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Articles of 2009

LOTIERZO: Curses To The Catch-Weight!

Frank Lotierzo

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Manny Pacquiao 49-3-2 (37 KOs) and Miguel Cotto 34-1 (27 KOs) are two of the easiest fighters in boxing to root for and no one minds putting their money down to buy a ticket to see them fight. Both Pacquiao and Cotto are real fighters and have always sought to fight the best fighters available. They've both shown incredible heart and fortitude and really are at their best and most dangerous when they are faced with adversity.

As of this writing it looks as though it's only a matter of time before a bout between them is finalized. At stake will be Cotto's WBO welterweight title. However, instead of the 147 pound limit that both Cotto and his last opponent Joshua Clottey had to make when they fought this past June, it will be fought at a 143 pound catch-weight insisted by the Pacquiao faction.

This fight on paper is a terrific matchup. If Cotto wasn't forced to come in below the maximum weight the welterweight division allows, it's one of the best fights boxing could realize in 2009. Since that's not the case it loses some of its luster in the eyes of this spectator.

The catch-weight nonsense is as old as boxing but became more of a staple after November of 1988 when Sugar Ray Leonard forced WBC light heavyweight title holder Donny Lalonde to come in at 168 so their light heavyweight title fight could also be for the super middleweight title, not that Lalonde cared about winning the lighter weight title. What he did care about was the five million dollars he was making for fighting Leonard. Once again the superstar was appeased. Now in retirement, Sugar Ray Leonard can lay claim to winning world titles in five divisions, which enhances his legacy. If Ken Norton is the only heavyweight champ who never won a title bout, is Ray Leonard the only light heavyweight title holder who never fought at light heavyweight?

Professional boxing is sometimes more about superstars and money than it is finding out who really is the best fighter. Look at De La Hoya vs. Pacquiao. Freddy Roach spouted how bad Oscar looked in his previous fight before Pacquiao and said that's why he agreed to the 147 pound limit. That I'm sure had something to do with it. But De La Hoya was the draw and Pacquiao and Roach had to accept Oscar's terms or no lottery payday or chance to transform Manny into the star fighter he's becoming. And this is exactly what's happening now with Pacquiao. Now he has the power and represents the money fight for his opponents. So he and Roach are only doing what's been done by others in their position. Remember, the fight between Pacquiao and Cotto is intended to make Pacquiao into a bigger star than he already is. In order to do that he must beat Cotto. In order to give him the best chance to do that, they'll attempt to weaken his supposedly stronger opponent taking away his only advantage.

This is also about helping to insure Pacquiao gets that fifth title. That's not a shot at Manny or an insinuation that he's afraid to fight Cotto or even Shane Mosley at 147, it's just that there's too much money and legacy riding on the outcome. If Roach could force Cotto to have to cut his leg off in order to make weight, he'd do it. Whatever it takes to give his fighter the best shot and bring both men the most money is what it's mostly about.

It does however get tiresome hearing that Pacquiao isn't a welterweight and is at a monumental disadvantage fighting a strong one like Cotto or Mosley. Some like to champion how Pacquiao started at 106 and moved up, something I too have been guilty of, but let’s not forget that he was only 17 then and hadn't nearly filled out nor was he an adult. At age 17 Cassius Clay was fighting as a light heavyweight. Pacquiao won his first title and lost it via knockout at 112. Mention that and you'll hear how he wasn't fully matured and he hasn't been stopped once since he's filled out. Okay, that's fair. So let’s say as an adult at age 24 he's a junior featherweight weighing about 122. Even still, fighting 25 pounds higher as a welterweight is an off the chart accomplishment, but let’s not act as is if his life is more on the line than other fighters moving up.

When Michael Spinks challenged Larry Holmes, Holmes weighed 46 pounds more than any other opponent he ever fought, and if we go back as far as Spinks’ debut weight of 165, we're talking 56 pounds. Spinks was outsized by Holmes more than Pacquiao is by Cotto or Mosley, but never once suggested that Holmes had to come in lighter than what he'd been weighing for any of his previous title defenses. He just wanted to be the legitimate heavyweight champ if he won, and he was. Roy Jones made the same jump fighting John Ruiz and didn't stipulate that Ruiz had to weigh in at a specified weight. Before Spinks and Jones, Sugar Ray Robinson challenged light heavyweight champ Joey Maxim. Again, no catch-weight, Robinson weighed in at 157 and Maxim was 173. Robinson didn't win and the weight had a lot to do with it, being he collapsed due to the heat they fought in that night. Robinson, who was known for being a shrewd businessman wasn't quite as astute as he thought. Today, Maxim would have to come in at 168 and Robinson would be a four-division champ.

Just to be clear — this isn't an admonishment of Pacquiao. He's being told by Arum and Roach what's going to happen, I believe. The only thing Manny has to do is take care of the fight in the ring, they'll take care of the one outside it. Because they've probably changed his way of thinking and shown him that it's great to be a warrior, but your career lasts longer and you make more money being a smart warrior. Although I know it's business, I think it's ridiculous to fight the title of a champion, Cotto, where he can't weigh up to the maximum weight allowed for the division. As was Leonard's light heavyweight title tainted, so will Pacquiao's by some boxing observers, if he manages to beat Cotto.

As far as the actual fight between Pacquiao and Cotto, it's a fascinating matchup from a style vantage point. Both guys can hit with either hand and both have shown they're versatile and can press the fight and attack, or step back and counter. The problem again comes back to the weight. If Cotto is weak and dehydrated which he will be more than likely, then he'll be fighting with diminished reflexes and skills, not to mention less pop in his punch. And if Cotto can't hurt Pacquiao and make him do physically what he doesn't want to do, he has no tools at his disposal to hope to beat him. In this fight it will be imperative for Cotto to carry his punch because if he can bang Manny to the body and slow him down along with causing him to fight in more measured fashion than he normally does, he'll nullify his hand speed and southpaw style. A slowed Pacquiao will be vulnerable to Cotto stepping on it and pushing the fight as he attempts to impose himself physically, something that he'd have a better chance doing weighing 147 opposed to 143.

If anyone thinks the Cotto who fought Mosley, Margarito and Clottey is who we'll see fight Pacquiao on November 14, 2009, you're wrong. A week or more before he weighs in for the fight Cotto will kill himself and tear down his body trying to make 143, something that won't be undone in a day of eating and drinking after the weigh-in. To those who think the four pounds isn't a big deal and Cotto won't be severely compromised by sucking down to 143, ask yourself why it's the make or break stipulation in the fight being realized. If Pacquiao wants to fight Cotto at a catch-weight of 143, fine, but the title shouldn't be on the line. I can't blame Pacquiao for making the demands he has and Cotto has accepted to being bought off. Sure, Cotto will try and convince himself that it won't deny him victory, but fighters lie to themselves all the time, especially for more money than they've ever made before.

If I were a Pacquiao fan I'd see this only from his side and the same if I were a Cotto fan. However, I'm a boxing fan more so than any particular fighter. As a boxing-purist I don't like the catch-weight stipulation in this fight or any other fight. I know Michael Spinks legitimately beat Larry Holmes and Roy Jones did the same to John Ruiz. Just as I know as great as he was Sugar Ray Robinson couldn't quite move up from welterweight and beat the light heavyweight champ Joey Maxim.

On the other hand I have to be honest, if I were Pacquiao/Roach I'd do the same thing looking for every possible advantage I could get, and if I were Cotto I couldn't walk away from the money.

I don't know if Pacquiao can beat the real Cotto who fought Mosley, Margarito and Clottey, but I believe he can and will most likely beat the empty package version of him who we'll see this coming November.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

Articles of 2009

UFC 108 Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva

David A. Avila

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Former champion Rashad Evans meets Brazil’s venerable Thiago Silva in a non-title belt that can lead to a return match with the current champ, but first things first.

Evans (15-1-1) and Silva (14-1) meet in Ultimate Fighting Championship 108 in a light heavyweight bout on Saturday Jan. 2, at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. A win by either fighter could result in a world title bid. The fight card is being shown on pay-per-view television.

Events can change quickly in the Octagon and anybody can beat anybody in the 205-pound weight division. Just ask Silva or Evans.

Silva and Evans are both experienced and can vouch firsthand about the capriciousness of fighting in MMA and especially as a light heavyweight. On one day this man can beat that man and on another day, that man can beat this man. It can make you absolutely daffy.

Evans, 30, is the former UFC light heavyweight world champion who only defended his title on one occasion and lost by vicious knockout to current champion Lyoto Machida of Brazil. It’s the only defeat on his record.

Silva, 27, is a well-rounded MMA fighter from Sao Paolo, Brazil who is versed in jujitsu, Muy Thai and boxing. He can end a fight quickly in a choke hold just as easily as with a kick or a punch. His only loss came to who else: Machida.

Evans and Silva know a win can push open the door to a rematch with current UFC light heavyweight champion Machida.

“A win against Rashad would put me in the track against Lyoto,” said Silva, in a telephone conference call. “That's what – what I want to do.”

When Silva fought Machida the two Brazilians were both undefeated and feared in the MMA world. The fight took place in Las Vegas and with one second remaining in the first round a perfectly timed punch knocked Silva unconscious.

“I was humbled big time, man,” says Silva who fought Machida in January 2009. “I learned a lot from that fight.  I think I can correct the mistakes from that fight, not overlooking anything else right now, but just I want to get the chance to fight him again.”

For Evans it was a different circumstance. The upstate New Yorker held the UFC title and was defending it after stopping then champion Forrest Griffin by knockout. Still, many felt Machida was far too technically versed. Evans was stopped brutally in the second round.

“I've made it a point to not – to not get distracted on what I want to do, because you know Thiago (Silva) is a very hungry fighter,” said Evans who has not fought since losing the title to Machida last May. “My focus is just on Thiago so much.  You know I don't want to overlook him, you know, not even a little bit.”

Dana White, president of UFC, says the winner of this fight could conceivably fight Machida in the near future. Evans and especially Silva are motivated by the open window.

“I learned a lot from that fight. I think I can correct the mistakes from that fight,” says Silva. “Not overlooking anything else right now, but I just want to get the chance to fight him again.”

What a prize. The winner gets to face the man who beat him: Machida.

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Articles of 2009

Paul Malignaggi Explains Why He Thinks Manny Has Used PEDs

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In theory and in practice I am vehemently opposed to people tossing out unfounded allegations against someone. Supply evidence, then we can talk. But saying someone is using steroids, or EPO, or HGH, based on a theory, or your gut instinct….I have to consider, what if the allegation were thrown at me, and I was 100% innocent. I'd be mightily irked. And so too would you be.

Manny Pacquaio has been hammered from all sides with folks insinuating and coming right out with the contention that they think he's been cheating, that he's been using illegal performance enhancers to give him an edge in competition. Floyd Mayweather Sr, Paulie Malignaggi, Miguel Cotto and Kermit Cintron have either accused Manny, or insinuated that he's been using PEDs. One has to wonder, where's all this smoke coming from? Is it possible that there's fire lurking? That these folks aren't just lobbing unfounded barbs at Manny, that their allegations and hints aren't just sour grapes, or posturing, or a ploy to lure Manny into a fight?

By and large, there hasn't been much in the way of coverage from the standpoint of: what if Manny is using PEDs, or was using PEDs? I think that is rightly so; I'd be more comfortable if none of us trafficked in the innuendo and speculation, and worked within the realm of evidence, and facts. But it's out there, and a topic of conversation and speculation. Perhaps it's a symptom and sign of the times we live in…

TSS reached out to Malignaggi, just off a solid win in his Dec. 12 rematch with Juan Diaz. The Brooklyn-based pugilist has never been shy about speaking his peace (I picture him exiting his mom's womb and barking at the labor and delivery crew to get the room cleaned up, stat!), and he shared with TSS what he bases his allegations, which he's careful to label opinion, upon.

First off, Malignaggi is of the belief that if the Pacquiao-Mayweather negotiations are at a fatal impasse, Yuri Foreman, and not he, will get the coveted date with Pacquiao. Malignaggi has been mentioned as stand-in for Mayweather.

He started off by insisting that ” I have nothing against Pacquiao” but then went from mellow to madman in a 30 second span.

First off, the boxer wonders why Team Pacquiao isn't going after big-time newspapers, with deep pocketed owners, for libel, for insinuating that Pacquiao is drug cheat.

“If Pacquiao's so sue happy, why not sue the New York Daily News?” he asked. “Maybe they know the steroid allegations are true.”

By and large, Malignaggi thinks it is impossible, utterly impossible, for a boxer to put on 15 or more pounds between March 15, 2008, when he fought Juan Manuel Marquez and weighed 129 pounds at the weigh in, and Nov. 14, 2009 when he fought Miguel Cotto and was 144 pounds at the weigh in, and more on fight night.

“It's not natural looking,” Malignaggi said. But, I countered, what if Manny's supremely blessed, that unlike some other fighters who go up in weight, and look a bit bloated, and lack definition, he's just a special creature?

“He's not supremely blessed,” Maliganngi said. “I know body builders. They can't put on 17 or whatever pounds of muscle in a year. It's not doable, in my opinion. These are my speculations, my opinions based on certain factual evidence. Does his weight gain look normal to you? And his head looks like it has blown up in size, too.”

I offered to Malignaggi that perhaps we should be attacking the system, if we believe it to be lacking, rather than the individual.

“We can blame the system a little bit, but if you were Manny, wouldn't you want to leave no doubt? Or speculation?” said Maliganngi, who believes that by not agreeing to the terms set forth by Team Mayweather, and opposing a blood test within 30 days of the bout, Pacquaio appears guilty.

Pacquiao has agreed to take 3 blood tests: the first during the week of the kickoff news conference in early January, the second random test to be conducted no later than 30 days before the fight, and a final test after the bout. A video making the rounds from the HBO 24/7 series shows Pacquiao submitting to a blood test two or three weeks before he was due to fight Ricky Hatton, and that has cast doubt on Team Pacquiao's stance that Manny is disinclined to get a blood test too close to a bout, for fear he may be weakened. Originally, it was reported in error that that test was taken 14 days before the Hatton bout, but subsequent reports pegged the test as being taken 24 days before the scrap. Malignaggi feels Pacquiao has been caught lying, that the report from Team Pacquiao that he “has difficulty taking blood” is a cover story. “Why is he effing lying?” Malignaggi said, heatedly.

The New Yorker doesn't believe too many fighters in the lighter weight classes are using PEDs, but thinks usage isn't uncommon in the heavyweight division. “That's hard to do and make weight,” he said.

The question is asked of Malignaggi: why does the issue make him so steamed?

“I don't like cheaters,” he said. “This is not baseball. You're not just hitting home runs. You have to worry about peoples' lives. Miguel Cotto in my opinion has been beaten by two cheaters. Manny if he's cheating is taking away from guys who are doing things the right way. His team is reneging on their words.”

And what if you're wrong, Malignaggi? What if Manny is clean, and you are hurting his rep with these allegations?

“I bet everything I own that I'm not,” he said. “But we'll never find out. Hey, I would take the test in a heartbeat. I would want people to know I'm clean. He wants to leave doubts!?? His entire legacy is being questioned, he's willing to hurt his legacy and leave $40 million on the table?”

Maliganngi, after reminding TSS that he was correct in predicting he'd be gamed by judges in the first fight with Diaz, insisted that he isn't singling out Pacquiao for a personal vendetta. “”I've never had anything against him. But that's enough now. I call it like I see it.”

What about those who'd say he's just trying to anger Pacquiao, to lure him into a fight?

“No. I expected he'd take the random tests to get this fight. No way I thought he'd throw away everything. That blew me away. It was cool to have my name mentioned.”

Malignaggi thinks the boxing media has dropped the ball, and not exercised due diligence in examining the possibility that Manny has used PEDs.

“I understand most people like Manny, and not Floyd. Just cause that's the case doesn't mean Manny might not be cheating. It's nothing to do with him personally. But I call a spade a spade. Too many people avoid the possibilities because Manny's a likable person. He's got that front, his country loves him. That front works like crazy. Floyd plays the bad guy, but he's natural. Just don't downplay the fact that Manny might be cheating. You have to open your eyes and at least be willing to look at it. This is bigger than me. The fact that the fight is not being made, you have to question the integrity of Pacquiao.”

Malignaggi then offered an analogy to the Manny-refusing-to-be-subjected-to multiple-random-drug-tests prior-to-a-fight-with-Mayweather deal. “It reminds me of the drunk guy who's pulled over at 3 AM. He has a field sobriety test, the cop knows he's drunk, he looks and acts drunk. But he refuses a breathalyzer test. That don't mean the cop don't haul him to the police station.”

I reiterate…I don't think anyone should be casting aspersions based on circumstantial evidence. But with so many people ganging up on Manny, I think fight fans are owed some details on why people are accusing Pacman of using PEDs.

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Articles of 2009

Ten Boxing Wishes For 2010

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As 2009 comes to a close, one reflects on what went well and what went wrong during the year in boxing. There were many highlights. Pacquiao vs. Cotto and Showtime’s Super Six tournament were part of the best that boxing had to offer. But there were some low points too therefore the industry has some work to do in order to keep generating fans. Here are some suggestions for 2010:

10. Better pay per view cards

Paying 40 to 50 bucks to watch the main event gets old real quick. Why do we have to sit through a horrible under-card to get to the main course? It’s like being fed spam appetizers before the Thanksgiving turkey. It seems that the pay per view promoters just don’t get it. Are they watching what they put on or do they only watch the “big fight” as everyone else is slowly being conditioned to do so?

9. Time to make Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. fight

Okay, I understand he’s the son of one of the greatest fighters that ever lived. But he’s had 42 fights against low to mid level competition and has never managed to look spectacular. It’s time to throw the 23 year old out of the nest to see if he can fly. My suggestion is a fight against Sergio Mora or maybe even Yuri Foreman. Neither of these guys can punch. They may outbox Junior but they won’t totally humiliate him.

8. No more ridiculous Pay Per View mismatches

Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Juan Manuel Marquez should’ve never been made. It was a ridiculous fight when it was announced and it was more ridiculous when it took place. Unable to bring Manny Pacquiao to the bargaining table for a third match against Juan Manuel Marquez, someone figured that pairing up the 135 pound champion against a natural 147 pounder like Mayweather would be a great idea. The pay per view generated over a million buys but the fact that millions of people were treated to an incredibly boring mismatch is what’s truly worrisome. I can guarantee you one thing about this card. The sport of boxing lost fans once the show was over and done with. Talk about short term thinking.

7. Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola shows up for a fight in amazing shape

It was painful to see Chris Arreola take a beating from the Ukrainian giant, Vitali Klitscho. The champion certainly earned his “Dr. Ironfist” moniker as he plowed his powerful shots into the former #1 WBC heavyweight contender’s face. He reddened and bloodied the young Mexican American with an assortment of weapons and foot movement seldom seen on a six foot seven inch heavyweight. Arreola was brave and unrelenting in battle. He never stopped coming forward and took chances when he could. His work in the ring at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles wasn’t the problem. Where Arreola let himself down was outside the ring. His unwillingness to condition himself into a finely tuned athlete cost him certain immortality as the first ever heavyweight champion of Mexican descent. Arreola has the heart and skills but it was his mental fortitude that broke down. Anyone who’s followed the Riverside fighter knows that his best weight is somewhere in the 230 pound range. It certainly isn’t at the 252 pounds he registered on the scale at the Staples Center.  Those fifteen to twenty extra pounds might have made all the difference in the world. Maybe he would’ve been a little quicker, maybe he could’ve sustained a faster pace in order to tire out the champion. In his most recent fight against Brian Minto, Arreola weighed in at a career high 263. It looks like “The Nightmare” isn’t willing to change for anyone. At this pace, the only nightmares he’ll be providing will be to the management of Hometown Buffets all across Riverside.  Just kidding “Nightmare”!

6. More respect for the lighter weights

Real boxing fans know that the most exciting fighters in the sport are usually found toiling in weight divisions south of 154 pounds. Pacquiao, Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez, Edwin Valero, Israel Vazquez, Juan Ma Lopez, Vic Darchinyan, Rafael Marquez and countless others have been the real driving force behind this sport. It’s those great fighters that have made boxing fanatics out of casual fans. The heavyweights may get all the money and glory but it’s the little guys who make the sport shine and it’s time they received greater compensation. It’s dismaying to think that a mediocre heavyweight can make three or four times as much as the great Rafael Marquez.

5. An American Heavyweight champion

Speaking of heavyweights, two Americans tried and failed at dethroning Vitali Klitschko this year. Both Kevin Johnson and Chris Arreola did their best to wrestle the belt away from “Dr. Klitschko” but came up short since they were easily outclassed. What happened to the great American Heavyweight? Where’s our new Joe Frazier or Ali? Even a new Gerry Cooney or a Ken Norton would do at this point. I’ve got a feeling that the only way we’re going to see an American champion is if Klitschko retires. My money is on Arreola. Although undisciplined and rough outside the ring, he’s got tons (no pun intended) of natural talent. He’s without a doubt the most talented American heavyweight on the scene.

4. More ShoBox

The Showtime Cable network gave us the best boxing on TV for the price of a cable television subscription. Their ShoBox series has been a proven hit for Senior VP of Sports Programming Ken Hershman. The concept is simple yet brilliant. Match up two up and comers with great records and let’s see what happens. Sometimes the results are surprising. Many have passed the ShoBox test and went on to bigger and better things. Others have been exposed as having padded records and eventually their careers stall and take a dive.

3. More safety in Mexico so I can attend a show without a gun battle breaking out

Having lived near the Tijuana border all my life I’m dismayed at the war zone that the city has evolved into. Every day there are reports of shootings fueled by the drug war trade. Believe it or not, there was a time when Tijuana was safe and most wouldn’t have thought twice about crossing the border for some seafood and nightlife. No more. Having covered several boxing cards on Revolucion Avenue many years ago, I got a taste of just how important the sport is to Mexican fans. It’s also important to me but not that important. For now I’ll stick to covering shows at the Pechanga Casino and in the less dangerous city of L.A. I never thought I’d say that.

2. Pac Man vs. Mayweather

This is the fight everyone wants to see. Seeing how Mayweather dominated Pac Man’s arch enemy, Juan Manuel Marquez, you have to wonder if the Filipino can handle Lil’ Floyd’s speed and size. One thing is for sure, betting against Pacquiao doesn’t usually work out for me. It never has. There’s no future in it. So if the fight gets done it’s Pacquiao by TKO in ten.

1. And finally

One final wish is reserved for all the readers of TheSweetScience.com I wish you all a healthy and happy 2010. Thank you for your continued loyalty to the site. It’s very much appreciated.

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