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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

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Yoka vs. Hammer Kicks Off the Thanksgiving Weekend Slate on ESPN+

Arne K. Lang

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PRESS RELEASE— Tony Yoka, the dynamic heavyweight punching Parisian, aims to impress in his ESPN platform debut. Yoka, who won a super heavyweight gold medal for France at the 2016 Rio Olympics, will fight veteran Christian Hammer in a 10-rounder Friday at H Arena in Nantes, France.

Yoka-Hammer will stream live and exclusively this Friday, Nov. 27 in the United States on ESPN+ beginning at 2:55 p.m. ET/11:55 a.m. PT.

The ESPN+ stream will also include the return of unbeaten 2016 French Olympic gold medalist Estelle Yoka-Mossely against Pasa Malagic in an eight-round lightweight bout. Yoka and Yoka-Mossely, who have been married since 2018, welcomed their second child in May.

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Earlier this year, Yoka inked a promotional agreement with Top Rank, which will co-promote him with Ringstar France.

“Tony Yoka’s potential is limitless, and he is a grounded young man who is motivated to be a great professional fighter,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “France has never had a world heavyweight champion, and I believe Tony is the one to bring the sport’s biggest honor home.”

The 28-year-old Yoka’s stellar amateur run included a berth at the 2012 London Olympics and gold medals at the 2015 World Championships and 2010 Youth Olympic Games. Before his triumph in Rio, he’d already defeated the likes of former heavyweight world champion Joseph Parker and current undefeated prospects Joe Joyce and Ivan Dychko. At the Rio Olympics, he defeated Croatian standout Filip Hrgović in the semifinals and edged Joyce in the gold medal match.

As a professional, Yoka (8-0, 7 KOs) made his debut in June 2017 with a second-round stoppage over the previously undefeated Travis Clark. Apart from a decision win over Jonathan Rice in his second outing, Yoka has stopped every foe, including durable Englishman David “White Rhino” Allen and former European champion Alexander Dimitrenko. He made his 2020 debut Sept. 25 and stopped former world title challenger Johann Duhaupas in one round.

Hammer (25-6, 15 KOs) has fought many of the leading heavyweight names during his 12-year career, falling short against Tyson Fury, Luis Ortiz and Alexander Povetkin. He’s notched myriad upset victories, including a highlight-reel knockout over David Price and a 2016 split decision over Erkan Teper for the WBO European belt. In March 2019, he went the 10-round distance against Ortiz and has not been stopped since Fury forced him to retire on his stool after eight rounds in their February 2015 clash.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 115: Macho, Freddie and More

David A. Avila

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Camacho me and Mia

“Macho.”

That single word is how Hector Camacho presented himself when introduced. It was the only word needed for the three-division world champion from Puerto Rico who was raised in Harlem, New York.

The first time I met Camacho was in a dark and packed Las Vegas nightclub in the MGM where he was a guest of Oscar De La Hoya back in March 2001. Though it was difficult to see, when Camacho was introduced, I could see the large gold medallion with the word “Macho” in letters six inches high.

Showtime network will be presenting a documentary called “Macho: The Hector Camacho Story” on Friday, December 4 at 9 p.m. on Showtime. It sparks memories of how a fighter in the lower weight classes grabbed the attention of the boxing world.

Camacho was more than flash or words, he was an electrifying boxer who stood out in the 1980s, an era dominated by the “Four Kings” Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard. Oh, and also a guy named Mike Tyson.

The fast-talking Camacho was a phenomenal fighter who swept aside opponents with his blinding speed and shocking power. It was against Los Angeles-based fighters like Refugio Rojas and Louie Loy that I first read about his exploits. Both were knocked out.

A third Southern California fighter John “Huero” Montes was thought to be the one to give Camacho a real challenge. The fight was televised to a national audience in February 1983. At the time I was watching it on a tiny black and white television and at 1:13 into the first round Camacho unleashed one of those lethal uppercuts and Montes was out-for-the-count.

Camacho arrived that day.

From that point on few could withstand the speedy southpaw’s blinding charges. Six months later he stopped Mexico’s “Bazooka” Limon to win the vacant super featherweight title.

One fighter who heard the final bell was Freddie Roach who could take a punch and knew a thing or two about fighting southpaws.

“I liked fighting southpaws,” said Roach via telephone. “My dad taught me early to keep my foot on the outside and lead with right hands.”

Roach had never lost to a southpaw. The winner that day between Camacho and Roach in Sacramento, on December 1985, was supposedly going to fight Puerto Rico’s heavy-handed Edwin Rosario.

Using his surefire method of fighting southpaws, Roach managed a knockdown of Camacho with the help of his foot. But it was not enough.

“He was very difficult. Lot of people raved about how fast his speed was. You didn’t really realize until you got into the ring with him,” said Roach. “I wasn’t the slowest, but wasn’t the fastest. I just couldn’t keep up.”

Despite using roughhouse tactics against the lefty speedster, Roach said that Camacho invited him to dinner after the fight.

That pretty much explains Camacho, a talented and big-hearted guy.

Last Stages

The last time I ran into Camacho was at the Pechanga Resort and Casino when he and Mia St. John were about to fight on the same boxing card in 2009. He was much heavier but still able to defeat middleweights.

How good was Camacho?

He defeated two of the Four Kings when he beat Roberto Duran twice and stopped Sugar Ray Leonard by knockout when they fought in 1997. Yes, Leonard was 41 and had not fought in six years, but this was Sugar Ray Leonard.

“I didn’t think he would ever beat Leonard,” said Roach.

Neither did Leonard.

“I just felt that I was a bigger man. I was smarter, stronger, all those things, but the first time he threw a punch, it was like, Pow! And I said, ‘Wow, that hurt,’” said Leonard about their encounter. “I tried the best I could to just go the distance. When he was at his best, he was a thing of beauty.”

What I remember after Camacho beat Leonard was how sincerely apologetic he was after the victory. He could talk the talk and walk the walk but inside he remained the kid from Harlem who was given extraordinary talent. And he was humbled by it.

Roach remembers their dinner together after their fight.

“That night he took me out to dinner with his friends and said you fought a good fight,” said Roach adding that Camacho was a very likeable guy. “I saw him along the way in his career.”

Roach, who would later train another astoundingly fast southpaw named Manny Pacquiao, said he never fought anyone again as talented as Camacho.

“You hear rumors of drug problems and training problems. But when he fought me, he was in for 10 and I tried every trick in the book but it didn’t work. He was in a higher class than I was,” Roach said. “He was one of the best fighters in the world.”

Don’t miss this Showtime documentary next week.

Jacobs and Rosado

Speaking of Roach, the famous trainer will be working the corner of Gabe Rosado (25-12-1, 14 KOs) when he meets Daniel Jacobs (36-3, 30 KOs) on Friday, Nov. 27, at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Florida. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing card.

It’s Philly versus Brooklyn.

Rosado has long proven to be a real professional who keeps adding elements to his fight game. Paired with Roach he has further developed under the guidance of the Southern California-based trainer. Plus, Rosado can plain fight.

Jacobs, a former world champion, has proven to be an elite middleweight and looks just as comfortable as a super middleweight.

Expect the kind of prize fight they used to show in the Golden Age of boxing in the 1950s when you had guys like Johnny Saxton fighting Denny Moyer. It should be that kind of battle of wits and skill. I’m looking forward to it.

Photo: Hector Camacho, David Avila, and Mia St. John. Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Muhammad Ali Biographer Jonathan Eig Talks About His Book and the Icon Who Inspired It

Rick Assad

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Given the breadth and depth of Muhammad Ali’s 74 years, it isn’t very easy to capture the complete essence of the man.

Dozens of books have been written about the three-time heavyweight champion including Jonathan Eig’s 2017 biography, “Ali: A Life.”

Born in Louisville, Kentucky on January 17, 1942 as Cassius Marcellus Clay, he would one day be known around the globe as a world-class boxer, civil rights advocate, philanthropist and cultural icon.

Like so many others, the Brooklyn, New York-born Eig became intrigued by Ali.

“I loved Ali as a child. He fascinated me. He was outspoken, radical, yet so very loveable,” he said. “And, of course, he could fight! I was astonished to realize, around 2012, that there was no complete biography of Ali, even though he was probably the most famous man of the 20th century.”

Eig, currently at work on a major offering about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., added: “I had read lots of Ali books, including [David] Remnick’s “King Of The World: Muhammad Ali And The Rise Of An American Hero,” and [Thomas] Hauser’s “Muhammad Ali: His Life And Times,” and [Norman] Mailer’s “The Fight” – but those were not complete biographies,” he pointed out. “By 2012, enough time had gone by to put Ali in historical perspective. Also, there were plenty of people still alive to tell the story. I did more than 500 interviews, including all three of Ali’s living wives. I wanted to write a book that would treat Ali as more than a boxer. I wanted to write a book that would show the good and the bad. I wanted to write a big book worthy of an epic life, a book that danced and jabbed half as beautifully as Ali.”

Given Eig’s exhaustive research, what previously unknown tidbits about Ali did he come across?

“I learned thousands of new things. I think even hardcore Ali fans will find new information on almost every page,” said the former Wall Street Journal reporter and 1986 Northwestern University graduate. “I discovered things Ali himself didn’t know. I discovered Ali’s grandfather was a convicted murderer, for example. Ali didn’t know that! I read Ali’s FBI files, as well as those of Herbert Muhammad, Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad. I interviewed Ali’s childhood friends. I found MRIs of Ali’s brain. I counted the punches from all of his fights. I measured how those punches affected his speaking rate. Ali’s wives also confided in me things I never knew. I spent four years working on this book, and every day delivered revelations.”

Over the years, Ali, who posted a 56-5 ring record with 37 knockouts, seemed to mellow with time which helped ingratiate him to an even wider audience. How was this possible?

“People change. They grow. It’s hard to stay radical as you get older and richer,” said Eig, who has written five books including three that deal with sports. “The late Stanley Crouch had a great line about Ali. He said young Ali was a grizzly bear. Ali in the ’70s was a circus bear. Ali in his later years was a teddy bear. We all loved the teddy bear. We wanted to hug him and love him. But it was the grizzly bear who we should remember first. It was the grizzly bear who shook up the world.”

Sports Illustrated writer Mark Kram covered nearly the entirety of Ali’s career which spanned 1960 through 1981 and included a three-year period, 1967 until 1970 when he wasn’t allowed to box after being convicted of draft evasion because he refused induction into the armed forces.

In Kram’s book, “Ghosts Of Manila,” the author asserts Ali was essentially a pawn of the Black Muslims.

What’s Eig’s take?

“I love Kram’s book, but I think it’s dangerous to question anyone’s religious faith,” he said. “Ali was a true believer. The Nation of Islam took advantage of him at times. But does that mean he was a pawn? I don’t think so. He knew what he was doing. He made his own choices. One might argue that the NOI did more for Ali than Ali did for them.”

Ali wasn’t perfect and that included his fondness for women. As a Muslim, how did he hurdle this?

“He didn’t reconcile it – except to acknowledge that humans are human, they are flawed,” Eig said. “The thing I love about Ali is that he said he was the greatest, but he never said he was perfect. He talked to his wives about his weakness. He even talked to reporters about his flaws – his weakness for women, his disdain for training, his poor handling of money. He knew who he was and he never tried to be anything else.”

Eig, who has also penned “Luckiest Man: The Life And Death Of Lou Gehrig,” and “Opening Day: The Story Of Jackie Robinson’s First Season,” went on: “We’re all complicated, right? Ali was no more complicated than you or me, but he let the whole world see his complications – his racial pride and his racist behavior toward [Joe] Frazier, his love of women and his cruelty to his wives, his generosity with his money and his stupidity with money,” he said. “I don’t think Ali was different, just more open, more willing to let us see everything.”

Ali’s battles with Frazier, George Foreman and Ken Norton are legendary, but his two fights against Sonny Liston are filled with question marks, such as were they fixed?

Ali claimed the title on February 25, 1964 in Miami Beach when Liston failed to answer the bell for the seventh round and then faced Liston 15 months later in Lewiston, Maine, where he knocked out the challenger in the opening frame.

In Eig’s mind, were these two bouts on the level? “My hunch is that the first fight was legit. Liston quit when he knew he couldn’t win,” Eig said. “The second fight is more suspicious. Liston’s flop was pathetic. Bad acting! But I don’t think we’ll ever know for sure. As an aside, Liston’s wife said Sonny had diarrhea before the fight, which might have given him one more reason to throw it.”

Still, Ali in his prime was a sight to behold. “Ali before the exile, in my opinion, was the most beautiful boxer of all time. His combination of speed and power and ferocity was thrilling, elegant, frightening and marvelous,” Eig said. “Was he the greatest heavyweight of all time? Maybe, maybe not. Was he the most breathtaking? To me, yes.”

Early in Ali’s career his braggadocio was off-putting to many. But much of it was showmanship.

“One of the Greatest” doesn’t sound as good, does it? If we’re only discussing his action in the ring, Ali was one of the greatest,” Eig said. “But that’s like saying Louis Armstrong was one of the greatest trumpet players without considering his voice, his charm, his improvisational skills, his smile. In and out of the ring, Ali was the greatest in my book.”

For so many, Ali was many things. What traits in the man does Eig admire? “I love his fearlessness, his honesty, his insatiable appetite for people,” he said. “He was so very loving. But he could also be narcissistic. He wanted everyone to love him, but he wasn’t always sensitive to the feelings of others – including his wives and children. He turned his back on friends like Malcolm X and Joe Frazier when it served his purposes.”

While Ali could be polarizing, he had his legion of supporters including Howard Cosell, Jerry Izenberg, Robert Lipsyte, Larry Merchant and Jack Newfield.

“You could add Mailer, [George] Plimpton, and so many others to that list,” Eig noted. “Those men were lucky enough to spend time with young Ali and to bask in the great warmth of his sun. He was great to reporters. He was the best story they ever covered. And unlike most celebrities, he really paid attention to them.”

Eig continued: “I only met him once, six months before he died, and I envy those reporters who got to know him and got to see him at his best. I think those who knew and loved Ali became his disciples,” he pointed out. “Ali’s friend Gene Kilroy told me over and over that he thought Ali was like Jesus, that people would be studying his words and drawing inspiration from his life for centuries to come. That’s the feeling he gave to those with whom he spent time.”

Ali was a boxer, but so much more. How does Eig see him? “I think Ali will be remembered as one of America’s great revolutionary heroes – one whose courage went far beyond sports. Like Jackie Robinson, like Martin Luther King, like the abolitionists and suffragettes, he loved America but refused to accept its shortfalls,” he said. “He fought to make his country live up to the promises contained in the Declaration of Independence. He will also be remembered as an important world figure, one who united Africans, Americans and Asians, one who helped Americans better understand Islam and helped people of Islamic faith around the world better understand America.”

In Ali’s last quarter century, he was almost universally loved. This is a far cry from being labeled a draft dodger.

“Ali was always a spiritual man, but in his later years I believe he clarified and deepened his spirituality,” Eig said. “He became more focused and more thoughtful.”

When Eig turned in his manuscript, what was his immediate thought? “I wanted to take it back. I didn’t want to be done,” he said. “I had so much fun writing this book I wanted to work on it for the rest of my life. I knew I would never find anything more fun to work on.”

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