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Countdown To Mayweather-Pacquiao: Legit Super Fight Or Manufactured One?

Frank Lotierzo

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Starting with this column I’ll be doing one article per week, Countdown To Mayweather-Pacquiao, until the fight, examining it from different angles. I’ll cover their best fights, what a win or a loss means for each fighter, who will win and why, and more.

Is the upcoming spectacle between welterweight title holders Floyd Mayweather 47-0 (26) and Manny Pacquiao 57-5-2 (38) a legitimate Super Fight? The obvious answer to that has to be yes since it will no doubt be the highest grossing fight in fistic history. And a lot of that has to do with the fact the bout is happening during a time when social media and fan access is exploding. Fans can follow and communicate with star athletes today more than any other time in history via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and whatever else comes online between now and May 2, 2015. And nobody manipulates and tweaks via social media better than Mayweather.

The standard in which all modern Super Fights are measured by is the first meeting between undisputed heavyweight champion “Smokin” Joe Frazier 26-0 (23) and former undisputed champ Muhammad Ali 31-0 (25). It was accurately billed the “Fight of The Century” and took place on March 8th 1971 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. And you better believe to those who are fortunate enough to be living through the experience of both events…May 2, 2015 is certainly no March 8, 1971.

The first Frazier-Ali bout along with Leonard-Duran I, Leonard-Hearns I, and Hagler-Hearns were more authentic in that they featured two fighters where it was hard to picture either losing at the time of the bout, something that isn’t anywhere near the case regarding Mayweather-Pacquiao.

When Frazier fought Ali in 1971, Joe had succeeded Muhammad during his forced 43 month exile from boxing. And let there be no doubt about it, Frazier looked every bit as impressive going through the heavyweight division as Ali had four years earlier. When Leonard defended his welterweight title against Duran in 1980, Leonard was in the midst of surpassing Duran as the biggest star fighter in boxing who wasn’t a heavyweight. Duran entered their bout 71-1 (57) while Leonard was undefeated 27-0 (18). Five years after Leonard-Duran I, Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns met for the undisputed middleweight title. Sugar Ray Leonard was retired at the time and the winner between Hagler and Hearns would determine who boxing’s biggest star was.

The fights above evolved through a natural progression, unlike Mayweather-Pacquiao.

The ballyhoo for Floyd vs. Manny was manufactured via Mayweather refusing to fight Pacquiao for five and a half years. Pacquiao really didn’t enter the picture as far as being a threat to Mayweather until he knocked out Ricky Hatton in two rounds in May of 2009. It reached a fever pitch six months later when Manny took apart and stopped Miguel Cotto, who at the time was on the list of fighters that most fans and media felt Mayweather avoided. After Pacquiao beat Cotto the drumbeat started for him to fight Mayweather, only Floyd’s outward reluctance projected the thought that perhaps Pacquiao is the guy who can take Mayweather down. And the longer the fight was delayed the more Pacquiao became the peoples’ hope and choice to beat Mayweather.

The fact that Manny was out-boxed by Erik Morales and lost, didn’t look so terrific losing a dubious decision to Timothy Bradley, and was knocked out cold for two minutes by Juan Manuel Marquez didn’t matter. All that mattered was Mayweather won’t fight Pacquiao….so he must be afraid of losing to him. And it’s that false narrative that made the fight the blockbuster it now is. Had Floyd and Manny fought in 2010 it wouldn’t be the monster fight it is today. After five plus years fans are dying to see if Pacquiao is/was the fighter to bring Mayweather down.

The drama attached to Mayweather-Pacquiao is simply because Mayweather’s perceived fear of Pacquiao deemed Manny to be the only guy capable of erasing the 0 from the right side of Floyd’s record, nothing more. Had these two fought in 2010 when it was a more even match up, it’s no more anticipated than De La Hoya-Trinidad was in 1999. But Mayweather, by allowing the masses to think he feared Manny, led everybody to latch onto the hope that he was the only guy who could beat him. Finally, after running out of opponents that the public wanted to see them fight, they’re going to fight each other. And with Mayweather agreeing to the fight, the threat of Pacquiao winning lives on.

The other difference between the Super Fights above and Mayweather-Pacquiao is, everybody was split as to who would win them before the fight. And that’s what made them much more authentic and genuine. The fact that it was easy to find someone who would bet you even up that Frazier was going to beat Ali or the reverse fostered the anticipation. And the same was true regarding Leonard-Duran I, Leonard-Hearns I and Hagler-Hearns. If you thought Leonard was going to beat Duran, it was easy to find someone who would be glad to bet you even up that Roberto was the better fighter and would come out as the victor (Leonard was a 9-5 favorite). Mike Tyson was a 4-1 favorite over Michael Spinks when they fought in June of 1988. I had no doubt that Tyson was going to win before the fight, but even as a huge underdog it was easy to find guys who were willing to wager on Spinks even up. The same held true for the Hagler-Leonard bout. Marvin was a 4-1 favorite over Ray, but there were more than a few out there who were picking Leonard to win.

Last week I contacted 14 writers and friends whose opinion I value most when it comes to boxing. I asked them who they were picking to win the fight. Only one of 14 picked Pacquiao, and his reasoning for that was…”Manny would win a gift decision so there would be a rematch.” If Mayweather-Pacquiao is being sold as the can’t miss fight of the last quarter century, why do those who know see it so lopsidedly for one side? So much for the anticipation regarding the outcome!

As for national pundits, only Skip Bayless of ESPN so far has picked Pacquiao to win without reservation. However, that shouldn’t even count because Bayless is the least objective talking sports head in history. He is blinded by the disdain he harbors for Mayweather. Even if inside he believes Mayweather is going to win, he can’t back off of what he’s been saying for at least two years that I know of. Also, did you ever hear Skip discuss the sport of professional boxing? It isn’t pretty! I’d say its equivalent to listening to Sugar Ray Leonard instruct Smokey Robinson on how to sing, or Smokey trying to teach Sugar how to throw a punch.

This past weekend I was at a sports bar that has already begun advertising that they’re showing the fight. I purposely asked 10 male patrons who they were picking to win between Mayweather and Pacquiao? Nine of them said Mayweather. I asked the one who picked Manny if he was willing to meet me back there on May 2nd and make a wager on the fight where I have Mayweather and he has Pacquiao? He said, “I’ll meet you back here to watch the fight, but I’m not sure enough to bet you.” I replied, I’ll give you the Vegas line, 2 1/2 to 1. He said, “No thanks.”

Floyd Mayweather dictated the narrative that Manny Pacquiao is the only guy who has a chance to shut him up, and regardless of the anticipation for the fight, nobody believes him. And if you doubt that, see how many pundits and fans are willing to outright pick Pacquiao to beat Mayweather without hedging. Oh, they’ll give you the story about how he can win, but their convictions are very brittle as opposed to those picking Mayweather to win.

Yes, from a monetary vantage point Mayweather-Pacquiao is a legitimate Super Fight. And of course Pacquiao has a chance to upset Mayweather. It’s not like Manny is some no hope challenger. But for such an historic fight that is so highly anticipated, why is everybody picking the same side to come out victorious? That to me takes away the drama. Unlike the other Super Fights, I can easily envision either Mayweather or Pacquiao losing on May 2nd. I saw Jose Luis Castillo beat Mayweather in the ring and get robbed out of the decision the first time they fought, and Mayweather had his hands full with a wild and crude brawler named Marcos Maidana in his last two bouts……As for Pacquiao, he’s been defeated five times previously. What makes it such a big deal if Mayweather is the sixth to accomplish what five others have already done, and did so at a time when Manny was closer to his peak and fighting at his most optimal weight?

Fans clamored to see Frazier fight Ali because it was too tough to pick the winner, and it was hard to picture either of them losing to anybody at the time. Ditto that for Leonard vs. Duran I, Leonard vs. Hearns I, and Hagler vs. Hearns. Today fans are clamoring to see Mayweather vs. Pacquiao because by Floyd never fighting Manny, Manny became the “it” guy. The before mentioned fights were put together quickly as the public demand escalated. And that was even the case for Frazier-Ali I as well. Ali met Joe five months after his boxing license was re-instated after not fighting for 43 months. The Super Fights mentioned here didn’t need five plus years of hype. The hook for the upcoming Mayweather-Pacquiao clash was driven by Mayweather stringing the public along, wondering will he or won’t he ever fight Pacquiao.

From a perception perspective, Mayweather vs. Pacquiao is one of the most lopsided Big Fights in boxing history going in. And a lot of that has to do with almost everyone agreeing on who will win it. The upcoming Mayweather-Pacquiao bout will garner professional boxing its biggest stage in nearly a quarter of a century, and that’s because the bout is a manufactured event via team Mayweather and a complicit boxing media. Together, they forged one of the greatest marketing campaigns ever. That said, it does have the making of being a very fan friendly and drama-filled bout regardless of who wins.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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Yoka vs. Hammer Kicks Off the Thanksgiving Weekend Slate on ESPN+

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PRESS RELEASE— Tony Yoka, the dynamic heavyweight punching Parisian, aims to impress in his ESPN platform debut. Yoka, who won a super heavyweight gold medal for France at the 2016 Rio Olympics, will fight veteran Christian Hammer in a 10-rounder Friday at H Arena in Nantes, France.

Yoka-Hammer will stream live and exclusively this Friday, Nov. 27 in the United States on ESPN+ beginning at 2:55 p.m. ET/11:55 a.m. PT.

The ESPN+ stream will also include the return of unbeaten 2016 French Olympic gold medalist Estelle Yoka-Mossely against Pasa Malagic in an eight-round lightweight bout. Yoka and Yoka-Mossely, who have been married since 2018, welcomed their second child in May.

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Earlier this year, Yoka inked a promotional agreement with Top Rank, which will co-promote him with Ringstar France.

“Tony Yoka’s potential is limitless, and he is a grounded young man who is motivated to be a great professional fighter,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “France has never had a world heavyweight champion, and I believe Tony is the one to bring the sport’s biggest honor home.”

The 28-year-old Yoka’s stellar amateur run included a berth at the 2012 London Olympics and gold medals at the 2015 World Championships and 2010 Youth Olympic Games. Before his triumph in Rio, he’d already defeated the likes of former heavyweight world champion Joseph Parker and current undefeated prospects Joe Joyce and Ivan Dychko. At the Rio Olympics, he defeated Croatian standout Filip Hrgović in the semifinals and edged Joyce in the gold medal match.

As a professional, Yoka (8-0, 7 KOs) made his debut in June 2017 with a second-round stoppage over the previously undefeated Travis Clark. Apart from a decision win over Jonathan Rice in his second outing, Yoka has stopped every foe, including durable Englishman David “White Rhino” Allen and former European champion Alexander Dimitrenko. He made his 2020 debut Sept. 25 and stopped former world title challenger Johann Duhaupas in one round.

Hammer (25-6, 15 KOs) has fought many of the leading heavyweight names during his 12-year career, falling short against Tyson Fury, Luis Ortiz and Alexander Povetkin. He’s notched myriad upset victories, including a highlight-reel knockout over David Price and a 2016 split decision over Erkan Teper for the WBO European belt. In March 2019, he went the 10-round distance against Ortiz and has not been stopped since Fury forced him to retire on his stool after eight rounds in their February 2015 clash.

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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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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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