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“Iron Ambition” – Mike Tyson and Cus D’Amato: Book Review by Thomas Hauser

Thomas Hauser



TYSON AND D’AMATO — Few fighters have captured the public imagination the way that Mike Tyson did. The primary architect of “Iron Mike” as the world saw him was Cus D’Amato.

Four years ago, Tyson co-authored an autobiography entitled Undisputed Truth with Larry Sloman. Now Tyson and Sloman have reunited to write Iron Ambition (Blue Rider Press), a biography of D’Amato as viewed through the prism of his relationship with Tyson.

The origins of the Tyson-D’Amato relationship are well known. Simply stated, in Mike’s words, “I was a bad kid. Went to institutions. Then I met an old guy who trained fighters. And this guy gave me the blueprint for the rest of my life.”

D’Amato was a great trainer, a master motivator who understood the mechanics of boxing and could teach a man to fight. Again, in Tyson’s words, “For Cus, boxing was a metaphor for living. He took the weak and made them strong.”

In 1980, on one of Tyson’s early visits to D’Amato’s home in Catskill, Cus told him, “You know, I’ve been waiting for you. I’ve been thinking about you since 1969 [when Jose Torres, one of D’Amato’s champions, retired]. If you meditate long enough on something, you get a picture. And the picture told me that I would make another champion. I conjured you up with my mind, and now you’re finally here.”

But life with D’Amato was complicated.

“Everybody thinks I’m up there with this old sweet white Italian guy,” Tyson recalls. “Cus was a vicious cantankerous beast. He was just a bunch of rage. He was always plotting revenge. That’s what I was about, getting him back on top. All of it came out of vindictiveness and bitterness. I was too young at that time. I didn’t understand the nuances. But now I know what was going on. If he could get into any kind of position with leverage, he’d like to hurt his enemies. Cus was very vindictive. He was always in a state of confrontation. He couldn’t live without enemies. If he didn’t have enemies, he would make one. That’s what I came out of. Cus had so many legitimate enemies that he got paranoid that everybody was his enemy. He had a few guns in the house. If we were on the road for a fight, he’d sleep with a knife by his side. In the house, Cus’s bedroom was off limits. He had it rigged up with a matchbox that would fall on the floor if someone opened the door.”

D’Amato quickly established a psychological hold over Tyson. When Mike was thirteen, Cus told him, “Listen to me, boy. People of royal descent will know your name. The whole world will know who you are. Your family name will reign.”

Tyson recounts D’Amato “putting gasoline on a raging fire that was consuming me.” He recalls looking at an old copy of The Ring record book that Cus gave him like he was “looking at a Penthouse magazine.” Falling under D’Amato’s influence, he watched the first Leonard-Duran fight on television and, “Everything just clicked. I finally understood fighting. People were applauding and going crazy, and my dick got hard.”

“Cus wanted the meanest fighter God ever created,” Tyson says. “Someone who scared the life out of people before they even entered the ring. Every day, Cus would tell me I’m the most fierce ferocious fighter the world has known. I used to love it when he said stuff like, ‘You remind me of a modern-day Jack Dempsey, you’re just so ferocious.’ When people began to describe me as a savage, I’d get an erection.”

“Cus made me feel that hurting people was noble,” Tyson continues. “He showed me the difference between fear and intimidation. Being intimidated prevents you from performing at the highest level you’re capable of. Fear can help you ascend to great heights. When you get hit, that’s when you gotta be calmest. When you’re not being hurt is when boxing becomes fun.”

There were times when life with D’Amato was hard beyond the normal demands of boxing.

“Cus believed that, if you didn’t take all his shit, you were a bad person . . . Cus would tell me, ‘Don’t thank me. This is who you are. I’m just bringing it out of you. I’ve done nothing.’ And then he’d turn around and say, ‘There’s no way to accomplish this without my direction. You have to listen to me.’ . . . Cus wanted to make you better. But in order to make you better, he had to break you. That’s a bad process. Sometimes you break people and you can’t put them back together.”

Yet through it all, Tyson recalls, “I was truly a young man on a tunnel-vision mission. I never felt such a glorious feeling. He made me feel like I was somebody, that I mattered. I held Cus in such high esteem, like a god. And I was like his slave. If he told me to kill somebody, I would kill them. I’m serious. I was a sick fuck. I think about this a lot. It’s this old washed-up dude and this fucking slum dweller. This dude is telling me shit and I’m believing it. I think I’m invincible. Cus had me thinking I’m this invincible fucking monster from another galaxy. He thought so highly of me as a fighter, it was like he was worshipping me. And I started worshipping myself. At sixteen years old, I believed that all the heroes and gods of war – Achilles, Ares, all these gods and all the old fighters – were watching me and I had to represent them. I had to be blood-thirsty and gut-wrenching. We were fighting for immortality. Nothing else mattered than being worshipped by the entire world.”

Iron Ambition is really two books presented to the reader in alternating chapters. The first book is Tyson’s recounting of his life with D’Amato. The second is a recounting of Cus’s life separate and apart from Mike and, to a degree, how D’Amato’s pre-Tyson experiences shaped his relationship with Tyson. Both narratives are presented in Tyson’s voice, although the second narrative appears to be largely the product of exhaustive research by Sloman.

Sloman writes smoothly. His research on D’Amato’s relationship with organized crime is presented largely from Cus’s point of view. Much is made of D’Amato’s adversarial relationship with James Norris, Truman Gibson, and the International Boxing Club. But as Tyson and Sloman acknowledge, Cus was also comfortable in the presence of Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno (who began his career with Lucky Luciano and later became a Genovese family underboss). Sloman and Tyson, to their credit, acknowledge that relationship and quote D’Amato as telling writer Paul Zuckerman in the early 1980s, “I wasn’t fighting the mob. I was fighting the IBC. I’d rather you wrote that. I don’t want to challenge these people. I got along. I never challenged them.”

There’s a poignant recounting of Tyson’s last conversation with D’Amato, which took place in Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York on November 3, 1985, one day before Cus died.

“Cus was open to facing his own mortality,” Tyson explains. “He would always say, ‘God, I wish I had more time with you. I thought Cus would always be around. I never thought he would die. But he always told me that he wasn’t going to work my corner. He wanted Kevin [Rooney] and [cutman] Matt Baranski to be there. He didn’t want me to come back to the corner one day and he wouldn’t be there.”

D’Amato died at age 77, three days after Tyson’s eleventh professional fight.

“When Cus died, I lost my spirit,” Tyson acknowledges. “I don’t think I ever did get over his death. I felt cheated by destiny when he died. With Cus gone, the punches seemed to hurt me more. When Cus died, I started hitting the bottle more. I’ve been an alcoholic my whole life. I think I’m a drug addict, a cool drug kid. But I’m a fucking sloppy drunk. I drank when I was nine years old in Brownsville and I drank beer when I was doing amateur tournaments. With Cus gone, I began to drink more.”

Jimmy Jacobs, who had lived with D’Amato for a decade and (with the financial backing of Bill Cayton) subsidized D’Amato’s boxing venture in Catskill, tried to fill the void left by Cus’s death. But despite Mike’s fondness for Jim, that was impossible.

On November 22, 1986, Tyson demolished Trevor Berbick to claim the WBC heavyweight throne.

“Plotting and scheming with Cus was the best time of my life,” Tyson recounts. “Our goal was all about barbarian success and superiority and then, boom, it was there and he wasn’t. Now I’m twenty and famous all over the world. You walk outside and you’ve got a thousand crazed fans within a one-block radius. But I’m just a trained monkey. By the time I won the belt, I was a wrecked soul. I was lost because I didn’t have Cus. All I knew was winning the belt for Cus. That was our goal. We were going to do this or else we were going to die. That was the payoff for all that sacrifice, suffering, dedication.”

Then, on March 23, 1988, two days after Tyson knocked out Tony Tubbs, Jacobs died at age 58. In Mike’s next bout, he demolished Michael Spinks. But things in the ring deteriorated after that, culminating in Tyson’s February 11, 1990, knockout loss at the hands of Buster Douglas.

“People always say that, if Cus had lived longer, he would have worked on my character,” Tyson states. “Fuck my character. You know what my character would have been? Putting people in comas and, at the end of the day, saying yes to Cus’s decisions.”

Iron Ambition is the most complete portrait of Cus D’Amato that boxing fans are likely to see for a long time. But like its subject, the book has flaws.

Too often, things D’Amato said that are demonstrably false are treated as true. For example; one factor adding to D’Amato’s certainty that Tyson would be heavyweight champion of the world someday was the astrological phenomenon that – in Tyson’s words – “I passed Cus’s test. I’m a Cancer. Every heavyweight champion was born under only three signs, and Cancer was one of them.”

But that’s simply wrong. The heavyweight champions from John L. Sullivan through Muhammad Ali were born under nine different astrological signs.

More significantly, there are places where Tyson goes over the line in ascribing powers to D’Amato and others. At one point, he describes a man who can take the sights off a BB gun, put a piece of tissue over the hole in the center of a metal washer, throw the washer in the air, and shoot a BB through the center of the washer. “But the amazing thing,” Tyson claims, “was that he could teach anyone to do this within an hour and they’d never miss.”

How was this possible? According to Tyson, the man was “training the unconscious mind of his pupils similar to how a Zen monk taught archery.”

Tyson also talks about D’Amato developing a system that allowed Jose Torres to throw “a six-punch combination in two-fifths of a second.”

Forgive me, but that’s nonsense.

There’s a sanitized recounting of sexual goings-on in Catskill and elsewhere.

There’s very little in Iron Ambition about Teddy Atlas, who assisted D’Amato in training Tyson until an explosive falling out.

Steve Lott worked with Bill Cayton and Jim Jacobs for well over a decade, was in Tyson’s corner for virtually all of Mike’s fights through Tyson-Spinks, and shared an apartment with Tyson for several years. But there’s no mention of the role that Lott played in Tyson’s life.

In the end, readers of Iron Ambition are left with the question of what D’Amato would have thought about the way Tyson squandered his ring talent. Tyson, for his part, now sees things differently from the way D’Amato saw them.

“What was in my mind,” Tyson asks, “that made me work so hard and think that I’d cut off a hand for that cheap tin piece-of-shit belt? I loved going through life with Cus then, but it’s not like I don’t have any resentments now. Why did I have to work so fucking hard that I have arthritis throughout my body. Now I can’t walk without pain. I can still work out but I’m a wreck. I broke bones all over my body. I’ll probably be crippled later in life. I can’t remember shit sometimes. All from fighting for that belt. Cus believed in dying in the ring, dying on your shield. But I realize now, nothing is more important than life. There is no trophy; there is no glory, more important than life and the people you love. I’d be the first to want to die with honor in the ring back then, but not now. That is a sucker’s game. And I was probably the biggest sucker who ever came into this game.”

And one final note . . .

In 1983, I decided to write a book about the sport and business of boxing: The Black Lights. The first two people I interviewed for the book were Bill Cayton and Jim Jacobs.

“If you’re going to write a book about boxing,” Bill told me, “you have to talk with Cus D’Amato.” Bill and Jim also told me about a young man named Mike Tyson who was living with Cus. Mike was seventeen years old at the time. He was going to be the greatest heavyweight champion ever, they said. But more important, under Cus’s tutelage, Mike had become a model citizen.

Bill and Jim arranged for me to spend a weekend in Catskill. I stayed in the house with Cus, Camille Ewald, and the young men Cus was working with, including Tyson. I’ll recount my memories of that weekend another time. But I do want to share some thoughts now about Bill Cayton.

At one time, Cayton owned the copyright on the largest collection of fight films in history. His film collection made him a rich man. In 1999, he sold his film library to ESPN and further solidified his personal fortune. Along the way, he helped guide Tyson to stardom as Mike’s manager and generated an enormous amount of money for fighters like Wilfred Benitez, Edwin Rosario, Vinny Pazienza, Tommy Morrison, and Michael Grant.

Cayton is trashed repeatedly and bitterly in Iron Ambition. The details of his business relationship with Jim Jacobs are inaccurately reported. He’s given no credit for having devised the marketing strategy that helped propel Tyson to superstardom.

Bill could be egotistical and condescending. He was also brilliant and honest. There came a time after Jacobs’s death when Tyson was lured away from Cayton and fell under the spell of Don King and then Shelly Finkel. Bill was hurt by Tyson’s defection. But he refused to blame Mike.

In a way, the situation was analogous to Floyd Patterson’s betrayal of D’Amato. Cus guided Patterson to the heavyweight championship of the world. Then Floyd dumped him. Reflecting on what happened afterward, Tyson declares, “The one person who betrayed Cus the worst always got a pass from him. Cus never said anything derogatory about him. He always defended him. Cus said only beautiful things about him. I was jealous of Patterson. Cus loved him so much. Then I realized that the reason Cus always stayed loyal to Floyd, despite all of Floyd’s treacherous acts, was that Floyd gave Cus his championship. He gave him that feeling that Cus always wanted. So Cus was indebted to him.”

In a similar way, Cayton felt indebted to Tyson.

The way people are remembered is important. Bill died in 2003 and is no longer here to defend himself. But this doesn’t mean that Mike Tyson’s attacks on his character should go unrebutted. Bill did right by Mike Tyson.

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


Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at His most recent book – There Will Always Be Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism.


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The BWAA Shames Veteran Referee Laurence Cole and Two Nebraska Judges

Arne K. Lang



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Controversy has dogged Laurence Cole for well over a decade.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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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