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The Middleweight Reigns of Hopkins and GGG: Truth, Lies, and Statistics

When Emmitt Smith passed Walter Payton to become the NFL’s career rushing leader on Oct. 27, 2002, a distinction he still holds, more than a few

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When Emmitt Smith passed Walter Payton to become the NFL’s career rushing leader on Oct. 27, 2002, a distinction he still holds, more than a few Dallas Cowboys fans immediately pronounced him the greatest running back ever because, well, their guy now had the numbers to validate that assertion. But the longevity that enabled Smith to compile those indisputably impressive numbers were not conclusive enough to sway diehard supporters of Payton, Barry Sanders, Gale Sayers, Jim Brown and, who knows, maybe Jim Thorpe and Red Grange, that those splendid runners weren’t just as good or even better.

Someone once said that there is truth, lies and damn statistics, figures that can be interpreted in different ways and might or might not prove anything beyond reasonable doubt.  Virtually every starting NFL quarterback today throws for more yards than Hall of Famers Sammy Baugh and Otto Graham did way back when, given changing times and rules designed to advance the modern passing game. There is another saying that records are made to be broken, which may be so, but the erasure of an existing mark and the penciling in of another does not always allow for shifting landscapes and individual gut reaction.  Fans tend to believe what they want to believe, which is why some records are not and can never be as sacrosanct as others.

Should Gennady Golovkin (38-0-1, 34 KOs) defeat Canelo Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 KOs) in their HBO Pay Per View rematch Saturday night at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena, it would mark his 21st consecutive middleweight title defense, snapping the division record of 20 he now shares with the iconic Bernard Hopkins. But would that fact alone certify “GGG” as the best of the best among middleweight champions, or better than B-Hop?  It is a nebulous area, in light of the fact that many legendary 160-pounders did not stay at the weight long enough to stitch together comparable streaks, or the reality that where once there was only one true middleweight ruler while now there are four presumably major sanctioning bodies which award alphabetized title belts, diluting the very concept of what a world champ is or is supposed to be.

Although Golovkin’s focus is primarily on Alvarez – they fought to a controversial and mutually dissatisfying split draw on Sept. 16 of last year — he is aware of the boxing history he is on the verge of possibly making and the specter of the very-much alive and chatty Hopkins that hangs over the bout.

“It’s very important for me to set this record,” Golovkin admitted. “It’s like going for two victories – to beat Canelo and to set the record.”

Added Tom Loeffler, Golovkin’s promoter: “It would be a tremendous accomplishment if GGG’s able to beat Bernard’s record. Most people thought 20 middleweight title defenses was untouchable. If Gennady, on this huge platform, is able to beat Canelo and break the record at the same time, that would be really be something.”

Like Loeffer, the 53-year-old Hopkins, now retired as an active boxer but still an executive with Golden Boy Promotions, whose most accomplished and marketable asset is Alvarez, didn’t expect his record, defense No. 20 coming when he scored a unanimous decision over Howard Eastman on Feb. 19, 2005, to be matched and possibly surpassed so soon. But the forever proud and defiant B-Hop is firm in his belief, at least publicly, that when all is said and done on Sept. 15 he will continue to hang onto his share of a record to which he absolutely does not want Golovkin to take sole possession.

“I never thought I’d be talking about this (his record conceivably falling) so early,” Hopkins said when contacted for this story. “I thought it would last 20, maybe 25 years. But at least my name is still in the conversation (as the co-record-holder). It’s really kind of a unique situation.

“Will I go over and shake Golovkin’s hand if he wins? It’s something I would rather not have to do, to be honest. There’s a competitive side of me that’s always going to be there no matter what I do in life. But you know what? I don’t think I’ll have to congratulate him for breaking the record because he’s not going to win. Canelo is super-confident. He’s younger (28 to GGG’s 36) and getting better and he’s fighting a guy who’s older and don’t know how to upgrade. I’ve been breaking down this fight for months and I have a good idea of how it’s going to play out.

“I’m calling this a unanimous decision, kind of lopsided, for Canelo. Now, there will be some fireworks. But when the fight gets into the championship rounds, GGG is going to be desperate. He’s a big puncher and big punchers always try to take their guy out early. He’s not going to know what to do when it’s late in the fight, he’s way behind on points and he finds himself in deep waters.”

There is a suspicion when listening to Hopkins that his lofty expectations of what Canelo is capable of doing against Golovkin are actually his imagination of what he could do against the knockout artist from Kazakhstan if they somehow could square off prime-on-prime. It is a notion that Hopkins does not reject out of hand.

“There’s always going to be a debate about who fought the better guys, but you can’t fault Gennady Golovkin for the quality of people that were and are in his era,” Hopkins continued. “His history is his history and my history is my history. He must be respected for what he’s done, regardless of what happens on Sept. 15.

“But if people insist on making comparisons, there are names on my resume, and on his, that we both can be proud of having beaten. Some other names, not so much. But you can only beat who’s put in front of you.

“That said, there’s no question I fought more quality opponents, and it’s not just (Felix) Trinidad and Oscar (De La Hoya). What about Joe Lipsey? Robert Allen? Glen Johnson? Howard Eastman? We could get into a cat fight on social media about this, but I ain’t going to play that game. Like him, I had to fight a few guys that weren’t top-rate – Morrade Hakkar, he ran around the ring like Carl Lewis – but I had to fight them because they were mandatories and I didn’t want to relinquish my title that way. I’m glad I took those fights because if I didn’t I wouldn’t be talking now about the record I still have.”

So, does Hopkins allow himself to play the what-if game of what would happen if he and GGG could have met at the top of their respective and tactically different forms?

“If I was fighting in my prime now, or if he was fighting me back then, he’d find out what ring generalship is all about,” Hopkins said. “You don’t put yourself in spots where you are vulnerable, you put the other guy in spots where he’s vulnerable. I made a living off of guys that came forward and wanted to bang. I knew how to make aggressive guys miss, and then I made them pay. GGG is going to realize what ring generalship is when he fights Canelo.”

Bold words, like statistics, are not really definitive proof of anything. If someone wants to say that Golovkin or Hopkins currently is the pugilistic version of Emmitt Smith because of their shared record, fine. But there are other middleweights who are always going to be mentioned for that figurative No. 1 all-time position, a who’s who list that includes the celebrated likes of Harry Greb, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Carlos Monzon and Sugar Ray Robinson, among others. The outcome of a fantasy pairing of the clever Hopkins and power-punching Golovkin does make for an interesting matchup of mental poker, however, and more so when the damnable numbers get pushed into the pot.

Of Hopkins’ 20 defenses (one was a four-round no-contest against Robert Allen on Aug. 28, 1998, when Hopkins inadvertently was pushed out of the ring by referee Mills Lane and injured his ankle) were against opponents who posted a cumulative record of 620-49-29 with 454 wins by stoppage and 23 losses by knockout. Three of those title bouts were against Allen, two against Antwun Echols. Golovkin’s 20 defenses all came against different opponents – the do-over with Alvarez marks his first championship rematch – who were a collective 574-59-10 with 381 KO wins and 19 losses inside the distance. Hopkins fought seven men who either had been or would become world champions, the same number as Golovkin. And where Hopkins scored signature victories against Trinidad and De La Hoya, GGG can counter with a points nod over Daniel Jacobs and the split draw with Canelo, which many believe should have resulted in a win.

If Hopkins is correct that his title reign came against a generally better grade of opposition, so too might be Loeffler’s claim that Golovkin’s efforts to enhance his legacy against big-name rivals has been thwarted in part by a reluctance by some of the marquee middleweights to trade punches with one of the most devastating punchers ever to grace the division.

“There’s a lot of names in the past that we would like to have gotten in the ring, but for whatever reason they chose not to fight Gennady, whether it was Felix Sturm or Sergio Martinez or Peter Quillin,” Loeffler said. “Gennady’s definitely had kind of a blue-collar career. He was willing to fight anyone, and anywhere. Now he’s in the T-Mobile Arena against Canelo Alvarez in the biggest fight of the year. It’s definitely a legacy fight for him.

“We’ll see the best fighting the best, and that’s really what the sport is all about. It’s what Gennady’s always wanted.”

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 274: Ryan and Devin in Hollywood, Jake, Amanda and More

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HOLLYWOOD, Ca.-Adorned in a white suit Ryan “King Ry” Garcia arrived on a big white horse followed by a handful of fair maidens dressed in various colors and some twirling hula hoops into the Avalon Theater on Vine Street on Thursday.

Inside the historic theater that once served as the Hollywood Canteen during World War 2, where actors like Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis and Rita Hayworth greeted soldiers, this time it was the boxing media waiting.

Garcia (24-1, 20 KOs) will challenge undefeated Devin Haney (31-0, 15 KOs) for the WBC super lightweight world title on April 20 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. DAZN pay-per-view will stream the Golden Boy Promotions card.

It doesn’t get more Hollywood than this.

Inside the 97-year-old theater, once the two opposing factions arrived, the pageantry turned into a war of words, taunts and accusations.

This is boxing.

Aside from the taunts and words of derision tossed at each other, the Haney father and son combination admitted that Garcia was the one fighter willing to fight Devin.

“He (Garcia) raised his hand when no one else did,” said Bill Haney the father.

Devin Haney sat next to his father on the stage anxious as ever to prove his talent in the prize ring. After his victory over Regis Prograis that followed wins over Vasyl Lomachenko and George Kambosos, the former undisputed lightweight world champion is now dwelling in the super lightweight division and holds the WBC version.

“I was killing myself trying to make the weight,” said Haney about moving up to the 140-pound super lightweight division.

Haney has long been familiar with Ryan Garcia since their amateur days as they met in the boxing ring six times as youths.

“They fought six times in the amateurs with both of them winning three apiece. Now they meet with championship gold and the chance at being the face of American boxing on the line,” said Oscar De La Hoya, the promoter and head of Golden Boy Promotions. “In other words, this one counts!”

Garcia and Haney have taken similar paths.

Garcia fought professionally numerous times in Mexico where it is legal to fight under the age of 18. So did Haney. Both faced unknown opponents, sometimes last-minute changes forced them to fight foes that were not originally scheduled.

As pros, the two similarly and eagerly sought to face the best opponents possible despite their inexperience. Both proved more than capable.

Garcia quickly amassed a surprisingly large following of fans through social media and through his exploits of sudden knockouts from his uncanny speed.

“Everything I have today, I earned it,” said Garcia. “Nobody gave me a handout, I never had money, I’m really a small town boy.”

Haney proved able to defeat veteran world champions feared for their technical expertise with his own buttery-smooth fighting prowess.

“I am happy to be here. I worked hard to be here. I sacrificed a lot to be here, and at the end of the day, the world will see it on April 20,” said Devin Haney.

Next month in Brooklyn the two longtime foes will be performing. Will it be the biggest grossing pay-per-view of the year 2024?

Jake and Amanda

Jake Paul and Amanda Serrano are boxing’s best tag team.

Several years ago, Paul recognized that Serrano, a seven-division world champion Puerto Rican was capable of much more than fighting on the small stage.

Genius.

Paul signed Serrano to his Most Valuable Promotions company and together they have been able to draw a mixture of fans long ignored by other promoters.

Welcome to the age of the influencers.

For the past several years Paul has fought MMA stars, boxers and other social media influencers. And when he signed Serrano she fought Katie Taylor in front of a sold-out Madison Square Garden and their fight drew more than a million pay-per-views.

Paul (8-1, 5 KOs) meets Ryan Bourland (17-2, 6 KOs) in an eight-round cruiserweight fight on Saturday March 2, at Coliseo Jose Miguel Agrelot in San Juan, Puerto Rico. DAZN will stream the card.

He will be co-piloting the fight card with the great Amanda Serrano (46-2-1, 30 KOs) who will be defending the undisputed featherweight world championship against Germany’s Nina “the Brave” Meinke (18-3, 4 KOs).

Once again Serrano and Paul will share a very good fight card that also features female super flyweights Krysti Rosario-Ortiz (2-0) and Gloria Munguilla (5-0).

Others on the card include Javon “Wanna” Walton, a featherweight out of Atlanta, Georgia. If he looks familiar there is a reason. He was featured in the Sylvester Stallone film Samaritan and also appeared in the HBO series Euphoria.

Walton has always boxed and now will be a part of the Paul and Serrano team.

Paul has that magic touch for attracting fans to boxing.

Just today Most Valuable Promotions signed Indian prizefighter Neeraj Goyat. The welterweight fighter was recently seen on social media approaching Paul in his training camp and daring the fighter to meet him in the boxing ring. The short video clip attracted more than 150 million views.

Paul, ever the think-out-of-the-box promoter, signed Goyat immediately.

“In just 2.5 years, MVP has organized some of the world’s most significant boxing events, and I’m excited to work with MVP to elevate the status of professional boxing in India and bring attention to boxers from India globally,” said an excited Goyat.

“His viral callouts of Jake Paul certainly got our attention,” said MVP co-founder Nakisa Bidarian.

Out-of-the box thinking.

Fights to Watch (all times Pacific Time)

Sat. DAZN 1:30 p.m. Amanda Serrano (46-2-1) vs Nina Meinke (18-3).

Sat. ESPN+ 2:10 pm Otabek Kholmatov 12-0, 11 KOs) vs. Raymod Ford (14-0-1, 7 KOs); Luis Alberto Lopez (29-2, 16 KOs) vs Reiya Abe (25-3-1, 10 KOs)

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Madueno Upsets Pauldo and Lopez Overcomes Escudero at Whitesands

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Madueno Upsets Pauldo and Lopez Overcomes Escudero at Whitesands

When it comes to professional boxing down in the Tampa Bay area, Canadian transplant Garry Jonas is a one-man band.

The architect of the Wednesday Night Fights series, Jonas doesn’t have to pay a site fee for the shows that he promotes because he owns the venue. The shows that he stages at his Whitesands Events Center in Plant City air on his live streaming platform ProBoxTV. His series currently has only one sponsor, a bookmaking operation called SportsBetting.Ag., and he owns that too. (A self-styled serial entrepreneur, Jonas continued his assault on the established order last week with his purchase of the respected Boxing Scene website, but that’s a story best saved for another day.)

Jonas promotes high-grade club fights. When he started this venture, he promised entertaining, well-matched fights and tonight he delivered. The “A” side fighters in the co-main events were matched tough.

In the featured bout, lightweight Justin Pauldo (17-2, 1 NC) was upset by Mexico’s Miguel Madueno. Managed by Jolene Mazzone, the former VP and matchmaker for Main Events and trained by Ronnie Shields, Pauldo, a resident or nearby Orlando, was unbeaten in his last 12 heading in.

In his previous start, Madueno turned in a lackluster performance against surging Canadian campaigner Steve Claggett. His showing (he was 30-1 with 28 KOs heading in) was inconsistent with his record. Tonight, he was more pugnacious, out-working the man in front of him, a 4/1 favorite. The decision was split; 97-92 and 95-94 for Madueno, 95-94 for Pauldo. There were no knockdowns, but the Mexican had a point deducted in round 5 for leading with his head.

Co-Feature

The co-main was an entertaining 10-round light heavyweight affair in which Edgar Berlanga stablemate Najee Lopez improved to 10-0 (8) with a hard-earned majority decision over Marcos Escudero (14-3). One of the judges had it a draw (95-95) but he was overruled by his cohorts who had it 97-93 and 99-91.

Lopez, who is of Puerto Rican descent but was born and raised in the Atlanta area, hadn’t previously gone beyond six rounds. He was the house fighter. Named the 2023 Prospect of the Year by the ProBox team of TV commentators, Lopez was making his eighth appearance at Whitesands. Escudero, a South Florida-based Argentine had won four straight heading in at club shows in Delray Beach, FL after back-to-back setbacks in competitive fights with Joseph George.

Escudero, who did most of the leading, had many good moments. The 99-91 tally against the Argentine was a head-scratcher. (Commentator Paulie Malignaggi said the offending  judge, Alvaro Rodriguez, should have his fee withheld and be forced to serve a one-year suspension.)

Also

In an 8-round lightweight contest, former two-time Olympian Tsendbaatar Erdenebat, a 27-year-old Mongolian southpaw who began his pro career in China and now resides in southern California, improved to 9-0 (4) with a unanimous decision over Guinea-born Mohamed Soumaoro (11-3) who was a willing mixer but was out-classed. The scores were 79-73 and 80-72 twice.

As one would expect from a two-time Olympian, Erdenebat is a good technician who puts his punches together well, but doesn’t have a lot of power. If his name rings a bell, he’s the fellow who purportedly sent Ryan Garcia to the hospital from the effects of a body punch during a sparring session.

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Two Featherweight Title Fights Top a Strong Bill at Turning Stone on Saturday

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When Top Rank announced in December that they would be returning to Turning Stone Resort & Casino for an ESPN+ show on March 2nd featuring two featherweight world title fights they promised a deep action-packed show. Usually such words fall by the wayside as the event ultimately comes together but in this instance the docket is loaded from top to bottom with name attractions, undefeated prospects, local grudge matches and two very well-matched co-headliners.

In the first of the co-headliners, Luis Alberto Lopez (29-2, 16 KOs) makes the third defense of his IBF featherweight belt against Japan’s Reiya Abe (25-3-1, 10 KOs). Lopez is a popular brawler whose aggressive style and lack of attention to defense usually makes for entertaining fights. Abe, a southpaw, is a slick boxer who is coming off a career best win against Kiko Martinez last April. Abe has a style similar to that of Ruben Villa who outboxed Lopez to a ten round unanimous decision win in 2019.

The co-headline finale is being contested for the vacant WBA featherweight title between Otabek Kholmatov (12-0, 11 KOs) and Raymond Ford (14-0-1, 7 KOs). Both fighters were highly touted heading into the pro ranks. Ford has the speed advantage but Kholmatov has a big edge in power. Social media seems split right down the middle on this fight and oddsmakers agree installing Kholmatov as a very slight favorite as of this writing.

Also on this show is the return of the ever popular Nico Ali Walsh (9-1, 5 KOs) who bounced back from his first career defeat on Dec. 16 at a show in Guinea where he defeated a Frenchman with a 9-2-1 record (mysteriously, that fight isn’t yet listed on boxrec). He will face off against Luke Iannuccilli (7-0, 3 KOs). Walsh, Muhammad Ali’s grandson, will make his debut at Turning Stone Resort Casino in the same exact arena where his aunt and Boxing Hall of Famer Laila Ali made her professional boxing debut in October of 1999 with her legendary father sitting ringside. This will mark the fourth time a member of Muhammad Ali’s family has fought at Turning Stone.

The card also includes several contests featuring up-and-coming undefeated fighters. One match in particular to keep an eye on is an eight-round welterweight bout between a pair of unbeaten fighters in Rohan Polanco (11-0, 7 KOs) and Tarik Zaina (13-0-1, 8 KOs). Zaina opened some eyes last November when he defeated Marcelino Lopez and Polanco is coming off three consecutive wins against opponents who had a cumulative record of 39-3.

Finally I would be remiss if I didn’t notate the local grudge match on the docket between Gerffred Ngayot (6-1, 5 KOs) of Buffalo and Bryce Mills (14-1, 5 KOs) of Syracuse. They are scheduled to face off in a six-round bout in the 140-pound division. They are on this show because each have solid local fan bases and matching them was a way to help fill the stands. Mills is a sharp accurate counterpuncher with all-around solid skills. Ngayot is an aggressive fighter who is not afraid to be first and fire away to the body. Stylistically this could turn into quite a barnburner and each have plenty of motivation to make a statement on what is a much bigger stage than they are accustomed to.

We are often quick to criticize those in the sport when cards come together that are seemingly either loaded with mismatches or bouts that just don’t pique much interest. This is an instance where those involved need to be applauded for putting together a card from top to bottom that will certainly give fans plenty of bang for their buck.

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