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We Should Have PROOF Before We Label Marquez A Cheater…Shouldn’t We?

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People smelled smoke, and assume that there is fire, and it was lit by Heredia, at Marquez’ behest. But…don’t we need more than circumstantial evidence to decide this is so? (Chris Farina-Top Rank)

Americans are big fans of conspiracy theories these days. Not a tremendous surprise; during tough times, some cling to religion, some to guns, and some to whacky, unproven narratives which help to tame the insecurities rife in their heads.

The other day, I was in my favorite coffee shop, talking with a young lady working behind the counter. The topic of guns, and the culture of violence, the casual acceptance of regular shootings, was being discussed.

The young lady dropped her voice and made an admission to me. “I think that shooting at that theater in Colorado, I think that guy was set up.”

“Wait…the killing of 12 innocents who went to see the new Batman movie in Aurora, Colorado in July by a nut named James Holmes…you think he didn’t do it, and was set up?”

Holmes was apprehended at the theater, in his warrior gear, and told cops, it was reported, that he’d booby trapped his apartment so they’d get blown up after he got locked up. He has not denied that he went on this murderous rampage.

Now, I wasn’t able to decipher why my barista friend is ignoring what looks like overwhelming evidence that Holmes was the lone gunman who committed this atrocious act. But this situation came to mind the day after Saturday’s KO shocker, win which 39 year-old Juan Manuel Marquez dropped and stopped Manny Pacquiao as if he tazed him at the MGM in Las Vegas.

Whispers turned to screams that this thing wasn’t on the up and up, that Marquez surely was juicing, that the result was tainted because…why, again? I waited for some evidence. I searched for a concrete, or even a semi concrete explanation why so many folks were fixated on PEDS in the aftermath of the fight of the year.

Instead of “concrete” I found and heard circumstantial chatter. Mostly, the “Marquez cheated” crew seems to focus on the presence of his strength and conditioning coach, Angel Heredia. The fighter hired Heredia before his third fight with Pacquiao, and has now used his services for three fights. The stern eyed crew points out that Heredia has a dirty–filthy, actually–past, as a peddler of steroids and other chemicals taken to improve performance during athletic events. When pinched for being a pusher to world class athletes, Heredia rolled over, received immunity from the Feds, and helped put away Trevor Graham, coach to elite sprinters Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery. Back then, Heredia was described as a Texas resident, and shot-putter who got roids in Mexico, and then doled them out to other athletes. Graham was described when that scandal blew up, in 2006,  by his defenders as a whistleblower who sent a syringe of a designer PED dispensed by the notorious Victor Conte out of his BALCO shop in San Francisco to the US Anti-Doping Agency. That alert some said caused the investigation which snagged Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and other MLB long-ball artists in a snare to snag cheaters.

Now, as far as circumstantial evidence goes, Heredia admittedly is a sweet target for smack talk. The guy is a rat, who gave up friends and associates, so he’d get off easier in the eyes of the law. When he re-appeared on radar screens as Marquez’ coach, he was using a different name, for cripes sake; he was calling himself “Angel Hernandez.” Memories were refreshed, and Conte spread the word that Heredia got off scot free, and did no time, while he was sent to jail for four months for his involvement in illegal chemical performance enhancers. MaxBoxing’s dogged anti-doping crusaders Gabriel Montoya before the fourth Pacquiao-Marquez fight alerted people to a German documentary which features Heredia injecting a PED into his own belly, on camera, and then going into a pharmacy in Mexico and buying PEDs over the counter and then concocting a syrup which will aid performance and then not get flagged by drug testers. (It is not clear what Heredia had to gain by pointing out how simple it is to score PEDs and administer them. Was he compensated to appear in the doc? Was he simply bragging, portraying himself as a mover and shaker in sports, someone who is tacitly responsible for the superior performances offered by our heroes? Was he trying to wake us all up to the overwhelming prevalence of PEDs in basically all big-time sports?)

Further circumstantial evidence offered by those who feel there is a humongous black cloud over the Marquez win? They point to the weak performance by Marquez in his loss to Floyd Mayweather in 2009, and the bulbous shoulder muscles and over-all sterling physique he now boasts. And as of Sunday morning, they point to a newfound level of power possessed by Marquez that wasn’t, they say, present before. That single shot, that right counter which felled Pacquiao, was just too good to be true, they are saying. Oh, and what about that acne on Marquez, they say, isn’t that damning?

How in God’s name could a 39-year-old man, 12 or so year’s after the average male’s physical gifts begin to deteriorate, improve so dramatically at such a late stage.

These are all good questions, great questions…but we need answers, in the form of proof, smoking gun level, irrefutable proof, before we smear Marquez, or Heredia.

Is it fishy that Marquez showed a heretofore unseen brand of power against Pacquiao? The true believer in me, the part of me who wants to believe in the goodness that is there, even if buried, in most souls, doesn’t want to leap to conclusions. I prefer to believe that Marquez doesn’t cheat, that hard work and overwhelming desire and clean methods in training him brought him to victory Sunday. Maybe I am naive; I admit that possibility must be explored. Maybe, after all the dirt that has been laid out, all the positives, all the seemingly ludicrous explanations offered by the boxers who were busted, maybe I need to wake up, smell the stink in the air, and assume that the majority of the top tier performers are using illegal performance enhancers to get ahead.

But I’d rather all of us stopped trafficking in theories, and instead focused on reality. Until PROVEN otherwise, I think we should assume that Marquez didn’t cheat. I think we should embrace the reaction of Team Pacquiao and Manny, who congratulated Marquez for a job well done. (Will some of you assume that Pacquiao is able to clap Marquez on the back because you think he too uses chemicals to aid his strength and stamina, and thus, he feels the two were on an even playing field at the MGM in their fourth fight? Yes. Can part of me understand that urge? Again, yes.)

I am not condemning anyone for yelling fire, really, because smoke has been wafting. But our society has become all too willing to substitute facts and theory and gut instincts for proof, and dispense those theories all over the world in 140 characters or less.

Happily, there are bulldogs like Montoya who have the time, energy, effort and principles to pursue this most pressing issue in our game. I do hope that the continuing investigations into the usage of PEDs in the sport yield facts that cannot be explained away, or dismissed with doctors’ “the dog ate my homework” type notes. Because this sort of black cloud that is dumping a toxic rain of doubt and cynicism on this Fight of the Year diminishes the impact and intensity of the drama. I can only urge the power brokers in the game, the HBOs, Showtimes, Arums, Schaefers, et al, to solve this issue, and embrace random testing for the biggest of the big bouts, so we can cease the whispering and dispel that cloud of suspicion which now helps erode the enjoyment we derive from watching the best athletes in the greatest sport known to man do their thing.

Readers, weigh in with your suggestions on how to solve the PED problem. Hey, maybe you think that PEDs should be allowed and regulated, assuming that the cheaters will always be ahead of the good guys and the testers, so we should capitulate to sad reality and proceed accordingly. Go to our Forum, and add your three cents.

Follow me on Twitter here https://twitter.com/#!/Woodsy1069.

 

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Anderson Cruises by Vapid Merhy and Ajagba edges Vianello in Texas

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Jared Anderson returned to the ring tonight on a Top Rank card in Corpus Christi, Texas. Touted as the next big thing in the heavyweight division, Anderson (17-0, 15 KOs) hardly broke a sweat while cruising past Ryad Merhy in a bout with very little action, much to the disgruntlement of the crowd which started booing as early as the second round. The fault was all Merhy as he was reluctant to let his hands go. Somehow, he won a round on the scorecard of judge David Sutherland who likely fell asleep for a round for which he could be forgiven.

Merhy, born in the Ivory Coast but a resident of Brussels, Belgium, was 32-2 (26 KOs) heading in after fighting most of his career as a cruiserweight. He gave up six inches in height to Anderson who was content to peck away when it became obvious to him that little would be coming back his way.

Anderson may face a more daunting adversary on Monday when he has a court date in Romulus, Michigan, to answer charges related to an incident in February where he drove his Dodge Challenger at a high rate speed, baiting the police into a merry chase. (Weirdly, Anderson entered the ring tonight wearing the sort of helmet that one associates with a race car driver.)

Co-Feature

In the co-feature, a battle between six-foot-six former Olympians, Italy’s Guido Vianello started and finished strong, but Efe Ajagba had the best of it in the middle rounds and prevailed on a split decision. Two of the judges favored Ajagba by 96-94 scores with the dissenter favoring the Italian from Rome by the same margin.

Vianello had the best round of the fight. He staggered Ajagba with a combination in round two. At the end of the round, a befuddled Ajagba returned to the wrong corner and it appeared that an upset was brewing. But the Nigerian, who trains in Las Vegas under Kay Koroma, got back into the fight with a more varied offensive attack and better head movement. In winning, he improved his ledger to 20-1 (14). Vianello, who sparred extensively with Daniel Dubois in London in preparation for this fight, declined to 12-2-1 in what was likely his final outing under the Top Rank banner.

Other Bouts of Note

In the opening bout on the main ESPN platform, 35-year-old super featherweight Robson Conceicao, a gold medalist for Brazil in the 2016 Rio Olympics, stepped down in class after fighting Emanuel Navarrete tooth-and-nail to a draw in his previous bout and scored a seventh-round stoppage of Jose Ivan Guardado who was a cooked goose after slumping to the canvas after taking a wicked shot to the liver. Guardado made it to his feet, but the end was imminent and the referee waived it off at the 2:27 mark.

Conceicao improved to 18-1 (9 KOs). It was the U.S. debut for Guardado (15-2-1), a boxer from Ensenada, Mexico who had done most of his fighting up the road in Tijuana.

Ruben Villa, the pride of Salinas, California, improved to 22-1 (7) and moved one step closer to a match with WBC featherweight champion Rey Vargas with a unanimous 10-round decision over Tijuana’s Cristian Cruz (22-7-1). The judges had it 97-93 and 98-92 twice.

Cruz, the son of former IBF world featherweight title-holder Cristobal Cruz, was better than his record. He entered the bout on a 21-1-1 run after losing five of his first seven pro fights.

Cleveland southpaw Abdullah Mason, who turned 20 earlier this month, continued his fast ascent up the lightweight ladder with a fourth-round stoppage of Ronal Ron.

Mason (13-0, 11 KOs) put Ron on the canvas in the opening round with a short left hook. He scored a second knockdown with a shot to the liver. A flurry of punches, a diverse array, forced the stoppage at the 1:02 mark of round four. A 25-year-old SoCal-based Venezuelan, the spunky but out-gunned Ron declined to 14-6.

Charly Suarez, a 35-year-old former Olympian from the Philippines, ranked #5 at junior lightweight by the IBF, advanced to 17-0 (9) with a unanimous 8-round decision over SoCal’s Louie Coria (5-7).

This was a tactical fight. In the final round, Coria, subbing for 19-0 Henry Lebron, caught the Filipino off-balance and knocked him into the ropes which held him up. It was scored a knockdown, but came too little, too late for Coria who lost by scores of 76-75 and 77-74 twice.

Suarez, whose signature win was a 12th-round stoppage of the previously undefeated Aussie Paul Fleming in Sydney, may be headed to a rematch with Robson Conceicao. They fought as amateurs in 2016 in Kazakhstan and Suarez lost a narrow 6-round decision.

Photo credit: Mikey Willams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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Ellie Scotney and Rhiannon Dixon Win World Title Fights in Manchester

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England’s Ellie Scotney started slowly against the long reach of France’s Segolene Lefebvre but used rough tactics and a full-steam ahead approach to unify the super bantamweight division by unanimous decision on Saturday.

“There’s a lot more I didn’t show,” said an excited Scotney (pictured on the left).

IBF titlist Scotney (9-0) added the WBO title by nullifying Lefebvre’s (18-1) reach and dominating the inside with a two-fisted attack in front of an excited crowd in Manchester, England.

For the first two rounds Lefebvre used her long reach and smooth fluid attack to keep Scotney at the end of her punches. Then the fight turned when the British fighter bulled her way inside with body shots and forced the French fighter into the ropes.

Aggressiveness by Scotney turned the fight in her favor. But Lefebvre remained active and countered with overhand rights throughout the match.

Body shots by Scotney continued to pummel the French champion’s abdomen but she remained steadfast in her counter-attacks. Combinations landed for Lefebvre and a counter overhand right scored to keep her in the contest in the fifth round.

Scotney increased the intensity of her attack in the sixth and seventh rounds. In perhaps her best round Scotney was almost perfect in scoring while not getting hit with anything from the French fighter.

Maybe the success of the previous round caused Scotney to pause. It allowed Lefebvre to rally behind some solid shots in a slow round and gave the French fighter an opening. Maybe.

The British fighter opened up more savagely after taking two Lefevbre rights to open the ninth. Scotney attacked with bruising more emphatic blows despite getting hit. Though both fired blows Scotney’s were more powerful.

Both champions opened-up the 10th and final round with punches flying. Once again Scotney’s blows had more power behind them though the French fighter scored too, and though her face looked less bruised than Scotney’s the pure force of Scotney’s attacks was more impressive.

All three judges saw Scotney the winner 97-93, 96-94 and a ridiculous 99-91. The London-based fighter now has the IBF and WBO super bantamweight titles.

Promoter Eddie Hearn said a possible showdown with WBC titlist Erika Cruz looms large possibly in the summer.

“Great performance. Great punch output,” said Hearn of Scotney’s performance.

Dixon Wins WBO Title

British southpaw Rhiannon Dixon (10-0) out-fought Argentina’s Karen Carabajal (22-2) over 10 rounds and won a very competitive unanimous decision to win the vacant WBO lightweight title. It was one of the titles vacated by Katie Taylor who is now the undisputed super lightweight world champion.

An aggressive Dixon dominated the first three rounds including a knockdown in the third round with a perfect left-hand counter that dropped Carabajal. The Argentine got up and rallied in the round.

Carabajal, whose only loss was against Katie Taylor, slowly began figuring out Dixon’s attacks and each round got more competitive. The Argentine fighter used counter rights to find a hole in Dixon’s defense to probably win the round in the sixth.

The final three rounds saw both fighters engage evenly with Carabajal scoring on counters and Dixon attacking the body successfully.

After 10 rounds all three judges saw it in Dixon’s favor 98-91, 97-92, 96-93 who now wields the WBO lightweight world title.

“It’s difficult to find words,” said Dixon after winning the title.

Hometown Fighter Wins

Manchester’s Zelfa Barrett (31-2, 17 KOs) battled back and forth with Jordan Gill (28-3-1, 9 KO-s) and finally ended the super featherweight fight with two knockdowns via lefts to the body in the 10th round of a scheduled 12-round match for a regional title.

The smooth moving Barrett found the busier Gill more complex than expected and for the first nine rounds was fighting a 50/50 fight against the fellow British fighter from the small town of Chatteris north of London.

In the 10th round after multiple shots on the body of Gill, a left hook to the ribs collapsed the Chatteris fighter to the floor. He willed himself up and soon after was floored again but this time by a left to the solar plexus. Again he continued but was belted around until the referee stopped the onslaught by Barrett at 2:44 of the 10th.

“A tough, tough fighter,” said Barrett about Gill. “I had to work hard.”

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O.J. Simpson the Boxer: A Heartwarming Tale for the Whole Family

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O.J. Simpson passed away on Wednesday, April 10, at age 76 in Las Vegas where he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. For millions of Americans, news of his passing unloosed a flood of memories.

The O.J. Simpson double murder trial lasted 37 weeks. CNN and two other fledgling cable networks provided gavel-to-gavel coverage. On Oct. 3, 1995, the day that the jury rendered its verdict, CBS, NBC, ABC, and ESPN suspended regular programming to cover the trial. Worldwide, more than 100 million people were reportedly glued to their TV or radio.

O.J.’s life can be neatly compartmentalized into two halves. The dividing line is June 12, 1994. On that date, Simpson’s estranged wife, the former Nicole Brown, and her friend Ronald Goldman were found stabbed to death in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood at the home that Nicole shared with their two children.

Before then, O.J. was famous. After then, he was infamous.

Simpson first came to the fore on the gridiron. In 1968, his final season at the University of Southern California, he was so dynamic that he won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide, out-distancing Purdue’s Leroy Keyes by 1,750 votes. This was the widest margin to that point between a Heisman winner and runner-up and a milestone that stood for 51 years until surpassed by LSU quarterback Joe Burrows in 2019.

In the NFL, among his many achievements, he became the first and only NFL running back to eclipse 2,000 rushing yards in a 14-game season, a record that will never be broken.

But one can’t appreciate the depth of O.J.s celebrityhood by citing statistics. He transcended his sport like few athletes before or since. Owing in large part to his commercials for the Hertz rental car chain, he became one of America’s most recognizable people.

O.J. Simpson was raised by a single mother in a government housing project in the gritty Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. Unlike many of his boyhood peers, he was never quick to raise his fists. Weirdly, he once said that running away from fights proved useful to him when he took up football. It helped his stamina.

Although he never boxed in real life, O.J. portrayed a boxer in a made-for-TV movie. Titled “Goldie and the Boxer,” it aired on NBC on Sunday, Dec. 29, 1979, two weeks after O.J. played in his last NFL game. Co-produced by Simpson’s own production company, it starred O.J. opposite precocious Melissa Michaelson who played the 10-year-old Goldie.

In promos, the movie was tagged as a heartwarming tale for kids and their parents. Associated Press writer John Egan described it as “a cross between the Shirley Temple classic ‘Little Miss Marker’ and a low-budget ‘Rocky.’”

Here’s a synopsis, compliments of New York Times TV critic John J. O’Connor:

“The year is 1946, and Joe Gallagher is returning to Louisiana as an army veteran. He is quickly ripped off by a succession of thugs and finds himself broke and battered in Pennsylvania where he is befriended by a young Goldie. Her father is a boxer and Joe joins the training camp as a sparring partner. When the father dies, Joe takes his place on the fight circuit and Goldie becomes his manager…”

The consensus of the pundits was that O.J. the actor was very much a work in progress, but that he had great potential. And the movie, despite its hokey plot, attracted so many viewers that NBC wanted to turn it into a series.

O.J. had too much on his plate to commit to doing a regular series. Among other things, he had signed on to become part of NBC’s main stable of reporters at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, a gig that evaporated when the U.S. under President Jimmy Carter joined 64 other nations in boycotting the Games as a protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. However, the movie did spawn a sequel, “Goldie and the Boxer Go To Hollywood,” with Simpson and Michaelson reprising their roles.

I never met O.J. Simpson, but have a vivid memory of finding myself walking behind him into the outdoor boxing arena at Caesars Palace. If memory serves, this was the Hagler-Hearns fight of 1985, in which case the lady on his arm would have been Nicole as they were married earlier that year. She was quite a dish in that tight-fitting pantsuit and I remember thinking to myself, “of all the trophies this dude has won, here is the best trophy of them all.” (Forgive me.)

Simpson had cameo roles in several movies before leaving USC. When he finally turned his back on football, the world was his oyster. O.J., wrote Barry Lorge in the Washington Post, was “bright, affable, charming, articulate and credible, a public relation man’s dream-come true.”

No one would have foreseen the swerve his life would take.

When the jury, after only four hours of deliberation, returned a verdict of “not guilty,” there was cheering in some corners of America. The overwhelming consensus of the white population, however, was that the verdict was an abomination, a gross miscarriage of justice.

We’ll leave it at that.

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