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Memories of Hagler-Leonard, 30 Years Later

Bernard Fernandez

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LOOKING BACK AT HAGLER-LEONARD — It’s funny, some of the little things you remember about a major boxing event that took place 30 years ago. Oh, sure, the big stuff was really big when long-reigning middleweight champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard squared off the night of April 6, 1987, in the outdoor stadium at Caesars Palace:  A sellout crowd of 15,366, with ticket demand such that the place could have been filled three times over had that many seats been available! Some 1,100 credentialed media members, 300 of whom were obliged to watch the bout on a big screen in the nearby Caesars Pavilion! Celebrities galore milling about in the hotel and casino! A huge (well, it was at the time) financial pie of $33 million to be shared by the main-event participants! And enough plot twists — before, during and after the first punch was thrown – to keep any industrious journalist hip-deep in interesting copy for weeks, months and even years on end!

When TSS editor Arne K. Lang — who also was in the house when Leonard shocked the world by winning a 12-round split decision that is still the root of considerable debate — asked me to author a story on my memories of the week that was, it was like a return to Wonderland. But where to begin? By cataloguing some of the more pertinent details of my very first working assignment to the Vegas Strip? Nah, too easy. Everybody knows most of those, anyway. So I choose to start with a more personal recollection, of an industrial-sized refrigerator in the press tent that offered daily reminders that my presence was not that of just another milling face in the crowd.

Pineapple juice and chocolate milk.

Caesars Palace’s crackerjack publicist at the time, Debbie Munch, is now an executive with Caesars Entertainment who will be inducted into the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame on Aug. 12. Upon introducing myself to her—it probably didn’t hurt that I was representing a major metropolitan daily, the Philadelphia Daily News — she inquired as to which item I wished to be stocked in that refrigerator.  “Um, pineapple juice?” I responded, not quite sure if I was being pranked with a trick question. Another reporter, Chris Thorne of the Newark Star-Ledger, then opined that he was rather fond of chocolate milk.

An hour or so later, small cans of pineapple juice and half-pints of chocolate milk were being chilled for Chris’ and my presumed benefit. And as soon as the supply of those beverages was depleted, the refrigerator was quickly replenished with more, along with a standard assortment of soft drinks. Those cans of pineapple juice made me feel as if I were Julius Caesar himself, just returned to Rome from his triumphs in the Gallic War. For years afterward, whenever I returned to Caesars Palace, that press-tent refrigerator contained cans of pineapple juice. I didn’t even have to ask.

It had been nearly two decades since I had spoken to Debbie, which is understandable since it had been two decades since the last fight in the outdoor stadium, which periodically arose on the site of Caesars Palace’s tennis courts, had been staged there. In case you’re interested, that going-away present to fight fans was Oscar De La Hoya’s dethronement of WBC super lightweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez, via fourth-round stoppage, on June 7, 1996. Not long after that, construction of a new hotel tower consumed the space once reserved for the tennis courts and big-time boxing, the cranes and pile-drivers marking the end of an era. Where Caesars Palace once was Vegas’ main magnet for superfights – Larry Holmes appeared there a record 14 times, followed by Thomas Hearns (11), Leonard and Roberto Duran (9 apiece), Evander Holyfield (7), Marvin Hagler (5) and Chavez, De La Hoya and Alexis Arguello (4 apiece) – much of the city’s ring action has shifted to the MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Thomas & Mack Center and, most recently, the gleaming, new T-Mobile Arena.

Imagine my surprise when I got Debbie on the phone, asked what she remembered about about Caesars Palace’s glory days, specifically Hagler-Leonard, and she said, “With you, I’d probably say pineapple juice and chocolate milk.”

Such total recall of seemingly meaningless minutia, even if I wasn’t the chocolate-milk requester. No wonder the lady is an impending Nevada Boxing Hall of Famer.

But if Caesars Palace, which opened with 680 rooms on Aug. 5, 1966 (it now has 4,610) was the site of such classic bouts as Leonard-Hearns I, Hagler-Hearns, Holmes-Norton and Bowe-Holyfield II, a case can be made for Hagler-Leonard, in some ways, being the most significant pugilistic showdown in the site’s rich history. It was, arguably, the most-anticipated fight since the first entry in the three-bout passion play involving Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier on March 8, 1971, in Madison Square Garden.

“There wasn’t the sheer energy of Hagler-Hearns or the back-and-forth momentum changes of Leonard-Hearns, but I think everyone came away saying, `We saw a very good fight,’” Rich Rose, who then worked with Hagler’s promoter, Top Rank founder Bob Arum, and later went on to serve as head of Caesars Palace’s sports division, said of Hagler-Leonard. “And with the possible exception of Mike Tyson, Marvin and Ray were the dominant fighters of the 1980s, at a time when they were in their early 30s, still reasonably young. Yes, Ray had been off a long time (he hadn’t fought in three years, and just once in five years) and, yes, Marvin probably had lost a step and a half from what he had been. But they were still tremendously well-known, bigger-then-life figures. Tommy and Roberto were in the mix as well, but Marvin and Ray, no disrespect to the other two, were leading the pack.”

The long, winding path that eventually culminated in Hagler-Leonard could be traced back to at least 1982, but the inevitability of their pairing probably began much earlier than that. Hagler, who had been a U.S. national amateur champion, turned pro for peanuts in 1973 (he reportedly received $40 for his two-round knockout of Terry Ryan on March 18 of that year, in the Brockton [Mass.] High School Gymnasium) because he couldn’t afford to hang around in the hope of making the 1976 American Olympic boxing team that competed in Montreal.

The charismatic Leonard, of course, went to Montreal, won a gold medal and was soon being groomed for stardom in the punch-for-pay ranks. He pulled $40,000 for his pro debut, a six-round unanimous decision over Luis Vega in the Baltimore Civic Center on Feb. 5, 1977, which was televised via ABC Wide World of Sports.

Such purse disparities can breed envy among those who must scratch and claw their way up through the ranks, and it wasn’t long before Hagler found himself among those jealous of all the perks that flowed so freely to Sugar Ray.

“I didn’t resent Leonard when we were both coming up,” Hagler said of the time before his feelings toward his future arch-rival began to harden. “As a matter of fact, I kind of liked him. I’d been following him since the Olympics, like everybody else.”

But Hagler, not as naturally outgoing as Leonard, figured his talent was no worse than a match for that possessed by boxing’s golden child, and the fire in his belly burned hotter when Leonard was paid $1 million for his first shot at a world title, in which he dethroned WBC welterweight ruler Wilfred Benitez on a 15th-round TKO on Nov. 30, 1979. Appearing on the undercard that night at Caesars Palace, and making his first bid to become a world champion, Hagler not only had to settle for a low-ball $40,000 purse, but the crushing realization that a bloodied and battered Vito Autuofermo had retained his WBC and WBA middleweight belts on a split draw in a fight almost everyone else believed the challenger had won handily.

Maybe that’s when Hagler resolved that he and Leonard would settle the question as to who was the better man where it counted, in the ring. But although each continued to add layers of success onto their legendary careers, it must have seemed as if fate was conspiring to thwart an epic clash of the titans. Leonard insisted he was comfortable at welterweight, and at 147 pounds was simply too light to move up to test the middleweight waters against the fearsome Hagler. Not only that, but he suffered a detached retina – often a career-killer in those days – when he was in advertently poked in the left eye by the gloved thumb of a sparring partner in the spring of 1982. The eye immediately reddened and Leonard’s vision became blurred. The blurring cleared up after a short time, but the spots in his line of vision did not.

After the detached retina was diagnosed, Dr. Ron Michels operated on Leonard’s eye to repair the damage. Although advances in laser technology later made the reattachment of retinas a common surgical procedure, such was not the case 35 years ago.

Although Michels assured him that his left eye was fully healed, Leonard, who had impulsively retired and unretired twice, wrestled with the fear that continuing to fight 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 Nov. 9, 1982, for a black-tie gala attended by 10,000 fans and special guests. Among those on hand was Hagler, who wore a tuxedo for what he presumed would be the announcement that the fight everyone wanted to see 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 ample 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 for the long term.

“Yeah, I said, `This is it, I’m done,’ but I’m not sure I believed it,” he would later admit. “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, Md., 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 as 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 tune-up fight was going to be against,” Leonard said. “I said, `No tune-up. I’m going straight to Marvin.’ Even my brother Roger thought I had lost it. There was no one, besides my father, who thought 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.”

The Vegas oddsmakers didn’t believe just-plain Ray or his sugary alter ego could be competitive against Hagler. What kind of man can fight just once in five years, looks terrible in that single ring appearance, and tries to jump up two weight classes to take on one of the most dominant middleweight champions of all time? Hagler hadn’t lost in 11 years, a stretch during which he had gone 34-0-1 (that disputed draw with Antuofermo) with 32 KOs. Hagler was an opening-line 20-to-1 favorite.

But there was more to what would eventually transpire in the ring than met the eye, as is often the case. Since returning to the gym, Leonard had secretly engaged in four bouts against top-20-type opponents, against whom he had gone 4-0 with two KOs. He would not be going against the very confident – perhaps overconfident – Hagler with that thick a coating of ring rust. There was also some question as to just how much mileage Marvelous Marvin had on his ring odometer; although his official age was just shy of 33, his personal photographer, Angie Carlino, allowed that he had seen a birth certificate which listed Hagler’s birth year as 1952, which would made him closer to 35.

“He was closer to the end than people realized,” Carlino later said of his friend and employer.

But it was the fight before the fight where Leonard and Trainer laid the real groundwork for what would take place inside the ropes. Already far richer than Hagler, Leonard gladly agreed to accept less money – a base purse of $11 million to $12 million for the champion, with the lion’s share of the closed-circuit money (which turned out to be another $10 million) also going to Hagler. The tradeoff is that Leonard and Trainer got the non-financial concessions they sought, which included a larger ring (20 feet instead of the 15-foot bandbox preferred by Hagler and his handlers, Goody and Pat Petronelli), 12 rounds instead of 15 and larger gloves.

Why had Hagler agreed to certain contract stipulations that figured to benefit Leonard on fight night? Maybe because he believed that, by getting more money than boxing’s popular ATM machine, he was finally being accorded the kind of respect that only shows up on a bank ledger. More likely, he was adamant in his belief that whatever advantages Leonard and Trainer had procured at the negotiation table would be erased the first time Sugar Ray tasted his punching power. So what if the ring was larger? Like Joe Louis once said, you can run, but you can’t hide.

“I believe there was animosity on Marvin’s end, even more so than usual,” said Rose. “When he was preparing for a fight, Marvin always viewed his opponent as the bad guy and worked up this venom against him. But with Ray, I think he especially resented that he had to come up the hard way and Ray, as the Olympic darling, had it so much easier. They weren’t alike in most ways. The main common denominator they shared was prodigious talent.”

Although a Las Vegas newspaper poll had 60 of 67 media members picking Hagler to win, Leonard’s popularity with the public was such that he was bet down to just a 5-2 underdog by the time the opening bell rang. It was a virtual replay of what had happened on Oct. 2, 1980, at Caesars Palace when Muhammad Ali was such a sentimental favorite over a prime heavyweight champion Larry Holmes that he somehow went off as the wagering choice. But sentimentality counts for little in the prize ring, and Ali’s trainer, Angelo Dundee, ran up the white flag in the 10th round with his legendary fighter absorbing a fearful beatdown.

Despite fears that Leonard would suffer the same disastrous consequences against Hagler, the sporting world took notice to an extent that few, if any, boxing matches do now. The Washington Post and Boston Globe each dispatched seven reporters to cover the fight, and the two Las Vegas papers’ carpet-bombed it with a combined 17 scribes who must have found it a daunting challenge to come up with new material throughout the week. My paper made do with four on-site reporters, but augmented its extensive daily coverage with a 16-page pullout section the day before.

All that remained was for the fight to live up to the runaway hype, and to a large degree it did. Leonard proved to be sturdier than the flimsy shack so many had predicted would be blown away by Hagler’s hurricane-force winds. The parallel story lines that quickly developed were Hagler’s somewhat perplexing decision to switch from his standard southpaw stance to orthodox, and Leonard’s intelligent and effective strategy of stealing rounds with 30-second flurries at the end of certain rounds.

The decision for Leonard – judges Jo Jo Guerra and Dave Moretti scored it 118-110 and 115-113, respectively, for the new middleweight champion, while Lou Filippo had Hagler ahead, 115-113 – is especially curious in light of the fact that the originally appointed British judge, Harry Gibbs, had been rejected by the Hagler camp, ostensibly because of the way Marvin had been treated in England for his title-winning third-round knockout of Alan Minter on Sept. 27, 1980, in London’s Wembley Stadium. Inebriated Minter supporters had pelted the ring with bottles and folding chairs in response to Hagler’s thrashing of the home-country hero. Apparently still miffed by that fusillade, Hagler and the Petronellis demanded Gibbs be replaced with “a Mexican judge,” Guerra, who submitted a scorecard that had Leonard winning 10 of 12 rounds. As it turned out, Gibbs, who had flown home and watched the fight on television, said he would have scored it for Hagler.

Opinions always will vary, and for everyone who insists the judges made the right call – renowned trainer Gil Clancy, a color commentator for the U.S. closed-circuit telecast, said Leonard’s effort was “the greatest performance I’ve ever seen by any boxer” – there is someone who is just as sure that Hagler was robbed. Certainly Hagler felt that Leonard’s hit-and-run tactics were somewhat less than valiant.

“He fought like a girl,” sneered Hagler, who during the bout tried to goad Leonard into engaging at close quarters by saying, “Slow down, you little bitch. Fight me like a man.”

As everyone knows, there was no rematch. Hagler retired, moved to Italy and became an actor. Leonard was 2-2-1 in his five bouts after Hagler, retiring at age 40. These days he enjoys the company of his second wife, Bernadette, as well as working on his golf game.

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

It’s true for fighters, and fight writers as well. Caesars Palace is still a landmark on the Vegas Strip, but, as Rose ruefully admits, its long run as the boxing world’s preferred fight site “is history.” The Philadelphia Daily News, from which I officially retired on April 1, 2012, has so circled the wagons on its sports coverage (most of which is now devoted to the city’s four major professional teams) that not a single reporter was sent to Inglewood, Calif., for Bernard Hopkins’ farewell bout on Dec. 17; wire-service copy had to suffice. But I have retained enough of a soft spot for Caesars Palace that when my older daughter eschewed a church wedding nearly 17 years ago (she’s now divorced), I arranged for her to tie the knot with her fiancée in the Caesars Palace chapel, and to honeymoon at the Roman-themed resort where a certain Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame-bound publicist undoubtedly made her feel as important as the bride’s sportswriter father had been made to feel.

I don’t know this for certain, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some complimentary pineapple juice had been sent to the newly married couple’s room.

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

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The BWAA Shames Veteran Referee Laurence Cole and Two Nebraska Judges

Arne K. Lang

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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).

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

 

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

David A. Avila

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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.”

DiBella

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 www.360promotions.us 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.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

To comment on this article at The Fight Forum, CLICK HERE.

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What’s Next for Manny Pacquiao?

Kelsey McCarson

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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 GMAnetwork.com’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.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

To comment on this article at The Fight Forum, CLICK HERE.

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