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Articles of 2009

The Nonpareil, Trainer: What's Old School is New Again

Springs Toledo

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Brockton, MA. A man and his son stand outside of what appears to be an abandoned building on Petronelli Way. Yellowing classifieds roll by in the breeze like tumbleweeds. The son shifts on his feet and throws three shots in quick succession; his chin is tucked in, elbows close to his ribs, his right shoulder hunched up –a southpaw. His father’s watchful gaze fixes there and then returns to the street. A pedestrian staggers by in an old duster towards Dunkin Donuts.

Empty buildings loom, the cracks in their windows cataracts in dimming eyes that saw Brockton as it once was, back when it was the shoe manufacturing capital of the world. Back when Rocco Marchegiano, aspiring world heavyweight champion, plod through Field Park dreaming of the day when he would walk into the Stacy Adams Shoe Factory on Dover Street and retire his father. By the 1960s only ten factories remained and the city soon dissipated and depressed. Then a single mother named Ida Mae arrived in Brockton with her children out of the riots in Newark, NJ. In the early 1980s one of those sons, by then a fearsome champion, would pass beneath these empty sentinels with a gym bag slung over his shoulder. He walked into this red brick building for the last time in 1987, through the same door where this new southpaw jabs and slips shadows.

Within minutes, Goody Petronelli, half the team that trained and managed Marvelous Marvin Hagler to the middleweight throne, parks his gray Dodge 4×4 and walks down the hill. Blue eyes twinkle as he greets the man with a handshake and pats the boy on the back. He’s aging well. The only thing bent about him is his nose. “Nice to see you,” he says while reaching into his pocket for keys. Goody holds the door open and gestures to the man and his son –a trainer and his charge. Upstairs is the legendary Petronelli Brothers Gym.

…Close the door behind you. A time machine is taking us to the future of the Sweet Science, a future where the ghost of a murderous body puncher named Tony Zale is conjured up, where Sugar Ray Robinson demonstrates how to feint a jab and throw a candy cane to the kidney on old VHS tapes, and an elderly man in a convalescent home teaches how to counter it. We’re going to a place where old-fashioned values and old school ring tactics are dusted off, polished, and presented on a platter to a novice with skyward aspirations. At the center of this is his father, a 34-year old boxing trainer with a name that you won’t forget: The Nonpareil Hilario.

THE PAST, TOMORROW

Turon is 14 years old. He stands 5’7 and weighs 115 lbs. His eyes meet yours when he speaks though his voice is quiet, as if he expects you to lean in to listen. His overall presentation convinces even adults that he should be respected. He has the flip-side down too; that is, he’s secure enough with himself to be respectful. Rap videos don’t echo in his head. The kid has presence.

If you know what to look for, a boxer can be identified in the way he moves. He’ll tilt his head, roll a shoulder, or flutter his hands, and his swagger is more confidence than bravado. The boxer moves gracefully like any elite athlete, though a hint of hazard is there too –like a big cat in the bush, or Shaft. Turon walks with that kind of self-assurance already.

Training begins with shadowboxing. “I tell him he is not to trash-talk. He is not to gloat,” Hilario leaned in close and continued, “that is not the way of a great fighter; it is the way of an insecure person.” In a culture where the self-esteem movement has adolescents teetering on pedestals never earned, where gangsta rap shakes a fist at things decent and sensible, Hilario upholds old-fashioned demands of self-respect. “Hip hop culture has been lying to our children for years,” he’ll assert, “There is no substance to it. Being a man doesn’t mean disrespecting women, it doesn’t mean demeaning others because of who or what they are, it doesn’t mean celebrating those who poison our people with drugs and negativity.”

The bell rang. Hilario stepped into the ring with Turon with body armor for drills and then worked the mitts for several rounds. When instructed to do six minutes on the heavy bag, his son nodded his head and got to work. Nothing approaching the sighs, eye-rolling, or teeth-sucking typical of his age group is evident. Nothing sags about him –not even his trunks.

Boxing has a unique way of punching right through the flimsy shields of ego and lies to expose the truth about a man. Any flaws underneath are forced to the surface –deficiency of will, low pain tolerance, self-consciousness, fear. This young fighter has a rare advantage. His father’s approach to boxing is comprehensive; it begins with the insistence that boxing is a character sport. For Turon, training doesn’t end when he leaves the gym. It’s constant. His father spends almost all of his free time with Turon and his little sister. Their days are structured, though not militaristically. They run on a track at a nearby community college, play tennis and chess. They haunt Borders and read for hours, exchanging quotes. Some evenings are spent watching old films like “Body and Soul” and “The Defiant Ones” that are then discussed as a family.

When Turon came home from school complaining about teachers who he claimed were singling him out, his father listened patiently then offered an unorthodox parental response:

“What do you do when you are under fire in the ring?”

Turon thought about it a moment, “I slip and move.”

“You should do the same thing in school.”

Advice in the gym becomes discussions at home, transfiguring the boxing ring into something bigger, something philosophical. It also reduces the world to a boxing ring, which becomes a microcosm where tenets are taught, experienced, and reinforced to bring success in both. For example, Turon’s composure in the ring will help him remain composed in the classroom, in the work place, and on the street; chances are good that it will be absorbed into his identity. Such “spiritual discussions” are “equal to 15 rounds of training,” Hilario said, “they elevate him.”

The Cappiello Brothers’ Boxing and Fitness Gym is a two minute walk from the Petronelli’s. Turon sparred four rounds against a young amateur there with experience and a six pound weight advantage. They sparred the week before and Turon took a beating in the third heat. He came back to his corner wide-eyed. “I wanted to say, ‘Pop, that’s it for the day’,” Turon admitted, “but then I thought, ‘there’s no time for that’” and on he went. It didn’t get easier. Hilario watched from the corner. That evening father and son sat down, “Nobody goes shopping for thoughts,” Turon was told, “thoughts just come. We make a decision; we try to make the right decision.”

The rematch was different.

Turon circled to the left of his opponent, feinted with the jab, and concentrated on being elusive for two rounds. He landed a straight left to the body that was a mirror image of Tony Zale’s straight right to the body from the conventional stance, and a right hook to the body that mirrored his father’s signature shot. In the third, Turon may have thought that the jinx was in after a left hook echoed off his headgear like a gong. He held on. The bell rang. In the corner, Hilario knows when to give instruction and when to give a boost –and a boost was in order here. Turon took the fourth with a masterful display of tilt jabs (ie, jabbing with your opponent), body punching, and what Archie Moore called “escapology” –building a bridge even while attacking to escape quickly. In this little comeback lie the seeds of far greater ones.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow sat unseen in a folding chair, ringside: “In ourselves, our triumph and defeat.”

Turon was thinking not of the poet but of a pragmatist as he unwrapped his hands. “Pop told me to ‘Joe Frazier’ him,” when pressed for a definition of what a “Joe Frazier” is, he said, “you come in low, hands up, bobbing and weaving and sneaky bump him so it won’t look like pushing –to get him moving back so I can counter and punch him while I’m moving forward.”

“Pop teaches me a lot of angles, how to come in, how to spin out, stay balanced, and punch from both sides,” Turon said. Already this budding stylist has better technique than half the professionals I’ve seen on cable. And his manners are impeccable.

Danye Thomas is a trainer at the Cappiello Brothers’ gym. “The Nonpareil,” he said, “is wise.”

TIME PASSAGES

Hilario wasn’t always wise… he was expelled out of Brockton High School for fighting. He had just found boxing and had not yet internalized its demands for self-control and patience; but he’d suggest to you that it wasn’t an expulsion so much as a transfer. The Petronelli gym became his new classroom and Steve “The Celtic Warrior” Collins and Robbie Sims his tutors in science class –the Sweet Science. Sims took him under his wing and before you could say “mahvelous” with a Boston accent, he’d won the silver mittens in his first amateur fight, and then had 60 more, winning all but 6. He’d spar regularly with a professional boxer named Ray Oliveira who was a fixture on ESPN in the 1990s and held his own. By day he was in the gym or in the public library studying boxing history; by night he would pop fight films in a VCR and practice in the mirror for long hours.

Hilario was 16-years old when he met an antediluvian named John Bonner. Bonner had two cousins who fought in the early 20th century: Jimmy Bonner and Jack Bonner. The latter fought Jack Blackburn, a dangerous lightweight of the time who went on to train Joe Louis. The Nonpareil’s most valuable mentor began life as an orphan, was raised in North Philadelphia and spent his early years boxing in those tough gyms. Later, Bonner moved to New York City where he would hang around the legendary Stillman’s Gym during the golden era of the 1940s. He soaked up an endless array of tricks. And his memory is sharp. When he met Hilario, he was immediately impressed with the tendency of the young Kriolu to rattle off long-dead names that Bonner himself hadn’t heard in decades. The old man had found a worthy student, and so bequeathed him all those tips, traps, and techniques that no one knows anymore.

With aspirations of turning professional, Hilario followed in Bonner’s footsteps to New York City. Indigent, he stayed in the Covenant House in Times Square though the connections he made were priceless. Stillman’s Gym closed its legendary doors in 1959, but in no time he met Mark Breland at the New Bed-Stuy Boxing Center and Jose Torres in Michael Olajide’s Kingsway Gym. Torres invited him to his house and Hilario stood jaw-to-floor in what was essentially a shrine to boxing. Torres enjoyed his company enough to invite him to attend USA’s Tuesday Night Fights where Torres was the Spanish Commentator.

On Fridays, Hilario took the train over to New Jersey to work with Al Certo whose roster of fighters trained included Mustafa Hamsho, Buddy McGirt, and Andrew Golota. Hilario jumped another train back to Brockton just in time to greet his first-born son into the world –Turon, and then returned to Jersey to train with Certo and McGirt, who was still swapping leather back then. Certo was as old-school as they get –for him, training for a fight was all sparring and heavy bags. Speed bag platforms were empty –“fighters don’t punch like that,” he’d snap.

“I felt like King Tut,” Hilario recalled, “Jose Torres on weekdays, Al Certo on weekends.”

One day he was in the ring and Certo stopped the session: “Hey Junior, what’s on your mind baby?” It was his new family. Homesick, he returned to Brockton. He turned up at the South Shore Gym in Whitman, MA, with a plan to turn professional close to home. His first fight was already scheduled when he asked a manager who he’d be fighting. The response was a short right that he didn’t see coming: “Never mind that, you’re getting paid to fight.” His face, his health, his life …but evidently not his right to know. So he dropped the skip-rope and walked out. Like Bonner many decades ago, Hilario became a gym rat –fighting all and sundry, honing skills, trying to ignore depleting nickels.

An epiphany in the form of a parable changed everything:

A man was looking through a window for a teacher, but it was always blurry. For years he continued on his journey but would inevitably return to the window. One day, it became as clear as a ringside bell in an empty arena and he saw that it wasn’t a window at all. It was a mirror. He himself was the teacher he was looking for.

Since then, The Nonpareil Hilario has not discriminated in gaining disciples. He extended a gloved hand to demographics once scorned in cauliflower alley, the beautiful people –white collar professionals at the Beacon Hill Athletic Club and suburban athletes with a strength coach named Saul Shocket. But he wouldn’t stray far from the more raw-boned venues he’s familiar with. He trained several fighters in the Brockton area and worked in Buddy McGirt’s gym in Florida with professionals Dat Nguyen, William Guthrie, and Jimmy Lange.

Two years ago, Turon asked his father to teach him the secrets of the Sweet Science …and it was Hilario’s turn to find a worthy student in a new generation.

THE FUTURE, YESTERDAY

John Bonner, the man who Hilario affectionately calls “Ray Arcel” moved into a convalescent home in New Hampshire. He is 88 years old now. Hilario brings his son to visit him, and they never leave empty-handed.

During one visit, Bonner described a move he picked up in North Philadelphia, a move that became Ray Robinson’s “candy-cane” shot. Robinson would feint a jab and throw a right hook to the kidney. His glove would turn around mid-flight so that the back of his knuckles would land. Bonner described this and the counter. He said to “sit down” (ie, assume a compact stance), twist with the shot as it whistles in to catch it on your elbow, and shoot an uppercut.

Bonner stands up to demonstrate such things from the gold mine of his memory and then collapses in his chair, exhausted, the moment the move is finished. Turon watches intensely with eyes wide, and then repeats the shot and the counter. Some of these moves haven’t been seen in a boxing ring in over half a century –they are little resurrections. Turon’s execution is perfect… and the old man laughs and claps his hands.

The Nonpareil, with an eye on the past and the future, smiles knowingly.

…..

The Nonpareil Hilario is available for professional consultation and can be reached at thenonpareil@yahoo.com.

Springs Toledo can be reached at scalinatella@hotmail.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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