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LANDSLIDE! Experts Predict Mayweather Over Canelo

Kelsey McCarson

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One of the best aspects of fight week during a mega event in boxing is all the predictions. Everyone has a take. That’s part of what makes boxing special. Fans, fighters, promoters, managers, historians — you name it. You ask them to give you a prediction about the big fight, and they’ll do it.

And that’s what I did. Here are 56 expert Mayweather-Canelo predictions from around the globe.

TSS CREW LIKES MAYWEATHER 12-1

Mayweather looked brilliant against Robert Guerrero, making The Ghost look like he’d seen a ghost. He will be just as ghostly for young Canelo, who is too flat-footed, too mechanical and too inexperienced to deal with the speed, agility and ring intelligence of Mayweather. Floyd by decision. — Ron Borges, TheSweetScience.com

Floyd Mayweather Jr. can look very, very good when he is at the top of his game, but his true strength is the same as Pernell Whitaker’s: he is even better at making the other guy look bad. It’s the same principle that was applied when puffed-up middleweight Roy Jones Jr. schooled WBA heavyweight champ John Ruiz. Canelo Alvarez is a rising star, but he hasn’t attained his career apex yet. There’s enough remaining of the best of Floyd to come away with another points victory. — Bernard Fernandez, TheSweetScience.com

I’m picking Mayweather by decision. He’s getting older and Canelo is young and can punch, but Mayweather still has some great tools and his experience adjusting to fighters’ styles will make a difference. I also have some doubts about the weight. Canelo might make it down, but that could take a lot out of him. And if he puts on 15 pounds overnight, he could be a little sluggish. — Rick Folstad, TheSweetScience.com

23-year-old Alvarez has incredible work ethic and the soul of a warrior, but I think Mayweather Jr. will be too fast and elusive. And let’s not forget the experience factor. Mayweather easily defeated some of the best in the business. Corrales, Cotto, Marquez and Hatton couldn’t topple Mayweather, and I don’t see Alvarez solving the Mayweather puzzle. I’m going with Mayweather via unanimous decision. — Ralph Gonzalez, TheSweetScience.com

While a Canelo win via stoppage would not come close to shocking me (his power is real, Floyd’s legs have slowed down considerably), I can see Floyd having his way with the youngster. He’ll have to move more than he did against Robert Guerrero, but I think he’ll land at will while constantly setting traps that Canelo doesn’t recognize. Floyd by UD 12, but not without some drama as Alvarez hurts him a few times throughout the fight. — Blake Hochberger, TheSweetScience.com

Mayweather is always the boss; it is his promotion, he gets the attention, money and has an aura of superstardom. These factors seem to convince opponents that they are inferior and can’t win. Miguel Cotto was one of the few who rose to the occasion, but I don’t think Canelo has the skills or resolve to improve on Cotto’s performance. Mayweather by clear decision in a man versus boy affair. — Ronan Keenan, TheSweetScience.com

The only way Canelo can win is if he can turn the bout into a street fight. It’s his only option. He can’t win by waiting and reacting or boxing, he must make Mayweather do what he doesn’t want to. I don’t think he’s capable (he’s not the puncher he’s been built up to be), and I’m not convinced that Alvarez won’t be compromised by having to weigh-in at 152 or less. And if Floyd wins this one, it’s a given he’ll retire undefeated and will be forgotten soon thereafter. Mayweather by UD. — Frank Lotierzo, TheSweetScience.com

Canelo can only win with a lucky punch, an Antonio Tarver/Roy Jones style knockout punch. A punch that Mayweather’s body doesn’t react to very well, even though he has taken similar shots thousands of times. I think Floyd does what he always does, but this time it will be in front of a hostile crowd. Mayweather wins by decision. –Ray Markarian, TheSweetScience.com

Mayweather has been the best in the business for a long time, but how much longer can he keep it up? Canelo is bigger, stronger and almost just as fast. I like Canelo in an upset by close decision. As the fight goes into the later rounds, the 23-year-old’s punches will simply be too heavy for the now 36-year-old Floyd Mayweather. — Kelsey McCarson, TheSweetScience.com

Mayweather by decision: Alvarez is young, strong, and hungry, but I don’t think that’s enough to overcome the hand speed and defensive skill of Mayweather. Canelo has the theoretical puncher’s chance, and there’s also the possibility of him being awarded a decision he doesn’t deserve, but more likely, I think Mayweather outboxes him and frustrates him as he has so many other opponents, pulling away from the middle rounds on for a decision win. — Eric Raskin, TheSweetScience.com

I’m not brave enough to go against the Money. Floyd is a master. Is he an all-time great, near the skill level of Sugar Ray Robinson? I don’t have a time machine and a promotional license, so really, who the hell knows? But I do know this…I think Canelo graduated to being an A minus fighter against Austin Trout. But I’d be more inclined to say he’s going to win more than three rounds on Sept. 14 if I didn’t see him fight so many sub-stellar rounds against Shane Mosley, Ryan Rhodes, Matt Hatton…I think Floyd’s movement will be so key, keep him away from the only danger zone of Canelo’s right hand. Floyd, comfy UD 12. — Michel Woods, TheSweetScience.com

Haven’t seen Mayweather live since ’08 and I’ve never seen Canelo, so this long distance call is based solely on prior Vegas handicapping trends. On paper it’s all Money. Alvarez hasn’t really even earned Ricky Hatton status, let alone De la Hoya territory, so I see Floyd as at least a 2 – 1 favorite. Still, (from close ringside) I thought Castillo deserved the nod in the first fight vs. Mayweather and Oscar (from far grandstands) earned at least a draw, so if Canelo is as strong as many think and maintains pressure, we could have a wild night. I doubt that. Mayweather takes the boy to old school. Floyd by TKO on accumulated damage. — Phil Woolever, TheSweetScience.com

While Mayweather may be a slowing bit, he has busted the myths of countless fighters who had much more power than him. At 36, he may not make Alvarez look foolish, but he can still manage him for 12 rounds. Mayweather by decision. — Aaron Tallent, TheSweetScience.com

 

OTHER MEDIA MEMBERS TAKE FLOYD 18-4

I think Canelo will win some rounds early, starting the fight aggressively as Mayweather carefully surveys his opponent. But as the fight progresses, Mayweather will use his legs and potshot to establish control of the fight. His movement and accuracy will keep Alvarez from having any sustained success in the later rounds. I think Mayweather wins 116-112. — Adam Abramowitz, Saturdaynightboxing.com

Canelo by split decision. If there is any Mexican fighter out there with the style to beat Floyd Mayweather that is Canelo Alvarez. He is strong, quick of hands, and is not your typical pressure fighter; he is a patient and smart boxer. By his employment of feints and his hard right, Canelo can take the fight to the bag as long as he varies his attack as he did with Trout. By taking Floyd out of his comfort zone, luring him to attack, Alvarez can counter Floyd and hurt him. Expect a controversial decision. — Eduardo Badillo, BoxPlatino.com

Canelo has two rounds to level Mayweather with a right hand, and boxing’s current landscape with him. After that, Mayweather will have him solved, and The One will deteriorate into The 45th. Mayweather will win by a split decision, divided between two accurate scorecards and a third filled-in during the flight from Mexico City. — Bart Barry, 15Rounds.com

Floyd “Money” Mayweather is 36 years old and expected to come into the ring around 150 lbs. On the other hand, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez may outweigh Mayweather by 15-20 lbs and is additionally 13 years younger. Obviously, Alvarez clearly has a major physical advantage, but will he know how to use it? And even if he knows the right thing to do, will he be able to do it? My guess: probably not…Unless Canelo can somehow discover the stamina to consistently work on the inside (mainly with hooks as Mayweather doesn’t lean in for the uppercut) or stay busy from long range (mainly utilizing lots of jabs) it’s going to be an easy fight for Money May. Personally I’m of the opinion that Alvarez does try to out box Mayweather from long range, but not with activity. I get the feeling the young man actually thinks he can fight at a modest pace and beat Mayweather with timing and subtle technique…Among previously listed attributes that Canelo lacks, he additionally doesn’t have the height, reach, reflexes or experience to win the kind of fight I’m envisioning…Mayweather by UD. — Ryan Bivins, Bad Left Hook

Mayweather’s advantages in speed, technique and experience — even at 36 — are just too potent against a fighter as green as Alvarez to solicit a prediction other than a victory by unanimous decision. But that doesn’t mean the fight will be a snoozer, as Canelo’s size, power and underrated ring intelligence will present enough resistance to create drama. Alvarez might go as far as scoring a flash knockdown, but in the end the brilliance of Mayweather’s mid-fight adjustments will be the storyline. — Brian Campbell, ESPN.com

I’m a Canelo believer, but I think this fight has come too soon in his development into a complete fighter. Though Alvarez has some heavy hands, he also has a bad habit of not letting them go often enough, and I expect that to play right into Floyd’s strengths. Mayweather will take this via comfortable decision, with Canelo looking bewildered by the eighth round. — Scott Christ, BadLeftHook.com

Mayweather by UD. The deck is stacked against Saul Alvarez in a number of different ways, and perhaps the only area where Canelo might have an advantage is size — hedged a bit by Floyd by way of catchweight. If Floyd Mayweather were more chinny, that might be an opening for Canelo to make up ground, but Floyd has shown that he can take a punch just fine when his excellent defense fails him. At the end of the day, Floyd Mayweather is a much better fighter with more high end experience, and much of Alvarez’ hope seems to hinge on the idea that Floyd might get old, and soon. — Patrick Connor, Queensberry-Rules.com

Canelo has size and age advantages and is capable of providing a challenge, and maybe even a scare or two. But if Floyd is still Floyd, I think the fight will be typical Mayweather fare. Floyd will make the necessary adjustments and win the decision. — John DiSanto, PhillyBoxingHistory.com

If you believe the marketing, you feel that Floyd Mayweather is aging, slowing down, and will be undersized when he steps into the ring against Canelo Alvarez, who is younger, larger and in his prime. Don’t believe the marketing. Mayweather remains faster, smarter and just plain better than Alvarez. Mayweather will either break Alvarez down for a late stoppage or score a decision victory in which wishful viewers grade Alvarez on a curve rather than on his actual performance. –David Greisman, BoxingScene.com

On paper, I don’t see how anyone could pick against Mayweather. He has all of the tactical, technical advantages over Alvarez to suggest a decisive victory. As for Canelo, it’s still debatable whether, physically, he’s a special fighter. But, mentally, the kid is cast iron tough and laser beam focused. That, alone, makes him dangerous — at least in terms of being able to execute a coherent game plan and not fall into a state of quiet resignation, like most Mayweather opponents do. Mayweather will have to be a bit more aggressive than is normally the case, but the logical prediction is Floyd via unanimous decision in the vicinity of 116-112 or 117-111.—Paul Magno, TheBoxingTribune.com

I am making a sizable wager on Carrot Top (btw, I gave him the nickname) to do the unthinkable, meaning topple Money May. I will be rich as soon as I get out of the mental institution. Seriously, I know it goes the 12-round limit. Canelo takes a split, controversial decision. Rematch looms even larger. – Michael Marley, Examiner.com

I am picking Mayweather by a unanimous decision. In order to be able to beat Mayweather you have to be able to cut off the ring on him. I don’t think Alvarez can do that. Also, he telegraphs that big right hand of his and Mayweather will see that one coming a mile away and tattoo him with his vaunted counter right. Also, you can’t be predictable and beat Floyd and much as I respect Canelo I think it will be relatively easy for Mayweather to figure him out and anticipate his punches and anticipation is everything with Mayweather. Mayweather will not take any chances with him — so don’t expect him to go for the KO if he is way ahead. –Gordon Marino, The Wall St. Journal

“A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.” School’s in, kid. (Mayweather wins.) — Matt McGrain, Boxing.com

Canelo is going to test Mayweather for the early part of this fight. His size and power will see to that. But the young gun doesn’t have a big engine on a good day, let alone when he’s weight-drained by an extra two pounds. Mayweather will gradually take over, snap Canelo’s neck with his vaunted right hand and leave the Mexican with a coat of paint to match his hair. – Alex McClintock, Queensberry-Rules.com

Canelo is definitely the biggest, strongest and most physically imposing opponent of Mayweather’s long career, but there is nobody better than Floyd at finding a weakness and exploiting it. I expect the first-half of the fight to be close, and there to be some possibly dicey moments for Mayweather in the early rounds. But, as always, Floyd will figure out his man in the second half of the fight, and he’ll dominate a fading Canelo to win a unanimous decision. — Kevin McRae, BleacherReport.com

Mayweather will beat Canelo the way he beats everyone else. It will start off exciting, but the thrill will subside after five rounds with Mayweather pot-shotting Canelo at will en route to winning a unanimous decision. Canelo, like Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., won’t lose any luster with the defeat. He will come back and beat all but the best. Mayweather is much too fundamentally skilled, mature and well trained for Canelo, who is made to order for him. Mayweather W 12. — Bob Mladinich, Boxing.com

Canelo TKO 11. Canelo has proven that he can play up to the moment, which tells me that on the biggest stage of his career we’ll see the outright best version of Canelo. The same can’t be said for Floyd, whose decline is much more apparent when his opposition is throwing back. Canelo is capable of earning a stoppage in the championship rounds by just being the cunningly aggressive, athletically charged Mexican fighter that he is. — Mario Mungia, ThaBoxingVoice.come

Youth versus experience. Tactics versus courage. Speed versus power; the list goes on. Canelo Alvarez will neutralize Floyd’s tactics and attack him to the body. The Mexican independence chant will be heard loud and proud after a close, unanimous decision. Luis Ortiz, HooksandHoops.com

Canelo will be competitive early, even if he doesn’t win the rounds. Mayweather adapts around the fourth, and controls the center of the ring for the rest of the fight. Mayweather by decision. — Matt Paras, Maxboxing.com

Let’s keep this simple because it is simple. Mayweather is faster, more experienced, and frankly better in every facet of boxing than Alvarez. The size advantage means nothing if you have no prayer of landing a meaningful shot against the defensive wizard Mayweather (not to mention even if Alvarez lands one lucky bomb Mayweather has shown he is no soft touch on the chin and can handle it as he did against Mosley). Floyd will box circles around Alvarez and uncharacteristic of his typical nature pounce on the demoralized and bruised Alvarez late in the fight for an 11th round stoppage. Enjoy the hype for this one, because the action will be all one-sided once the bell rings. — Gary Purfield, PhillyBoxingHistory.com

Everything I know about the history of fighting screams at me to pick Canelo. In many ways, it seems 36-year-old fighters were put on this Earth expressly for 23-year-old rising stars to feast upon. But Floyd Mayweather is different. He’s shown no signs of age or wear and I expect him to waltz to a lopsided decision. — Jonathan Snowden, BleacherReport.com

Mayweather is in for his sternest test since Jose Luis Castillo, which does not mean the fight will be competitive. Alvarez lacks the gas to pressure for twelve rounds, and the pedigree to outbox the best boxer on the planet; whatever wrinkles he introduces will be parsed by Mayweather, who has seen it all, in all its variations. Size, youth, and Mayweather’s patience might allow Alvarez to bank a few early rounds, but once Mayweather assesses the threat before him, he will neutralize it. Expect a closer fight on the cards than in the ring. Mayweather by UD. — Jimmy Tobin, TheCruelestSport.com

I had the chance to visit both Floyd Mayweather and Canelo Alvarez in their recent media workouts. Both looked solid, and in impeccable shape, but there was a clear supremacy. While Canelo is undeniably powerful – appearing fast, strong, and unfatigued – there is something about Floyd Mayweather that is overwhelming. Watching him up close at work is like nothing else. His confident mindset and tremendous skill seem unshakable. The only trouble I foresee is if Floyd is too concentrated on going for the knockout, as he has said he wants this time. If the ring was reduced to a 5′ x 5′, I might favor Canelo, but in the standard squared circle, Floyd Mayweather is at home. I don’t see a straight KO, and I think Canelo can escape the TKO, but on Saturday Floyd will prove once again that there is no fighter smarter than him. Mayweather (probably) by UD. — Stephanie Trapp, Trappfotos

FAN EXPERTS LIKE MAYWEATHER 5-3

Mayweather wins this one. His superb defense, his footwork, and his hand speed, will be too much for Canelo. — Eddie Cahill, Actor, @EddiePCahill

Canelo by UD. Canelo will put on relentless pressure and Mayweather will break his fists early trying to keep the bigger man at a distance. — Juan Francisco Garza, Medical Doctor, @JGarza6804

Mayweather by decision. Canelo will try to outbox Floyd and lose decisively. — Peter James Gonzalez, Undergraduate Student, @History_Pete

Floyd has finally agreed to fight a quality opponent who is in his prime. This mistake will take the 0 off his loss column. Alvarez will come out early landing shots and generally making Floyd look his age. As the fight continues, Floyd will begin to fight desperately and take a chance that gets him knocked out late. Canelo by KO in the 10th. — Matt Higginbotham, Baptist Minister, @MaHigginbotham

I think Canelo has some early success, even shakes Mayweather up, and maybe even scores a knockdown early. However, Mayweather will adjust and come back to put on another great boxing performance, picking his shots and landing combinations as Canelo tires down the stretch. The final is a UD win for Mayweather, who takes 8 out of 12 rounds. — Jimmy Lujan, Financial Consultant, @JL_N_LL

Saturday night will be a one-sided win. The question is: for who? Mayweather comes to the ring and shows us all nothing has changed—he’s fast, smart and hasn’t lost a step on defense. Canelo comes to the ring and shows us he’s the real thing—he’s fast, he’s strong, but most importantly he’s adept at adapting. I hate making predictions, but for The One I’ll do anything—Canelo by wide UD. Rachel McCarson, Amateur Boxing Photographer and Awesome Wife, @Rmac81

Canelo may have an edge in weight on fight night, but the advantage in height, length and strength could easily go to Floyd. Add in the fact that Canelo is only 23, just now learning to fight, and was actually an opponent built up by Floyd by way of having him on his undercards, and I see an easy UD or possibly a 9-10 round stoppage for Floyd. –Hadeer Zbar, Mortgage Banker, @HadeerZ

Canelo has all the tools to defeat Floyd Mayweather Jr. From reading articles, his strategy on how to defeat Jr. is the right one. The one concern is stamina. Does he fight with the same energy all 12 rounds, if needed? “The One” for me is Mayweather. But who knows how I feel on Sept. 14? — Mark, Undisclosed, @ThisIsNotMark

CHAMPS AND CONTENDERS TAKE MAYWEATHER 5-1

This is Canelo’s fight to lose. Mayweather has speed, Canelo has speed; Canelo has power, Mayweather has power if you follow him. Canelo has youth, Mayweather has none. Experience is good; punching power is better. Split decision for Canelo. – George Foreman, Former Heavyweight Champion

I think Mayweather’s skills, speed and intelligence will allow him to win. Canelo is strong and young, and he can win if he uses his strength, but I see Mayweather being smarter and winning a decision. – Mikey Garcia, Featherweight

Mayweather is a master of positioning in the ring–he has the smarts and skills to take his opponents’ strengths away, and he trains for the strength and finesse needed to consistently “check-mate” his opponents for 36 minutes (if they last that long). Canelo has brought a different game in every fight and has shown the ability to make his previous opponents uncomfortable in the ring. It’s about “who” shows up when that bell rings in front of the thousands in the arena, LIVE in front of millions worldwide. Whoever is the most physically AND mentally prepared will win, and I question if Canelo can handle a skillful Mayweather who is not afraid and will make Canelo fight for every opportunity in the allotted 36 minutes. I’ll take Mayweather. — Ana Julaton, Super Bantamweight

I like Floyd Mayweather by twelve-round unanimous decision. — Erislandy Lara, Junior Middleweight

I pick Mayweather. If this fight happened a year from now then maybe Alvarez but right now I still think Floyd has enough to beat him. – Andy Lee, Middleweight

I do believe because of politics, and Floyd’s style, it will be a majority split decision for Floyd. He is a very smart counter puncher, and a cleaned up version of Bernard Hopkins when it comes to the “hit and not get hit concept.” BUT I’d like to see how Floyd handles Canelo’s strength and power. I can see a surprise KO. – Kaleisha West, Bantamweight

BOXING BUSINESS FOLK PICK MAYWEATHER 5-1

Mayweather wins. Floyd is one of the greatest counterpunchers in boxing history and an all time great. — Lou DiBella, Promoter, DiBella Promotions

Mayweather by UD. The only real doubts for me are if Mayweather suddenly gets old and the abnormally short (for FMJ) time between this fight and the Guerrero fight. Activity is good for a young fighter; it may not be good for a vet in his late 30s that is accustomed to time off. — Nicole Duva, Promoter, Main Events

Until proven otherwise, Mayweather reigns supreme. You can do all the statistical analysis you want but he stands head and shoulders above all, and I expect nothing less next Saturday. — Ron Katz, Matchmaker, Star Boxing

I am going with Canelo. I think his youth and power will give him that chance to win this fight, plus Mayweather is getting old and isn’t as fast at higher weight. Don’t get me wrong, Mayweather is fast, but I think weight and age will slow him down a little and Canelo will capitalize. – Jolene Mizzone, Matchmaker, Main Events

Size means little to me; it is overrated unless you have a flyweight facing a heavyweight. Like him or not, Mayweather is the finest fighter of his generation. Whether or not he wakes on the wrong side of the bed one day is something we cannot know ahead of time. Put it this way: The best Mayweather beats the best Canelo, Russel Peltz, Promoter, Peltz Boxing

The Canelo-Mayweather fight truly only has one outcome: confusion. Canelo’s straight forward and predictable style will be easy for Floyd Mayweather to pick apart, that Canelo will be confused by round 4. Floyd wins by unanimous confusion (decision). –Michelle Rosado, Promoter, Raging Babe

FINAL TALLY: EXPERTS CHOOSE MAYWEATHER OVER CANELO 46 – 10.

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Good Night, Sweet Pea

Springs Toledo

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Good-Night-Sweet-Pea

Good Night, Sweet Pea

Bishop James E. Jones Jr.’s booming baritone was rising up through the rafters at the Scope Arena in Norfolk, Virginia. He was preaching about hands—your neighbor’s hands, the hand in yours now, the Father’s hands into which Jesus commended his spirit from the cross. “Sweet Pea’s HANDS,” he shouted, “took him to places HIS EYES NEVER IMAGINED!”

Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker, the greatest pure boxer since Willie Pep, lay in repose at the foot of the stage, his hands crossed at his belt. His coffin was black. An Olympic flag was draped over it and boxing gloves carefully arranged on top. The few thousand who attended his Saturday morning memorial service came to mourn and to celebrate a perfect fighter, an imperfect man, and a community that has long-since learned to look up no matter what.

Mark Breland was there. He came down from New York to honor the captain of an Olympic boxing team that won nine gold medals in 1984. Long gone is the fresh-faced amateur smiling under a laurel wreath, but Breland remains reed thin. He stood at the podium in a gray suit with a powder blue shirt and was too overwhelmed with grief to say much. “We knew him differently,” he said.

Kathy Duva, now a promoter, then his publicist, was there too. “Pound-for-pound,” she said. “That’s how he signed his autographs.” And that’s exactly what he was: the pound-for-pound best boxer in the world from September 1993 through March 1996, despite performances that struck the unsophisticated as pusillanimous. “He simply chose not to engage in outright brutality,” Duva said. “It was so much more fun to tease and toy with his opponents.” Whitaker teased and toyed with everyone, including a young Floyd Mayweather Jr. who, she said, “could not lay a glove on him” even as he sparred with those hands of his behind his back in 1996. Whitaker brought laughter into the midst of danger because of his cosmic level of skill, and because it kept boredom at bay. Merely making world-class fighters miss wasn’t enough; so he’d dart behind them and as they looked around to see where he went, he’d tap them on the rear end. When Roger Mayweather was known as “Black Mamba” and feared for his right hand, Whitaker—fighting here at the Norfolk Scope—yanked his trunks down in the middle of the sixth round.

“An imp with gold teeth,” said one wit during his glory days, “floating around that blue canvas like a cloud,” added Duva.

No one could outbox him. It isn’t easy to settle firmly on a lightweight in history who could. But the product of Young Park, a housing project just east of the Scope, wasn’t raised to shrink from violence. As a child, his father wouldn’t tolerate tears when he was hurt by neighborhood bullies. He’d turn him around. “Go back,” he’d say. “Give them everything you got.” When he was eight, he and nine-year-old Mario Cuffee got into a street fight and Clyde Taylor, a mailman who moonlighted as the neighborhood’s recreation director, hustled over and grabbed both by the scruff of the neck. “Do your fighting in the gym,” he said, and with permission from the boys’ parents, restaged the fight in the ring, with boxing gloves that looked like balloons. Whitaker lost that one, but found a mentor who began the process of transforming an undersized project kid into a giant of boxing and boxing history. Whitaker credited Cuffee almost as much. “Come to think of it,” Cuffee told me Monday, “I beat him that first fight, though I gotta come clean, he got me back a few years later.” When Whitaker fought Greg Haugen at the Coliseum in 1989, Cuffee bought a ticket and made his way across the Hampton Roads Beltway through a blizzard to see Haugen lose every round. At the post-fight press conference, Cuffee was standing in the back, “in cognito.” Whitaker spotted him and told the story of their fateful childhood fight. “Thanks Mario,” he said. Haugen, his face scuffed and swollen, looked up. “Yeah,” he said. “Thanks Mario.”

In Detroit, while still an amateur, he was invited to spar with Hector Camacho just as Floyd Mayweather was later invited to spar with him. Camacho couldn’t land a glove on him either. “He got mad and started fighting dirty,” Whitaker told the Newport News. “He grabbed me behind the head, pulled it down, and hit me with an uppercut. Then I grabbed him and threw him to the canvas and we started wrestling and fell out of the ring.” Whitaker offered to take it outside. Camacho talked a lot but never went near him again.

In 1984, after the Duvas had convinced Whitaker to throw in with Main Events, they introduced him to trainer George Benton. Benton, who understood the science of belligerent invisibility like no one else, took what Taylor had begun and finished it. He taught him to stop running around the ring, to stand on a dime; to see the difference between wasting energy and ducking and slipping just enough to let punches graze your hair or flick your ear. Benton made sure he became, in his words, “harder to hit than the numbers,” and a master at punching around, between, over, and under what’s coming in. “When I talk he stands and listens like a private would a general,” he said in 1986. “Sweet Pea’s going to be one of the best fighters ever.”

Seven years later, Whitaker swaggered into the ring against Julio Cesar Chavez, then 87-0 and rated by The Ring as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Whitaker fought him on a dime—twisting, rolling, fast-stepping outside his lead foot, and punching around, between, over, and under whatever came in. He had a trick that kept working. He’d turn his right shoulder in to narrow himself and hide his left until the moment it clubbed Chavez on the side of the head. You could hear it land—“whump!”—and it landed all night. In the ninth round, he was outfighting Chavez on the inside—“whump, whump!”—which no one had ever done. Chavez was befuddled and —“whump!”—puffing up. And then, at the end, 59,000 witnessed one of boxing history’s most egregious heists. Two of the three judges called the fight a draw. That’s what we were told anyway. Josè Sulaimàn, WBC president, countryman of Chavez, and favorite stooge of Don King, was seen collecting the scorecards after every round that night.

It is a grandiose irony. Whitaker put an exclamation point on Benton’s prediction in two fights he didn’t win. The second one was nearly as bad as the first.

At 33, he faced a 24-year-old Oscar De La Hoya, then 23-0 and rated by The Ring as the second best pound-for-pound fighter behind Roy Jones Jr. Whitaker made him look like a golem and won that fight too despite an official loss that stinks to this day. “The world saw it,” he said afterward, and smiled anyway, gold teeth gleaming. “The people saw it.”

Bishop Jones saw it. He remembered him standing triumphantly on the ropes before the decision against him was announced. He remembered it well.

“What I loved most about Sweet Pea Whitaker,” he told the mourners at the Norfolk Scope,

“.…was when he KNEW he had won the fight he DIDN’T WAIT on the referee to hold up his hands. He didn’t WAIT on the THE JUDGES to tell him whether or not he had won the fight, but if you look on the back of your programs, there’s a SIGNATURE MOVE that the champ would always do when he knew he had WON THE FIGHT. Family! HE WOULD THROW UP BOTH HIS HANDS!”

With that, Jones stepped back from the podium and thrust both hands in the air. When the people saw that, they roared as one. But Jones was just getting started, the crescendo wasn’t reached, not yet. He stopped them short. “EXODUS CHAPTER SEVENTEEN, VERSE ELEVEN! Whenever Moses held up…” and stepping back again, struck the same pose, “…HIS HANDS the people always had the victory…if the champ could hold up his hands in the middle of his fight, then SURELY you and I ought to HOLD UP OUR HANDS!”

Mario Cuffee jumped to his feet and thrust both hands in the air. Thousands, dressed in their best on the hottest day yet this year, rose as one and thrust both hands in the air. Whitaker’s signature move, multiplied. It was a transcendent moment; the spirit of a man—a father, a brother, a friend, a neighbor—merging with the spirit of the city he loved.

Bishop Jones lowered his gaze to the black coffin at the center of it all. “SWEET PEA!” he thundered as if to wake him up, “That one is for you! You got the victory! CHAMP!”

I closed my eyes and somewhere, I know, Whitaker opened his.

“—YOU GOT THE VICTORY!”

 

 

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Special thanks to Dr. James E. Jones Jr. senior pastor and founder of Greater Grace Church in Portsmouth, VA.

 Springs Toledo is the author of Smokestack Lightning: Harry Greb, 1919, now available in paperback.

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Mad Max and Manny

Ted Sares

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Mad-Max-and-Manny

The crowd chants “Manny, Manny, Manny” at the weigh-in at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and Pacquaio’s beloved Pinoy fans are going wild. It’s a BIG event, bigger even than many heavyweight title fights.

Max

Meanwhile, Maxim “Mad Max” Dadashev’s wife Elizabeth is flying from her home in St. Petersburg, Russia, to be with her husband at a hospital in Maryland. Dadashev was critically injured on Friday night while suffering an upset loss to heavy-handed Puerto Rican bomber Subriel Matias at another MGM property, the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland.

Dadashev, 28, was 281-20 as an amateur, undefeated in 13 professional fights, and the IBF’s third-ranked junior welterweight, but Matias had his number and dominated throughout in a tough and grinding affair.

Capture 9

Maxim Dadashev

At the end of the 11th round, Buddy McGirt told his fighter, “I’m going to stop it, Max.” Dadashev protested. Maybe Max’s brain signaled no, maybe not. But his heart surely said “I’m not done.”

McGirt overruled him, a sage move, but unbeknownst to anyone the damage had been done and it was severe.

“He had one hell of a fight,” McGirt told the Washington Post. “Tough fight, tough fight; took a lot of tough body shots. I just think it was time to stop it. He was getting hit with too many shots. I said to him, ‘I’m stopping it.’ He said, ‘No, don’t.’”

The scores at the time of the stoppage were 109-100, 108-101 and 107-102 in favor of Matias. According to CompuBox, Matias out-landed Dadashev 319-157; 112 of Matias’ punches were body shots.

Max was stretchered out of the arena and rushed to UM Prince George’s Hospital where his skull was opened up to relieve the pressure caused by bleeding. The cavity reveals brain damage, and memories of Mago surface. The dreaded and familiar scenario then begins as he is put into an induced coma. Hopefully, the swelling goes down, the bleeding stops, and no blood clot appears as the later would make a terrible situation grave. In any event, Max will never box again. His well-publicized dream to win a world title will not be fulfilled.

In a post-fight interview, ESPN’s ringside analyst Tim Bradley said, “That’s a scary situation and every time you step foot in the ring you know that was always the talk that I would have with my wife. You know before I would step foot in the ring, I would sit her down, I would look at her and I would say, ‘Look at me, honey. Take a good look at me, open your eyes wide open because I might not come out the ring, for one, and I know I’m not coming out of the ring the same way that I came in.’”

Manny

Back to the big fight the following evening:

The crowd chants “Manny, Manny, Manny” as he enters the ring to battle Keith Thurman for still another championship as his worshipers are now virtually in a state of mass hysteria and begin singing and cheering loudly. The scene borders on the surreal.

Across the Pond

Earlier on Saturday, across the pond in London, heavyweight David Allen took a bad beating from 6’9” David Price and required oxygen. He also was stretchered out and sent to a hospital, adding to the angst. But he will be okay. According to his promoter, Eddie Hearn, Allen had a broken orbital bone and a damaged tongue, but brain scans suggested he was okay.

David Allen — “Very happy and proud of David Price. I will be okay, but the last 12 months or so my health has been deteriorating and I’m glad I hung on, took the chance, and made money. [I’m] now probably done.”

“Manny, Manny, Manny”

In Las Vegas, Manny has decked Thurman in the first round and the place is delirious. The crowd senses that this is his night although Thurman is not backing up. In the tenth, Pac almost puts “One Time” away after landing a devastating body punch.

Finally, the fight is over and Manny is declared the winner. The decibel count goes off the chart as the Pinoys sing “We Are The Champions.” Viewers hit the mute button. These are not fans as much as they are cultists. One wonders if those who are chanting even know that this has been a week where boxing exposed its grim side.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

Ted Sares is a member of Ring 8, a lifetime member of Ring 10, and a member of Ring 4 and its Boxing Hall of Fame. He also is an Auxiliary Member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA). He is an active power lifter and Strongman competitor in the Master Class.

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The Hauser Report: Caleb Plant is Making His Mark

Thomas Hauser

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The July 20 IBF 168-pound title fight between Caleb Plant and Mike Lee wasn’t expected to be competitive. But it was a coming out party for one of boxing’s more compelling personalities.

Plant was born and raised in Tennessee. As his ring career progressed, he moved to Henderson on the outskirts of Las Vegas to hone his craft. On January 13 of this year, he scored an upset decision victory over Jose Uzcategui to claim the IBF belt and bring his record to 18-0 with 10 KOs. Prior to that, his hardscrabble origins had been scarred by tragedy.

Plant grew up in a home where alcohol and drug abuse were common. His own daughter, Alia, was born with severe brain damage.

“She had zero motor skills,” Caleb recounted last year. “She couldn’t sit up. She couldn’t hold her head up. She couldn’t lift her arm. She couldn’t eat. She ate through a tube in her stomach. I didn’t know if she was gonna know who I was. I didn’t know if she knew that I loved her. She was never gonna stand and say ‘I love you, dad’ or ‘Merry Christmas, dad.’ She’s not gonna know what it’s like to have friends. But what if I could just give her a nice life, a life that I didn’t have. What if I could work so hard that I can give her a life and things that I never had as a kid. We won’t be able to have the relationship that I had with my dad. But I’ll give her my all, my best, no matter what. This is what I can try to give her. A roof over her head; food in her stomach even if it’s not through her mouth.”

In 2015, at nineteen months of age, Alia was in the hospital on life support for the fifth and final time in her young life. Plant’s words speak for themselves.

“The doctors were telling me, ‘Mr. Plant, your daughter is gonna pass away. That’s a tough conversation to have. She was slowly going down and down and down and down. I went to her. It was just me, and I said, ‘You know, this has been a long nineteen months, and I know you have to be tired. And if you are over this, then I’m okay with that. I’m not gonna be mad at you. I’m not gonna be disappointed in you. I’m not gonna be upset with you. If you’re tired of this and you’re done and you don’t want to do this anymore, then your daddy supports you. And I’m gonna be right here.’ And right after that conversation – a conversation that I had never had with her before because, every time before, it was ‘No, this is not gonna happen’ – she started going down. I said, ‘I want you guys to take this stuff off of her because I don’t want her to pass with these tubes down her throat and an EEG machine on her head and sticky and all that stuff.’ They took all that stuff out. They cleaned her off and washed her hair. They took everything out. I got to sit there with her. She took her last breath at 10:55. And I just sat with her there for a long while.”

Adding to the tragedy in Plant’s life, his mother was shot and killed by a police officer in March of this year. According to the Tennessee Bureau of investigation, Beth Plant was being taken to a hospital by ambulance when she became unruly and pulled a knife from her backpack. The driver pulled over to the side of the road and called for assistance from law enforcement. When a policeman arrived, Plant came toward him brandishing the knife and he shot her.

After Plant’s mother died, Caleb posted a message on Facebook that read, “Love you forever and always momma. You always said ‘work hard bubba’ and I did. I know that we spent a lot of time wishing the relationship we had was different but you was still my momma. We both wished we could start from scratch so we could go back and you could have a fresh start with me and Maddie. Regardless you was one of the sweetest ladies I’ve ever come across. You had your demons but you’d give the shoes off your feet and your last dollar to someone who needed it less than you. I love you momma and I know you are up there with Alia now and her and grandma finally get to spend time together like we talked about way back. You are the first one out of all of us to see what Alia is really like so make the most of that and kiss her up and tell her that her daddy loves and misses her. I know in the end it’s your demons we always talked about that got the best of you. Maybe you always told me because you knew I’d understand because we shared some of the same ones.”

The saving grace in Plant’s life has been boxing.

“I’ve been boxing since I was nine years old,” Caleb says. “There ain’t never been a Plan B. Not to go to college. Not to get a nine-to-five. Not to get a job. Not to be in the NFL. Not any of that. All I’ve ever had is boxing. I’m from the metho-heroin capital of the U.S. where a mother will sell her child’s last toy for one Xanex. Where a mother will lock her son and her daughter in a room for hours, not taking care of them, just so she can be locked away in her room doing her own stuff. I’m from where the Bethesda Center gives out-of-date canned food to you because you ain’t got no food. There ain’t no Plan B.”

Elaborating on that theme during a July 1 media conference call, Plant declared, “Boxing has always been like a sanctuary for me. It’s been a place that I could go and be somebody. As a kid, I was somebody that nobody would want to be, living in a place where nobody would want to be in. When I got to go to the gym, then I got to be somebody that everybody wanted to be. Grown men looking up to me, oohing and ahhing. And once I got back out of those doors, I had to go back to being that kid that nobody wanted to be. So that became like an addiction for me, to want to be there, want to be in the gym.”

“Through everything that came and left in my life,” Plant continued. “Through all the things that I’ve lost, through all the things I’ve been deprived of or haven’t had, boxing has always stood by my side. Boxing has always been there for me through thick and thin. Boxing is like a woman. If you treat her right and you do good by her, then she’ll stand by you and she’ll do right by you. But she’s a jealous woman. And the difference between me and my opponent is, I haven’t glanced off of her. I haven’t endeavored into other things.”

Mike Lee comes from a world that Caleb Plant is unfamiliar with.

Lee went to high school at the Benet Academy in Lisle, Illinois. Virtually all of Benet’s students go on to college. Lee spent a year at the University of Missouri before transferring to Notre Dame, where he graduated with a degree in finance. “I relax by watching CNBC,” he told writer Kieran Mulvaney several years ago. “And I like reading the Wall Street Journal.”

For most of Lee’s ring career, he was well marketed and well protected by Top Rank. At one point, he parlayed his Notre Dame pedigree into a much-commented-upon Subway commercial. Recently, he left Top Rank to campaign under the Premier Boxing Champions banner. Now 32 (five years older than Plant), he came into Saturday night’s fight with a 21-0 (11 KOs) record and had fought his entire career at light-heavyweight or a shade higher.

Plant’s opposition had been suspect prior to his victory over Uzcategui. Lee’s opposition had been worse. “The typical Mike Lee opponent,” one matchmaker observed, “has had ten fights and won all but nine of them.”

Kick-off press conferences are usually characterized by the lack of anything eloquent being said. The May 21 press conference for Plant-Lee was different. Lee spoke first, voicing the usual platitudes.

“Every single fight is different. I don’t really care what his other opponents have done in or out of the ring. It doesn’t matter. On fight night, the bell rings, it’s just me and him. The best man will win. I’ve been in so many press conferences where opponents either talk shit or they’re dismissive or they’re respectful. I’ve beat them all. This is an incredible opportunity and I will make the most of it. I’m going to shock a lot of people”

Then it was Plant’s turn.

“I’ve been boxing my whole life,” Caleb said. “No college degree for me. No high school sports. No acting gigs. No Subway commercials. Just boxing, day in and day out, rain, sleet, or snow. He may have a financial degree. But in boxing I have a Ph.D and that’s something he don’t know anything about. Something else I have a Ph.D in is being cold and being hungry and being deprived, coming from very rock bottom. That’s something he don’t know anything about. So if this guy ever thought for one second that I would let him mess this up for me and send me back there; unlike him, I have everything to lose. This is how I keep a roof over my head and food in my belly. That’s something he don’t know anything about. So if he thinks he’s going to mess this up for me, he’s not half as educated as I thought he was.”

At times, the dialogue seemed to verge on class warfare. And it continued in that vein through fight week.

“There are zoo lions and there are jungle lions,” Plant said at the final pre-fight press conference two days before the bout. “The zoo lion will look at the jungle lion and think they’re the same thing. And from a distance they look the same. Until it’s time to eat or be eaten.”

“The trash talking goes back and forth,” Lee responded. “That’s as old as time. Nothing he’s saying is new. It’s all recycled stuff he’s heard on TV or heard in movies. It’s nothing new to me. It doesn’t even bother me. I laugh at it.”

Plant-Lee was broadcast live on Fox as a lead-in to the Pacquiao-Thurman pay-per-view card. Lee was a 15-to-1 underdog. The consensus was that he had as much chance of beating Plant in a boxing match as Yale would have of beating Notre Dame in football.

Nevada’s choice of 76-year-old referee Robert Byrd as third man in the ring was a bit of a surprise. Byrd was once a capable referee, but his performance in recent years has been erratic. The most egregious example of this was his mishandling of the June 15 World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight semi-final bout between Mairis Briedis and Krzysztof Glowacki.

Byrd is past the point where he can move nimbly around the ring and was out of position for much of Briedis-Glowacki. His judgment was also faulty. In round two while the fighters were in a clinch, Glowacki hit Breidis in the back of the head with a rabbit punch. Briedis retaliated by flagrantly smashing an elbow into Glowacki’s face, driving the Pole to the canvas. In a post-fight in-the-ring interview on DAZN, Briedis acknowledged the foul, saying, “I did a little bit dirty.”

Glowacki, for his part, noted, “The elbow was really strong and clear to the chin. I did not know what happened. I do not remember a lot after that.”

Byrd deducted a point from Briedis but didn’t give Glowacki additional time to recover. Still hurt, Glowacki was knocked down fifteen seconds later by a two-punch combination that ended with a right hand to the back of the head. He rose. The bell rang to end the round. And Byrd didn’t hear it.

“The bell’s gone,” DAZN blow-by-blow commentator Jim Rosenthal shouted. “They’re carrying on. Come on, referee. I can hear it. Get in there.”

But Byrd allowed the action to continue. With people at ringside waving their arms and screaming at him that the round had ended, he allowed Briedis to batter Glowacki for another eight seconds until Mairis scored another knockdown.

“He’s gone down after the bell,” Rosenthal proclaimed. “What is occurring in there? What is occurring? That bell was ringing for ages. It’s farcical. He’s saying he couldn’t hear the bell. He must have been the only one in the arena.”

A badly damaged Glowacki was allowed out of his corner for round three but the fight was stopped twenty seconds later. In the same post-fight interview on DAZN, Briedis conceded that he’d heard the bell ending round two but kept punching.

As for Plant-Lee, the fight lived down to expectations. Lee tried to fight aggressively but didn’t have the tools to do it. Plant was the faster, stronger, tougher, better schooled fighter. He dropped Lee with a lead left hook late in round one, dug effectively to the body throughout, and put Lee on the canvas thrice more in the third stanza. After the final knockdown, Byrd stopped the mismatch. According to CompuBox, Lee landed just eight punches in the entire bout.

It will be interesting to see how Plant progresses from here, in and out of the ring. In that regard, it should be noted that writer Jeremy Herriges talked at length recently with Carman Jean Briscoe-Lee (Alia’s mother, who was once Caleb’s companion). Thereafter, Herriges wrote a thought-provoking article for NY Fights that calls portions of Plant’s narrative into question.

A Missing Part of the Caleb Plant Story 

 

Meanwhile, Caleb remains a work in progress.

“I’m not a grown man,” he said during a July 1 media conference call. “I’m a growing man. So I’m going to continue to become better in the ring. I’m going to continue to become a better man outside the ring. Thus far, I think I’ve done a good job of handling that responsibility. If I just continue to follow what I’ve done, I think I’ll be on the right path.”

Let’s see how the journey unfolds.

Thomas Hauser’s new email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His next book – A Dangerous Journey: Another Year Inside Boxing  – will 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.

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