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“MONEY MAY” AND THE PROFITABLE POWER OF HATE

Bernard Fernandez

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The power of love is a curious thing

Make a one man weep, make another man sing

Change a hawk to a little white dove

More than a feeling, that’s the power of love

“The Power of Love,” Huey Lewis, 1983

Lewis, front man for the News, the San Francisco-based rock group that had a string of hits in the 1980s, is correct. The power of love is indeed a curious thing. They say it makes the world go ’round, and those in its thrall know that to be the case, perhaps especially in those instances when their affection is unrequited and the world goes spinning off its axis. Even human beings with fragile feelings that have been stomped on in the romantic ring can hope to fall head-over-heels again, with a more fortuitous outcome.

There may not be a correspondingly familiar ode to the benefits of hatred, although an obvious candidate might be whatever in-your-face tune served as Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s entrance music for Saturday’s record-shattering pay-per-view clash with Manny Pacquiao at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand. More than anyone who has ever laced up a pair of padded gloves, Mayweather understands the immense profitability in being the arch-villain in a sport where inflammatory words and dubious conduct, when leavened with liberal splashes of actual talent, can make a boxer with something less than a fan-friendly approach almost unfathomably rich and powerful.

The mad stampede for fringe and even non-boxing fans to purchase $99.95 PPV subscriptions for May-Pac – and, in some instances, much more than that for tickets inside the 16,700-seat MGM Grand Garden Arena – is not so much an indication that boxing has regained all of the relevance it has squandered since its most recent golden age in the Huey Lewis-tinged 1980s. A social-media poll conducted prior to the main event, which was jointly televised by HBO and Showtime, indicated that a whopping 67 percent of respondents believed Pacquiao, a 2-to-1 underdog, would win. Was that an indication of a deep conviction in the capabilities of, or widespread hero-worship for, the Fab Filipino? Maybe, to some degree, but more likely it was further proof that significant chunks of the global population are fascinated by the reality and even the perception of evil. Mayweather, and other proudly defiant “bad guys” who flaunt their misdeeds, understand all too well there is gold to be mined from those who profess intense dislike of a fighter, yet shell out for live-action tickets or PPV in the hopes of actually seeing the objects of their scorn receive a bloody comeuppance inside the ropes.

Unfortunately for those who count themselves in that vast and growing number – call them perpetually grumpy members of the “haters gotta hate” club – Mayweather is not temperamentally or stylistically disposed to feed their revenge fantasies by engaging in slugfests at close quarters. All of which makes the deflated expectations left in the wake of the highest-grossing prizefight of all time, another unanimous-decision victory for the man known as “Money May,” so inexplicable. Did anyone really expect Mayweather, one leopard who is never going to change his spots to satisfy the more primal instincts of the public, to be anything other than what he is, has always been and probably always will be? In terms of rip-roaring, two-way action, the No. 1 fight of all time from a bottom-line perspective didn’t come close to cracking the top 100 of fights most fans will fondly file away in their memory banks.

Put it this way: Mayweather (48-0, 27 KOs), who will have made somewhere between $150 million and $180 million when all the financial returns are tallied, not only will be laughing all the way to the bank, he’ll be splitting a gut. When it comes to tolerance and even acceptance of reprehensible behavior, there is nothing remotely comparable to boxing, at once the most exhilarating and most exasperating of all sporting enterprises. The evidence of that is everywhere, like candy eggs on Easter left in such conspicuous places that even a nearsighted kindergartner could find them with ease.

Domestic abuse, such a hot-button topic in the NFL in the wake of the image-tarnishing episodes that led to the suspensions of star running backs Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, among others, was but a briefly mentioned dark cloud that floated over May-Pay and was quickly dispersed. Where Rice and Peterson were barred by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell from doing what they do best, in a professional sense, after the news leaked of Rice’s knockout of his fiancée (now wife) in a casino elevator and Peterson’s mark-leaving paddling of his toddler son, Mayweather – who has served prison time for one of several such offenses – has never been suspended or even formally reprimanded by boxing’s sanctioning bodies. It is a double-standard that, to its detriment, sets boxing apart from other sports that at least strive to present a veneer of outrage when its athletes are judged guilty of transgressions against society.

Thus has it always been because, well, boxing is boxing. The late, great New York sports columnist, Jimmy Cannon, once deemed it as the principal come-on in the “red light district of sports,” and that description if as true now, or nearly so, as it has ever been. If sanctimonious reformers were to separate the fight game’s saints from the sinners, the International Boxing Hall of Fame would have a considerably reduced membership, and the next main event coming to an arena near you might be less compelling if one or both of the scheduled participants was deemed to have too many warts on their out-of-the-ring resumes.

None of this is to suggest that Mayweather, so obviously gifted, is undeserving of the acclaim or the wealth he has accumulated. He is the most accomplished fighter of his generation, if not necessarily the most entertaining, and if he chooses to spend millions of dollars on more jewelry than Elizabeth Taylor ever had, or on a fleet of luxury cars, or on the care and maintenance of a small army of fawning yes-men, that is his right. But perhaps it should give John Q. Public pause before he opens his wallet for Mayweather’s next PPV extravaganza. It has been said that we, the people, get the government that we deserve, which in these times is a searing indictment if ever there was one, and that reasoning can be applied to the selection of those athletes we choose as our heroic role models or villainous objects of derision. In most cases, fighters on either side of that imaginary fence probably don’t care so long as the check is large enough and clears.

Boxing has always sold itself in part on the basis of natural conflicts – black vs. white, stylist vs. slugger, one nationality vs. another – and there has been a tendency to gravitate toward those miscreants who frequently veer onto the wild side. Does anyone believe that Mike Tyson would have been just as much a can’t-miss attraction had he been a choir boy in his personal life when not dispatching opponents with fearsome ferocity? We keep up with the Kardashians (although I don’t) because their lives are ongoing train wrecks, not models of domestic tranquility.

Those who are cast in the role of black-hatted villain sometimes do so because, while it may be against their true nature, it suits their purposes to play along. Others are predestined to act out because it is at the essence of their being. Mike Tyson may have owned white tigers, but that didn’t make them – or him – purring kitties disposed to restrict their messes to a convenient litter box.

Ten years ago, before Mayweather brutally dispatched an outclassed Arturo Gatti in Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall, I wrote that “At 28, he still has the angelic countenance and glowing smile of a cute sitcom kid. Now try imagining Floyd Mayweather Jr. as a fourth-grader. The image that pops into at least some people’s minds is not so much of a rough ’n’ tumble boxing great but of Emmanuel Lewis, crawling onto Alex Karras’ lap during an episode of `Webster.’”

Mayweather’s face is still reminiscent of that younger version of himself, but then, as now, he never was going to be confused with Webster. “Every time I fight I go in there with a chip on my shoulder,” he said at the time, and that chip has enlarged to the size of a log. He is exactly who he wants to be, and that is probably not the person sitcom dad Karras would have wanted crawling onto his lap at any age. Mayweather doesn’t attempt to conceal his colossal ego and he answers to no one but himself. As far as he is concerned, if you don’t appreciate him for who and what he is, well, that’s your problem. As a rejected Kirk Douglas said to Janet Leigh in “The Vikings,” an entertaining 1958 movie about marauding Norsemen, “If I can’t have your love, I’ll take your hate.” And why not? Hate, in boxing, sells just as well as love. Sometimes even more so.

Some of you profess to hate Mayweather because he lacks even the faintest trace of humility. Others hate him because he waves stacks of $100 bills at the camera as he leans against the shiny new Ferrari he has just added to his collection of ultra-pricey rides, still another reminder of the fabulous wealth he has and that you don’t. And, yeah, some of you hate him because he has slapped around “on six occasions” the mother of three of his four children, Josie Harris, who describes herself as a “battered woman” in constant fear of what might happen whenever Mayweather comes around.

But those of you who fall into any of those categories are still apt to want to see his next fight, maybe because he is so skilled at what he does or maybe because you want to witness the night, should it ever come, when the calculating beast is finally brought to heel.

It was almost understandable that Tyson, at his unhinged best, attracted such a following because he was danger personified and that is a powerful aphrodisiac to the masses. We looked and could not turn away because we understood that a knockout – swift, emphatic, devastating – was imminent.

Mayweather is cut from a different cloth, which makes his status as the foremost cash cow in boxing history somewhat perplexing. His thing is as much about making the other guy look bad as about making himself look good, and there were times when his movement, laser-accurate punching and ring generalship reduced the very capable Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38 KOs) to whiffing on clumsy lunges, rendering hollow “PacMan’s” protestations that he thought he deserved to get the decision.

“No one can get me to say Sugar Ray Robinson or anybody else was or is better than me,” Mayweather said before his May 1, 2010, bout with Shane Mosley. “No one was better. No one is better. Maybe no one else ever will be better.”

If there is a contemporary fighter to whom I would compare Mayweather, it would be the ageless wonder, Bernard Hopkins, who came to understand that boxing’s subtle nuances can be as or more effective than full-frontal assaults. You just have to know what to look for, and to appreciate it when you are afforded the opportunity to glimpse it. Anyone who can’t appreciate the artistry of either man simply does not understand what they’re watching as they systematically break down opponents. If you prefer Jerry Lee Lewis setting fire to his piano at a honky-tonk bar to Van Cliburn in concert in Carnegie Hall, Hopkins and Mayweather probably aren’t your cup of tea. But that doesn’t mean there still isn’t much to admire and appreciate about their level of craftsmanship.

Mayweather gave us another such technically flawless performance, but it was to be expected that many viewers who had hoped to get heaping measures of blood and guts came away disappointed, maybe even angry. As round by round passed into history, there was a creeping sense of “We waited six years for THIS?”

Not that any negative feedback is apt to concern Mayweather. Anyone with a complaint can kiss that part of his anatomy where the sun don’t shine. It is his world, and he figures that it is our privilege to be allowed to occasionally drop in for a visit.

“It’s all about money, power and respect,” Hopkins said in 2003, in a remark about himself that could just as easily have been said about Mayweather circa 2015. “You get the money, you got the power and the respect.”

You also get a fair amount of contempt. But where would boxing be if there was nothing but love and niceties simmering in the cauldron of competition?

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Erickson Lubin Wins, But Misplaced His Hammer

David A. Avila

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Erickson Lubin misplaced the hammer but found a way to victory over Terrell Gausha by unanimous decision in a slow-developing WBC super welterweight eliminator on Saturday.

Lubin (23-1, 16 KOs), a southpaw slugger, was unable to lower the boom on Gausha (21-2-1, 10 KOs) at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. But he did enough in a tactical battle that only activated into a real fight in the later rounds.

Back and forth the two super welterweights mostly feinted and fired blows at each other’s guard. Few managed to pierce for scoring blows and those that landed were mostly to the body.

“It was a chess match. I respected what he had, he was trying to counter what I had. My trainer was telling me to be cautious and not get hit with anything stupid,” said Lubin, whose trainer is the respected Kevin Cunningham.

Gausha, 33, was the more accurate puncher but fired less than Lubin. Though he seemingly scored more often with counter rights, the scarcity of his blows allowed Lubin to control the pace of the fight.

It wasn’t until the mid-rounds that Gausha stepped into a slightly quicker pace. In the 10th, a short right connected and wobbled Lubin who covered up.

“I knew I had hurt him, but he was able to recover,” said Gausha, 24, who tried to finish off the hurt fighter but was unable to land another scoring blow.

“I’m in shape and I was able to recuperate,” Lubin revealed.

It was still unclear who was winning the fight. In the 12th and final round Lubin stepped up the pace and connected with a crisp right hook that clearly snapped the head of Gausha. But he fought his way out of the dangerous corner.

After 12 rounds all three judges scored it for Lubin 115-113, 116-112, 118-110.

“Gausha is a tough competitor, he’s at the top for a reason,” said Lubin. “I feel I beat one of the top 154s and I’m going to keep doing that.”

Gausha was classy in defeat.

“I take my hat off to Erickson Lubin. He was the better man tonight,” said Gausha.

Lubin now awaits the winner between Jermell Charlo and Jeison Rosario who fight each other next week for the WBC, WBA and IBF super welterweight titles. Showtime will provide the title match on pay-per-view.

Featherweights

Former IBO featherweight titlist Tug Nyambayar (12-1, 9 KOs) floored Cobia Breedy (15-1) twice in the first two rounds but struggled the rest of the way to win by split decision. One judge scored it 115-113 for Breedy and two others for Mongolia’s Nyambayar 114-112 and 114-113.

Nyambayar knocked down Breedy with a counter right cross in the first round and then floored him with four rights and a left hook in the second. After that, Breedy was the busier fighter and no one was able to take control.

“Boxing is boxing. It was a tough fight,” said Nyambayar.

Welterweights

In a solid match Philadelphia’s Jaron Ennis (26-0, 24 KOs) was able to find out exactly where he stands against real competition and stopped the unstoppable Juan Carlos Abreu (23-6-1, 21 KOs) in the sixth round by technical knockout in their welterweight showdown.

More than just a knockout win, Ennis discovered that he can indeed take a punch from an elite level puncher.

Nobody questioned whether Ennis had boxing skills or athleticism and power, but nobody knew if he could take a punch. They discovered it as Abreu was able to connect in the fourth and fifth rounds. The Dominican fighter pulled out his tricks and connected several times with sneaky rights and lefts. Ennis remained standing.

Abreu was looking to trade bombs with Ennis in the fifth and sixth round and paid the price in getting delivered to the canvas with a pretty right counter uppercut. He survived. But in the sixth a slew of punches along the ropes sent him down again. He beat the count again but during a fierce exchange he was floored a final time at 1:06 of the sixth round. It was the first time Abreu had ever been stopped.

“I feel I put on a wonderful show and got the knockout,” said Ennis. “I feel I showed the division I am here.”

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Fast Results from the MGM Bubble: Pedraza Outclasses Molina Plus Undercard

Arne K. Lang

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The featured bout on tonight’s card at the MGM Bubble was a match between 2008 Olympians. It was a competitive match on paper, but Jose Pedraza turned in one of the better performances of his career while turning away Javier Molina who just wasn’t in Pedraza’s league tonight. The fight went the full 10 with the judges voting for the Boricua by scores of 99-91 and 98-92 twice. A former two-division belt-holder who looked very comfortable in his second start at 140, Pedraza boosted his record to 28-3. Molina, who had won five straight coming in, falls to 22-3.

Pedraza was manhandled by Gervonta Davis in 2017, outclassed by Vasyl Lomachenko in 2018, and upset by Jose Zepeda last year, but showed tonight that he still has plenty of mileage left on his odometer. Josh Taylor and Jose Carlos Ramirez each own two pieces of the 140-pound title, but Pedraza seems to have found a new gear at age 31 and is nipping at their heels. However, Pedraza also hankers to renew acquaintances with Zepeda and that will likely come first.

In the 10-round heavyweight co-feature, Efe Ajagba’s higher workrate carried him to a 10-round unanimous decision over Jonathan Rice. The scores were 98-92 and 99-91 twice.

Ajagba, the Houston-based Nigerian making his first start under the Top Rank banner, advanced his record to 14-0 (11) but was underwhelming. Rice, the terror of Tijuana taxi drivers, fell to 13-6-1 and solidified his reputation as a useful gatekeeper.

Robeisy Ramirez, a two-time Olympic gold medalist for Cuba who now resides in the Miami area, improved to 5-1 with a unanimous 8-round decision over Puerto Rico’s Felix Caraballo (13-3-2). Both appeared on the inaugural MGM Bubble card with Caraballo, fighting for the first time in the U.S., suffering a sixth-round stoppage at the hands of Shakur Stevenson. Tonight’s uneventful fight saw Ramirez on cruise control as he won by scores of 79-73 and 80-72 twice.

San Bernardino junior middleweight Leo Ruiz improved to 8-0 with a 6-round unanimous decision over Cancun’s Rodrigo Solis (4-5-1). Both fighters had a point deducted in round five; Ruiz, 21, for low blows and Solis for spitting out his mouthpiece. The scores were 58-54 and 59-53 twice.

In a fight that wasn’t on the original schedule, Houston super middleweight Christian Montano improved to 10-0 (7) with a 6-round unanimous decision over St. Louis’ Ryan Adams (7-4-1). A three-time national amateur champion, Montano, who is of Columbian descent, had knocked out seven of his previous opponents in the opening round. He looked poorly conditioned tonight but yet won every round on two of the scorecards.

Lightweight Bryan Lua, who hails from the town of Madera in central California’s agricultural belt, returned to the ring after a 27-month absence and scored a one-punch knockout over Chile’s Luis Norambuena. A left hook did the damage, bringing the bout to a sudden conclusion at the 2:27 mark of round two. Lua, (6-0, 3 KOs) won two of three over Ryan Garcia as an amateur. It was a quick turnaround for Norambuena (4-7-1) who lost a 4-round decision in this ring last week.

The first two bouts on the card showcased the newest members of Top Rank’s “Kiddie Corps.” Kasir Goldston and Jahi Tucker, 17-year-old welterweights, launched their pro careers on a winning note.

Goldston, a southpaw from Albany, NY, opened the show with a 4-round unanimous decision over Wisconsin’s Isaiah Varnell (3-3). The scores were 40-36 and 39-37 twice.

Tucker, who trains in the same Long Island town that spawned Buddy McGirt, put away Alabama’s Deandre Anderson (1-2) in the opening round. Anderson came out winging, but the precocious Tucker picked him apart. Referee Robert Hoyle stepped in and stopping the mismatch at the 2:56 mark. As an amateur, Tucker was ranked #1 at 138 pounds while still a sophomore in high school.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams for Top Rank

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 105: Angry Welterweights and More

David A. Avila

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Those welterweights don’t play.

One welterweight just got out of jail and wants to take out his angry frustrations in the boxing ring.

“One of us is getting knocked out. If it gets to where I’m behind on points, I’m just going to come forward and try to take him out, even if I end up getting knocked out,” said Juan Carlos Abreu. ““If he stands and fights, it’s better for me. That’s what I want.”

Standing in front of Abreu (23-5-1) will be one of the top welterweights in America, Philadelphia’s Jaron Ennis (25-0, 23 KOs). This is could be Ennis’ first true test against an experienced foe on Saturday Sept. 19, at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. Showtime will televise the Premier Boxing Champions card.

Ennis, 23, has been breezing easily since first jumping in the prize ring in April 2016. So far, the competition has been unable to cope with the athleticism he possesses. Will Abreu be the first to pose a problem?

“Whatever he brings, we are going to be ready. I’m going to go out there, do my thing, be smart, have my fun, and get that stoppage at the end of the night,” said Ennis, whose last opponent Bakhtiyar Eyubov was eliminated in four rounds in January. “You can’t just go in there and go for the knockout. That’s how you get tired and lose your cool or even get hit with punches that you shouldn’t be getting hit with.”

Abreu hopes he loses his cool.

“If he stands and fights, it’s better for me. That’s what I want. I really want one of us to get knocked out,” says Abreu of the Dominican Republic who was purportedly jailed for street fighting.

This welterweight matchup is the precursor to the WBC super welterweight eliminator between Terrell Gausha (21-1-1, 10 KOs) and Erickson Lubin (22-1, 16 KOs).

Gausha and Lubin both have lost once in their pro careers and need a win to get another crack at a world title.

Gausha lost a decision to Erislandy Lara three years ago. Lubin was stopped in one round by Jermell Charlo three years ago. Both realize the nature of the beast.

“I think Gausha has some problems with southpaws, but I’m not focused on that. I’m focused on my game plan and coming out victorious Saturday night,” said Lubin, 24, a southpaw called “the Hammer” for a reason.

Gausha is originally from Cleveland, Ohio but trains in Southern California and has fought four elite southpaws in his career. He believes one more is not a problem.

“This will be my fourth southpaw in a row. So, I’m more comfortable and familiar this time around,” said Gausha, 33, a former US Olympian who trains with Manny Robles Jr. “The guys before me, they all fought each other. Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran. They all fought each other. To be the best, you have to beat the best. And you can see that the fights I take, even after a long layoff, they are tough fights.”

Top Rank

Also, on Saturday Sept. 19, heavyweights and super lightweights lead a Top Rank card featuring some interesting bouts that will be shown on ESPN+.

Newly acquired Efe Ajagba (13-0,11 KOs) meets Jonnie Rice (13-5-1) in a 10-round heavyweight clash. It’s Nigeria’s Ajagba’s second fight this year. Though still a little raw he shows immense potential and great natural strength.

Rice fights out of Bones Adams’ Gym in Las Vegas and has some power. He built up his record on heavyweights in Tijuana boxing rings but has some pop. He’s a sizeable heavyweight and good measuring stick for Ajagba.

The main event is a doozy.

Puerto Rico’s Jose “The Sniper” Pedraza (27-3, 13 KOs) meets Southern California’s Javier Molina (22-2, 9 KOs) in a 10-round super lightweight bout at the MGM Grand Bubble in Las Vegas.

This should be good.

Pedraza, 31, is a former WBO lightweight world titlist who lost in his first defense to Vasyl Lomachenko. Nothing bad about that. He defeated Mexico’s Raymundo Beltran for the belt and has shown a penchant for showing up big when you least expect it.

Molina, 30, is a 2008 US Olympian and a member of the fighting Molina family. His brother Oscar was a member of Mexico’s 2012 Olympic team. His other brother Carlos fought for the world title against Amir Khan. Though Javier Molina has never shown great power, he can truly fight.  His last win came against Amir Imam this past February.

Pending Lightweight Clash

Speaking of the lightweight division, is anyone else as excited as me about the looming showdown between the remarkable Vasyl Lomachenko and impressive Teofimo Lopez coming in less than a month?

Lomachenko, 32, the Ukrainian stylist known as “Hi Tech,” has that incredible footwork and ability to control distance. He’s a master of frustrating opponents and imposing his style of darting in and out of danger. But as good as he is, he can’t sell tickets. Only hardcore fans appreciate his peerless boxing skills.

Lopez, 23, hails from Brooklyn and has that ex-factor you can’t teach. He’s pizzazz and panache with a punch. That combination of flair and power excites fans and seemingly makes him a natural gate attraction. But in spite of his electric abilities, he’s facing a master boxer. Is he ready?

Top Rank is known for having a team of matchmakers headed by boxing wizard Bruce Trampler. It makes me wonder why they are pitting these two against each other?

The probable answer: neither sells out an arena alone. May the best man win.

A friend of mine from East L.A., who formerly boxed and comes from a boxing family, shared his knowledge and opinion on the matchup. He has an interesting take.

“His footwork is incredible,” said George Rodriguez about Lomachenko. “Don’t get me wrong, Teofimo is an incredible talent, but Lomachenko has that footwork.”

Any way you look at it, the winner of this clash clearly bumps up his own image.

Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) versus Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs) at the MGM Grand Bubble in Las Vegas on October 17. Mark down that date. It will be televised on ESPN.

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