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One of HBO’s Smiling Assassins, Sergey Kovalev, Talks Up March 14 Date With Pascal

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Man, is HBO cornering the market on smiling assassins, or what? You got Gennady Golovkin, who carries himself with the boyish enthusiasm and politeness of a Boy Scout–hey, they still have those?–and HBO also features Sergey Kovalev, always quick with a grin, and self deprecating take on his place in the boxing universe. As always, I was struck by Kovalev’s easy-going charm when I chatted with him today, Wednesday, at a Manhattan presser to trumpet his March 14 scrap against Jean Pascal, which will unfold in Montreal.

Before his last fight, against Bernard Hopkins, in which he shed any and all holdouts who weren’t sure if his power punching wasn’t a top-heavy asset, and clung to wondering if holes in his game would be exposed by the master of in-ring trickeration and anti-aging, Kovalev had me pondering. Why wouldn’t he go out on a limb and predict a win? Why was he hedging? Why wouldn’t he proclaim his imminent victory over B-Hop? Well, it became apparent after he schooled the professor, that he’s 1) intensely humble and 2) he’s wise, and knows that there are no guarantees when one steps in the ring, but that Buffer will collect a fat check if he says his catchphrase.

That humility, it was present again at the Parker Meridien, when he told me that it’s not for him to say if he is THE MAN at light heavy, or is Fighter of the Year, as he was chosen by we here at TSS. But, he did give a hint of that other side, the one which enables him to have stopped 23 of 26 opponents since turning pro in 2009. Pascal, who looked in solid shape, with popped biceps curving out from a short sleeve shirt, got a turn with the mic and stood up. He strode over to Kovalev, and told all present that he was not coming to lay down, and fully expected to have his hand raised at La Bell Centre. He put a hand on Kovalev, and I studied the Russian’s face to see how he handled it. I didn’t note any consternation. Later, I asked him about that Pascal move. Did his radar go up, I wondered? Indeed it did, he told me. (You can see his answer when we post the footage to BoxingChannel.TV soon.) He told me he was eyeing Pascal, reading his body language, looking for clues to his intent. It turns out the intent wasn’t odious or done to try and inject doubt into Kovalev’s head. I think Pascal is too much a vet for that….He knows that Kovalev isn’t the flappable sort. But it got me thinking again about Golovkin, and Kovalev, and that bizarre and wondrous ability to have that duality in you. Possessors of disarming grins and easy amiability…and the ability and desire to seperate you from your senses. Boxing, a helluva thing.

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Here is a pic of one of HBO’s smiling assassin’s and the writer, by David Spagnolo:

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Here is the release, with all the top quotes and stellar photos by David Spagnolo, which went out today:

Krusher and Pascal

Photo Credits: David Spagnolo/Main Events

New York, NY: Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (26-0-1, 23 KOs), the current WBO, WBA and IBF Light Heavyweight World Champion, and Jean Pascal (29-2-1, 17 KOs), the former WBC and Lineal Light Heavyweight Champion and Current holder of the WBC Diamond Belt, addressed the U.S. media in New York City in advance of their March 14 fight for the WBO, WBA and IBF Light Heavyweight Championships. Kovalev has been named The Fighter of the Year by the WBO, Sports Illustrated, BleacherRepor, New York Post, USA Today and many others and today received his WBA and IBF Light Heavyweight World Championship Ring from Kathy Duva, CEO of Main Events.

Also in attendance were Vyacheslav “Czar” Glazkov (19-0-1, 12 KOs) and Steve “USS” Cunningham (28-6, 13 KOs) who were announced as the co-feature for the Kovalev-Pascal card. The two will fight for the #1 position in the IBF.

Below are the quotes from the press conference:

Glazkov, Kovalev, Pascal & Cunningham

Photo Credits: David Spagnolo/Main Events

Kathy Duva, CEO of Main Events

“Welcome to the press conference where everyone is invited! One of the joys of my life is to present an interesting and big event with two fighters where the outcome is doubt. On March 14 we will present two such fights. The Kovalev-Pascal fight is a throwback fight in the truest sense of the word. A reigning World Champion who is willing to fight a worthy challenger in the challenger’s hometown. And if that wasn’t enough, in the co-feature Czar Glazkov and Steve Cunningham will face off for the #1 position in the IBF and the winner will face Wladimir Klitschko or whomever is the IBF Heavyweight Champion at the end of the year.”

Jean Bedard

Photo Credits: David Spagnolo/Main Events

Jean Bedard, President of Interbox

“It is a privilege for Interbox to work with Kathy and Main Events because we share the same vision – to bring the best fights to the fans. Saturday is usually hockey night in Canada but, on March 14, Kovalev and Pascal will replace the Canadiens. The Bell Centre is one of the busiest sporting venues in the world and we are so proud to bring this event there. Thank you also to HBO.”

Duva

“Main Events and HBO have worked together since the 1980s probably before Peter Nelson was even born, but he has brought so much to the sweet science in a short period of time. It is a pleasure to work with again to bring another great night of boxing to the fans.”

Peter Nelson, Vice President of Programming, HBO Sports

“I wrote that for Kathy (laughing). I want to thank the media for coming today. I want to thank Kathy Duva. She has done a great job with Sergey Kovalev’s career. We were privileged to be part of his win over Bernard Hopkins and this is just the next installment in an amazing career. This fight is a signature event, it is not another check-in-the-box. This is two elite fighters looking to establish their legacies. We are privileged to be associated with events that not only have great main events but great co-features. The co-feature has an amazing story as well. Start time is 9:45 and we look forward to a great event. Sergey Kovalev and Jean Pascal always look to fight the best and I would like to thank the press for rewarding them for doing so.”

Duva

“In the co-feature, all of you will watch while I cover my eyes. We wanted to bring the heavyweight division back to life. Who knew that last year we would be here with two of our own facing each other for the #1 position? Then Steve Cunningham defeated Amir Mansour and Czar Glazkov defeated Tomasz Adamek and those victories have brought us here to this moment. The fans are the ones who will win when this fight ends but I won’t be able to watch. Steve’s legendary trainer, Brother Naazim Richardson is one of the best in the business. He is a member of Steve’s family and they have been living together through all the joy and all the sorrows. It is much better to be working together with Naazim on the same side this time instead of against him like with the fight against Hopkins. Steve has faced some incredible challenges in the boxing ring but he has faced even bigger challenges outside the ring. When he faced Mansour he was told his daughter Kennedy, who was born with a congenital heart defect, was going to die. Last month she proved the doctors wrong when she received a successful heart transplant. Her father shares her same fighting spirit to defy the odds and he is looking to show that on March 14.”

Steve and Cruz Cunningham

Photo Credits: David Spagnolo/Main Events

Steve “USS” Cunningham, USBA Heavyweight Champion

“Thanks Kathy for making me tear up. I would like to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Main Events and HBO. I am finally getting on HBO! I gave up that I would ever get here so I am excited and happy to be on HBO finally. I know everyone talks about the situation with my daughter and the strength it took for us to survive it, but we have done nothing more than what anyone else would have done in the same situation. I want to thank everyone who gave to her fund and helped us get here. I am fighting my fourth undefeated heavyweight. I am here to show. Boxing is the show business. I have to show every time I get in that ring. I want to be the heavyweight world champion. Czar is an Olympian and he is undefeated and whatever plan Naaz comes up with I am going to execute it. You have seen the heart and the skill and I am going to bring that on March 14.”

Duva

“I didn’t know that the day that I met Egis Klimas that it would be one of the luckiest days of my life. He convinced me to look at Sergey Kovalev and I am so glad he did. Egis handles three world champions and now he is looking to get his first heavyweight world champion.”

Nelson, Glazkov and Klimas

Photo Credits: David Spagnolo/Main Events

Egis Klimas, Manager of Sergey Kovalev and Czar Glazkov

“For me March 14 is going to be a double pleasure night. Me and Czar started working together when I convinced a Russian promoter to bring him to the United States. He just moved from the Ukraine to the United States. For this fight he relocated to Oxnard, CA and he is working with a new trainer, Victor Petrochenko. He has already started camp. It is going to be a good night and hopefully he can win and be IBF champion in the heavyweight division.”

Duva

“While Czar Glazkov was here in the United States becoming the NABF heavyweight champion, his friends and family were suffering through the conflict in the Ukraine. He wants a shot at his fellow countryman Wladimir Klitschko and he is willing to take on any challenge to get there. When he was originally scheduled to fight Tomasz Adamek and Adamek had fallen out, he was so disappointed that we had to replace him with Garret Wilson. However, he only asked me one question – is he right handed or left handed? That is what makes him the type of competitor he is.”

Czar and Steve

Photo Credits: David Spagnolo/Main Events

“Czar” Glazkov, NABF Heavyweight Champion

“I am very sorry to speak Russian but I am still learning English. I want to thank Kathy Duva and Main Events, HBO and Peter Nelson for giving me this opportunity to fight on the biggest boxing network. Steve Cunningham is a good fighter and this is his last chance to show something in boxing but my goal is to show that I am better. Now I am training with my new trainer, Victor Petrochenko. He is showing me something new. We are getting good workout and I will show March 14. It is going to be a good show.”

Greg Leon, CEO of Jean Pascal Promotions

“I want to thank HBO, Main Events, and Interbox. Interbox is a first class organization across the board. This fight is about the best versus the best. They are the two best light heavyweights willing to fight each other. Jean Pascal has never seen anyone as strong as Sergey Kovalev and Sergey Kovalev has never seen anyone as athletic as Jean Pascal. Pascal was shocked the odds have him four to one but we welcome the challenge. We are looking forward to a great night of boxing.”

Marc Ramsay, Trainer of Jean Pascal

“Thank you everyone. I would like to thank HBO, Main Events and Interbox for giving us this opportunity. I am proud to be part of this fight. So many fighters like to escape the big challenge. Sergey Kovalev is not afraid to travel and Jean Pascal is not afraid of this challenge. The real training camp starts next Monday. There is always a way to beat every fighter and Jean Pascal has all the tools to achieve it.”

Pascal with Kovalev and Duva

Photo Credits: David Spagnolo/Main Events

Jean Pascal, Former WBC, IBO and The Ring Light Heavyweight Champion

“I want to thank God for giving us this opportunity as well as Interbox and Main Events. This fight was an easy fight to make. Titles and money come and go but history doesn’t. We want to make history. HBO wants to make the best fight possible and that is why they made this fight. I don’t have Showtime no more. They show boring fights. Sergey Kovalev is a great champion; a solid champion. He can punch, he has good speed, he is good with his distance, he does everything well, he has good technique and I love to be the underdog. I loved watching when Balboa fought the crushing Russian in Rocky IV and now this is my real life and I am going to be the black Balboa.”

Duva

“I want to recognize the best training staff in the business John David Jackson and Derik Santos, Sergey’s training team. They could not be here but they prepared him for his stellar appearance against Bernard Hopkins and they will have him ready for Pascal.”

Klimas

“It is a pleasure to represent a fighter who is USA Today, Sports Illustrated, and New York Post Fighter of the Year (to name a few). I believe truly he has proved that. Everyone thought that he could only knock people out but he outboxed Bernard Hopkins. Jean Pascal is a good fighter. He is the best challenger in the division for Sergey Kovalev. The two good men are going to meet. In the end talk is cheap let’s bring these guys in the ring and let that speak for itself. Nobody believed me when I brought Sergey Kovalev through 18 fights with my own money without a promoter. Thank you Kathy for bringing us to this level.”

Duva

“So many recognize why Sergey Kovalev should be the Fighter of the Year is not because he defeats everyone he faces but the way he does it. He outboxed a legendary fighter. It takes more than talent to make a champion, add drive, ambition and a work ethic that is second to none. He is charming and one of the nicest people in the world. He is the most electrifying fighter I have ever worked with (and I have worked with some electrifying fighters!) and he is just beginning. Before I ask him to speak I have a little surprise for him. Main Events has a tradition of creating rings when our fighters win a world championship. Joel McFadden is the artist who created your WBO ring. The good news is they created a wonderful new ring, that bad news is because you won two belts at once there is only one ring. Everything was designed by hand.”

Klimas and Kovalev with World Championship Ring

Photo Credits: David Spagnolo/Main Events

Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev, WBO, WBA and IBF Light Heavyweight World Champion

“Hello everybody. Thanks for this great ring, it is very complimentary from jewel masters. I always wear my WBO ring. I sleep with it and now I will have to sleep with both together. Next, I know I was named Fighter of the Year but I didn’t know how many media chose me. I am happy and this push me more to show what I am a real Fighter of the Year. This year will be more big fights. I am starting with a very big fight with Jean Pascal. Thank you for taking this fight. For me it doesn’t matter where I fight. If I am true champion, I am fighting anyone anywhere. I want to thank HBO and Peter Nelson personally for this opportunity to give me big chance in my life. Where I am it is because of my team: Kathy Duva and Main Events, Egis Klimas and HBO. That is my team I love you and bless you. Everybody say before the fight was made that I will win. I never say never; this is boxing. This isn’t sprinting or bicycling. I never say never. You can go to Big Bear and repeat my preparations but no one can repeat my style. It is my thinking in me that gave me all victories and will give more.”

Duva

“I want to thank Le Parker Meridien, HBO and Hortitsia vodka, our sponsor. We look forward to a great night of boxing on March 14. Thank you.”

About Kovalev vs. Pascal

Kovalev vs. Pascal is a 12-round fight for the WBO, WBA and IBF Light Heavyweight World Championship Titles. The fight will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing® on March 14, 2015 from the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Tickets are on sale now at the Bell Centre ticket office, at www.evenko.ca, by telephone at 1-855-310-2525 or through Club de Boxe Champion (514-376-0980). This event is a co-promotion of Main Events and InterBox, presented by Vidéotron in association with Mise-O-Jeu.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 115: Macho, Freddie and More

David A. Avila

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Camacho me and Mia

“Macho.”

That single word is how Hector Camacho presented himself when introduced. It was the only word needed for the three-division world champion from Puerto Rico who was raised in Harlem, New York.

The first time I met Camacho was in a dark and packed Las Vegas nightclub in the MGM where he was a guest of Oscar De La Hoya back in March 2001. Though it was difficult to see, when Camacho was introduced, I could see the large gold medallion with the word “Macho” in letters six inches high.

Showtime network will be presenting a documentary called “Macho: The Hector Camacho Story” on Friday, December 4 at 9 p.m. on Showtime. It sparks memories of how a fighter in the lower weight classes grabbed the attention of the boxing world.

Camacho was more than flash or words, he was an electrifying boxer who stood out in the 1980s, an era dominated by the “Four Kings” Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard. Oh, and also a guy named Mike Tyson.

The fast-talking Camacho was a phenomenal fighter who swept aside opponents with his blinding speed and shocking power. It was against Los Angeles-based fighters like Refugio Rojas and Louie Loy that I first read about his exploits. Both were knocked out.

A third Southern California fighter John “Huero” Montes was thought to be the one to give Camacho a real challenge. The fight was televised to a national audience in February 1983. At the time I was watching it on a tiny black and white television and at 1:13 into the first round Camacho unleashed one of those lethal uppercuts and Montes was out-for-the-count.

Camacho arrived that day.

From that point on few could withstand the speedy southpaw’s blinding charges. Six months later he stopped Mexico’s Bazooka Limon to win the vacant super featherweight title.

One fighter who heard the final bell was Freddie Roach who could take a punch and knew a thing or two about fighting southpaws.

“I liked fighting southpaws,” said Roach via telephone. “My dad taught me early to keep my foot on the outside and lead with right hands.”

Roach had never lost to a southpaw. The winner that day between Camacho and Roach in Sacramento, on December 1985, was supposedly going to fight Puerto Rico’s heavy-handed Edwin Rosario.

Using his surefire method of fighting southpaws, Roach managed a knockdown of Camacho with the help of his foot. But it was not enough.

“He was very difficult. Lot of people raved about how fast his speed was. You didn’t really realize until you got into the ring with him,” said Roach. “I wasn’t the slowest, but wasn’t the fastest. I just couldn’t keep up.”

Despite using roughhouse tactics against the lefty speedster, Roach said that Camacho invited him to dinner after the fight.

That pretty much explains Camacho, a talented and big-hearted guy.

Last Stages

The last time I ran into Camacho was at the Pechanga Resort and Casino when he and Mia St. John were about to fight on the same boxing card in 2009. He was much heavier but still able to defeat middleweights.

How good was Camacho?

He defeated two of the Four Kings when he beat Roberto Duran twice and stopped Sugar Ray Leonard by knockout when they fought in 1997. Yes, Leonard was 41 and had not fought in six years, but this was Sugar Ray Leonard.

“I didn’t think he would ever beat Leonard,” said Roach.

Neither did Leonard.

“I just felt that I was a bigger man. I was smarter, stronger, all those things, but the first time he threw a punch, it was like, Pow! And I said, ‘Wow, that hurt,’” said Leonard about their encounter. “I tried the best I could to just go the distance. When he was at his best, he was a thing of beauty.”

What I remember after Camacho beat Leonard was how sincerely apologetic he was after the victory. He could talk the talk and walk the walk but inside he remained the kid from Harlem who was given extraordinary talent. And he was humbled by it.

Roach remembers their dinner together after their fight.

“That night he took me out to dinner with his friends and said you fought a good fight,” said Roach adding that Camacho was a very likeable guy. “I saw him along the way in his career.”

Roach, who would later train another astoundingly fast southpaw named Manny Pacquiao, said he never fought anyone again as talented as Camacho.

“You hear rumors of drug problems and training problems. But when he fought me, he was in for 10 and I tried every trick in the book but it didn’t work. He was in a higher class than I was,” Roach said. “He was one of the best fighters in the world.”

Don’t miss this Showtime documentary next week.

Jacobs and Rosado

Speaking of Roach, the famous trainer will be working the corner of Gabe Rosado (25-12-1, 14 KOs) when he meets Daniel Jacobs (36-3, 30 KOs) on Friday, Nov. 27, at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Florida. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing card.

It’s Philly versus Brooklyn.

Rosado has long proven to be a real professional who keeps adding elements to his fight game. Paired with Roach he has further developed under the guidance of the Southern California-based trainer. Plus, Rosado can plain fight.

Jacobs, a former world champion, has proven to be an elite middleweight and looks just as comfortable as a super middleweight.

Expect the kind of prize fight they used to show in the Golden Age of boxing in the 1950s when you had guys like Johnny Saxton fighting Denny Moyer. It should be that kind of battle of wits and skill. I’m looking forward to it.

Photo: Hector Camacho, David Avila, and Mia St. John. Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Muhammad Ali Biographer Jonathan Eig Talks About His Book and the Icon Who Inspired It

Rick Assad

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Muhammad-Ali-Biographer-Jonathan-Eig-Talks-About-His-Book-and-the-Icon-Who-Inspired-It

Given the breadth and depth of Muhammad Ali’s 74 years, it isn’t very easy to capture the complete essence of the man.

Dozens of books have been written about the three-time heavyweight champion including Jonathan Eig’s 2017 biography, “Ali: A Life.”

Born in Louisville, Kentucky on January 17, 1942 as Cassius Marcellus Clay, he would one day be known around the globe as a world-class boxer, civil rights advocate, philanthropist and cultural icon.

Like so many others, the Brooklyn, New York-born Eig became intrigued by Ali.

“I loved Ali as a child. He fascinated me. He was outspoken, radical, yet so very loveable,” he said. “And, of course, he could fight! I was astonished to realize, around 2012, that there was no complete biography of Ali, even though he was probably the most famous man of the 20th century.”

Eig, currently at work on a major offering about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., added: “I had read lots of Ali books, including [David] Remnick’s “King Of The World: Muhammad Ali And The Rise Of An American Hero,” and [Thomas] Hauser’s “Muhammad Ali: His Life And Times,” and [Norman] Mailer’s “The Fight” – but those were not complete biographies,” he pointed out. “By 2012, enough time had gone by to put Ali in historical perspective. Also, there were plenty of people still alive to tell the story. I did more than 500 interviews, including all three of Ali’s living wives. I wanted to write a book that would treat Ali as more than a boxer. I wanted to write a book that would show the good and the bad. I wanted to write a big book worthy of an epic life, a book that danced and jabbed half as beautifully as Ali.”

Given Eig’s exhaustive research, what previously unknown tidbits about Ali did he come across?

“I learned thousands of new things. I think even hardcore Ali fans will find new information on almost every page,” said the former Wall Street Journal reporter and 1986 Northwestern University graduate. “I discovered things Ali himself didn’t know. I discovered Ali’s grandfather was a convicted murderer, for example. Ali didn’t know that! I read Ali’s FBI files, as well as those of Herbert Muhammad, Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad. I interviewed Ali’s childhood friends. I found MRIs of Ali’s brain. I counted the punches from all of his fights. I measured how those punches affected his speaking rate. Ali’s wives also confided in me things I never knew. I spent four years working on this book, and every day delivered revelations.”

Over the years, Ali, who posted a 56-5 ring record with 37 knockouts, seemed to mellow with time which helped ingratiate him to an even wider audience. How was this possible?

“People change. They grow. It’s hard to stay radical as you get older and richer,” said Eig, who has written five books including three that deal with sports. “The late Stanley Crouch had a great line about Ali. He said young Ali was a grizzly bear. Ali in the ’70s was a circus bear. Ali in his later years was a teddy bear. We all loved the teddy bear. We wanted to hug him and love him. But it was the grizzly bear who we should remember first. It was the grizzly bear who shook up the world.”

Sports Illustrated writer Mark Kram covered nearly the entirety of Ali’s career which spanned 1960 through 1981 and included a three-year period, 1967 until 1970 when he wasn’t allowed to box after being convicted of draft evasion because he refused induction into the armed forces.

In Kram’s book, “Ghosts Of Manila,” the author asserts Ali was essentially a pawn of the Black Muslims.

What’s Eig’s take?

“I love Kram’s book, but I think it’s dangerous to question anyone’s religious faith,” he said. “Ali was a true believer. The Nation of Islam took advantage of him at times. But does that mean he was a pawn? I don’t think so. He knew what he was doing. He made his own choices. One might argue that the NOI did more for Ali than Ali did for them.”

Ali wasn’t perfect and that included his fondness for women. As a Muslim, how did he hurdle this?

“He didn’t reconcile it – except to acknowledge that humans are human, they are flawed,” Eig said. “The thing I love about Ali is that he said he was the greatest, but he never said he was perfect. He talked to his wives about his weakness. He even talked to reporters about his flaws – his weakness for women, his disdain for training, his poor handling of money. He knew who he was and he never tried to be anything else.”

Eig, who has also penned “Luckiest Man: The Life And Death Of Lou Gehrig,” and “Opening Day: The Story Of Jackie Robinson’s First Season,” went on: “We’re all complicated, right? Ali was no more complicated than you or me, but he let the whole world see his complications – his racial pride and his racist behavior toward [Joe] Frazier, his love of women and his cruelty to his wives, his generosity with his money and his stupidity with money,” he said. “I don’t think Ali was different, just more open, more willing to let us see everything.”

Ali’s battles with Frazier, George Foreman and Ken Norton are legendary, but his two fights against Sonny Liston are filled with question marks, such as were they fixed?

Ali claimed the title on February 25, 1964 in Miami Beach when Liston failed to answer the bell for the seventh round and then faced Liston 15 months later in Lewiston, Maine, where he knocked out the challenger in the opening frame.

In Eig’s mind, were these two bouts on the level? “My hunch is that the first fight was legit. Liston quit when he knew he couldn’t win,” Eig said. “The second fight is more suspicious. Liston’s flop was pathetic. Bad acting! But I don’t think we’ll ever know for sure. As an aside, Liston’s wife said Sonny had diarrhea before the fight, which might have given him one more reason to throw it.”

Still, Ali in his prime was a sight to behold. “Ali before the exile, in my opinion, was the most beautiful boxer of all time. His combination of speed and power and ferocity was thrilling, elegant, frightening and marvelous,” Eig said. “Was he the greatest heavyweight of all time? Maybe, maybe not. Was he the most breathtaking? To me, yes.”

Early in Ali’s career his braggadocio was off-putting to many. But much of it was showmanship.

“One of the Greatest” doesn’t sound as good, does it? If we’re only discussing his action in the ring, Ali was one of the greatest,” Eig said. “But that’s like saying Louis Armstrong was one of the greatest trumpet players without considering his voice, his charm, his improvisational skills, his smile. In and out of the ring, Ali was the greatest in my book.”

For so many, Ali was many things. What traits in the man does Eig admire? “I love his fearlessness, his honesty, his insatiable appetite for people,” he said. “He was so very loving. But he could also be narcissistic. He wanted everyone to love him, but he wasn’t always sensitive to the feelings of others – including his wives and children. He turned his back on friends like Malcolm X and Joe Frazier when it served his purposes.”

While Ali could be polarizing, he had his legion of supporters including Howard Cosell, Jerry Izenberg, Robert Lipsyte, Larry Merchant and Jack Newfield.

“You could add Mailer, [George] Plimpton, and so many others to that list,” Eig noted. “Those men were lucky enough to spend time with young Ali and to bask in the great warmth of his sun. He was great to reporters. He was the best story they ever covered. And unlike most celebrities, he really paid attention to them.”

Eig continued: “I only met him once, six months before he died, and I envy those reporters who got to know him and got to see him at his best. I think those who knew and loved Ali became his disciples,” he pointed out. “Ali’s friend Gene Kilroy told me over and over that he thought Ali was like Jesus, that people would be studying his words and drawing inspiration from his life for centuries to come. That’s the feeling he gave to those with whom he spent time.”

Ali was a boxer, but so much more. How does Eig see him? “I think Ali will be remembered as one of America’s great revolutionary heroes – one whose courage went far beyond sports. Like Jackie Robinson, like Martin Luther King, like the abolitionists and suffragettes, he loved America but refused to accept its shortfalls,” he said. “He fought to make his country live up to the promises contained in the Declaration of Independence. He will also be remembered as an important world figure, one who united Africans, Americans and Asians, one who helped Americans better understand Islam and helped people of Islamic faith around the world better understand America.”

In Ali’s last quarter century, he was almost universally loved. This is a far cry from being labeled a draft dodger.

“Ali was always a spiritual man, but in his later years I believe he clarified and deepened his spirituality,” Eig said. “He became more focused and more thoughtful.”

When Eig turned in his manuscript, what was his immediate thought? “I wanted to take it back. I didn’t want to be done,” he said. “I had so much fun writing this book I wanted to work on it for the rest of my life. I knew I would never find anything more fun to work on.”

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The Peculiar Career of Marcos Geraldo

Ted Sares

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The-Peculiar-Career-of-Marcos-Geraldo

 If you play word association with retired boxer Marcos Geraldo, you might come up with “chinny,” or “easy work.” But if you did, you would be wrong.

This extremely active Mexican boxer fought out of Baja California but was a staple in Nevada and Southern California and was 38-12 before he ventured outside these regions

Many saw Geraldo as easy work because of the 21 KOs he suffered but what they missed was the fact he had 50 KOs of his own and that made him an ultra-exciting type of fighter–and it guaranteed him plenty of marquee events. If you didn’t get Marcos, he was likely to get you. That translated to bringing in fans. He also was an active fighter and fought, for example, 12 times in 1972 alone. He also toiled 25 times at the Silver Slipper in Las Vegas—yes, 25 times—and he went 21-4!

Along the way, Geraldo (who at various times was the middleweight and light heavyweight champion of Mexico) did battle with four Hall of Famers — Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, and Virgil Hill — several world champions, and numerous title contenders. (Michael Nunn, another stiff opponent, could someday become a member of the Hall as well.)

As his career progressed, the level of his opposition became stiffer. Listed in the order of appearance, these are the records of some of his opponents at the time that he fought them: Peter Cobblah (48-46-5), Angel Robinson Garcia (138-80-21), Armando Muniz (32-6-1), George Cooper (49-4-3), Sugar Ray Leonard (21-0), John LoCicero (15-3), Marvin Hagler (48-2-2), Caveman Lee (13-2), Thomas Hearns (33-1), Fred Hutchings (20-1), Ron Wilson (71-33-7), Prince Mama Muhammad (29-1-1), Michael Nunn (7-0), Tony Willis (9-0), Chris Reid (14-0-1), Virgil Hill (16-0), Jesus Gallardo (16-1), Antoine Byrd (6-1-1).

Whew!

In 1979, Geraldo went the distance with Sugar Ray Leonard which surprised boxing buffs though Ray had previously been extended by others.

The following year he gave Marvelous Marvin Hagler all he could handle while losing a unanimous but close decision in a surprisingly tough thriller.

Hagler (May 1980)

Hagler pressed the action in-close but surprisingly was met with strong counterpunching. Both did plenty of shoe shining. First Hagler; then Geraldo. It was tit for tat and the fans roared their approval. What won the fight for Hagler was his stamina and harder punching which enabled him to tire the tough Mexican, but he never managed to break him down.

The scoring was Duane Ford 97-93, Art Lurie 97-94, and Chuck Minker 97-95.

The fans at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas gave both fighters a standing ovation as they raised each other’s arm up in a marvelous (no pun intended) show of mutual respect. The media framed it it as a “great” fight. It defined “fan–friendly.”

Geraldo had stopped Bomber John LoCicero before the Hagler fight, but was KOd in round one by both Caveman Lee and Thomas Hearns subsequent to Hagler. And then he was stopped much later by Michael Nunn and Virgil Hill.

His final slate was 71-28-1 — 100 bouts put him in rarefied company. Also, seven of those 21 KO losses came in his last eight fights.

After a very close review of his career, the word association that could more appropriately fit might be “incongruity,” or “action, or “resilient,” or even “peculiar.”

Sadly, he was always one big win away from entering the top tier.

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

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