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Is a Mayweather-Pacquiao Fight Still Relevant?

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So it looks like our long national nightmare is over. Manny and Money are finally going to get it on. Since the announcement last week, the internet has been ablaze with huzzahs and hosannas. The ship finally came in, boys! But not to everyone. If you peek around the edges, you will find a small vocal minority that questions not only the timing of the fight, but its very relevance. By and large, these complaints come not from the casual sports fan who quite likely can’t name another fighter outside of the aforementioned two, but rather from hardcore types like me.

I agree to a point on the timing. It would have been far better to catch these two five years ago when both were in peak form. Both have shown signs of age and vulnerability in the last half decade and it’s unlikely it will be the fight we all hoped for. That remains to be seen of course, but it’s a reasonable belief.

That being said, would these cranky sorts be happier if the fight never happened? If the two greatest champions of their era, well matched by weight and skill never faced off? Look, I know bitterness can be its own reward, but that seems excessive.

Furthermore, it’s not always about us. And by us, I mean those of us so fully devoted to the sport that we can rattle off the details, scorecards, and rounds of great and even not so great fights from years gone by. Boxing has been in trouble for a long time, folks. Outside of the mismanagement at the top, the credibility killing decisions made by “judges”, and just the general lack of access to the sport for the casual fan, widespread interest in the fight game is at a near all-time low. I don’t know about you, but when people find out I love boxing, they often look at me like I’m in a cult. I’d swear some were not even aware the sport still existed.

Well, that’s about to change. And right soon.

Why? Because people actually care about this. Not just you and me who suffer through bad fights on ESPN and come way out of pocket for pay cable and PPV just to get our fix, but folks who would otherwise not go out of their way to watch a match if it were taking place in their own backyard. Boxing once again has buzz. And man, does it need it.

This is a thing to be grateful for, not to raise a stink eye at.

Some of the criticisms I’ve heard from boxing lifers are curious, but worth mentioning. One social mediate claimed the fight was irrelevant because Marquez flattened Manny in August of 2012. Logic does not meet its match here. I wonder if anyone would make the same argument about Joe Frazier after he got crushed by George Foreman. If so, then the “Thrilla in Manilla” would have never happened just two years later. Oh sure, Ali-Frazier 3 had the benefit of the other two parts of the trilogy, but the setting is similar–two slow fading giants going head to head, despite wear on the tires. If we all remember correctly, that was one hell of a fight. Regardless of what Frazier and Ali were short of when they entered the ring on that fabled eve.

I’ve also heard that the fight is not likely to be a good one not only because of length of the tooth, but because of the way Floyd fights. Again, this may end up being true. However, that does not mean it will be short on drama. Consider the Hagler-Leonard fight. Take away the names of those two fighters and ask yourself, “Was that a great fight?” You had Hagler practically begging Sugar Ray to actually fight and you had Leonard running around the ring for 2 ½ minutes and then stealing rounds by slapping Marvin furiously on the shoulders for the final 30 seconds. Still, the names made that fight. People watched because of who was in the ring. Because they didn’t know they would ever see those two face off. The same is true here.

People want to know who is better. Besides, the will they/won’t they nature of the last several years has created its own sex appeal. It’s like we finally caught that girl we’ve been chasing all those years. Maybe neither of us are as good looking as we were when the hunt began, but we aren’t sorry to be where we are now. Or at least we shouldn’t be.

I even read one person on Facebook argue the fight wasn’t relevant “just because people want to see it.” Which I found fascinating. I suppose you can argue that overwhelming interest in an event doesn’t equal relevance, but that seems a high hill to climb. On the other hand, extreme levels of indifference most certainly equal irrelevance. Just consider the alternatives to this bout. Manny or Money taking on Amir Khan? Mayweather/Cotto 2? Hell, I can’t get excited about any of those options, I have no idea how anyone outside the inner sanctum of boxing could.

So yes, this fight is relevant because large numbers of people want to see it. Not only that, but it is the absolute best thing for boxing. A sport that has deeply waning appeal to the casual fan will for at least one night be the biggest thing going. That’s good because, you know, that’s how you grow things. Having stuff that interests people. Manny and Money interest people. This is hardly a small thing. Boxing needs event fights. This surely qualifies.

Quick. Name me the big event fight from 2014 that stirred the masses, that led off SportsCenter, that made the cover of Sports Illustrated. Ready? Go.

Yeah, crickets. Just like I thought.

Once again, I agree the fight may not have all the juice it would have back when Floyd was still inescapable and Manny was the whirling dervish leaping weight classes and busting up bigger opponents like he was on a mission (he kinda was, wasn’t he?). We have a little over two months before this fight happens. And yes, I know there is many a slip betwixt a cup and Floyd’s lip. This could still go south over god only knows what. Should it not though, imagine what this leap into spring is going to be like? As the fight grows closer, what will people be talking about? They will be talking about boxing. I repeat, BOXING.

You can be cynical about this match up if you choose to. That’s not hard to do. It may make you feel superior on some level, I suppose. As for me, I know a gift when I receive one. I also know it would be bad manners to return it.

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Canelo-Charlo Gets All the Ink, but Don’t Overlook the Compelling Match-up of Gassiev-Wallin in Turkey

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Canelo-Charlo Gets All the Ink, but Don’t Overlook the Compelling Match-up of Gassiev-Wallin in Turkey

The eyes of the boxing world will be on Las Vegas this Saturday where Mexican superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez risks his four super middleweight title belts against unified 154-pound champion Jermell Charlo. Earlier that day at a luxury resort hotel in the city of Antalya on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, there’s a heavyweight match sitting under the radar that may prove to be the better fight. It’s an intriguing match-up between former world cruiserweight title-holder Murat Gassiev and Swedish southpaw Otto Wallin, a bout with significant ramifications for boxing’s glamour division.

Gassiev (30-1, 23 KOs) and Wallin (25-1, 14 KOs) have only one loss, but those setbacks came against the top dogs in the division. Gassiev was out-boxed by Oleksandr Usyk back in the days when both were cruiserweights. Wallin gave Tyson Fury a world of trouble before losing a unanimous decision.

Since those fights, both have been treading water.

Gassiev

Gassiev was inactive for 27 months after his match with Usyk while dealing with legal issues and an injury to his left shoulder. He is 4-0 (4 KOs) since returning to the ring while answering the bell for only eight rounds. The only recognizable name among those four victims is German gatekeeper Michael Wallisch. After stopping Wallisch, Gassiev was out of action for another 13 months while reportedly dealing with an arm injury.

A first-round knockout of Carlouse Welch, an obscure 40-something boxer from the U.S. state of Georgia on Aug. 26, 2022, in Belgrade, Serbia, was promoted as a title fight. The sanctioning body was the Eurasian Boxing Parliament (insert your own punchline here). Gassiev followed that up with a second-round knockout of former NFL linebacker Mike Balogun who came in undefeated and was seemingly a legitimate threat to him.

Although he has yet to fight a ranked opponent since leaving the cruiserweight division, Gassiev — a former stablemate of Gennady Golovkin who has been living in Big Bear, California, training under Abel Sanchez – is one of the most respected fighters in the division because he has one-punch knockout power as Balogun and others can well attest. The rub against the Russian-Armenian bruiser is that he is somewhat robotic.

Wallin

Otto Wallin, a 32-year-old southpaw from Sweden who trains in New York under former world lightweight champion Joey Gamache, fought Tyson Fury on Sept. 14, 2019 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. There was a general feeling that the Swede would be a stroll in the park for Fury, but to the contrary, he gave the Gypsy King a hard tussle while losing a unanimous decision.

Wallin is 5-0 since that night beginning with victories over Travis Kauffman (KO 5) and Dominic Breazeale (UD 12), but his last three opponents were softer than soft and all three lasted the distance. In order, Wallin won an 8-round decision over Kamil Sokolowski, who was 11-24-2 heading in, won a 10-round decision over ancient Rydell Booker, and won an 8-round decision over Helaman Olguin. His bout with Utah trial horse Olguin was at a banquet hall in Windham, New Hampshire.

It isn’t that Wallin has been avoiding the top names in the division; it’s the other way around. His promoter Dmitriy Salita reportedly came close to getting Wallin a match with Anthony Joshua whose team had second thoughts about sending Joshua in against another southpaw after back-to-back setbacks to Oleksandr Usyk.

Gassiev vs Wallin is a true crossroads fight. Both are in dire need of a win over a credible opponent. At last look, Gassiev, who figures to have the crowd in his corner, was a 3/1 favorite.

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Skavynskyi and Bustillos Win on a MarvNation Card in Long Beach

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Skavynskyi and Bustillos Win on a MarvNation Card in Long Beach

LONG BEACH, Ca.-A cool autumn night saw welterweights and minimumweights share main events for a MarvNation fight card on Saturday.

Ukraine’s Eduard Skavynskyi (15-0, 7 KOs) experienced a tangled mess against the awkward Alejandro Frias (14-10-2) but won by decision after eight rounds in a welterweight contest at the indoor furnace called the Thunder Studios.

It was hot in there for the more than 600 people inside.

Skavynskyi probably never fought someone like Mexico’s Frias whose style was the opposite of the Ukrainian’s fundamentally sound one-two style. But round after round the rough edges became more familiar.

Neither fighter was ever damaged but all three judges saw Skavynskyi the winner by unanimous decision 79-73 on all three cards. The Ukrainian fighter trains in Ventura.

Bustillo Wins Rematch

Applerose2

In the female main event Las Vegas’ Yadira Bustillos (8-1) stepped into a rematch with Karen Lindenmuth (5-2) and immediately proved the lessons learned from their first encounter.

Bustillos connected solidly with an overhand right and staggered Lindenmuth but never came close to putting the pressure fighter down. Still, Bustillos kept turning the hard rushing Lindenmuth and snapping her head with overhand rights and check left hooks.

Lindenmuth usually overwhelms most opponents with a smothering attack that causes panic. But not against Bustillos who seemed quite comfortable all eight rounds in slipping blows and countering back.

After eight rounds all three judges scored the contest for Bustillos 78-74 and 80-72 twice. Body shots were especially effective for the Las Vegas fighter in the fifth round. Bustillos competes in the same division as IBF/WBO title-holder Yokasta Valle.

Other Bouts

In a middleweight clash, undefeated Victorville’s Andrew Buchanan (3-0-1) used effective combination punching to defeat Mexico’s Fredy Vargas (2-1-1) after six rounds. Two judges scored it 59-55 and a third 60-54 for Buchanan. No knockdowns were scored.

A super lightweight match saw Sergio Aldana win his pro debut by decision after four rounds versus Gerardo Fuentes (2-9-1).

Photos credit: Al Applerose

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Tedious Fights and a Controversial Draw Smudge the Matchroom Boxing Card in Orlando

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Matchroom Boxing was at the sprawling Royale Caribe Resort Hotel in Orlando, Florida tonight with a card that aired on DAZN. The main event was a ho-hum affair between super lightweights Richardson Hitchins and Jose Zepeda.

SoCal’s Zepeda has been in some wars in the past, notably his savage tussle with Ivan Baranchyk, but tonight he brought little to the table and was outclassed by the lanky Hitchins who won all 12 rounds on two of the cards and 11 rounds on the other.  There were no knockdowns, but Zepeda suffered a cut on his forehead in round seven that was deemed to be the product of an accidental head butt and another clash in round ten forced a respite in the action although Hitchins suffered no apparent damage.

It was the sort of fight where each round was pretty much a carbon of the round preceding it. Brooklyn’s Hitchins, who improved to 17-0 (7), was content to pepper Zepeda with his jab, and the 34-year-old SoCal southpaw, who brought a 37-3 record, was never able to penetrate his defense and land anything meaningful.

Hitchins signed with Floyd Mayweather Jr’s promotional outfit coming out of the amateur ranks and his style is reminiscent in ways of his former mentor. Like Mayweather, he loses very few rounds. In his precious engagement, he pitched a shutout over previously undefeated John Bauza.

Co-Feature

In the co-feature, Conor Benn returned to the ring after an absence of 17 months and won a unanimous decision over Mexico’s Rodolfo Orozco. It wasn’t a bad showing by Benn who showed decent boxing skills, but more was expected of him after his name had been bandied about so often in the media. Two of the judges had it 99-91 and the other 96-94.

Benn (22-0, 14 KOs) was a late addition to the card although one suspects that promoter Eddie Hearn purposely kept him under wraps until the week of the fight so as not to deflect the spotlight from the other matches on his show. Benn lost a lucrative date with Chris Eubank Jr when he was suspended by the BBBofC when evidence of a banned substance was found in his system and it’s understood that Hearn has designs on re-igniting the match-up with an eye on a date in December. For tonight’s fight, Benn carried a career-high 153 ½ pounds. Mexico’s Orozco, who was making his first appearance in a U.S. ring, declined to 32-4-3.

Other Bouts of Note

The welterweight title fight between WBA/WBC title-holder Jessica McCaskill (15-3-1) and WBO title-holder Sandy Ryan (6-1-1) ended in a draw and the ladies’ retain their respective titles. Ryan worked the body effectively and the general feeling was that she got a raw deal, a sentiment shared by the crowd which booed the decision. There was a switch of favorites in the betting with the late money seemingly all on the Englishwoman who at age 30 was the younger boxer by nine years.

The judges had it 96-94 Ryan, 96-95, and a vilified 97-93 for Chicago’s McCaskill.

In the opener of the main DAZN stream, Houston middleweight Austin “Ammo” Williams, 27, improved to 15-0 (10) with a 10-round unanimous decision over 39-year-old Toronto veteran Steve Rolls (22-3). All three judges had it 97-93. Rolls has been stopped only once, that by Gennady Golovkin.

Photo credit: Ed Mulholland / Matchroom Boxing

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