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Golovkin-Jacobs: A Bigger “Drama Show” Than Expected

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GOLOVKIN-JACOBS — On March 18, Gennady Golovkin and Danny Jacobs met in the ring at Madison Square Garden in a middleweight title-unification bout. It was supposed to be an orderly coronation for Golovkin. But fights are unscripted, and this one unfolded in defiance of expectations.

Outside the ring, Golovkin is one of the least-imposing elite fighters imaginable. His face is largely unmarked. His body language is laid-back. He looks like a computer geek with a quiet placid demeanor. He turned pro after winning a silver medal on behalf of Kazakhstan as a middleweight at the 2004 Athens Olympics, compiled a 36-0 (33 KOs) professional record, and claimed the WBC, WBA, IBF, and IBO 160-pound titles.

In the minds of many, the only thing standing between Golovkin and greatness was the absence of elite opponents on his record. Sergio Martinez, Miguel Cotto, and Canelo Alvarez all steered clear of him when they held one version or another of the middleweight crown.

Whoever Golovkin fights – tall guys, short guys, finesse boxers, big punchers – Gennady says, “No problem.” He delights in giving fans what he calls “big drama show” and came into Madison Square Garden to fight Jacobs riding a string of 23 consecutive knockouts.

Jacobs entered the bout with a 32-1 (29 KOs) ledger and was the “regular” (or phony) WBA middleweight champion. He’s a good fighter whose career as a boxer has been defined more by his ring failures than his ring triumphs.

Now 29, Jacobs was a much-decorated amateur, amassing a 137-and-7 record. But he lost twice unexpectedly to Shawn Estrada in the 165-pound division at the trials for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The first time he was matched tough as a pro (against Dmitry Pirog in 2010), Danny crumbled and was knocked out in the fifth round.

But those losses were overshadowed by Jacobs’s inspirational return from being stricken with cancer to fight again at a world-class level. That chapter of Danny’s life began in 2011, when he felt numbness in his legs and began having difficulty walking. The diagnosis was osteosarcoma: a life-threatening form of bone cancer that had wrapped a tumor around his spine.

Jacobs underwent surgery and returned to the ring after a 19-month layoff. For the rest of his life, he’ll have titanium rods in his back. It’s difficult to overstate the magnitude of his accomplishments and courage.

There was mutual respect between the fighters in the build-up to Golovkin-Jacobs.

“He’s a very good guy,” Golovkin said of his opponent. “I’ve watched a couple of his fights. He looks good. He looks strong. And he looks very focused. I think he is the best that I have been up against in my career. I’m very excited to fight Daniel Jacobs. He is world-class and will be a big test for me.”

Jacobs responded in kind, saying, “I’m a fan of the sport. I like to watch Triple-G too. I’ve watched him his whole career. He’s a great fighter. He has power. He cuts the ring off well. His jab is good. He’s not the hardest guy in the world to hit, but he takes a good punch. I’m honored to share the ring with him.”

In boxing, one win or one loss can dramatically alter the trajectory of a fighter’s career.

Golovkin-Jacobs represented a huge opportunity for Jacobs. Everything was aligned for him to become a star if he beat Golovkin. With that in mind, Danny declared, “I want to go and tackle greatness. I want to go into Madison Square Garden and see my family and see my friends and see everybody there for me. I’m really just waiting for that moment. I’m ready for my fans to be in my corner and everyone standing up and cheering when that first bell rings. It’s a big opportunity for me, and I’m looking forward to it. Winning this fight will take everything to the next level.”

But many insiders didn’t just label Jacobs an underdog. They were saying that he had virtually no chance. From the day the fight was announced until fight night, Jacobs had to smile through people wishing him luck at the same time they were thinking, “Poor Danny. He has no idea what Gennady will do to him.”

Golovkin’s most notable wins had been against Kell Brook, David Lemieux, Martin Murray, Curtis Stevens, and Matthew Macklin. That’s not Marvin Hagler and Carlos Monzon, but it’s better than the best that Jacobs could offer (Peter Quillin and Sergio Mora).

Also, there were questions about Jacobs’s ability to take a punch, largely because of his loss to Pirog.

“I’m a far better fighter now than I was then,” Jacobs said of that defeat. “I’m stronger. I’m smarter. I’m a complete one-eighty from the fighter I was then. Mentally, physically, all across the board in any way you can possibly grow, I’ve grown from that fight. This whole question about my chin; I’m not saying it’s absurd, but it’s a little far-fetched.”

However, Abel Sanchez (who has trained Golovkin for nineteen fights in a row) added fuel to the fire. “In forty years,” Sanchez proclaimed, “I’ve never had a fighter that hits as hard as Gennady. Jacobs is a sharp puncher with a good right hand. But he won’t go twelve rounds.”

Curtis Stevens and David Lemieux had each been knocked out by Golovkin at Madison Square Garden. Asked what advice he might have for Jacobs, Stevens was marginally encouraging, saying, “Danny’s an excellent boxer. He can win as long as he stays away, but it’s hard to stay away for twelve rounds. We’ve gotta see if his chin holds up. I’m not trying to be mean and I’m not taking anything away from him. But we all know his chin is a little suspect.”

Lemieux was less sanguine. “I have no advice for him,” David responded. “He can do what he wants. I don’t think he’s gonna win.”

Still . . . There’s a long list of fighters who’ve said in the past that they wanted to fight Golovkin but didn’t. Canelo Alvarez heads the roster of those who’ve talked the talk but disappeared when given the opportunity to walk the walk. Unlike Canelo, Jacobs genuinely wanted to fight Golovkin. And he was looking forward to the encounter as his coming out party.

“I know this guy has a reputation,” Jacobs said. “He’s the number one guy at the moment. I can’t deny that. You have to give respect where respect is due. But I think I’m the better fighter. I’m bigger; I’m faster. I have power and a good boxing IQ. Whatever he does, I’ll be ready for it. Just because he has A+ or A- power and I have B+ or B- power doesn’t mean both guys can’t go down or both guys can’t get hurt. I have to be careful, but so does he. I know what I’m capable of. I know what I’m good at. It’s all about putting it in sync on fight night. So many people are doubting me. There’s nothing better than fulfilling your dreams and proving all the doubters wrong in the same night.”

Madison Square Garden was buzzing on fight night with an announced crowd of 19,939. Depending on where one looked, Golovkin was a roughly 6-to-1 betting favorite and 4-to-1 to win by knockout. Gennady is so efficient and methodical in the ring that people tend to forget his fights are unfolding in real time; that he’s flesh and blood, not a machine, and that anything can happen in a prize fight.

Both men fought cautiously at the start. Golovkin was stalking but not as aggressively as has been his custom in recent fights. Jacobs was content to box from the outside.

In round three, Golovkin began to close the gap and dictate the distance between Jacobs and himself. That paid dividends in round four when Gennady caught Danny against the ropes and landed a jab followed by a straight right hand that put Jacobs on the canvas.

At that point, the assumption among most observers was, “Okay; here we go. The fight is over.”

Not . . .

In round five, counterintuitively, Jacobs began fighting effectively as a southpaw, which he did thereafter for long stretches of time. That seemed to slow Golovkin. Then Danny started letting his hands go a bit more.

Golovkin was never able to find his rhythm. He never put punches together in a way that landed more than one effective blow at a time. For much of the night, he looked ordinary. Other times, he looked old.

In round nine, Jacobs appeared to tire a bit. He got sloppy and overreached on several punches, enabling Golovkin to tag him with a solid right uppercut. But otherwise, Gennady failed to capitalize on the few mistakes that Danny made.

The fight seemed to be up for grabs in the final two rounds. The crowd sensed an upset. But it wasn’t to be. The decision could have gone either way, and the judges ruled in Golovkin’s favor by a 115-112, 115-112, 114-113 margin.

Writing for The Independent, Steve Bunce put the night in perspective when he declared, “It is far too simple to dismiss the odd performance of Gennady Golovkin on Saturday night as the start of the end for the fighting maestro. But that is exactly what it looked like at times. Golovkin looked weary, lacked precision, and was too predictable. After nearly 400 amateur fights and 36 in the paid ranks, he might just be, at 34 and after a life devoted to boxing, getting old.”

Then, referencing round four when Golovkin knocked Jacobs down, Bunce added, “Golovkin was expected to finish the fight then, provide his ‘big drama show,’ and end the night for Jacobs. But there was no Golovkin finish. And that was odd for a man who has ruined so many fighters and has never allowed a hurt fighter the time to survive.”

Gennady Golovkin is still a very good fighter. But the aura of invincibility that enveloped him is now gone.

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

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

 

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The BWAA Shames Veteran Referee Laurence Cole and Two Nebraska Judges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Controversy has dogged Laurence Cole for well over a decade.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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