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How the ‘Omega Project’ Got Holyfield Ready for Qawi – and, ultimately, Tyson

Bernard Fernandez




They could have called it something else. They could have just said it was a more intensive, non-traditional type of training without attaching a fancy label to the different direction they wanted to take the 1984 Olympic bronze medalist. But Evander Holyfield’s management team dubbed the new strategy the “Omega Project,” which vaguely sounded as if it had something to do with secret agents or the development of a weapon of mass destruction in some remote underground facility known only to scientists with high-level security clearances.

What it was, in fact, was a long-range blueprint to transform Evander Holyfield, a cruiserweight with a stout heart and burning desire to succeed but limited professional experience and questionable stamina, into the human dynamo who someday would take down the seemingly invincible Mike Tyson.

“We call this the Omega Project because we feel Evander Holyfield is the last man who can beat Mike Tyson,” said Holyfield’s promoter, Main Events president Dan Duva, a sentiment which at the time, the spring of 1986, was shared only by his fellow true believers, and maybe not entirely bought into by even some members of Holyfield’s inner circle.

“My manager (Ken Sanders) was a car salesman,” Holyfield, now 54, recalled when contacted for this story. “He didn’t know much boxing, but he believed in me. He thought I could beat anybody.  I thought I could beat anybody. I wasn’t afraid of nobody. But the Duvas (Dan and his father, Lou, who, along with George Benton, served as Holyfield’s co-trainer) didn’t know exactly what they had in me. I’m not sure they were certain I could win that fight (a challenge of then-WBA junior heavyweight champion Dwight Muhammad Qawi). But I had a big contract with ABC and they put me in it.”

July 12 marks the 31st anniversary of the watershed event that, in many ways, helped put Evander Holyfield on the path to an undisputed cruiserweight championship, a record four reigns as heavyweight titlist and his induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, which took place on June 11 of this year. The then-23-year-old Holyfield’s action-packed, image-buffing 15-round split decision over the Tysonesque Qawi in Atlanta’s Omni might have been “The Real Deal’s” 12th pro bout, but in some ways it was his debut as something far better than what many had presumed him to be, and maybe even the instrument by which Tyson might be brought down, although Buster Douglas beat him to that distinction.

“You see he now knows that stamina is not a problem,” Alex Wallau, the color analyst for the ABC Wide World of Sports telecast, said in the 14th round of Holyfield’s surprising staying power. “He is now officially a professional fighter. He can go these 14 and he will be able to go the 15 rounds. And trust me, that was a tremendous question in his mind. He may not admit it, but until you’ve done it you don’t know if you can do it.”

Even Evander, who was raised by his beloved mama Annie to believe that words like “quit” and “can’t” were not to be a part of his lexicon, might have surprised himself by going 15 grueling rounds when he’d never had to go beyond eight rounds previously as a pro, and that had happened only once. In Holyfield: The Humble Warrior, authored in 1996 by Evander’s brother, Bernard, his sibling admits to being concerned that the kid he and seven other older brothers and sisters had nicknamed “Chubby” for his fondness of junk food was wilting before his eyes as early as the fourth round.

“Evander found himself sitting on a stool, hurting as much as he had ever hurt, feeling as tired as he had ever felt, and wondering how he was going to finish this bout,” Bernard Holyfield wrote. “As I watched my brother bleed (note: Evander was never cut in the fight) and pant for air between the fourth and fifth rounds, I wondered if the experts weren’t right. The fight was scheduled for 15 rounds. Evander had never fought more than eight – a fact that the Qawi people hoped to exploit when they demanded the longer 15-round bout. They reasoned that Evander’s lack of experience in the later rounds would eventually show and make it easy for Qawi to capitalize on Evander’s exhaustion.”

Bernard Holyfield said Evander was able to courageously and effectively soldier on beyond the presumed limits of his endurance because of the presence of 9,000 or so of his hometown fans and friends, which might be true to some extent. It was a truly gallant effort, and in a classic slugfest in which there were virtually no clinches (making for a relatively easy afternoon for referee Vinnie Rainone), Evander averaged around 85 punches per round, an extraordinary work rate for a 6-foot-2, 186-pound man, although that number could not be quantified until much later, after an examination of the tape by punch-counters for CompuBox, a company which did not exist in 1986. But there was a price to be paid for the winner’s refusal to acquiesce to the little voice in his head telling him that the worsening pain in his back and diminished air in his lungs would have made it all right to give up and return to fight another day.

Examined by a ring physician in his dressing room, Holyfield was informed that his body was burning muscle, which could have caused his kidneys to fail. He was rushed to a hospital, where he was administered nine liters of intravenous fluids. When he awakened, it was at a weight of 201 pounds, or 15 more than what he had registered at the weigh-in just the day before.

So the Omega Project wasn’t yet a complete and indisputable success, but, as the ancient Chinese proverb goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Although Holyfield might have been spurred on by a desire to defeat Qawi and thus reward his phalanx of supporters for their loyalty, his triumph owed at least in part to R. David Calvo, an orthopedic surgeon who ran a sports medicine clinc in Sugar Land, Texas, and Houston-based conditioning specialist Tim Hallmark, who first worked with Evander in the lead-up to the Qawi fight (Holyfield would also win the rematch in more convincing fashion, on a fourth-round knockout on Dec. 5, 1987). Hallmark would remain with Evander for all but the final bout of a remarkable 27-year pro career, the indispensable recruit into what might be described as a noble experiment, and his input helped change the course of Holyfield’s life, and by extension boxing history.

Truth be told, there were more than a few skeptics who believed that Evander Holyfield was less of a prospect for professional greatness than other members of that 1984 U.S. Olympic boxing team who signed with Main Events, a bonanza of a talent haul that included gold medalists and future world champions Pernell Whitaker, Meldrick Taylor and Mark Breland, who was considered the prize of the group, as well as super heavyweight gold medalist Tyrell Biggs.

It wasn’t as if Holyfield lacked self-confidence at that or any stage of his boxing journey. “I didn’t ever think about what would have happened if I lost (to Qawi) because I never thought about losing,” he said. “You can’t be afraid to take a chance to be the best, and I wanted to be the best. I just didn’t know what the best was.”

But Lou Duva had an idea of what Holyfield might become, if some needed adjustments were made. The rotund and pasta-enlarged Duva stormed into his snack-loving fighter’s apartment one day and confiscated his considerable stash of potato chips and single-serving apple pies, which he correctly figured did not constitute the dietary needs of a future world champion. OK, it was a case of do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do, but Cap’n Lou clearly was onto something. Still, there was more to be done to further the the development of a young, potentially outstanding fighter whose ceiling already was in danger of being reached.

Although Holyfield’s goal, from the time he took up boxing at eight years of age at the Warren Memorial Boys Club, was to become the heavyweight champion of the world, he turned pro as a light heavyweight and was still campaigning as a cruiserweight – the weight limit at that time being 190 pounds – which was chipping away at his mental resolve. Eating sweets and bags of potato chips might have helped him pack on enough pounds to become a heavyweight, but not the proper way, and training to remain a cruiserweight (the WBA then called its version of that division as junior heavyweight) was dampening his enthusiasm for going to the gym, torturing his Greek-god physique and maintaining that 29-inch waist. He had to move up at some point, and he and the Duvas knew it. After all, heavyweights made much more money than cruisers and were more widely recognized by the public. Mostly, though, Tyson was already a heavyweight icon and he represented that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow if only a larger, more finely tuned Holyfield could find a way to claim it.

Thus was the launch of the Omega Project and Holyfield’s introduction to Hallmark, who had never worked with a big-time boxer. The concept of bringing in a relative outsider was not as radical as it might once have seemed, given the fact that New Orleans fitness guru Mackie Shilstone had helped bulk up light heavyweight champ Michael Spinks to upset IBF heavyweight champion Larry Holmes on Sept. 21, 1985, employing similar methods to those espoused by Hallmark. But, hey, desperate times call for desperate measures. At 5-foot-7 and 189 pounds, the aggressive, constantly pressuring Qawi, 33, was a mirror image of Tyson and the litmus test by which Holyfield would prove or disprove the merits of eventually targeting the compact wrecking machine from Brooklyn.

“Lou Duva knew Evander had a conditioning problem and that he didn’t have a chance (against Qawi),” Hallmark said in 1988, prior to Holyfield’s heavyweight debut against a onetime Tyson opponent, James “Quick” Tillis, on July 16 of that year. “So he sought me out. He said, `We’ve got a guy who has more skill than anybody else, but after three rounds he looks like he has no skill.’

“Evander would go five or six rounds against what you’d call easier competition. Everybody who knew anything about the fight business knew there was no way Qawi was going to be knocked out and everybody in the business knew Holyfield would be in trouble going more than four or five rounds.”

Hallmark eschewed such traditional staples of a boxer’s conditioning as long runs, jumping rope and shadowboxing and he put Holyfield on a regimen of cycling, treadmill jogging and exercise on a device known as a climber, which resembled a vertical torture rack. The pair went through the paces two hours each morning, six days a week, with Duva and Benton taking over in the afternoon for Holyfield’s standard boxing workouts.

Not that Duva, who had a hand in bringing Hallmark aboard, was always amenable to aspects of the out-of-the-box venture.

“There was a lot of doubt, but Lou is always looking for a better way, and I have to admire him for that,” Hallmark said of those early rough patches. “Lou and George were coming up and saying, `What’s wrong? He looks flat.’ I said, `Guys, I’m glad he looks flat. If you want me to pussyfoot around every day and make him look good every single day, it’s not going to work.’”

As it turned out, Holyfield – who later became an inveterate tinkerer in regards to his own training methods, no doubt in large part because of the benefits he perceived as having been derived from the Omega Project – might have bailed on the proposal before it even had a chance to get underway.

“Tim Hallmark was a Christian, too,” Holyfield, whose devout religious beliefs are well-known, recalled of someone who would become one of his closest friends and confidantes. “He asked me, `Do you mind if we pray before we start?’ Of course I say we should (pray). And that’s how everything started. It was a good thing, because Tim turned out to be a very good conditioning coach.

“He knew things I never thought about, like checking your heart rate and the right way to breathe. The right way to breathe? But I was willing to take chances because everything that I did, he did with me. I remember (Duva and Benton) telling me, `Man, he’s working you too hard.’ But I wasn’t a quitter. Quitting just wasn’t in my nature. I was brought up to give my best, each and every time.”

Getting past Qawi, the aptly nicknamed “Camden Buzzsaw,” was hardly a given. Qawi was a former WBC light heavyweight champ, an ex-con as hard as nails, and a perpetual motion machine whose modus operandi was to constantly come forward while winging hard shots with bad intentions. There was little question he would press Holyfield from the opening bell and for as long as the fight continued. He also either had no respect for the kid he was about to face, or was trying to mess with his mind, dismissing the challenger as “mediocre” in a TV interview the day before the showdown.

Wallau, who had taken over just that year as the successor to Howard Cosell as lead voice for ABC’s boxing telecasts (Al Trautwig handled the blow-by-blow duties), was merely echoing familiar concerns about the size of Holyfield’s gas tank as round after round rolled by.

“One of Evander’s biggest challenges here is overcoming the psychological barrier of going 15 rounds for the first time,” Wallau said before the fight started. Then, in the first round, he repeated what would become a near-constant theme, noting that “the 15-round distance is an intimidating thing. Even so great a fighter as Marvin Hagler, the first time he did it, in his first try for the world middleweight title against Vito Antuofermo, he was intimidated after round 10. He was in unknown territory.”

In round five, Wallau – who, curiously, was awarding Holyfield most of those early rounds – suggested to his audience that the guy he had ahead was melting like a wax figurine left out in Georgia’s blazing noonday sun. “He’s clearly very tired,” Wallau pointed out. “This is just trench warfare, and right now Dwight Qawi is winning it. He might not be ahead on points, but he’s winning the war.”

Came the sixth round, and Wallau was more certain than ever that Holyfield’s title quest would soon end in ignominious fashion. “He has no movement,” Wallau proclaimed. “None whatsoever. Standing right there. Not using the jab, not doing all the things that were laid out for him to do by Georgie Benton and Lou Duva. And the main reason is, he just isn’t strong enough. He doesn’t have the energy right now to execute.”

“He looks a little slower and slower as the fight moves along,” chimed in Trautwig.

But, as he had always insisted, Holyfield was no quitter. He answered every flurry by Qawi with one of his own, and somewhere in the later rounds he found that second wind the doubters were convinced would prove impossibly elusive once he exited his early-rounds comfort zone. The decision for Holyfield – judges Heffie Quintana and Harold Lederman had him up by respective margins of 147-138 and 144-140, while Gordon Volkman saw Qawi as a 143-141 winner – made him the first of Main Events’ 1984 U.S. Olympians to win a world title. The Omega Project, still in its infancy, had passed its initial test, and an acid one at that.

In time, people stopped talking about the Omega Project because it ceased to be a topic of discussion. Evander Holyfield, the onetime reluctant guinea pig, became fully immersed in the concept of self-awareness and improvement, to the point where he elected to become his own laboratory test rat. Even as changes were effected in Holyfield’s corner, Hallmark remained and newcomers brought in. For his April 19, 1991, heavyweight title defense against George Foreman, in which Holyfield retained his WBC, WBA and IBF belts on a 12-round unanimous decision, his expanded retinue included 69-year-old ballet instructor Marya Kennett, bodybuilder Lee Haney, strength coach Chasee Jordan and computer analysts Logan Hobson and Bob Canobbio, the founders of CompuBox. Some of those additions confounded Duva, who was instrumental in the creation of the Omega Project, and Benton, who wondered if too much experimentation was having more of a negative effect than a positive one.

“I’ve been doing this a long time,” Holyfield, who praised Kennett for greatly improving his flexibility, said of the constant fine-tuning. “I know better than anyone else what I need to do to get myself ready.”

But when some of the newer additions and even the old standbys drifted away or were excised, Hallmark remained, preaching a gospel of fitness that Holyfield clung to as zealously as he once did to his bags of potato chips.

“Tim was highly educated and he knew about a lot of things that I didn’t,” Holyfield said. “I wasn’t a guy who read a lot of books, but I was always interested in how things worked. I didn’t know about vitamins and nutrition, stuff like that. We were poor when I was growing up. All I knew was to eat whatever my mama put on the table.”

Relegated to the dust bin of an earlier era, the lessons Holyfield learned at the outset of the Omega Project reached full fruition the night of Nov. 9, 1996, when he dominated Tyson throughout en route to scoring an 11th-round technical knockout at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand.

“My biggest satisfaction in boxing was when I beat Tyson (the “Bite Fight” disqualification victory would come on June 28, 1997) because so many people were talking about all the bad things he was going to do to me,” Holyfield said, the memory of it as warm and comforting as flaming logs in the fireplace on a cold winter evening. “They didn’t look at nothin’ that I accomplished compared to him. But I was more prepared for that fight than any fight I ever fought. I pretty much watched all of his fights from the time we were amateurs.”

If you connect the dots, they trace back a decade earlier to a notion and to Dwight Muhammad Qawi, cast in the role of Tyson Lite.

“June 12, 1986,” Benton, a 2001 inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame who was 78 when he died on Sept 19, 2011, said of the fight in which Evander Holyfield afforded the world at large a glimpse at all that he would someday become. “That’s when it all came together for Evander. That’s the day we knew we had something special.”


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The BWAA Shames Veteran Referee Laurence Cole and Two Nebraska Judges

Arne K. Lang



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Controversy has dogged Laurence Cole for well over a decade.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David A. Avila



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

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

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

Take your pick.

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

HBO will televise both light heavyweight title fights.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

It’s a curious matchup of former world champions.

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

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

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

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

One world title fight does take place on the card.

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

L.A. Congestion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Title Fight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What’s Next for Manny Pacquiao?

Kelsey McCarson




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

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

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

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

Cream of the Crop

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

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

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

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

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

Other Notable Possibilities

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

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

Pacquiao vs. PBC fighters?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mayweather-Pacquiao 2?

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

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

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

Pacquiao vs. McGregor?

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

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

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

Pacquiao’s Top Targets

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

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