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About That 143 Pounds or Less Garcia-Peterson “Catchweight”

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Boxing is back, baby.

Wishful thinking when I say that, when I write that?

Excessively optimistic? Blinders on, because I seek the resurgence of the entity I’ve tethered myself and my professional success to?

Or a viable storyline buffeted by ample evidence? I think the jury’s still out…But certainly the re-introduction to boxing on primetime network TV, which comes on March 7, can’t be a bad thing in the big picture. I mean, it could be, if indeed Al Haymon’s grand plan results in a monopoly which crowds out the little guys, and the mid tier guys, and after a couple years, his sharp elbows and stellar big-picture thinking acumen have resulted in his gaining the majority of market share. But so far, I’m liking much of what I’m seeing. There seems to be a re-branding going on, or an attempt at it, anyway. Part of that will occur when we all remember, or learn for the first time, that storylines and marketing campaigns can be built around the best traits and attributes of these marvelous physical specimens, who can inspire and lead the way to masses who seek role models to look up to, physically, morally, spiritually.

However…I do worry when I see some “business as usual” issues pop up, that in fact the re-brand will fail, because we don’t scrub out some of the unnecessary foolishness which has plagued our sport in the last 25 years or so. I think we can all agree that the excess of titles, and weight classes, falls under the heading of “foolish,” because it dilutes the import of the titles, it confuses casual fans we need to lure to our milieu to grow. So when I see that two 140 pound champions will be fighting in Brooklyn on April 11, on NBC prime time, and that they won’t be fighting with their titles on the line, and they will be fighting at a “catchweight” limit of 143 pounds or less, I confess, my optimism in sharing the “boxing is back” narrative wanes slightly.

The wise guy in me wants to suggest that we should just say hell with it, and have a title belt for every single poundage then. If Danny Garcia (age 26; 29-0 with 17 KOs) and Lamont Peterson are fighting a ten rounder on April 11 with their titles not on the line, why don’t we just tweak the rules, give in to the continuing dilution of the product, and commission a 143 pound title?

I checked in with Peterson, the 31-year-old DC native with a 33-2-1 (17 Kos) record, to get his take on the catchweight aspect of his clash with the Philly-based boxer Garcia. He came off as resigned to the 143 or less, non-title status of the clash.

“People can’t always make weight, and if Danny can’t make the weight, I don’t want to not fight because of that. The fans want to see this fight,” he said in a Wednesday evening phoner.

Agreed…they do. But can’t we all agree that they will want to see it more if Garcia’s WBA and WBC crowns and Peterson’s IBF crown are up for grabs? With this lone chance to make this first impression on potential boat-loads of new converts, shouldn’t all involved push themselves to be the best version of themselves, so we do the most we can to insure success? Rhetorical question, my friends…

“I wanted to make sure it happens, regardless of the weights,” said Peterson, who said he’s craved a Garcia clash for a year and a half. He told me he likes Garcia, but to him, “If I fight at a weight class, that’s the weight I make. It comes down to being a professional, doing your job.”

Word is Garcia has had a hard time making 140 for a spell, but thus far, he’s resisted doing the logical thing, and jumping to 147. I have called his dad a couple times to ask him about the subject but haven’t heard back as yet.

“If you’re the junior welterweight champion, the very first part of your job is to make weight,” said Peterson, who went 2-for-2 last year, beating Dierry Jean and Edgar Santana, the Jean fight coming after being stopped out by Lucas Matthysse in 2013.

He admitted he wanted bolder faced names than Santana, but that bout was part of the purgatorial nature of the sport from the Haymon side, as he plotted out his takeover in 2015. “I want big names, of course, that’s why I’m in the sport,” he said. “I don’t want to feel like a champion, I want to BE a champion, really feel it.” Peterson is one of the crew who jetted from Golden Boy, and is working without a promoter, but just with advisor Haymon. He’s been asking for a clash with Garcia for a long spell, and is happy to be granted the opp. He’d like to fight at least three times this year, and would prefer four, he said.

And how does he beat Garcia, who owns a crackerjack left hook, and is one of those sorts who just wins, baby, even if he doesn’t do any one thing in truly majestic fashion. “I think skills wise, technically, I have everything it takes to win. I can fight in different ways. I see myself playing at the beginning, and then doing whatever works best to win.”

And what about that Garcia left hook? “I won’t be doing too much thinking about it,” he said, with a rare chuckle. “I’m pretty sure I will see it coming. Garcia is a solid fighter, nothing he does stands out. He’s not weak. His best thing is maybe he takes a good punch. And he has good timing.”

Peterson tells me he’s still reaching his athletic prime, and has been training like a beast. He did 20 round of sparring with trainer Barry Hunter on Wednesday, with seven sparring partners, guys ranging from 147 up to 175 pounds. “With no breaks, it was like 22 rounds. On Monday, I did 19 rounds. I’m in excellent shape.” That extra three pounds, he says, could actually aid him more than Garcia, as he thinks he’s added muscle which will come in handy April 11.

Hunter too is jazzed about the NBC angle. He doesn’t love the catchweight element, not at all. I read in between the lines that the 143 catch was the only way Team Garcia was going to do the bout…

“Why 143? I can’t speak for them. Lamont has always been able to make 140. If three pounds is what makes the fight makable, then whatever it takes to make the fight,” the trainer, age 52, a boxing lifer, told me.

Hunter cracked up when I suggested, sort of mockingly, that a “Junior Welterweight Plus A Little” belt be made for the April 11 clash. But probably rightly, he understands that rigidity is a prescription for pain in this sport, and that if Team Peterson didn’t give on this issue, then the fight they wanted would be exploded.

Peterson ended with a sensible take on the April 11 clash, and bolsters my “boxing is back” push. “I think being on NBC will bring a bigger fan base. There will be a lot of older people, people who don’t watch HBO or Showtime. Hopefully, they will fall in love with us.” Amen, son…

May I close with a polite but firm note that the love could shower down more freely if the right thing were done, and this fight was re-set to what it should be, a showdown between two junior lightweight titlists. There is still time to right the wrongs in the sport as a whole, and rectify some of the ills we’ve brought upon ourselves for the last 25 years. And there’s still time to admit that this catchweight bout is a throwback to the things that occur in the sport which benefit a select few, but at a cost more considerable than some might think.

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Conor McGregor vs. Pac-Man: The Circus is Back in Town

Arne K. Lang

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MMA superstar Conor McGregor stole some of the thunder from a busy Saturday in boxing with his announcement that his next fight would come against Manny Pacquaio. “boxing Manny Pacquiao next in the Middle East,” McGregor tweeted on Friday, Sept. 25.

Jayke Johnson, a representative of Pacquiao, confirmed that there have been preliminary talks. Johnson hinted that this would be Pacquiao’s final fight and said that Senator Manny would be donating a large chunk of his purse to COVID-19 relief in the Philippines. The situation is bad there. As of Sept. 22, there were 291,789 confirmed infections in a population of approximately 109 million. The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that travelers postpone all travel to the Philippines, including essential travel.

The best guess is that the fight will take place early next year. Pacquiao is unlikely to leave his homeland until the pandemic has abated there.

Pac-Man, who turns 42 in December, last fought in July of 2019 when he further cemented his great legacy with a 12-round decision over previously undefeated Keith Thurman. McGregor, 32, last fought in January of this year. His fight with Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone was over in 40 seconds. Cerrone left the ring with a fractured nose and orbital bone.

In June, McGregor announced his retirement, but few people gave it any credibility. McGregor was just making noise which he is very good at. But like him or loathe him, the fellow is certainly adept at selling his brand. In the world of combat sports, the Dubliner is Mr. Charisma.

In 2019, McGregor was reportedly the 4th wealthiest sports personality in the world, trailing only Mayweather, Lionel Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo. And his bank balance was growing in leaps and bounds because the whiskey he was promoting was flying off the shelf. Proper No. 12, a three-year-old blended Irish whiskey bottled at Ireland’s oldest distillery, was launched in September of 2018 and reportedly attracted $1 billion in sales in its very first year. (The “12” refers to the postal code of the neighborhood where McGregor grew up.)

McGregor started the company; he wasn’t merely the spokesperson. The parent company of Tequila maker Cuervo recently upped their stake in Proper No. 12 to 49 percent. Without a punch or a kick, McGregor made a big score.

(By the way, the popularity of Conor McGregor’s libation isn’t matched by the reviews. A bottle was sent complimentary to a business magazine in London with instructions to pass it around the office. No one liked it. “It smelled like ethanol and tasted only marginally better,” said one imbiber.)

McGregor’s fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in June of 2017 attracted a whopping 4.3 million pay-per-view buys. The match at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas drew 13,094 paid and a live gate of $55.4 million, the second highest in Nevada history (albeit well short of the $72 million gate generated by Mayweather vs Pacquiao in 2015).

McGregor plainly won the first round in that fight and won the first three rounds in the eyes of many observers. But by the ninth round the Irishman was clearly fatigued and Mayweather stopped him in the 10th.

Many people, including this reporter, believe that there was a gentleman’s agreement in place whereby Mayweather agreed to fight the first few rounds under wraps to give the paying fans more bang for their buck. In a recent tweet, McGregor said that he was disgusted with himself for not following up his early advantage and that, if he could go back and do it over, he would give Floyd a good kick in the neck because getting disqualified wouldn’t have stung as bad as getting TKOed.

The preamble to the McGregor-Mayweather fandango was a four-city promotional tour that began in Los Angeles and coursed through Toronto and New York before concluding in London. At each stop, the public was invited to come and witness the fighters’ vent their mutual enmity and the circus was live-streamed on several social media platforms.

Each session was marked by an orgy of F-bombs. Veteran boxing writer Bernard Fernandez, after tuning-in to the Toronto segment, articulated the feelings of many as he voiced his disgust: “(The show) defiled whatever remained of the nobility of combat sports, and in a broader sense the fabric of civilized society.”

If there is a promotional tour for McGregor-Pacquiao, it will take a different tack. Manny is deeply religious; he won’t play that game.

Historically, some fights for charity have been little more than exhibitions. A writer for an MMA site speculates that McGregor-Pacquiao may be contested under a modified rule set, whatever that means. Regardless, if this event comes off, it wouldn’t command my patronage if I were anything other than a boxing writer obliged to give it a look-see.

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Emerging Heavyweights: Three to Watch

Ted Sares

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Victor Faust (Viktor Vykhryst), a 6’6” 232-pound Ukrainian heavyweight (and long-time amateur) is a product of the great amateur program in the Ukraine–one that has produced the likes of the Klitschko brothers, Oleksandr Usyk, Vasily Lomachenko, and more recently Sergiy Derevyanchenko.

At first glance, his amateur record does not appear stellar, but a closer review indicates several SD’s or MD’s.

Earlier this month, on Sept. 20, he scored a frightening one punch KO when he fought the more experienced Gabriel Enguema (10-9) in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro. It was his third KO victory in three professional fights—all in 2020. The end came as a result of a Doctor Steelhammer-like perfect straight right to knock the Spaniard out cold. It brought back memories of Wladimir’s KO of Calvin Brock in 2006. Faust displayed skills, size, a solid chin, and power in dispatching his opponent.

“…Soon everyone will …see how skillful he is. He’s the complete package and will compete in massive fights sooner rather than later.” Erol Ceylan (Faust’s German promoter)

Oh yes, Faust beat Romanian Mihai Nistor in the amateurs and the talented Nistor in turn halted Anthony Joshua in the amateurs back in 2011. (Nistor also went 1-2 with Filip Hrgovic and lost to Tony Yoka in 2012.) Of course, one must be circumspect when using logic in boxing. Now that Nistor has turned pro, he will be worth following as his style is very much Tysonesque.

There are others who have—at a minimum– the same potential as Faust.

Tony Yoka

tony

Hard-hitting Frenchman 6’7” Tony Yoka (8-0) has beaten far better opposition than Faust and has a far better amateur record. In fact, he beat Filip Hrgovic and Joe Joyce in the 2016 Rio Games on the way to a Gold Medal. Recently, he dismantled veteran and fellow Frenchman Johan Duhaupas, a fringe contender with some notable notches on his belt. The end came in the first round by virtue of a crunching right uppercut.

Yoka perhaps could be slotted above Faust at this point.; he just might be the best of the new guys on the block. However, there are some dicey anti-doping issues that have tainted his reputation, though they do seem to be mostly resolved at this point.

Arslanbek Makhmudov

Arslanbek

This Russian “Lion,” 6’5 ½”, 260 pounds with an imposing muscular frame, is still another hungry prospect ready to break into the next tier. Nicknamed the “Lion,” — he also has been called “Predator” and “Beast — he is 10-0 (10 KOs).

He now lives and fights out of Montreal. The holder of two regional titles, he stopped a shot Samuel Peter in one round this past December.

“I’m confident that with my team, Eye of the Tiger Promotions and Golden Boy Promotions, I will reach my goal of becoming heavyweight champion of the world,” —Makhmudov.

This all said, The Lion needs some work on his technical skills as size can only go so far.

Makhmudov’s next opponent is Canadian heavyweight Dillon “Big Country” Carman (14-5) whose claim to fame is that he KOd comebacking Donovan Ruddock in 2015 in Toronto. This one will end differently for “Big Country.”

Others

Arguably, classy Americans Stephan Shaw (13-0), and Jared Anderson (6-0 with four KOs in the first round) could be added to the above. Filip Hrgovic and Efe Ajagba, both 6’6”, have already moved up.

A good yardstick is 6’5” American Jonathan Rice who lost a 10-round bout to Ajagba, was TKO’d in the seventh round Makhmudov, lost a 6-round decision to Tony Yoka, and a lost 6-round decision to Shaw.

Have I missed any?

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com of on Facebook.

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Jermell Charlo Unifies Super Welterweights Via Solar Plexus Punch

David A. Avila

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WBC super welterweight titlist Jermell Charlo knocked out IBF and WBA titlist Jeison Rosario with a knockout punch delivered to the solar plexus on Saturday to add two more belts to his collection.

“I’m definitely bringing home the straps,” said Charlo.

Shades of Bob Fitzsimmons.

Back in 1897, Fitzsimmons used the same solar plexus punch to dethrone Gentleman James Corbett for the heavyweight title in Carson City, Nevada.

In another casino city Charlo (34-1, 18 KOs) floored Dominican Republic’s Rosario (20-2-1, 14 KOs) three times at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. He and his brother co-headlined a heavy duty pay-per-view card with no fans in attendance on the Premier Boxing Champions card.

Charlo jumped on Rosario quickly in the first round when he charged and clipped him with a left hook to the temple. Down went the two-belt champion for the count. But he got up seemingly unfazed.

For the next several rounds Rosario was the aggressor and put the pressure on Charlo who was content to allow the Dominican to fire away. Occasionally the Houston fighter jabbed but allowed Rosario to pound up and down with both fists.

After allowing Rosario to get comfortable with his attack, suddenly Charlo stopped moving and connected with a short crisp counter left hook and right cross in the sixth round. Down went Rosario again and he got up before the count of 10.

Charlo said it was part of the game plan.

“I’m growing and I realize that the knockout will just come,” he said.

Charlo was in control with a patient style and allowed Rosario to come forward. But the Dominican was more cautious in the seventh.

In the eighth round Charlo jabbed to the head and then jabbed hard to Rosario’s stomach. The Dominican fighter dropped down on his seat as if felled by a gun shot. He could not get up and convulsed while on the floor. The referee Harvey Dock counted him out at 21 seconds of round eight.

“That jab that got to him must have landed in a vital point,” said Charlo after the fight. “I hope he recovers and bounces back.”

Charlo now has three of the four major super welterweight world titles.

WBC Super Bantamweight Title

Luis Nery (31-0, 24 KOs) captured the WBC super bantamweight title by unanimous decision over fellow Mexican Aaron Alameda (25-1, 13 KOs) in a battle between southpaws. The war between border town fighters was intense.

Nery, a former bantamweight world titlist, moved up a weight division and found Alameda to be a slick southpaw with an outstanding jab. At first the Tijuana fighter was a little puzzled how to attack but found his groove in the fourth round.

But Alameda, who fights out of Nogales, Mexico, began using combinations and finding success.  A crafty counter left uppercut caught Nery charging in a few times, but he managed to walk through them.

In the final two rounds Nery picked up the action and increased the pressure against the slick fighting Alameda, He forced the Nogales fighter to fight defensively and that proved enough to give the last two rounds for Nery and the victory by unanimous decision. The scores were 115-113, 116-112 and 118-110 for Nery who now holds the WBC super bantamweight world title. He formerly held the WBC bantamweight title.

Roman Wins

Danny “Baby-Faced Assassin” Roman (28-3-1, 10 KOs) managed to rally from behind and defeat Juan Carlos Payano (21-4, 9 KOs) in a battle between former world champions in a nontitle super bantamweight clash. It wasn’t easy.

Once again Roman fought a talented southpaw and in this fight Payano, a former bantamweight titlist, moved up in weight and kept Roman off balance for the first half of the fight. The jab and movement by the Dominican fighter seemed to keep Roman out of sync.

Roman, who fights out of Los Angeles, used a constant body attack to wear down the 35-year-old Payano and it paid off in the second half. Then the former unified world champion Roman began to pinpoint more blows to the body and head. With seconds left in the 12th and final round, a left hook delivered Payano down and through the ropes. Sadly, the referee missed the knockdown. It didn’t matter as all three judges scored it identical at 116-112 for Roman after 12 rounds.

“I made some adjustments and picked up the pace and got the win,” said Roman who formerly held the WBA and IBF super bantamweight world titles.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

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