Connect with us

Featured Articles

Avila’s Las Vegas Journey: Marquez-Pacquiao

David A. Avila

Published

on

An historic prizefight weekend began on a Thursday afternoon as we roared through the high deserts of Victorville-Barstow, then the low desert that passes through Baker at an estimated speed that could be a smidge faster than a thrown ball. Temperatures ranged from 70 to 75.

Three days of boxing cards were being staged in various parts of Las Vegas beginning with the Mirage Casino Resort on the Las Vegas Strip. We had just enough time to make the opening of the arena doors around 4 p.m.

Whenever there’s a big fight weekend you can bet that the boxing journalists are going to descend on the glitzy strip from all over the world. Even on Thursday evening several dozen reporters from Asia, South America and Europe were already checked into their hotels. Sitting in the arena were the Las Vegas regulars and a number of celebrities.

Over the years I’ve made a number of friends in Las Vegas such as journalist Chuck Giampa and his wife Lisa who is currently a boxing judge in Nevada. Other recognizable faces are Richie Sandoval the former bantamweight world champion who now works for Top Rank. And, also Bob Arum, the head man at Top Rank. And then there are the numerous match makers such as Brad Goodman, Bruce Trampler and Sean Gibbons who were waiting to observe the various boxing matches. Those are just a few of those in attendance. Matchmakers catch as many fights as possible. Their job depends on it.

A crowd began to form midway through the second fight as both Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns walked into the arena. After all these years they still carry an air of royalty from the boxing crowd that saw them fight in person or on television. Even those born after their last mega fight know that they’re the elite of the elite. People can thank ESPN, HBO and Fox for airing many of their old fights.

Also in the second row was Oxnard’s Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios who has suddenly streaked like a meteor especially after his big knockout win over Colorado’s Mike Alvarado a few months back in California. The hard-hitting Rios is scouting possible opponents. One is Manny Pacquiao. In two nights that dream fight will burst like a water bubble.

It’s a very long night as several of the match ups go the entire route. One of the most exciting is the lightweight clash pitting Raymundo Beltran against Ji-Hoon Kim of South Korea. In the first round they blast each other down via the left hook. But the two warriors fought the entire 12 rounds with Beltran, who is trained by Freddie Roach, going the distance and winning the unanimous decision. Both fighters belted each other.

The other interesting fight was Las Vegas boxer Jessie Magdaleno fighting Ontario’s Jonathan Arellano in a junior lightweight bout. Magdaleno erupted looking for the early knockout but Arellano’s speed and defense allowed him to escape the big blows. He would get knocked down a few times but finished the fight on his feet. Magdaleno is looking tougher and tougher.

After the final match my photographer Al Applerose and I headed toward the casino area to look for a place to eat. The National Rodeo tournament is being held at the Thomas & Mack Center and cowboys from all over the country are roaming inside the Mirage and every spot on the Strip. It reminds me of the late 60s and early 70s when cowboys were a common sight in Las Vegas. Now it’s merely nostalgia. I remember when anything west of the Strip was vast desert sands. No buildings and no homes. Only sand.

Where the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino currently is perched used to be the old Hacienda Hotel and Casino. They had sawdust on their floors among the slot machines. Visitors used to come in trucks, campers and trailers and all wore cowboy hats. A few blocks north were the Aladdin Hotel where guys with New York and Chicago accents were plentiful. In those days there we no sports books inside the casinos. One of the few sports books was next door to the Aladdin and Tropicana Hotel. Inside the room was filled thick with cigar smoke and deli sandwiches were the meal of choice. Chalk boards had numbers written on them representing racetracks and sporting events throughout the country. It was loud and crazy with mostly men inside hooting and hollering. Boxing was also a favorite pastime to put a wager on. I remember wanting to put a bet on the Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman fight. But I had already bet at my work with a dozen people. Everyone at my plant wanted to take Foreman who they felt surely would massacre Ali. They all were certain I was a fool for taking Ali. I didn’t have any more money to bet in Las Vegas in 1974. But later I’d clean up and return to Las Vegas with my Ali winnings. It was a good year.

After munching on some $12 hamburgers in the Mirage we headed back to the hotel. I was groggy from the long fight card and wanted to get an early start on Friday.

Friday

I have this habit of getting up at 7 a.m. no matter what time I go to sleep at night. Downstairs I grab a coffee and open up my laptop to see if I missed any important messages. Nothing going on. The coffee at the Orleans is not very good. Plus, I won’t drink that toilet coffee they leave in the rooms. Who knows what they do to those coffee makers.

Applerose meets me downstairs and we grab something to eat for breakfast. While eating an omelet we plan out the day. After a few hours we head to the MGM Grand to the press room set up next to the MGM Garden Arena. It’s already crowded with journalists, fighters and promoters.

I found an open spot to plug in the computer and while doing it someone tells me that there is no food. Journalists love free food, especially photographers. If you ever look at a boxing photographer notice that they’re mostly all beefy guys. They all know each other and if you ever want to know when the food is going to arrive, just ask a photographer.

A commotion stirs toward the back with dozens of people following a bald guy who I can’t distinguish at first. So I walked toward the back of the large convention room and see that it’s Iron Mike Tyson about to give a radio interview. Nobody is more popular than Tyson, well, perhaps Muhammad Ali, but that’s it. Whenever Tyson appears at an event of any kind the focus goes to him. Recently he has agreed to do a nationwide tour of a one-man show where he talks to the audience and answers any questions. He seems very happy about the tour and patiently answers the questions of the radio jock. When he leaves an entourage of 30 people leave with him. Suddenly it’s quiet again.

As Tyson leaves another boxer enters the press room: middleweight world champion Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez. He’s wearing a t-shirt and looks fit and ready to go. He had just endured a knee surgery but says everything is ok. One journalist after another questions the Argentine who is extremely honest.

Finally the weigh-in begins and crowds can be heard shuffling toward the arena. I stay in the press room and watch the proceedings on a large television screen. I’m surprised that Manny Pacquiao weighs 147 and Juan Manuel Marquez only 143. Usually Pacquiao comes in much lighter. The crowd is mostly pro-Marquez which is another surprise. Pacman’s fans are usually rabid and come in droves. I guess they’re expecting another ho-hum victory. After all, it is the fourth fight. Not many people want to see the fourth encounter.

A friend based in Las Vegas, who is quite a boxing historian, says that any fight between Marquez and Pacquiao is worth seeing. “These are two of the elite fighting each other,” he says. “They’re possibly the greatest fighters of their generation. Who would not want to see them fight each other?”

It’s a very good point.

After the weigh-ins we head through the crazy Vegas after work traffic. I zigzag through various streets to get to the Texas Station Casino north of downtown Las Vegas. We make it but the fights have already started. Luckily, the fight I want to see is up next. It’s the heavyweights.

Usually I don’t like heavyweight fights. They’re too ponderous and don’t throw as many punches as the smaller guys. But on this night undefeated Andy Ruiz, a Mexican heavyweight, is going to face Elijah McCall, the son of former heavyweight champion Oliver McCall.

Ruiz does what I expected especially with those fast hands and surprising footwork for a heavy guy. He opens up with some strong counters that force McCall to unload with bigger bombs. It only leaves him open for Ruiz’s fast counters. The Mexican heavyweight plows through McCall with some big shots and knocks down the other prospect. Eventually, the referee stops the fight when it gets too one-sided. Ruiz is a heavyweight to keep an eye on. I saw his first two fights in Mexico and also saw him spar Riverside’s Chris Arreola and Lateef Kayode. Ruiz can fight.

I receive a telephone call and have to leave the arena. I head toward one of the ritzy hotels where I meet a few business partners to discuss some issues. Later, I head back to the MGM where we run into a few boxing trainers, cut men and journalists near the hotel reservation area. We spend two hours talking about the big fight and one of the trainers asks who we’re all picking. I tell him for the first time I’m picking Marquez. I tell him that Pacman didn’t look good against Timothy Bradley and could not fight the entire three minutes of a round. He opted to fight in the last 30 seconds and do what is called “stealing a round.” Against Marquez, that’s a bad idea.

As we’re talking, Marquez’s conditioning coach stops by and shares some insight on the recent debates. One of the other journalists, Lem Satterfield, recently interviewed him and he just wants to thank him for the fair journalism. While we talk about boxing several cowboys see the Marquez coach and ask to take a photo with him. He obliges and spends the next hour doing it. Poor guy.

Me and Applerose break off and I hear someone calling my name. It’s Tony Rivera, one of the great cut men in boxing and a veritable historian as well. In his career he worked the corner of Alexis Arguello, Roberto Duran and Marco Antonio Barrera. As we talk a bit another guy comes up to shake my hand and say hello. It’s 50 Cent, but I didn’t recognize him without his hat and gear at first. I wish him luck. His fighter is Cuba’s Yuri Gamboa who fights Filipino southpaw Michael Farenas.

We spend another three hours in the bar where we sit and talk with ace flack Mario Serrano who handles the “Ghost” Robert Guerrero among many others. But Guerrero is his main guy. They came up together in the boxing world. A few other journalists stop by and before you know it, its 4 a.m.

Saturday

I get three hours of sleep and get up at 7 a.m. I can’t seem to fool my internal alarm clock. I head to Starbucks and make some calls to start the busy day. It’s a big fight and we have to pick up credentials, find parking and get something to eat.

After setting up my computer in the press room, I look for a place to eat inside the MGM. We were supposed to meet a boxer but she can’t make it. So we decide to get something to eat at a pizza place. While we’re eating I spot IBF lightweight titlist Miguel Vazquez waiting in line to grab a Nathan’s hot dog. He downs the hot dog then later I see him with an ice cream cone munching like a contented kid. I ask Applerose if that’s a good thing to do? We’ll find out later that night.

Inside the press room reporters are scurrying around the tables and preparing for the fight card to begin. It’s around 4 p.m. and I head toward the arena. Top Rank’s Lee Samuels is walking toward the arena at the same time. We walk in as one fight has already commenced.

Unlike mixed martial arts, boxing fans do not begin arriving until 6 p.m. or later. Most only want to see the main event. They’re nuts, especially those who spend $500 and up.

A few fights have passed when Bob Arum shouts to Satterfield and I that Republican governor Mitt Romney will be in the audience today. Some mutter a few things upon hearing the news. I begin thinking Romney is going to be smack in the middle of a boiling ethnic melting pot filled with mostly Mexicans and Filipinos. It makes me chuckle. It would have been better served if he had experienced it before the election. Romney attends with his wife.

Several fights pit Mexicans or Latinos versus Filipinos. On this night, only one Filipino Dodie Boy Penalosa emerges victorious. All three of the other Filipinos including Pacquiao will go down in defeat.

When the Marquez-Pacquiao fight begins I look at their stares. Both have done this three times before so there should be no changes or surprises technically. At this stage of their career they are what they are. The big surprise however, is when Marquez decks Pacman with a long overhand right from seemingly across the ring. Pacquiao hits the deck hard with his black hair flopping wildly. The fight resumes but the Filipino southpaw doesn’t seem hurt, just upset.

Marquez looks confident until Pacquiao catches him walking into a short left cross. Down goes the Mexican boxer extraordinaire. When he gets up Pacman attacks as if his life depends on it. In some ways it does.

In the sixth round Pacquiao tries to knock Marquez out but the Mexican knows all of the tricks. After about one minute I noticed that Pacquiao’s legs are quivering as if he’s tiring rapidly. He shakily begins to move toward Marquez who stands in front and receives a volley of punches. Marquez suddenly moves backwards, but almost as if he’s setting a trap. Pacquiao moves in and feints once and Marquez reads the feint and holds back his counter, then Pacman attempts to fire the left and is met with a short right cross to the chin that catches Pacman walking into the punch. Boom. Down he goes. An entire arena jumps in surprise, including Jim Lampley who is sitting in front of me. Fans along ringside can be seen with their mouths opened wide and some with hands to their face. Even Romney has a look of shock. Pacquiao is down for the count.

But after that savage knockout, many of the fans are somewhat quiet. Pacquiao is still on the floor, not moving. Minutes pass and still no movement. Then, he slowly is raised to his feet and the pro-Marquez fans can finally cheer in earnest.

I’ve been following Pacquiao since the Lehlo Ledwaba fight and Marquez since his days at the Inglewood Forum. Now here they are at the top of the pyramid. Temporarily, Pacquiao has been toppled like all other kings have been toppled in the past. It’s another era gone. Not just for the Filipino slugger but for Marquez too. Both should end their careers on this note.

After the fights, its pandemonium in the MGM Grand. We leave the arena and meet friends including Melinda Cooper, the beautiful and talented boxer from Las Vegas. About 10 of us spend four hours at a sushi bar until 3:30 a.m. I head to the hotel and sleep at 4 a.m. and get up at 7 a.m. Then I head back to California all the while talking to Applerose about the tiring but exciting journey.

Oh yeah. And about the lightweight champ Vazquez who we saw eating hot dogs and ice cream. He won by unanimous decision. I guess that stuff is good for you.

Next stop is California.

 

Featured Articles

Serhii Bohachuk in Montebello and More News and Notes

David A. Avila

Published

on

Serhii-Bohachuk-in-Montebello-and-More-News-and-Notes

Serhii Bohachuk leads an impressive lineup put together by 360 Promotions and returns to Southern California ready to resume an assault on the super welterweight division.

Asked how he intends to proceed?

“I don’t talk, talk, talk,” said Bohachuk. “I just show with action.”

Bohachuk (19-1, 19 KOs) meets southpaw Raphael Igbokwe (16-2, 7 KOs) in the main event on Thursday Sept. 16, at Quiet Cannon Events Center in Montebello, Calif. UFC Fight Pass will stream the boxing card that begins at 5:30 p.m. PST.

Early in the year Bohachuk, nicknamed “El Flaco,” was winning a showdown against Brandon Adams staged in Puerto Rico, when he was caught with a sneaky left hook. The fight was eventually stopped and the amiable Ukrainian fighter suffered his first loss.

But he’s back.

He scored a knockout win in July and now seems poised to make a run at the top, starting with Houston’s Igbokwe. For Bohachuk, 26, losing a fight actually could make world champions more inclined to accept a match with him. Who wanted to face a fighter with every win coming via knockout? Bohachuk just needs to continue winning.

Another contender looking to rebound is Ali Akhmedov (16-1, 12 KOs) who lost a bid for the IBO super middleweight world title to Carlos Gongora last December. No shame losing to the world champion from Ecuador.

Kazakhstan’s Akhmedov sits in the same situation as Bohachuk in that a loss actually makes him more alluring for a world champion to accept. Losing a fight did not hurt contenders like Sullivan Barrera or Sergey Kovalev.

Akhmedov, 26, meets Peru’s David Zegarra (34-5, 21 KOs) in an eight-round bout in the semi-main event. It should be interesting.

Rounding out the rest of the heavy duty card will be undefeated Adrian Corona (7-0) fighting undefeated Danny Robles (7-0-1) in a super featherweight six round bout. Also, undefeated female lightweights Elvina White (5-0) and Chelsey Anderson (3-0) clash in a four-round bout.

A special amateur feature pits national champion Chantel Navarro against Daniela Rojas for a special title to open the show that encompasses a total of eight pro bouts. Doors open at 4:30 p.m.

Previously 360 Promotions staged its boxing cards at the Avalon Theater in Hollywood, but they outgrew that venue. The Quiet Cannon venue in Montebello had been used for a couple of decades for boxing quite successfully. Now, 360 Promotions has picked up the gauntlet to provide boxing to that area in one of the best venues in Southern California.

For tickets and information go to: https://hollywoodfightnights.festivalsetup.com/ or to @360 Promotions on Instagram.

Coming Soon

Aside from Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder meeting on Oct. 9, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, several other shows are coming down the pike.

Oct. 15, at the Pechanga Arena in San Diego, Calif. a Top Rank show brings WBO featherweight titlist Emanuel Navarrete (34-1, 29 KOs) of Mexico defending against Southern California’s Joet Gonzalez (24-1, 14 KOs). Also on the same card, San Diego’s Giovani Santillan meets Angel Ruiz

Las Vegas

Two weeks apart, two of the top Pound for Pound fighters in the world invade Las Vegas for their piece of the boxing pie.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (56-1-2, 38 KOs) shoves in all his multiple world titles against Caleb Plant (21-0, 12 KOs) and his IBF super middleweight belt in an attempt to claim the undisputed super middleweight world championship on Saturday Nov. 6, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Canelo has three of the four belts not including those he took at light heavyweight. It doesn’t seem like a fair trade but the Mexican redhead doesn’t care. Plant is a right-handed version of Billy Joe Saunders and will use the exact same method of attack.

Terence Crawford (37-0, 28 KOs) defends the WBO welterweight title against Shawn Porter (31-3-1, 17 KOs) on Nov. 20, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. The Nebraska welterweight finally gets an opportunity to prove he’s at the top of the welterweight rung when he meets Porter. It’s a very good chance to compare how Crawford stands against Errol Spence Jr. who barely defeated Porter a couple of years ago in Los Angeles.

Fights to Watch

Thurs. UFC Fight Pass 7 p.m. Serhii Bohachuk (19-1) vs Raphael Igbokwe (16-2).

Sat. Fox S1 4 p.m. Jose Valenzuela (9-0) vs Denier Berrio (22-3-1), Rajon Chance (5-0) vs Elon De Jesus (3-0).

Pictured left to right: trainer Manny Robles, Serhii Bohachuk, assistant trainer Ben Lira, Ali Akhmedov, promoter Tom Loeffler. Photo credit: Al Applerose

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Continue Reading

Featured Articles

40 Years Ago This Week: Sugar Ray Leonard TKOs Thomas Hearns in an Instant Classic

Bernard Fernandez

Published

on

40-Years-Ago-This-Week-Sugar-Ray-Leonard-TKOs-Thomas-Hearns-in-an-Instant-Classic

Whoever coined the phrase that “you can’t please ’em all” might have been referring to someone like Doug Blackburn, one of the rare dissenters in assessing what he had seen during the classic welterweight unification showdown of Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns on Sept. 16, 1981, in the outdoor stadium at Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace.

Writing for the Town Talk in that noted boxing hotbed of Alexandria, La., Blackburn, who saw the fight at a closed-circuit venue, wrote a column in which he offered his opinion that the matchup of two great champions in their prime “like many heavily-hyped, much anticipated meetings, failed to live up to prefight expectations. Despite Sugar Ray’s dramatic rally, neither man can be too satisfied with the way he fought.”

Yeah, well, there are still people here and there who insist that the Earth is flat and the sun revolves around the moon. But for most fight fans fortunate enough to have witnessed Leonard-Hearns I – there would be a too-long-delayed rematch, on June 12, 1989, which ended in a desultory split draw that many thought should have gone Hearns’ way – the classic original, in which Leonard, trailing on all three scorecards, staged a dramatic rally to win on a 14th-round stoppage, is a gold standard for what such megafights are supposed to be, but frequently aren’t.

Think not? In the 40 years since Leonard and Hearns made ring magic, similarly stratospheric hopes were tied to the Sept. 18, 1999, unification bout between undefeated welterweight titlists Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad, which was not exactly a thrillfest when measured against Leonard-Hearns I. The outcome was tinged in controversy, true, but only because De La Hoya, mistakenly thinking he was too far ahead on points to lose on the scorecards, coasted the last three rounds and was stunned when Tito was awarded a majority-decision victory. There would be no rematch.

In a financial sense, the May 2, 2015, pairing of celebrated welterweight champs Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao obliterated all revenue records with an overall take of $600 million, far outdistancing the then-high-water mark of $50 million-plus nearly 34 years earlier for Leonard-Hearns I, when the technology for milking every available dollar from fights of that scope was still comparatively primitive. But Mayweather, an indisputably great fighter whose strengths are pinpoint counterpunching and impenetrable defense, was content to craft another workmanlike performance in handily outpointing “PacMan,” who claimed he was hindered by a shoulder injury. Both fighters greatly enriched themselves, but the fight, which was generally conceded to be four to five years past its optimal date, did little to satisfy most fans’ craving for the kind of two-way action that was promised but not delivered.

Leonard-Hearns I, on the other hand, had more than its share of exclamation-point moments, for each fighter, the most obvious being the finishing flurry in which Leonard, his left eye badly swollen and increasingly aware that the victory he had presumed would be his was becoming less and less likely, seized command in the 14th round with, depending on whose count you choose to believe, 23, 25 or 28 unanswered blows. It was left to referee Davey Pearl to rescue the dazed and defenseless Hearns after an elapsed time of 1 minute, 45 seconds.

At the post-fight press conference, Leonard, his ugly, purplish left eye and puffy cheekbone hidden behind oversized dark glasses, explained why and how he had been able to mine a vein of toughness many had presumed the 1976 Olympic gold medalist lacked.

“I was afraid of the right hand of his until the very end,” Leonard admitted of Hearns’ vaunted power. “He dropped some real bombs on me, and I knew he had another one left.

“I pulled this one out by reaching down into my guts, into my heart. I knew I was behind. I knew I had to keep the pressure up. There wasn’t anything I could do but find out what was inside me.”

Sometimes, the beauty of boxing is most illustrated by the unsightly. Leonard, whose inner iron had been glimpsed most notably in his close, unanimous-decision loss to Roberto Duran on June 20, 1980, in Montreal, demonstrated to any remaining doubters that he was so much more than the possessor of a dazzling smile, matinee-idol looks and a glib way in expressing himself.

John Schulian, the outstanding sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, described Leonard’s come-from-behind surge thusly:

After all those miles and all those smiles, Sugar Ray Leonard wasn’t pretty any more. He was a one-eyed man in an ugly fight that had nothing to do with the glitz and glamor that have been his calling card. There had been a time when he could have avoided this grim marathon, a time in the sixth and seventh rounds when he could have added Thomas Hearns to his list of victims. But the moment had passed and Hearns had escaped, and now Leonard, his handsome face a scowling bruise, was struggling for survival.

And this, from the New York Daily News’ Mike Lupica:

Away from the ring he fools you with the con man’s smile and the smooth patter and the slick attitudes about his own high finance …This is Ray Charles Leonard, child of hype, maker of millions, the 25-year-old man who will soon be the richest fighter in the history of the game. And that is why he fools you when he steps out of Dun and Bradstreet and into a pair of boxing trunks and becomes Sugar Ray Leonard. Boxing will never seem hard enough, dirty enough, bloody enough for Sugar Ray Leonard. Only in special moments will we see the man’s steel, and heart, and extraordinary ability to bang and grapple when a fight is on the line. Only when someone tries to take his title away from him will we realize there is a hoodlum inside the tuxedo.

To the winner go the spoils, or at least that is what usually happens. While Leonard added another layer to his burgeoning reputation as a special fighter, a historically significant fighter, the vanquished Hearns – not known as a fount of nifty sound bites and attention-grabbing quotes – might have gained nearly as much in defeat as had the triumphant Leonard. It had been generally conceded going in that, were the fight to end in the early rounds, it would be Hearns who would have his hand raised. If enough rounds tolled by, perhaps all the way to the conclusion of the scheduled 15, the momentum would necessarily shift to Leonard (30-1 with 21 KOs entering the bout), widely seen as a less devastating puncher than Hearns (32-0, 30 KOs) but also as a more polished stylist and executor of strategical options. That scenario was repeated so often during the run-up to the bout that it almost came to be accepted as incontrovertible fact.

Team Leonard, for the most part, rolled with the notion that Hearns was a human robot whose Plan A was to land that pulverizing overhand right, as early as possible and as often as necessary. His Plan B would be … well, there really wasn’t one, if Leonard and his crafty trainer, Angelo Dundee, were to be believed.

“This is the first time in my career I’ve had visions of a fight,” Leonard said a few days before he would get the opportunity to implement his imagination. “I see thousands and thousands of people. I see Hearns missing and being aggravated and frustrated. I see me raising my hands. I’ve had this dream, this vision, for over two months. It just has to come true.

“I’ve said Hearns fights one way and can’t fight no other way. I heard he might try to box me. I wish he would try. Hearns is a puncher. With that reach of his, well, he’s a freak, really. He comes straight at you. He doesn’t need to think.”

And if the “Motor City Cobra” did find that he might need to think?

“He’ll blow a fuse.”

Added Dundee: “Hearns might be 6-foot-2, (actually 6’1”) but he spreads his legs and that will bring him eyeball-to-eyeball with Leonard. He tries to sucker you by carrying the left real low like Bobby Foster used to do, and then he rears back and nails you with the right. But Leonard isn’t going to fall for any of those traps. It will be interesting to see what happens to Hearns if he sees he can’t take Leonard out in a few rounds. Will he panic and punch himself out like Foreman did against Ali?”

Like Ali, Leonard was a master of mind games meant to mentally discombobulate an opponent if possible. But Hearns’ manager-trainer, Emanuel Steward, had worked with Hearns since he was 12, and he insisted that Leonard’s taunts and posturing would have no effect on his guy.

“Both (Wilfredo) Benitez and Duran took a lot out of Leonard, physically and mentally,” Steward suggested. “I know that after the Benitez fight Leonard was mentally exhausted. Besides, now that he has made all those millions from all those fights, he no longer has that burning ambition. The fire is gone out of him.”

Perhaps the most prescient prefight comment came from Ferdie Pacheco, Muhammad Ali’s longtime personal physician, who insisted that Hearns was hardly the one-trick pony described by Leonard. Pacheco predicted that Hearns’ 78-inch reach, unusually long for a welterweight, would help Hearns control the flow of the fight until the proper moment presented itself for him to deliver a put-away right.

“Leonard will have to pay an awful toll to travel down that 78-inch speedway,” Pacheco said. “Thomas will control him with his long, hard jab, and somewhere along the way Leonard will move into a right hand he won’t see. It will be like a fuse going off in his brain. All the lights will go out.”

Truth be told, Steward’s fight plan did indeed call for heavy usage of Hearns’ jab, the presumed key which would serve to open the door to Leonard’s chin for that concussive right. And even if a terminating detonation of the right never occurred, what exactly would be wrong if Hearns confounded all the prefight conjecture by outboxing Leonard over the long haul? He’d still come away as the unified 147-pound champion, adding Leonard’s WBC and The Ring magazine straps to his own WBA strap. It was the same conservative mindset De La Hoya had in putting as much distance between himself and the dangerous Trinidad in those final three rounds 18 years later, with one difference – De La Hoya’s lead was not as wide as Hearns’. Leonard had won only four of the 13 completed rounds on two judges’ cards at the time Pearl waved the fight off, and five of 13 on the third judge’s tally.

But in the 14th round Hearns – who had overcome shaky rounds in the sixth and seventh to again gain the upper hand — chose to engage Leonard in another in-tight exchange, and got popped with a hard left hook that instantly shifted momentum. Leonard tore into Hearns with a renewed sense of purpose, and it wasn’t long before Pearl stepped in.

“It was kind of silly,” Duke Durden of the Nevada State Athletic Commission said. “All Hearns had to do was either stay away, or grab and hold Leonard – spit in his eye, or anything – the rest of the way, and the fight was his.”

Although he never could hope to match Leonard as a media darling, in losing his first bout as a professional Hearns demonstrated that he had ample charisma of his own, and a willingness to go for broke where it counted, inside the ropes, stamping his future fights moving as must-see events. Now 62, he is as fondly remembered for losing his epic, throw-caution-to-the-wind three-round war with Marvelous Marvin Hagler on April 15, 1985, as for his spectacular, second-round stoppage of Roberto Duran on June 15, 1984.

Given all that they had shared, and the place each holds in the other’s legacy, it should not come as a surprise that Leonard was Hearns’ presenter when his former arch-rival was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in Las Vegas in Aug. 2017.

“We’re friends now,” Leonard said in introducing Hearns. “Tommy had the whole package. He was a freak of nature with his height, with his reach, with his power, with his speed.”

FACTS ABOUT LEONARD-HEARNS I

*Main Events president Dan Duva served as lead promoter, another building block in the march toward big-time status for the New Jersey-based company, which was founded in 1979 as a mom-and-pop operation. Main Events took another major leap forward following the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics when it signed U.S. Olympians Evander Holyfield, Pernell Whitaker, Meldrick Taylor, Mark Breland and Tyrell Biggs.

*Leonard opened as a 2-to-1 favorite, but by fight time enough money had come in on Hearns that he went off as a 13-10 wagering choice.

*At a Leonard workout in Vegas, Muhammad Ali was asked who he liked in the fight. “I pick Leonard ’cause he’s just like me, fast and pretty. He’ll dance circles around Hearns,” Ali replied. Then, at a Hearns workout an hour later, Ali said the Detroit scrapper “is awesome, man. Tommy Hearns is sooo big to be a welterweight. He should knock out Sugar Ray.”

*Celebrity quote of fight week came from Charo: “I think the beeg one – Hearns – will cuchi-cuchi Sugar to sleep.”

*The live attendance at Caesars Palace was 24,083, with 1,100 credentialed media members.

*Hearns’ best quote during fight week: “Everybody talks about how great a boxer Ray Leonard is, especially Ray Leonard.”

*Because of the television lights, the temperature in the ring at the time the main event started was right at 100 degrees.

*According to Emanuel Steward, preliminary negotiations for a rematch began on Sept. 21, five days after the fight. Hearns-Leonard II, however, did not take place until June 12, 1989, nearly eight years later.

Editor’s Note: Bernard Fernandez, named to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in the Observer category with the class of 2020, was the recipient of numerous awards for writing excellence during his 28-year career as a sportswriter for the Philadelphia Daily News. Fernandez’s first book, “Championship Rounds,” a compendium of previously published material, was released in May of last year. The sequel, “Championship Rounds, Vol. 2,” with a foreword by Jim Lampley, arrives this fall. The book can be ordered through Amazon.com, in hard or soft cover, and other book-selling websites and outlets.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Continue Reading

Featured Articles

The Hauser Report: Oscar Valdez, Phentermine, and the Larger Issue

Thomas Hauser

Published

on

The-Hauser-Report-Oscar-Valdez-Phentermine-and-the-Larger-Issue

On September 10, Oscar Valdez successfully defended his WBC super-featherweight title with a twelve-round decision over Robson Conceicao in a bout contested under the auspices of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe in Tucson, Arizona.

That’s the short version of what happened. The long version is more complicated.

After their fight was signed, Valdez and Conceicao enrolled in the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) drug-testing program. Top Rank, which promotes both fighters, forwarded their paperwork to VADA and contracted to pay for the VADA testing. This was in addition to the fighters’ mandatory participation in the World Boxing Council Clean Boxing Program (CBP).

In late-August, a urine sample taken by VADA from Valdez tested positive for phentermine – a prescription medication used as a stimulant and appetite suppressant. The use of phentermine is classified by VADA as prohibited at all times.

VADA does not adjudicate performance enhancing drug matters. It tests fighters and reports its findings to contractually mandated parties. In this instance, after receiving the test result, VADA notified Top Rank, the World Boxing Council, and the Pascua Yaqui Tribe commission of the adverse finding.

Athletes rarely say, “I was using a PED and you caught me.” Valdez didn’t either. “What I can say,” he told Mark Kriegel of ESPN, “is that I’m a hundred-percent clean fighter. I don’t know how that got into my body.”

Patrick English (the attorney who represents Valdez) voiced the view that herbal tea, innocently ingested, was the most likely source of the phentermine and that various supplements Valdez took during training are being tested for any hint of contamination. He further noted that only a trace amount of phentermine was found in Valdez’s system and that all other blood and urine samples taken from Valdez by VADA tested negative.

Those arguments aren’t persuasive. Victor Conte (the nutrition and conditioning guru whose involvement with PEDs decades ago is a matter of record) states, “There is no connection between any herbal tea and phentermine in terms of molecular structure. No tea has ever been reported as being contaminated with phentermine. Ever in history. If you google ‘herbal tea phentermine,’ a company called their product by this name as a marketing ploy. But there’s not a shred of credible evidence I’m aware of to support the notion that phentermine is present in herbal tea. There has never been a positive test associated with any herbal tea. There is zero connection between herbal tea and phentermine.”

Conte also makes the point that, in today’s world of micro-dosing, drugs quickly leave a fighter’s system. All a negative test result means is that a fighter was clean on a particular day.

But Valdez had an ace in the hole. For purposes of drug testing, athletes are considered either “in competition” or “out of competition.” In competition begins at 11:59 PM on the night before an event.

When fighters enroll in VADA, they’re told that VADA has one prohibited list and that it doesn’t distinguish between in competition and out of competition drug use. Thus, VADA classifies phentermine as a prohibited substance at all times.

But – and this is a big but – while phentermine is banned in competition under the World Anti-Doping Agency code, its use out of competition is not prohibited by WADA.

Adjudication of Valdez’s case was left to the Pascua Yaqui Tribe Athletic Commission (which had jurisdiction over the fight) and the World Boxing Council (whose title belt was at stake). There was one hearing overseen jointly by both organizations. The tribal commission opted to follow the WADA standard and allowed the fight to proceed without punishment of any kind. The WBC’s position was a bit more complicated because the WBC Clean Boxing Program is, in theory, guided by VADA standards and the use of phentermine – even out of competition – is a violation of the CBP.

However, WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman found a way around this inconvenience, declaring, “This substance [phentermine] does not give you any competitive advantage. It is the equivalent of having three energy drinks.” Sulaiman also noted that only a trace amount of phentermine was found in Valdez’s system.

The WBC then ruled that it would officially sanction Valdez-Conceicao as a title fight. But at the same time, it placed Valdez on probation for twelve months. In addition, Valdez was ordered to take part in and pay for several unspecified educational programs, undergo an unspecified number of random drug tests, and make a minimum of six personal appearances as a WBC Ambassador to promote and educate others with regard to principles consistent with clean boxing.

The WBC ruling ruffled a lot of feathers. Victor Conte is among its foremost critics.

“I’ve given phentermine to athletes in the past,” Conte says. “I know what it does. It’s a powerful central nervous system stimulant and one of the most effective PEDs a boxer can use. It increases heart rate and enables the heart to pump more oxygen to muscle tissue which delays the onset of fatigue and helps increase speed, strength, and stamina. It also suppresses appetite and burns calories to help with weight loss. And its use can lead to serious heart problems. Athletes in other sports are suspended for using phentermine. A player in the NBA [Lindsey Hunter] was suspended after he tested positive for phentermine. Jockeys in horse racing are suspended if they use phentermine to cut weight.”

Why does WADA allow for the use of phentermine out of competition if it has the performance-enhancing and dangerous qualities that Conte says it does?

“Let’s get real about this,” Conte answers. “First, WADA’s protocols were put in place with an eye toward protecting sponsorship dollars. Too many adverse test results are bad for business. And second, WADA’s protocols aren’t designed for boxers. If a stimulant is on the banned list on fight night and you acknowledge that it enhances performance, why would it be legal in training camp? Does this mean that someone can use all the phentermine they want up until the day of a fight? That would be dangerous and allowing it to happen would be negligent.”

“When Oscar Valdez signed up for VADA testing,” Conte continues, “he agreed to follow VADA’s protocols, which include not using phentermine in or out of competition. The WBC didn’t want to lose its sanctioning fee. The tribal commission didn’t want to lose the money that would come in from Valdez-Conceicao and future fights. It’s as simple as that.”

In 2018, Billy Joe Saunders tested positive for the stimulant Oxilofrine, which (like phentermine) is allowed by WADA “out of competition” but is on VADA’s prohibited list at all times. Saunders claimed that the Oxilofrine came from a nasal spray. The Massachusetts State Athletic Commission denied him a license to box and his planned WBO title defense against Demetrius Andrade was cancelled.

“It is the classic case of rules in one place count for nothing in another,” Boxing News editor Matt Christie writes. “The problem lies with a complete lack of uniformity across the governing and sanctioning bodies. Even more problematic is that the sanctioning bodies appear to pick and choose what rules suit them on a particular day.”

Christie is right. There are too many variables. Is there PED testing for a given fight? Which tests? Which commission has jurisdiction over the fight. Who’s administering the tests? Is a sanctioning body involved? To cite one example of an absurd situation, human growth hormone and EPO are still not on the New York State Athletic Commission’s list of banned substances.

In so far as phentermine is concerned, California State Athletic Commission executive director Andy Foster says, “The California State Athletic Commission views the use of phentermine out of competition in the same way as the World Anti-Doping Agency. Phentermine is not a banned substance out of competition by WADA, so it is not banned by the CSAC either.”

Nevada State Athletic Commission executive director Bob Bennett says that Nevada also adheres to the WADA list.

Does this mean that Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder, Canelo Alvarez and Caleb Plant can use all the phentermine they want prior to their upcoming fights in Las Vegas as long as it isn’t in their system on the day of the fight?

“Not exactly,” Bennett answers. “Phentermine is a prescription drug so, if a fighter uses phentermine, he must declare its use on a pre-fight form and answer questions as to where he got the prescription and why he’s taking it.”

I don’t know what Oscar Valdez did and didn’t do. I do know that most of the moneyed interests in boxing couldn’t care less about protecting the health and safety of fighters except to the extent that they’re protecting their own financial interests. Clean fighters have to stand up and take control on this issue. As part of their effort, they should demand one national standard.

As Andre Ward stated during ESPN’s coverage of Valdez-Conceicao, “We can’t keep moving the goal posts.”

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His next book – Broken Dreams: Another Year Inside Boxing – will be published this autumn by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, he was selected for boxing’s highest honor – induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Fast-Results-from-Las-Vegas-Yordenis-Ugas-Upsets-Manny-Pacquiao
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Fast Results from Las Vegas: Yordenis Ugas Upsets Manny Pacquiao

The-One-Punch-KO-Artist
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

The One Punch KO Artist

Not-One-but-Two-Scions-of-Royal-Boxing-Families-Turned-Pro-on-Aug-14
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Not One, but TWO Scions of Royal Boxing Families Turned Pro on Aug. 14

25-Years-Ago-This-Week-Tyson-KOs-Seldon-in-the-Overture-to-an-Assassination
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

25 Years Ago This Week: Tyson KOs Seldon in the Overture to an Assassination

The-Hauser-Report-The-End-Game-for-Manny-Pacquiao
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

The Hauser Report: The End Game for Manny Pacquiao

The-Official-TSS-Pacquiao-Ugas-Prediction-Page
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

The Official TSS Pacquiao-Ugas Prediction Page

The-Year-1988-Was-A-Fateful-Year-in-the-Lives-of-Mike-Tyson-and-Steve-Lott
Featured Articles1 week ago

The Year 1988 Was a Fateful Year in the Lives of Mike Tyson and Steve Lott

President-of-Pandemonium-The-Mad-World-of-Ike-Ibeabuchi-by-Luke-G-Williams
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

“President of Pandemonium: The Mad World of Ike Ibeabuchi” by Luke G. Williams

Avila-Perspective-Chap-149-Kali Reis-PacMan-and-More
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 149: Kali Reis, PacMan and More

Boxing-Odds-and-Ends-Notes-on-Teofimo-Lopez-Manny-Pacquiao-and-Jarvis-Astaire
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Boxing Odds and Ends: Notes on Teofimo Lopez, Manny Pacquiao, and Jarvis Astaire

Capture
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Canelo Alvarez vs. Caleb Plant is a Go for Nov. 6

Checking-In-With-Christian Giudice-Author-of-Four-Biographies-of-Latin-Ring-Greats
Featured Articles1 week ago

Checking In With Christian Giudice, Author of Four Biographies of Latin Ring Greats

Results-from-El-Cajon-Kali-Reis-Wins-and-Elvis Does-Too
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Results from El Cajon: Kali Reis Wins and Elvis Does Too

Atlantic-City-Boxing-HOF-Weekend-Becoming-a-Staple-for-the-City
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame Weekend Becoming a Staple for the City

Avila-Perspective-Chap-50-Old-Soldiers-and-More
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Avila Perspective, Chap.150: Old Soldiers and More

Oscar-De-La-Hoya-Hospitalized-for-Covid-Evander-Holyfield-Ready-to-Rumble
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Oscar De La Hoya Hospitalized for Covid; Evander Holyfield Ready to Rumble

The-Hauser-Report-Oscar-Valdez-Phentermine-and-the-Larger-Issue
Featured Articles3 days ago

The Hauser Report: Oscar Valdez, Phentermine, and the Larger Issue

Jake-Paul-Defeats-Former-UFC-Champ-Tyron-Woodley-Amanda-Wins-Too
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Jake Paul Defeats Former UFC Champ Tyron Woodley; Amanda Wins Too

Mike-Tyson-Was-a-Thunderbolt-and-Steve-Lott-Was-Caught-Up-in-the-Storm
Featured Articles1 week ago

Mike Tyson Was a Thunderbolt and Steve Lott Was Caught Up in the Storm

Warrington-vs-Lara-Ends-in-a-Technical-Draw-Katie-Taylor-Defeats-Jennifer-Han
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Warrington vs Lara Ends in a Technical Draw; Katie Taylor Defeats Jennifer Han

Serhii-Bohachuk-in-Montebello-and-More-News-and-Notes
Featured Articles1 day ago

Serhii Bohachuk in Montebello and More News and Notes

40-Years-Ago-This-Week-Sugar-Ray-Leonard-TKOs-Thomas-Hearns-in-an-Instant-Classic
Featured Articles2 days ago

40 Years Ago This Week: Sugar Ray Leonard TKOs Thomas Hearns in an Instant Classic

The-Hauser-Report-Oscar-Valdez-Phentermine-and-the-Larger-Issue
Featured Articles3 days ago

The Hauser Report: Oscar Valdez, Phentermine, and the Larger Issue

Belfort-Stope-Holyfield-in-the-Opening-Round-of-a-Sad Spectacle
Featured Articles5 days ago

Belfort Stops Holyfield in the Opening Round of a Sad Spectacle

The-Hauser-Report-Muhammad-Ali-Malcolm-X-and-Netflix
Featured Articles5 days ago

The Hauser Report: Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, and Netflix

Top-Rank-in-Tucson-Successful-Title-Defenses-for-Oscar-Valdez-and-Junto-Nakatani
Featured Articles5 days ago

Top Rank in Tucson: Successful Title Defenses for Oscar Valdez and Junko Nakatani

Filip-Hrgovic-and-Tony-Yoka-Keep-on-Rolling-in-Separate-Bouts-on-European-Soil
Featured Articles6 days ago

Filip Hrgovic and Tony Yoka Keep on Rolling in Separate Bouts on European Soil

Cab-Donald-Trump-Make-Bosing-Great-Again-and-Become-its-New-Howard-Cosell?
Featured Articles6 days ago

Can Donald Trump ‘Make Boxing Great Again’ and Become its New Howard Cosell?

Avila-Perspective-Chap-152-Oscar-and-Oscar-and-More
Featured Articles1 week ago

Avila Perspective, Chap 152: Oscar and Oscar and More

The-Year-1988-Was-A-Fateful-Year-in-the-Lives-of-Mike-Tyson-and-Steve-Lott
Featured Articles1 week ago

The Year 1988 Was a Fateful Year in the Lives of Mike Tyson and Steve Lott

Mike-Tyson-Was-a-Thunderbolt-and-Steve-Lott-Was-Caught-Up-in-the-Storm
Featured Articles1 week ago

Mike Tyson Was a Thunderbolt and Steve Lott Was Caught Up in the Storm

Checking-In-With-Christian Giudice-Author-of-Four-Biographies-of-Latin-Ring-Greats
Featured Articles1 week ago

Checking In With Christian Giudice, Author of Four Biographies of Latin Ring Greats

Ramos-Castillo-and-Hernandez-Prevail-on-Sunday's-PBC-Show-in-Minneapolis
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Ramos, Castillo, and Hernandez Prevail on Sunday’s PBC Show in Minneapolis

Warrington-vs-Lara-Ends-in-a-Technical-Draw-Katie-Taylor-Defeats-Jennifer-Han
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Warrington vs Lara Ends in a Technical Draw; Katie Taylor Defeats Jennifer Han

Oscar-De-La-Hoya-Hospitalized-for-Covid-Evander-Holyfield-Ready-to-Rumble
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Oscar De La Hoya Hospitalized for Covid; Evander Holyfield Ready to Rumble

Avila-Perspective-Chap-151-England-vs-Mexico-RIP-Jeanette-Zacarias
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 151: England vs Mexico; RIP Jeanette Zacarias

25-Years-Ago-This-Week-Tyson-KOs-Seldon-in-the-Overture-to-an-Assassination
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

25 Years Ago This Week: Tyson KOs Seldon in the Overture to an Assassination

Boxing-Odds-and-Ends-To-Breakout-Fighters-and-a-Backslider
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Boxing Odds and Ends: Two Breakout Fighters and a Back-Slider

President-of-Pandemonium-The-Mad-World-of-Ike-Ibeabuchi-by-Luke-G-Williams
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

“President of Pandemonium: The Mad World of Ike Ibeabuchi” by Luke G. Williams

Jake-Paul-Defeats-Former-UFC-Champ-Tyron-Woodley-Amanda-Wins-Too
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Jake Paul Defeats Former UFC Champ Tyron Woodley; Amanda Wins Too

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending

Advertisement