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Gridiron Greatness No Sure Path To Gloved Glory

Bernard Fernandez



Gridiron Greatness

Gridiron Greatness – Ex footballer Mitchell (left) learned against Banks what others, like Too Tall Jones, and Mark Gastineau, quickly figured out…the learning curve in boxing is quite steep. (Hogan Photos)

Try to imagine Mike Tyson or Joe Frazier as Pro Bowl football players, or even holding end-of-the-bench roster spots with an NFL team.

Isn’t easy, is it?

Now try to imagine actual All-Pro defensive ends Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Mark Gastineau as heavyweight champions of the world.

That’s even a more difficult concept to accept, yet there are dreamers – past, present and probably future – who dare to believe that superior athletic ability in one sport is easily transferable to another. It is a fallacy that has been proved wrong any number of times with football players trying to make the extremely difficult crossover into boxing, but there is always someone who thinks he’ll be the one to cash that lottery ticket.

Perhaps the exception to the rule will be former Michigan State University linebacker Seth Mitchell. Decide for yourself whether Mitchell’s second-round stoppage at the hands of Johnathon Banks on Nov. 17 – a devastating defeat that either exposed the ex-Spartan as another overhyped gridiron-to-ring wannabe or, in his words, as a “learning experience” that ultimately will make him a better fighter – will be reversed or reprised in a Feb. 16 rematch in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall.

“It was a tough defeat for me,” said Mitchell (25-1-1, 19 KOs) of his come-uppance from Banks (29-1-1, 19 KOs), a longtime disciple of the late Hall of Fame trainer, Emanuel Steward, who now doubles as active boxer and chief second for heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko. “Just experiencing that first loss was a tough pill to swallow, but I tell people it’s a gift.

“(Jan. 12) actually was six years altogether in boxing (in boxing) for me, amateur and pro, so I’m learning on the job. But I’m a quick learner and I definitely learned a lot from that fight. This is the classroom that I want to be in, and I understand that I’m young in the game and learning. But I’ve got to learn and win at the same time.”

Mitchell, truth be told, isn’t as young as he’d like the public or himself to believe. He’s 30, clearly unschooled in the subtle nuances that Banks, also 30, picked up during his many years of instruction from Steward, and another loss could forever delete his vision of multimillion-dollar purses and a bejeweled world title belt cinched around his waist. If the confused Mitchell who was floored three times by Banks in the second round three months ago shows up again, the likelihood is that people will be lumping him with the inept Gastineau more than with the heavyweight legends he aspires to join.

“He never saw my left hook,” Banks said after his first meeting with the spectacularly muscled Mitchell, which also was staged in Boardwalk Hall. “He was not experienced enough to know what to do when he got in trouble, to hold on or grab me. I was able to keep punching him. He’s a big, tough guy, but he couldn’t handle me.”

The decision to immediately enforce a rematch clause that was included in the contract for the original fight constitutes something of a gamble for Golden Boy Promotions, which sees Mitchell as a potential high-rewards entry into the heavyweight division, and for HBO, which has been yearning for a genuinely skilled and marketable American big man since Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe retired or became too old to continue trading on past glories. But going all in on a relative neophyte like Mitchell calls to mind one of the more memorable sayings of Spanish-born philosopher George Santayana: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

The suits at HBO especially should be aware of the potential pitfalls of the football-to-fisticuffs path the premium-cable giant has traveled in the past. Cases in point: Jimmy Ellis (no, not the former WBA heavyweight champ and Muhammad Ali stablemate) and Michael Grant.

On Dec. 7, 1991, in Reno, Nev., HBO paid former (and future) heavyweight champion George Foreman $4.95 million for a bout with the other Jimmy Ellis, who had been a player with the Los Angeles Raiders’ replacement team during the 1987 strike-shortened season. The 228-pound Ellis wasn’t appreciably better than some of the cupcakes the then-42-year-old Foreman had been beating up for $40,000 paydays since resuming his career in the spring of 1987, but George’s bouts again were becoming must-see events and HBO promos played up Ellis’ football background as proof that he somehow was not just another designated victim.

Foreman relentlessly battered the game but woefully overmatched Ellis until referee Richard Steele mercifully halted the slaughter in the third round.

“This was not a fight to be proud of,” then-HBO Sports executive Ross Greenburg said of Foreman’s obliteration of Ellis. “HBO should have taken more time checking out Ellis’ background.”

To a lesser degree, the same might be said of HBO’s temporary fascination with Grant, whose imposing 6-7, 250-pound physique caused the imagination of many to run wild.

“He has the potential to be the greatest heavyweight of all time,” Grant’s veteran trainer, Don Turner, gushed in May 1998.

Lou DiBella, then a senior vice president of HBO Sports, chimed in around the same time with the opinion that “Michael Grant, without question, is the best of the young heavyweights. He’s the guy who’s going to lead the way into the next millennium.”

But Grant, a former defensive end at two California junior colleges who had bragged that he “could have been a Pro Bowl football player,” was taken to hell and back in rallying for a 10th-round stoppage of Andrew Golota on Nov. 20, 1999, after he twice had been floored in the first round. Grant rightly was hailed for his tenacity and heart, and the HBO-televised victory earned him a shot at champion Lennox Lewis five months later, but not everyone was quite so eager to climb onto the Grant bandwagon.

“Grant has stamina and a good right hand, but beyond that I don’t see much,” said Steward, Lewis’ trainer, who was at ringside that night. “He’s not a real solid fighter. He’s just fortunate to be here now, when the heavyweight division is weak. He’s an athlete who treats boxing like it’s another sport.”

Those comments eerily sound like what some skeptics are saying about Mitchell right now. Hey, what goes around eventually comes around, right?

Despite his failure to fulfill the most optimistic projections for him, Grant (48-4, 36 KOs) – who was knocked out in two one-sided rounds by Lewis and in one round by Jameel McCline in the bout after that – just might be one of the two most accomplished former football players to dive into the shark-infested waters of professional boxing, the other being Charlie Powell.

Powell’s record (25-11-3, 17 KOs) might not look all that impressive these days, but the NFL veteran – five seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, two with the Oakland Raiders – was the No. 2-ranked heavyweight in the world at one point in the late 1950s. Although Powell never played college football, he was a superb athlete in high school who once ran a 9.6-second 100-yard dash and posted a 57-9¼-foot toss in the shotput. He matched punches with some of the best fighters on the planet, losing to Muhammad Ali, Floyd Patterson and someone named John Riggins, who is not to be confused with the former Super Bowl-winning running back for the Washington Redskins.

It is almost understandable why some football players, and those willing to back them, cling to the notion that someone who excels while wearing a helmet and shoulder pads can do so when stripped down to a pair of satin trunks. After his retirement from the ring, the legendary Rocky Marciano and his pal, Lou Duva, decided they would hang around NFL camps in the hope of identifying the next great heavyweight. The person or persons of their choosing would, of course, be big, strong, fast and susceptible to the notion of a career change. But Marciano died in a tragic plane crash and the plan was never put into effect. Then again, perhaps it was doomed from the outset.

Which is not to say the Marciano/Duva blueprint periodically hasn’t risen again, like Count Dracula at sunset. One of the more ambitious such undertakings was launched by Michael King, who made his fortune as CEO of King World Productions. An avid boxing buff, King founded All-American Heavyweights in 2008 with the goal of producing Olympic medalists who, presumably, would use that platform to go on to professional superstardom.

“A great athlete in any sport can pick up any sport faster than most people,” King reasoned. “It really all stems from a lack of talent and lack of apprenticeship for trainers. The pipeline is dead … (Boxing is) not an NCAA sport, so it’s typically dependent on the Olympic program, and that NGB (USA Boxing is its national governing board) does not have a lot of resources.

“Instead of getting some thug off the street, why not tap into the greatest talent pool in the United States? You’re talking about elite athletes who are in great shape, who are really big, who are unbelievably coordinated, and they are articulate college graduates.”

America’s super-heavyweight representative to the 2012 London Olympics was Dominic Brezeale, a 6-6, 260-pound former quarterback at Northern Colorado. Despite his obvious physical tools, Brezeale lost a 19-8, electronically scored decision to Russia’s Magomed Omarov in the first round and was quickly eliminated from medal consideration.

“It’s like night and day, man,” Brezeale said of being in there with an opponent with vastly more ring experience. “With football you get an off-season, in boxing you don’t. In football, you can play it. In boxing, you’ve got to live it. And when you’re in the ring, there’s no blaming anyone else.”

Angelo Dundee, the late, great trainer of 15 world champions, including Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, warned against the notion that accomplishments on the football field were a natural precursor to similar success inside the ropes. Responding to a question from a Los Angeles Times reporter in 1989 about the feasibility of the Green Bay Packers’ No. 1 draft choice, tackle Tony Mandarich, fighting Mike Tyson for the heavyweight championship of the world despite never having boxed before, Dundee said the idea was beyond preposterous.

“Athletically, boxing is the toughest profession in the world,” Dundee said. “Just because you’re big and strong and great in football or basketball shape has nothing to do with it. I’ve seen it many times over the years, football players walking into gyms, asking me to turn them into boxers. It never works.

“I always try to talk them out of it, but they never take `no’ for an answer. About 15 years ago a lineman from the University of Miami, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound guy, wanted me to turn him into a pro. I tried to talk him out of it, to get him to start in the amateurs, but he wouldn’t listen. In a few weeks, I got him in decent boxing shape and put him in the ring against a very ordinary guy, who tapped him on the noggin and knocked him cold.

“The qualities that a boxer has to have to be really good are different than in any other sports. It’s a special kind of balance, a special feeling in there.”

Exhibits A and B in the argument that boxing is no more difficult to master than football are Jones and Gastineau, who soon discovered otherwise. Although their records have a glittery veneer – Jones’ one-year sabbatical from the Dallas Cowboys yielded six victories, five of which were inside the distance, while Gastineau was 15-2, with 15 knockout wins – they were fed a steady stream of cupcakes, fall-down guys selected solely for their likelihood to make the NFL stars look more formidable than they really were.

Jones, who boxed a bit as a kid, might have become something legitimate had he taken up the sport exclusively and stuck with it. But he was 28 when he tried his ring thing, far too late to make up ground on short notice. “`Too Tall’ was a very good athlete, an exceptionally strong guy, and he gave it a real shot,” Dundee said. “He went in the gym with real trainers and really worked hard. And he still couldn’t do it. Now if he had gone into boxing when he was a teenager, in the amateurs, instead of football, maybe it would’ve turned out OK.”

Armed with a CBS contract and a spotlight on him that made it impossible to develop at his own pace, Jones could not possibly live up to all those wildly inflated expectations. In his pro debut on Nov. 3, 1979, a six-round majority decision over journeyman Abraham Yaqui Meneses, Jones was floored in the sixth round and was the beneficiary of what seemingly was the world’s longest standing-eight count. His final bout, in that boxing hotbed, Jackson, Miss., is more notable for the fact that Jones was in the main event and a lightweight you might have heard of, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, on the undercard. The guy Jones blew out in the first round, a flabby Rocky Gonzalez, fought just that one time and looked like someone randomly picked out of the audience.

It was Gastineau, however, that gave boxers who had been football players a bad name. Gastineau had 51 sacks between 1981 and ’84, terrorizing quarterbacks throughout the NFL. Facing guys not protected by blockers, flak jackets and face masks, he was less frightening. After beating a steady stream of setups, he was 11-0 and reportedly in line for a million-dollar purse to fight George Foreman were he to get past a competent trial horse, Tim “Doc” Anderson, on June 9, 1992. But Anderson outpointed Gastineau and the proposed Foreman fight went up in flames, no doubt in part because the folks at HBO did not want a repeat of Foreman-Ellis.

Gastineau did “avenge” that loss by knocking out Anderson in six rounds on Dec. 3, 1992, but Anderson later claimed he had been drugged after he refused to go into the tank, making him a defenseless target for Gastineau’s ponderous bombs. Anderson later was convicted of murdering his corrupt manager, Rick “Elvis” Parker, the alleged architect of the proposed dive.

Subtract the records of Anderson (27-16-1, 13 KOs) and another former NFL player, Alonzo Highsmith (27-1-2, 23 KOs), who stopped Gastineau in one round in his final fight, on Nov. 3, 1996, in Tokyo, and the cumulative record of Gastineau’s opponents is horrible: 5-91-3 with two knockout victories, and 77 losses by KO.

But still some football guys dare to believe that they can do what none of their predecessors did. Jim Brown, widely hailed as the greatest running back of all time, suggested he fight Ali for the heavyweight title until “The Greatest” brought Brown back to reality by landing a couple of open-handed slaps to the Cleveland Browns superstar’s face even after he had been forewarned what was coming.

There is a current NFL player, Indianapolis Colts safety Tommy Zbikowski, who might have amounted to something as a professional boxer had he chosen what he describes as his “first love” in sports. Zbikowski, a former Chicago Golden Gloves fighter who posted a 75-15 record, is 4-0 with three KOs as a pro, those bouts taking place as a Notre Dame undergraduate and during NFL off-seasons and work stoppages.

“I think eventually I’ll be judged as a fighter, not as someone trying to fight who played football at Notre Dame or in the NFL,” Zbikowski said after his pro debut, a one-round stoppage of Robert Bell on June 10, 2006, in Madison Square Garden. “It’s not going to happen right away, but it will. I’ll make sure of that. To tell the truth, I never thought I’d go as far as I have in football. I thought I’d be in boxing a long time ago.

“Growing up, whatever sport I was doing, I loved. But I always missed what I wasn’t doing. When I was boxing, I missed football. Once you get to college and the NFL, though, football takes up so much of your time you have to choose.”

Even Steward, so critical of most football players’ boxing designs, praised what Zbikowski, a cruiserweight, could have been had he not become an All-America at Notre Dame Irish, for whom he intercepted five passes, returning two for touchdowns, and scored two more TDs on punt returns in helping the Fighting Irish to the Fiesta Bowl that capped the 2006 season.

“He has such beautiful balance,” Manny said of Zbikowski. “He has great natural rhythm, and he’s always in position when he is punching. He doesn’t box like a football player. He boxes like a boxer.”

Mitchell, alas, boxed too much like a football player in his first matchup with Banks. It remains to be seen whether he can correct his flaws and do what no former football player of any consequence has done: become a world champion. It wasn’t his first goal as an athlete, or even the second, but it is what he is striving toward now because, well, what other choice does he have?

“I never put myself in that category,” Mitchell, when advised of the abysmal history of football players trying their hand at boxing, said before his third-round stoppage of Chazz Witherspoon on April 28, 2012. “I always wanted to be a basketball player. I wear a size 16 shoe. I thought I’d be 6-6, 6-7. (He is 6-2.) When I played basketball, I didn’t judge myself on the college aspect. I was thinking NBA.

“And when I played football, my mindset was making it to the NFL. But I had seven surgeries on my left knee. Other than to take some Motrin and to ice it down, I’m good to go in boxing, whereas in football I had 100 cc’s drained out of the knee at one time. I’ve had cortisone shots until football wasn’t fun anymore.

“But listen, I’m not saying football is harder than boxing. Boxing is a tough, lonely sport. You can be a beast on the football field and a pussycat in the ring.”

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The BWAA Shames Veteran Referee Laurence Cole and Two Nebraska Judges

Arne K. Lang



In an unprecedented development, the Boxing Writers Association of America has started a “watch list” to lift the curtain on ring officials who have “screwed up.” Veteran Texas referee Laurence Cole and Nebraska judges Mike Contreras and Jeff Sinnett have the unwelcome distinction of being the first “honorees.”

“Boxing is a sport where judges and referees are rarely held accountable for poor performances that unfairly change the course of a fighter’s career and, in some instances, endanger lives,” says the BWAA in a preamble to the new feature. Hence the watch list, which is designed to “call attention to ‘egregious’ errors in scoring by judges and unacceptable conduct by referees.”

Contreras and Sinnett, residents of Omaha, were singled out for their scorecards in the match between lightweights Thomas Mattice and Zhora Hamazaryan, an eight round contest staged at the WinnaVegas Casino in Sloan, Iowa on July 20. They both scored the fight 76-75 for Mattice, enabling the Ohio fighter to keep his undefeated record intact via a split decision.

Although Mattice vs. Hamazaryan was a supporting bout, it aired live on ShoBox. Analyst Steve Farhood, who was been with ShoBox since the inception of the series in 2001, called it one of the worst decisions he had ever seen. Lead announcer Barry Tompkins went further, calling it the worst decision he has seen in his 40 years of covering the sport.

Laurence Cole (pictured alongside his father) was singled out for his behavior as the third man in the ring for the fight between Regis Prograis and Juan Jose Velasco at the Lakefront Arena in New Orleans on July 14. The bout was televised live on ESPN.

In his rationale for calling out Cole, BWAA prexy Joseph Santoliquito leaned heavily on Thomas Hauser’s critique of Cole’s performance in The Sweet Science. “Velasco fought courageously and as well as he could,” noted Hauser. “But at the end of round seven he was a thoroughly beaten fighter.”

His chief second bullied him into coming out for another round. Forty-five seconds into round eight, after being knocked down for a third time, Velasco spit out his mouthpiece and indicated to Cole that he was finished. But Cole insisted that the match continue and then, after another knockdown that he ruled a slip, let it continue for another 35 seconds before Velasco’s corner mercifully threw in the towel.

Controversy has dogged Laurence Cole for well over a decade.

Cole was the third man in the ring for the Nov. 25, 2006 bout in Hildalgo, Texas, between Juan Manuel Marquez and Jimrex Jaca. In the fifth round, Marquez sustained a cut on his forehead from an accidental head butt. In round eight, another accidental head butt widened and deepened the gash. As Marquez was being examined by the ring doctor, Cole informed Marquez that he was ahead on the scorecards, volunteering this information while holding his hand over his HBO wireless mike. The inference was that Marquez was free to quit right then without tarnishing his record. (Marquez elected to continue and stopped Jaca in the next round.)

This was improper. For this indiscretion, Cole was prohibited from working a significant fight in Texas for the next six months.

More recently, Cole worked the 2014 fight between Vasyl Lomachenko and Orlando Salido at the San Antonio Alamodome. During the fight, Salido made a mockery of the Queensberry rules for which he received no point deductions and only one warning. Cole’s performance, said Matt McGrain, was “astonishingly bad,” an opinion echoed by many other boxing writers. And one could site numerous other incidents where Cole’s performance came under scrutiny.

Laurence Cole is the son of Richard “Dickie” Cole. The elder Cole, now 87 years old, served 21 years as head of the Texas Department of Combat Sports Regulation before stepping down on April 30, 2014. At various times during his tenure, Dickie Cole held high executive posts with the World Boxing Council and North American Boxing Federation. He was the first and only inductee into the inaugural class of the Texas Boxing Hall of Fame, an organization founded by El Paso promoter Lester Bedford in 2015.

From an administrative standpoint, boxing in Texas during the reign of Dickie Cole was frequently described in terms befitting a banana republic. Whenever there was a big fight in the Lone Star State, his son was the favorite to draw the coveted refereeing assignment.

Boxing is a sideline for Laurence Cole who runs an independent insurance agency in Dallas. By law in Texas (and in most other states), a boxing promoter must purchase insurance to cover medical costs in the event that one or more of the fighters on his show is seriously injured. Cole’s agency is purportedly in the top two nationally in writing these policies. Make of that what you will.

Complaints of ineptitude, says the WBAA, will be evaluated by a “rotating committee of select BWAA members and respected boxing experts.” In subsequent years, says the press release, the watch list will be published quarterly in the months of April, August, and December (must be the new math).

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The Avila Perspective, Chapter 8: Competing Cards in N.Y. and L.A.

David A. Avila



Rival boxing shows compete this Saturday as light heavyweight world titlists are featured in New Jersey while former world champion welterweights and middleweights tangle in New York.

A mere 150 miles separate the two fight cards staged in Uniondale, N.Y. and Atlantic City.

But there’s no mercy inside the boxing ring and certainly no mercy between boxing promotions. While Main Events stages WBO light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev and WBA light heavyweight titlist Dmitry Bivol in separate bouts, DiBella Entertainment stacks former champs Andre Berto against Devon Alexander in a welterweight clash.

Take your pick.

Russia’s Kovalev (32-2-1, 28 KOs) has lost some luster and hopes to reboot his popularity with a win against Canada’s Eleider Alvarez (23-0, 11 KOs). But he will be directly competing against WBA champ Bivol (13-0, 11 KOs), also of Russia, who defends against Isaac Chilemba (25-5-2) of South Africa.

HBO will televise both light heavyweight title fights.

Bivol, 27, has slowly, almost glacier-like slow, picked up fans along the way by training in Southern California. The quiet unassuming fighter with a conservative style and cobra-like quickness appeals to the fans.

“I do not think that now I am the best light heavyweight, but I am now one of the best. One of four guys,” said Bivol during a press conference call. “But I hope in not the far future, we will know who is the best.”

That, of course, would mean a date with Kovalev should both fighters win on Saturday. Nothing is certain.

Kovalev, now 35, has lost some of that fear factor aura since losing back-to-back fights to now retired Andre Ward. Though he’s cracked two opponents in succession by knockout, many are pointing to the potential showdown with Bivol as the moment of truth.

“Most likely this fight is gonna happen since both Sergey and I are HBO boxers and as long as that’s what the people want, most likely the fight will happen,” said Bivol. “Me and Sergey will make sure to give this fight to the people.”

It’s time for the build-up and it starts on Saturday Aug. 4, on HBO.

“That’s certainly a goal of Sergey’s and he’s made it very clear to me that that’s what he wants to do,” said promoter Kathy Duva, CEO of Main Events. “He wants to do unification fights if he is successful with Eleider Alvarez. That’s what he wants to do next; he’s been very clear about that.”


Five former world champions stack the fight card at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.

Former welterweight world champs Andre Berto (31-5, 24 KOs) and Devon Alexander (27-4-1, 14 KOs) lead the charge in a 12-round clash. FOX will televise the main event and others at 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET.

Berto, 34, has been fighting once a year so it’s difficult to determine if age has crept into his reflexes. When he knocked out Victor Ortiz in a rematch two years ago Berto looked sharp and dangerous. But against Shawn Porter a year ago, the crispness seemed gone and he quickly lost by knockout.

Alexander, 31, has the advantage of being a southpaw. But he always seems to do the minimum when he fights. Last February he slowed down and allowed Victor Ortiz to steal the fight. All the commotion by the announcers was for naught. Defense does not win fights, it allows you to win fights. The lack of offense in the latter rounds cost Alexander a win in a match that entered the books as a majority draw.

It’s a curious matchup of former world champions.

Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin (33-1-1, 23 KOs) the former WBO middleweight titlist meets J’Leon Love (24-1-1, 13 KOs) in a super middleweight bout set for 10 rounds. It’s another intriguing fight especially between two fighters with great personalities.

Quillin, 35, was ambushed by Daniel Jacobs in the first round a year ago in losing the title. Was it bad luck, age or both? As a fighter the Brooklyn-based prizefighter has a ton of followers who like him as a person. Few are as classy as Quillin.

Love, 30, has long been a mainstay in Las Vegas and since his amateur days his abilities have been touted. Throughout the years Love has shown that charm and friendliness can go a long ways, even in the bitter wars of prizefighting. But the time has come to see if he belongs in the prizefighting world. Quillin will present an immense challenge for Love.

A number of other interesting fights are slated to take place among former world champions including Sergey Lipinets who lost the super lightweight title to Mikey Garcia this past winter. There’s also Luis Collazo in a welterweight match.

One world title fight does take place on the card.

Female WBA super middleweight titlist Alicia Napoleon (9-1) makes the first defense of her title against Scotland’s Hannah Rankin (5-1). It’s a 10 round bout and the first time Napoleon defends the title since winning it last March against Germany’s Femke Hermans. Ironically, Hermans now has the WBO super middleweight title after defeating former champ Nikki Adler by decision this past May.

L.A. Congestion

Next week the city of Angels will be packed with three fight cards in four days.

First, on Wednesday Aug. 8, 360 Promotions stages Abraham Lopez (9-1-1, 3 KOs) versus Gloferson Ortizo (12-0-1, 6 KOs) in the main event at the Avalon Theater in Hollywood, Calif. This is Filipino fighter Ortizo’s ninth fight this year. You read that correctly.

All of Ortizo’s fights have taken place across the border in Tijuana. The 32-year-old now returns to California against another Californian in Lopez. He’ll be looking for his fourth consecutive knockout, but Lopez, 22, has not lost a fight since his pro debut. Inactivity might come into play for Lopez who hasn’t stepped in the boxing ring in over a year.

New York’s Brian Ceballo (3-0) returns in a six round welterweight bout against local fighter Tavorus Teague (5-20-4). Ceballo, who is promoted by 360 Promotions, looked good in his last appearance. The amateurish punches seen in his first two bouts were gone by his third pro fight. His opponent Teague has ability and can give problems if Ceballo takes his foot off the pedal.

One of Gennady “GGG” Golovkin’s training partners Ali Akhmedov (11-0, 8 KOs) makes his California debut when he meets Jorge Escalante (9-1-1, 6 KOs) in a light heavyweight match.

Female super lightweight Elvina White (2-0) is also slated to compete. The entire fight card will be streamed at and on the 360 Promotions page on Facebook. First bell rings at 6:15 p.m.

Belasco Theater in downtown L.A. is the site of Golden Boy Promotions fight card on Friday Aug. 10. A pair of young prospects will be severely tested.

San Diego’s Genaro Gamez (8-0, 5 KOs) meets Filipino fighter Recky Dulay (10-3, 7 KOs) for the vacant NABF super featherweight title. For Dulay it’s always kill or be killed. Five of his last fights have ended in knockout wins or losses.

Gamez, 23, seems to thrive under pressure and broke down two veterans in back-to-back fights at Fantasy Springs Casino. Now he returns to the Belasco, a venue where he has struggled in the past. But this time he’s the main event.

Another being severely tested will be Emilio Sanchez (15-1, 10 KOs) facing veteran Christopher Martin (30-10-3, 10 KOs) who is capable of beating anyone.

Sanchez, 24, lost by knockout in his last fight this past March. He’s talented and fearless and one mistake cost him his first loss as a pro. He’s not getting a break against Martin, a cagey fighter who has upset many young rising prospects in the past. Martin also has experience against world champions. It’s an extremely tough matchup for Sanchez.

The fight card will be televised by Estrella TV beginning at 6 p.m.

World Title Fight

On Saturday, boxing returns to the Avalon Theater in Hollywood.

The main event is a good one as Puerto Rico’s Jesus Rojas (26-1-2, 19 KOs) defends the WBA featherweight world title against Southern California’s Jojo Diaz (26-1) in a 12 round clash. It’s power versus speed.

Rojas, 31, is one tough customer. When he took the interim title against Claudia Marrero last year he chased down the speedy southpaw Dominican and blasted him out in the seventh round. Several months earlier he obliterated another Golden Boy prospect, Abraham Lopez (not the same Abraham Lopez that is fighting on the 360 Promotions card), in eight rounds. Now he has the title and defends against the speedy southpaw Diaz.

Diaz, 25, just recently lost a bid for the WBC featherweight title against Gary Russell Jr. Though he lost by decision three months ago, that fight might be easy in comparison to this challenge against Rojas.

The former Olympian won’t be able to take a breath against the Puerto Rican slugger who is about as rough as they come.

Two more undefeated Golden Boy prospects get a chance to eliminate each other when Philadelphia’s Damon Allen (15-0-1) meets East L.A.’s Jonathan Navarro (14-0, 7 KOs) in a super lightweight fight set for 10 rounds.

Phillie versus East LA is like fire versus fire in the boxing ring. Boxers originating from those two hard-bitten areas usually have go-for-broke styles that result in pure action. Allen versus Navarro should not disappoint.

Allen, 25, is not a hard puncher but he’s aggressive and like most Philadelphia fighters, he’s not afraid to mix it up.

Navarro, 21, lives in East L.A. but trains in Riverside under Robert Garcia. He’s slowly finding his timing and will be facing the fastest fighter since his pro debut in 2015.

Others featured on the card will be Hector Tanajara, Aaron McKenna and Ferdinand Kerobyan.

The card will be streamed on the Golden Boy Fight Night page on Facebook beginning at 6 p.m.

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What’s Next for Manny Pacquiao?

Kelsey McCarson




Manny Pacquiao isn’t quite ready to retire, and more big-money fights against high-level competition seem to be on the 39-year-old’s way.

“I feel like I’m a 27-year-old,” Pacquiao told’s Jamil Santos last week. “Expect more fights to come.”

Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39 KOs) looked exceptionally sharp in his seventh-round knockout win over former junior welterweight titleholder Lucas Matthysse on July 15 at Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was Pacquiao’s best performance in at least four years, netting Pacquiao a secondary world title at welterweight along with a slew of renewed public interest in the boxing superstar’s career.

But what comes next for the only fighter in the history of boxing to capture world titles in eight different weight classes? TSS takes a detailed look at the potential opponents for one of the sport’s most celebrated stars.

Cream of the Crop

Pacquiao looked good enough against Matthysse to suggest he’d make a viable candidate to face either Terence Crawford or Vasyl Lomachenko next. Crawford is ranked No. 2 on the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board’s pound-for-pound list while Lomachenko slots at No. 1.

While Pacquiao is no longer under contract with longtime promoter Bob Arum at Top Rank, most industry insiders expect he will continue working with Arum’s team in some capacity so long as his career keeps moving forward. Pacquiao started his own promotional venture, MP Promotions, to co-promote the Matthysse bout with Oscar De La Hoya, but Top Rank was still involved in the fight which is why the bout ended up streaming on ESPN+.

Top Rank’s two hottest commodities at the present are Ring Magazine and WBA lightweight champ Lomachenko and welterweight titlist Crawford. Both are highly-regarded, multi-division world titleholders in the primes of their careers who are universally considered the top fighters in boxing.

Lomachenko and Crawford would each present a unique set of problems for Pacquiao stylistically. Of the two, Pacquiao probably matches up best with Lomachenko at this point in his career. Crawford (33-0, 24 KOs) is much larger and heavier than both Pacquiao and Lomachenko, and unless Pacquiao just really wants to test himself against someone incredibly dangerous, it’d probably be best for Team Pacquiao to avoid fighting Crawford at all costs. Crawford would be a heavy favorite against Pacquiao and most boxing insiders don’t believe this version of Pacquiao could compete with Crawford.

Lomachenko (11-1, 9 KOs) is naturally smaller than Pacquiao and has never fought above 135 pounds. If Pacquiao could lure Lomachenko to 140 pounds or above, he’d find himself in a winnable fight against a top-notch opponent. Lomachenko would probably be the slight favorite based on age alone but Pacquiao’s power and athleticism would give him a realistic chance to pull the upset.

Other Notable Possibilities

Former junior welterweight titleholder Amir Khan has long been angling for a bout against Pacquiao. Khan faces Samuel Vargas on Sept. 8 in another comeback bout against lower level competition. Khan (32-4, 20 KOs) bravely moved up to middleweight to fight Canelo Alvarez in 2016 but was knocked out in the sixth round. He left the sport for a spell but returned to boxing in February as a welterweight with a sensational first round knockout win over Phil Lo Greco. A win over Vargas puts Khan in good position to secure a bout with Pacquiao, and the fight is a reasonable move by both camps. Pacquiao would probably be the heavy favorite, but Khan’s speed and long reach give him a decent chance to pull the upset.

Former welterweight titleholder Jeff Horn won a controversial decision over Pacquiao last year in Australia. The bout grabbed huge ratings for ESPN and there have been many debates since it happened as to which fighter truly deserved the nod from the judges. Horn (18-1-1, 12 KOs) doesn’t possess elite level talent, but he’s huge compared to Pacquiao and fights with such ferocity that the two can’t help but make an aesthetically pleasing fight together. Pacquiao would be the heavy favorite to defeat Horn if the two fight again.

Pacquiao vs. PBC fighters?

Boxing’s current political climate and the ongoing battle of promoters and television networks for the hearts and minds of boxing fans usually leaves many compelling fights between top level stars off the table. Fighters promoted by Top Rank and Golden Boy are almost never able to secure bouts with fighters signed to Al Haymon to appear under the Premier Boxing Champions banner and vice versa. But Pacquiao’s free agent status opens up new and interesting possibilities for the fighter to pursue noteworthy PBC fighters.

There had been lots of chatter about Pacquiao facing Mikey Garcia next. Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs) has been decimating competition at both lightweight and junior welterweight. Garcia is considered by most experts to be one of the top 10 pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. He’s the TBRB junior welterweight champion and a unified lightweight titleholder (WBC, IBF). While Garcia is hoping to land a big money bout against IBF welterweight titleholder Errol Spence, most boxing experts believe the jump up to 147 pounds would be too much for the diminutive Garcia who began his career at featherweight. A better welterweight target for Garcia would be Pacquiao who also began his career in a much lower weight class.

Spence (24-0, 21 KOs) is probably the best of the PBC welterweights. He’s considered by many to be on par with Crawford at 147 so it would be an incredibly dangerous bout for Pacquiao to go after at this point in his career. But Spence is aggressive and fights in a style that Pacquiao traditionally matches up very well against. Spence would be the favorite based on size, age and skill.

Slightly less dangerous to Pacquiao would be facing the winner of the Sept. 8 battle between Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter. Garcia (34-1, 20 KOs) and Porter (28-2-1, 17 KOs) are fighting for the vacant WBC welterweight title and the possibility of capturing another world title in his career could sway Pacquiao to seek out the winner. Pacquiao could find himself a slight favorite or underdog depending on which of the two fighters he would face, but both would be winnable fights.

The WBA welterweight champion is Keith Thurman. Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs) is a good boxer with tremendous power but Pacquiao’s speed and athleticism would probably give him the leg up in that potential matchup. Thurman hasn’t fought in over 16 months though and recent pictures suggest he’s not in fighting shape at the moment, so the likelihood of a Pacquiao vs. Thurman fight is pretty much nil.

Some fans want Pacquiao to face Adrien Broner. Broner (33-3-1, 24 KOs) is a solid contender at 147 but probably doesn’t have the skill to seriously compete with Pacquiao. Pacquiao would be a significant favorite and would likely stop Broner if the two were able to meet in a boxing ring.

Mayweather-Pacquiao 2?

Pacquiao lost a unanimous decision to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2015, but the circumstances surrounding the fight, and the fact it was the biggest box office bash in the history of the sport, have led many to suspect the two fighters would meet again in a rematch.

Yes, Mayweather (50-0, 27 KOs) is retired, but he’s unretired several times in his career for big money fights including last year’s crossover megafight with UFC star Conor McGregor. While it seems unlikely to happen, Mayweather-Pacquiao 2 would still be a huge worldwide event worth millions of dollars to both fighters so those following the sport can never say never to the idea of it happening again.

While Mayweather is 41, he’d still get the nod as the betting favorite should he fight Pacquiao again based on what happened in the first fight as well as his stylistic advantage over Pacquiao.

Pacquiao vs. McGregor?

McGregor’s bout against Mayweather last year was such a financial success and the MMA star made so much more money in the boxing ring than he did as a UFC fighter that the idea of him returning to the sport to face Pacquiao isn’t as far-fetched as one might think.

Pacquiao vs. McGregor would be an easy sell to the general public. According to CompuBox, McGregor landed more punches against Mayweather than did Pacquiao, and the general consensus is that Mayweather-McGregor was more fun to watch than Mayweather-Pacquiao.

The size difference between the two would lead to an easy promotion. McGregor is a junior middleweight and Pacquiao has only competed at the weight once back in 2010. Despite all that, Pacquiao would be a significant favorite to defeat McGregor and rightly so. He’s too fast and too good a boxer, and his aggressive style would likely lead to a stoppage win.

Pacquiao’s Top Targets

Pacquiao’s top targets should be Mayweather, McGregor and Lomachenko. Pacquiao would stand to make the most money facing either Mayweather or McGregor. Pacquiao’s reportedly injured shoulder heading into 2015 bout left many wondering how the fight might be different had the Filipino gone into things at his best, and Mayweather’s age might play more of a factor in the second fight than it did in the first. A Pacquiao-McGregor fight would be a worldwide spectacle, one Pacquiao would be heavily favored to win. Besides, it’d be interesting to see if Pacquiao could stop McGregor sooner than historical rival Mayweather. Finally, Lomachenko might be trying to climb up weight classes too fast, and Pacquiao would certainly be fit to test the validity of that theory. It’d be one of the biggest fights in boxing and a win for Pacquiao would be another huge feather in the cap of one of boxing’s true historically great champions.

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