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Two Most Athletic Boxers Face Off: Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero vs. Floyd Mayweather

David A. Avila

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Most of Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero’s career has existed under the radar, like one of those stealth bombers that suddenly appear in a flash.

Others received the fanfare, television time and adulation after the 2000 Olympics in Australia.

Guerrero’s debut took place in an open air fight card in the middle of the desert. The main event was Hector Camacho Jr., who rode on top of a camel or something. It’s a little fuzzy, but you get the picture. That night the junior featherweight southpaw from Gilroy defeated Alejandro Cruz by decision.

A couple of years passed and Guerrero defeated all of those who entered the ring. Nothing jumped out as he beat boxers in Miami, San Antonio, Las Vegas and Temecula. But he only fought once near his hometown.

It was in 2003 that Guerrero really caught my eye. He was fighting a super tough desert fighter named David Vasquez in a bout set for 10 rounds at Spotlight 29 Casino in Coachella. Anyone who fought Vasquez was in for a battle.

Vasquez had a granite chin and it was put to good use by visiting elite prizefighters like Prince Naseem Hamed, Acelino “Popo” Freitas and others. He had traded blows with the best and they welcomed his strength and durability. Plus, he was plain dangerous as a puncher too.

Maybe three or four other boxing journalists were seated that evening. One other in attendance that night was James “Lights Out” Toney who a week earlier had defeated Vassiliy Jirov for the cruiserweight world title.

Guerrero entered the ring looking like some kid that was picked off a schoolyard and asked to put on boxing gloves. On the other side was Vasquez who was shorter but compact and menacing. The fight commenced and Vasquez moved in to close the distance. Guerrero was firing tight combinations. Suddenly, a left cross blurred across and connected with a sound like a mini sonic boom. Vasquez dropped in a heap. The referee didn’t bother to count. Toney shouted something behind me about the sound of the punch. It was impressive.

Ironically, that fight took place May 4, 2003, exactly 10 years to the date that Guerrero (31-1-1, 18 Kos) will challenge Floyd Mayweather (43-0, 26 Kos) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The WBC welterweight title and recognition as boxing’s best Pound for Pound fighter will also be at stake. Showtime pay-per-view will televise.

Guerrero’s journey has been a long and somewhat invisible trek that has seen him move up the weight divisions, not because he could not maintain the weight, but because he was avoided by smart managers who knew better than to put their fighters in front of Guerrero.

Big Bear Lake became a common training spot for Team Guerrero who often used Sugar Shane Mosley’s cabin to prepare for their fights. On one occasion Mosley needed a southpaw and Guerrero was called. At the time the lanky lefty was needed to prepare for Luis Collazo who had a date with Mosley. Guerrero was about to fly to Denmark to defend the IBF featherweight title against Spend Abazi.

“I didn’t care,” said Guerrero back then. “If I had to go, I had to go.”

Mosley was very enthusiastic about Guerrero’s abilities.

“He hits like a welterweight,” said Mosley who sparred many rounds with Guerrero in the high altitude of Big Bear. “I can see him moving up and doing real well.”

Those were prophetic words.

Needless to say Guerrero traveled to Denmark and knocked out Abazi in the ninth round to keep the world title. A couple of years later he moved up to win the junior lightweight world title in 2009, but suddenly, no one would challenge him. So he moved up another division and fought Joel Casamayor. Then came Vicente Escobedo and Michael Katsidis. But few other lightweights would jump in the ring with Guerrero.

Jumping the ring

A couple of years ago Guerrero was training once again in Big Bear Lake. He was at Abel Sanchez’s gym The Summit and agreed to talk to us. We began talking about some of the other things he does to keep occupied and one other person told us that Guerrero could dunk a basketball. We were impressed.

Then one of the others claimed that Guerrero could stand next to the boxing ring and leap over the top rope without using his hands. I looked at the boxing ring which was placed on a one foot platform and then looked at the boxing ropes. I estimated that altogether I was about four inches shy of six-feet high. Guerrero stood next to the ring and without any prodding leaped over the boxing ring with inches to spare. It was a Blake Griffin-type jump that would have made the redheaded L.A. Clipper proud.

It astounded me. I hadn’t seen anyone as athletic as that in many years.

While we drove down the mountaintop the photographer and I couldn’t stop talking about the athleticism we had just seen with the naked eye. It was something an Olympian might do, not a boxer from Gilroy, California.

As we talked the photographer asked if I had ever seen anyone else as athletic as Guerrero. I thought about it. I knew Oscar De La Hoya was pretty athletic. His own physical education teacher at Garfield High claims that De La Hoya took up fencing for a short time and proved pretty adept. The coach said De La Hoya was a natural and that he could run for miles with nary a hiccup.

Personally the most athletic boxer I had seen until I saw Guerrero was Floyd Mayweather Jr. Ironically it was in Big Bear Lake that Mayweather showed off some of his athleticism.

It was around 1997 when I walked into the Big Bear Fitness Club near the lake. At the time the fitness club was perhaps the most popular destination for boxers to prepare for a big fight. Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Angel Manfredy, Angel Hernandez, Antonio Diaz, Rafael Ruelas and Shane Mosley used it during the 1990s. One day I walked in and there was Mayweather working out at full speed. He must have been drilling feverishly and had his posse along. After working out for about an hour straight he leaped up to this apparatus that had all kinds of bars and handles on it. He did about 30 chin ups rapid fire then did like a backward somersault as he propelled himself away from the metal monstrosity. It was an incredible gymnastic feat and it stunned me how easily he did it.

That athleticism along with his lifelong devotion toward building his boxing skills has catapulted Mayweather to the top of the boxing pyramid. No one argues that he’s not the best fighter pound for pound… at the moment.

The half decade spent trying to make a fight between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao went down the drain quickly once the Filipino southpaw was defeated twice. But now there’s another southpaw who rose meteorically too.

“If you look at my career, you go back and look at everything I’ve been through inside the ring, outside of the ring, it all leads you up to be ready for moments like this,” said Guerrero.

Still, most people are convinced that time doesn’t change things. They firmly believe that Mayweather 2013 is the same as Mayweather 2009. Maybe so. Maybe this isn’t the year that the best fighter of the last six years has lost too many steps.

“This is about two fighters going out there, testing their skills against one another,” said Mayweather. “That’s what this is about.”

Mayweather has never been defeated and perhaps the closest anyone came to handing the Las Vegas speedster a loss came against Jose Luis Castillo and De La Hoya. Those were many years ago.

When asked to comment about those facts Guerrero merely shrugs.

“It’s my time,” Guerrero says.

 

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Is There a “Peck’s Bad Boy” in Boxing Today?

Ted Sares

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Henry “Hennery” Peck, popularly known as Peck’s Bad Boy, is a fictional character created by George Wilbur Peck (1840–1916). “Peck’s Bad Boy” has been defined as one whose bad behavior is a source of embarrassment or annoyance, but to many it refers to a mischievous prankster. The answer probably is somewhere in the middle with the label referring to anyone whose mischievous or bad behavior leads to annoyance or embarrassment.

In boxing, no one seemed to better epitomize the expression than Muhammad Ali. When Howard Cosell asked Ali why he was being truculent during an interview. Ali fired back, “I don’t know what truculent means, but if it’s good, I’m that.”

It was high camp and anyone who took Ali or his perceived arrogance seriously missed the tongue-in-cheek quality of what was going on. To this writer, he was 98 percent mischievous and maybe 2 percent annoying.

“…“Floyd Patterson was dull, quiet, and sad … and Sonny Liston was twice as bad… The fight game was dying… promoters were crying…” — Cassius Clay

I said I was ‘The Greatest,’ I never said I was the smartest! — Muhammad Ali

Ricardo Mayorga

Later, an especially nasty Nicaraguan provocateur came along by the name of Ricardo “The Matador” Mayorga, but the nastiness was more pre-fight hype than anything else and after his fights, he could be seen hugging his opponents. Often he was seen smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer before leaving the ring and that in itself was pretty unique. He soon established an infamous reputation and used this to sell tickets. Mayorga won world titles at welterweight and junior middleweight, playing the villain to Shane Mosley, Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya, Fernando Vargas, and Miguel Cotto, among others.

Despite being savaged by Trinidad, Ricardo showed that he was not lacking in heart. Against De La Hoya, he said, “I hate bitches and I’m going to make you my little bitch…” He was again savaged.

He caused a stir when he slapped Shane Mosley’s girlfriend on the butt at a press conference, triggering turmoil. In the fight, Mosley avenged her butt by sending The Matador to Bullfighter Heaven with a beautiful left hook launched after a slight head fake to the right.

He told Cory Spinks, “I want to sew a pair of nuts on you so you can stand and fight in front of me next time like a man.”

As writer Jimmy Tobin put it: “Sure, he [Mayorga] was upset at the Spinks decision, but Mayorga understood public expectations of him and had to push the envelope to ensure expectations were met. However enraged he might appear, the vitriol felt fabricated, rehearsed, a gimmick. That gimmick would soon be all Mayorga had left.”

And that really says it all about the Matador. Manufactured and well-timed outrage and faux insults. No serious fan ever really bought into it. Mischievous? Hype? Absolutely.

Mayorga was good at running his mouth but he was no Peck’s Bad Boy.

Today we wish him well as he struggles with substance abuse issues.

Tyson Fury

“I haven’t seen a fighter with that much charisma since Muhammad Ali”– Bob Arum

There is at least two Tyson Furys. The first one possessed a classic Irish wit and was rarely lost for words, constantly seeking attention including impromptu singing. However, keen observers sensed he was putting everybody on half the time, and it was all a joke with him.

Heavyweight boxing hadn’t had this type in a long time—not since Ali. Heck, the Gypsy King was a showman. Many thought his temperament might be a big problem and that he should be more self-deprecating, but he couldn’t care less what others thought about him. All the rhetoric and loud mouthing was likely a load of blarney and he knew it better than anyone. While he surely could have taken himself more seriously and embraced humility, that simply wasn’t what the early Fury was all about.

Fury was more like a Peck’s Bad Boy than anyone since Ali. But much of what he said along the way was embarrassing and vicious. He denounced homosexuals and Jews, among others. This was hardly viewed as amusing, but perhaps it was a byproduct of fighting a number of different demons including severe weight gain, substance abuse, and mental health issues.

After reaching the heights, he stumbled badly off the stage. However, he made a remarkable comeback and this time around he was clean and sober and showed a great desire to help his fellow man.

“I said some things which may have hurt some people, which as a Christian man is not something I would ever want to do,” Fury said in a May 2016 interview for the BBC. “Though it is not an excuse, sometimes the heightened media scrutiny has caused me to act out in public and then my words can get taken out of context. I mean no harm or disrespect to anyone and I know more is expected of me as an ambassador of British boxing and I promise in future to hold myself up to the highest possible standard.”

The 6’9” giant is currently an ambassador for the Frank Bruno Foundation, a mental health charity.

Interestingly, the title to Fury’s autobiography is “Behind the Mask and that suggests that the current Fury is the real Fury.

He has been called the UK’s answer to Ricardo Mayorga. Maybe in terms of early nastiness, but the current Tyson Fury (Batman suit and all) is more Ali than Mayorga.

Adrien Broner

“I came into town, and I got his belt and his girl.” – Adrien Broner referring to Paulie Malignaggi

A few might argue that Adrien Broner is the quintessential Peck’s Bad Boy, but frankly, “The Problem” has never really appeared amusing or mischievous. Yes, he has some substance in the ring, but Broner has in large part been seen as a hyped gimmick projecting ignorance, a man that can’t back up his foul mouth. He has now become a curiosity as fans speculate as to who will finally knock him out and shut him up.

Aside from a stupid hair combing routine before his fights, nothing Adrien does seems to conjure up even a shred of amusement. Au contraire, his boorish antics outside the ring, such as throwing cash down a toilet and performing a sexual act with a sweaty dancer at a strip club, not to mention his frequent brushes with the law and court appearances, suggest the possibility of a self-destructive bent

The “Problem” will not be solved; it’s a story that likely will not have a happy ending.

Today

Fury fits the bill but he has become more temperate and balanced. Still, he remains a promotor’s dream. Enjoy him while you can.

Can you think of any others in today’s scene? Yesterday’s?

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Boxing Odds and Ends: The Debacle in Atlanta, Fedosov’s Big Upset and More

Arne K. Lang

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Last night’s “Triller” pay-per-view from Atlanta provided a wealth of material for Sunday Morning Quarterbacks. Overshadowing the actual fights was the performance, as it were, of Oscar De La Hoya.

De La Hoya joined the telecast for the 6-round bout between 39-fight veteran Steve Cunningham and boxing novice Frank Mir. Oscar was conspicuously sloshed; he was a train wreck.

Some thought that Oscar’s screeching was hilarious, the highlight of the show. Others found it hard to watch. “I don’t find humor in a man battling substance abuse,” said a person in response to the snarky comments appearing on the message board of a rival web site.

De La Hoya, 48, reiterated that he will return to the ring in July. He has targeted the date of July 3. Oscar was just a boy when he first stepped into the ring. He had more than 200 amateur fights before turning pro. Boxers that take too many punches, say the experts, are prone to developing conditions beyond what are apparent to the naked eye. A common symptom is poor choices.

—-

Also catching flack for his commentary was boxing sportscaster Ray Flores. His transgression was trying too hard to be cool. Flores, 34, was at Wembley Stadium in London in 2017, moderating the final leg of the pre-fight promotional tour for the Mayweather-McGregor megafight. He called that experience his personal Super Bowl. One wonders where he will rate last night’s sideshow in Atlanta?

Lance Pugmire, who left the LA Times to join the impressive team of writers at The Athletic, was measured in his criticism, faulting the telecast for “scattered commentary and forced swearing.” Pugmire was being diplomatic. He wasn’t about to come down hard on Triller as his friend and colleague Mike Coppinger was part of the broadcasting crew.

The only legitimate fight on the card (no disrespect to the combatants in the two early prelims) matched former WBA/IBF 140-pound world champion Regis Prograis against Ivan Redkach. From Los Angeles by way of the Ukraine, Redkach, who brought a 23-5-1 record, wasn’t expected to win but he was expected to at least make it interesting, as had been the case in his most recent bout, a 12-rounder with Danny Garcia.

Prograis was dominant from the start. The bout ended in the sixth frame after Redkach absorbed a sweeping right hook to the body and fell to the canvas clutching his groin. After initially starting his count, the referee gave Redkach, who was writhing in pain, or an imitation thereof, the benefit of the doubt and allowed him five minutes to recover. A doctor was called into the ring to examine him, he decided that Redkach was unfit to continue, and the boxer was removed the ring on a stretcher. There has been no update on his condition.

The replays showed that the punch was legal, clearly landing above the beltline. Moreover, it did not appear that the blow arrived with any significant force. Redkach was lambasted on social media on the grounds that he was faking it, thereby robbing the victorious Prograis of adding another KO to his record. There have been cries for the Georgia Commission to withhold Redkach’s purse.

We have seen boxers greatly distressed after taking a punch in the solar plexus region that did not appear to be a particularly hard punch. Micky Ward’s “electrocution” of Alfonso Sanchez comes quickly to mind. So, perhaps we should give Redkach the benefit of the doubt. However, this reporter couldn’t help but laugh when a blogger explained away the mysterious happenstance by writing that during the heat of battle, the unfortunate Redkach caught a hernia.

There was a huge upset on the Andrade-Williams card in Florida when Azerbaijan heavyweight Mahammadrasul Majidov was stopped in the opening round by Andrey Fedosov.

Majidov had only three pro fights under his belt, but he won all three inside the distance against opponents with winning records and before turning pro he had a long and productive amateur career highlighted by a win over Anthony Joshua.

The contest wasn’t quite a minute old when Fedosov nailed Majidov with a hard combination that put him on the deck. Majidov landed awkwardly and twisted or broke his right ankle. He beat the count, but was reduced to a one-legged fighter and when Fedorov put him down again, the ref moved in and stopped it.

It was all over in 84 seconds, but this was no fluke knockout. It’s uncertain whether Majidov could have survived if he hadn’t injured his ankle. Fedosov, a 35-year-old Russian, has an excellent record, now 32-3 (26), but had become the forgotten man in the heavyweight division after sitting out all of 2019 and 2020.

There have been a lot of upsets lately and there were two more on Saturday. Light-hitting James Martin (7-2, 0 KOs), saddled 18-year-old phenom Vito Mielnicki Jr with his first pro loss, winning a well-deserved majority decision in an 8-round junior middleweight contest underneath Harrison-Perrella in LA. Mielnicki entered the bout with an 8-0 record.

On the Matchroom show in Florida, in another 8-rounder, lightweight Jorge Castaneda scored an upset over former U.S. amateur standout Otha Jones III, winning a majority decision. Castaneda brought a 13-1 record, but all of his previous fights save for one  trip to Mexico were held in his hometown of  Laredo, Texas.

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Harrison and Perrella Fight to a Draw in LA: Prograis TD6 Redkach in Atlanta

Arne K. Lang

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On a day replete with upsets, Florida southpaw Bryant Perrella almost pulled off another, but at the end had to settle for a draw with former WBC 154-pound title holder Tony Harrison. The match was the headline attraction of a PBC show at the Shrine Auditorium and Expo Center in Los Angeles.

Perrella (17-3-1) was moving up from welterweight and making his first start for new trainer Roy Jones Jr.  Harrison (28-3-1), a third-generation boxer from Detroit, was making his first start since the death of his father/trainer Ali Salaam at age 59. Both boxers were coming off a loss. The first man to defeat Jermell Charlo, Harrison lost the rematch. In Perrella’s last fight, he was stopped with one second to go in the 10th and final round by Abel Ramos in a fight that he was winning.

Harrison fought a measured fight, but fought without a sense of urgency. Perrella fought mostly off his back foot, but was somewhat busier. The scores were 117-111 Perrella, 116-112 Harrison, and `114-114.

Other Bouts

In a cruiserweight fight that was competitive only on paper, previously undefeated Deon Nicholson had no answer for Efetobar Apochi who blew him away in a fight that was over at the 1:12 mark of round three. Nicholson was down in the waning moments of the second round and knocked down again in the third before the referee rescued him from further punishment.

The 33-year-old Apochi, who captained the Nigerian National Boxing Team before moving to Houston where is trained by Ronnie Shields, improved to 11-0 with his 11th knockout. Nicholson, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, came in undefeated with`13 knockouts in 14 opportunities, nine coming in the opening round. but his record was fashioned against very soft opposition. The victory boosts Apochi into a match with Arsen Goulamarian who holds a version of the WBA cruiserweight title.

Omar Juarez, a 21-year-old super bantamweight from Brownsville, Texas, improved to 11-0 (5) with a 10-round unanimous decision over Elias Damian Araujo (21-3), a 33-year-old Argentine now residing in Fresno. The scores were 98-92 and 99-91 twice.

In an upset, Philadelphia’s James Martin scored a majority decision over Vito “White Magic” Mielnicki Jr in an 8-round super welterweight contest. The scores were 79-73, 77-75, and 76-76.

Martin, who improved to 7-2, is the son of former light heavyweight contender Jerry Martin. It was the first pro loss for hot prospect Mielnicki, age 18, who entered the contest with an 8-0 record.

Atlanta

In the first noteworthy boxing match ever staged at Atlanta’s NFL Stadium, former WBA/WBC 140-pound champion Regis “Rougarou” Prograis (26-1, 22 KOs) was awarded a technical decision over Ivan Redkach (25-6-1) who collapsed in the sixth round complaining of a low blow and was carted from the ring on a stretcher. Replays showed that it was clearly a legal punch. The fight went to the scorecards and Prograis won comfortably: 59-54 and 60-54 twice.

The bizarre ending was somehow fitting as the entire event was bizarre, not merely the fights but the camera work and the commentary. The word sophomoric comes to mind. For the record, in the main go Jake Paul stopped Ben Askren in the opening round.

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