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Countdown To Mayweather-Pacquiao: MayPac Compares To Leonard-Duran I

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With the much anticipated super fight between welterweights Floyd Mayweather 47-0 (26) and Manny Pacquiao 57-5-2 (38) nearing, it’s been hard to find another super fight that it is most analogous to.

And that’s mainly because the dynamics that are bringing Mayweather and Pacquiao together are unlike any other super fight of my time following the sport of boxing.

In terms of anticipation and seeing two fighter’s names together on a marquee, I suppose Frazier-Ali I and Hagler-Leonard work best. From a style perspective, Ali 31-0 (25) was more offensive minded than Mayweather, and Frazier 26-0 (23) was much more aggressive and applied sustained bell-to-bell pressure, in contrast to Pacquiao, whose pressure is more sporadic. In addition to that, Joe, 27, and Muhammad, 29, were at or near their physical prime the first time they fought. And prior to the fight it was impossible to picture either Frazier or Ali losing, and that certainly doesn’t apply to Mayweather or Pacquiao.

Hagler-Leonard shares some interesting parallels because you have an aggressive southpaw (Hagler) fighting as the attacker going after a superstar boxer (Leonard). It also works because both Marvin, 32, and Ray, 30, were past their prime when they finally tangled back in 1987. The problem is, Leonard 33-1 (24) the boxer was moving up in weight to challenge the bigger man in Hagler 62-2-2 (52), who like Pacquiao is viewed as the bigger puncher. That doesn’t fit the Mayweather-Pacquiao template because Mayweather the boxer is clearly the bigger framed man compared to Pacquiao, the presumed aggressor and bigger puncher.

I suppose you have to go back 35 years to find the super fight that is most analogous to the upcoming welterweight clash between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. And that would be the WBC welterweight title bout between title holder Sugar Ray Leonard 27-0 (18) and former undisputed lightweight champ Roberto Duran 71-1 (55) on June 20th 1980. No, it’s not a perfect match because Ray, 24, and Roberto, 29 were close to their prime, as opposed to Floyd, 38, and Manny, 36, who are slightly on the decline……but it comes the closest regarding their personalities, boxing styles and the anticipated style clash between them. Also, the superstar boxer went into both bouts as the betting favorite. Leonard was 9-5 over Duran and Mayweather is between 13-5 and 3-1 over Pacquiao.

Let’s start with the similarities and contrast in their personalities. Sugar Ray Leonard was a superstar who exuded almost Muhammad Ali-like natural charisma, and he was covered like a rock star the moment he announced he was turning pro. As for Floyd Mayweather, he had to wait 11 years before he transformed himself into boxing’s biggest star. No, he’s not the media darling that Leonard was and he certainly doesn’t have the charm or magnetism that Ray still has, but he is the superstar in this fight and has called the shots accordingly. Also, it’s never mentioned but another difference between Ray and Floyd is Leonard went out of his way to be entertaining in the ring, which is something Mayweather really only pays lip service to.

As for Duran and Pacquiao, despite being foreigners both had/have a huge fan base in the United States and their fighting is what is most captivating about them. They aren’t the talkers or promoters that Leonard and Mayweather were/are, but the way they handle their business in the ring draws fans out to watch them whenever they fight.

Another correlation between Duran and Pacquiao is they’re both the smaller framed man and started their careers way below welterweight when they turned pro. Duran skipped the junior welterweight division and went right from lightweight to welterweight when he challenged Leonard. Pacquiao turned pro as a flyweight and has never weighed more than 145 for a welterweight title bout, two pounds below the maximum allowed for the division limit. Mayweather turned pro as a junior lightweight but as it was the case with Leonard, is a full-fledged welterweight by the time of the big fight.

When it comes to boxing styles, Mayweather, as it was the case with Leonard, is the more conventional boxer in the match-up. However, other than being fast and flashy, that’s where the similarity ends. Leonard could really punch to the head and body with both hands, and he went into the Duran fight thinking he could beat Roberto going toe-to-toe with him. On the other hand Mayweather will most likely only engage Pacquiao if he’s forced to. Mayweather is better than Leonard was defensively, but a lot of that has to do with Leonard being more offensively driven and that he sought to win by knockout, whereas Floyd is most content going the distance. This makes him less vulnerable to getting hit during exchanges because he usually only engages on his terms when he deems that it’s safe. Another thing Ray and Floyd share is both were physically stronger than they get credit for being, and neither had a shortage of confidence.

Pacquiao, as it was when Duran fought Leonard, is the perceived aggressor and puncher. But that’s where the similarity ends between them. Pacquiao is a southpaw who fights in spurts and is more prone to his feet sometimes being off the canvas when he attacks in spurts and waves. On the other hand, Duran of the lightweight/welterweight vintage, applied non-stop sustained pressure and cut the ring off much better than Pacquiao. Manny has quicker hands and feet than Duran did but he’s easier to hit and is nowhere near the inside fighter or body puncher Roberto was. Duran was a brilliant defensive fighter and his chin was much better than Pacquiao’s. Even though both of their high profile kayo losses were similar, there’s a big difference, and that is Duran got knocked out way over his best weight by one of the hardest one-shot punchers in boxing history, Thomas Hearns, not by a fighter who was chasing him up in weight who never dropped him once in their three previous fights, Juan Manuel Marquez.

There’s also an x-factor that was in play before the first Leonard-Duran bout that I don’t think is in play between Mayweather and Pacquiao, and that was Duran’s intense dislike of Leonard. Call it a hunch, but I don’t believe Manny could conjure up the borderline hatred for Floyd that Roberto harbored for Ray. Duran didn’t want to just beat Leonard, he wanted to humiliate and embarrass him in front of his wife and fans, and I don’t think Pacquiao is built like that. Duran was fiercely driven by his want to take Leonard down, because in his eyes Ray was receiving undue and unearned star treatment over him, on top of being further insulted that Leonard was earning roughly five times more money than he was for their fight. This is opposed to Pacquiao, who is getting a 40/60 split with Mayweather.

I’ve always maintained that I’ve never seen a fighter more prepared mentally, emotionally, physically and strategically who was on more of a mission to beat a particular opponent than “Smokin” Joe Frazier was to beat Muhammad Ali on March 8th, 1971….but if I had to pick a runner-up to Frazier it would be Roberto Duran of the first Leonard fight on June 20th, 1980.

As for the fight, if Mayweather-Pacquiao turns out to be half as good as Leonard-Duran I, it will be talked about for years to come. But that’s a high bar for it to clear. Leonard was awesome during that fight, and that’s because Duran wasn’t to be denied. Roberto’s sustained aggression along with his ability to never really let up for 15 fast paced rounds forced the young Leonard to raise his game, and he did. There were some tremendous exchanges during the bout and every time you started to think one of them was seizing control of the action, the other roared back and turned the tide.

The key to Duran’s unanimous decision victory was his ability to get Leonard to fight his fight. Duran taunting Leonard before the bout, insinuating that he wasn’t tough and how he would be forced to run, made it easier for him to lure Leonard into fighting more and boxing less. In addition to that, Leonard learned as the fight progressed just how versatile and slippery Duran was, something he wasn’t prepared for. It was a great fight and it was very close, but Duran nudged it out and both were the better for it.

If Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach can somehow get Manny to fight with the same non-stop aggression and tenacity that Roberto Duran did during the first Leonard fight, then Floyd Mayweather will be in for the toughest fight of his life and may depart the ring 47-1. But Manny Pacquiao is no Roberto Duran, but then again he won’t have to be because Floyd Mayweather is no Sugar Ray Leonard.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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In a One-Sided Beatdown, Batyr Jukembayev TKOs Shopworn Ivan Redkach

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In a One-Sided Beatdown, Batyr Jukembayev TKOs Shopworn Ivan Redkach

The noted trainer Brian “BoMac” McIntyre had two fighters on tonight’s ProBox card in Plant City, Florida, and brought along the ace of his stable, Terence Crawford, to provide moral support.

The main event, contested at 140 pounds, had an Eastern European flavor pitting Kazakhstan’s Batyr Jukembayev against LA-based Ukrainian Ivan Redkach. Jukembayev, Crawford’s stablemate, needed no moral support as Redkach fought a survivor’s fight for as long as it lasted. A 33-year-old southpaw, the Kazkh won every second of the fight until the mismatch was halted at the 2:18 mark of round five.

It was the fifth straight win for Jukembayev (23-1, 17 KOs) whose only defeat was inflicted by Subriel Matias, the current holder of the IBF world title at 140. Redkach (24-7-1) was stopped for the fourth time including a fight with Regis Prograis where he succumbed to a phantom low blow. Now 38 years old, he should not be allowed to fight again. His showing tonight bore stark evidence that he is completely shot.

Co-Feature

In the co-feature, a 10-round junior lightweight affair, Jonhatan Cardoso, a 25-year-old Brazilian, advanced to 17-1 (15) with a split decision over LA’s Adam “Bluenose” Lopez. This figured to be a fan-friendly fight and didn’t disappoint. Both fighters threw punches in bunches although Lopez’s workrate declined in the late rounds.

Lopez, now 17-6-1, is better than his record. His first five losses came against opponents who were collectively 109-6 at the time that he fought them. The son of the late Hector Lopez, an Olympic silver medalist for Mexico and a three-time world title challenger, “Bluenose” doesn’t have a signature win, but has a signature moment. He knocked Oscar Valdez down hard in their first of two meetings, a fight he took on 1-day notice when Valdez’s original opponent was scratched after coming in 11 pounds overweight. As a pro he has limitations, but is a high-octane fighter who rarely has a bad fight.

Two of the judges favored Cardoso. Their tallies were 99-91 and 96-94. The dissenter favored Lopez 97-93. The scores were all over the map, but the right guy wn.

Also

In the TV opener, Omaha-bred junior welterweight Charles Harris Jr scored a unanimous 6-round decision over Oceanside, California’s Kyle Erwin. The judges had it 58-56 and 59-55 twice.

A protégé of “BoMac,” Harris Jr., who began his pro career in Mexico at age 16, improved to 9-1 (7). It was the second pro loss for Erwin (7-2) whose lone prior defeat was the result of a cut.

In an unrelated matter, today (May 22) was the day that Ryan Garcia’s B-sample would be opened and analyzed. So we were all led to believe.

Confoundingly, it appears that opening the urine specimen and testing the contents aren’t performed on the same day. Dan Rafael enlightened us. “Will take a few days for results but certainly possible it could stretch into early next week due to weekend and holiday,” Rafael tweeted today on his Fight Freaks Unite platform.

Why wasn’t this made known beforehand so that fight journalists could plan their day accordingly? I place the blame on the New York State Athletic Commission.

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Oleksandr Usyk from a Historical Perspective 

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Oleksandr Usyk flipped the heavyweight division onto its head this past Saturday night in the Kingdom Arena, Riyadh, travelling a long way from home to seal his greatest victory. Usyk, small by modern heavyweight standards, towers over most men at 6’3″ and 220lbs and sporting a reach that lineal champions Ezzard Charles or Joe Walcott would have killed for. Things have changed though, and in the middle rounds of his war with Tyson Fury, Usyk suddenly appeared tiny. Fury, a giant at around 6’8” and over 260lbs seems a heavyweight for this century. Usyk, a journeyman in the most ancient sense of the word, feels like a throwback to a more savage time. His greatest achievements have taken place on foreign soil. The last time he boxed at home was almost a decade ago and given the situation in Ukraine and given Usyk’s 37 years, it is unlikely he will ever box there again.

Usyk took chances in the seventh and especially the eighth to take charge of a fight that seemed to be slipping away from him. In the vertigo inducing ninth, it was he, not Fury who appeared the giant. Usyk draped the Englishman over the ropes like so much fresh meat and tenderised him to within an inch of unconsciousness, the sheer hugeness of Fury perhaps preventing a referee’s intervention on behalf of his opponent, and not for the first time. Against both Deontay Wilder (the first fight) and Otto Wallin, a more squeamish official would have stepped in and stopped the fight, and here, too, there was a case. If Usyk seems a throwback, then Fury has been refereed like one, spared stoppages likely to be inflicted upon his peers, he was allowed once again to continue boxing, as Joe Louis was against Max Schmeling, or Jack Dempsey was against Luis Pirpo. But with Fury buckled at the knees, Usyk seemed the true heavy man in the ring.

In historical terms, Usyk is not a small heavyweight. He would have dwarfed “The Galveston Giant” Jack Johnson in the ring and loomed large over “Big” George Foreman. Usyk has every attribute necessary to make an unpleasant evening for Joe Louis, but it should be noted that while his footwork and speed and technical excellence would be the source of the discomfort, his excess of height and reach are the wildcards. Usyk would seem two to three weight classes bigger than Rocky Marciano, mainly because he is, and the towering Sonny Liston would look up. Circus strongman Jess Willard and the mob-sponsored Primo Carnera would both look down on Usyk – but not by that much. Usyk would stand eye to eye with Muhammad Ali but prime-for-prime he would outweigh him by ten pounds, as he would Larry Holmes. We must skip Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield and reach all the way into the Lennox Lewis era before we find men from history that truly out-size Usyk on a consistent basis.

Size, as Usyk has proven, is far from everything. Big by historical standards, he is small by modern standards. What else is now true in the wake of the seismic fistic events of Saturday night? Firstly, Usyk is unquestionably ranked the #1 heavyweight in the world. Of this, there can be no dispute. Accounting for his two wonderful defeats of another “super” heavyweight, Anthony Joshua, he is 3-0 against the rest of the top five and sitting unassailably at the head of the heavyweight table. More, and I have been surprised to see it disputed in some corners, Usyk is now almost as equally unassailably the pound-for-pound number one. The only fighter breathing the same air as Usyk right now is Naoya Inoue. Inoue has been operating at or near the highest level for longer, but the level of his opposition has not been as rarefied. Comparing the first phase opposition defeated by Naoya to the murderer’s row of cruiserweights that Usyk ran into during the Super Six series can lead to only one conclusion. Although Naoya’s busy, weight-class-bursting style has topped him out for most of the past two to three years, only one of these men has consistently been beating bigger, taller, longer opposition at the highest level, and that is Usyk. It is not a matter of opinion – he is the smallest man in my heavyweight top ten.

01 – Oleksandr Usyk

02 – Anthony Joshua

03 – Joseph Parker

04 – Tyson Fury

05 – Filip Hrgovic

06 – Zhilei Zhang

07 – Agit Kabayel

08 – Daneil Dubois

09 – Martin Bakole

10 – Joe Joyce

Usyk lives among giants now and where there is parity of height (Kabayel) he is the lighter man by 15 pounds. This is not true of Naoya, who despite his weight-hopping, still manages to run into fighters of the same height and of shorter reach. The opposition argument is narrow, but the relative size opposition is not and there is no pound-for-pound credential more significant than that of consistently out-fighting bigger men. Usyk has done so and will continue to do so for as long as he fights. There is simply no smaller man in his class.

Not since the heyday of Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield has a lineal heavyweight champion consistently fought bigger men and not since Mike’s hype-infused prime has a heavyweight menaced the number one pound-for-pound spot. Usyk has not enjoyed anything like the same machine support as Mike did; indeed, he has laboured in the shadow of more prominent men until such time as he thrashed them. He is a true manifestation of pound-for-pound glory in the unlimited class. Where does this leave him in terms of all-time standing?

I am reluctant to rate active fighters for reasons that are obvious enough; Usyk could be pole-axed in three by an irate Fury in a December rematch and all this ink is for naught. But what I am willing to do is play let’s pretend and imagine Usyk as retired and consider his place in heavyweight history now.

Usyk’s raw numbers are low-grade at just 22-0 with 14 knockouts. Worse, most of this was built in the cruiserweight division and not the heavyweight division. Against men weighing in as heavyweights, Uysk is essentially 7-0, and only 3-0 against ranked opposition. On the other hand, one of these victories came against Daniel Dubois, now ranked, and the 3-0 was posted against Tyson Fury, generally held to be the best or second-best heavyweight in the world, and Anthony Joshua, ranked behind only Fury at the time of his first fight with Usyk. So, when he stepped up, he stepped up to tackle the best in the world and has become lineal as a result. It’s a hard ledger to wrestle with, but fortunately we have a career that is comparable in the shape of Gene Tunney.

Tunney, a career light-heavyweight, earned a heavyweight legacy built of essentially one man: Jack Dempsey. Past-prime and inactive, Dempsey was ripped apart by Tunney in their legendary first fight and did better in a losing effort against the genius “Fighting Marine” in a rematch, much like Joshua did against Usyk. Tunney then boxed the limited but game Tom Heeney and retired. The rest of his heavyweight career was spent beating great middleweights like Harry Greb and limited losing-streak gatekeepers like Charley Weinert and Martin Burke. One thing that must be noted is that Tunney is matching men who are smaller than Usyk’s cruiserweight opposition to his heavyweight credit. Men like Mairis Briedis and Murat Gassiev would have been big men in Tunney’s era, but they aren’t counted towards heavyweight legacy for the Ukrainian – either would constitute Tunney’s second-best heavyweight scalp, I think. Tunney’s wider resume does not necessarily include fighters who compare that favourably even to Dereck Chisora or Chaz Witherspoon, the men who make up Usyk’s second layer of opposition.

The point is, Tunney was made a legend for defeating a champion. Both Fury and Joshua were active, physically enormous fighters that Usyk simply unmanned with a type of genius Gene Tunney would have stood to applaud. Tunney appended to his light-heavyweight career the important part of a heavyweight career – the part where you fight and beat the champion, and it has made him a stalwart of heavyweight history. This, Usyk too has achieved, but I have been more impressed with Usyk’s summit than Tunney’s. To be direct: Usyk should rate higher at heavyweight than Tunney.

What that means is that the top twenty at heavyweight is the minimum Usyk can expect from history’s eye should he retire undefeated. In such a case, I would place Usyk in this sort of company:

18 – Ezzard Charles

19 – Oleksandr Usyk

20 – Jersey Joe Walcott

21 – James J Corbett

22 – Peter Jackson

23 – Ken Norton

24 – Max Schmeling

25 – Vitali Klitschko

26 – Riddick Bowe

27 – Gene Tunney

Also illustrative of a point is Tunney’s career pre-heavyweight. Tunney, every bit as brilliant as Usyk in the ring (although notably smaller, and successful against notably smaller opposition), laced up his gloves on close to ninety occasions and his level of competition dwarfs that of Usyk. That is no indictment. All it really means is that Usyk isn’t among the thirty greatest fighters ever to have drawn breath, like Tunney is. He can join an enormous and star-studded cast that includes Mike Tyson, Bernard Hopkins and Carlos Monzon in that. I do think, though, that Oleksandr Usyk’s career, were it to end tomorrow, could be readily compared to that of Evander Holyfield and that means that an unbeaten Usyk, lineal cruiserweight and heavyweight champion of the world, current pound-for-pound king, is within spitting distance of a list that captures the fifty greatest fighters in history.

56 – Ruben Olivares

57 – Wilfredo Gomez

58 – Vicente Saldivar

59 – Oleksandr Usyk

60 – Evander Holyfield

61 – Ted Kid Lewis

62 – Lou Ambers

63 – Rocky Marciano

64 – Abe Attell

65 – Manuel Ortiz

A retired Naoya Inoue would join him in the top seventy, I think, and a retired Bud Crawford the top ninety.

Boxing is dead, haven’t you heard?

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank

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Another Victory for Ukraine as Berinchyk Upsets Navarrete in San Diego

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Whether it was inspiration or perspiration, Ukraine’s Denys Berinchyk motored past Mexico’s Emanuel Navarrete by split decision to become the WBO lightweight world titlist on Saturday.

Just hours after his fellow countryman Oleksandr Usyk became undisputed heavyweight world champion, Berinchyk joined the club.

“This is a great night for all people of Ukraine,” Berinchyk said.

The undefeated Ukrainian Berinchyk (19-0, 9 KOs) gutted out a win over Navarrete (38-2-1, 31 KOs) who was attempting to join Mexico’s four-division world champion club in San Diego. The lanky fighter known as “Vaquero” fell a little short.

Through all 12 rounds neither fighter was able to dominate and neither was able to score a knockdown. Just when it seemed one fighter gathered enough momentum, the other fighter would rally.

A butt caused a slight cut on Navarrete in the 10th round. That seemed to ignite anger from the Mexican fighter and he powered through the Ukrainian fighter the next two rounds.

In the final round Berinchyk bore down and slugged it out with the Mexican fighter as both relied on their weapons of choice. For most of the night Navarrete scored with long-range uppercuts and Berinchyk scored with overhand rights.

After 12 rounds two judges scored it 115-113, 116-112 for Berinchyk and one 116-112 for Navarrete. Ukraine gained its third world titlist in one a week. Berinchyk joins Usyk and Vasyl Lomachenko as world titlists.

“He’s a very tough guy,” said Berinchyk of Navarrete.

Welterweights

A battle between undefeated welterweights saw Brian Norman (26-0, 20 KOs) knock out Giovany Santillan (32-1, 17 KOs) in the 10th round to become the interim WBO titlist.

For nine rounds both welterweights engaged in brutal inside warfare as each tried to beat the sense out of each other.

Norman worked the body early as Santillan targeted the head. Neither fought more than two inches from each other.

The younger Norman, 23, connected with a right cross during an exchange that wobbled Santillan in the eighth round. From that point on the Georgia fighter began setting up for his power shots. Finally, in the 10th round, uppercuts dropped Santillan twice. In the second knockdown Santillan went down hard as referee Ray Corona stopped the fight immediately at 1:33 of the 10th round.

Other Bouts

Heavyweight Richard Torrez (10-0, 10 KOs) knocked out Brandon Moore (14-1) in the fifth round for a regional title.

Lightweight Alan Garcia (10-0) defeated Wilfredo Flores (10-3-1) by decision after eight.

Photo credit: German Villasenor

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