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The 50 Greatest Lightweights of all Time Part Two: 40-31

Matt McGrain



Floyd Mayweather

by Matt McGrain

Rules are everything.

Whether it’s the laws of physics describing the impact of a left hook upon a granite jaw or the Sweet Science’s editor applying the rules of grammar to the work we writers “bless” him with, they describe what we see, do and feel.  The process of ordering the Fifty Greatest Lightweights of all time, too, is a process described by rules.

Often, these rules throw up numbering that is counter-intuitive.  There is a fine example in this, the second installment in this series, at numbers 38 through 35.  At 38 and 37, I name two of the greatest fighters in history, while at 36 and 35 I name two fighters who were never named true champion and who own but a modicum of the fame commanded by the two men they rank directly above.  But the rules of this process say that actual achievement within the given division is far and away the most important factor and that fame and overall greatness achieved out-with the division count for less.  This is why we run across rankings that are counter-intuitive.

36 and 35 just did more at lightweight than 37 and 38.  They defeated more ranked contenders, achieved greater longevity in the division and also happened to be among the very, very best fighters at the poundage in their own eras.

Keep that in mind as we run down the fortieth to thirty-first greatest lightweights in history.


#40 – Billy Petrolle (89-21-10; Newspaper Decisions 34-4-6)

Billy Petrolle did wonders at the limit of 140lbs and against small welterweights.  He took scalps like Jimmy McLarnin, Battling Battalino and Jimmy Goodrich above the limit that interests us here, spreading his excellence over three weight divisions and perhaps not getting his due upon any of these lists for that fact.

Luck, too, was against him, in his career.

1932: after more than 100 contests, Petrolle finally gets his shot at the lightweight title.  The champion is Tony Canzoneri, a hideous vapor of feints and counter-intuition.  Canzoneri’s left was never better and for many, this was the absolute peak of his incredible career.  Petrolle, maybe – maybe – could have matched or run him close at his own spectacular best but he had a disastrous battle with the poundage in the week before the fight.  His bob and weave, normally so difficult to time, repeatedly saw him bob up onto the Canzoneri left; he dropped a fifteen round decision.  He would never be champion.

This was all the more frustrating because two months before Canzoneri lifted the lightweight title, Petrolle had beaten him.  Stopped only twice at the poundage, by injury, he had courage and pressure to match that chin and he had a left-hook as fine as any in that stacked division outside of perhaps Canzoneri himself.  1-1 is nothing to sniff at, but working entirely within the weight range we are interested in, his next best scalp belongs to Jack “Kid” Berg, and again, Petrolle failed to prove his superiority going 1-1-1.  A series of defeats to the likes of Ray Miller (with whom he also went 1-1-1), Sammy Mandell, King Tut and Tommy Herman also exercises some drag, and for all that it must be allowed that a breakneck schedule like the one he fought to – Petrolle made as many as 24 matches in a year – is going to kick up some losses, Billy had a habit of losing the fight that really mattered.

This puts him below fighters who never proved themselves quite as special but who were a little luckier.

#39 – Edwin Rosario (47-6)

Edwin Rosario had the same unfortunate habit as Petrolle, namely that of losing to the best fighters he fought.  This is a typical habit and one held to by surprisingly great fighters, but in Rosario’s case it is hard to argue that Jose Luis Ramirez, Hector Camacho and Julio Cesar Chavez are the most gifted fighters “Chapo” tangled with.  But for all that Chavez dominated him, these three didn’t have it all their own way and against Ramirez, at least, he also posted a win.  That win, for me, was slightly fortuitous and I think Ramirez can count himself a little unlucky.  Rosario dialed in his right hand in the opening six, which he dominated, but Ramirez’s wonderful shepherding footwork and body attack took its toll late and Rosario found himself unable to control the action, his seemingly perennially injured right no longer a factor.  Regardless the judges gave Rosario the fight.

If he was fortunate (and that’s just one man’s opinion) he didn’t hide behind his fortune; in defense of the vacant strap he won against Ramirez he met ranked men, blasting out Roberto Elizondo in a single round in 1984, that right the most important punch once more, and taking a decision from Howard Davis Jr.  Decking Davis with a left hand in the last round is what made the difference in another desperately close fight, underlining the Puerto Rican’s two-handedness, but Ramirez then exacted a terrible revenge, stopping him in four.

After another hurtful (but close) loss to Hector Camacho, Rosario came again, stopping the superb Livingstone Bramble in just two rounds before Julio Cesar Chavez arrived on the scene.

After that terrible encounter, Rosario would never defeat another ranked fighter.

This leaves him with a ledger of 4-3 against Ring ranked lightweights.  Numerically, it’s not a great mark to leave upon the sport, but Rosario ran into some tough hombres.

#38 – Floyd Mayweather Jr. (49-0)

Floyd Mayweather staged a brief, jabbing drive-by of the lightweight division in 2002 to 2003, a visitation defined by his two-fight rivalry with Jose Luis Castillo (more of whom later).The first fight is the most controversial in the Mayweather canon.  Starting aggressively, Mayweather stabbed with the jab, bagged the first four rounds on my card and seemed in total control.  Then, one of two things happened.  Either Floyd exacerbated a shoulder-injury sustained in training or the clash of styles favored Castillo enough that Mayweather found himself under unprecedented pressure.  Certainly, Castillo made him work, getting closer and closer, buying inches with every half-step and forcing Floyd to flee before him.  This was Mayweather at the end of his first career (Pretty Boy) and beginning of his second (Money) without yet having the studied economy that would sustain him in his quest to dominate bigger men.

Castillo was able to build a head of steam, rattling after him with handfuls of bruising body-punches.  My card says Castillo won, barely, and for those who were dismayed by the rise and rise of the man called “Money”, this fight would remain the crown-jewel of their criticism and certainly it is the closest this Rolls Royce came to engine trouble.  For me, the result was not so controversial.  I thought many of the rounds were close, arguable, and although I do not care for the official scorecards, I think a narrow Mayweather win would have been reasonable.

Having taken the decision against the world’s best lightweight in controversial circumstances, Mayweather dealt the closest thing he would ever have to a nemesis back in with an immediate rematch.  Here began the Mayweather “procession,” his relentless spearing of a bigger man who came to apply pressure, a style not beloved by the fans but one that made him the richest boxer in history.  In truth, there were breathtaking moments.  In the eleventh, with the fight still in the balance, Mayweather turned in a wonderful variety of punches, leading with rights, countering with uppercuts, snapping off the left hook that had been the bane of Castillo throughout.  When Castillo dropped his head to bull, Mayweather would throw that left, countering not just Castillo’s movements but his very essence.  This fight is closer than is generally accepted in my opinion, but there was only one winner.

Depending upon your own personal view of the term lineage, one or the other of these fights made Mayweather the first lineal champion since Pernell Whitaker, and sealed his legacy at the weight.  One of the true jab clinics against Victoriano Sosa and an astonishing show against puncher Phillip Ndou built upon the right hand were the defenses he staged of the lineal title and sneaks him into the top forty.

So lightweight delivers head-to-head monsters in just the second sitting.

#37 – Julio Cesar Chavez (107-6-2)

Here is another one.

Just as Mosley’s lightweight career mirrors Crawford’s, so the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez’s mirrors that of fellow great Mayweather.  While Mayweather jabbed and slipped his way to pre-eminence in his stay at the poundage, Chavez marauded his way to the top.  Although Mayweather spent more time in the ring with ranked men, Chavez destroyed his with such imperiousness and those men were of such quality that he stands a barrier to a higher ranking for Mayweather.

Enjoying the occasional sojourn from 130lbs to 135lbs as he cut his teeth at the lighter poundage, Chavez arrived in earnest in the division in 1987 at the expense of the superb Edwin Rosario.

Rosario was a wonderful lightweight and a wonderful puncher; Chavez brushed him aside like he was nothing.  It was an astonishing performance, one of the best that can be seen on film at any weight and perhaps the single best performance by any lightweight ranked outside the top ten.  Chavez wove punches through the eye of the proverbial needle that night and from the very first round.  Rasario is disciplined, neat in defense, but Chavez, using the bare minimum in terms of room, happily found him with combinations as complex as a double-uppercut, liver-shot  with withering regularity.  Much of the success Rosario had on offense was left-handed – Chavez swallowed the puncher’s blows without a blink, kept him smothered, did the superior work.  On the rare occasions he allowed Rosario to charge, he out-flanked him with head-movement and surging counter-attacks.  He didn’t lose a round.

While Mayweather beat a wonderful drum with his jab, Chavez gave a clinic in combination punching and all that stopped him was the inevitable crumble of his world-class opponent.  After ten rounds of hard work taking fire from a world class puncher, Chavez literally runs out of his corner for the eleventh.  You could almost see Rosario deflate.  He lasted another two minutes, full of guts.

Another first rate lightweight, Jose Luis Ramirez was in desperate need of guts when he met Chavez a year later.  Here, Chavez boxed quite differently, the drip-torture feed of his numbing right hand and his terrifying economy in wasting so few punches proving far too much for the veteran when a clash of heads and resulting cut to Ramirez called for the judges scorecards after ten.

Chavez was on rare form at 135lbs and perhaps could have ruled until Whitaker.  A shallow resume and a paucity of quality title-defenses keep him from the royal climates above, but he was a devastating lightweight.

#36 – Lockport Jimmy Duffy (36-8-4; Newspaper Decisions 60-12-26)

Lockport Jimmy Duffy turned professional in 1908, so while his record indicates he fell four wins short of the magical 100 mark, in reality he probably managed it; even among the elite for the era, fights tended to go unrecorded.

What we know about Duffy, though, makes him more than qualified for this list.

He never fought for the world title, but he bested champions, most prominent among them the great Freddie Welsh.  Duffy was never the pre-eminent lightweight during his career, but he got the best of a series with a man who was, beating Welsh twice to one loss, even dropping him for a short count in their second encounter in 1914.  He also took a decision from Johnny Dundee, the great featherweight and a contender for the #50 slot on this lightweight list.

Joe Shugrue was a superb boxer whose career was cut short by eye trouble and one who, despite inconsistency, was able to beat almost anyone on his day, including one Benny Leonard – Duffy took a ten round decision from him during World War One.  Leach Cross defeated Battling Nelson in November of 1912, but two months either side of this excellent result he dropped a DQ loss and a newspaper decision to Duffy.  Jack Britton, one of the greatest welterweights of all time, had the clear beating of Duffy at 147lbs, but during his lightweight apprenticeship, Duffy twice got the better of him.

Duffy was a giant, for his era, standing more than 5’10” with a reach pushing 72”, making him both taller and rangier than the most recent lineal champion, Terence Crawford.  He used his gifts, pumping out a left jab, keeping opponents at range while piling up points on the cards.

It made him one of the crack lightweights of a golden era, and a name sadly lost, for the most part, to boxing in 2016.  This is unjust.

#35 – Sid Terris (93-13-4; Newspaper Decisions 6-0-1)

Sid Terris was a contemporary of the great Benny Leonard and according to some, at least, bore comparison for all that he was clearly the inferior model.  “Terris was fondled like a second Benny Leonard in New York,” wrote Sam Levy in late 1926.  “Sidney could move with the speed of the old champion and he was just about his equal as a boxer, but lacked his prestigious hitting power.”  He noted, however, that there was an “existing doubt in the minds of the fistic jurists regarding the courage of Terris.”

This doubt was placed in the mind of the “fistic jurists” by a 1924 loss to Eddie Wagner, a six round stoppage in which Terris was said to show yellow.  Terris avenged himself on Wagner and went on a 45-1-1 tear up through the lightweight division that saw him out-think and out-move a veritable smorgasbord of contenders.

He defeated Mickey Walker’s two-time dance partner Ace Hudkins in a “ten round thriller” that saw him handled in the fourth and seventh but come blazing back to dominate his brutish foe in the tenth for a narrow decision.  Terris was a defensive specialist who may have operated only a single level below the genius Leonard but he was, like The Ghetto Wizard (Terris carried the moniker “Ghetto Ghost”) capable of turning the tables with real violence when called upon to do so.  He was called upon to do so against Billy Petrolle, who he met in 1926.  After a fast start, Terris was savaged by a rampant Petrolle in the eighth and ninth but stood his ground to blast out the tenth and take a narrow decision once more.

These occasionally thrilling battles boosted his popularity and quieted accusations that he was “just a dancer,” a fighter who liked to peck out decisions but was afraid to hit the trenches.  He hit the trenches in 1927 against feared puncher Billy Wallace.  Smashed to the canvas in the first, Terris fought back in a manner Leonard himself would have been proud of, and although ringsiders seem split as to who deserved the decision, it was Terris who got the nod.  Stanislaus Loayza, Jack Bernstein, Basil Galiano, Rocky Kansas, Jimmy Goodrich and Johnny Dundee all got the Terris treatment at one time or another and although many of them, like he, are not household names, they were all ranked men.

Nor is the list exhaustive.  Terris wasn’t a great lightweight and he never held the title, but he lists among the division’s most storied contenders.

#34 – Wesley Ramey (141-28-12; Newspaper Decisions 11-0-2)

Wesley Ramey turned professional as a lightweight in the 1920s and he retired as a lightweight in the 1940s.  Most of the fighters on this list, even legendary lightweights such as Joe Gans and Roberto Duran, did not sacrifice their entire careers to 135lbs.  What this means is that nearly every one of the 150 wins Ramey posted in his career were at the expense of a fellow lightweight and makes his resume at the poundage an exceptional one.

Of course it also means that most of the losses were suffered at 135lbs too, but this needs to be quantified.  He posted six of those losses in the final two years of his lightweight odyssey and several more during his ill-fated tour of Australia which included a loss at welterweight to legendary Ozzy Jack Carroll.  Between his schedule and longevity, losses were inevitable.

Ramey’s greatest night, however, came against legendary lightweight Tony Canzoneri.  Canzoneri, then the reigning lightweight champion of the world, was only a few months removed from his shattering performance against Billy Petrolle, a peak night for one of the great fighters; Ramey thrashed him in a non-title fight, winning all but two of the rounds on the Associated Press scorecard.  Canzoneri promised Ramey a title shot but had already signed to meet one Barney Ross.  Ross took Canzoneri and Ramey was frozen out.  On such moments, history turns.

That didn’t prevent Ramey defeating a long list of ranked contenders across the near twenty years for which he terrorized the division.  In the modern era he would have worn a strap, at the least.

#33 – Young Griffo (68-11-38; Newspaper Decisions 50-1-30)

A fighter like Young Griffo really tests a project such as this one.

Joe Gans named him the best defensive boxer he ever met; given the level of competition Gans was faced with in the course of his career this makes him as good as almost anyone to come out of boxing’s first fifty years.  But as Gans himself also observed, Griffo didn’t take his profession any more seriously than he took his training and seemed more enamored by hellraising than fighting, coming to the ring against even the greatest of his peers underprepared

Furthermore there is anecdotal evidence that Griffo’s main priority was to avoid defeat, not to achieve victory.  The rules of the day, which called for dominance in order that judges (or newspapers) might name a victor meant that there was a vast grey area in which a fighter could achieve a draw.  This made avoiding defeat a cinch for a fighter of Griffo’s great talent.

And so he scored many – nearly seventy of them, in fact, according to his most complete record.  That is absurd and makes judging him absurdly difficult.  Apart from Gans, with whom he boxed two draws, he fought stalemates with Frank Erne, Kid Lavigne and George Dixon, each of them among the very best fighters of their era.

But Griffo posted no wins in this type of company and many of those contests were farcical.  Chaotic draws with the likes of Lavigne are impressive but do they really forge a great legacy?  And what of persistent rumors that these results were agreed upon beforehand or that Griffo elicited his opponent’s co-operation during the contest?  The Australian will be back to torture me at featherweight, but as for lightweight, I can force him no higher.  It’s frustrating, because if he had applied himself in the same way that Wesley Ramey did, a spot in the top ten would have been his likely reward.  Even Gans and the other monstrous lightweights of his era may not have been able to stop his rise to the title – as it is we will never know, and Young Griffo fails to penetrate the top thirty.

#32 – Hector Camacho (79-6-3)

Despite boxing his way through the whole of the 1990s, Camacho never made the lightweight limit after 1986 and spent the early years of his career flitting between 130 and 135lbs.  No career lightweight then but the judderingly quick southpaw did inflict serious suffering upon the division in the early and mid-1980s.  Included in the suffering were two that readers of Part One and Two will be familiar with — Jose Luis Ramirez and Edwin Rosario.

Against Ramirez, Camacho’s dominance was a wonder.  He turned in a perfect performance, a true showcase for his wonderful speed; Camacho, arguably, is the fastest lightweight to appear on film and Ramirez is the fight where he really demonstrated that speed.  In the third, he dropped an axe-fall left hand on Ramirez to see him to the deck and only Ramirez’s equally wonderful toughness keeps him from the “ten” in this fight.

Rosario gave him more problems.  Quicker pressure, and that dangerous right-hand left Camacho wide open for lefts in the fifth and the eleventh and saw him on rubbery legs on two occasions.  Still, a wonderful engine kept Camacho a step ahead for seven of the twelve rounds and bought him a desperate split decision.  Lucky to avoid a point deduction for persistent fouling and arguably on the receiving end of a 10-8 round in the fifth, a draw would have been a reasonable result but given the referee’s position on the fouls, I think a Camacho win is the right result.

A true test of character for Camacho, there are those that believe that this fight turned him from an aggressive speedster into a stick-and-move merchant.  There is probably some truth to this; certainly for his next and last lightweight contest, against Cornelius Boza-Edwards, Camacho boxed carefully in taking a much more comfortable decision.

Then he bid the lightweight division, and any chance of making the top thirty on this list, adieu.

 #31 – Beau Jack (91-24-5)

Beau Jack only made the lightweight limit once after 1944 in his doomed tilt at the great Ike Williams, who then held the undisputed title.  Jack was a wonderful fighter, but one who stepped up in pursuit of cash and glory, leaving the poundage which best suited him behind.

Above the lightweight limit he scored great victories over the likes of Bob Montgomery, Bummy Davis, Sammy Angott, Lew Jenkins, Fritzie Zivic, and, most impressively, Henry Armstrong.  These are the results that made Beau Jack great but readers of these series’ will understand that he receives no credit for these victories here but rather is credited at welterweight and, of course, in a pound for pound sense.

His glittering ambition – which made him one of the most bankable stars of the era – limited his standing at lightweight to that which he achieved before 1944.  These are considerable, but not of the ilk that explains his high placement on Boxing Scene’s excellent top twenty-five.  Let’s take a look.

Jack’s finest win was over Bob Montgomery at the lightweight limit late in 1943 winning as many as ten and as few as seven on the scorecards of judges and ringsiders, but in all events winning more than his heavily favored opponent.  Montgomery was favored because he had defeated Jack for Jack’s lightweight strap six months before.  A brutal body attack registered early and by the end Jack was hanging on in desperation; in the rematch, he smothered the new belt-holder’s attack by keeping close and working hard.  The two fought on two more occasions, but Montgomery took the lightweight rubber to prove himself the better fighter at the 135lb limit.

Looking back over his earlier days in the division, Jack did good, but not great work.  His knockout victory over Tippy Larkin was impressive, and executed in just three rounds for the vacant NYSAC belt.  His best performance may have come during his run to that belt, a seven round hammering of number one contender Allie Stolz, who was heavily favored to beat him.  The United Press described his style as “hell-for-leather primitive pummelling” but the more scientifically gifted Stolz, who was riding a hot streak, hardly won a round.  A “menacing bundle of wiry muscle,” Jack applied fierce pressure upon the favorite, who melted before him.  I suspect Jack was never better at the weight, but if he was, it was probably against Juan Zurita, the NBA strapholder who forced Jack to the ring at 136lbs in order that his title would remain at his waist regardless.  Jack was made to miss often by Zurita but kept the pressure on to hammer out a ten round decision from the inside.

Jack beat both beltholders during his lightweight prime and was unquestionably the best lightweight in the world for a spell after his defeat of Montgomery and before Montgomery’s revenge; but he was never the lineal champion and, as described, the overwhelming number of his best wins came at 138lbs or above.


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Teddy Atlas: Trainer, Ringside Analyst, and now a Podcaster

Arne K. Lang




As a teenager, Teddy Atlas was a troublemaker. One could have predicted that he would grow into a man who would get thrown out of places. And that has proved true. He’s been thrown out of London and thrown out of Australia.

Ah, but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Atlas needs no introduction. During a 21-year-career as a ringside analyst with ESPN, his face and distinctive voice became synonymous with boxing. Since leaving that role with the network – not of his own volition – he has transitioned into a podcaster while continuing to bob up now and then as the trainer of an important boxer seeking to elevate his game.

Atlas didn’t quite know what a podcast was when he was approached to do the audio program. Anything “high tech” was never his bag. He still doesn’t e-mail.

Rob Mohr, the founder and partner of a public relations firm called Hit Hard Media, pitched the idea to Teddy. “He said to me, ‘Listen Teddy, I think you have a voice that should be heard and I think there’s an audience out there,’” recalled Atlas. But Teddy would not have come on board if his daughter Nicole, an attorney, hadn’t pushed him to give it a try. (Atlas also has a son, Teddy III, who is the assistant director of college scouting for the Las Vegas Raiders with aspirations of someday becoming an NFL GM).

Mohr serves as the producer of the podcast which is done in a studio in New York. Mohr’s friend Ken Rideout is Teddy’s sidekick on the podcast which is called “THE FIGHT with Teddy Atlas.” Mohr and Rideout, who reside on opposite coasts, New York and California, have a Massachusetts tie and a shared passion for long-distance running. Mohr is one of the world’s top amateur triathletes.

Rideout is a financial advisor. He had no previous connection to boxing, unless one were to count the time that he was a prison guard working alongside Micky Ward. But he has always been a big fan of the sport. “Commenting on boxing is like my dream job,” he says. On the air, Atlas, who has a tendency to ramble, does most of the talking.

Mohr’s assumption was prophetic; there is indeed an audience out there. The podcast has been running a little over a year. As of last week, the episodes had attracted over 10 million views, one million downloads, and 800,000 subscriptions. Atlas’s unfiltered take on all things pugilistic is a welcome respite in a sport saturated with hyperbole and chicanery. Teddy doesn’t care if some of his opinions rile the fat cats at the top of the boxing food chain. We suspect he rather enjoys it.

Before he started talking into a microphone, Teddy Atlas attracted notice as a trainer. A disciple of the late Cus D’Amato, who molded Floyd Patterson and Mike Tyson into world heavyweight champions, Atlas has been associated with 18 world title-holders. He gave up training several years ago, but teaching is in his blood and he would be lured back on several occasions. Most recently, he handled Oleksandr Gvozdyk for three fights beginning with Gvozdyk’s upset of Adonis Stevenson, an 11th round stoppage that earned the Ukrainian the lineal light heavyweight title.

Atlas didn’t reach out to Gvozdyk. Egis Klimas, Gvozdyk’s promoter, reached out to him. But Atlas wouldn’t give his consent until he got to know the fighter a little better.

“My only qualification was that he had to be a decent person; a person I would like to be around,” says Atlas who had previously applied the same yardstick to Tim Bradley. Before taking on Bradley, who reached out to him, Teddy spent three days with Bradley in Bradley’s hometown of Palm Springs.

Teddy Atlas is a no-nonsense trainer, a hard taskmaster. He concedes that his style isn’t for everyone. But a trainer of Atlas’s stripe would seem to be an especially good fit for a boxer with a reputation for being a slacker. It was inevitable that his name would be linked with former heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz who weighed an ungainly 283 ½ pounds for his rematch with Anthony Joshua.

We broached the subject of him possibly training Ruiz during a long telephone conversation with Atlas on Sunday. He told us what he then told his listeners the next day. Yes, Ruiz’s people had reached out to him and there was one follow-up call, but that was it; they never called back. And he told them that if they wished to explore it further, then Ruiz would have to come to New York so that they could get further acquainted, “so I could see how comfortable I am with the fighter and if he and his team would be comfortable with me.”

Atlas did not reveal that he had these conversations until someone at the other end let the cat out of the bag. However, on Monday’s podcast, he came with a meticulous list of things that Andy Ruiz could do to improve, both inside and outside the ropes. The list had the scent of a job application.

In addition to being a noted trainer and broadcaster, Teddy Atlas is also known as a great philanthropist.

He started the Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation, named for his late father who practiced medicine in Staten Island for 55 years, doing house calls until he was 80 years old, and built two hospitals, the first a 22-bed unit that was eventually purchased by the city and torn down to make way for the Verrazano Bridge and the second a unit roughly three times as large that lasted for 35 years. At these facilities, Dr. Atlas administered to the poor, performing tonsillectomies and delivering babies and such, for free. (There were no HMOs in those days, notes Atlas.)

The Dr. Atlas Foundation, in a nutshell, helps people in need, covering the cost of hospital care, building ramps for the handicapped, and whatnot. Thanksgiving means free turkeys for the poor and Christmas means free toys for the kids. The foundation, notes the well-known New York sportswriter Wallace Matthews, “raises money and puts it directly into the hands of the people who need it, without being funneled through the hands of highly paid fundraisers and publicists.”

The foundation holds an annual dinner. The most recent edition was the twenty-third. At the dinner, sportscaster Bob Ley, the longest tenured employee at ESPN when he retired last June, was presented an award named for the late investigative reporter Jack Newfield. “He was my friend, a gutsy writer who didn’t care about the repercussions,” says Atlas of the man who wrote “Only in America: The Life and Crimes of Don King.” The foundation also honors Newfield by helping to subsidize a scholarship for a journalism student at Hunter College, Jack Newfield’s alma mater.

The annual Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation dinner is held on the Thursday before Thanksgiving. “For whatever reason,” says Atlas, “my dad always took off on Thursdays. In my mind, it was the only day of the week that he could join us (in spirit).”

The foundation also supports youth programs which until recently included three boxing gyms, two on Staten Island and one in Brooklyn. The gyms were formerly run by the Police Athletic League which backed out under pressure from “reformers” who thought that the instructors were teaching kids how to fight rather than how to box.

Teddy balked at keeping the gyms afloat, but reconsidered. “I came to see them as havens,” he says, “as shelters.” But he insisted that certain rules had to be followed.  Among them, a boy had to bring his report card to stay enrolled and he had to pull up his pants.

By one measure, these gyms — The Dr. Atlas Cops & Kids Gyms — were enormously successful. Atlas guesses that they produced 100 Golden Gloves champions. Alumni include U.S. Olympian and future light heavyweight champion Marcus Browne, Chris Colbert, currently ranked #1 at 130 pounds by the WBA, and two hot young prospects who were lured out of the amateur ranks by Eddie Hearn: middleweight Nikita “White Chocolate” Abibay and welterweight Reshat Mati.

As these gyms were becoming powerhouses, they lost track of their mission, says Atlas, with the result that Dr. Atlas’s name is no longer attached to them. Asked if he was particularly proud of one of the former attendees, Atlas cited a girl from Brooklyn who was living in a car with her mother when she started attending the Flatbush gym. She is now serving in the U.S. Navy.

Okay, about those instances when Teddy Atlas was 86ed, kicked out the door as if he were toxic:

The first occurred in London at the 2012 Olympics, his fourth for NBC. Some of the scores turned in by the judges were head-scratchers which was nothing new for Olympic boxing. “Corruption was happening right before my eyes,” says Atlas. Referencing a bus that brought Olympic officials to London, he said on the air “they should turn that into a Department of Corrections bus and get them out of here.”

Dr. Ching-Kuo Wu, the Taiwanese architect who was the president of AIBA, the international governing body of amateur boxing, had Atlas and his broadcast partner Bob Papa physically removed from the arena.

The second incident occurred in July of 2017 in Brisbane, Australia, where Atlas worked the welterweight title fight between Manny Pacquiao and Brisbane-native Jeff Horn. The title changed hands when Horn, a massive underdog, won a unanimous decision. The decision didn’t sit well with Atlas whose commentary during the fight was deemed by the locals and others to be very biased toward Horn.

After the fight, there was talk of a rematch with speculation that the fight would go back to Australia. Dean Lonergan, Jeff Horn’s promoter, said that if that were to be the case, then he would demand that ESPN remove Atlas from the broadcasting team. And barring that, he told reporters, “I will lobby the Immigration Minister to not allow Teddy Atlas through our border.”

Ever the cynic, Atlas still believes that the decision favoring Jeff Horn was a “business decision.” And as for being persona non grata in Australia, Atlas quips, “I don’t know if I have been thrown out of better places, but I have never been thrown out of a bigger place.”

“Telling it like it is” was the self-styled catchphrase of the abrasive sportscaster Howard Cosell, a catchphrase that invited a lot of derision. Teddy Atlas tells it like it is and that catchphrase fits him a lot better than it fitted Cosell. You may not always agree with him, but you know the man is genuine.

P.S. – A new podcast normally goes up on Mondays. Check it out.

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Art of Boxing Series – Tim “Desert Storm” Bradley (Part Two)

David A. Avila




Tim Bradley appeared on the professional boxing circuit like an unpinned grenade and exploded on the Southern California scene.

When Bradley began fighting regularly under the Thompson Boxing banner and defeating veterans and fellow prospects with ease, the biggest questions were how far can he go and where did he come from?

Thompson Boxing Promotions was barely in its fourth year of existence and suddenly and surprisingly had a fighter with amazing fighting skills and an aptitude to match. The matchmaker and head of operations Alex Camponovo was handed the duty of guiding the early career of Bradley.

It was quite an experience to see Bradley perform on club shows in Ontario and see him electrify audiences with his abundance of talent. It was simply no-contest as he buzz-sawed through the competition with his speed and quick reflexes.

I remember wondering how the bigger boxing promotion companies missed signing Bradley. At the time, Top Rank and Don King Productions were at the top of the heap and Main Events had some pretty good fighters too. Golden Boy Promotions had started a few years earlier but was in its infant stage.

So how did every one of these companies miss Bradley?

One thing that did seem apparent was his size. He was small at 140 pounds and too muscular to drop down to 135-pound lightweight. Though he showed outstanding speed, his power was not what other fighters at the super lightweight class were able to do and that’s to deliver eye-popping knockouts.

But Bradley could out-box almost anyone’s socks off and not by running.

Thompson Boxing’s matchmaker Camponovo, who was also brand new to the boxing world, realized he needed to move Bradley quickly. Both Camponovo and Bradley were relatively unknown to the boxing powers and that was an advantage early.

Conversely, being new to the game caused unexpected problems.

The first time Thompson Boxing staged a Bradley fight outside of his power base in the Inland Empire, problems arose. A fight card was held at the L.A. Athletic Club in downtown Los Angeles and Bradley was set to face a Brazilian fighter named Marcos Andre Rocha Costa.

According to his record he had one fight and one loss. But no way to verify if that was indeed Rocha Costa. When he appeared in the boxing ring, the Brazilian was about seven inches taller and a southpaw.

Bradley walked into the ring on July 21, 2005 eager to please the crowded venue that had people hanging over the side of an elevated running track that surrounded the ring. Everyone was excited.

Immediately both fighters engaged in high volume punching and it was apparent that the taller Brazilian was extremely talented. Around the third or fourth round, Rocha Costa connected solidly and buzzed Bradley who teetered a bit. It could have been the end. Instead, Bradley erupted in the next round and slipped into another gear that Rocha Costa could not match. Referee Pat Russell stopped the fight as Bradley had battered his way to victory by knockout.

It was an impressive turnaround.

After the fight, the Brazilian fighter surprisingly said he had seven wins and one loss. Both Bradley and Camponovo had dodged a tremendous bullet.

Bradley returned to the Inland Empire and racked up more wins at the Doubletree Hotel and Omega Products International, including a victory that handed him the WBC Youth title that ranked him in the top 20. Those wins also led to a co-promotional deal with Gary Shaw Productions who had a television deal with Showtime.

But first, he needed to beat Africa’s Nasser Athumani who had 24 pro fights and 17 wins by knockout when they met on April 13, 2007.

“I fought a guy named Athumani, an African guy, and he hit hard like a son-of-a-gun. That guy could punch,” said Bradley about the southpaw slugger from Kenya. “He had more knockouts than I had fights and he hit me with an uppercut in the first round. I ended up stopping him but I don’t remember anything about the fight. I was out man.”

Another big moment arrived a few months later on July 27, 2007 when he met Mexico’s rising star Miguel “El Titere” Vazquez who had only one loss. That single Vazquez loss was on his pro debut against a youngster named Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. He had not lost another fight since when he stepped in the outdoor boxing ring at Omega Products International in Corona, California.

“He broke my rib, man. I fought from the second round on with a broken rib,” said Bradley of his confrontation with Vazquez who would later become a world champion in the lightweight division.

Bradley was promised a world title shot if he could defeat Vazquez. When he suffered the broken rib early in the fight, his trainer Joel Diaz asked him if he wanted to stop the fight and lose his place in line for the world title

“I had to bite the bullet or the title and everything we worked for was down the drain if I quit. I had to fight. I had to bite down and go through the pain and it hurt every time I threw a punch. Vazquez had no clue he hurt my ribs. I didn’t show it. We were taught that. He was extremely tough,” said Bradley of that fight against the future lightweight world champion.

Bradley won the fight by unanimous decision using primarily a jab.

World Titles or Bust

Junior Witter was a clever switch-hitting speedster in the mold of Prince Naseem Hamed and grabbed the WBC super lightweight title with a unanimous decision over DeMarcus “Chop, Chop” Corley. He was coming off back-to-back knockout wins over Arturo Morua and Vivian Harris when he met Bradley in Nottingham, England on May 10, 2008.

Bradley and his team arrived early and immediately discovered that being the challenger was indeed a challenge.

First, his corner man Samuel Jackson was denied entry into the country because of his name. The actor Samuel Jackson had been banned from returning to the United Kingdom for an earlier incident. So, when Bradley’s corner man of the same name arrived, he was blocked at the airport for a long while until the mix-up was cleared. Then, when they arrived for their room, they discovered it was too small for everyone to fit.

No problem, they just found more rooms.

Bradley confessed to being totally prepared for Witter. He also knew that he was unknown to the champion and the crowds expecting to see Witter blow out the American called “Desert Storm.”

“It was one of those things. They didn’t know me. When you fight guys from other countries you don’t know what they have,” said Bradley who had prepared diligently for Witter for more than a year studying film.

As an amateur Bradley was taught by Hall of Fame trainer Al Mitchell to study film of prospective opponents. He had sat with the trainer many times as an amateur in Marquette, Wisconsin looking at tapes of other fighters and breaking down their strengths and assets.

Bradley retained the habit of studying opponents and used it as a weapon. When he faced Witter he was more than prepared for battle despite the crowd.

“I would study him every night for at least an hour and a half. I would just try to come up with a game plan,” said Bradley. “He was so awkward there wasn’t one thing I could do. But he made mistakes pulling back. I had to set things up. I knew I had a bigger gas tank. He would fade in the second half and I had to come out stronger in the second half.”

Witter was also open for an overhand right and Bradley connected in the sixth round to change the momentum drastically and push the fight in his own favor. After 12 rounds Bradley was declared the winner by split decision.

“I caught him by surprise,” said Bradley. “He didn’t know anything about me.”

Neither did American fans at the moment, when Bradley returned to his own country with the WBC title wrapped around his waist. But that would change quickly as he faced a murderer’s row in the super lightweight division.

Beginning in September 2008, Bradley faced Edner Cherry, WBO titlist Kendall Holt, Nate Campbell, undefeated Lamont Peterson, undefeated Luis Abregu, undefeated Devon Alexander and then Joel Casamayor in succession and emerged without a defeat.

In two of the fights against Peterson and Alexander, the Palm Springs area fighter was the underdog and passed each foe with dominating performances.

It was hefty stuff but, after Casamayor, his next fight would be the test of all tests when he met Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on June 9, 2012.

Pacman and Marquez

Pacquiao had just defeated Mexico’s masterful counter-puncher Juan Manuel Marquez by majority decision in yet another close fight in their third meeting. The speedy southpaw was looking for someone other than Marquez and signed to fight Bradley on June 2012.

In a match that featured two speedy and under-sized welterweights, Bradley seemed more energetic throughout the 12-round fight while Pacquiao seemed to take his foot off the pedal for two minutes each round. Then the Filipino superstar would increase the intensity in the last minute or so and attempt to basically steal the round.

It worked with one judge, but two others saw Bradley the more dominant fighter and he won the WBO welterweight title by split decision. Pacquiao and his fans were incensed and to this day Bradley gets attacked through social media by the keyboard minions whenever the subject arises.

“The first fight was the biggest disappointment and that changed me. It was actually a blessing and a curse at the same time. I got my opportunity to fight Manny Pacquiao and be able to make big time money,” said Bradley about the after-effects. “But after the fight I was ridiculed and demonized. But now there is nothing that can faze me. It’s turned me into a man that can accept any kind of criticism. It doesn’t matter what anybody says to me. The curse is I would never have that victory. It would never be fulfilling to me.”

But it’s in the record books. Forever.

That fight changed Bradley and also might have changed Pacquiao too. Right after the Bradley loss, he signed to fight Marquez a fourth time six months later. Pacquiao exchanged knockdowns with the Mexican fighter and then ran into a Marquez right cross that knocked him out. It was the most decisive win between the two.

Pacquiao would fight Bradley again in two rematches but not before the Palm Springs fighter defeated Marquez by split decision on October 2013. It remains Bradley’s most satisfying win of his career.

“I beat Marquez after he knocked Manny out,” said Bradley of his fight with Marquez that took place at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on October 2013. “That was my most fun fight.”

Bradley said he had always studied Marquez, especially in his fights against Pacquiao; and he picked up a few clues about the Mexican counter-puncher that he calls “the perfect fighter” and one of the best in boxing.

“I countered the counter. Fighters at the top level, every time your hand leaves your face you got to expect something to come back. They have a high IQ and are quick on the trigger,” said Bradley about fighting top opposition. “Marquez is probably the second- best counter puncher. Floyd (Mayweather) is the best. I knew something was going to come back. I knew I had to finish and I had to be first and I had to be last.”

The plan worked smoothly and Bradley won by split decision.

“I fought the game plan I wanted to fight. I had fun. It was the easiest $4 and half million I ever made in a fight. It was so easy,” said Bradley.

After Marquez came Pacquiao in the rematch. In fact, he would fight Pacquiao a third time too and lose both by decision.

“He beat me fair and square,” said Bradley about the two losses to Pacquiao.

Bradley lost only two fights in his entire pro career and both were to Pacquiao. That’s a pretty incredible career feat and proves his mastery of the art of boxing. He was never known as a knockout puncher nor did he have size or long arms. He simply used tools he was born with to the umpteenth degree.

Still Studying

Today, Bradley is part of ESPN’s team of boxing commentators alongside Joe Tessitore, Bernardo Osuna, Mark Kriegel, and fellow boxer Andre Ward.

Just as he did as a fighter, Bradley prepares like a demon when it comes to analyzing upcoming fights. He finds it strange that many active prizefighters do not study their opponents.

“You have to be a student of the game. I don’t understand how you don’t do that. None of these guys study opponents or study boxing. I don’t understand how you don’t watch your sport. I don’t get it,” said Bradley of those who don’t study film of old fights or prospective foes.

Studying upcoming match ups is what he still does when at home.

“I still watch boxing today. I just love the craft of it. I love the sweet science of it. I love where the underdog learns to beat the favorite,” said Bradley on the preparation through film study.

As part of the ESPN television commentating team he’s developed a reputation for being straight up.

“They call me the Charles Barkley of boxing,” jibes Bradley of former basketball’s star Barkley’s reputation doing basketball analysis for TNT. “I make my opinion based on my knowledge of the sport. I’m not one of those guys that say all the Top Rank guys are going to win. I thought Deontay Wilder was going to win. I’m not one of those biased types.”

Like fans, fighters and everyone who loves the sport of professional boxing, he looks forward to the return of prizefighting when this worldwide epidemic ends.

“I love my job. I love being around the guys and the game. Being around Andre Ward, Bernardo Osuna, Tessitore and Mark Kriegel, honestly, I think we are the best,” said Bradley, 36. “I’m the crazy one.”

Crazy about boxing.

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A Ray to Remember

Bernard Fernandez




Monday, April 6, marks the 33rd anniversary of the storied fight between Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler. In 2007, in conjunction with the 20th anniversary, Philadelphia Daily News boxing writer Bernard Fernandez looked back at that event through the eyes of Sugar Ray Leonard with whom he had arranged an exclusive interview. Fernandez’s feature-length story ran under the title “A Ray to Remember.”

With Bernard’s permission, we are re-printing that story in its entirety. A 2020 International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee, the multi-decorated Fernandez is the author of “Championship Rounds,” a soon-to-be-published anthology.

A Ray to Remember

The image is one of eternal youth, the impossibly gifted and charismatic young father smiling and cutting up with his giggling tyke of a son.

But the popular soft-drink commercial in which Ray Leonard Sr. and Ray Jr. appeared together aired in 1980, when certain boxers, if not boxing itself, were still seen as having broad enough appeal to sell products to America.

The 2007 vintage Ray Leonard Sr., better known to his many fans as Sugar Ray, remains handsome and charismatic. But, at 50, his working attire now runs more toward tailored suits and tasseled, Italian-made loafers than to satin trunks and tasseled boxing shoes. It has been more than 10 years since he attempted to summon the old magic in a final, futile comeback bid.

But during a luminescent prime in which he transcended his sport as few have, the quick-handed, steel-willed kid from suburban Washington, D.C., gave the public more than a few moments that are indelibly burned into the pages of boxing history. There was the gold medal he won at the 1976 Montreal Olympics; his stirring, late-round comeback in his first showdown with Thomas Hearns; the night he so dominated the great Roberto Duran in their first rematch that the “Hands of Stone” up and quit in the eighth round.

For all those peaks in a Himalayan career, however, perhaps the most towering accomplishment occurred on April 6, 1987, in a temporary outdoor stadium erected on the tennis courts at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. That’s when Leonard emerged from one of several retirements to shock undisputed middleweight champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler, who was widely regarded as near-invincible. In the Vegas sports books, the odds against Leonard were incredibly long for someone of his stature. More than a few members of the media even expressed concern for his immediate and long-term health.

Today is the 20th anniversary of Hagler-Leonard, a prizefight that seized the attention of the entire world, but the years always melt away in the mind of the man who manufactured one of boxing’s most unforgettable upsets. All Leonard has to do is close his eyes for the memories to come flooding back, as warm and vivid as ever.

“I swear, I look at my kids and wonder where the time went,” Leonard said in an exclusive interview with the Daily News recently. “Can it really have been 20 years? One day, you look at your son and he’s a little boy. Before you know it, he’s sprouting facial hair and is three or four inches taller than you. You’re, like, `Wow.’ Ray Jr. is 33 now.

“It’s funny how the good memories stick with you longer. Human nature, I suppose. I could always tell in the dressing room, when I was warming up, if it was going to be a good night or a long night. If you don’t feel like you have it that night, it is the most frightening thing for a fighter. I felt that way against Hector (Camacho, who stopped Leonard in five rounds on March 3, 1997, in Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall, his final bout). I felt the same thing before the first Duran fight, before the second Hearns fight, before the fight with Terry Norris.

“Fighters know when they have it. They know. When I was younger and I had those little moments of doubt, which were rare, I was usually able to overcome them. After Camacho, I knew I never wanted to experience a moment like that again. It’s like you have a vision you’re about to die and you can’t do anything about it.

“But against Hagler, I just felt like I was as ready as I possibly could be.”

Hagler-Leonard, like the first matchup of Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield that was delayed for years, was a long time coming. Leonard had spent a sizable chunk of his career at welterweight, moving up to junior middleweight at around the same time Hagler was establishing himself as one of the finest 160-pound champions of all time. Everyone assumed that Leonard would move up to middleweight and challenge Hagler, probably sooner rather than later.

In the spring of 1982, however, Leonard was inadvertently poked in the left eye by the gloved thumb of a sparring partner The eye immediately reddened and his vision became blurred. The blurring cleared up after a short time, but the spots in his line of vision did not.

A detached retina was diagnosed, and Dr. Ron Michels operated on Leonard’s eye to repair the damage. Although advances in laser technology have made the reattachment of retinas a common surgical procedure, back then the injury was serious enough to end careers.

Although Michels assured him that his left eye was fully healed, Leonard, who had impulsively retired and unretired twice, wrestled with the fear that continuation of his career might leave him sightless. That, and the urging of his first wife, Juanita, edged him toward a momentous decision.

Ever the showman, Leonard rented the Baltimore Civic Center on November 9, 1982, for a black-tie gala attended by 10,000 fans and special guests. Among those on hand was Hagler, who also wore a tuxedo for what he presumed would be the announcement that the fight everyone wanted to see finally was going to be made.

In a ring that had been set up for the occasion, Leonard looked at Hagler and addressed the crowd. “A fight with this great man, with this great champion, would be one of the greatest fights in history,” Leonard said. “Unfortunately, it’ll never happen.”

There was a gasp, followed by stunned silence. Hagler felt, with some justification, he had been sandbagged. This is not what he came to hear.

But even as he was saying the words, Leonard had doubts about their validity in the long term.

“Yeah,” I said, `This is it. I’m done,’ but I’m not sure in my heart I believed it,” Leonard said. “I think I realized I might change my mind later, but I felt pressured to do the logical thing, which was to retire.

“I was, what, 26 years old then? I was a young guy still at the top of my game. But I guess I just wanted to put an end to the questions. My mind told me what to say, but in my heart my competitive fire was still burning.”

The flame might have been set on low, but it never went out. Leonard accepted a position as a boxing analyst for HBO, which allowed him to be at ringside for a number of Hagler’s title defenses.

“Marvin became my friend,” Leonard said. “We’d talk. There was no barrier between us because I was out of it; he didn’t consider me a threat to him. So he told me things that I mentally stored away.

“When he came for the grand opening of a restaurant in Bethesda, Maryland, I had a little piece of, we were drinking champagne. He said, `Yeah, man, I’m not motivated. I’m starting to get cut easily.’ It didn’t seem like he was into boxing that much anymore.

“I don’t know how significant that conversation was, but it was one of a lot of factors in my decision to come back.”

Perhaps the most crucial of those factors was Hagler’s performance in a tougher-than-expected, 11th-round knockout of John “The Beast” Mugabi on March 10, 1986.

“It was a cold night in Vegas,” Leonard recalled. “I saw Mugabi outjabbing and outboxing Hagler. It was a bad, bad night for Marvin, even though he won. It took a toll on him physically. It also seemed to me that he wasn’t focused.”

Leonard – who had had only one bout since February 1982, a ninth-round stoppage of Philadelphia journeyman Kevin Howard on May 11, 1984, in which Leonard was floored himself – made another announcement. He was back, and he was going after Hagler.

“When I said I was coming out of retirement, the reporters wanted to know who my tuneup fight was going to be against,” Leonard said. “I said, `No tuneup. I’m going straight to Marvin.’ Even my brother Roger thought I had lost it. There was no one, besides my father, who believed I had a prayer.

“Well, there was my father and Mike Trainer (Leonard’s longtime attorney/adviser). I talked to Mike after I came back from watching Hagler-Mugabi. I said, `Michael, me and Hagler, who wins?’ He looked me right in the eye and said, `Ray Leonard can’t beat Hagler. But Sugar Ray Leonard can.’

“When he said that, I didn’t understand at first. Looking back at it now, it made sense. He was saying Ray Leonard – the civilian, the businessman, the media personality – couldn’t win a fight like that. But if I could get back to being Sugar Ray, I could win.”

The buildup to the fight was of Super Bowl proportions. Hundreds of media from around the world converged on Las Vegas, not so much to cover a competitive event as to chronicle Leonard’s seemingly doomed quest.

But Leonard soaked up the skepticism and fed off it, all the while employing every psychological ploy he could think of.

“I worked Hagler from Day 1, even before I had the slightest imagination of fighting him,” Leonard said. “I studied this man day in and day out. I guess I did it subconsciously, when I was commentating for HBO. I’d study his mannerisms.

“Then, when Mike Trainer and I were negotiating (with Hagler’s manager-trainers, Goody and Pat Petronelli), we played angles. We’d give them this, take back that. To Hagler and his people,  none of it was relevant. All they saw was the dollar signs. They never even considered the possibility that Hagler might lose.

“Look, Hagler made a ton of money. I made a ton, too. Both parties were satisfied. It wasn’t until after the fact that they were dissatisfied. They complained that we got to pick the brand of gloves that were used, the number of rounds the fight was scheduled for.”

As was the case with Muhammad Ali’s “Rope-a-Dope” strategy against George Foreman,  Leonard concocted a plan to steal rounds with flurries in the last half-minute of close ones. It proved a stroke of genius.

“I told (cornerman) Ollie Dunlap in the dressing room, `30 seconds before the end of the round, yell. Let me know,” Leonard said. “He did that, and I’d flurry. It won rounds for me, no question.”

It also helped that Hagler, a southpaw, came out in an orthodox posture for the first two rounds.

“When the bell rang for the first round, I was all nervous energy,” Leonard said. “I might have talked the trash, but now it was time to put up or shut up. I really didn’t know if I still had it. I hoped it was there. But when Hagler came out fighting righthanded, it gave me an opportunity to get settled.”

Hagler, who maintains to this day that he deserved to win, was so enraged by the split decision against him – judges JoJo Guerra and Dave Moretti scored it 118-110 and 115-113 for Leonard, while Lou Fillippo had Hagler ahead, 115-113 – that he never fought again. The Brockton, Massachusetts, native lives in Milan, Italy, where he is a part-time actor.

“Hagler didn’t want to be around me for a while, which I can understand,” Leonard said. “But when we see each other now we’re cordial. I was in Vegas for Oscar (De La Hoya) and Felix (Trinidad). Marvin was there. He asked to see me. We shook hands and spoke.

“After the fight, which Oscar lost, I saw Marvin the next morning before I went to the airport. I said, `Can you believe that decision? No way Oscar lost.’ He said, `Yeah, I believe it. It happened to me.’”

Leonard was 2-2-1 in his five fights after Hagler, retiring at the age of 40. These days he enjoys the company of his second wife, Bernadette, and the youngest of his four children, Camille, 10, and Daniel, 6. He plays some golf, skis and has a prominent role with The Contender reality boxing series on ESPN.

“There’s no void that needs to be filled,” Leonard insisted. “There’s a fullness, a direction, to what I do. I am not in a hurry to go anywhere or do anything. I just want to stay creative and stimulated. I’m reconnecting with my older kids (including son Jerrell, 23). I feel good about where I’ve been, who I am now and where I’m going.

“Hagler and I had great, illustrious careers. We’re living our lives. You can’t hold onto the past forever. You have to move on.”

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