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MANNY CAN WIN THIS FIGHT

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On March 29, 2012, I published a column on this very site claiming that Manny Pacquiao would defeat Floyd Mayweather if they were to meet in a boxing match–at that time.

The illusive matchup seemed so real and so close for so long. Finally, the two best fighters of a generation (who maddeningly fought at the same weight) will finally square off and answer this question definitively: Who would win?

Today, I’ll revisit the key points in my thesis and see which ones hold up, which ones are no longer accurate (a lot can and has changed in 3 years in boxing), and who I think wins the fight. As a bonus, and since I’ll be watching this from Las Vegas’ legendary atmosphere—and the ticket fiasco was as frustrating and wild as advertised–, I’ll be providing my betting tips for fight night to make sure this piece is as lucrative for its readers as it is entertaining.

Sidebar: I’m tired of hearing the argument that this fight is “too late”. Certainly, both fighters have regressed as they approach what should be the downslope of their careers from an age perspective. But I think they’ve roughly declined the same amount. And despite those respective declines, they are still the top-2 draws in boxing, and the top-2 Welterweights in the world. Lastly, the wait should be worth it as their respective declines could turn this into a more fan-friendly affair. I digress.

For reference, here was the previous post:

http://www.tss.ib.tv/news/articles-frontpage/14332-pacquiao-would-beat-mayweather

Key Points from March 2012:

1) Floyd’s fight vs. Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao’s 4 fights vs. Marquez are not relevant comparisons. The transitive property does not apply in boxing.

Anyone who’s ever tried to prognosticate the outcome of a prizefight simply by comparing outcomes versus common opponents would be a fool. The old adage of “styles make fights” is truer than true and anything other argument would be fallacious.

It just so happens that JMM is the perfect and worthy adversary for Pacquiao (Manny’s explosive speed/offense vs. Marquez’s crisp, technical counterpunching/timing). The fact that Manny got knocked out is also hardly relevant as he was winning the fight, on the verge of his own KO, and simply got caught with the perfect punch. Sure, Mayweather handled Marquez with ease and also fits the technical counterpuncher label, but Mayweather’s speed is/was his greatest asset. Not to say he isn’t still faster than Manny (he certainly is), but he’s certainly not as fast as he was back then (almost 6 years ago by fight time).

Anyhow, the same argument could be made of Pacquiao v. Cotto. Whereas Floyd won a close and tough fight, Manny dismantled Cotto who was way closer to his prime then compared to when Mayweather fought him (this isn’t in question). Same story with Manny’s annihilation of De La Hoya compared to Floyd’s razor-thin decision over DLH (Oscar was more washed up for Manny in this example)– they simply aren’t relevant in this discussion.

It’s simple. Styles make fights, and Manny’s style poses problems for Floyd.

1) He’s a Southpaw: I don’t think there’s any merit to claims of Floyd avoiding southpaws, but lefties make you change a LOT on both offense and defense and Floyd hasn’t fought a truly high-level left-handed fighter in a while

2) Very quick puncher: While Floyd has a speed advantage, only Zab Judah could match Manny’s quick (and Lefty) punches, which did get through on occasion

3) Combination puncher (sometimes): – This is the key to the entire fight. Floyd can block/dodge/deflect/counter any single shot, but Mayweather’s programmatic counters don’t account for Pacman’s angles/combos (no sparring partner can mimic them). He’ll have an answer for Manny’s 1-2s, so Manny MUST commit to jab first.

4) Manny is a hard puncher: While Manny is not a thudding, heavy-handed power puncher like Marcos Maidana, he has plenty of pop in his hands. He may not hurt Floyd as in knock him down, but Floyd cannot get lazy and take a few arm punches like he did routinely against Maidana.

5) Aggressive, move-forward fighter: Floyd is at his best in the center of the ring and when he gets off first. Manny will engage him in exchanges and continue moving forward. He is not the plodding, rough-him-up type, but more explosive combos before resetting. If Manny can avoid counter uppercuts around the ropes and effectively moves his head when throwing, he should be able to back Floyd up routinely.

6) Unique Angles: As mentioned, there’s no sparring partner to mirror Manny’s angles. They’re unconventional, imaginative, and not replicable. Floyd’s relatively impenetrable defense doesn’t account for how he can get around/between opponents’ guard.

7) Footwork. Manny’s greatest asset has always been his footwork. His explosiveness in closing/creating distance and scoring angles is elite. Whereas Floyd can rely on his ring smarts/hand speed to win exchanges, he’s never faced someone who will both willingly exchange with him and then also reset himself in good punching position without getting reckless/lazy.

2) Manny has more ways to win since he could conceivably knock out Floyd, but the opposite is not true.

-I’m far less convinced now that Manny could knock Floyd out. Manny’s power really hasn’t come up with him through all these weight classes. He still has very hard punches that do damage, but he hasn’t knocked anyone silly in a long time. And he hit Chris Algieri with some very hard shots… but didn’t knock him out. I definitely worry about Manny’s chin after the lights out KO he suffered in his fourth fight with Marquez. Nobody is ever completely the same after a total lights-out blow like that. I’ve seen enough to know you become more susceptible to KOs, etc., but Manny hasn’t looked much different in his recent fights after the KO. He’s not much slower (no more than standard aging would produce), less tentative (OK, maybe a tiny bit), or more prone to being hurt. He’s not been really hit by a Welterweight puncher with any significant pop, but he’s taken clean blows. I doubt either fighter scores a KO, so I think the safest bet of the night is that the fight goes 12 full rounds. (Over 11.5 Rounds = -300 (Bet 300, win $100))

3) Mayweather’s comfort level in exchanges would be a weakness against Manny

Floyd is straight up programmed to be a boxer. It’s uncanny. That said, his defensive instincts/reactions aren’t as adept to weird angles that Cotto and Maidana threw at him, and most of all those which Manny will throw at him. Floyd is used to winning almost all exchanges he’s in given his prowess for both defense and counter-punching. He’s the best at both in the last 20 years. That said, he isn’t the same flawless fighter he was 5-10 years ago, and if he doesn’t connect on his initial counters, he will be facing multiple punches with both hands from weird angles. That’s what Manny does. Mayweather’s comfort level in said exchanges will leave him vulnerable to the follow-up shots.

4) Along the ropes, Manny’s volume style would bother Floyd, or at least convince judges that he’s doing enough damage to squeak out rounds.

Manny doesn’t have a smothering style like Maidana, Cotto, and even Oscar De La Hoya employed against Floyd. That said, against the ropes, Manny will rip off 5, 6, 7, and even 8-punch combinations like this:

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Notice how he lands around the guard without crowding him. He puts his opponent on the end of shots to maximize power. Now, Mayweather will be very dangerous here with uppercuts. VERY. However, Manny doesn’t even need to land a ton cleanly to win this fight. Simply by looking like he’s doing damage can rack up close rounds on the scorecard in his favor. This is significant and has led to all of the closely scored fights for Floyd in the last several years.

5) Manny steals 2-3 rounds on late flurries

Similar to the previous point, the scorecards will likely come into play since this likely goes the full 12 rounds. There’s likely to be several close rounds, and Manny’s late flurries (something he does often) is likely to steal him at least 2-3 rounds. Any one of those can be the difference of a 115-113 decision going his way.

6) Floyd is a 1-and-done puncher and will be out-landed in total

Floyd needs to be first as Paulie Malignaggi kept referencing during Mayweather-Maidana 1. If he is, he demoralizes people. I genuinely think Floyd will be out-thrown by over 200 punches, and out-landed by more than 50. It’s common for him to be drastically out-thrown. It’s not common for him to be out-landed. Pacquiao can only win if this happens (which would be a byproduct of establishing a varied jab and throwing punches in bunches).

7) Floyd would need to show skills he hasn’t in a long time: standing in middle of ring and winning an inside fight, slugfest, etc.

-Maidana 1 was a slugfest. I suppose so was his Cotto fight. When in the center of ring, he owned both. Floyd’s inability to dictate where fight took place is alarming and what made them interesting fights. Pacquiao could be the one guy who can land (not even win exchanges, just land) anything significant against Mayweather in the center of ring. I actually think this turns into a slugfest, and Floyd has now proven he can handle himself well in those types of fights. He remains calm, confident, and closes the show well. This point is no longer accurate.

Important point not mentioned: Manny’s demeanor when he gets hit. If you watch any of Manny’s earlier classics with Marquez, Morales, etc…he gets really fired up when gets tagged. Whereas Floyd nearly always frustrates his opponents by completely shutting down their respective offense (see: Canelo Alvarez, Robert Guerrero, and many others), and then they get wild and mentally defeated. Manny won’t do this. You’ll see when Mayweather lands flush right hands, Manny will bang his gloves together and look to return fire immediately. He’s one of those guys that needs to answer anything he takes on the chin. It’s why this fight has the potential to be a firefight.

End of the day: If Manny can establish his jab early, and continue to punch in combinations/high volumes, he will win what I expect to be a fantastic fight. I get the feeling this will be worth the wait, we’ll want a rematch, and I can’t wait to be there for it.

The betting options are:

Manny by KO, TKO, DQ: +400

Manny by Decision: +400

Manny to win: +160

Floyd by KO, TKO, DQ: +500

Floyd by Decision: -130

Floyd to win: -200

The most sensible bet would be to bet BOTH Manny by KO and Manny by Decision. While I think Decision is the far more likely scenario, betting $100 on both would return a $200 profit combined if Manny wins (regardless of how). If you just Bet on Manny winning, $200 investment only nets the bettor $120 in profit.

If you do like Floyd, I think the bet is to pick him by KO at +500. He should NOT be a 2-to-1 favorite, but I can definitely see a scenario where he catches Manny flush with counter uppercuts and right hands and potentially stops Manny.

Bottom line, this is a pick-em fight, and at +160, Manny is the better bet.

The Flurry:

-Gennady “GGG” Golovkin is the best fighter in boxing P4P. The only one who can give him a good fight (and possibly beat him) is Andre Ward. I expect we see that fight in 2016 despite Ward’s weight advantage. Kovalev is in top-10 for sure. As HBO’s cornerstones, those are great building blocks. Both are must-see TV for the hardcore fans… but is that enough?

-PBC is GREAT (so far) for boxing, and makes me happy to hear casual/non-fans talking about it. It’ll be interesting to see if Haymon tries to make it more like a “league” than a TV series, which seems to be the case. He could unify belts for real, and again that would be tremendous for boxing. If good guys keep fighting good guys (assuming you don’t have to be a “Haymon Guy” to fight in PBC), we don’t have these Manny-Floyd scenarios in the future. But will the Roc Nation guys be allowed on cards? Regardless, competition is good for business. HBO will need to continue to step up their games, adapt, or be left in the dust. That’s a good thing for fans as streaming media continues its takeover of media consumption in homes.

-Unless Adrien Broner takes major leaps forward technically, he’ll never be the #1 guy at 140/147. Less of a comment on him than a comment on the depth of superstar-level talent there (Crawford is fantastic, Matthyse a lurking threat, Garcia looks legit but is untested, Mikey Garcia is coming, Porter/Brook/Khan are all championship material, and even guys like Devon Alexander are tough outs).

-Hope to see Tim Bradley soon, he’s always entertaining and a top 10 P4P fighter.

-If Matthysse-Provodnikov doesn’t win FOY, it’s because Mayweather-Pacquiao will.

Photo From Will Hart/HBO

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From the Desert, Jack Dempsey

Matt McGrain

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Jack Dempsey, who has been matched by Jack Goodfriend to fight at the Hippodrome Monday, May 31 is expected to arrive from Reno within a day or two.  The match will be a ten round contest and preceded by a couple of good preliminaries. (The Goldfield News, May 22nd, 1915.)

In May of 1915 Jack Dempsey found himself trapped in Nevada and between purses. Fifty miles from his payday with no rail to ride, he walked out of the desert and into Goldfield, stuck the bewildered promoter for an advance and hired a sparring partner, knocked the sparring partner out and hired another.

Walking in ninety-five-degree weather can be dangerous for even an experienced athlete, but it seemed to agree with Jack. He had marched into Goldfield to meet a light-heavyweight named Johnny Sudenberg, a game but limited battler who had for the first time strung a decent run of wins together, all of them fought in the desert Dempsey travailed on foot. Dempsey had scored a series of knockout wins in Salt Lake City, enough that his name was known and interest in his proposed match with the local man stoked.

“Jack Dempsey, the husky Pueblo middleweight, who will meet Johnny Sudenberg at the Hippodrome next Monday night in a ten round bout arrived in camp this morning,” reported regional press. “Several local men have seen Dempsey in action…and all [are] united in the prediction that Johnny had better be ‘right’ when he crawls through the ropes.”

It speaks of boxing’s burgeoning’s status in the United States that there were two gymnasiums in Goldfield capable of staging training. Dempsey worked out at the Unity Club, little more than a middleweight, perhaps not least because of his fifty-mile travail through the desert earlier that week. He boxed a local footnote named Dick Trounce and he may also have boxed some rounds with the world class bantamweight Roy Moore.

Sudenberg, stung by assertions that it was Dempsey, not he, who was the puncher in the fight, bristled and demanded of himself a knockout while training down the street in the Northern Gymnasium.

There is a divergence now between Dempsey’s recollection of the fight and the newspaper reporting of the day. Before the fight, although he may have shared a ring with Jack Dempsey, not known for his tender attentions of even much smaller sparring partners, Roy Moore advised his sparring partner to steer clear. “Don’t slug with Sudenberg.  He’s awful strong. Stay away from him.”

Dempsey claims to have dismissed this advice, telling Roger Kahn, author of A Flame of Pure Fire, that the match was a brutal slugfest from the first. Local press though reported on a fight that was marked by cautious sparring early, and that after “feeling each other out” for two rounds that Dempsey dominated, it was Sudenberg who changed the pattern and “owing to the greater height and reach” Dempsey possessed, brought the fight to the inside. A fine battle resulted and one that saw Dempsey descend into total chaos for the first time, a feeling that would become as familiar to him as slipping on a pair of old shoes.

“I just kept swinging. Sometimes I think I saw a face in front of me, sometimes I didn’t. I kept swinging.”

Dempsey claimed he could remember nothing after the fifth.

A rematch was not immediately slated, but the failure of a potential Sudenberg opponent to deliver on a sidebet let Dempsey back in just days later. Dempsey moved a bit further north with the purses, his second battle with Sudenberg staged in Tonopah. Still years from the three-ringed circus his career would become, there was interest surrounding the young scrapper who trained for the fight in the town’s casino. Tonopah was a young but bustling setting, festooned with banks and lawyers and saloons as money poured in from Nevada’s second largest silver strike. By 1920 they had pulled $121m out of the ground and Dempsey was there to pull out his own piece.

“A great many were dissatisfied with the decision last Monday,” wrote the Tonopah Daily upon the fight’s announcement. “Dempsey gave Sudenberg the best fight he has had in this part of the country.”

Sudenberg, who seems to have been a prickly character, held the power in his relationship with Dempsey and so clearly backed himself to win a rematch. A fascinating aspect of the fight is their respective sizes. Dempsey was referred to as a middleweight in the earliest dispatches surrounding the fight, but in the ring made an impression upon ringsiders as the bigger man. Taller, rangier, it is possible he was already the heavier of the two or it may be that his trek through the surrounding desert left an early impression of litheness which slipped away as Dempsey, holding cash, boxed and ate his way to a size advantage during the build-up. The Goldfield News described him upon entering the ring for the rematch as looking “more like an overgrown schoolboy than a fighter” as he stepped on the canvas before noting wryly that he “proved otherwise.”

The fight quite literally drew from miles around, with “Goldfield well represented at ringside” and “eight to ten auto loads” appearing from nearby mines. Dempsey grabbed their attention early, a man you will recognise, coming out of his corner like a rocket and deploying what the Tonopah Daily Bonanza named “Dempsey’s mass attack,” presumably an early incarnation of the terrible beating he would inflict upon Jess Willard in Toledo with the world’s title at stake. Indeed, Sudenberg does appear to have visited the canvas in that first round, but Dempsey, over-eager, under-seasoned, missed with key punches following up his advantage and the canny Sudenberg survived a round of murderous intent.

Papers also report the use of straight punches by Dempsey, that he preferred range and looked to that superior range to dominate. Early Dempsey contests fascinate me in that they repeatedly throw up this story, of a fighter who at just 6’1 was able to dominate most of the desert’s pugs with height and reach. Here he plays the role that would later be played by Willard, Carl Morris and Fred Fulton, longer men trying to control the range while Dempsey tormented them with slips and punches.  Here it was Sudenberg who in the third and fourth seemed to do something of a job, getting inside and hitting to the belly while the two accused each other of low blows.

Dempsey is a victim of some criticism over his own use of low blows, alleged or otherwise, in huge fights with Tommy Gibbons and Jack Sharkey. It should be remembered always that he learned his trade in spots like Tonopah and Goldfield where local referees were not sympathetic to pleas for justice to be dispensed. Dempsey fought like a fistic savage because he was raised as one.

After just four rounds in Tonopah, he was tired, feeling the effects of a difficult month and a fast fight. “Dempsey takes punishment well and ducks cleverly,” noted The Bonanza, while The News saw Dempsey holding on a good deal more in the second half of the fight.

By round eight, Sudenberg began to show the effects of Dempsey’s right hand which he worked “like a sledgehammer” while Sudenberg “lands heavily on Dempsey’s digestive apparatus.” At the final bell the two worked one another mercilessly in search of the decision, but they were greeted by a draw.

Under a more modern ruleset I suspect that Dempsey would have received the nod. He crushed Sudenberg in the early part of the fight and more than matched him late, but with the referee acting as a single judge, draws in fights where a winner was not inarguably apparent were common.  Fighters expected it and pressmen expected it, which is perhaps why some of those in attendance saw the result as eminently reasonable. Dempsey clearly landed the better shots, but Sudenberg was rewarded for his gameness in “carrying the fight” a tenet of the era.

Dempsey had impressed though. “In Dempsey, who gives the promise of developing into a heavyweight,” stated The News, “there is room for a world of improvement, and with the experience he will gain during the next few years he should make a formidable opponent for any scrapper.”

Portentous words.

When Dempsey left Tonopah – history does not record whether he walked out – he was mere days from his twentieth birthday, an overgrown schoolboy appearing on the good end of draws against older, more experienced men, already determined to become heavyweight champion, already of the belief he would become one. History tells of a third fight between he and Sudenberg the following February, a more mature Dempsey thrashing a cowed Sudenberg in two rounds.

I spoke to Dempsey scholar and author of the outstanding In The Ring series, Adam Pollack. “Didn’t happen,” was his verdict.  “I am certain it didn’t take place.”

It is nice to have this one cleared up. Dempsey did not need to defeat Sudenberg to leave him behind. Dempsey, like any heavyweight champion has his obsessed fans – among them the men who developed a single thin thread concerning a third Sudenberg match and turned it into a truth that was reported in A Flame of Pure Fire and elsewhere – and obsessed haters, but there is no denying what he did. Irresistible and eternal, people will generate and propagate myths about Jack Dempsey for as long as there is fighting.

This story is about his beginnings – see the single-minded determination that saw him walk fifty miles through a desert? See the legendary fast start in the second fight? The mid-round sag that would lead Jack Johnson to label him a three-round fighter? His bending of the rules? Then again, what of his seeming determination to box against a smaller opponent? This was something he abandoned in time to avoid disaster against geniuses like Tommy Gibbons although it would not be enough to save his weary legs from Gene Tunney’s escape.

Dempsey’s matches with Sudenberg were his emergence from the desert in more ways than one.  They were where his pursuit in earnest of the world’s heavyweight title began. These were his first major steps outside of Salt Lake City where his ambitions were as penned as Sudenberg’s were in the desert; the defining series of an emergent Jack Dempsey.

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Jerry Forrest: When Heart Counts

Ted Sares

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While many Canelo fights end up in some fan’s memory bank, that probably won’t be the case given what occurred this past Saturday night in Miami. However, the show was salvaged by the entertaining heavyweight draw between China’s Zhilei “Big Bang” Zhang (22-0-1) and Jerry “Slugger” Forrest (26-4-1) on the undercard. This one had the fans up and roaring but for different reasons.

The 6’6” Zhang (with excellent amateur credentials) floored the American once in each of the first three rounds and the crowd sensed a stunning KO was on the way. But lo and behold, it didn’t come.

Then things began to change, subtle at first, as a determined Forrest survived the onslaught and began to fight back working well inside and landing shots both upstairs and to the body.

A Shift in Momentum

The momentum clearly changed in the fifth as Zhang used his body to lean on “Slugger” to tire him out, but in the process he didn’t mix and thereby lost rounds. Soon this strategy (albeit illegal) backfired and served to tire “Big Bang” more than Forrest and making matters worse for Zhang, he was deducted a point in the ninth by referee Frank Gentile for holding. (Given that he had been holding since the fifth round, the deduction was spot-on and could well have come earlier.)

Going into the last round, the fight seemed to be up for grabs and the fresher Forrest obliged as he landed crunching shots that had the fickle fans (are there any others?) now in is corner. He was actually chasing the gassed Chinese monster at the end and had the fight gone another minute, “Slugger” likely would have lived up to his moniker.

“For Jerry Forrest, this is a momentous result after a terrible start, and keeps him in the mix as a high-level gatekeeper, someone who will take on basically anyone and give it the effort. He’s a danger to prospects and mid-tier veterans alike,” wrote prominent boxing writer Scott Christ.

The scores were 95-93 Forrest and 93-93 twice for a majority draw. Zhang was lucky to keep his undefeated record intact.

Jerry Forrest showed a tremendous amount of heart. Hopefully, when folks look back at this card, Canelo’s blowout of Avni Yildirim won’t completely overshadow this entertaining heavyweight match.

(Note: Zhang was taken to a hospital for observation when his handlers noticed some concerning symptoms in the locker room after the fight. According to a published statement from Terry Lane of Lane Brothers Management, Zhang was found to be “suffering from anemia, high enzyme levels, and low-level renal failure, which may have been caused by severe dehydration. The good news is that all of his neurological signs are clear…Credit and respect to a game Jerry Forrest who battled back for a ten-round draw…Zhilei will be back.”)

Photo credit: Ed Mulholland / Matchroom

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com

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The Canelo-Yildirim Travesty was Another Smudge on ‘Mandatory’ Title Defenses

Arne K. Lang

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Canelo Alvarez’s rout of grossly overmatched Avni Yildirim has once again cast a harsh light on the “mandatory challenger” gambit employed by the sport’s world sanctioning bodies. Canelo successfully defended his WBC 168-pound belt this past Saturday in Miami when Yildirim’s corner pulled him out after only three rounds.

During the nine minutes of actual fighting, Yildirim was credited with landing only 11 punches, none of which appeared to have been launched with bad intentions. A person posting on a rival web site likened Yildirim’s woeful performance to that of Nate Robinson’s showing against Jake Paul. Another snarky poster said that faint-hearted Adrien Broner, by comparison, had the heart of a lion. True, the 29-year-old Turk was sent in against a beast, but one yet has a right to expect more from a contest packaged as a world title fight.

Yildirim was coming off a loss. In his previous fight, he lost a split decision to Anthony Dirrell in a bout that was stopped in the 10th round by the ringside physician because of a bad cut over Dirrell’s left eye that resulted from an accidental head butt. He hadn’t won a fight in three-and-a-half years, not since out-pointing 46-year-old Lolenga Mock who predictably faded late in the 12-round fight, enabling Yildirim to win a narrow decision. Earlier in his career, he was stopped in the third round by Chris Eubank Jr in a fight that was one-sided from the get-go.

So, how exactly did Avni Yildirim build himself into position to become the mandatory opponent for the sport’s top pound-for-pound fighter? Did he “earn” this opportunity and the rich payday that came with it by submitting the winning bid in an auction? Is that a rhetorical question?

In an ESPN Q & A, the award-winning writer Mark Kriegel said that Canelo-Yildirim was payback for certain favors that were granted to Canelo by the WBC, citing the organization’s new “Franchise Champion” category and to their decision to countenance Canelo’s fight with Callum Smith for their vacant 168-pound title. But this doesn’t answer the question as to how Yildirim ascended to the role of a mandatory challenger; it merely informs us why Canelo agreed to take the fight.

This was the second great mismatch in 10 weeks involving a mandatory challenger. On Dec. 18, Gennadiy Golovkin opposed Poland’s Kamil Szeremeta in the first defense of the IBF middleweight title that he won with a hard-earned decision over Sergiy Derevyanchenko. The feather-fisted Szeremeta was undefeated (21-0, 5 KOs) but hadn’t defeated an opponent with a recognizable name.

This was a stroll in the park for GGG. Szeremeta was a glutton for punishment – he lasted into the seventh round — but at no point in the fight did he pose a threat to the 38-year-old Kazakh. Golovkin knocked him down four times before the plug was pulled.

In theory, the “mandatory challenger” ruling forestalls the very abuses with which it has become identified. It prevents a champion from fighting a series of hapless opponents while a more worthy challenger is left out in the cold. One could say that it stands as an example of the law of unforeseen consequences, save that it would be naïve to think that the heads of the sanctioning bodies didn’t foresee this versatility and venally embrace it.

Historians will likely lump Avni Yildirim with such fighters of the past as Patrick Charpentier and Morrade Hakker who were accorded mandatory contender status by the WBC so that they could be fodder for a title-holder in a stay-busy fight. Charpentier was rucked into retirement by Oscar De La Hoya who dismissed the overmatched Frenchman in three one-sided rounds at El Paso in 1998. Hakker was thrown in against Bernard Hopkins at Philadelphia in 2003. He brought his bicycle with him, so to speak, and thus lasted into the eighth.

In common with Yildirim and a slew of other mandatory challengers (Vaughn Bean comes quickly to mind), Charpentier and Hakker had misleading records. Steve Kim, in an article for this publication, said that Hakker’s record was more inflated than the Goodyear blimp.

A mandatory title defense isn’t always a rip-off. One wonders where Tyson Fury would be career-wise today if the WBO hadn’t established the Gypsy King as the mandatory challenger to Wladimir Klitschko, setting the wheels in motion for a changing of the guard. That worked out well for the good of the sport as Fury, after some disconcerting speed bumps, would prove to be a breath of fresh air.

But a mandatory title defense between evenly-matched opponents remains a rarity and there’s no end in sight to the charade.

Photo credit: Ed Mulholland / Matchroom

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