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It’s About Time That Mayweather Flipped the Script, but Don’t Hold Your Breath

Frank Lotierzo

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To the surprise of no one, former pound for pound king Floyd Mayweather is again becoming a staple of boxing news. The last time Floyd was in the ring was back in August of   2017 when he was for the most part toying with MMA star Conor McGregor by the time the fight/exhibition ended. Astonishingly, the McGregor clash actually counted on Mayweather’s boxing record as his 50th consecutive win to give him a career record of 50-0 (27).

Discussing Mayweather’s place in history is a controversial subject when it comes to assessing where he ranks. And perhaps the year in which one was born plays the biggest role as to where one slots him among the greatest of the greats. The bellweather year is somewhere around 1978, meaning today you’re 40 years old. Assuming that you became cognizant of boxing when you were about 13 years old, that means you started watching boxing closely around 1991. And since 1991 no fighter has remained on top longer than Mayweather starting with him fighting as an Olympian in 1996, winning his first title as a junior lightweight and then emerging into a full blown superstar after winning a split decision over Oscar De La Hoya in May of 2007.

To those born after 1978, Mayweather is the only star fighter they never saw lose a bout. Therefore they truly see him as being unbeatable, in spite of many believing he lost his first meeting with Jose Luis Castillo before beating him conclusively when they met in a rematch. But Floyd isn’t the only great or near-great who won a controversial decision, so you better believe the fans who grew up during his prime can easily justify him as being one of the all-time greats.

The conversation when it comes to Mayweather’s all-time pound for pound rank is dramatically different to hardcore boxing fans born before say 1970. In their opinion, who you fought and beat and when you fought them, assuming the opponent was at or near his prime, carries significantly more clout than being undefeated…….especially when, as they see it, Floyd fought most of his marquee opponents when he was at or near his best and they were clearly on the decline.

Floyd has some impressive names on his resume. The best fighter he beat during his career who was both outstanding and in his prime while also undefeated was the late Diego Corrales. After stopping Corrales in January of 2001, Floyd defeated other really good fighters. However, of the signature names on his record, namely Oscar De La Hoya, Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto, Canelo Alvarez and Manny Pacquiao, the only one that was undefeated when Mayweather fought him was Alvarez, but the issue there is Canelo hadn’t yet fully flowered into the more complete and hardened fighter that he’d end up being, and Mayweather forced him down to a catch-weight of 152 for a junior middleweight title bout, two pounds lighter than he’d been in two years while he was still filling out physically. And if you don’t think two-pounds is a big deal, than why did Floyd insist on it? Although I don’t think it changed the result, Canelo was without a doubt compromised.

As for De La Hoya, he’d only fought once in three years after being stopped by Bernard Hopkins and had been defeated four times entering the fight with Mayweather, and all four defeats were more convincing than Floyd’s showing against him. In regard to Marquez, if you would have applauded Sugar Ray Leonard for torching Alexis Arguello if they had fought, then you can add that win to the Corrales column. But I can’t laud Mayweather for beating Marquez due to him being the pronounced bigger man. Then he defeated a shopworn Shane Mosley who came closer to knocking Mayweather out than any other fighter he was ever in the ring with. But is winning a decision over Shane so impressive in 2010? Mosley had already lost five times and, at the same weight he fought Mayweather, he was defeated much more handily, twice, by the late Vernon Forrest eight years earlier in 2002.

Perhaps one of Mayweather’s most thrilling fights was against Miguel Cotto in 2012. Again, Cotto, who competed well, entered the fight having previously been stopped and dominated by Antonio Margarito and Manny Pacquiao in 2008 and 2009. Once again Floyd fought a fighter who, although very determined and not washed up, wasn’t at his best and after fighting Mayweather, Cotto picked his opponents as judiciously as Mayweather had through the last 15 years of his career. Lastly, Mayweather won a dull but convincing decision over Manny Pacquiao, who started boxing as a flyweight, was five or six years past his prime and two-and-a-half years earlier had been knocked out cold by one punch by Marquez.

The content above is not an opinion or a theory; it’s the reality of the situations pertaining to those bouts. But as is the case when discussing Mayweather, I’ll be excoriated by his fans and applauded by those who don’t care for him….I get it. But the facts don’t lie and that’s why those of us born before 1970 aren’t blown away by Mayweather’s resume and five titles. What we are blown away by is how he stayed in great shape for 20-plus years, evolved as a fighter and studied the intricacies of boxing and mastered defense….nothing can shade that.

However, Floyd and some of his fans insist he’s the “GOAT” and that’s an unfunny joke. In an honest assessment, Mayweather has made a strong case that he’s among the top-50 pound for pound boxers ever. Had he defeated a stylistic nightmare like Paul Williams, instead of retiring briefly just to avoid fighting him, his case would be stronger. Antonio Margarito tried to face Mayweather before he lost his title to Williams, and was ignored by Floyd and his team. And that was because Mayweather knew Antonio’s physicality, style and toughness was more work than he was willing to sign on for…..and that mindset and management enabled Floyd to remain undefeated.

In all likelihood, Floyd is going to fight again and his opponent will either be a top MMA fighter or Manny Pacquiao, two automatic wins that are just a money grab and really won’t enrich his legacy one iota.

Since Floyd retired, two fighters have emerged fighting at the weight where he scored his biggest and most lucrative wins, and that’s welterweight. Terence Crawford holds the WBO title and is 34-0 (25) and like Floyd won titles at 135, 140 and 147. Crawford is better than any welterweight Mayweather ever fought and stylistically he’s even more versatile than Floyd, not to mention he’s a better pound for pound puncher and he’s meaner. The other alpha fighter in the welterweight division is IBF titlist Errol Spence 24-0 (21). Spence, a southpaw, is a bigger puncher and more of a physical presence than any opponent Mayweather ever confronted. He’s also extremely confident and applies immense mental and physical pressure. And like Crawford, Spence is in his prime and would more than welcome a fight with Mayweather for the obvious money it would net him.

In a prime-for-prime match-up, I would favor both Terence and Errol to beat the Mayweather who defeated De La Hoya, Mosley and Pacquiao. And if they fought now they would both be favored over Mayweather, a moot point as it’s apparent Floyd won’t go near them.

During Floyd’s career he entered his fights with an advantage in one way or another over the best fighters he faced, something that wouldn’t apply if he were to meet Crawford or Spence. And if he fought either of them and lost, neither Crawford nor Spence would get credit for beating him. Rather, it would be repeated over and over afterward how they didn’t beat the best Mayweather and that would be correct. The only thing that would change is Mayweather would no longer be undefeated……..but if he was competitive with either Crawford or Spence in a losing effort, it might be more impressive than any single victory he earned. And if he won, he’d have to be considered one of the greatest of the greats and nobody could dispute that regardless of their year of birth.

For once it would be something to see Floyd Mayweather go into a fight when everything surrounding it didn’t favor him. Mayweather losing to either Crawford or Spence in 2019 wouldn’t hurt his legacy a bit; his detractors couldn’t take relish in him losing at age 42. On the flip side, a win would be epic and off the chart and his legacy would never be questioned again!

Between 1977 and 1982, Frank Lotierzo had over 50 fights in the middleweight division. He trained at Joe Frazier’s gym in Philadelphia under the tutelage of the legendary George Benton. Before joining The Sweet Science his work appeared in several prominent newsstand and digital boxing magazines and he hosted “Toe-to-Toe” on ESPN Radio. Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@gmail.com

Mayweather vs McGregor

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The Fight of the Century: A Golden Anniversary Celebration

Arne K. Lang

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In professional boxing, fights can be rank-ordered as generic fights, big fights, bigger fights, mega-fights, and spectacles. The first fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier wasn’t merely a spectacle, but the grandest spectacle of them all. This coming Monday, March 8, is the 50th anniversary of that iconic event.

Ali-Frazier I was staged at three-year-old Madison Square Garden, the fourth arena in New York to take that name. It drew a capacity crowd: 20,455 (19,500 paid). An estimated 60 percent of all the tickets sold fell into the hands of scalpers.

The fight was closed-circuited to more than 350 locations in the United States and Canada. At some of the larger venues, it established a new record for gate receipts, and this for an attraction that wasn’t produced in-house. In Los Angeles, 15,333 saw the fight at the Forum and 11,575 at the nearby Sports Arena.

Bill Ballenger, the sports editor of the Charlotte (NC) News, saw the fight at the Charlotte Coliseum. He reported that the audio – Don Dunphy did the blow-by-blow with Burt Lancaster and Archie Moore serving as color commentators – was loud enough to be heard outside the arena and that many folks, either unable or unwilling to purchase a ticket, loitered outside and followed the action in 30 degrees weather.

An estimated three hundred million people saw the fight worldwide. In England, by some estimates, half the population tuned in, watching either at home on BBC1 or at a theater where one could watch the fight unfold on a movie screen. Now keep in mind that in England the fight didn’t commence until 6:40 in the morning on a Tuesday!

Inside Madison Square Garden, the large flock of celebrities included many folks one wouldn’t expect to find at a prizefight. Marcello Mastroianni, Italy’s most famous movie star, made a special trip from Rome. Salvador Dali was there and Barbra Streisand and Ethel Kennedy, widow of Bobby Kennedy, seated next to her escort, crooner Andy Williams. Frank Sinatra was there working as a photographer for Life magazine. Lore has it that Sinatra wangled the assignment after failing to boat one of the coveted ringside seats.

The scene was made brighter by human “peacocks,” the label applied to Harlemites with an outrageous sense of fashion, and the electricity was palpable. When Ali appeared at the back of the arena, making his way from his dressing room to the ring, everyone had goosebumps.

The late, great New York sportswriter Dick Young once wrote that there is no greater drama than in the moments preceding a big heavyweight title fight and that was never more true than on March 8, 1971 at Madison Square Garden.

Ali (31-0, 25 KOs) and Frazier (26-0, 23 KOs) were both undefeated. Both had a claim to the heavyweight title, Ali because the belt had been controversially stripped away from him for his political beliefs. Opinions as to who would win were pretty evenly divided. In Las Vegas, Joe Frazier was the favorite at odds of 6 to 5. Across the pond in England, bookies were quoting odds of 11 to 8 on Ali.

Those that favored Ali were of the opinion that ‘Smokin’ Joe was too one-dimensional. That much was true. Joe was as subtle as a steam locomotive on a downhill grade. He ate Ali’s hardest punches, said Boston Globe reporter Bud Collins, as if they were movie house popcorn and he eventually wore Ali down. There was little doubt as to how the judges would see it after Joe knocked Ali down in the 15th round with a frightful left hook. When Ali arose, it appeared that he had been afflicted with a sudden case of the mumps. The decision was unanimous: 11-4, 9-6, 8-6-1.

This wasn’t the greatest fight of all time, but it was a fight that more than lived up to the hype. And, as several people have noted, the event took on a life of its own without the benefit of modern technology to push it along. The buzz was fueled in a large part by newspapers, the “antiquated” sort of newspapers that a fellow fished from his driveway or purchased at a newsstand on the way to or from work. If twitter and facebook had been around during Muhammad Ali’s prime, Ali would have blown the doors off the internet.

A cultural touchstone is an event that remains sealed in our memory. As we slide into old age, if we are lucky enough to live that long, we may not remember what we had for breakfast in the morning, but some long-ago events are as vivid as if they had happened just yesterday.

Boxing historian Frank Lotierzo has written poignantly about how overjoyed he was when he was surprised with the news that his father would be taking him to the fight. “To this day it remains the biggest thrill of my life!” wrote Lotierzo, who was then in the seventh grade. “And it’s not even close!”

I didn’t see the fight, but I can recall the faces of people that I overheard talking about it, people whose interest in the fight struck me as odd as I knew they had little interest in the world of sports. So, when the fight is replayed in its entirety on Sunday – it airs on ABC at 2 p.m ET and again at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN – I will be watching it for the first time. And it will be bittersweet as I will be reminded that I am in the twilight of my life and my thoughts will inevitably drift to my friends and loved ones that have left this mortal world in the years since that grand night in 1971 when Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier locked horns in the Fight of the Century.

I get misty-eyed just thinking about it.

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Yoka TKO 12 Djeko in France: Claressa Pitches a Shutout on Ladies Day in Flint

Arne K. Lang

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Yoka TKO 12 Djeko in France: Claressa Pitches a Shutout on Ladies Day in Flint

March 8 is International Women’s Day which is actually a formal holiday in many parts of the globe. It was somehow fitting that female boxers were on display on the Friday feeding into it, a weekend without a must-see attraction on the men’s side.

Today’s activity began in the French port city of Nantes where 2016 Olympic gold medal winners Tony Yoka and Estelle Mossely, husband and wife, kept their undefeated records intact, both advancing to 10-0, against European opponents. Yoka (10-0, 8 KOs) was matched against Joel “Big Joe” Djeko (17-3-1), a 31-year-old Brussels native of Congolese and Cuban extraction who had fought most of his career as a cruiserweight. Mossely, a lightweight who now goes by Yoka-Mossely, drew Germany’s Verena Kaiser (14-2).

At the Rio Olympiad, Yoka got by Filip Hrgovic in the semis and Joe Joyce in the finals to win the gold, winning both bouts by split decision. Both would be favored over the Frenchman in a rematch fought under professional rules.

Against the six-foot-six Djeko, Yoka controlled the fight with his jab, repeatedly backing his foe against the ropes. Very few of Djeko’s punches got through Yoka’s high guard. Had the fight gone to the scorecards, it would have been a rout for Yoka, but it didn’t quite get there as Djeko turned his back on the proceedings midway through the 12th round after absorbing a sharp jab and it went into the books as a TKO for Yoka. At stake was some kind of European title or a derivation thereof.

Mossely’s fight with Kaiser, slated for 10 two-minute rounds, followed a somewhat similar tack, save that it went the full distance. With only one knockout to her credit at the pro level, Mosseley, typical of female boxers, lacks a knockout punch. But she’s a good technician and had too much class for the German.

Flint

A Covid-19 limited crowd of perhaps 300 was on hand to watch hometown heroine Claressa Shields oppose IBF 154-pound title-holder Marie Eve Dicaire at a 4,400-seat arena in Flint. There were five bouts on the undercard, three of which were women’s bouts.

Claressa

Claressa Shields

Shields, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was seeking to become a four-belt title-holder in a second weight class, having previously turned the trick at 160. Dicaire, a 34-year-old southpaw, brought a 17-0 record but she had never won a fight inside the distance and all of her previous bouts took place in French-speaking Canada.

The self-proclaimed GWOAT, Shields has no peer between 154 and 168 pounds. Heading into this contest, she had hardly lost a round since meeting Hanna Gabriels and tonight was another total whitewash, her fourth overall in 10-round fights.

Claressa Shields, now 11-0 (2) may be too good for her own good. Her fights are so one-sided that they are monotonous. Her TV ratings have actually been falling. Today’s show was a $29.99 pay-per-view on FITE when the established networks refused to meet her purse demands. It will be interesting to see how many tuned in.

In another fight of note, 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Marlen Esparza, in her first fight as a bantamweight, dominated Toronto’s Shelly Barnett en route to winning a 6-round unanimous decision. There were no knockdowns, but the scorecards (60-54, 60-53 twice) were indicative of Esparza’s dominance.

Esparza, who pushed her record to 9-1 (1), came in ranked #1 by the WBC in the flyweight class. Her lone defeat came at the hands of rugged Seniesa Estrada. Barnett declined to 4-4-3.

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Brandon Adams Bursts Bohachuk’s Bubble in Puerto Rico

Arne K. Lang

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Brandon Adams Bursts Bohachuk’s Bubble in Puerto Rico

Ring City USA, a new promotional entity, debuted on Nov. 19, 2020 with a show staged in the parking lot of Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, CA. Ring City stayed outdoors for their first offering of 2021, but the company was a long ways from California. Tonight’s card was staged on a roundabout near a municipal gym in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.

The headline attraction was an attractive match between junior middleweights Serhii Bohachuk and Brandon Adams. The bout was originally set for Dec. 3, but had to be pushed back when Bohachuk tested positive for the coronavirus.

Bohachuk, a 25-year-old California-based Ukrainian, had stopped all 18 of his previous opponents. He had never gone past six rounds. Brandon Adams, a former world title challenger, represented a step up in class.

Bohachuk was well on his way to winning a unanimous decision when the tide turned dramatically in round eight. Fighting on a slick canvas, Adams suddenly found a new gear, unloading a series of punches climaxed by a thunderous left hook as Bohachuk retreated. The Ukrainian beat the count, but was teetering on unsteady legs and the referee properly called a halt.

Adams was without his regular trainer, 80-year-old Dub Huntley, who remained back in LA as a health precaution. In winning, he elevated his records to 23-3 (15). It was his best performance since defeating Shane Mosley Jr in the finals of Season 5 of the “Contender” series.

In the co-feature, an 8-round featherweight contest, Puerto Rico’s Bryan Chevalier improved to 15-1-1 (12) with a third-round stoppage of Peru’s Carlos Zambrano (26-2). Chevalier scored two knockdowns, the first a sweeping left hook that appeared to land behind Zambrano’s head, and the second a punch to the liver that left Zambrano in severe distress. The referee waived the fight off in mid-count.

The official time was 2:21. Chevalier, a tall featherweight (5’11”) made a very impressive showing; he bears watching. This was Zambrano’s first fight since April of 2017 when he was knocked out in the opening round by Claudio Marrero in a bout for the WBA interim featherweight title.

The TV opener was an entertaining fight between contrasting styles that produced a weird conclusion when Danielito Zorrilla was awarded a technical decision over Ruslan Madiyev. The bout was stopped at the 1:16 mark of round eight after Zorrilla sank to his knees after absorbing a punch to the back of the head. The ringside physician examined him for evidence of a concussion, but ultimately it was Zorrilla’s choice as to whether the bout would continue. He declined and was reportedly taken to a hospital for observation.

Madiyev, a California-based Kazahk, was the aggressor. He fought the fight in Zorilla’s grill, often bullying him against the ropes. In round five, he had a point deducted for hitting behind the head, squandering what was arguably his best round.

The fight went to the scorecards with Zorrilla winning a split decision (77-74, 77-75, 73-76), thereby remaining undefeated: 15-0 (12). Ironically, Madiyev (13-2, 5 KOs), suffered his previous loss in a similar fashion.

Madiyev’s new trainer Joel Diaz reportedly discouraged his charge from taking this fight for fear that he wouldn’t get a fair shake in Puerto Rico. Diaz’s apprehensions were well-founded.

Photo credit: Tom Hogan / Ring City USA

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