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Women’s Boxing: How Do You Feel About It? Part Two of our 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.

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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 results of the survey are appearing in two parts. Part One was published on July 7. Here’s Part Two (L-W).

ARNE LANG-TSS editor-in-chief: The only women’s sport that rivets me is Olympic figure skating, but if I were younger I might be more open-minded. I’m a fan of Hanna Gabriels because I’ve gotten to know her a little and have observed her in the gym. She’s legit; dedicated to the sport and a solid all-around athlete. Too bad Hanna was in her mid-30s when Claressa Shields (12 years younger) caught up with her. In my mind, the age gap was the major factor in determining how the match played out.

RON LIPTON-world class boxing referee, former fighter, boxing historian, retired police officer: I have been honored to have refereed some amazing female title and non-title bouts and my admiration for the female boxers is something I pass on to all my boxing students in college. I have refereed Alicia Napolean, Ronica Jeffrey, Jackie Trevilino, Lindsay Garbatt, Baby Nansen, Olivia Gerula, Sylvia Szabados, Mikaela Mayer, Natalie Gonzalez, Kimberly Tomes, Jennifer Woodward and Natalie Davila. The courage and fighting spirit they displayed outshined many men I have refereed. My favorite female fighter is Ann Wolfe (24-1) who had power in both hands, trained hard and came to fight and knock you cold. She had that killer instinct and her knockout of Vonda Ward says it all. She pounded a tire with a sledgehammer and had great arms and shoulders. Annie went at it hard with male fighters in sparring in the gym and she was feared and respected, no one wanted to fight her. She had that hard bark on her and I loved it; she was a force.

SCOOP MALINOWSKI-boxing writer, author, “Mr. Biofile”: Not a big fan of watching women’s boxing but respect all who do it. I just don’t like to see women beating each other up; something about it bothers me. I would prefer it if the fights were much shorter like three rounds and 1:30 per round.  The most impressive female boxer to me was Lucia Rijker, not only a great fighter but also very intelligent and such an interesting interview. I still remember being awed by her perceptions about Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson in 2002 which are part of my book about the fight, Heavyweight Armageddon, and her insights before Lewis vs Vitali Klitschko. She could make an excellent TV analyst if given the opportunity. Respect to all women who love boxing and train hard. I just hope none ever get seriously hurt.

LARRY MERCHANTjournalist, HBO boxing commentator emeritus; 2009 IBHOF inductee: Lucia Rijker, the Dutch dynamo, a fierce combination puncher and competitor. I felt sorry for her opponents. If memory serves, Bob Arum tried to make a big event match between her and Laila Ali, the gifted daughter of Muhammed  Ali, but it fell  through. Women have put on crowd-pleasing fights, but it seems that there is a ceiling on interest in them. That said, now is not never. A film about a woman boxer, Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby,” won an Academy Award.

PAUL MAGNO-boxing writer and boxing official in Mexico:  When Claressa Shields first turned pro, I said that she could make some waves and generate some money. I was laughed at. Depth has always been an issue. Even in the “golden” era of Christy Martin, Laila Ali, and Lucia Rijker, the growth of female boxing was limited, not only by the inherent sexism prevalent in the business, but also by the lack of quality, high-end fighters to challenge the stars. Right now, there’s more depth and a higher overall skill level than ever before. Plus, I’d like to think that maybe we’re more open minded these days. Down in the ultra-macho boxing environment of Mexico, women’s boxing has already won its battle for legitimacy and fans treat female fights with a similar level of interest and excitement as “regular” men’s boxing. When I first moved here, I was surprised to see men crowded around a TV in a cantina, screaming while watching the fights, like on most Saturday nights—And it was “La Barbie,” Mariana Juarez, fighting on the screen. There was no difference in the audience enthusiasm than if it was a Marquez or a Chavez fighting.

HAMILTON NOLAN-boxing writer: My favorite female boxer is Heather Hardy (who goes to my gym).

MARY ANN OWEN-photojournalist: Women’s boxing is not surging and does not have a deep pool of fighters. Also, the 2-minute round should be lengthened to 3 minutes. It will surge when women are included on all undercards. TV exposure is also great in building up a fan base. The heroes of women’s boxing are Katie Taylor and Clarissa Shields. Oh yes, my husband manages a female fighter.

JOE PASQUALE-elite judge and recent NJ Boxing Hall of Fame inductee: All success in sports depend on charismatic and dominating champions like Ann Wolfe

JACQUIE RICHARDSON-Executive Director of the Retired Boxers Foundation: Every effort was made early on to make women’s boxing more attractive. Pretty girls in pink comes to mind. That didn’t cut it. Then legendary boxers’ daughters, most of whom fought the proverbial tomato cans, some of whom had NO records, i.e., the corrections officer from Detroit who had only started boxing six weeks earlier. No amateur or professional fights. She fought Laila Ali on Showtime in China. I was there. Finally, things are changing. We have much better female boxers fighting much better opponents. All this time, I think Layla McCarter is the best female boxer. She has fought really good opponents. She is fast and versatile and is a real boxer. She is dedicated to professional boxing. While Pretty Girls and girls with famous fathers were given opportunities, Layla never had those superficial advantages. I think she is better than Claressa Shields because Layla has had more time in developing and improving her craft. Layla deserves a big opportunity before it’s too late. Alex Ramos, the founder of our organization, thinks she’s the best female boxer out there, based on her skills and her dedication to the sport of boxing and not just to women’s boxing.

FRED ROMANO-author, historian and former HBO researcher: Women’s boxing has benefitted in recent years by women’s MMA and fan favorites such as Gina Carano and Ronda Rousey. People are beginning to take notice of females in the boxing ring and it would be wise for promoters to develop this talent as it appears they are now looking to do. Many years ago I had some reservations about female boxing but I never thought it was right to deprive them of their opportunity to compete. I happen to enjoy women’s boxing with its offensive emphasis and look forward to its future development. As for my favorite, I still remember Cathy “Cat” Davis and her appearance on the cover of The Ring almost 40 years ago.

DANA ROSENBLATT-former world middleweight champion, inspirational speaker: My thoughts on women’s boxing are now not what they formerly were after doing the commentary for Kali Reis’ second to last fight against Tiffany Woodard. Of the nine fights on the card that night at Mohegan Sun, Tiffany Woodard and Kali Reis was by far the best fight of the night. The bout showed all of the skill, strength and athleticism of boxing as we know it for men only. I have two daughters 11 and 16 years of age. Although I would not condone either of them boxing at the professional level, I now do respect women in the ring.

LEE SAMUELSTop Rank publicist: Mikaela Mayer of Top Rank is a USA Olympian from Los Angeles. She has a tremendous skillset and power. She is undefeated.  Do not be surprised when she is a headliner on a major boxing event.

TED SARES-TSS writer: I have always liked women’s boxing and have written about it extensively. When the Christy Martin-Deirdre Gogarty fight stole the show from Mike Tyson on TV, I was hooked fish, line, and sinker. Laila Ali has remained my favorite because she did something few other female fighters do and that was knock out her opponents. Holly Holm and Layla McCarter are tied for a very close second and could jump ahead of Ali at some point.

ICE MAN JOHN SCULLY-former boxer, trainer, commentator; he’s done it all:  I liked watching Lucia Rijker. She was a short and compact puncher with explosive power to the head and body. If Claressa Shields advances to the top of professional boxing she will single-handedly destroy it from within because nobody wants to see a woman act like she does. No one who is not a fan of female boxing will become one watching those types of verbal displays from a woman. It is what it is.

ALAN SWYER-documentary filmmaker, writer and producer of the acclaimed El Boxeo: While I’m pleased by the attention that Laila Ali brought to the sport, to me the woman who stands above all others is Lucia Rijker.  A two-division titleholder who came to the sport after a successful reign as a kickboxer, I can only imagine what her record — and acclaim — would be had she switched to pugilism earlier.

CARYN TATE-boxing writer: For a sport that reaches a fraction of the audience it once did, it’s imperative to not only maintain the audience it currently has but to find ways to reach more people, to create new fans. Getting more eyes on women’s boxing helps open the doors to half the population that has largely been ignored by the sport. Inclusion will help bring in more money for boxing and increase its value and fan base, as shown by Ronda Rousey and the UFC.

GARY “DIGITAL” WILLIAMS-the voice of “Boxing On the Beltway”: I appreciate women’s boxing because it has improved greatly, I think because there has been a lot of improvement in the amateur ranks. Before, a lot of women were coming from other sports and trying to learn boxing at an advanced age.  Now, more women are coming out of the amateurs than ever before and that has helped the sport.

My favorite female boxer of all-time is “The Raging Beauty” Isra Girgrah. I had the opportunity to follow her career and she fought some outstanding bouts. Many believe that she may have actually defeated Christy Martin in August of 1997 and she was victorious against the likes of Tracy Byrd, Melissa Del Valle and Laura Serrano. Girgrah was definitely a trendsetter in the women’s game.

PETER WOOD1971 New York City Golden Gloves middleweight finalist, writer, and author: I have no problem with women’s boxing. Sonya Lamonakis, the former IBO world heavyweight champion, and four-time New York City Golden Gloves Champion, proved to me that women boxers, if given the chance, have just as much courage and grit as any guy.

Observations:

Not surprisingly, Ann Wolfe, Lucia Rijker, Laila Ali, and Christy Martin got several mentions suggesting that many watched women’s boxing during the Golden Era of female boxing in the 90s. Claressa Shields and Layla McCarter are the current favorites, but Shields got her share of criticism for her demeanor and comportment.

One theme that emerged clearly is that women’s boxing lacks depth.

Bottom line: Things seem to be changing for the better, especially on a global basis.

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.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

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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.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

To comment on this article at The Fight Forum, CLICK HERE.

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The Avila Perspective Chapter 6: Munguia, Cruiserweights and Pacman

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Adjoining states

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

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

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

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

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

That is the bigger question.

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

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

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

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

That reason is clear now.

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

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

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

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

Cruiserweight championship

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

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

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

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

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

Another Look

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

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

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

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

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

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