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For Some Elite Boxers, `Prime Time’ Can Be Too Short a Time

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When a world champion fighter is young, talented and at the top of his form, he can be excused for daring to believe the good times are going to last forever, or at least for a long time. But boxing is a “hurt business,” as the saying goes, and the glittering promise of all those tomorrows can be forever shrouded in darkness with one very bad night.

Potentially brilliant careers have been rapidly derailed inside the ropes, where longtime heavyweight champion Joe Louis once noted that even good fighters can run, but they can’t hide. For every marvel of longevity, an Archie Moore or George Foreman or Bernard Hopkins who perform at a high level beyond any reasonable expectation and don’t appear to have suffered irreparable damage, there are shooting stars who briefly light up the sky but prematurely fade to gray and then to black. Some continue to soldier on, even winning another world title in a couple of instances, but the line of demarcation between career ascent and descent often is starkly drawn.

Five potential Hall of Famers who fell short of the indisputable greatness once predicted of them serve as cautionary tales of what can happen whenever a fighter enters the ring as something special and exits as something far less, his prime literally having been beaten out of him.

David Reid, Meldrick Taylor, Donald Curry, Michael Nunn and Chad Dawson deserve to be remembered for what they were, which was better than most fighters ever get to be, but also for what they might have been had they not slammed head-first into an opponent, and circumstances, capable of turning their fondest dreams into lingering nightmares.

Felix Trinidad UD12 David Reid, March 3, 2000, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas

He might have become the next Oscar De La Hoya. Just as De La Hoya, the “Golden Boy,” became an instant celebrity when he won the United States’ only gold medal in boxing at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Philadelphia’s David Reid appeared to have positioned himself to cash in on his moment of glory at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Just three months after he was working as a stock-room clerk at JC Penney, Reid, trailing on the scorecards, delivered a crushing overhand right in the final round to knock out favored Cuban Alfredo Duvergel in the 156-pound Olympic final.

Several major promotional companies sought to sign Reid, who at first seemed on the verge of joining De La Hoya as part of Top Rank founder Bob Arum’s deep Top Rank stable. “David Reid is a national hero. He is the man of the moment,” Arum said in New York, where Reid and De La Hoya posed together for photographers.

“David Reid and I will fight someday,” De La Hoya predicted. “The only gold medalist from ’92 vs. the only gold medalist from ’96. Man, wouldn’t that be something? It won’t happen soon, but it will happen.”

Shortly thereafter, however, Reid accepted a bigger-bucks offer from a start-up promotional outfit, America Presents, which assured him he would be the face of the company and not a set-up man for De La Hoya or any of the other more-established Top Rank headliners.

Reid never did get around to fighting De La Hoya, but he was put on an accelerated schedule while under the aegis of America Presents, fighting for and winning the WBA super welterweight championship in just his 12th pro bout, a 12-round unanimous decision over France’s Laurent Boudouani on March 6, 1999. Reid made two successful defenses of that title, on points over Kevin Kelly and Keith Mullings, but concerns grew over a droopy left eyelid which two surgeries had failed to correct.  There was a certain amount of skepticism from the boxing cognoscenti when Reid stepped way up in class for his third defense, against Felix Trinidad, the WBC and IBF welterweight champion. Although both men were 27 years old, Trinidad (then 36-0 with 29 KOs) was by far the more experienced fighter, and would be appearing in his 17th world title bout.

The skepticism proved to be justified. Although Reid landed the same overhand right that had put Duvergel down and out in the Olympics, flooring Trinidad in the third round, the favored (by 3-to-1) Puerto Rican superstar beat the count and in the seventh round he dropped Reid with a left hook. It was all Tito the rest of the way, never more so than in the 11th round when he scored three more knockdowns, although referee Mitch Halpern declined to step in and halt what had become a brutally one-sided fight.

“As a man, as a fighter, the referee saw I could continue,” said Reid, whose grotesquely swollen right eye nearly matched his left eye that was constantly at half-mast. “I wasn’t going to quit. Tito was the better man tonight. But, again, I wasn’t going to quit.”

There are those who believe Reid was rushed into the big-money fight with Trinidad while he was still marketable, which is to say before the droopy eyelid problem reached critical mass. In any case, Reid fought only four more times after that beatdown, losing twice, including a ninth-round stoppage at the hands of journeyman Sam Hill on Nov. 11, 2011, in the well-known boxing hotbed of Elizabeth, Ind. America Presents ceased operation and Reid never came close to receiving all of the financial guarantees he had been promised at the outset.

“Earlier, I got by OK,” he said of the droopy eyelid that might have damaged his bid for lasting glory as much as Trinidad’s fists had. “But in that last fight, it was like I saw those right hands, but I couldn’t get out of the way of them. That’s when I knew it was time to get out.”

Julio Cesar Chavez TKO12 Meldrick Taylor, March 17, 1990, Las Vegas Hilton

It might have been the finest boxing match of the 1990s, both in terms of the quality of the principals and the nearly nonstop action they delivered in the ring.  But what it also was, without question, was the most controversial fight of the decade.

The super lightweight unification showdown between two undefeated champions, the WBC’s Julio Cesar Chavez (then 68-0, with 49 KOs) and IBF’s Meldrick Taylor (24-0-1, 13 KOs), was the kind of bout that the fight game cries out for, but too seldom gets – and when one does come around, it sometimes doesn’t deliver. Chavez was only 27 at the time, a devastating body puncher who could turn ribcages into kindling, and Taylor, a gold medalist at 17 at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, was a 23-year-old with the fastest hands in the sport. It was a classic pairing of power vs. speed, of Mexican grittiness against Philly heart.

For much of the way, Taylor’s rapid-fire combinations were stealing the show, piling up points and edging “JC Superstar” ever closer to what appeared to be his first defeat. But Chavez was doing even more damage in the many toe-to-toe exchanges, his heavy hands inflicting cuts inside Taylor’s mouth that led him to ingest a pint of his own blood, and also breaking bones around his left eye. But instead of sticking and moving in the later rounds, the better to sit on his presumed lead, Taylor continued to meet fire with fire. It was, after all, the Philadelphia way.

Far enough ahead on two scorecards that he couldn’t lose on points, a bruised and battered Taylor again went right at Chavez in the 12th round, but he was knocked down in the closing seconds. He managed to beat the count, but was looking at his corner, where co-trainer Lou Duva was frantically trying to get his attention, instead of referee Richard Steele. Steele then waved his arms and awarded Chavez a TKO victory two seconds before the final bell.

The heartbreaking finish wasn’t really the end of Taylor’s career; two bouts later he wrested the WBA welterweight title from Aaron Davis on a unanimous decision and defended it twice. But it was increasingly apparent this was not the pre-Chavez Meldrick Taylor, and he took a thumping in a failed bid to win Terry Norris’s 154-pound strap, suffering a fourth-round stoppage. Taylor was merely a ghost of his standout former self in the fight after that, losing his WBA welterweight title on an eighth round TKO to Crisanto Espana in London. Only 12 days past his 26th birthday, Taylor was urged to retire by Duva and his other trainer, George Benton.

“I don’t think it’s ever one fight that does it, but I don’t think Meldrick was ever really the same after he fought Chavez,” Duva said.

Taylor didn’t quit. He got his rematch with Chavez and again was stopped, in eight rounds, on Sept. 17, 1994. From there, things only got worse. Accepting short-money bouts wherever he could get them, he fought at the Blue Horizon and lost to a club fighter named Darren Maciunski.  Taking note of his slurred speech, several state boxing commissions declined to grant him a license.

Lloyd Honeyghan RTD6 Donald Curry, Sept. 27, 1986, Caesars Atlantic City

They called him “The Lone Star Cobra,” and the nickname fit. Donald Curry, a native of Fort Worth, Texas, seemingly had everything going for him: a big punch, excellent mobility, solid boxing skills and, oh, yeah, the WBC, WBA and IBF welterweight championships. He was 25-0 with 19 knockouts heading into what appeared to be, on paper, an eminently winnable defense against Lloyd Honeyghan. Although the Jamaican-born Briton came in 27-0 with 16 knockouts and was the WBC’s No. 1-rated contender, few gave him much of a chance of knocking off Curry, who was close to attaining superstar status, if he hadn’t already risen to that level. Curry was such a prohibitive favorite that few of the legal sports books were accepting bets on the fight. The prevailing wisdom at the time was that the electrifying, 25-year-old Curry would soon move up to middleweight to challenge Marvin Hagler.

But Honeyghan apparently hadn’t read Curry’s press clippings, or if he had, he wasn’t impressed by them. He took the fight to Curry from the get-go and made it at close quarters, disrupting Curry’s rhythm and scoring with big shots of his own. As a horrified Bob Arum – who had envisioned making a superfight between Curry and Hagler at 160 pounds – looked on from ringside, Honeyghan so battered the venomless Cobra that referee Octavio Meyran, on the advice of ring physicians Frank B. Doggett and Paul Williams, stopped the one-sided bout at the end of six rounds. It was a call that Curry – who had struggled to make weight, only doing so by paring 11½ three days before the fight — did not object to; he had a three-inch cut over his left eye and had been staggered more than once.

Curry remains on the IBHOF ballot, as does Meldrick Taylor, but his prime might have been too compressed to receive the widespread support necessary for induction. He was 9-5 after his comeuppance from Honeyghan, four of the five defeats coming inside the distance, to finish 34-6 with 25 KOs.

James Toney TKO11 Michael Nunn, March 10, 1991, Davenport, Iowa

It might seem strange now, given the career and life turns taken by each man. James “Lights Out” Toney is almost certainly a first-ballot inductee into the IBHOF, having won three world championships in three weight classes during a 27-year pro career that might or might not have ended in 2015. For all anyone knows, he might yet decide to lace up the gloves again, at 48. Michael Nunn, on the other hand, was sentenced to 24 years in prison in 2004 for drug trafficking. He has not thrown a punch for pay since 2002 and, if anything, he is remembered more for having squandered his opportunity to achieve some of the many plaudits that since have passed to Toney.

On March 10, 1991, Nunn, a slick southpaw with silky moves, was the more highly regarded fighter. In fact, he was much more highly regarded. Heading into the sixth defense of his IBF middleweight title against Toney, in Nunn’s hometown of Davenport, Nunn was considered a top five pound-for-pound fighter by nearly every media outlet. Toney, despite his 25-0-1 record with 18 KOs, was a 20-1 underdog in some sports books.

As a raucous, pro-Nunn crowd in John O’Donnell Stadium roared its approval, the hometown hero appeared on his way to a nod on points. The champion was quicker, his jab accurate and he landed right hooks in the fifth and sixth rounds that briefly wobbled Toney. Heading into the late rounds, the smart move would have been for Nunn to continue sticking and moving, but he might have used up too much energy going for the knockout. Toney dropped him in round 11 with a ripping left hook, and although Nunn made it to his feet at the count of nine, he was hurt and gassed. Surging forward, Toney landed two jolting right hands and Nunn’s cornermen entered the ring, ending the fight after an elapsed time of 2 minutes, 14 seconds.

The stunning defeat was a cold slap in the face to Nunn, who had carried himself with the air of someone who thought he was invincible. He captured the WBA super middleweight title two fights later, beating Victor Cordoba, but it was a split decision in which Nunn flashed little of his former brilliance. Reminders of who and what he had been at his peak became more sporadic and, on Feb. 26, 1994, Nunn was dethroned in London by someone who really should have been a 20-1 underdog, Steve Little, who was 21-13-2 with five KO wins.

Andre Ward TKO 10 Chad Dawson, Sept. 8, 2012, Oracle Arena, Oakland, Calif.

When last we saw “Bad” Chad Dawson in the ring, he was stopped in the 10th and final round of his bout with Andrzej Fonfara on March 4. It was the two-time former light heavyweight champion’s third defeat in his six most recent bouts, two inside the distance, signaling the likelihood that, Dawson, at 34, might never regain the form that four years earlier had made him a consensus top10 pound-for-pound fighter.

A rangy southpaw, Dawson had begun his career by going 29-0 with 17 KOs. He suffered his first loss on Aug. 14, 2010, and the transfer of his WBC and IBO 175-pound titles, on an 11-round technical decision against Jean Pascal in Pascal’s hometown of Quebec City, Canada. But Dawson – whose resume to that point included victories over such quality opponents as Tomasz Adamek, Antonio Tarver (twice) and Glen Johnson — rebounded nicely, winning decisions over Adrian Diancou and Bernard Hopkins, the latter for Hopkins’ WBC light heavy belt that the ageless wonder from Philly had lifted from Pascal. Dawson might have made it two straight over Hopkins, but their first match, which initially was ruled  a second-round TKO for the challenger, was changed to a no-decision because of the accidental injury (a dislocated shoulder) suffered by B-Hop when he was picked up and thrown to the canvas when the two fighters became entangled in a clinch.

Dawson then opted, perhaps unwisely, to trim down to super middleweight for a high-visibility shot at WBC/WBA 168-pound ruler Andre Ward. Demonstrating that he was indeed still at the top of his game, and that Dawson apparently wasn’t, Ward registered knockdowns in the third, fourth and 10th round. A badly beaten Dawson, when asked if he was able to continue after the last knockdown, told referee Steve Smoger he was able to continue, but his response was less than enthusiastic. Asked again if he wanted to go on, Dawson said, “I’m done.”

That answer might have been more comprehensive than anyone could have imagined at the time.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.

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The BWAA Shames Veteran Referee Laurence Cole and Two Nebraska Judges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Controversy has dogged Laurence Cole for well over a decade.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

 

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

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

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

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

Take your pick.

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

HBO will televise both light heavyweight title fights.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DiBella

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

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

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

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

It’s a curious matchup of former world champions.

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

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

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

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

One world title fight does take place on the card.

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

L.A. Congestion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Title Fight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What’s Next for Manny Pacquiao?

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retire

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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