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Charisma and Swagger: Boxers With Magnetic Personalities

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BOXERS WITH THE “IT’ FACTOR — Irish Jerry Quarry, a well-spoken and good looking kid from Southern California but an offspring of the dust bowl, was humble and accessible to his adoring fans. His walk-ins were all about getting the business done in the ring and were not accompanied by rappers or huge entourages. No Justin Beibers for Jerry. When he lost, his fans felt the pain along with him. “Nobody didn’t like Sara Lee” went the popular food commercial and nobody didn’t like Jerry Quarry. His was what personal magnetism was all about.

Iron Mike Tyson had his own brand of charisma and it was structured around his fearsome persona. The electricity before a prime Tyson old-school walk-in would surge through the entire arena. Excitement was on its way. Tyson aroused enthusiasm like no other, though Carlos Monzon had it in a more surreal and romantic sense. Here is what the opening paragraph from an early Tyson Mini Bio states: “One of the most frightening human beings ever to step into the boxing ring, Mike Tyson was the model of the supreme gladiator – unbeaten and unbeatable. Never before had one individual captured the attention of the wider world via sport except Muhammad Ali.”

Strangely enough, Floyd Mayweather Jr, notwithstanding his 49-0 record, great skills, changing monikers, monster bodyguards and Justin Bieber, has never really made that deeply electric connection with fans that a Manny Pacquiao or Marcos Maidana has. Maybe it’s because Junior seems to prize his trophies of wealth above his in-ring accomplishments.  As Frank Lotierzo puts it, “I’ve always maintained that as great as he was on the basketball court, there was nothing more boring or condescending than a Michael Jordan Sunday night conversation on ESPN. Move over Michael, because Floyd Mayweather is in da house and he’s every bit your equal, perhaps even surpassing you.”

These days, a red-headed Mexican named Saul “Canelo” Alvarez has that special quality and then some. Just 26 years old but mature beyond his years, Canelo (“Cinnamon”) has a remarkable record of 48-1-1 and is often ranked in pound for pound lists. Showing concern for his knockout victims in the ring has endeared him to devoted fans throughout Mexico and has provided the basis for fighting Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., a fight already being dubbed the biggest fight in Mexican boxing history.

Perhaps if Abel Sanchez stopped trying so hard to hype Gennady Golovkin at each and every turn, GGG’s charisma would burst out, though for many it already has. Conversely, no matter what Andre Ward seems to do, charisma is not going to be part of his makeup.

The above are simply examples from a long list of fighters who carried the label of being charismatic for having a special connection with the fans. There were some others — though not as many– who combined charisma with swagger in their persona.

Charisma and Swagger

“[Jack] Johnson enjoyed a bit of renaissance in the late 1960s when Howard Sackler’s play, ‘The Great White Hope,’ a thinly veiled fictional version of Johnson’s life, was performed on Broadway. But more people at the time thought the play was actually a commentary on then-heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, who openly identified with Johnson in interviews and in his autobiography, ‘The Greatest: My Own Story’ (1975).” –Gerald Early

Back in the day, Jack Johnson (the first African-American world heavyweight champion), and later Max Baer, had plenty of both. Here is what the International Boxing Hall of Fame has to say about Max: “Possessing perhaps the most powerful right hand in heavyweight history, Max Baer was a flashy performer who wise-cracked and clowned his way through his career. Although he never fully realized his tremendous potential, Baer won the heavyweight title, and his showmanship entertained an America rocked by the Great Depression.”

It just didn’t get any better than when Max Baer (as the heartless Buddy Brannen character in “The Harder They Fall,”) sauntered over to the doomed Gus Dundee’s corner to wish Gus well against the duped Toro Moreno — the way he sauntered defined swagger.

As for Jack Johnson, the following analysis of the film “Unforgivable Blackness,” directed by Ken Burns, says it all. See http://www.pbs.org/unforgivableblackness/rebel/

Muhammed Ali arguably was the greatest example of someone who could behave in a boastful and arrogant manner, yet concurrently be the very epitome of charisma. His ostentatious display of arrogance was often perceived as tongue-in-cheek and simply contributed to his charisma. In this, he was unique.

Chris Eubank Sr. is the quintessential combination. Even his nickname—“Simply the Best” – carried pomp, but there was far more. His eccentricity, attire and posing was unique, and unlike a more humble Nigel Benn, he milked it to the limit. Of course, Chris could back it up in the squared circle. His air of overbearing self-confidence was his trademark.  Check out this YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0zlIMvgoBo

Again, the above are representative; there are far more.

 Swagger

Now when it comes to an air of overbearing self-confidence, it’s hard to top Jorge Paez Sr. who wore a dress to his 1992 fight against Rafael Ruelas. “El Maromero” was the very definition of a scary clown and the fans loved him for it. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKI9nqM5nfM

Some might argue that Adrien Broner is the quintessential boxer with swagger, but I’d counter by asserting that “The Problem” is more of a supercilious front. Swagger has to have some substance to back up the pomp. Broner has in large part been seen as a hyped gimmick that can’t back up his motor mouth by winning the big one. This could change.

Roy Jones Jr. was all about swagger and he could back it up. (He still swaggers, but sadly he can no longer back it up.) Macho Camacho, Prince Naz, James Toney, Fernando Vargas, Fighting Harada, Khaosai Galaxy, Anthony Mundine, Sung Kil Moon all had it in spades.

Deontay Wilder has plenty of swagger but is lacking in the charisma department. Conversely, Jerry Quarry had charisma but not much swagger; he was all about business.

Tyson Fury is an original and even wears a sweat shirt that says SWAG DON’T COME CHEAP. He’s not quite a “Peck’s Bad Boy,” but he comes pretty close. Some say he is dragging boxing through the mud; I say he just might be what boxing needs in a sport/business that overwhelms us with nonstop lawsuits.  Whatever the case, he is not hesitant to speak his mind. Yes, the giant gypsy’s temperament could use more tempering, but I suspect he could care less what others think about him. All the rhetoric and loud mouthing is likely a load of blarney and he knows it better than anyone. Oh sure, he could embrace humility, but then he wouldn’t be Tyson Fury. He is the UK’s answer to Ricardo Mayorga, and his quotes or those he inspires are the stuff of a promoter’s dream. Let’s hope he comes back.

Like the other two categories, this one is representative. Perhaps you can add some more names to the lists.

Ted Sares is one of the world’s oldest active power lifters and holds several records in the Grand Master class. A member of Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame, he enjoys writing about boxing.

A native of Chicago, Ted resides in the White Mountain area of Northern New Hampshire with his wife Holly and dog Kater from which he manages a number of private investments. He has closely and passionately followed boxing for over 60 years and has written three related books including the popular “Boxing is my Sanctuary.” He also has written a true crime book titled “Shattered.” Ted has written for many different on-line boxing sites and publications and enjoys a strong international following. An elector for inductees into the International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF), he is a member of Ring 4 (New England) and its Boxing Hall of Fame and also is a member of Ring 10 (New York). Sares is also one of the oldest active powerlifters and strongman competitors in the world. He is currently the four- time EPF Grand Master Nationals Champion.

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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.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

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