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Jake LaMotta at 94: Down Memory Lane with the Raging Bull

Bernard Fernandez



JAKE LaMOTTA, THE RAGING BULL — It seemed to be a good idea at the time. A few days ago, upon noticing that Feb. 5 would be the 74th anniversary of the second fight in the six-bout series between Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta, and the only one that LaMotta won (at least officially, according to the “Bronx Bull”), I decided to do a story on two proud men with starkly contrasting styles, and a shared history that has since taken on the trappings of legend. Then I noticed that four of their six meetings in the ring had taken place in February, which made the notion of a look-back piece on the Robinson-LaMotta rivalry even more compelling. I had authored a column for the Sweet Science, posted on Nov. 13, 2014, entitled The Boys of November, dealing with the Evander Holyfield-Riddick Bowe trilogy (all three of their showdowns had taken place in that month), so why not a similar one on The Men of February?

I wouldn’t be able to get Sugar Ray’s take on what had transpired between he and LaMotta, of course, except for printed quotes and old television interviews that could be pulled up online; Robinson, arguably the greatest pound-for-pound fighter ever, was 67 when he died on April 12, 1989, after years of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and hypertension. Even well before his passing, large patches of his memory had been erased by the creeping ravages of Alzheimer’s.

But a telephone call to LaMotta, still alive and kicking at 94, perhaps offered the opportunity for me to gain some fresh insight. It had been at least two decades since I interviewed Jake, but I knew he was an annual presence at the International Boxing Hall of Fame induction weekend in Canastota, N.Y., as distinguishable in his trademark cowboy hat as Hopalong Cassidy or Gene Autry might have been had they ridden into the picturesque village on horseback. Fight fans there tend to approach him as if he were some mythical figure, Zeus come down from Mount Olympus, because he so obviously has been able to go the distance in life as well as inside the ropes. In December 2012, at 90, LaMotta took a bride for the seventh time, Denise Baker, 28 years his junior and still comely enough to pose for a centerfold in AARP’s monthly magazine.Jake LaMotta

The voice on the other end of the call, however, was not that of an ornery old bull whose face had caught more fastballs than Yogi Berra’s mitt and somehow had never seemed the worse for wear. It was weak and unfocused, a hint that Jake LaMotta, 6½ decades and 4,000 or so pounds (more on that later) past his middleweight championship-era prime, was finally getting closer to allowing the Ultimate Judge to render His inevitable decision.

Asked for his remembrances of his Feb. 5, 1943, 10-round unanimous decision over the unbeaten and seemingly unbeatable Robinson (who went in 40-0 as a pro after going 85-0 as an amateur) in Detroit’s sold-out Olympia Stadium, Jake hesitated before saying, “Is that where I (beat) Robinson? I … I fought him six times. I fought Sugar Ray so often it’s a wonder I don’t have diabetes.”

It is a standard response to questions about Robinson that LaMotta has been uttering for what seems like forever, so much so that the words seemingly tumble forth by rote. And if this 2017 Jake can’t recall every detail of his sole conquest of the incomparable Sugar Ray (he has long maintained that he deserved to get the nod in their fifth confrontation, a 12-round split decision loss on Sept. 26, 1945, in Chicago’s Comiskey Park), he isn’t apt to fondly reminisce about the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” in their sixth and final meeting, in which Robinson, the reigning welterweight champ, dethroned him on a 13th-round stoppage on Feb. 14, 1951, in Chicago Stadium.

But even on the wrong end of a classic beatdown, the Bronx Bull displayed a certain nobility that elicited admiration from the man who had just hammered on him as if he were an anvil. That determination was denoted by Robinson in his 1970 autobiography, Sugar Ray, as told to New York Times sports columnist Dave Anderson.  In describing his bludgeoning of LaMotta, which ended when referee Frank Sikora, at the urging of the ringside physician, waved the increasingly one-sided bout to a halt, Robinson was moved to salute an opponent who refused to even acknowledge that he’d just been put through the proverbial wringer.

I was the middleweight champion, but I had to share my joy with respect for Jake. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He was on the stool in his corner, his leopard-skin robe thrown over him. His handlers were all around him, but he was snarling at them and waving them away. The doctor was checking him, but Jake wanted no part of him. On his way out of the ring, he ignored the hands reaching up to help him down the steps. In his dressing room, I was told later, he had to gasp for breath as he spoke to the sportswriters.

“That’s all, that’s all,” the doctor ordered. “Get a tank of oxygen in here.”

The doctor gave him oxygen for half an hour. He wasn’t able to leave the stadium until nearly two hours after the fight. But despite all that, it never occurred to him that the doctor had made the proper decision in signaling the referee to stop the fight.

“Robinson never hurt me,” he was quoted as saying a few weeks later. “I almost knocked Robinson out in the 11th.”

Jake LaMotta hadn’t lost. Something had happened to keep him from winning.

Or so the defiant LaMotta chose to believe whenever he was denied what he believed to be a given night’s fulfillment of his destiny. Seated along with Robinson on either side of host Curt Gowdy for a TV show called How It Was, apparently recorded in the late 1970s – the polyester leisure suits worn by Jake and Gowdy were a dead giveaway – the middle-aged LaMotta continued to deny that he had been taken to the brink of exhaustion, or worse, by the Sugar man’s fast-handed combinations.

“I guess God blessed me with a hard head because I really couldn’t feel punches,” LaMotta told Gowdy. “I conditioned myself many years ago that nobody could hurt me. It was self-hypnosis or whatever you might call it, but I really believed nobody could hurt me. I psyched myself. I did it unconsciously, instinctively. And I believed it.”

As LaMotta again professed not to have been hurt by Robinson’s barrage that began in earnest in the 11th round after the champion’s last-gasp flurry succeeded only in making him expend the last vestiges of his energy, Robinson looked on with incredulity. To acknowledge defeat, or even fatigue, was to yield to some inner weakness LaMotta steadfastly refused to accept.

In a later sit-down session with a British TV crew, which appeared to have taken place in the late 1980s or early ’90s, LaMotta, by now his words slightly slurred, held fast to his personal belief that to acknowledge that the other guy simply had fought better was a form of quitting on himself, and quitting in any form is never to be tolerated.

“You gotta have determination,” he said when asked what spurred him on when his situation appeared bleak. “You gotta have willpower. You gotta have positive thinking. You gotta believe, believe, believe that you can do it.

“I had all that through my boxing career. I fought everybody. I didn’t care who I fought. I knew I could beat anybody I fought. I had that for a long time. I still have it.”

To many boxing historians, Jake LaMotta – born Giacobbe LaMotta to Italian immigrants on July 10, 1921 – has always been something of an overachiever who stretched the limits of unremarkable talent into a plaque in the IBHOF (he was a charter member of the first induction class in 1990) mainly on the strength of that fierce determination, with a possible assist from Hollywood.

Would LaMotta be the iconic figure he is now without the film version of his life story, Raging Bull, being nominated for eight Academy Awards in 1980, winning two (for Best Actor Robert De Niro and for sound editing)?  Or for the fact of his impressive longevity, which has seen him outlive virtually all of his contemporaries?

LaMotta has praised De Niro as the “greatest actor that ever lived, pound-for-pound, and for his insistence on getting every detail right, including the gaining of 60 pounds to further authenticate scenes as the retired, plumper Jake whose post-boxing life careened off the rails.

“We boxed over 1,000 rounds together before we shot one foot of film,” LaMotta said during the session with the Brit film crew. “(De Niro) was determined to become a fighter so badly. When I got done with him, he could have fought professional. He really was that good.”

What stamped Raging Bull as more than a standard sports biopic, in addition to De Niro’s mesmerizing performance and Martin Scorsese’s masterful direction, is its unstinting honesty about a warts-and-all fighter with a warts-and-all life in and out of the ring.

Out of the ring, when not in training, it was standard procedure for LaMotta to pack on 30 or 40 pounds before returning to the gym, making him a precursor to such insatiable chow hounds as Roberto Duran, James Toney and Riddick Bowe. For his six matchups with Robinson, LaMotta outweighed the perpetually well-conditioned Sugar man by a cumulative 67½ pounds.

“I always had trouble making 160 pounds,” LaMotta told Gowdy. “In my book, I wrote that I lost over 4,000 pounds in my lifetime. The greatest diet I know, eat all you want but don’t swallow it.

“Sometimes,” he said of his fluctuating weight, “it caught up to me.”

It caught up with him in that sixth and final fight, when LaMotta – who already was 1-4 against Robinson – was obliged to lose 6½ pounds the night before the weigh-in. So how did he do it?

“I went to the steam baths,” LaMotta told Gowdy. “I kept going in and out of the steam baths, but I finally made it.”

Robinson naturally was aware of LaMotta’s weight issues and formulated a fight plan that would use that to his advantage. He would stick and move, which is what he normally did anyway, until he sensed that LaMotta had nothing left, then throw everything he had at the gasping Bull.

“We figured he had trouble making weight,” Robinson told Gowdy. “That (picking up the pace in the later rounds) really was the strategy. We wanted him to expend himself as much as he could because we felt he had trouble making the weight and the latter part of the fight I would be able to be more effective. Thank God it proved to be true.”

But even as Robinson increasingly asserted his dominance, he was unable to floor LaMotta, who would not be knocked off his feet until, as a light heavyweight, he was dropped in the seventh round by Danny Nardico on Dec. 31, 1952. LaMotta’s corner stopped the bout before the eighth round began.

LaMotta has known tragedy and created some as well. Two of his sons died young, Jake Jr. of liver cancer in February 1998 and his younger boy, Joseph, in an airliner crash in September of the same year. He also has been cited for domestic abuse of several of his wives, rationalizing that if could take pain as an occupational hazard, the women in his life should expect some, too.

Strip away all the personal issues and the bottom line is that Jake LaMotta was a legitimately tough customer, a relentless attacker who could not be discouraged. He posted an 83-19-4 record, with 30 victories inside the distance, against some of the most dangerous foes in a deep era.

“Jake never ducked anybody,” Robinson said. “He didn’t have to. Everybody that fought Jake LaMotta took some damage. He stays right on you. You can bet your bottom dollar you’re going to get your share of the licks.”

The saga of The Men of February is forever etched in stone. Its graceful, artistic half, Robinson, has left us only with memories of past wonders. Its hard-hatted demolition specialist is still in the presence of we mortals, but he won’t be here forever.  And, somehow, that reality is sadder than I might have imagined.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.



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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