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Arne K. Lang




News arrived several months back that Herb Lambeck had died. Lambeck, who acquired the cognomen Herbie Hoops, spent his final months in a VA convalescent home in New Jersey. He had come full circle, returning to his home state to live out his days, but while he spent his formative years in crusty Newark and was shaped by that greasy spoon of a city, he was foremost a symbol of old Las Vegas. A man who lived by his wits and was honest to a fault in his own idiosyncratic way, Herb Lambeck had a valued opinion when it came to college basketball and especially boxing and within his tight-knit community a man did not stand tall without a valued opinion.

Lambeck cultivated an interest in boxing at his uncle Solomon Lambeck’s tavern. Friday nights were always packed, not merely because it was payday and folks were flush, but because the black-and-white TV above the bar was tuned to the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports (“look sharp, feel sharp, be sharp”), the NBC boxing show from Madison Square Garden. Lambeck wasn’t old enough to drink, but as the owner’s nephew he had the run of the joint. It was his habit on Friday nights to get there early to claim a ringside seat at the bar. Everyone there was a self-proclaimed authority on the sweet science and some of the regulars were quite sharp. Soaking in the conversation instilled in him the seeds of a good handicapper.

Lambeck’s father, who worked in a delicatessen, insisted that his son go to college and squirreled away some money for this purpose. With no particular career in mind, Herbie had many options; just about any college would do. He chose Bradley, a school in Peoria, Illinois, because he was a fan of the school’s basketball team which finished second in the 1950 NCAA and NIT tournaments.

Lambeck earned a degree in history. That opened the door to a job sorting mail in the post office. Bored to death, he signed up for a two-year hitch in the Navy.

In Newark, as in other blue-collar cities with large immigrant populations, finding a bookie was no problem. In Lambeck’s neighborhood, the most prominent bookie was a fellow called Joe the Polack who operated out of a bowling alley. The Polack concealed nothing except his last name. His odds were displayed for all to see on a blackboard at the front counter.

Lambeck recalled that he made his first wager on a boxing match during his junior year of college when he returned home during the Thanksgiving break. Joe the Polack chalked Harold Johnson a 4/1 favorite over Nino Valdez. Lambeck laid the odds, risking $24 to win $6. Johnson won every round.

Most professional gamblers went broke at some point in their career. Lambeck was no exception. His Waterloo came in the famous Heidi game of 1968. Football fans went ballistic when NBC turned away from the Jets-Raiders game with 105 seconds on the clock so that the children’s movie “Heidi” could start at the appointed time. During the blackout, the Raiders scored two touchdowns to overcome a 3-point deficit. Herbie, who was then betting on credit, had his case money on the Jets. Goodbye Newark, hello Las Vegas. (Lambeck eventually paid off what he owed.)

In Las Vegas, Lambeck moved into the Casbah, a three-story hotel with a small casino in the lobby. The place was shabby but the location was ideal; he never learned to drive a car. The major casinos downtown with their various restaurant offerings and most of the town’s bookie joints were only a few blocks away. (In those days, the casinos were prohibited by state law from offering sports betting; the little bookie joints got all the action.)

Lambeck first attracted notice for his college basketball smarts. That brought him to the attention of a local character named Jimmy the Greek whose betting line was being syndicated to dozens of newspapers. The Greek, who became a famous TV sports personality, eventually had no time to formulate a daily betting line – there was too much on his plate — so he sub-contracted the chore to others. They were ghostwriters who worked with numbers rather than words. Herb Lambeck, aka Herbie Hoops, was his college basketball man.

Lambeck became associated with Leroy’s, a storefront bookie joint sandwiched between two pawn shops. Leroy’s sat on the shady side of the street, literally when the Golden Nugget built a hotel tower and figuratively before that. No one quite knew what Lambeck did there – it wasn’t his workplace so much as his clubhouse — but, as had been the case at Uncle Sol’s saloon, Herbie had the run of the joint.

Nevada’s bookmakers were leery about dealing boxing because it was hard to draw two-way action and all but the biggest fights were thought to be susceptible to “arrangements.” In 1978, Lambeck was induced to post odds on the 12-round non-title fight between Larry Holmes and Earnie Shavers. He made Holmes a 3/1 favorite.

Leroy’s had the betting line up first. Word got around and the little bookie joint was inundated with bets on Shavers. Lambeck stuck to his opinion, lowering the odds only a shade, and when Holmes won, the house emerged a big winner.

From that point on, although it’s hard to set a demarcation point, Lambeck was known more for boxing than for basketball. And he maintained his new identity as bookmaking in Nevada moved into the corporate era. During the transition, a company called Las Vegas Sports Consultants emerged as the pre-eminent oddsmaking firm. The firm’s founder, Michael Roxborough, considered Herbie a mentor and it became common knowledge that the boxing odds disseminated by LVSC were manufactured by Lambeck.

Lambeck’s name resonated beyond Nevada when he agreed to submit odds for “Boxing Update” and “Flash,” periodicals published in Capitola, California by a man named Virgil Thrasher. These were modest 12-page newsletters, “Update” a monthly and “Flash” a bi-monthly, but at their peak they had 6000 subscribers.

Lambeck holstered his odds with concise and often caustic observations. He was no friend to promoters selling mismatches under the pretense of a live underdog.

Lambeck conceded that he was lucky to win his wager when Julio Cesar Chavez met Meldrick Taylor in their first encounter in 1990, but his analysis was spot on. “Chavez’s granite-like chin, punching accuracy and mental toughness are too tough to overcome,” he wrote. “Somehow, someway, Chavez will prevail.” Likewise, his preview of the Foreman-Moorer fight was eerily prophetic: “Moorer looks ripe to be taken. He doesn’t have the best beard in the world and I can see Foreman clocking him. New champion.”

This isn’t meant to suggest that Herbie was infallible. He was as shocked as anyone – and more than a little embarrassed — when Buster Douglas upset Mike Tyson. He had written that an appropriate venue for the fight was a garbage scow in Newark Bay. The smart money was on Riddick Bowe when Bowe opposed Evander Holyfield in the first installment of their trilogy, but Lambeck wouldn’t budge. “I have a feeling about Bowe,” he wrote. “I think he is soft and will unravel like a spool of twine the first time he’s in trouble. If I’m wrong, it will cost me dearly.”

He was wrong. It cost him dearly.

A life-long bachelor with simple tastes, Lambeck wasn’t a high roller. A very large wager for him was a wager in which he put several thousand dollars at risk. But he hobnobbed with some of the heavy hitters, men like Billy Baxter and Ahmed Bey, both of whom dabbled in the management of prizefighters, and the great British promoter Mickey Duff who turned up in Las Vegas for all the big fights. A relationship he forged with Vegas visitor Ivor Thomas, the owner of a small betting chain in the U.K., was personally and materially rewarding. The odds against a popular British fighter like Frank Bruno were always juicier across the pond. Conversely, if one favored Bruno, betting on him in Las Vegas offered more value.

Lambeck’s byline opened doors. With it, he passed muster with the gatekeepers at pre-fight press luncheons. The buffet that Caesars Palace rolled out for the boxing media would satisfy the palate of the most finicky gourmand. The pastries tasted as scrumptious as they looked. But Herbie, a sporadic attendee, never touched the food. This would have violated his ethos. By his reckoning, he wasn’t entitled as he wasn’t there in the role of a news reporter. He was there to sniff out a bet.

“Pittsburgh Phil” Smith, a fabled horseplayer from the early days of the American turf, reportedly developed a sixth sense for gleaning how badly a trainer wanted to win a race by studying his body language as he communicated to the jockey in the paddock, a heightened sensitivity to what professional poker players call “tells.” Lambeck brought his tell detector to confabs where boxers seated on a dais are required to say a few words and answer a few questions. Protocol dictates bravado, but sometimes that bravado doesn’t ring true. Sometimes there is something in the body language of a boxer that betrays an anxiety that is inconsistent with the formulaic words coming out of his mouth.

There came a day when Lambeck took to submitting his odds to Thrasher’s publications without commentary. Somewhat later, he abruptly stopped. Las Vegas bookmaker Art Manteris filled the void.

Lambeck never elaborated on why he quit, but dropped hints that he had been threatened with mayhem if he didn’t let up on the brickbats. Herbie attached the word “exhibition” to some fights, deeming them unworthy of being dignified with a betting line. Even some heavily hyped matches (e.g., De La Hoya-Camacho) were dismissed as mere exhibitions. Did a promoter send word to Lambeck through a henchman that something bad would happen to him if he persisted in this practice? That was the scuttlebutt.

In the world that Lambeck inhabited he was bound to cross paths with some hard-boiled characters. He didn’t encourage a relationship with Tony Spilotro, but it was hard to say no to Tony the Ant.

Played to perfection by Joe Pesci in the movie “Casino,” Tony Spilotro arrived in Las Vegas in the early ‘70s as an enforcer for the Chicago Mob. It was his job to see that the “skim” (the money embezzled from casino profits) wasn’t skimmed away by other interests. Standing five-foot-two, the stocky, quick-tempered Spilotro was pound for-pound the toughest guy in town, even when he wasn’t carrying a weapon. And like so many others of his ilk, a thirst for sports action was embedded in his DNA. During college basketball season, Tony the Ant was Lambeck’s morning wake-up call: “Herbie, this is Tony. Who we got today?”

In the summer of 1986, a farmer spreading herbicide in an Indiana cornfield stumbled upon the fresh remains of Tony the Ant and his brother Michael Spilotro. There were indications they had been tortured and buried alive. “When they found Tony’s body,” Lambeck told a mutual friend, “I was so relieved. I had a nice run with him but I knew that someday I would fall into a bad slump and I didn’t know how he would react.”

Tony Spilotro was a scary guy. Lore has it that he was involved in 22 murders. But Lambeck’s qualms may have been symptomatic of a more general malaise. As he approached the last full decade of his life, Lambeck became more withdrawn and began to exhibit behaviors consistent with the clinical definition of paranoia.

Lambeck left Las Vegas one day without the formality of saying goodbye. The story I got, which I couldn’t confirm, was that a nephew drove out from New Jersey to visit him, could see that something just wasn’t quite right, and cajoled Herbie into going back home with him.

Lambeck’s disappearance prompted a visit to the seedy little hotel that he called home. It wasn’t called the Casbah anymore, having taken on a new name, the Queen of Hearts. Lambeck, it was learned, had paid his rent in full for the entire year before leaving town (this was in the early summer, if memory serves). The clerk at the front counter worked under the assumption that someday he would look up and there would be Herbie, walking in the front door. But he never returned.

In some ways it was better this way. Lambeck was a creature of habit. Downtown Las Vegas, like much of the city, was morphing into something that would have taken him out of his comfort zone.

Lambeck was in the habit of taking his lunch at the Plaza Hotel which fronts the stretch of Fremont Street once known as Glitter Gulch. After Lambeck left town, this stretch, a four-block corridor, was converted into a pedestrian mall where high-decibel computerized light shows entertain well-lubricated tourists and conventioneers consuming godawful concoctions sucked through a straw in a large plastic souvenir glass. Lambeck would run for the hills at the very sight of such people. He would eventually outlive the place where he hung his hat. The Queen of Hearts was demolished to make way for a new City Hall.

Lambeck didn’t fall off the map entirely. Several of his old friends ferreted out his whereabouts and kept in touch. Ivor Thomas, the U.K. bookmaker, was one of them. But as the end days approached for Lambeck, these long-distance telephone chats became more awkward. “He just wasn’t the same Herbie that we had all come to know,” Thomas told me. He didn’t need to elaborate. Like so many of his favorite boxers, Lambeck in his dotage couldn’t roll back the encroaching fog.

I think of Lambeck whenever I find myself in a sports book pondering the odds on a boxing match. I half expect to hear someone say, “Well, who does Herbie like?” His memory lingers.



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The BWAA Shames Veteran Referee Laurence Cole and Two Nebraska Judges

Arne K. Lang



In an unprecedented development, the Boxing Writers Association of America has started a “watch list” to lift the curtain on ring officials who have “screwed up.” Veteran Texas referee Laurence Cole and Nebraska judges Mike Contreras and Jeff Sinnett have the unwelcome distinction of being the first “honorees.”

“Boxing is a sport where judges and referees are rarely held accountable for poor performances that unfairly change the course of a fighter’s career and, in some instances, endanger lives,” says the BWAA in a preamble to the new feature. Hence the watch list, which is designed to “call attention to ‘egregious’ errors in scoring by judges and unacceptable conduct by referees.”

Contreras and Sinnett, residents of Omaha, were singled out for their scorecards in the match between lightweights Thomas Mattice and Zhora Hamazaryan, an eight round contest staged at the WinnaVegas Casino in Sloan, Iowa on July 20. They both scored the fight 76-75 for Mattice, enabling the Ohio fighter to keep his undefeated record intact via a split decision.

Although Mattice vs. Hamazaryan was a supporting bout, it aired live on ShoBox. Analyst Steve Farhood, who was been with ShoBox since the inception of the series in 2001, called it one of the worst decisions he had ever seen. Lead announcer Barry Tompkins went further, calling it the worst decision he has seen in his 40 years of covering the sport.

Laurence Cole (pictured alongside his father) was singled out for his behavior as the third man in the ring for the fight between Regis Prograis and Juan Jose Velasco at the Lakefront Arena in New Orleans on July 14. The bout was televised live on ESPN.

In his rationale for calling out Cole, BWAA prexy Joseph Santoliquito leaned heavily on Thomas Hauser’s critique of Cole’s performance in The Sweet Science. “Velasco fought courageously and as well as he could,” noted Hauser. “But at the end of round seven he was a thoroughly beaten fighter.”

His chief second bullied him into coming out for another round. Forty-five seconds into round eight, after being knocked down for a third time, Velasco spit out his mouthpiece and indicated to Cole that he was finished. But Cole insisted that the match continue and then, after another knockdown that he ruled a slip, let it continue for another 35 seconds before Velasco’s corner mercifully threw in the towel.

Controversy has dogged Laurence Cole for well over a decade.

Cole was the third man in the ring for the Nov. 25, 2006 bout in Hildalgo, Texas, between Juan Manuel Marquez and Jimrex Jaca. In the fifth round, Marquez sustained a cut on his forehead from an accidental head butt. In round eight, another accidental head butt widened and deepened the gash. As Marquez was being examined by the ring doctor, Cole informed Marquez that he was ahead on the scorecards, volunteering this information while holding his hand over his HBO wireless mike. The inference was that Marquez was free to quit right then without tarnishing his record. (Marquez elected to continue and stopped Jaca in the next round.)

This was improper. For this indiscretion, Cole was prohibited from working a significant fight in Texas for the next six months.

More recently, Cole worked the 2014 fight between Vasyl Lomachenko and Orlando Salido at the San Antonio Alamodome. During the fight, Salido made a mockery of the Queensberry rules for which he received no point deductions and only one warning. Cole’s performance, said Matt McGrain, was “astonishingly bad,” an opinion echoed by many other boxing writers. And one could site numerous other incidents where Cole’s performance came under scrutiny.

Laurence Cole is the son of Richard “Dickie” Cole. The elder Cole, now 87 years old, served 21 years as head of the Texas Department of Combat Sports Regulation before stepping down on April 30, 2014. At various times during his tenure, Dickie Cole held high executive posts with the World Boxing Council and North American Boxing Federation. He was the first and only inductee into the inaugural class of the Texas Boxing Hall of Fame, an organization founded by El Paso promoter Lester Bedford in 2015.

From an administrative standpoint, boxing in Texas during the reign of Dickie Cole was frequently described in terms befitting a banana republic. Whenever there was a big fight in the Lone Star State, his son was the favorite to draw the coveted refereeing assignment.

Boxing is a sideline for Laurence Cole who runs an independent insurance agency in Dallas. By law in Texas (and in most other states), a boxing promoter must purchase insurance to cover medical costs in the event that one or more of the fighters on his show is seriously injured. Cole’s agency is purportedly in the top two nationally in writing these policies. Make of that what you will.

Complaints of ineptitude, says the WBAA, will be evaluated by a “rotating committee of select BWAA members and respected boxing experts.” In subsequent years, says the press release, the watch list will be published quarterly in the months of April, August, and December (must be the new math).

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The Avila Perspective, Chapter 8: Competing Cards in N.Y. and L.A.

David A. Avila



Rival boxing shows compete this Saturday as light heavyweight world titlists are featured in New Jersey while former world champion welterweights and middleweights tangle in New York.

A mere 150 miles separate the two fight cards staged in Uniondale, N.Y. and Atlantic City.

But there’s no mercy inside the boxing ring and certainly no mercy between boxing promotions. While Main Events stages WBO light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev and WBA light heavyweight titlist Dmitry Bivol in separate bouts, DiBella Entertainment stacks former champs Andre Berto against Devon Alexander in a welterweight clash.

Take your pick.

Russia’s Kovalev (32-2-1, 28 KOs) has lost some luster and hopes to reboot his popularity with a win against Canada’s Eleider Alvarez (23-0, 11 KOs). But he will be directly competing against WBA champ Bivol (13-0, 11 KOs), also of Russia, who defends against Isaac Chilemba (25-5-2) of South Africa.

HBO will televise both light heavyweight title fights.

Bivol, 27, has slowly, almost glacier-like slow, picked up fans along the way by training in Southern California. The quiet unassuming fighter with a conservative style and cobra-like quickness appeals to the fans.

“I do not think that now I am the best light heavyweight, but I am now one of the best. One of four guys,” said Bivol during a press conference call. “But I hope in not the far future, we will know who is the best.”

That, of course, would mean a date with Kovalev should both fighters win on Saturday. Nothing is certain.

Kovalev, now 35, has lost some of that fear factor aura since losing back-to-back fights to now retired Andre Ward. Though he’s cracked two opponents in succession by knockout, many are pointing to the potential showdown with Bivol as the moment of truth.

“Most likely this fight is gonna happen since both Sergey and I are HBO boxers and as long as that’s what the people want, most likely the fight will happen,” said Bivol. “Me and Sergey will make sure to give this fight to the people.”

It’s time for the build-up and it starts on Saturday Aug. 4, on HBO.

“That’s certainly a goal of Sergey’s and he’s made it very clear to me that that’s what he wants to do,” said promoter Kathy Duva, CEO of Main Events. “He wants to do unification fights if he is successful with Eleider Alvarez. That’s what he wants to do next; he’s been very clear about that.”


Five former world champions stack the fight card at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.

Former welterweight world champs Andre Berto (31-5, 24 KOs) and Devon Alexander (27-4-1, 14 KOs) lead the charge in a 12-round clash. FOX will televise the main event and others at 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET.

Berto, 34, has been fighting once a year so it’s difficult to determine if age has crept into his reflexes. When he knocked out Victor Ortiz in a rematch two years ago Berto looked sharp and dangerous. But against Shawn Porter a year ago, the crispness seemed gone and he quickly lost by knockout.

Alexander, 31, has the advantage of being a southpaw. But he always seems to do the minimum when he fights. Last February he slowed down and allowed Victor Ortiz to steal the fight. All the commotion by the announcers was for naught. Defense does not win fights, it allows you to win fights. The lack of offense in the latter rounds cost Alexander a win in a match that entered the books as a majority draw.

It’s a curious matchup of former world champions.

Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin (33-1-1, 23 KOs) the former WBO middleweight titlist meets J’Leon Love (24-1-1, 13 KOs) in a super middleweight bout set for 10 rounds. It’s another intriguing fight especially between two fighters with great personalities.

Quillin, 35, was ambushed by Daniel Jacobs in the first round a year ago in losing the title. Was it bad luck, age or both? As a fighter the Brooklyn-based prizefighter has a ton of followers who like him as a person. Few are as classy as Quillin.

Love, 30, has long been a mainstay in Las Vegas and since his amateur days his abilities have been touted. Throughout the years Love has shown that charm and friendliness can go a long ways, even in the bitter wars of prizefighting. But the time has come to see if he belongs in the prizefighting world. Quillin will present an immense challenge for Love.

A number of other interesting fights are slated to take place among former world champions including Sergey Lipinets who lost the super lightweight title to Mikey Garcia this past winter. There’s also Luis Collazo in a welterweight match.

One world title fight does take place on the card.

Female WBA super middleweight titlist Alicia Napoleon (9-1) makes the first defense of her title against Scotland’s Hannah Rankin (5-1). It’s a 10 round bout and the first time Napoleon defends the title since winning it last March against Germany’s Femke Hermans. Ironically, Hermans now has the WBO super middleweight title after defeating former champ Nikki Adler by decision this past May.

L.A. Congestion

Next week the city of Angels will be packed with three fight cards in four days.

First, on Wednesday Aug. 8, 360 Promotions stages Abraham Lopez (9-1-1, 3 KOs) versus Gloferson Ortizo (12-0-1, 6 KOs) in the main event at the Avalon Theater in Hollywood, Calif. This is Filipino fighter Ortizo’s ninth fight this year. You read that correctly.

All of Ortizo’s fights have taken place across the border in Tijuana. The 32-year-old now returns to California against another Californian in Lopez. He’ll be looking for his fourth consecutive knockout, but Lopez, 22, has not lost a fight since his pro debut. Inactivity might come into play for Lopez who hasn’t stepped in the boxing ring in over a year.

New York’s Brian Ceballo (3-0) returns in a six round welterweight bout against local fighter Tavorus Teague (5-20-4). Ceballo, who is promoted by 360 Promotions, looked good in his last appearance. The amateurish punches seen in his first two bouts were gone by his third pro fight. His opponent Teague has ability and can give problems if Ceballo takes his foot off the pedal.

One of Gennady “GGG” Golovkin’s training partners Ali Akhmedov (11-0, 8 KOs) makes his California debut when he meets Jorge Escalante (9-1-1, 6 KOs) in a light heavyweight match.

Female super lightweight Elvina White (2-0) is also slated to compete. The entire fight card will be streamed at and on the 360 Promotions page on Facebook. First bell rings at 6:15 p.m.

Belasco Theater in downtown L.A. is the site of Golden Boy Promotions fight card on Friday Aug. 10. A pair of young prospects will be severely tested.

San Diego’s Genaro Gamez (8-0, 5 KOs) meets Filipino fighter Recky Dulay (10-3, 7 KOs) for the vacant NABF super featherweight title. For Dulay it’s always kill or be killed. Five of his last fights have ended in knockout wins or losses.

Gamez, 23, seems to thrive under pressure and broke down two veterans in back-to-back fights at Fantasy Springs Casino. Now he returns to the Belasco, a venue where he has struggled in the past. But this time he’s the main event.

Another being severely tested will be Emilio Sanchez (15-1, 10 KOs) facing veteran Christopher Martin (30-10-3, 10 KOs) who is capable of beating anyone.

Sanchez, 24, lost by knockout in his last fight this past March. He’s talented and fearless and one mistake cost him his first loss as a pro. He’s not getting a break against Martin, a cagey fighter who has upset many young rising prospects in the past. Martin also has experience against world champions. It’s an extremely tough matchup for Sanchez.

The fight card will be televised by Estrella TV beginning at 6 p.m.

World Title Fight

On Saturday, boxing returns to the Avalon Theater in Hollywood.

The main event is a good one as Puerto Rico’s Jesus Rojas (26-1-2, 19 KOs) defends the WBA featherweight world title against Southern California’s Jojo Diaz (26-1) in a 12 round clash. It’s power versus speed.

Rojas, 31, is one tough customer. When he took the interim title against Claudia Marrero last year he chased down the speedy southpaw Dominican and blasted him out in the seventh round. Several months earlier he obliterated another Golden Boy prospect, Abraham Lopez (not the same Abraham Lopez that is fighting on the 360 Promotions card), in eight rounds. Now he has the title and defends against the speedy southpaw Diaz.

Diaz, 25, just recently lost a bid for the WBC featherweight title against Gary Russell Jr. Though he lost by decision three months ago, that fight might be easy in comparison to this challenge against Rojas.

The former Olympian won’t be able to take a breath against the Puerto Rican slugger who is about as rough as they come.

Two more undefeated Golden Boy prospects get a chance to eliminate each other when Philadelphia’s Damon Allen (15-0-1) meets East L.A.’s Jonathan Navarro (14-0, 7 KOs) in a super lightweight fight set for 10 rounds.

Phillie versus East LA is like fire versus fire in the boxing ring. Boxers originating from those two hard-bitten areas usually have go-for-broke styles that result in pure action. Allen versus Navarro should not disappoint.

Allen, 25, is not a hard puncher but he’s aggressive and like most Philadelphia fighters, he’s not afraid to mix it up.

Navarro, 21, lives in East L.A. but trains in Riverside under Robert Garcia. He’s slowly finding his timing and will be facing the fastest fighter since his pro debut in 2015.

Others featured on the card will be Hector Tanajara, Aaron McKenna and Ferdinand Kerobyan.

The card will be streamed on the Golden Boy Fight Night page on Facebook beginning at 6 p.m.

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What’s Next for Manny Pacquiao?

Kelsey McCarson




Manny Pacquiao isn’t quite ready to retire, and more big-money fights against high-level competition seem to be on the 39-year-old’s way.

“I feel like I’m a 27-year-old,” Pacquiao told’s Jamil Santos last week. “Expect more fights to come.”

Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39 KOs) looked exceptionally sharp in his seventh-round knockout win over former junior welterweight titleholder Lucas Matthysse on July 15 at Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was Pacquiao’s best performance in at least four years, netting Pacquiao a secondary world title at welterweight along with a slew of renewed public interest in the boxing superstar’s career.

But what comes next for the only fighter in the history of boxing to capture world titles in eight different weight classes? TSS takes a detailed look at the potential opponents for one of the sport’s most celebrated stars.

Cream of the Crop

Pacquiao looked good enough against Matthysse to suggest he’d make a viable candidate to face either Terence Crawford or Vasyl Lomachenko next. Crawford is ranked No. 2 on the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board’s pound-for-pound list while Lomachenko slots at No. 1.

While Pacquiao is no longer under contract with longtime promoter Bob Arum at Top Rank, most industry insiders expect he will continue working with Arum’s team in some capacity so long as his career keeps moving forward. Pacquiao started his own promotional venture, MP Promotions, to co-promote the Matthysse bout with Oscar De La Hoya, but Top Rank was still involved in the fight which is why the bout ended up streaming on ESPN+.

Top Rank’s two hottest commodities at the present are Ring Magazine and WBA lightweight champ Lomachenko and welterweight titlist Crawford. Both are highly-regarded, multi-division world titleholders in the primes of their careers who are universally considered the top fighters in boxing.

Lomachenko and Crawford would each present a unique set of problems for Pacquiao stylistically. Of the two, Pacquiao probably matches up best with Lomachenko at this point in his career. Crawford (33-0, 24 KOs) is much larger and heavier than both Pacquiao and Lomachenko, and unless Pacquiao just really wants to test himself against someone incredibly dangerous, it’d probably be best for Team Pacquiao to avoid fighting Crawford at all costs. Crawford would be a heavy favorite against Pacquiao and most boxing insiders don’t believe this version of Pacquiao could compete with Crawford.

Lomachenko (11-1, 9 KOs) is naturally smaller than Pacquiao and has never fought above 135 pounds. If Pacquiao could lure Lomachenko to 140 pounds or above, he’d find himself in a winnable fight against a top-notch opponent. Lomachenko would probably be the slight favorite based on age alone but Pacquiao’s power and athleticism would give him a realistic chance to pull the upset.

Other Notable Possibilities

Former junior welterweight titleholder Amir Khan has long been angling for a bout against Pacquiao. Khan faces Samuel Vargas on Sept. 8 in another comeback bout against lower level competition. Khan (32-4, 20 KOs) bravely moved up to middleweight to fight Canelo Alvarez in 2016 but was knocked out in the sixth round. He left the sport for a spell but returned to boxing in February as a welterweight with a sensational first round knockout win over Phil Lo Greco. A win over Vargas puts Khan in good position to secure a bout with Pacquiao, and the fight is a reasonable move by both camps. Pacquiao would probably be the heavy favorite, but Khan’s speed and long reach give him a decent chance to pull the upset.

Former welterweight titleholder Jeff Horn won a controversial decision over Pacquiao last year in Australia. The bout grabbed huge ratings for ESPN and there have been many debates since it happened as to which fighter truly deserved the nod from the judges. Horn (18-1-1, 12 KOs) doesn’t possess elite level talent, but he’s huge compared to Pacquiao and fights with such ferocity that the two can’t help but make an aesthetically pleasing fight together. Pacquiao would be the heavy favorite to defeat Horn if the two fight again.

Pacquiao vs. PBC fighters?

Boxing’s current political climate and the ongoing battle of promoters and television networks for the hearts and minds of boxing fans usually leaves many compelling fights between top level stars off the table. Fighters promoted by Top Rank and Golden Boy are almost never able to secure bouts with fighters signed to Al Haymon to appear under the Premier Boxing Champions banner and vice versa. But Pacquiao’s free agent status opens up new and interesting possibilities for the fighter to pursue noteworthy PBC fighters.

There had been lots of chatter about Pacquiao facing Mikey Garcia next. Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs) has been decimating competition at both lightweight and junior welterweight. Garcia is considered by most experts to be one of the top 10 pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. He’s the TBRB junior welterweight champion and a unified lightweight titleholder (WBC, IBF). While Garcia is hoping to land a big money bout against IBF welterweight titleholder Errol Spence, most boxing experts believe the jump up to 147 pounds would be too much for the diminutive Garcia who began his career at featherweight. A better welterweight target for Garcia would be Pacquiao who also began his career in a much lower weight class.

Spence (24-0, 21 KOs) is probably the best of the PBC welterweights. He’s considered by many to be on par with Crawford at 147 so it would be an incredibly dangerous bout for Pacquiao to go after at this point in his career. But Spence is aggressive and fights in a style that Pacquiao traditionally matches up very well against. Spence would be the favorite based on size, age and skill.

Slightly less dangerous to Pacquiao would be facing the winner of the Sept. 8 battle between Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter. Garcia (34-1, 20 KOs) and Porter (28-2-1, 17 KOs) are fighting for the vacant WBC welterweight title and the possibility of capturing another world title in his career could sway Pacquiao to seek out the winner. Pacquiao could find himself a slight favorite or underdog depending on which of the two fighters he would face, but both would be winnable fights.

The WBA welterweight champion is Keith Thurman. Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs) is a good boxer with tremendous power but Pacquiao’s speed and athleticism would probably give him the leg up in that potential matchup. Thurman hasn’t fought in over 16 months though and recent pictures suggest he’s not in fighting shape at the moment, so the likelihood of a Pacquiao vs. Thurman fight is pretty much nil.

Some fans want Pacquiao to face Adrien Broner. Broner (33-3-1, 24 KOs) is a solid contender at 147 but probably doesn’t have the skill to seriously compete with Pacquiao. Pacquiao would be a significant favorite and would likely stop Broner if the two were able to meet in a boxing ring.

Mayweather-Pacquiao 2?

Pacquiao lost a unanimous decision to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2015, but the circumstances surrounding the fight, and the fact it was the biggest box office bash in the history of the sport, have led many to suspect the two fighters would meet again in a rematch.

Yes, Mayweather (50-0, 27 KOs) is retired, but he’s unretired several times in his career for big money fights including last year’s crossover megafight with UFC star Conor McGregor. While it seems unlikely to happen, Mayweather-Pacquiao 2 would still be a huge worldwide event worth millions of dollars to both fighters so those following the sport can never say never to the idea of it happening again.

While Mayweather is 41, he’d still get the nod as the betting favorite should he fight Pacquiao again based on what happened in the first fight as well as his stylistic advantage over Pacquiao.

Pacquiao vs. McGregor?

McGregor’s bout against Mayweather last year was such a financial success and the MMA star made so much more money in the boxing ring than he did as a UFC fighter that the idea of him returning to the sport to face Pacquiao isn’t as far-fetched as one might think.

Pacquiao vs. McGregor would be an easy sell to the general public. According to CompuBox, McGregor landed more punches against Mayweather than did Pacquiao, and the general consensus is that Mayweather-McGregor was more fun to watch than Mayweather-Pacquiao.

The size difference between the two would lead to an easy promotion. McGregor is a junior middleweight and Pacquiao has only competed at the weight once back in 2010. Despite all that, Pacquiao would be a significant favorite to defeat McGregor and rightly so. He’s too fast and too good a boxer, and his aggressive style would likely lead to a stoppage win.

Pacquiao’s Top Targets

Pacquiao’s top targets should be Mayweather, McGregor and Lomachenko. Pacquiao would stand to make the most money facing either Mayweather or McGregor. Pacquiao’s reportedly injured shoulder heading into 2015 bout left many wondering how the fight might be different had the Filipino gone into things at his best, and Mayweather’s age might play more of a factor in the second fight than it did in the first. A Pacquiao-McGregor fight would be a worldwide spectacle, one Pacquiao would be heavily favored to win. Besides, it’d be interesting to see if Pacquiao could stop McGregor sooner than historical rival Mayweather. Finally, Lomachenko might be trying to climb up weight classes too fast, and Pacquiao would certainly be fit to test the validity of that theory. It’d be one of the biggest fights in boxing and a win for Pacquiao would be another huge feather in the cap of one of boxing’s true historically great champions.

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