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Who Should Manny Pacquiao Fight Next?

Kelsey McCarson

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Manny Pacquiao is slated to return to action this November in a bout likely to take place at the Venetian in Macao, China, but who will his opponent be? Better yet, who should it be?

Pacquiao is currently riding a two-fight win streak. After getting knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012, Pacquiao returned to the ring almost one full year later to outclass Brandon Rios over 12 rounds in China. Earlier this year, Pacquiao avenged his 2012 loss to Timothy Bradley by outworking the previously undefeated Bradley over 12 rounds.

The two wins put Pacquiao right back where he was before getting hit by Marquez’s perfectly timed counter punch two years ago. Pacquiao is considered by most pundits to be one of the top three pound for pound fighters in the sport.

But Pacquiao is 35 years old now. While he has maintained most of his speed, agility and technique, he certainly isn’t the same fighter he was back around 2009. No, Pacquiao is a fraction of a second slower than the prime version of himself. In boxing, that’s huge. In addition, Pacquiao does not seem to carry the same explosive power he did back then, and he does not throw punches with as much reckless abandon.

The good news is that Pacquiao seems to have improved greatly as a technician over the last year. He played it cool and smart against both Rios and Bradley, and did little things here and there to show an older Pacquiao is also a wiser one.

That should be good enough to keep Pacquiao elite for the near future, but it will remain important for him, as it is for any fighter nearing the end of his career, to maximize his earnings. That means Pacquiao should go for only the biggest, best and most historically important fights for the rest of his career.

With those stipulations in mind, it seems a bout against Chris Algieri needs to be off the table. Look, Algieri did well for himself in his win over Ruslan Provodnikov last month and deserves another TV opportunity against a good foe, but a Pacquiao-Algieri fight would mean almost nothing to Pacquiao’s legacy. The fight would be a tough sell to fight fans who are sick of spending 75 bucks a pop on PPVs every single month, and there’s almost nothing Algieri did against the limited Provodnikov to make me think he’d be competitive against Pacquiao.

Ditto to former Pacquiao sparring partner Amir Khan. The ambitious Khan has moved on from calling out Floyd Mayweather to start calling for a bout against Pacquiao. Khan has fast hands and a lanky body. He’s trouble for anyone so long as he can keep them on the end of his punches. Khan’s problem is that he can’t seem to do that against elite competition, and while Pacquiao-Khan would be more palatable and likely do better numbers than Pacquiao-Algieri, it’s still a bout no one is clamoring for and for good reason: Khan has done nothing to earn a shot against Pacquiao.

In a perfect world, Pacquiao might get a rematch with Miguel Cotto. Poor Cotto was walloped by prime Pacquiao back in 2009. But Pacquiao seems to have regressed since then, and some believe the Cotto that destroyed Sergio Martinez for the lineal middleweight title last month is the best version of Cotto ever seen. But Cotto is now also trained by Freddie Roach, and it would be hard to imagine either man trying to make that fight while other lucrative and historically important clashes remain on the table for each. Still, there would be no more historically significant bout for Pacquiao to land than one against Cotto for the middleweight title.

In an even more perfect world, Pacquiao would at long last get a fight against Mayweather. The two have been linked as possible opponents since Pacquiao destroyed Oscar De La Hoya back in 2008, but the fight has never happened thanks to the rival camps’ unwillingness to work with each other. If you’re a Pacquiao fan, you blame Mayweather for the bout never taking place. If you’re a Mayweather fan, you take the opposite position. There’s a good enough argument for either case to be plausible, but at this point, who really cares? The fight has never been made and probably never will be.

Now that the cold war is thawing a bit, there’s been some talk of matching Pacquiao against Canelo Alvarez. That’d be a huge promotion, but there are several kinks that would need to be worked out for the fight to take place. First, Pacquiao would have to be comfortable moving up to junior middleweight. Alvarez made 152 for his loss to Mayweather last year but seems to be outgrowing that possibility more and more every day. Moreover, the fighters are linked to different cable networks. Alvarez fights on Showtime while Pacquiao performs on HBO. Who would air the fight? Perhaps most importantly, though, Alvarez would need to get past Erislandy Lara on July 12. If he loses to Lara, it would seem silly to pit Pacquiao against Canelo at all, and beating Lara is not a given.

Pacquiao has technically split fights with Tim Bradley. But almost everyone in the world that saw the first fight back in 2012 knows Pacquiao should have been given the nod then. If they didn’t before, they got a better idea of it after seeing Pacquiao easily outpoint Bradley earlier this year in the same fashion. The judges got it right in this one, and Pacquiao was awarded a comfortable decision. It’s conceivable the two might meet again before Pacquiao retires, but Bradley would first need to do something big to earn the opportunity.

It is here, perhaps, the seemingly muddled view of options becomes almost overwhelmingly clear. For as much as Pacquiao and Mayweather will be tied together forever for what they didn’t do together in the ring, Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez will be tied together forever for what they did do together over four prolific fights. Each fight was brilliant. Pacquiao holds a 2-1-1 edge over Marquez, but the great Mexican champion put a stamp on his belief that he deserved the nod in all three previous decisions by knocking Pacquiao out in fight number four.

Pacquiao and Marquez are two of the best champions of the era. They have every reason in the world to give fans one more exhibition of their brilliance against each other, and there’s no better time for it than now. The fight has significance for both fighters. A Pacquiao win would solidify his standing over Marquez as the better fighter. Another win by Marquez, though, would flip the coin over to him.

The two sides have yet to agree to terms for the bout. No doubt, Marquez wants to be paid handsomely to face Pacquiao a fifth time, and he should be. He’s earned that. Moreover, the two would need to agree on pre-fight drug testing as well as all the other specifics that go into putting a fight of this magnitude together. Whatever it takes to make the fight happen, it’s the only one that makes sense for both men in the fall. Pacquiao should fight Marquez for the fifth time in his career to round out 2014.

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Erickson Lubin Wins, But Misplaced His Hammer

David A. Avila

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Erickson Lubin misplaced the hammer but found a way to victory over Terrell Gausha by unanimous decision in a slow-developing WBC super welterweight eliminator on Saturday.

Lubin (23-1, 16 KOs), a southpaw slugger, was unable to lower the boom on Gausha (21-2-1, 10 KOs) at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. But he did enough in a tactical battle that only activated into a real fight in the later rounds.

Back and forth the two super welterweights mostly feinted and fired blows at each other’s guard. Few managed to pierce for scoring blows and those that landed were mostly to the body.

“It was a chess match. I respected what he had, he was trying to counter what I had. My trainer was telling me to be cautious and not get hit with anything stupid,” said Lubin, whose trainer is the respected Kevin Cunningham.

Gausha, 33, was the more accurate puncher but fired less than Lubin. Though he seemingly scored more often with counter rights, the scarcity of his blows allowed Lubin to control the pace of the fight.

It wasn’t until the mid-rounds that Gausha stepped into a slightly quicker pace. In the 10th, a short right connected and wobbled Lubin who covered up.

“I knew I had hurt him, but he was able to recover,” said Gausha, 24, who tried to finish off the hurt fighter but was unable to land another scoring blow.

“I’m in shape and I was able to recuperate,” Lubin revealed.

It was still unclear who was winning the fight. In the 12th and final round Lubin stepped up the pace and connected with a crisp right hook that clearly snapped the head of Gausha. But he fought his way out of the dangerous corner.

After 12 rounds all three judges scored it for Lubin 115-113, 116-112, 118-110.

“Gausha is a tough competitor, he’s at the top for a reason,” said Lubin. “I feel I beat one of the top 154s and I’m going to keep doing that.”

Gausha was classy in defeat.

“I take my hat off to Erickson Lubin. He was the better man tonight,” said Gausha.

Lubin now awaits the winner between Jermell Charlo and Jeison Rosario who fight each other next week for the WBC, WBA and IBF super welterweight titles. Showtime will provide the title match on pay-per-view.

Featherweights

Former IBO featherweight titlist Tug Nyambayar (12-1, 9 KOs) floored Cobia Breedy (15-1) twice in the first two rounds but struggled the rest of the way to win by split decision. One judge scored it 115-113 for Breedy and two others for Mongolia’s Nyambayar 114-112 and 114-113.

Nyambayar knocked down Breedy with a counter right cross in the first round and then floored him with four rights and a left hook in the second. After that, Breedy was the busier fighter and no one was able to take control.

“Boxing is boxing. It was a tough fight,” said Nyambayar.

Welterweights

In a solid match Philadelphia’s Jaron Ennis (26-0, 24 KOs) was able to find out exactly where he stands against real competition and stopped the unstoppable Juan Carlos Abreu (23-6-1, 21 KOs) in the sixth round by technical knockout in their welterweight showdown.

More than just a knockout win, Ennis discovered that he can indeed take a punch from an elite level puncher.

Nobody questioned whether Ennis had boxing skills or athleticism and power, but nobody knew if he could take a punch. They discovered it as Abreu was able to connect in the fourth and fifth rounds. The Dominican fighter pulled out his tricks and connected several times with sneaky rights and lefts. Ennis remained standing.

Abreu was looking to trade bombs with Ennis in the fifth and sixth round and paid the price in getting delivered to the canvas with a pretty right counter uppercut. He survived. But in the sixth a slew of punches along the ropes sent him down again. He beat the count again but during a fierce exchange he was floored a final time at 1:06 of the sixth round. It was the first time Abreu had ever been stopped.

“I feel I put on a wonderful show and got the knockout,” said Ennis. “I feel I showed the division I am here.”

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Fast Results from the MGM Bubble: Pedraza Outclasses Molina Plus Undercard

Arne K. Lang

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The featured bout on tonight’s card at the MGM Bubble was a match between 2008 Olympians. It was a competitive match on paper, but Jose Pedraza turned in one of the better performances of his career while turning away Javier Molina who just wasn’t in Pedraza’s league tonight. The fight went the full 10 with the judges voting for the Boricua by scores of 99-91 and 98-92 twice. A former two-division belt-holder who looked very comfortable in his second start at 140, Pedraza boosted his record to 28-3. Molina, who had won five straight coming in, falls to 22-3.

Pedraza was manhandled by Gervonta Davis in 2017, outclassed by Vasyl Lomachenko in 2018, and upset by Jose Zepeda last year, but showed tonight that he still has plenty of mileage left on his odometer. Josh Taylor and Jose Carlos Ramirez each own two pieces of the 140-pound title, but Pedraza seems to have found a new gear at age 31 and is nipping at their heels. However, Pedraza also hankers to renew acquaintances with Zepeda and that will likely come first.

In the 10-round heavyweight co-feature, Efe Ajagba’s higher workrate carried him to a 10-round unanimous decision over Jonathan Rice. The scores were 98-92 and 99-91 twice.

Ajagba, the Houston-based Nigerian making his first start under the Top Rank banner, advanced his record to 14-0 (11) but was underwhelming. Rice, the terror of Tijuana taxi drivers, fell to 13-6-1 and solidified his reputation as a useful gatekeeper.

Robeisy Ramirez, a two-time Olympic gold medalist for Cuba who now resides in the Miami area, improved to 5-1 with a unanimous 8-round decision over Puerto Rico’s Felix Caraballo (13-3-2). Both appeared on the inaugural MGM Bubble card with Caraballo, fighting for the first time in the U.S., suffering a sixth-round stoppage at the hands of Shakur Stevenson. Tonight’s uneventful fight saw Ramirez on cruise control as he won by scores of 79-73 and 80-72 twice.

San Bernardino junior middleweight Leo Ruiz improved to 8-0 with a 6-round unanimous decision over Cancun’s Rodrigo Solis (4-5-1). Both fighters had a point deducted in round five; Ruiz, 21, for low blows and Solis for spitting out his mouthpiece. The scores were 58-54 and 59-53 twice.

In a fight that wasn’t on the original schedule, Houston super middleweight Christian Montano improved to 10-0 (7) with a 6-round unanimous decision over St. Louis’ Ryan Adams (7-4-1). A three-time national amateur champion, Montano, who is of Columbian descent, had knocked out seven of his previous opponents in the opening round. He looked poorly conditioned tonight but yet won every round on two of the scorecards.

Lightweight Bryan Lua, who hails from the town of Madera in central California’s agricultural belt, returned to the ring after a 27-month absence and scored a one-punch knockout over Chile’s Luis Norambuena. A left hook did the damage, bringing the bout to a sudden conclusion at the 2:27 mark of round two. Lua, (6-0, 3 KOs) won two of three over Ryan Garcia as an amateur. It was a quick turnaround for Norambuena (4-7-1) who lost a 4-round decision in this ring last week.

The first two bouts on the card showcased the newest members of Top Rank’s “Kiddie Corps.” Kasir Goldston and Jahi Tucker, 17-year-old welterweights, launched their pro careers on a winning note.

Goldston, a southpaw from Albany, NY, opened the show with a 4-round unanimous decision over Wisconsin’s Isaiah Varnell (3-3). The scores were 40-36 and 39-37 twice.

Tucker, who trains in the same Long Island town that spawned Buddy McGirt, put away Alabama’s Deandre Anderson (1-2) in the opening round. Anderson came out winging, but the precocious Tucker picked him apart. Referee Robert Hoyle stepped in and stopping the mismatch at the 2:56 mark. As an amateur, Tucker was ranked #1 at 138 pounds while still a sophomore in high school.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams for Top Rank

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 105: Angry Welterweights and More

David A. Avila

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Those welterweights don’t play.

One welterweight just got out of jail and wants to take out his angry frustrations in the boxing ring.

“One of us is getting knocked out. If it gets to where I’m behind on points, I’m just going to come forward and try to take him out, even if I end up getting knocked out,” said Juan Carlos Abreu. ““If he stands and fights, it’s better for me. That’s what I want.”

Standing in front of Abreu (23-5-1) will be one of the top welterweights in America, Philadelphia’s Jaron Ennis (25-0, 23 KOs). This is could be Ennis’ first true test against an experienced foe on Saturday Sept. 19, at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. Showtime will televise the Premier Boxing Champions card.

Ennis, 23, has been breezing easily since first jumping in the prize ring in April 2016. So far, the competition has been unable to cope with the athleticism he possesses. Will Abreu be the first to pose a problem?

“Whatever he brings, we are going to be ready. I’m going to go out there, do my thing, be smart, have my fun, and get that stoppage at the end of the night,” said Ennis, whose last opponent Bakhtiyar Eyubov was eliminated in four rounds in January. “You can’t just go in there and go for the knockout. That’s how you get tired and lose your cool or even get hit with punches that you shouldn’t be getting hit with.”

Abreu hopes he loses his cool.

“If he stands and fights, it’s better for me. That’s what I want. I really want one of us to get knocked out,” says Abreu of the Dominican Republic who was purportedly jailed for street fighting.

This welterweight matchup is the precursor to the WBC super welterweight eliminator between Terrell Gausha (21-1-1, 10 KOs) and Erickson Lubin (22-1, 16 KOs).

Gausha and Lubin both have lost once in their pro careers and need a win to get another crack at a world title.

Gausha lost a decision to Erislandy Lara three years ago. Lubin was stopped in one round by Jermell Charlo three years ago. Both realize the nature of the beast.

“I think Gausha has some problems with southpaws, but I’m not focused on that. I’m focused on my game plan and coming out victorious Saturday night,” said Lubin, 24, a southpaw called “the Hammer” for a reason.

Gausha is originally from Cleveland, Ohio but trains in Southern California and has fought four elite southpaws in his career. He believes one more is not a problem.

“This will be my fourth southpaw in a row. So, I’m more comfortable and familiar this time around,” said Gausha, 33, a former US Olympian who trains with Manny Robles Jr. “The guys before me, they all fought each other. Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran. They all fought each other. To be the best, you have to beat the best. And you can see that the fights I take, even after a long layoff, they are tough fights.”

Top Rank

Also, on Saturday Sept. 19, heavyweights and super lightweights lead a Top Rank card featuring some interesting bouts that will be shown on ESPN+.

Newly acquired Efe Ajagba (13-0,11 KOs) meets Jonnie Rice (13-5-1) in a 10-round heavyweight clash. It’s Nigeria’s Ajagba’s second fight this year. Though still a little raw he shows immense potential and great natural strength.

Rice fights out of Bones Adams’ Gym in Las Vegas and has some power. He built up his record on heavyweights in Tijuana boxing rings but has some pop. He’s a sizeable heavyweight and good measuring stick for Ajagba.

The main event is a doozy.

Puerto Rico’s Jose “The Sniper” Pedraza (27-3, 13 KOs) meets Southern California’s Javier Molina (22-2, 9 KOs) in a 10-round super lightweight bout at the MGM Grand Bubble in Las Vegas.

This should be good.

Pedraza, 31, is a former WBO lightweight world titlist who lost in his first defense to Vasyl Lomachenko. Nothing bad about that. He defeated Mexico’s Raymundo Beltran for the belt and has shown a penchant for showing up big when you least expect it.

Molina, 30, is a 2008 US Olympian and a member of the fighting Molina family. His brother Oscar was a member of Mexico’s 2012 Olympic team. His other brother Carlos fought for the world title against Amir Khan. Though Javier Molina has never shown great power, he can truly fight.  His last win came against Amir Imam this past February.

Pending Lightweight Clash

Speaking of the lightweight division, is anyone else as excited as me about the looming showdown between the remarkable Vasyl Lomachenko and impressive Teofimo Lopez coming in less than a month?

Lomachenko, 32, the Ukrainian stylist known as “Hi Tech,” has that incredible footwork and ability to control distance. He’s a master of frustrating opponents and imposing his style of darting in and out of danger. But as good as he is, he can’t sell tickets. Only hardcore fans appreciate his peerless boxing skills.

Lopez, 23, hails from Brooklyn and has that ex-factor you can’t teach. He’s pizzazz and panache with a punch. That combination of flair and power excites fans and seemingly makes him a natural gate attraction. But in spite of his electric abilities, he’s facing a master boxer. Is he ready?

Top Rank is known for having a team of matchmakers headed by boxing wizard Bruce Trampler. It makes me wonder why they are pitting these two against each other?

The probable answer: neither sells out an arena alone. May the best man win.

A friend of mine from East L.A., who formerly boxed and comes from a boxing family, shared his knowledge and opinion on the matchup. He has an interesting take.

“His footwork is incredible,” said George Rodriguez about Lomachenko. “Don’t get me wrong, Teofimo is an incredible talent, but Lomachenko has that footwork.”

Any way you look at it, the winner of this clash clearly bumps up his own image.

Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) versus Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs) at the MGM Grand Bubble in Las Vegas on October 17. Mark down that date. It will be televised on ESPN.

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