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My Last Word On Pacquiao-Bradley

Kelsey McCarson

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PacquiaoBradley Hogan 36Regardless of what happened (or maybe didn’t happen) last time out, Manny Pacquiao is still on top of the boxing world. Alongside the momentarily incarcerated Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny is either 1a or 1b depending on who you ask, and nothing three rogue judges decided June 9th in Las Vegas changed that.

Since that fateful evening, the boxing community at large has undergone a massive shift of public opinion. As the disbelief of the decision has settled in, we as a group have seemed to move on from disgust to some quasi-sane reality where fight fans should disbelieve what they saw the first time and instead focus on every conceivable avenue possible to give Bradley the benefit of the doubt in every single round.

However, if you take the tinfoil hats off for a moment, stop locking yourselves in your rooms with the shades pulled down while replays of Pac- Bradley play on a loop (both with and without sound), several things may come to light.

First, it is absolutely clear that whether we like it or not, television announcers play a vital role in how we see a fight. There are numerous examples of this, and I’m sure someone smarter than me could put together some fancy double-blind scientific test to prove it.

It’s equally clear though, that television announcers don’t tell you what you see happening. You have eyes for that. If they tell you something that’s wrong, you can disagree. Without going too much into detail, it’s borderline ludicrous to suggest that somehow HBO’s broadcast team pulled the wool over the eyes of everyone that night, even people who watched the fight live.

Boxing writer Ryan Maquiñana posted his collection of scores from boxing media members after fight night, and his numbers suggest the outcry you read about on twitter, or heard in person from your pals at ringside or at your fight party, was spot on. It wasn’t localized to one place or one person or one method of seeing the fight.

It was a bunk decision, pure and simple.

In Maquiñana’s survey, fifty of fifty-three boxing media members (many quite well known and respected) had the fight scored for Pacquiao. Of the three who had it for Bradley, two of them had Bradley winning by a mere point. Moreover, of the fifty pro-Pacquiao cards, only seven of them had Pacquiao winning by anything less than six points.

That means forty-three of the fifty-three participants (over eight-one percent!) had Pacquiao the clear winner by a seriously wide margin.That’s exactly the fight most everyone saw the first time.

Since the fight, the fallout has gone from sure-fire robbery to well-maybe-it-was-close to oh-well-what-the-heck-maybe-Bradley-won.

I’m not buying it.

Look, it’s all well and good to question one’s scoring on a particular night. I’ve had my fair share of questionable cards in the past, too.And I assure you, it’s possible for the best and brightest to be wrong sometimes along with the rest of us. I’ve had cards in the past where I admitted I was probably wrong in my scoring after reviewing vast amounts of data that suggested it.

Case in point, I scored Cloud over Campillo from ringside when it happened. I was probably wrong. If the overwhelming evidence suggests the grass on your lawn is green, it’s green no matter how blue you may see it.You’re just colorblind.

I don’t buy the re-watch-a-thon approach to scoring fights. If you told me Cotto beat Mayweather on May 5th, I bet I could go back and re-watch the darn thing enough times to make my eyes bleed. By then, I’d give Cotto rounds Mayweather clearly won just to be true to my already erroneous and preconceived notion of “fairness”.

It’s quite silly if you ask me.

Almost everyone who saw the fight that night, from both ringside and on television, thought Pacquiao won the fight—everyone except for two of the three judges, and a very small subset of respected media members.Everyone else had it for Pacquiao, even the WBO judges who re-watched it for what seems to me like lip-service treatment (they cannot or will not reward Pacquiao the belt back). Even they couldn’t muster one measly scorecard to give the fight to Bradley. It was five to zip for Pacquiao.

So now that we’ve established what we all saw happen the first time, what should Pacquiao do next? One obvious choice would be a rematch with Bradley, right?

Wrong!

Who wants to see that fight? Pacquiao won handily the first time on most cards, and the fight wasn’t exactly a barnburner either. It was a boring, one-sided affair I’d rather not have to witness again. After Bradley tasted Pacquiao’s power in the early rounds, he decided it best not to engage him the second half of the fight. If that’s his big plan for the rematch (and it should be since he was bogusly rewarded for it by two of the three judges at ringside) then count me out on that one. Not even HBO’s 24X7 spectacle of hype could put enough lipstick on that pig to make it worth a penny to me. Let’s put it this way: Tecate’s rebate would have to pay me enough to come out ahead in the deal, and something tells me that’s not happening.

No, there is only one real fight out there right now for Pacquiao.With Mayweather in the pokey and Cotto coming off a loss and needing to rebound, only arch nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez stands any real test of reason.

Before their last fight, I took a lot of heat for telling anyone and everyone who would listen to me to just say NO to Pacquiao vs. Marquez 3.After all, Manny had moved up in weight so easily and effectively, and Marquez had struggled to win a round against Mayweather in his move up past 140. It was a total mismatch, I thought.

Boy was I wrong.

These two guys make beautiful music together no matter how you slice it. After seeing that one, they could fatten up to heavyweight, and I’d watch.They could sell me a ticket to Pacquiao vs. Marquez 10 live from Shady Grove retirement home, and I’d be there. I’d watch these guys fight on the moon if I had to.

And who knows, for all the cries of robbery against Bradley, Marquez fans might finally feel like their guy would get his due respect scoring wise.Every fight has been close. Maybe this time fight fans would finally see a definitive win for one of the competitors. While Pacquiao has won twice, and earned a draw once, in reality every fight has been razor thin no matter how you slice it, and Marquez has likely earned at least one win on his ledger if not more.

It’s Pacquiao vs. Marquez 4 or bust for me, and anything else would be almost as much of a waste as rescoring Pac-Bradley again to convince myself I’m wrong.

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Jan. 29, 1994: A Stunning Upset Animates the Debut of Boxing at the MGM Grand

Arne K. Lang

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Twenty-six years have elapsed since the first boxing card at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. The inaugural show took place on Jan. 29, 1994, the eve of Super Bowl XXVII.

A little background: The MGM Grand opened on Dec. 17, 1993. With its 5,005 rooms, it was the largest hotel in the world. The MGM Grand Garden arena, effectively the municipal auditorium of the self-styled “City of Entertainment,” was christened on New Years Eve with a concert by Barbara Streisand. Twenty-nine days later, the bill of fare was an 11-fight boxing card promoted by Don King.

Looking back, seven of the participants – boxers Julio Cesar Chavez, Felix Trinidad, Hector Camacho, Thomas Hearns, and Christy Martin and referees Richard Steele and Joe Cortez – would go on to the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Hearns, who was nearing the end of his career, having grown into a cruiserweight, was matched soft, as was Christy Martin who was making her Las Vegas debut and was then looked upon as a sideshow novelty act. Two other notables, heavyweight Razor Ruddock and welterweight Meldrick Taylor, were likewise deployed in stay-busy fights. The undercards of Don King’s major promotions typically took this tack – big names in little fights.

Topping the bill were three world title fights. WBC 154-pound title-holder Simon Brown opposed Troy Waters. Trinidad defended his IBF welterweight title against Camacho. And in the grand finale, the great Chavez, who held a junior welterweight title, was matched against Frankie Randall.

Simon Brown had a more difficult time than expected against Troy Waters, a teak-tough Australian, but prevailed on a majority decision. Trinidad, at age 21 the younger man by 10 years, chased Camacho all over the ring en route to winning a unanimous decision. And Chavez….

The MGM Grand Garden was scaled to hold 15,200, but there were a lot of empty seats; the announced attendance was 12,777. One would have expected a sellout as Las Vegas is chock-full of revelers on a Super Bowl weekend, but there was an extenuating circumstance.

Twelve days before the fight, at 4:30 am on Jan. 17, Southern California was struck by an earthquake. Centered in the San Fernando Valley, about 20 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, the Northridge Earthquake damaged buildings as far as 85 miles away. It buckled portions of some heavily-traveled freeways, forcing their closure and repairs were hindered by a scattered series of aftershocks that lasted the better part of two weeks.

Visitors from Southern California are the backbone of the Las Vegas tourism industry. Most arrive by car. The earthquake had the effect of reducing hotel occupancy as many Southern Californians cancelled their reservations and that assuredly spilled over into the fight, hurting attendance. But those that were there witnessed a memorable main event.

Frankie Randall, nicknamed the Surgeon, hailed from Morristown, Tennessee. He had an excellent record (48-2-1, 39 KOs), but Julio Cesar Chavez, who owned the most eye-catching record in boxing (officially 89-0-1), was so highly regarded that he was listed as a 17/1 favorite in the MGM sports book.

Randall started strong, an indication that he would be a hard nut to crack. But the middle rounds belonged to Chavez with his patented body attack. In round seven, one of those body punches strayed too low and Richard Steele deducted a point.

In round 11, Steele deducted another point for the same infraction and, worse for Chavez, he was knocked down for the first time in his career. It was a straight right hand that did the damage, a clean punch, and although Chavez was up at the count of “three,” it was a 10-8 round for Randall.

During the early rounds, shouts of “May-hee-co, May-hee-co” reverberated through the arena. Late in the fight, when one could sense that an upset was brewing, shouts of “USA, USA” punctuated the din.

The 11th round proved decisive. When the scores were read, the Mexican judge favored Chavez 114-113, but he was overruled by the Puerto Rican judge (114-113) and the Las Vegas judge (116-111). If not for those two points deducted by referee Richard Steele – the same referee who had controversially stopped Chavez’s fight with Meldrick Taylor with one second remaining on the clock in the final round – Julio Cesar Chavez would have retained his title — and his undefeated record — on a split decision.

Chavez did not take losing very well. He bellyached that he was robbed, an opinion that found few sympathizers. A fast rematch was arranged which took place at the MGM Grand on Cinco de Mayo weekend. In this fight, an accidental clash of heads late in round eight left Chavez with a bad gash on his forehead and the fight was stopped. By rule, it went to the scorecards where Chavez emerged the winner by split decision, a very controversial denouement (and a story for another day). There would be a rubber match in Mexico City when both gladiators were in their 40’s, a dull 10-round affair scored in favor of Chavez.

By the way, on the day following the debut of boxing at the MGM Grand, the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Buffalo Bills 30-13 at Atlanta. As Super Bowls go, this one didn’t attract all that much buzz. The same teams had met in the Super Bowl the previous year and Dallas had won by “35.”

By all indications, the forthcoming Super Bowl will be a doozy. Enjoy the game.

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Introducing Top Prospect Raeese Aleem, the Pride of Muskegon

Arne K. Lang

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At age 29, Raeese Aleem has yet to appear in a 10-round fight, but that will almost assuredly happen this year. The undefeated (15-0, 9 KOs) super bantamweight from Muskegon, Michigan, takes another step in that direction on Friday, Feb. 14, when he opposes San Antonio’s Adam Lopez (16-3-2) at Philadelphia in a bout that will air on “ShoBox,” the long-running SHOWTIME series that’s been a springboard for 81 fighters who went on to win world titles.

Aleem earned a black belt in karate before taking up boxing and becoming a four-time Michigan Golden Gloves champion. As an amateur, he and his coach Terry Markowski did a considerable amount of traveling between meets to find good sparring. Grand Rapids, an amateur boxing hotbed, was just down the road, but Detroit and Chicago were a good three hours away and on occasion they went on an even longer excursion into Ohio.

Aleem turned pro in 2011 and had his first 10 fights on the Midwest circuit, venturing as far north as Green Bay and as far south as Cincinnati. At the time, he worked in the produce department of Meijer’s, a regional rival of Walmart. His bosses, he notes, were generous in letting him juggle his work schedule around his boxing assignments.

For a boxer with designs on winning a world title, the Midwest circuit is like a bicycle with training wheels. Aleem had to shake free of it to see how far he could go. Besides, getting fights was getting tougher and tougher. There’s a 28-month gap in his pro timeline that includes all of 2013. He had several fights fall out during this frustrating quiescence.

If you’re an aspiring film actor, you go to Hollywood. If you’re an aspiring boxing champion, you go to Las Vegas. Not a week goes by without a young fellow turning up here to test his mettle in one of the many local gyms with the hope of attracting the eye of one of the major promotional firms.

“When I came to Las Vegas,” says Aleem who has a daughter back in Michigan, “I had no family here, no friends.” He was directed to Barry’s boxing gym, run by ex-boxer Pat Barry and his wife Dawn, retired Las Vegas police officers, and started training under their son-in-law Augie Sanchez. But Sanchez, the last man to defeat Floyd Mayweather Jr (accomplished when they were amateurs), had other priorities. He is an assistant coach with Team USA which obligates him to spend a good deal of his time at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

Things started looking up for Aleem when he joined the Prince Ranch stable under the management of Greg Hannley. At the Prince Ranch Gym, where the head trainer is Bones Adams, he has sparred with such notables as Nonito Donaire and former WBO 122-pound champion Jessie Magdaleno.

Aleem doesn’t miss the weather in Muskegon, a lakefront city where sub-freezing temperatures are the norm in the dead of winter and snow is forecast for all of next week. But he still has one foot in his hometown, as evident by his unbroken bond with Terry Markowski. In an era when some boxers appear to change trainers as often as they change their underwear, Aleem has remained loyal to Markowski who has been in his corner for all of his pro fights and will be there again on Feb. 14.

Markowski, who teaches boxing at the Muskegon Rec Center, is a protégé of Muskegon’s most esteemed boxer, the late Kenny Lane. The epitome of a crafty southpaw, Lane, a lightweight and junior welterweight, was a three-time world title challenger during a 100-fight career that began in 1953.

The relationship between Raeese Aleem and Terry Markowski dates back to 2003 when Aleem resided in the nearby village of Ravenna, where Aleem’s father, the patriarch of a large blended family, planted Raeese and his siblings to get them away from the temptations of Muskegon which has several blighted areas. “It was a culture shock for me when I started going to school in Ravenna,” says Aleem, looking back, as none of his schoolmates looked like him.

This will be Aleem’s fifth fight in Pennsylvania where he has made four of his last five starts. The connecting thread is Reading, Pennsylvania gym operator-turned-promoter Marshall Kauffman who has been credited with keeping boxing vibrant in the Keystone State.

This being Aleem’s national television debut, it’s important that he make a good showing. His Las Vegas trainer Bones Adams, a former world champion in Aleem’s weight division, expects nothing less. “I’m confident he will be a world champion someday,” says Adams.

Photo credit: Mario Serrano / Prince Ranch Boxing

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A Bouquet for Danny Garcia in This Week’s Edition of HITS and MISSES

Kelsey McCarson

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Two-division champion Danny Garcia had the spotlight all to himself over the weekend in a stay-busy fight against Ivan Redkach on Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It was the main event of a Showtime Championship Boxing tripleheader that had the odd privilege these days of not being counterprogrammed by a Top Rank show on ESPN or any other kind of boxing card on DAZN.

So Garcia, 31, from Philadelphia, had the chance to remind people how excellent a fighter he is in full force, which would help him greatly in his effort to secure an unlikely bout against WBA champ Manny Pacquiao or remain first in line to face WBC and IBF champ Errol Spence whenever the Texan recovers from the injuries he sustained in a car accident in October.

But did Garcia pull it off? Here’s the latest edition of HITS and MISSES.

HIT – Danny Garcia’s Pristine and Precise Technique 

The best parts about Garcia were on full display against Redkach. That was made easier by Redkach’s lack of anything that might have given Garcia any real problems, but nonetheless Garcia was able to show the lovely footwork and balanced countering ability that made him so formidable at junior welterweight. There’s just something special about seeing Garcia fight. The economy of his movement inside a boxing ring is something that is just plain different than just about any other world-class fighter in the world today. In a fight that most people probably would have preferred he just skipped, and one that didn’t turn out to be any different than everyone expected, at least Garcia’s beautiful boxing was on display.

MISS – Showtime Sparring Sessions

In addition to Garcia-Redkach, Showtime rounded out its tripleheader with undefeated junior featherweight Stephen Fulton taking on former Muay Thai fighter Arnold Khegai and former unified junior middleweight champion Jarrett Hurd taking on career welterweight Francisco Santana. While Fulton’s fight against Khegai seemed like a legitimate prizefight, there was something about the other two bouts that screamed sparring sessions. That was especially the case for Hurd’s bout. Not only was Hurd in there with a middling welterweight, but he also used the rounds of the fight to work on vastly different boxing techniques than what made him so popular in the first place. Showtime might not have the pull they once had with the people over at the PBC offices, but they for sure need to get more involved in vetting matchups if they hope to remain afloat within the competitive boxing landscape of today.

HIT – Stephon Fulton’s Title Chances at 122 Pounds

Fulton is a very solid boxer who digs to the body and has a fast, clean jab. Khegai was the perfect kind of opponent for the 25-year-old. He was very game and never stopped trying to win. Additionally, his background in Muay Thai offered some different looks to Fulton that should help him on his way toward world title contention. In the end, Fulton outworked Khegai to hand the tough 27-year-old the first loss of his career. Now let’s hope Fulton is off to bigger and better things such as challenging for a world title. He’s ready right now.

MISS – Andy Ruiz’s Continued Soap Opera

The best thing former unified champion Andy Ruiz could have done after blowing the rematch against Anthony Joshua in December is getting right back to work in the gym. What better way to show trainer Manny Robles that he was taking responsibility for his actions than to get right back to work with the same team he had just let down so badly? Instead, Ruiz fired Robles and is considering other trainers. That would make more sense if there had been some sort of tactical error in the fight. But Ruiz already admitted he simply didn’t train for arguably the biggest fight of his life, and that’s not anyone’s fault but his own.

HIT – Former Middleweight Titleholder Andy Lee’s Second Act

It appears former WBO middleweight champion Andy Lee found his second act in life as a trainer, which makes a ton of sense if you followed Lee’s career under the tutelage of the late Emanuel Steward. Lee, 39, left Ireland after his amateur days to live with Steward in Detroit and train at Kronk. The two had a very close personal relationship and that experience ultimately helped Lee win the world title in 2014 two years after Steward’s passing. Now, Lee is passing on what he knows in the same way Steward did with him to other fighters. He trains and manages Irish upstart Paddy Donovan, is guiding Jason Quigley back to contention and even helped orchestrate distant cousin Tyson Fury bringing on Javan “SugarHill” Steward for the heavyweight’s upcoming rematch against Deontay Wilder.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott

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