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In a Flawed Promotion, Andre Ward Makes a Statement

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THE HAUSER REPORT — In an earlier era, the June 17 rematch between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev would have been a can’t-miss promotion. Two of the best fighters in the world reprising a 2016 encounter that ended in controversy with Ward prevailing on the judges’ scorecards by a razor-thin margin. But this is 2017. Instead of galvanizing boxing fans, Ward-Kovalev II was symbolic of boxing’s problems.

There was a rematch clause in the contract for Kovalev-Ward I, but Team Ward balked at moving forward with the sequel. Andre seemed ambivalent. And Roc Nation Sports (his promoter) stood to lose several million dollars on the promotion because of its contract with Ward. Meanwhile, Kovalev and Main Events (Sergey’s promoter) desperately wanted the rematch; Kovalev for competitive and monetary reasons, Main Events as a financial imperative.

In the end, the fact that the Kovalev-Ward I contract contained a binding rematch clause was dispositive of the issue. But to get Ward-Kovalev II off the ground, Main Events CEO Kathy Duva ceded control of the venture to Roc Nation.

“They wanted to control the promotion,” Duva told writer Steve Kim. “They wanted to set the tone. They specifically used those words. They were going to do things the Roc way. So this is the Roc way.”

Kovalev-Ward I was one of the most anticipated fights of 2016. The rematch was close to stillborn.

Roc Nation Sports was founded by Shawn Corey Carter a/k/a Jay Z in 2013 and has made inroads in numerous sports, most notably with the signing of NBA star Kevin Durant and the NFL’s Dez Bryant. But in two-and-half years, it has failed to show that it can promote boxing at a world-class level without losing money.

There are a lot of moving pieces that have to be assembled into a well-oiled machine for a big fight to be properly promoted. Roc Nation has yet to show that it has mastered that discipline. Its two flagship fighters – Miguel Cotto and Andre Ward – have been cash drains for the company because of unrealistically large guaranteed purses. Cotto and Roc Nation Sports parted ways earlier this year. Industry insiders wouldn’t be surprised if Roc Nation left boxing shortly.

Michael Yormark (president and chief of branding and strategy) is Roc Nation Sports’ most visible management figure. But many crucial decisions in areas where Roc Nation’s boxing program is intertwined with the company’s larger mission are heavily influenced by Desiree Perez.

Perez has been criticized as having an abrasive management style reminiscent of the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland. As reported by the New York Daily News, she was arrested in New York in 1994 for possession with intent to distribute 35 kilograms of cocaine. Federal authorities charged that she was part of a major drug-distribution ring, and she faced spending well over a decade in prison. But she cooperated with authorities and, after pleading no contest to criminal charges, served fourteen months in prison followed by ten years probation. Thereafter, she turned her life around and has become one of the most trusted members of Jay Z’s inner circle.

Regardless of who is making the decisions at Roc Nation Sports, Ward-Kovalev II struggled financially from the start. And before long, the atmosphere turned toxic.

Kovalev was already bitter about the judges’ decision in Kovalev-Ward I.

“I had no emotions,” Sergey said of the moment when the verdict was announced. “I was empty. I was just killed by decision. I couldn’t change something. I just understood that I was robbed and I don’t have any more belts now. I just have one goal; to beat Andre Ward and beat all shit from him because he doesn’t deserve the belt and the status of a champion. I lost respect for him, the way he acts. I don’t like him. I want to punish him because he puts his nose really up. I know only one thing: I want to destroy him. I want to punish him and get my belts back.”

Ward took the high road in response, saying, “It’s a climate right now where there’s a lot of talking. Guys don’t do what they say they’re going to do. They don’t perform, and then they find excuses on why they didn’t perform. There’s only a handful of guys in history that talked and then backed it up. We don’t have a lot of that today. It’s not a video game. It’s real life, and you’ve got to live it out.”

“Anytime there’s a close decision you’re going to have opinions either way,” Ward noted. “I’ve never refuted the fact that it was a close decision. I respect Kovalev as a champion. I won’t call him a former champion. He’s the real deal.”

But then Andre tarnished his good-guy image by leaving town early and blowing off an edition of Face-Off that was scheduled to be recorded by HBO in Las Vegas on May 7, one day after Canelo Alvarez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. That didn’t hurt Andre financially because Roc Nation had guaranteed him an oversized $6,500,000 purse for the fight. But it hurt Kovalev, Main Events, and Roc Nation, all of whom were dependent on pay-per-view buys as their primary revenue stream from Ward-Kovalev II.

Things deteriorated further from there.

Prior to Kovalev-Ward I, Team Ward had tried to sow discord in the Kovalev camp by floating the idea that Sergey was being underpaid by Main Events. In truth, based on the economic realities of the fight, Andre was being overpaid by Roc Nation, which has never been able to balance its boxing economic balance sheet.

In the build-up to Ward-Kovalev II, the Ward camp sought to drive a wedge between Sergey and his trainer, John David Jackson. Both James Prince (Ward’s manager) and Josh Dubin (Andre’s lawyer) claimed that Jackson had reached out to them about the possibility of working with Ward and Virgil Hunter in preparation for the rematch. “We thought about it strongly,” Prince told BoxingScene.com. “That’s why we were conversating with him, because we felt that he could be somewhat of an asset. But at the end of the day, it was an asset that we really didn’t need.”

Meanwhile, there seemed to be even more enmity between Main Events and Roc Nation than between the fighters. In an interview posted on Twitter, Michael Yormark declared, “They’ve done nothing to promote this fight. Kathy [Duva] really has done nothing. Sergey has done nothing. Let’s be honest. Sergey has no following. Main Events has had him for five, six years. What have they done with him? Nobody knows who he is. He has no following. He can’t sell tickets. He can’t sell pay-per-view.”

The problem with these attacks was that the promotional message was all wrong. It was focusing on personal insults rather than the merits of what was expected to be a very good fight.

Kovalev had started strong in Kovalev-Ward I, knocking Ward down in the second round before fading late.

“I’ve never had to come from behind like that in a professional fight,” Ward said afterward “I don’t want to be there, and I don’t feel like I should be there. But you prepare for those moments long before fight night.”

In addition to questioning the judges’ decision in Kovalev-Ward I, many people (this writer included) felt that referee Robert Byrd had interpreted the rules in a way that allowed Andre to lead with his head and grapple rather than box for much of the fight. However, Sergey put that issue to rest during the kick-off press tour for Ward-Kovalev II when he said, “The referee was good. I have no problems with the referee in the fight.”

Kovalev also said the reason he faded late in Kovalev-Ward I was that he’d overtrained for the bout. But that seemed like rationalization. And in any event, Ward contributed significantly to making Sergey tired.

“I’m not here to prove anything although, obviously, my goal is to win in a more definitive fashion.” Ward said as Ward-Kovalev II approached. “It’s my job to pick up where we left off. Of course, there’s adjustments that need to be made. But at the end of the day, I just have to be me and being myself is going to be enough. I fought this man for twelve rounds. There’s nothing scary about him. He didn’t knock me down in the ninth or tenth round and have me holding on to survive. He knocked me down in the second round, and I came back from it. Everybody wants to talk about the knockdown. Did you see the next ten rounds? June 17 won’t be any different except I’ll start a little earlier.”

The fight was contested at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.

Kovalev’s “grand arrival” at Mandalay Bay was not so grand. Meeting with the media, Segey declared, “Ward and his team are liars. He said that he gave me this rematch as a present for the boxing fans. Don’t lie. It was in the contract that you must give me this or you retire. When I see his face, I want to punch it. I am very happy for this opportunity to smash his face. I don’t like this guy.”

At the final pre-fight press conference on Thursday, Kovalev spoke and then left the dais with the rest of his team before Ward was introduced.

Most promotions grow larger in the public consciousness as a fight approaches. Ward-Kovalev II seemed to shrink as the hour of reckoning neared.

Ward was a 7-to-5 betting favorite. Many media personnel who thought Sergey won the first fight were picking Andre in the rematch.

It was assumed that the bout would be interesting but not necessarily entertaining. That was the kiss of death. Few fans wanted to see rounds four through twelve of Kovalev-Ward I all over again. But the expectation was, that’s what they would get.

“The first fight,” Bart Barry wrote, “ended in a way that anticipates a predictable result the next time, no matter how many mean sentences the combatants speak about one another. Kovalev’s best chance of beating Ward happened ten rounds ago. Every moment since then has made a Kovalev victory less probable. As this fight nears, interest dwindles.”

Roc Nation did a good job of selling sponsorships. But pay-per-view buys were tracking at a dismally low level. Kovalev-Ward I had generated roughly 165,000 buys, which was a disappointing number. A source close to the promotion of Ward-Kovalev II says that, initially, Roc Nation maintained in marketing strategy sessions that, with proper promotion, Ward-Kovalev II could engender as many as 300,000 buys. In the end, the rematch fell short of the pay-per-view numbers for their first fight.

On Wednesday of fight week, tickets for Ward-Kovalev II were posted on Groupon at a 32 percent discount with an additional discount of $15 per order. Papering the house with “freebies” and selling tickets at discount is not uncommon in boxing. But usually, it’s quietly done. Selling tickets on Groupon is a public announcement that anyone who paid full price is a sucker.

Also on Wednesday of fight week, Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor was announced. That further marginalized Ward-Kovalev II in terms of media coverage and conversation among fans. On the morning of the Ward-Kovalev rematch, the New York Times sports section devoted most of its front page and much of page four to Mayweather-McGregor. The Times wouldn’t have devoted that space to Ward-Kovalev II under any circumstances. But it symbolized the latter’s plight.

Ward and Kovalev each weighed in at 175 pounds.

Kovalev was the aggressor in round one and did enough to win the stanza since Ward was in stay-away-from-me mode. In rounds two and three, Sergey continued moving forward. But Andre blunted his aggression with movement, kept Kovalev from getting off the way he wanted to, tied him up when Sergey got inside, and landed occasional punches that were hard enough to get Kovalev’s attention. Ward also began letting his hands go more (including a hook that landed below the belt and earned a warning from referee Tony Weeks).

By round five, Kovalev appeared to be tiring. He was still the aggressor but it had become ineffective aggression. He was losing his edge and seemed frustrated by his inability to land cleanly on Ward. More significantly, in a precursor of things to come, Ward landed two hurting body shots at the two-minute mark of round five. That was followed by a left hook up top in round six that was better than anything Kovalev had landed so far.

By round seven, Kovalev seemed to be just going through the motions. According to CompuBox, he would outland Ward by a 95-to-80 margin during the fight and have an edge in punches landed in every round but the fourth and final stanzas. But Andre was becoming dominant.

One minute into round eight, three body blows (at least one of them low) doubled Kovalev over and sent him back against the ropes. More body shots softened him up further. A straight right hand staggered him badly. Now Sergey was struggling to survive. There were more body shots, two of them flagrantly low . . . And referee Tony Weeks stopped the fight.

Ward was ahead 67-66 on two of the judges’ scorecards at the time of the stoppage and trailed 68-65 on the third.

Controversy followed.

Paulie Malignaggi was at ringside covering the fight for SKY-TV and said afterward, “I thought the stoppage was terrible. It wasn’t like he was hurt to the point where you had to stop the fight. You see guys get that hurt a lot of times in fights and you don’t even think about stopping the fight. Ward was hurting Kovalev to the body. But give the fight the proper ending. What’s going on? What was with that stoppage? All of a sudden, he stopped the fight. I wasn’t even sure what he was doing. I thought maybe he was calling a low blow. The last thing on my mind was that he was stopping the fight.”

Kathy Duva asked Nevada State Athletic Commission executive director Bob Bennett for an immediate video review of the blows that led to the stoppage, which is legal under Nevada law. But Bennett declined and later explained, “The only way we can look at an instant replay is under one condition: when a punch or kick terminates the bout and the referee isn’t sure whether it’s a legal or illegal blow. I asked [Tony Weeks], ‘Do you want to look at the instant replay?’ And he said, “No. I’m satisfied they were on the beltline.”

By contrast, in the fight immediately preceding Ward-Kovalev (Guillermo Rigondeax vs. Moises Flores), referee Vic Drakulich acknowledged to Bennett that he was unsure whether a knockout punch had come before or after the bell ending round one. There was an immediate ringside video review of the issue. Bennett then relied on what he says was incorrect information given to him from the HBO production truck rather than make his own independent determination, and Rigondeaux was declared the winner by knockout. “No contest” would have been the correct ruling in that fight, and the Nevada State Athletic Commission is expected to act accordingly after a hearing later this week.

But back to Ward-Kovalev . . .

Ward said the body shots were “borderline.”

Kovalev didn’t object immediately when the fight was stopped. But grasping the full reality of the situation, he soon proclaimed, “He hit with four low blows. The ref didn’t call them. I felt I could have continued. This is bullshit.”

Main Events quickly sent out a press release headlined “Sergey Kovalev TKO’d by Low Blows.”

And Kathy Duva declared, “I’m still having a hard time processing what I just witnessed. I saw someone who should have been disqualified get his hand held up. Sergey got hit with three low blows, four actually, in the last round. We’ll file a protest on Monday.”

The final low blow in Ward-Kovalev is clearly shown on video at

https://twitter.com/streetfitebanch/status/876289907655938049/photo/1

The view from here is that Tony Weeks should have given Kovalev five minutes to recover from the low blows and deducted a point from Ward (who’d been previously warned for going low). Most likely, it wouldn’t have made a difference. Kovalev looked to be finished. But the same could have been said of Anthony Joshua after six rounds against Wladimir Klitschko. And boxing fans know how that turned out.

Meanwhile, controversy over the ending shouldn’t overshadow the fact that Ward turned in an impressive performance.

Andre was an Olympic gold medalist. He has fought and beaten more than a few top-tier fighters in their prime. His talent warrants his being regarded as a superstar. But as Larry Merchant recently noted, talent isn’t enough. Being a superstar requires that the public feel a connection to a fighter and be moved by him. Ward’s style of fighting is too clinical and he’s perceived as too aloof for that connection to occur.

Or as Matthew Swain wrote, “Ward is calculated precisely at every moment. In the ring, he uses balance, timing, and range to make the fight exactly as he wants it to be. It’s like a symphony that you know is technically perfect but lacks anything emotive. Ward is much the same in person. Every phrase, every facial movement, every appearance is controlled to room temperature.”

Ward views things differently.

“I’m boring because I don’t act a certain way on 24/7?” Andre asks rhetorically. “What’s that about? I’m understated. That’s my lane and I’m comfortable in it. I can’t go into a fight thinking about its entertainment value. I just need to do me, execute the game plan, and get my hand raised at the end of the fight.”

And in a June 7 media conference call, Ward elaborated on that theme, saying, “Everybody has to be careful when they say ‘the fans,’ because they don’t speak for all the fans. It amazes me that you’ll have one person speak for all boxing fans all over the world. If you love boxing, yes, you may have a certain style that you favor. But when I look at the sport of boxing; the guys that were on top for ten years, eight years, seven years, they could do it all. They could bang with you when it was to their advantage. They could outbox you when it was to their advantage. And if you love boxing, you love it all. I appreciate the boxer. I appreciate the boxer-puncher. I appreciate the brawler, who maybe doesn’t have the skill to box. I think it’s really selfish to just act as if one style is the only style that all fans across the world want to see and that everybody else is not worth watching. I think that’s inaccurate, and I don’t think that’s the way the sport should be represented.”

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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.

Ward prevailing

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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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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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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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