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Pacquiao-Bradley: Another Travesty

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Bradley Pacquiao 120609 004aThe fighters managed a smile afterwards..but the fans still fume, and head for the exits. Too many think the sport is riddled with corruption. (Chris Farina-Top Rank photo)

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat to avoid further disappointment. Nobody is going to do anything about it.

Of all the sad things you can say about what happened at the MGM Grand Garden Arena Saturday night that is the surest and the saddest of all. Nobody is going to investigate a robbery conducted in front of over 14,000 eyewitnesses. Nobody is going to make it right. Nobody is even going to try.

Manny Pacquiao has been the recipient of a gift decision or two during his career, including in my opinion the draw and two razor-thin wins Las Vegas judges awarded him over the years against Juan Manuel Marquez. Frankly, I don’t believe he won any of those fights nor more than about a third of the 36 rounds fought between them.

Having said that, those decisions were at the worst only petty theft. They were at least in the first two cases, debatable. What was done to Pacquiao by Duane Ford and CJ Ross however was grand larceny at the Grand.

Ford and Ross were the two judges who committed robbery using a lead pencil, ruling that Timothy Bradley had defeated Pacquiao 115-113 when most observers, including prize fighters like George Foreman, Roy Jones, Jr., Evander Holyfield and even Floyd Mayweather’s father, saw a one-sided win for Pacquiao.

Ford tried to defend his score the following day in the Las Vegas Review-Journal by claiming Bradley had “given Pacquiao a boxing lesson.’’ Then in the next breath he admitted most of the rounds were close. The lesson in that is the 74-year-old Ford has seen his better days…and apparently not much of that fight.

There are two ways to look at the split decision win those judges gave Bradley. You can simply shrug your shoulders, holler about unproven corruptness and buy the next pay per view when it comes along or you can do what discerning shoppers do.

When the product turns bad you stop buying. That is what fight fans need to do until this matter is thoroughly investigated. Not that that will change anything but at least the people allegedly in charge will be on notice that someone is watching because Saturday night no one was – including the three judges at ringside.

The fault does not lie with Bradley or Pacquiao. Both fought bravely and well. They entertained, took risks and rewarded the fans with their efforts. But the result demeaned those efforts, the sport and the fans who pay everyone – including those judges and Nevada State Athletic Commission executive director Keith “I Know Nothhhing’’ Kizer.

In less than 24 hours Kizer admitted he thought Pacquiao won but in the next breath said the officials’ work would not be reviewed. The chairman of the commission said it would not “second guess’’ the officials.

Then what are they there for? They don’t do an adequate job on medical exams, especially in the area of performance enhancing drugs. If they catch anyone it’s always after the fact until Dr. Margaret Goodman started actually using tests that might catch someone before hand and almost immediately forced the cancellation of two straight big-money fights as a result of positive tests for PEDs.

They allow endless mismatches as well. Hell, in California Antonio Margarito was allowed to slip two bricks in his gloves without anyone but Shane Mosley’s trainer noticing. So what are the regulators doing in the locker room? Having a Coke?

Now, worst of all, Kizer concedes they won’t even regulate the work of their own officials. So what does Kizer get paid for? Watching?

When an arena of over 14,000 people, nearly the entire Internet world, most professional fighters and commentators and almost the entire boxing press corps agree Pacquiao won somewhere between eight and 10 of the 12 rounds and CompuBox stats argue loudly against the decision how do you come out and say you’re not even going to look at it?

Because it’s boxing which despite the presence of guys like Kizer is the most under regulated business this side of Wall Street’s investment banks and hedge funds.

In sports, one understands how a referee or umpire can miss a call from time to time. But how do you miss an entire fight? Ford even got the 11th round wrong, which he gave to Pacquiao. That was the round after which Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach was so angry at him for taking it off he ordered him to go for a knockout in the 12th. And Ford thought he won it? Even the two blind mice in the other judging chairs disagreed on that one.

As for Ford’s statement that “Bradley gave him a boxing lesson’’ one needed only to listen to Tim Bradley to know otherwise. After his hand had been raised he said he’d have to go home and watch a tape to see “if I won the fight or not.’’

Usually if you give someone “a boxing lesson’’ you know it. Bradley didn’t but Ford did. If Ford thought he saw someone giving Manny Pacquiao a boxing lesson he must have been watching tape of Pacquiao-Marquez III on an iPad rather than the fight.

“You can hear the boos in the crowd,’’ poor Bradley (29-0, 12 KO) said. “Everybody feels I lost the fight.  This is boxing. Nov. 19th we can do the rematch.

“It was a good, competitive fight. Every round was pretty close. Pacquiao won the early rounds. Later rounds I controlled with my jab. Moving.’’

What jab?

According to CompuBox statistics, Bradley landed 12 fewer jabs than Pacquiao (63-51), which meant he averaged 4 ½ jabs per round. He had a connection rate of only 11 per cent because he missed or had blocked nearly all of the pawing, range finder type jabs he threw, none of which came with any sting behind them. They were not offensive in any way except to someone like Larry Holmes or Foreman, whose jabs were lethal weapons. Bradley’s wasn’t even a tracer because seldom did anything come in behind it.

If you throw 449 jabs and miss 398 of them how did that help you control anything? It didn’t. But Keith Kizer sees no problem and Duane Ford says he saw a “boxing lesson.’’ I say we saw another travesty in a sport that long ago cornered the market on them.

Truth be told, even the guy who got it right got it wrong. Roth had the correct winner but that’s all he had right in scoring the bout 115-113 for Pacquiao after giving Bradley the final three rounds.  I saw Pacquiao winning 117-111 and felt I’d been exceedingly kind.

HBO’s unofficial scorer Harold Lederman, a former judge of world championship fights himself so unlike everyone else who Ford dismissed as unknowing would seem to have at least a reasonable understanding of Ford’s job, awarded only one round to Bradley, scoring the fight 119-109. So a former professional judge differed with Kizer’s judges by HALF A FIGHT yet he says there’s no need to review it.

That says as much about what’s wrong with boxing as the rest of the sport’s shenanigans. If this were the NFL or major league baseball, league officials would already have reviewed the controversial events and announced publicly what they’d found. If there was wrong doing or human error, they would say so.

Boxing officials? They just shrink back into the cave from which they sprung knowing nobody is going to do anything because, frankly, other than the fighters and a few loyalists, nobody really cares any more.

Boxing is looked upon by most sports fans today the way you look at your kooky uncle: occasionally interesting but seldom to be taken seriously which is how they get away with what happened Saturday night.

What really gave this outcome a stench that left the Twitter world atwitter was that in the weeks leading up to the fight Bradley openly kept talking of a Nov. 10 rematch already been arranged. He had posters made up and a phony ticket to that fight but later insisted it was all just hype.

Surely it was but if boxing regulators think the larger public believes that they are fooling themselves more than Duane Ford was when he said Pacquiao got a boxing lesson.

“When I came into the ring [after the fight], I said to Tim, 'You did very well,' and he said 'I tried hard and I couldn't beat the guy,’’ claimed Bob Arum, who promotes both fighters. “Something like this is so outlandish, it's a death knell for the sport. This is f—— nuts. I have both guys, and I'll make a lot of money in the rematch, but it's ridiculous.

“You have these old f—- who don't know what the hell they're looking at. It's incompetence. Nobody who knows anything about boxing could have Bradley ahead in the fight.

“You all know who won. I hope boxing recovers because this isn’t arguing about a close decision. This is an absurdity. Everybody involved in boxing should be ashamed. Let’s be honest about the situation.”

Why start now?

The placid Pacquiao urged observers “not to be dismayed or be discouraged at the result. I respect the decision but 100 per cent I believe I won the fight. In your heart you know who won but the best attitude is respect and professionalism.’’

No, the best attitude is to not buy any more fights until something forceful is done about this kind of theft. The decision may not be the worst in my memory but it’s the worst I can remember without spending a week thinking about it. Certainly it was worse than both the Pernell Whitaker-Julio Cesar Chavez and Lennox Lewis-Evander Holyfield decisions because at least they were draws so no title changed hands. In this case, the loser got the title and the winner got the shaft.

By Sunday Arum was claiming he would not stage the rematch despite the fact he is contractually obligated to do so if Pacquiao insists upon it until a full investigation into how the judges came to their decision is held. Earlier he hinted if the fight does go off it will likely be taken to Texas instead of back to Nevada, which means the city and the state will lose millions in revenue.

If that happens, maybe then somebody in state government will finally take a look at regulators who are unwilling to regulate their own business and unable to see blind incompetence when it’s staring them – and millions of witnesses – in the face.

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Canelo vs. BJ Saunders: Predictions and Analyses from the TSS Faculty

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More than 60,000 fight fans are expected to gather at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, on Saturday. The turnout for the fight between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Billy Joe Saunders represents a turning point in the COVID-19 era. Boxing has been pretty much walled-off to the general public since a sellout crowd of 15,816 witnessed the second encounter between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder on Feb. 20, 2020 in Las Vegas.

Canelo Alvarez (55-1-2, 37 KOs) holds the WBC and WBA world titles at 168 pounds. Billy Joe Saunders (30-0, 14 KOs) owns the WBO belt. However, the hardware is largely immaterial whenever Canelo steps in the ring as he is widely considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. In Saunders he is meeting a slick southpaw bidding to become the second member of the Traveling community to hold multiple title belts simultaneously, joining his friend Tyson Fury. The bout headlines a 7-bout card that will air on DAZN in 200+ countries and territories worldwide and on TV Azteca in Mexico.

Whenever a fight of this magnitude comes down the pike, we invite members of our editorial staff to provide a quick analysis of the match and forecast the outcome. Their prognostications appear below with the respondents listed in alphabetical order.

The graphic is by Colorado comic book cover artist ROB AYALA, an honored guest whenever we perform this kind of exercise. Check out more of Rob’s cool illustrations at his web site fight posium.

PICKS and ANALYSIS

No gimme for Canelo here, as Saunders is a southpaw who can box, has a bit of pop in his punch, as well as a knack for making his opponents look not quite as impressive as they normally are. Still, Canelo is at the top of the boxing food chain for a reason. It’s all right for him to win some fights and not be spectacular in doing so. Figure the Mexican icon on scoring a knockdown or two along the way, but he may have to be satisfied with a win on points this time out. – BERNARD FERNANDEZ

I no longer pick against Canelo Alvarez. And certainly not against a boxing basket case like Billy Joe Saunders. There’s a huge difference in the level of maturity between these two fighters and that will be seen in the ring when Canelo becomes the first to corner the fleet-footed Saunders and put him on his back. Canelo KO in 10. – JEFFREY FREEMAN

Canelo by decision. He does everything better than Saunders, who will fight well enough to survive but not win. – THOMAS HAUSER

Billy Joe is formidable. You don’t lock in an Olympic berth at age 18 without natural talent. You don’t run circles around a big puncher like David Lemieux without a high ring IQ. But Saunders, despite his undefeated record, has been inconsistent. Canelo, as Kevin Iole noted in a recent column, doesn’t do one thing great, but he does everything well. How does one formulate a smart game plan for a boxer with no flaws to exploit? Canelo UD. – ARNE LANG

Much has been made by Saunders’ camp this week about the size of the ring that will be used in the fight. While it seems strange and even unruly that there can be such vast disparities in how large the boxing ring is or how spongy the mat can be for any professional fight card in our sport, the truth of the matter is that Saunders probably doesn’t have much hope in beating Alvarez no matter how those other factors play out. They could fight on a basketball court, and I’d still pick Alvarez. The best the cagey UK fighter will be able to muster is trying to go the distance with the Mexican. Callum Smith pulled it off back in December, but Saunders won’t quite get there. CANELO via 9th-round stoppage. – KELSEY McCARSON

There was a time, not that long ago, when I would have favoured Saunders to beat Canelo and stylistically I still feel Saunders holds all the aces. Canelo’s improvements in the last 30 months have astonished, though. He has found a meaningful fourth and fifth punch for his combinations and his strength, for whatever reason, is prestigious at whatever weight he fights. Saunders, something of a persona-non-grata here in his home country after a series of public relations disasters, is very much a man out of time.  Canelo, bodyshots, between the eighth and the tenth. – MATT McGRAIN

There is a case to be made that Canelo Alvarez has not faced a pure boxer on the level of Billy Joe Saunders since his do-si-do with Erislandy Lara in 2014, in a fight that still has some screaming robbery (Alvarez won by split decision). Of course, that was nearly seven years ago, back when Alvarez was still trading on his telenovela bonafides. Since then, he has gone on to distinguish himself as arguably the best boxer in the sport today. The same cannot be said for the erratic and self-sabotaging Saunders, who has squandered his impressive showing against David Lemieux in 2017 with consecutive lackluster outings against mostly middling opposition. The southpaw will find ways to frustrate Alvarez at times, to be sure, but expect Alvarez to slow down the jittery motions of the Brit by punishing him to the body en route to a mostly clear win on the cards. Canelo by majority decision. – SEAN NAM

I see a feeling-out type fight in the first two rounds and then Canelo begins the stalk. Saunders will be more elusive and more savvy than most of Canelo’s opponents, occasionally getting in some sharp counters. However, he will begin to tire late from an accumulation of Canelo’s body work and from backing up. This will allow the Mexican to increase the tempo looking for a way to close the show. The Traveler will survive. But Canelo will win with a dominating UD. – TED SARES

Two names come to mind for me when deciding how this fight will play out. First, Erislandy Lara, who I saw outbox but not outfight Alvarez. Second is Alexander Povetkin, whose horrible performance against Dillian Whyte was reportedly due to coronavirus residue, which Alvarez also claims to have been afflicted by. Can Saunders, another left-hander with a bit more of a reach advantage than Lara, take advantage of a possibly weakened Canelo? Don’t bet on it unless Cinco de Mayo weekend gets cancelled and nobody from Texas or Mexico shows up for the fight. Saunders seems capable of making it interesting, but Alvarez wins by wide decision or late TKO.  – PHIL WOOLEVER

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A Heinous Crime Will Likely Land Felix Verdejo in Prison for the Rest of His Life

Arne K. Lang

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“Felix has a sparkling personality, a flashy fighting style, and he’s good. He’s also f-a-s-t.” The quote is from Thomas Hauser who wrote those words in June of 2015 after Verdejo improved his record to 18-0 with a near-shutout of fellow unbeaten Ivan Nejara on an HBO card from the Theater at Madison Square Garden.

At this juncture it appeared that Verdejo, a former Olympian, was destined to become the next icon of Puerto Rican fight fans, the heir-apparent to Felix Trinidad and Miguel Cotto.

Today, news stories about Verdejo make no reference to his sparkling personality. It’s an attribute inconsistent with the portrait of a monster.

This past Saturday, as hardcore fight fans were glued to the telecast of a show in Manchester, England, it came to light that authorities in San Juan, Puerto Rico, had found the body of a young woman who had been reported missing after failing to turn up at her job at a dog grooming salon on Thursday morning, that the decedent was plainly the victim of foul play, that Verdejo was the primary suspect in her murder, and that he wasn’t cooperating with the authorities.

When the corpse of the missing woman was fished from a lagoon, her body was reportedly so mangled that forensic examiners had to consult dental records to confirm that the decedent was indeed Keishla Marlen Rodriguez Ortiz, the 27-year-old woman they were looking for. The boxer and Ms. Rodriguez had reportedly known each other since middle school. According to Rodriguez’s family members, she was pregnant with Verdejo’s child and the boxer, who was married with a 2-year-old daughter, wasn’t happy about it.

Keishla

Keishla Rodriguez

With each new detail, the story became more sordid.

It is alleged that the victim was thrown off a bridge after being punched in the face and injected with a syringe filled with an unidentified substance. Verdejo and an accomplice – who hasn’t been charged and is identified only as a witness – then tied her hands and feet with wire and weighed the body down with a cinderblock before tossing it into the water. When the body was slow to sink, Verdejo allegedly fired a bullet at it. A shell casing was found on the bridge and the authorities have corroborating evidence from toll booth cameras.

As first reported by veteran boxing writer Jake Donovan, the boxer surrendered to FBI agents yesterday evening (Sunday). He appeared this morning via zoom before federal magistrate Camille Velez Rive who ordered him returned to prison and held without bail.

Many of the headlines in the tabloids say that Verdejo is facing the death penalty. That’s technically true. The three crimes for which he has been charged — carjacking resulting in death, kidnapping resulting in death, and intentionally killing an unborn child – are federal crimes. As a commonwealth of the United States, Puerto Rico is subject to U.S. federal laws. However, Puerto Rico abolished capitol punishment in 1929. The country hasn’t executed anyone since 1927 when a man named Pascual Ramos was hanged for killing his boss.

It’s doubtful that prosecutors would pursue the death penalty unless the trial were moved to the mainland. However, domestic violence has become a hot-button issue in Puerto Rico and the national mood toward crimes of this nature is trending toward harsher retribution. Yesterday, according to the Daily Mail, hundreds of people, mostly women, including Rodriguez’s sister, gathered at the bridge that spans the lagoon to pay their respects and demand justice for the victims of domestic violence.

Felix Verdejo turned pro  at age 19 after representing Puerto Rico in the 2012 London Olympics. He rose to #1 in the WBO lightweight rankings after defeating Oliver Flores in February of 2017, but was demoted for inactivity. There were extenuating circumstances including fights that fell out and a 6-day stay in a hospital following a motorcycle accident.

He returned to the ring after a 13 ½ month absence and suffered his first pro defeat. An unheralded Mexican, Antonio Lozada, stopped him in the final round, the 10th. Verdejo was ahead on two of the scorecards through the nine completed rounds. There were 23 seconds remaining in the contest when the bout was stopped.

Verdejo’s most recent fight came in December of last year. He was stopped in the ninth round by Masayoshi Nakatani at the MGM Bubble in Las Vegas, reducing his pro record to 27-2. As happened against Lozada, Verdejo faded late, squandering a big lead.

Verdejo photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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In Boxing, a Quadrilogy is Rare. Going 2-2 Against Butterbean Even More So

Ted Sares

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The late heavyweight Mitch Rose could not translate his Golden Gloves amateur skills to the pro ranks. He retired with an underwhelming 2-11-1 mark, but he did enough quirky things to put his life story in a book and one of the most memorable parts of it involved his being the first fighter to stop Eric “Butterbean” Esch, the legendary knockout machine who was trumpeted as the King of the Four Rounders. Rose did it on an undercard bout at Madison Square Garden on a show with Oscar De La Hoya and Arturo Gatti in the featured bouts.

“… Rose was a tried and true New Yorker. As loud and funny as he was, he never seemed to take himself too seriously. He had a big heart, a lot of dreams, and an emotional honesty that was extremely refreshing.” — Robert Mladinich, NYFIGHTS

As Bernard Fernandez noted, Eric Esch, aka Butterbean, rebounded nicely. “(He) went on to continue his unlikely advance to stardom of sorts as a bald and blubbery blaster.”

Butterbean, who also competed in MMA and in Tough Man competitions, developed a cult following and retired with a boxing record of 77-10-4. But Butterbean’s last three losses as a boxer came between 2009-2013, long after he should have left the boxing scene.

Enter Kenny “The Raven” Craven (here’s a recent picture).

Craven

Craven

 “Wherever you find yourself in time… Please remember to do the right thing.” — Kenny Craven

A soulful and righteous man who believes in equality and walks the walk, Craven, a Mississippian from tiny Ellisville, is a follower of the teachings of Desmond Tutu. He is pro-people and pro-underdog and will not bypass injustice.

“I wrote a post yesterday on Facebook that expanded my view of the power of the people. All of us know we have this power but we have no idea how to use it. Well, we do know how it is used but we make a conscious decision not to. Why? We the people have supreme authority but we give this gift to just a few people who do not even like us.” — Craven

Kenny Craven finished his pro boxing career with a 28-20 record. He won 23 by knockout BUT all of his 20 losses came by knockout and that made him an exciting fighter, if nothing else. Kenny was a fan favorite on the southern circuit and if his opponent didn’t get him, he usually got his opponent and the fans could anticipate with near 100 percent accuracy that someone was getting knocked down.

The other thing about Kenny was that he fought a Who’s Who of elite fighters. They included Henry Akinwande (37-1-1 coming in), Michael Nunn (55-4), Vaughn Bean (41-2 and no relation to Butterbean), Attila Levin (27-1), Albert Sosnowski (33-1), Clifford Etienne (28-2-2), Calvin Brock (25-0), Timur Ibragimov (20-0-1), Oliver McCall (46-8), Vassiliy Jirov (36-3-1), and Ezra Sellers (28-7).

In 1999, “The Raven” was stopped by Butterbean (48-1-2) in the second round on the undercard of the De La Hoya vs Trinidad fight at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. It was Alabama vs Mississippi. However, in the first round, Craven displayed the blueprint on how to beat the ‘King of Four Rounders” by using a stick and run approach.

In 2005, Kenny lasted until the third round before the Bean (then 71-3-4) overwhelmed him.

 But just three months later in Jackson, Mississippi, Kenny finally figured out Esch and utilized the blueprint by jabbing and moving laterally, and won a majority decision over the heavily favored Bean in front of a small but howling and disbelieving crowd. The fact that Tonya Harding was on the undercard added to the circus-like atmosphere.

Then, three months later in Bejing, China, Kenny did it again. Yes, in China!!? This time he had his way with Eric and cruised to an easy win.

In a rare Quadrilogy, Kenny Craven went 2-2 with Eric Esch who never managed to knock Kenny down or even hurt him. No mean feat.

Mitch Rose had his moment. Kenny Craven had two. As Kenny says, “I did the best I could for a guy with three amateur fights and growing up in rural Mississippi. I loved every second, the good and the bad.”

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com

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