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Mayweather Will Return And Here's The Most Likely Path

Frank Lotierzo

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He'll surely deny it. In fact he'll even go as far as to say that it misses him more than he misses it. But the evidence offers layers of undeniable proof that former pound-for-pound top dog Floyd Mayweather misses being the main man in professional boxing. Then again, maybe you can say Mayweather is still the main man in the sport in that his routine tweets stimulate more conversation and debate than most high profile bouts that air on HBO and Showtime.

Mayweather 49-0 (26) retired from boxing as the number one pound-for-pound boxer in the world after beating Andre Berto last September. And since he's been retired there's been continued speculation that his return is imminent. Most, myself included, do not believe for a minute that Mayweather will not come back and fight for a 50th time and look to eclipse Rocky Marciano's iconic 49-0 record which has stood since 1955.

Since he's been gone, Floyd has managed to keep himself in the news via presidential candidate Donald Trump's favorite method of communication; twitter. For months Floyd has been tweeting pictures of himself buying new exotic cars, being on dates and sitting poolside with sexy women and hanging out with rappers. He's also gone at it via the media with former friend and current WBA super lightweight title holder Adrien Broner. We've seen pictures of Mayweather sitting court-side at Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks games. In addition to all of that, he's shot down reports that he's going to fight Manny Pacquiao in a rematch and hasn't passed up an opportunity to tweak MMA combatants Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey who both lost their last fight.

Oh yes, Mayweather misses the spotlight. So what he's done in a roundabout way is purchased his own light. I said a few years ago that Floyd would be a week old ghost seven days after he retired. And if it wasn't for Floyd going out of his way to keep himself in the news, that would be the case. Mayweather can talk about living the life in retirement and counting his money all he wants, but Floyd is still a fighter first, and he looked like an elite one in his last two bouts versus Pacquiao and Berto. There's no doubt Floyd misses the accolades that Terence Crawford, Gennady Golovkin, Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev are now getting.

Mayweather hasn't said he's returning to the ring but according to Golovkin's trainer, Abel Sanchez, he just seems to be fixated on fighting Golovkin. “I've seen three or four pieces in the last couple of weeks where he's talking about beating Golovkin,” he told Yahoo Sports. “It looks like he's laying the groundwork for something, whether it's Golovkin or somebody else. Floyd is laying the groundwork for a comeback.” 

And as most know, Mayweather referred to Golovkin as “easy work.” Adding speculation is the fact that Golovkin said back in July that he'd drop weight to make a fight happen. “Look at me, I'm not big, I'm not fat,” Golovkin said at the time, via Boxingscene.com. “My couple of last fights, I was 158, 159. It's possible for me [to go down to fight him]. I would go to 154 just for Floyd. I understand that this is biggest fight in the world. This would show who is who, the best fighter in the world.”

Last week Mayweather commented on Golovkin…saying there are two things Golovkin needs to do to earn the right to challenge him: “He's gotta call out Andre Ward, beat Andre Ward, and then I'll fight him. I haven't seen him call out Andre Ward yet.”

That sounds real authoritative, however it illustrates that Mayweather wants no part of Golovkin and wants Ward to take the risk first. If Golovkin loses to Ward then there's no need for Floyd to fight him, which is what Floyd's counting on.

I say Mayweather's return goes more like this…

He'll wait until after Golovkin beats Dominic Wade next month and Canelo Alvarez beats Amir Khan in May. If things go according to the alleged script, Alvarez and Golovkin will begin negotiations for their awaited showdown shortly afterward. In the eyes of most boxing aficionados, Alvarez-Golovkin is one of the most anticipated bouts, right up there with Kovalev-Ward. Soon after the Alvarez-Golovkin hype begins, Mayweather will announce that he'd like to fight Alvarez for the lineal middleweight title. For Mayweather, the setting couldn't be better. Alvarez is the real middleweight champ because he beat the man who beat the man and he doesn't even fight as a middleweight. Like Floyd and Miguel Cotto before him, Alvarez is the new “catch-weight diva” and never fights above 155, which serves Mayweather perfectly.

Mayweather's ego will swell even more having knocked the Alvarez-Golovkin bout off the schedule and in the process he will have made the fight that's most winnable for him being that he has already out-boxed Alvarez. Floyd needs a story as to why he's coming back for his 50th fight, and the thought of becoming the first junior lightweight title holder in history to win the middleweight title is a great motivating factor for him. He also knows Alvarez will jump at the chance to fight him again and push back fighting Golovkin as long as he can. And that's because it's the smartest move Canelo could make.

For starters, Alvarez has improved since he fought Mayweather two and a half years ago. Canelo surely must believe that it would be different this time with Mayweather being two and a half years older and him being two and a half years more experienced. And let’s face it, going down as the first fighter to beat Mayweather is surely more of a legacy enhancer than being remembered as the first fighter to beat Golovkin. Another reason why he would be best served fighting Mayweather is, under the best case scenario if he loses, it'll be by decision and he won't get beat up, hurt, knocked out or embarrassed. On the other hand, a loss to Golovkin could bruise more than his ego and there's a chance (although I don't think that's the way it'll go) that he could be humiliated in the process.

And lastly, above all else, fighting Mayweather would probably net Alvarez three times more money than he'd make fighting Gennady Golovkin. Alvarez can rebuild his career if he lost to Mayweather again. The re-branding process would begin with the notion Mayweather simply owned the style matchup between them just as he has every other opponent he's faced. Whereas, against Golovkin, Alvarez could be out-manned in a memorable fashion and that would be harder for Alvarez to shake down the road.

I've yet to speak with anyone who is even a quasi-boxing fan who doesn't believe Mayweather will fight for the 50th time. Once Alvarez-Golovkin and Kovalev-Ward start to dominate the talk in boxing circles, I think Floyd will want to blow it up as only he can. And fighting Alvarez for the lineal middleweight title couldn't be more perfect as far as providing Mayweather everything he craves — attention, money and legacy enrichment.   

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

 

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The Ups and Downs of Hall of Fame Boxing Writer Jack Fiske

Arne K. Lang

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Hall of Fame boxing writer Jack Fiske passed away 15 years ago this coming Sunday, Jan. 24, 2006. Fiske was 88 years old.

Fiske was one of the last of the breed, a full-time boxing writer for a major metropolitan daily. They don’t make them like that anymore.

In his final years as a journalist, however, Fiske no longer worked for the San Francisco Chronicle, his longtime employer. To read his stuff required a subscription to a newsletter. And the newsletter, in common with Fiske, had become a dinosaur in a world where the only constant is change. It went belly-up several weeks before Fiske passed away.

Born in New York City in 1917, Jack Fiske attended the University of Alabama where he covered the school’s boxing team for the school newspaper. The star of the team, Fiske was fond of recollecting, was a fiery bantamweight, George Wallace. America would come to know Wallace as the fiery segregationist who served four terms as Governor of Alabama and was a failed U.S. presidential candidate.

After graduation, Fiske worked for a paper in Virginia and two small papers in the Bay Area before latching on with the Chronicle. In addition to covering the fights as a ringside reporter, Fiske authored a twice-weekly feature called “Punching The Bag” that circulated widely among hard-core fans and industry insiders.

Fiske had to be on his toes because for much of his tenure at the paper the arch-rival San Francisco Examiner had a fine full-time boxing man of their own, Eddie Muller, whose son of the same name hosts “Noir Alley” on Turner Classic Movies.

“Punching The Bag” was jam-packed with information and editorial content. Fiske had little tolerance for inept ring officials and regulators who owed their cushy jobs to political connections. First-time promoters, the lifeblood of the sport, were assured of positive ink. But once a promoter became established, he had to earn his props by making competitive matches.

During Fiske’s early days with the Chronicle, the top sports in terms of newspaper coverage were baseball, horseracing, and boxing, and the Bay Area was a beehive of boxing activity. In 1955, there were 73 boxing shows in San Francisco, Oakland, and nearby Richmond. The biggest shows were usually held at the Cow Palace. Ten title fights were staged here beginning with Ezzard Charles’ 1949 world heavyweight title defense against local fan favorite Pat Valentino.

One can guess where this is heading. Bit by bit, the Bay Area boxing scene became fallow. In the eyes of the Chronicle higher-ups, Fiske came to be seen as superfluous. In 1992, the paper let him go. “Punching The Bag” died after an amazing 43-year run.

Fiske hastened his demise as a newspaperman by his disinclination to become more versatile. He never wanted to cover any sport other than boxing. His attraction to the sweet science was manifested in his vast collection of boxing memorabilia which dominated every room of his home.

In 1994, Fiske was persuaded to resurrect his column for “Professional Boxing Update” and its sister publication, “Flash.” These were 12-page newsletters cranked out by a fellow from Capitola, CA, named Virgil Thrasher, a big boxing buff with a second sideline as a blues harmonica player.

At their peak, Thrasher’s newsletters had 6000 subscribers, 10 percent overseas. Circulation-wise, this was a big comedown for Fiske, but he was too professional to approach his assignments half-heartedly. Although he held a grudge against his former employer, his bitterness surfaced only once.

When the Chronicle made no mention of the passing of World War II era lightweight champion Ike Williams, Fiske carped that the sports department was run by clowns more attuned to women’s volleyball than to matters of significance.

“Professional Boxing Update” and “Flash” were modest endeavors, but the contributors were first-rate, most especially during the mid-1990s. Jack Fiske was then in good form, as was acerbic Las Vegas oddsmaker Herb Lambeck, a peerless boxing pricemaker. In those days, no one was better at dissecting a forthcoming fight than lead writer Graham Houston, himself a Future Hall of Famer. Houston, who was the North American correspondent for several British publications, stayed on with Thrasher’s newsletters until the very end.

For some subscribers, these publications functioned mostly as tip sheets. When the opinions of Houston and Lambeck dovetailed, one could wager with a high degree of confidence.

Within four years of joining PBU/Flash, Jack Fiske’s health began to fail and he was unable to meet his deadlines. To ease Fiske’s slide to infirmity, Thrasher took to reprinting some of his old Chronicle columns.

When Virgil Thrasher launched his newsletters in 1985, he stole readers from established magazines by delivering information in a timelier fashion. Ironically, he became a victim of the same force. A new generation of fight fans, weaned on the internet, demanded updates quicker than the mailman could bring.

It would have been nice if Thrasher had continued on for a few more weeks, thereby affording readers a tribute to Jack Fiske on the occasion of his passing. But at least Fiske wasn’t entirely forgotten.

In 2003, at age 85, Fiske was ushered into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. As is the custom when an inductee passes away, the flag atop the Canastota shrine was lowered to half-staff when news arrived of his passing.

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Michael Coffie vs. Darmani Rock Smacks of Joe Joyce vs. Daniel Dubois

Arne K. Lang

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Although it wasn’t a world title fight, the match between Joe Joyce and Daniel Dubois which took place in London on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, attracted a lot of buzz. Only one heavyweight bout in 2020 was more eagerly anticipated, that being the rematch in February between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder.

Joyce vs. Dubois was that rare pairing of two undefeated heavyweights who were roughly at the same stage of their career. Dubois was 15-0 (14 KOs) heading in; Joyce was 11-0 (10).

And that brings us to the crossroads fight on Jan. 30 at the LA Shrine Expo between Darmani Rock (17-0, 12 KOs) and Michael Coffie (11-0, 8 KOs). Unlike Joyce vs. Dubois, this is not a well-marinated showdown, but yet there are some parallels, most notably it’s a match between unbeaten heavyweights in which the victor will undoubtedly make a big jump in public esteem and the loser, more than likely, will be pushed back into the shadows.

There was a big age gap in the Joyce-Dubois fight. The 35-year-old Joyce was the older man by 12 years. Likewise, Rock vs. Coffie features a young old-timer vs. an opponent who is merely young.

Michael Coffie, 34, came to boxing late after serving eight years in the Marine Corps. He entered the New York City Golden Gloves tournament on a whim and with virtually no formal training and yet he succeeded in reaching the finals.

When Coffie (pictured)  turned pro, his manager was none other than Randy Gordon, the former chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission who has kept his hand in boxing as a journalist and radio personality, co-hosting a boxing-themed talk show on Sirius FM with Gerry Cooney. Gordon knows more than a little about heavyweights, having been involved with Bonecrusher Smith who was briefly (very briefly) the WBA world heavyweight champion.

“(Bonecrusher) was not anywhere near the fighter that Mike is,” Gordon told Hall of Fame boxing writer Bernard Fernandez on the occasion of Coffie’s pro debut in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. On that night, Coffie needed only 61 seconds to dismiss his opponent, ending the contest with a short right hand. The sacrificial lamb, wrote Fernandez, “went down like an anvil dropped in the ocean.”

In his most recent fight, on Nov. 7, Coffie was matched against Minnesota veteran Joey Abell, a noted spoiler. Abell would have been a good measuring rod for assessing Coffie’s progress, but unfortunately the bout was over almost before it started. Early in the second round, Abell suffered a biceps injury while throwing a punch and couldn’t continue.

The “A” side in this fight, however, isn’t Coffie but the other guy. Darmani Rock, 24, had an outstanding amateur career, winning several important tournaments including the 2014 Youth World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria. Rock was upset in the finals of the 2016 Olympic Trials and then turned pro, signing with Roc Nation, the deep pockets sports management company founded by Jay-Z.

darmani

Darmani Rock on the right

Questions have been raised, however, about Rock’s dedication. He weighed 278 pounds in his last fight, 30 pounds more than in his pro debut. (Coffie’s fighting weight also hovers around 270 and he is the same approximate height – both are listed at 6’5” — but Coffie has always been big.)  Moreover, Rock has been inactive for 15 months and may have trouble shaking off the rust.

Darmani Rock hails from Philadelphia; Michael Coffie from Brooklyn, more fodder for the tub-thumpers. Philadelphia was the stomping grounds of Smokin’ Joe Frazier. The City of Brotherly Love has arguably produced more good prizefighters per capita than any city in the country. Brooklyn spawned Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe, and Shannon Briggs, all of whom bubbled out of gritty Brownsville which also happens to be the neighborhood where Michael Coffie spent much of his youth until he was spirited away to a less threatening environment by foster parents.

I don’t want to get carried away with the Joyce-Dubois analogy. Joe Joyce had a stronger amateur pedigree than Darmani Rock. Daniel Dubois had a spectacular run leading up to his match with Joyce including a one-sided triumph over well-regarded Nathan Gorman. Moreover, neither Joyce nor Dubois had ever fought an opponent with a losing record. The same can’t be said of Coffie and Rock who have built their records on the backs of the usual suspects. Darmani Rock’s last two opponents were both 42 years old.

Moreover, Coffie vs. Rock isn’t the main attraction on the PBC card. Top billing goes to Caleb Plant’s 168-pound title defense against Caleb Truax.

As we recall, the Joyce-Dubois fight produced a major upset. Dubois was understood to be faster on his feet and more heavy-handed – considered more likely to turn the tide with a single punch – but youth was not served on that night at the historic Church House in Westminster. Joyce methodically peppered Dubois with his jab which caused a big lump to develop over Dubois’s left eye. The eye eventually shut completely and the fight ended in the 10th round with Dubois taking a knee and allowing himself to be counted out. Joyce’s victory elevated him to #2 in the WBO rankings, a notch below Oleksandr Usyk who is potentially his next opponent.

One doesn’t know what will transpire when Coffie fights Rock, but as Michael Buffer would say, “someone’s ‘O’ will have to go.” Fights of this nature are inherently intriguing and that goes double when the combatants are heavyweights.

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“One Night in Miami”: Film Review by Thomas Hauser

Thomas Hauser

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On February 25, 1964, Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. defeated Charles “Sonny” Liston in Miami Beach over the course of six remarkable rounds to claim the heavyweight championship of the world. Late that night, the new champion found himself in a room at Hampton House (a black hotel in segregated Miami) with Malcolm X, several other followers of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad, and football great Jim Brown. Soul singer Sam Cooke (a friend of Clay’s) had been at the fight, but there’s no historical record of his being in the hotel room with the others at that time.

One Night in Miami is built around imagining what transpired in that room amongst Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke. Directed by Regina King from a screenplay by Kemp Powers, it’s available on Amazon Prime.

The film fits into the genre known as historical fiction. Dramatic license was taken. Viewers should understand that, at times, it’s allegorical rather than an accurate factual recounting. The larger question is whether the film is impressionistically honest. The answer is “yes.”

One Night in Miami begins with the 1963 fight between Clay and Henry Cooper in London. It then segues to Cooke being treated rudely by an all-white audience at the Copacabana, followed by Jim Brown (the greatest running back in National Football League history) being reminded by a patronizing southern gentleman that he’s just a “n—–.” Next, we see Malcolm as the Nation of Islam’s most charismatic spokesman, after which the scene shifts to Liston-Clay I.

Thirty-four minutes into the film, the drama moves to Hampton House.

Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke were prominent in different ways. Each was young, black, and famous. But Malcolm was a social and religious figure of considerable intellect while the other three were known as entertainers.

The dialogue between the four men is light at first and then turns serious.

Malcolm is played by Kingsley Ben-Adir. On what should have been one of the greatest nights of his life, his world is slipping away. His deadly rupture with Elijah Muhammad is almost complete. Soon, Clay will abandon him. Ben-Adir comes across as a bit weaker and more tentative than one might expect, although Malcolm’s intellect is evident in his performance.

It’s hard to imagine anyone playing Cassius Clay well except the young Muhammad Ali. But Eli Goree bears a resemblance to Clay and is pretty good in the role.

Jim Brown was an intimidating physical presence. Aldis Hodge lacks this physicality but his performance is solid.

Leslie Odom Jr, who plays Sam Cooke, has star quality. He’s the only one of the four major actors who has the charisma and presence of the man he’s portraying. But as a result, Cooke has a stronger on-screen persona than Malcolm. That’s a problem as tensions between the two men boil over.

Toward the end of the film, Malcolm reveals that he intends to leave the Nation of Islam because of differences with Elijah Muhammad and will found a new organization.

“Who’s gonna be in this new organization?” Clay asks.

“I think lots of people will follow me over,” Malcolm answers. “Especially if you come with me.”

Clay, of course, didn’t follow Malcolm. He sided with Elijah Muhammad. One year later, he and Jim Brown were the only participants from the hotel room gathering as portrayed in the film who were still alive. Sam Cooke was shot to death in a California motel on December 11, 1964. On February 21, 1965, Malcolm was assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem.

One Night in Miami cautions us that our icons are flesh and blood human beings with strengths and flaws. In its best moments, the film is a powerful reminder that the issues of self-respect, black empowerment, and racial equality are timeless.

Pictured left to right: Aldis Hodge (Jim Brown), Kingsley Ben-Adir (Malcolm X) Leslie Odom Jr (Sam Cooke) Eli Goree (Cassius Clay)

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book – Staredown: Another Year Inside Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, he was selected for induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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