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Mayweather’s Unfortunate Announcement Stole No Thunder From Canelo-GGG II

In sports, as in life, timing is everything. An example of perfectly good timing, at least for the winning team, came Saturday afternoon in Auburn, Ala

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In sports, as in life, timing is everything. An example of perfectly good timing, at least for the winning team, came Saturday afternoon in Auburn, Ala., as LSU kicker Cole Tracy nailed a last-second field goal to cap a fourth-quarter rally and lift LSU to a 22-21 upset of Auburn in a terrific college football game.

An example of perfectly rotten timing came earlier in the day, as Floyd Mayweather Jr. revealed that he would be coming out of retirement, again, to take on the ghost of Manny Pacquiao in a rematch of their May 2, 2015, megafight that set financial records, but delivered far less action than any boxing fan could have hoped for given the astronomical ticket prices and only slightly less-outrageous pay-per-view subscription fee.

Coincidentally (possible, but unlikely), when they found themselves at a musical festival in Tokyo, “Money” and “Pac-Man” confronted one another and more or less announced the likelihood of a do-over sometime in December. The proposed rematch is something that Mayweather apparently believes will generate the same sort of global fascination that their first fight did, not to mention another hefty payday for himself.

“Manny don’t want none of this, baby,” a preening Mayweather was heard to say in a video that not unexpectedly went viral. “Easy work.”

An accompanying Instagram post on Mayweather’s account revealed why boxing’s foremost attention hound might consider another go at Pacquiao in a bout that the masses haven’t exactly been clamoring for. “Another 9 figure pay day on the way,” he optimistically predicted.

If Mayweather can squeeze another $100 million out of the public to put on another dog-and-pony show, he might prove himself to be more of a marketing genius than he already has demonstrated time and again. But it says here that the old master (he’s 41) will be sorely disappointed to learn that his drawing power is greatly diminished at this late stage of a remarkable career, a reality even more evident for the 39-year-old Pacquiao despite his recently won “regular” WBA welterweight title that came on a seventh-round stoppage of the even more-faded Lucas Matthysse.

Now, back to the matter of timing. Does anyone think it wasn’t planned that the notion of a May-Pac II clash was revealed on the very morning that Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin were to square off in the biggest fight of 2018, a fight that for the most part lived up to the lofty hype? It was widely speculated that Mayweather was trying to “steal the thunder” from Canelo-GGG II, which on the face of it is as much a certainty as early-morning sunrises. Much of the shenanigans that Mayweather is involved in to remain a lightning rod for controversy are orchestrated. Some, unfortunately, is not.

Let one thing be made clear. In addition to his gift for making himself the most fabulously wealthy boxer ever, Mayweather is the finest fighter of his era. He was the pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet for years, and one of the best ever, although the man who bills himself as “TBE” (the best ever) might be a tad excessive in his boastful claim to such a distinction. Many boxing historians would make him an underdog if somehow he could be paired, prime on prime, against Sugar Ray Robinson at welterweight, Roberto Duran at lightweight or Sugar Ray Leonard at any weight. But even now, Mayweather’s magnificent defense and overall skill set would, at least initially, stamp him as a top four or five pound-for-pound fighter were he to come back to campaign in earnest in a deep welterweight division packed with such young guns as Errol Spence Jr., Terence Crawford, Keith Thurman and, maybe soon, elite 140-pounders Jose Ramirez and Regis Prograis.

Conspicuously absent from the list of most-relevant welterweights is future first-ballot Hall of Famer Pacquiao, the secondary title he wrested from the used-up Matthysse (who promptly announced his retirement) notwithstanding. The only man ever to win world titles in eight weight classes, Pacquiao’s handling of Matthysse in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, marked his first victory inside the distance since his 12th-round TKO of Miguel Cotto on Nov. 14, 2009, snapping a kayo-less streak of 13 bouts.

That Pacquiao would subject himself to another near-certain loss to Mayweather is not surprising. Unlike the presumably fixed-for-life Mayweather, Manny appears to be in desperate financial straits. He owes millions of dollars to the IRS, has been jettisoned by his longtime promotional company, Top Rank, after a 17-year relationship, and he had to put up some of his own dwindling funds to promote the fight with Matthysse, which tanked at the box office. All of the elite fighters at 147 want to get a piece of Manny while there is still a scrap to fight over, but the Fab Filipino has to realize that his last, best shot at a significant payday might necessitate offering himself up as another testament to Floyd’s ego. When last they fought three-plus years ago, Pacquiao’s more enthusiastic supporters backed him with their hearts and wallets instead of with rationality, which dictated that his was probably a lost cause from the beginning. But at least Pacquiao had the excuse that he was fighting with a bum shoulder, an injury he concealed until after the fact.

It should not be inferred that Mayweather rose to the heights he did by beating up on used-to-be’s, never-were’s and not-quite-there-yets. There are many big-name victims on his resume, and he dispatched most of them in convincing fashion. But as he developed an antihero persona that stirred the masses one way or the other, raised his profile and inflated his bank account, he became ever more protective of his undefeated record and veneer of invincibility.  His obstinance was the primary roadblock to delaying a fight with Pacquiao that came five years later than it should have, and his two bouts thereafter were a perfunctory tuneup of mouthy Andre Berto, who fashioned himself as Floyd Lite, and the novelty matchup with even mouthier UFC superstar Conor McGregor, whose crossover into a fighting discipline in which he played the deluded novice to “Money’s” grand master made the Irishman more of a designated victim than legitimate threat.

Now Mayweather is back, which might be because, like other retired greats, he craves the spotlight that has since focused on others. But it might also owe to the possibility that his fabulous and much-flaunted wealth, like that once possessed by Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, was not so fabulous as to be severely whittled down by his exorbitant spending habits.

In a 2014 Showtime special in which his lifestyle of the rich and famous was examined by, yes, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous host Robin Leach, Mayweather’s otherworldly extravagance was nearly as incomprehensible to regular folk as that displayed by  Charles Foster Kane, as played by the great Orson Welles, in the 1941 film classic Citizen Kane. Among the nuggets of information revealed in that program:

*Mayweather maintained three residences in Las Vegas, one in Sunny Isles, Fla., outside of Miami, one in Los Angeles and one in New York City. Among the 88 luxury cars he had purchased for himself and members of his unwieldy entourage, he kept a matching set at his primary Vegas residence (those were white) and one in Florida (those were black) “because I don’t want to get confused where I am,” he told Leach.

*Despite his fleet of spiffy rides, he couldn’t resist the urge to shell out $4.8 million for the world’s most expensive car, a Koenigseeg CCXR Trevita, a land rocket that can go from zero to 60 in 2.8 seconds and has a top speed of 250 mph. After Leach’s camera crew departed, Mayweather further splurged on a $3.2 million Pagani Huayra and a $3.3 million Aston-Martin 177.

*He wore wildly expensive boxer shorts and sneakers (Christian Louboutins, which are priced anywhere from $795 to $3,595 a pair, depending on the model) only once before discarding them.

*He kept on staff a personal, in-residence chef at $4,000 a day (useful if he got the late-night munchies) and a personal barber charged with the daily responsibility of keeping Floyd’s shaved skull shiny and follicle-free.

*The bars at his various residences are stocked with his beverage of choice (Louis XIII Remy Martin Cognac, which goes for $3,500 a bottle).

Although Mayweather’s investments supposedly guaranteed him at least $1 million a month in interest, his expenditures far exceeded that amount, which might have caused a cash-flow problem as he no longer is an active boxer and receiving checks with lots of zeros on them. Given his fondness for betting big on sports events, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars a pop (he only goes public on those occasions when he collects on wagers), it is not unreasonable to believe that he either has cut back on his spending, sold off some of his pricier boy toys to lower the overhead or – more to the point in this instance – decided to throw down again with Manny for fun, profit and self-gratification.

But should Mayweather proceed with still another flight of fancy, he is apt to find out that all the network executives and other power brokers once obliged to dance to his tune aren’t willing to give him anything he wants, or even most of it, this time around. Those he bossed around because he could on his way up might want some payback now that he no longer is holding the whip. Even fans who once felt compelled to follow Mayweather’s every move might now balk at ponying up for a second installment of the slow waltz with Manny as the realization settles in that the first fight, when both men ostensibly were better than they are now, wasn’t exactly a barnburner.

No, Floyd didn’t steal thunder from Canelo and GGG with an announcement that made news but did not – could not – snatch boxing’s biggest headlines on a day in which a really good and competitive fight wasn’t about to be supplanted by one that wasn’t all that compelling three years ago, and another that might or might not take place in December.

If there is any surprise should Mayweather actually go through with this, it will come when he discovers he no longer controls the narrative, and he can’t regain his grasp on the steering wheel by relentlessly insulting Pacquiao or trying to surpass his own record for titillating f-bombs. For the Pacquiao fight in 2015, he ordered the revocation of credentials from two female reporters, Michelle Beadle and Rachel Nichols, who had the temerity to mention Floyd’s history of domestic abuse toward women, which is much more of a hot-button topic now than it was then. Beadle did not particularly mind being absent on fight night, and she said there is more to Mayweather, not all of it positive, than his superb defense, signature shoulder roll and unblemished record inside the ropes.

“I feel strongly about holding people accountable for their actions,” Beadle wrote after her credential had been lifted. “People are fed up. A lot, not all, but a lot of fans are tired of rooting for terrible human beings who are allowed to continue being terrible, so long as they’re winning.”

That assessment might be overly harsh. I don’t know Floyd well enough to weigh in on the subject one way or the other. But it is, and always has been, abundantly evident that his undeniable talent is eclipsed only by his unshakable belief that he operates on a higher plane than mere mortals. It is at once his gift and his curse.

All Hail to the Great Lotierzo

There is a reason Frank Lotierzo is TSS’ foremost expert in analyzing what will happen in an upcoming fight. The reason is simple: he’s right a lot more often than he’s wrong. When Frank predicted a points victory for Canelo Alvarez over Gennady Golovkin in their delayed and very contentious rematch, I should have reconsidered my own position, which was that GGG would win, probably on a stoppage (I picked him to get the job done in eight rounds, but I, like two of the official judges, had Canelo winning by a 115-113 margin).

Kudos to Frank, and mea culpas on my part to those TSS readers who erred in siding with me on this one. But the great thing about boxing is that there’s always another big fight coming up, and with it another chance to either look really smart or to embarrass yourself. Maybe we can agree to disagree somewhere down the line, Frank. Should be fun.

 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: Yeritsyan vs Randall at Chumash Casino, Japan and More

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Violence of an organized nature begins in the rustic and peaceful surroundings of Santa Inez, California as welterweights Gor Yeritsyan and Quinton Randall headline a 360 Boxing Promotions card at Chumash Casino on Friday.

Hours later, three world championship fights erupt in Japan. And hours after that, super middleweights tangle in Florida.

All will be streamed.

Undefeated Yeritsyan (17-0, 14 KOs) meets Randall (13-1-1, 3 KOs) for the WBC Continental Americas title on Friday, Feb. 23, at Chumash Casino. UFC Fight Pass will stream the 360 Boxing Promotions card.

Others on the card include undefeated super lightweight Cain Sandoval (11-0, 11 KOs) meeting Javier Molina (22-5, 9 KOs) in a battle set for 10 rounds. It’s a stronger test for Sandoval who has blasted out every opponent. Molina is one of the fighting twin brothers who both were Olympians.

Javier was an Olympian in 2008 for the USA and Oscar Molina an Olympian for Mexico in 2012.

“I’ve been hearing about Cain for a while, but I know my skills and experience will give me the victory,” said Molina who fights out of Los Angeles.

Sandoval, 21, last November won by knockout in Madison Square Garden in New York City.

“Javier is a very good veteran who has had many more fights than me, but he’s never felt my power before,” said Sandoval who fights out of Sacramento.

Chumash Casino is located near one of the old California missions and built by the Spaniards in 1804. You can see open land for miles with the next nearest town of Solvang a short driving distance away.

Over the decades I’ve seen some memorable fights including Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley’s wild victory over Manuel Garnica in 2007 and Seniesa “Super Bad’ Estrada’s pro debut win in 2011 against Maria Ruiz.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Tokyo Hosts Three World Title Fights

It’s a triple-header in Tokyo for real fight lovers.

Early Saturday morning at 1 a.m. (Pacific Time) three world title matches headed by WBC bantamweight titlist Alexandro Santiago (28-3-5, 14 KOs) of Mexico defending against Japan’s Junto Nakatani (26-0, 19 KOs) take place.

Santiago defeated legendary champion Nonito Donaire last July in Las Vegas in an upset. He also fought to a draw against Filipino slugger Jerwin Ancajas who is also on this card.

Nakatani is a big hitter and two-division world champion. He is very familiar with Mexican fighters and often trains in Southern California. I saw him in Maywood, California a year ago. He’s quite a fighter.

In the other co-main event WBA bantamweight titlist Takuma Inoue (18-1, 4 KOs) defends against former super flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas (34-3-2, 23 KOs) of the Philippines. Its speed against power.

A third co-main features WBO super flyweight titlist Kosei Tanaka (19-1, 11 KOs) defending against Mexico’s Christian Bacasegua (22-4-2, 9 KOs).

ESPN+ will stream the card live on Saturday.

Matchroom in Orlando

It’s a showcase for contenders.

Brooklyn native Edgar Berlanga (21-0, 16 KOs) “the Chosen One” meets United Kingdom’s Padraig “the Hammer” McCrory (18-0, 9 KOs) in the super middleweight main event on Saturday, Feb. 24. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing card from Orlando, Florida.

Berlanga, of Puerto Rican descent, burst on the pro boxing scene by knocking out 16 consecutive foes. But ever since 2021 he has been unable to win by knockout. Five consecutive opponents went the distance.

Can Berlanga still punch?

Facing the Boricua slugger will be McCrory a 35-year-old from Northern Ireland who remains undefeated. To put it into perspective, the United Kingdom is filled with very good super middleweights and none have beaten McCrory so far.

Also on the card is Cuban Olympic gold medalist Andy Cruz (2-0) defending a regional lightweight title against Mexican southpaw Brayan Zamarripa (14-2, 9 KOs). Cruz has blistering speed and an aggressive style as a pro.

Other interesting fights feature bantamweight prospects Antonio Vargas (17-1) and Jonathan Rodriguez (17-1-1). Both can punch but each lost via knockout. Whose chin will prove sturdier in this clash?

Fights to Watch (all times Pacific Time)

Fri. UFC Fight Pass 7 p.m. Gor Yeritsyan (17-0) vs Quinton Randall (13-1-1)

Sat. ESPN+ 1 a.m. Alexandro Santiago (28-3-5) vs Junto Nakatani (26-0).

Sat. DAZN 4 p.m. Edgar Berlanga (21-0) vs Padraig McCrory (18-0).

Photo: Tom Loeffler is flanked by Javier Molina and Cain Sandoval. Photo credit: Lina Baker

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Fighters from Tijuana are on a Roll; Can Alexandro Santiago Keep Up the Momentum?

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Fighters from Tijuana are on a Roll; Can Alexandro Santiago Keep Up the Momentum?

Last Thursday, a Golden Boy Promotions card in California produced an early entrant for Upset of the Year. In the main event, unsung Jesus “Ricky” Perez out-pointed former U.S. Olympian and former two-division title-holder Joseph “Jojo” Diaz.

Perez hails from Tijuana. Heading in, he had lost five of his last nine and had never won a match slated for more than eight rounds. He started fast and held on to win a split nod (ancient ringside judge Lou Moret awarded Perez nine of the 10 rounds).

The fast-growing, hardscrabble city of Tijuana, which sits at the northwest tip of the Baja peninsula, has produced a steady stream of good boxers over the years (Erik Morales, a Hall of Famer, and Antonio Margarito, a two-time world welterweight champion, come quickly to mind), but is currently enjoying arguably the best run in the city’s boxing history. And the distaff side is sharing in the prosperity. Flyweight Kenia Enriquez (28-1, 11 KOs) and her younger sister Tania Rodriguez (21-1, 10 KOs), a light flyweight, are knocking on the door of world title fights (Kenia holds an interim belt).

Last December, when pundits at the leading U.S. boxing websites brainstormed to come up with the 2023 Fight of the Year, two bouts stood out above all others: the Feb. 18 match between super bantamweights Luis Nery and Azat Hovhannisyan and the June 10 super middleweight contest between Jaime Munguia and Sergiy Derevyanchenko.

The Nery-Hovhannisyan match was a riveting, see-saw rumble that ended with Nery winning by TKO in the 11th round. Munguia scored a knockdown in the 12th to overcome Derevyanchenko, eking out a razor-thin but unanimous decision. Both victors have since added another “W” to their respective ledgers. Nery (35-1, 27 KOs) KOed Filipino veteran Froilan Saludar. Munguia (43-0, 34 KOs) dominated and stopped England’s John Ryder.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Luis Nery and Jaime Munguia were both born and raised in Tijuana. And we will be hearing a lot more about them. Although unofficial, Nery has an agreement in place to fight superstar Naoya Inoue in Tokyo in May and, according to various reports, Munguia is now the frontrunner to be Canelo Alvarez’s next opponent.

The month after Munguia-Derevyanchenko, Tijuana’s Alexandro Santiago (pictured) scored his signature win and won the vacant WBC world bantamweight title with an upset of the great Filipino fighter Nonito Donaire. Santiago won a clear-cut decision on the card topped by the mega-fight between Terence Crawford and Errol Spence.

Santiago (28-3-5, 14 KOs) has a formidable challenge for his first title defense which comes on Saturday in Tokyo. In the opposite corner will be undefeated Junto Nakatani (26-0, 19 KOs) who is moving up in weight after winning world titles at 112 and 115. Nakatani can really crack as he showed with his brutal, one-punch knockout of Andrew Moloney.

There are two other title fights on the card which will air in the U.S. on ESPN+. Needless to say, one will have to get out of bed early to catch all the action. The first bell is slated for 4 am ET, 1 pm PT.

Santiago will be a heavy underdog against his Japanese opponent who will have a 5-inch height advantage. However, if recent history is any guide, one should not be too quick to dismiss his chances.

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Who Murdered Peter Bufala? A ‘Whodunit’ with a Boxing Backdrop

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On Friday, Oct. 8, 1976, Peter Bufala returned home from work just as a new day was dawning. The Las Vegas baccarat dealer pulled his Cadillac into his circular driveway, exited his car, walked toward his front door, and was felled by two bullets from a 9 mm handgun, one entering his chest and the other his brain. A neighbor fetching his morning newspaper found him lying in a pool of blood on his front lawn. He was dead when the police arrived. He was 33 years old and left behind a wife and two young daughters.

A 12-year resident of the fast-growing southern Nevada gambling mecca, Bufala grew up in Chester, Pennsylvania, a blue collar suburb of Philadelphia. He had come here to rekindle his boxing career.

A Middle Atlantic amateur featherweight champion, he had begun his pro career on a high note, winning a 4-round decision over a fellow novice on a show at New York’s St. Nicholas Arena that included Rubin “Hurricane” Carter who would go on to fight for the world middleweight title but would be best remembered for the many years he spent behind prison walls for his alleged involvement in a triple homicide.

Following his New York engagement, Bufala fought in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Virginia. As a pro, he never fought in his home state and there was a reason for it. In 1961, while undergoing a routine medical examination at an amateur show, he was diagnosed with a heart murmur. The Pennsylvania Boxing Commission rescinded his license. He subsequently underwent a series of tests at Temple University Medical Hospital and was given a clean bill of health, but the Pennsylvania authorities were unyielding and, bit by bit, in a day when news traveled slowly, other jurisdictions fell into line.

Nevada was the Wild West. The regulators there had looser standards and Bufala resumed his career on Sept. 2, 1964 at the Castaways, out-pointing his opponent in a 5-round match to improve his ledger to 7-3. The publicity man misspelled his name, adding an extra “f”, and he would remain Pete Buffala whenever his name appeared in the sports section of the local papers.

Fifty years ago, in 1964, approximately 165,000 people resided in all of sprawling Clark County, home to Las Vegas. The thought that Vegas would someday host a Formula 1 Grand Prix or a Super Bowl, two of the grandest sports spectacles in the world, was preposterous. The only local sport that ever made the national news wire was boxing.

The fulcrum was Bill Miller, a hot-headed boxing junkie from Elmira, New York, who owned a saloon on the Las Vegas Strip that he out-fitted with a boxing gym in the basement. Miller’s “Strip Fight of the Week,” which bounced from one little casino to another during a run that lasted well over a decade, bucked the national trend. Small fight clubs, with very few exceptions, had fallen by the wayside, a development triggered by the mass production of televisions.

Miller was hardly immune to all the little hassles that plague a grass-roots boxing promoter. Matches were constantly falling out. But he had several things working in his favor. As opportunities dried up elsewhere, journeymen boxers were drawn here by the promise of steady work. And although Miller couldn’t afford to pay enough to make boxing a full-time profession, good-paying jobs were plentiful in the construction and hospitality industries.

To be certain, there were also push factors. Chester, Pennsylvania, a shipbuilding hub during World War II, had fallen on hard times, plagued by unemployment and racial strife. Lowell, Massachusetts, a city known for its vibrant amateur boxing culture, was likewise hurting with row after row of textile factories sitting vacant. Lowell produced Eddie Andrews, a hard-hitting middleweight who would be the first fighter to make promoter Miller any significant money without having to take him on the road to a larger precinct or overseas.

Andrews supplemented his ring earnings dealing blackjack at Caesars Palace. For a time, Ralph Dupas was a co-worker. A former world title-holder at 154 pounds, Dupas settled in Las Vegas in the mid-1960s as his career was winding down and remained here until his encroaching dementia passed the tipping point and family members brought him home to his native New Orleans to live out his final days.

Returning to Peter Bufala, he worked his way up the ladder on Miller’s promotions, eventually topping the marquee for a fight with Johnny Brooks. They fought at the Hacienda, a grind joint at the south end of the Strip (where Mandalay Bay now sits) on April 13, 1965. Brooks was nothing special, but he was better than his 17-6-3 record. He would go on to last the distance in 10-round fights with future Hall of Famers Emile Griffith and Carlos Monzon.

Bufala was bloodied in the third round and knocked down in the fourth, but mounted a furious rally and at the end of the 10 rounds the judges could not pick a winner and the match went into the books as a draw. Working on the “5-point-must” system, the scores were 46-44 Bufala, 46-45 Brooks, and 46-46. (Trivia time: The 46-46 tally was turned in by ringside judge Harry Reid who would go on to become the most powerful man in the U.S. Senate. Nowadays, visitors flying in to Las Vegas arrive at Harry Reid International Airport.)

Had Bufala won the bout, his next fight would have been a 12-rounder against Reno’s Dave Patterson, the Nevada Lightweight Champion. But when he returned to the ring the following month, it was in a 6-rounder against an unsung fighter from Los Angeles named Davey White and, in a shocker, White blasted him out in the second round.

Bufala announced his retirement after this fight. It warranted scarcely a mention in the Las Vegas papers, but the folks back in Chester hadn’t forgotten him. “Pete Bufala Quits Boxing for Health,” read the bold headline on the sports page of the June 9, 1965 issue of the Delaware County Daily Times. The accompanying story said that Buffala, “Chester’s most promising professional fighter,” had emerged from his most recent bout with a blot clot in his neck and was troubled by chronic back problems. (Buffala would have one more fight before quitting the sport for good. He won his final fight, a 6-rounder, bringing his final record, per boxrec, to 16-5-2.)

Bufala never returned to Chester. He married a local girl and, in short order, was a father of three, two girls and a boy who tragically died at 16 months when he crawled into a plastic laundry bag and suffocated as his mother was distracted writing checks.

In December of 1973, the MGM Grand opened on the southeast corner of the busiest intersection on the Las Vegas Strip. This was the city’s original MGM Grand that would take the name Bally’s and was recently re-branded the Horseshoe. With 2,100 rooms, a 1,200-seat showroom and a jai alai fronton, the MGM Grand made its competitors look puny by comparison. Peter Bufala was there on opening night, dealing baccarat.

In terms of the money put at risk, baccarat is the crème-de-crème of card games. It attracts the whales, the high-rollers that leave the biggest tips. On a good night at a high-end establishment like the MGM Grand, it wasn’t uncommon for a dealer to rake in $500 in gratuities. Bufala worked the graveyard shift (likely 9 pm to 5 am; it varied by hotel), the most coveted shift for a dealer in a day when visitors to Las Vegas were more nocturnal than they are today.

One didn’t get to be a baccarat dealer in a ritzy joint by working his way up from the bottom. One had to know the right people. In the vernacular, one got juiced into the job. And the juicer might expect a kick-back.

One of the most influential people in Las Vegas was an outsider who tried to keep a low profile, Gaspare “Jasper” Speciale. A transplanted New York bookmaker, Speciale co-owned and managed the Tower of Pizza restaurant which sat a stone’s throw from the MGM Grand on the opposite side of the street. Speciale opened doors for dozens of people seeking employment in the hospitality industry. If one was new in town and needed work in a hurry, Jasper was the man to see.

Until the arrival in Las Vegas of the notorious Tony Spilotro, Speciale was the city’s premier private money lender. He would eventually serve four years in a federal prison for loan-sharking.

Whenever there was a murder in Las Vegas that had the earmarks of a mob hit, speculation always centered on Gaspare Speciale. It mattered not that he was active in his church and donated lavishly to local charities. Moreover, he had a warm spot in his heart for prizefighters. In the spacious backyard of his home, chockablock with mementos of his boyhood in New York City, there was a replica of Stillman’s Gym complete with a punching bag and rubbing tables.

Another theory, although one that acquired less currency, pointed the finger at Bufala’s father-in-law who was the beneficiary of Peter’s life insurance policy. The two were partners in a small sporting goods store where it was rumored that one could purchase an unregistered firearm.

On the day that Peter Bufala was assassinated, the story about it in the Las Vegas Sun, an afternoon paper, said that the former boxer had no bad habits – he didn’t drink, smoke, gamble or chase women — and that he was well-liked by everyone that knew him. But, said a police detective, “Someone wanted him dead and eventually we’re going to find out who that someone is and why.”

Forty-seven years after the fact, the who and the why remain as baffling as ever. If Peter Bufala were alive today, he would be 80 years old. This is a mystery that will likely never be solved.

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