he likes it.

“I’ve never won any kind of award before in my life,” said Munguia at the Westside Boxing Club in the western portion of Los Angeles. “I’ve always wanted to be a world champion since I was old enough to fight.”

When asked how he felt about Nevada’s denying him an attempt to fight Golovkin, a wide grin appeared on the Mexican youngster.

“I would like to thank him,” said Munguia about Bennett’s refusal to allow him to fight Golovkin. “Everything happens for a reason.”

That reason is clear now.

Two months ago Munguia put on a frightening display of raw power in knocking down then WBO super welterweight titlist Sadam Ali numerous times in front of New York fans. It reminded me of George Foreman’s obliteration of Joe Frazier back in the 1970s. World champions are not supposed get battered like that but when someone packs that kind of power those can be the terrifying results.

Still beaming over his newfound recognition, Munguia has grand plans for his future including challenging all of the other champions in his weight category and the next weight division.

“I want to be a great champion,” said Munguia. “I want to make history.”

The first step toward history begins on Saturday when he faces former world champion Smith who was dethroned by another Mexican named Canelo.

Cruiserweight championship

It’s not getting a large amount of attention in my neighborhood but this unification clash between WBA and IBF cruiserweight titlist Murat Gassiev (26-0, 19 KOs) and WBC and WBO cruiserweight titlist Oleksandr Usyk (14-0, 11 KOs) has historic ramifications tagged all over it.

The first time I ever saw Russia’s 24-year-old Gassiev was three years ago when he made his American debut at the Quiet Cannon in Montebello. It’s a small venue near East L.A. and the fight was attended by numerous boxing celebrities such as James “Lights Out” Toney, Mauricio “El Maestro” Herrera and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. One entire section was filled by Russian supporters and Gassiev did not disappoint in winning by stoppage that night. His opponent hung on for dear life.

Ukraine’s Usyk, 31, made his American debut in late 2016 on a Golden Boy Promotions card that staged boxing great Bernard Hopkins’ final prizefight. That night the cruiserweight southpaw Usyk bored audiences with his slap happy style until lowering the boom on South Africa’s Thabiso Mchunu in round nine at the Inglewood Forum. The sudden result stunned the audience.

Now it’s Gassiev versus Usyk and four world titles are at stake. The unification fight takes place in Moscow, Russia and will be streamed via Klowd TV at 12 p.m. PT/ 3 p.m. ET.

Seldom are cruiserweight matchups as enticing to watch as this one.

Another Look

A couple of significant fights took place last weekend, but Manny Pacquiao’s knockout win over Lucas Matthysse for the WBO welterweight world title heads the list.

Neither fighter looked good in their fight in Malaysia but when Pacquiao floored Matthysse several times during the fight, it raised some red flags.

The last time Pacquiao knocked out a welterweight was in 2009 against Miguel Cotto in Las Vegas. Since then he had not stopped an opponent. What changed?

In this age of PEDs there was no mention of testing for the Pacquiao/Matthysse fight. For the curiosity of the media and the fans, someone should come forward with proof of testing. Otherwise any future fights for the Philippine great will not be forthcoming.

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