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Women’s Boxing: How Do you Feel About It? The Results of a TSS Survey

PART ONE OF A TWO-PART STORY. In this our latest survey, we asked noted boxing buffs to share their thoughts on the subject of women’s boxing. We posed this question

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PART ONE OF A TWO-PART STORY. In this our latest survey, we asked noted boxing buffs to share their thoughts on the subject of women’s boxing. We posed this question: “Women’s boxing seems to be surging. How do you feel about this dimension of boxing and who is your favorite active or retired female boxer (if anyone)?”

The respondents, 40 in all, were candid. Here are their diverse and interesting inputs. They are listed alphabetically.

JIM AMATO-author, writer, historian and collector: Over the last few years the skill set among women boxers has improved tremendously. They are SERIOUS professional athletes who I enjoy watching. My favorite is Lucia Rijker.

MATT ANDRZEJEWSKI-TSS boxing writer: I enjoy any good boxing including women’s boxing. There are some very talented fighters whose fights I don’t want to miss. My favorite was Christy Martin. She was incredibly skilled and always provided for plenty of action inside the ring.

DAVID AVILA-TSS West Coast Bureau Chief: Woman’s boxing will one day reach the same level of interest as men’s boxing in the same manner women’s tennis is equal to the men’s version in terms of popularity. My favorite female boxer – she’s now retired — is Wendy Rodriguez. It was while watching her fight that I became interested in covering women’s boxing

BOB BENOIT-former boxer and current professional referee: I do not like women’s boxing. To me, it upsets the natural order of things. I could not tell you one woman pro boxer active today. Conversely, I have trained a few woman boxers and a couple of them, one pro and one amateur, are friends of mine. I admire their courage and their willingness to train hard.

JOE BRUNO-former New York City sportswriter; prolific author: I don’t even count women’s boxing as boxing. Women’s boxing is like women’s basketball. You’re getting a bad imitation of the real product. Besides, I don’t like to see a woman hit in the face. I have never watched a woman’s basketball game or a woman’s boxing match. And I never will.

STEVE CANTON-author, historian and president of the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame:  My favorite female boxers were Christy Martin, Lucia Rijker, and Laila Ali. I also liked Mia St. John and what she stands for.

ANTHONY M. CARDINALE-former advisor to elite boxers and renowned criminal defense attorney:  Christy Martin- from my personal experiences with her I can attest to her being a credit to the sport, and a great fighter. Lucia Rijker literally scared male fighters. In the ring she was as vicious as the character she played in the movie “Million Dollar Baby.” Seeing both up close and personal, hard not to pick Lucia as the best, maybe ever. All that said, I’m not a fan of women fighting without headgear- I don’t want to see a woman bleed from a punch. Call me old-fashioned.

STEVE CORBO-writer and ring announcer:  Best female fighter?… Somebody has to stand up for Laetitia Robinson. She is almost completely unknown and ignored… even in her hometown of Chicago. Yet she was one of the great female fighters and I am happy to give her recognition which is long overdue! She had an amateur record of 37-1 and a pro record of 15-1. As a pro she was the WIBA and IWBF world middleweight champion. Lucia Rijker, Regina Halmich, Ann Wolfe and Cecilia Braekhus also deserve a nod of approval.

JILL DIAMOND-International Secretary, WBC: There’s still much to do. Women suffer the same risks as men, but the top women boxers earn far less than their male counterparts. Talent, not gender, should always be the criterion for a champion. It’s hard to pick one favorite female boxer because the pioneers suffered the disadvantages of a less active sport. Instead, I will site the fight that never happened, but I would’ve liked to have seen: Christy Martin vs Lucia Rijker. Two fine athletes, one goal; to be acknowledged for their skills.

CHARLIE DWYER-former fighter, world class referee, and member of Marine Corps Boxing Hall of Fame: I have always been a fan of women’s boxing. I have refereed seven IWBF world title fights. One in particular comes to mind. In May, 2006, Missy Fiorantino the IWBF featherweight champ called out Jamie Clampitt the IWBF lightweight champ. The bout was for Jamie’s title. Both were from Rhode Island although Jamie was originally from Canada. The bout was held in the smaller Convention Center in Providence before a standing room only, noisy crowd of 3,000. The bout itself was a classic. Jamie the boxer-puncher did her thing while Missy, a little Rocky Marciano, did hers with bobbing, weaving, overhand rights, hooks and uppercuts. It was nonstop action for ten rounds with neither woman backing up. At the end there was a two-minute standing ovation. (I had goose bumps.) A split decision went to Missy. The bout was one of the best I ever refereed or had even seen. I refereed both women several times and admired both. As for favorite female boxer, I could not pick one over the other.

BERNARD FERNANDEZ-lifetime member of BWAA and TSS mainstay: All fight fans love knockouts, especially those that come with exclamation points and not merely periods, whether they are delivered by men or women. With that as the overriding consideration, I cast my vote for Ann Wolfe, the Earnie Shavers/Mike Tyson of women’s boxing and scary enough to instill more than a little fear in a lot of guys. Wolfe scored what is widely considered to be the most emphatic knockout in women’s boxing history when she starched much taller former basketball star Vonda Ward in the first round of their nationally televised March 8, 20004, bout in Biloxi, Miss. Don’t know if she was slick enough to out-box, prime on prime and in something approximating the same weight class, past and current stars like Laila Ali, Lucia Rijker, Christy Martin, Cecilia Braekhuis or Claressa Shields, but if she nailed any of them with the same shot that destroyed Ward, they’re going down and not getting up any time soon. Oh, and this big, bad Wolfe also has trained men, most notably middleweight knockout artist James Kirkland. She probably scares him too.

SUE FOX-former world class female boxer, founder/president of WBAN and IWBHF: Seeing this new surge in women’s boxing is something I believe has been wanted for many years by those who support females in boxing.  We have had many talented fighters that did not get these opportunities on televised cards on major networks, in the Olympics, and more, and it is wonderful to see the gates opening up for many of the women who have worked hard to get to this place in the sport. I have to say I do not have a favorite past or present female boxer. I look at each and every female boxer that has entered the ring as playing a role in building the sport to where it is today.

JEFFREY FREEMAN (aka KO DIGEST)-TSS New England correspondent: While I’m not a fan of women’s boxing or having it shoved down my throat by politically correct TV executives, I do honestly respect their right to compete and make money. As a fight writer, I’ve covered my fair share of girl boxing but I have to report that these slap fights almost never amount to anything more than a sideshow attraction for the friends and family of the competitors. Look ma, no skills! If I must name a favorite female boxer, give me Mikaela Lauren. Did you see her kiss Christina Hammer and more recently Cecilia Braekhus? Unforgettable viewing!

CLARENCE GEORGE-boxing writer and historian: “Boxing is for men, and is about men, and is men,” writes Joyce Carol Oates in her classic, On Boxing. Nothing more needs to be said, but that won’t stop me from saying it: Women’s boxing is an abomination before God and man.

LEE GROVES-author, writer and CompuBox wizard:  When I first saw female boxing at the NY Golden Gloves, I was a bit uncomfortable with the notion of seeing two women being hit. That’s just the way I was raised. But, as time proceeded — and as the skill level elevated — acceptance, then enjoyment, occurred. When matched correctly, female fights provide even more action than the guys, and the best women boxers have demonstrated excellent skills. Good boxing is good boxing…period. So, I am definitely a supporter of the women’s game.

As for my favorite female fighter, it is Christy Martin, not just because she is a fellow West Virginian, but also because she fought with passion, power and good technique. My dad — who was as old school as it got — absolutely loved to watch Christy fight, and so did I. I am proud to say that, of all the states in the union, West Virginia can claim a woman as its greatest fighter, and that’s “The Coal Miner’s Daughter.”

HENRY HASCUP-historian and president, New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame: The only thing I can say is that it has gotten a lot better over the years starting with Christy Martin and Ann Wolfe. I was never a BIG fan of women boxing, but with some of the new fighters like Claressa Shields and a few others it’s starting to win me over!  I like Claressa  as a fighter, but I don’t like the way she acts. She could be great for woman boxing if she just stopped that!

JEFF JOWETT-longtime boxing scribe and heir to the late Jack Obermayer as an authority on East Coast diners: My favorite is Jolene Blackshear. The NAME is perfect. If I had planned to write a novel about a woman boxer (I don’t; I don’t have the talent), I would have had to abandon the project. The name was taken.

The late Jack Obermayer (K.O.J.O.) had no time for women’s boxing. Feeling that a good slogan is all that is required, he declaimed, “I didn’t get into boxing 25 years ago to see women box.” However, I find that while male boxers are often leery of each other, women, lacking commensurate upper body strength, wail away with total abandon, often making the best bout on the card.

BRUCE KIELTY-boxing matchmaker, manager, and historian: I think the term “surge” regarding women’s boxing may be overrated. It seems to have popularity in specific areas like Europe and Mexico. In the US, the talent pool is so thin that it is difficult to make competitive or interesting matches. For example, I respect anyone who enters the ring but when a recent title contestant was a middle-aged waitress, that speaks volumes…I have never seen another female boxer who compares to Lucia Rijker from a skill standpoint.

STUART KIRSCHENBAUMBoxing Commissioner Emeritus, State of Michigan: Having been at the forefront of women’s boxing in the 1980’s…the problems then still exist today. Not enough participants for the sport to sustain any legitimacy. Too much disparity in purses and lack of commercial endorsements to financially support a career. It has had its share of superstars but lack of competition for meaningful careers. Case in point….Claressa Shields, winner of two Olympic Gold medals. In her second professional fight the NABF Female Middleweight Title is at stake…however vacant at the time.  In her third fight she is fighting for the vacant WBC Super Middleweight Title. In her fourth fight at stake is the vacant IBF Super Middleweight Title and defense of her WBC title.  In her fifth fight she defends her two titles.  However, in her sixth fight she collects two more belts…both vacant…IBF and WBC Middleweight Titles.  Collecting belts like Beanie Babies.  Five Championship Title belts…all were vacant.  Not enough women boxers to fill a top ten in each division…so what is the accomplishment of winning a vacant title with a lack of challengers? This is not to take away the domination of Claressa Shields…my favorite…she is an amazing athlete and talented boxer. Let’s remember two other Olympic Gold Medalists…Leon Spinks beats Muhammad Ali in his 8th pro fight and Pete Rademacher fights Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight championship in his first pro fight.  Are we on course to test the true abilities of women superstars in their sports?

Part Two: L-W next.

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For more on female boxing, visit our sister site THE PRIZEFIGHTERS

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

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The BWAA Shames Veteran Referee Laurence Cole and Two Nebraska Judges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Controversy has dogged Laurence Cole for well over a decade.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Freitas

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

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

The Fight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Avila Perspective Chapter 6: Munguia, Cruiserweights and Pacman

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Adjoining states

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

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

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

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

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

That is the bigger question.

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

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

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

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

That reason is clear now.

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

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

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

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

Cruiserweight championship

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

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

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

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

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

Another Look

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

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

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

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

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