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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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Maxim Dadashev Dead at Age 28

Arne K. Lang

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Maxim-Mad-Max-Dadashev

Junior welterweight boxer Maxim Dadashev passed away this morning (Tuesday, July 23) at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Prince George County, Maryland.  The news was confirmed by Dadashev’s trainer Buddy McGirt and his strength and conditioning coach Donatas Janusevicious.

Dadashev’s death was a result of injuries suffered in a fight four days earlier at the MGM casino-resort in Oxon Hill, Maryland. Dadashev’s match with Subriel Matias, scheduled for 12 rounds, was billed as a title eliminator with the victor first in line to face the winner of the upcoming match between Josh Taylor and Regis Prograis. It was the chief undercard bout on a show headlined by fast rising lightweight contender Teofimo Lopez.

Dadashev, who entered the contest undefeated (13-0) was facing another undefeated fighter in Puerto Rico’s Matias, also 13-0 but against suspect opposition. As the fight wore on, it became increasingly more one-sided with Dadashev absorbing heavy punches to the body and head. After the 11th round, Dadashev was pulled from the fight by McGirt.

Dadashev protested McGirt’s decision. He wanted to continue the fight although it was evident that he had no chance of winning without a knockout. But he had trouble walking as he repaired to his dressing room and began vomiting violently once there. Placed on a stretcher, he was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance where he underwent a two-hour operation for a subdural hematoma. A portion of his skull was reportedly removed in an effort to reduce the swelling.

Federal privacy laws prevented the hospital from releasing any details without the consent of his next of kin. As Dadashev lay in the hospital in an induced coma, his wife flew to be by his side from their home in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Reportedly 281-20 as an amateur, Dadashev had fought exclusively in the United States since turning pro. Managed by Egis Klimas and promoted by Top Rank, he trained in Oxnard, California, along with stablemates Vasiliy Lomachenko and Oleksandr Gvozdyk.

As expected, Buddy McGirt, who entered the International Hall of Fame this year, was devastated by the news. “He did everything right in training,” said McGirt, “no problems, no nothing….great, great guy. He was a trainer’s dream. If I had two more guys like him, I would need nobody else because he was truly dedicated to the sport.”

We here at TSS send our condolences to Dadashev’s family and loved ones.

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Good Night, Sweet Pea

Springs Toledo

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Good-Night-Sweet-Pea

Good Night, Sweet Pea

Bishop James E. Jones Jr.’s booming baritone was rising up through the rafters at the Scope Arena in Norfolk, Virginia. He was preaching about hands—your neighbor’s hands, the hand in yours now, the Father’s hands into which Jesus commended his spirit from the cross. “Sweet Pea’s HANDS,” he shouted, “took him to places HIS EYES NEVER IMAGINED!”

Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker, the greatest pure boxer since Willie Pep, lay in repose at the foot of the stage, his hands crossed at his belt. His coffin was black. An Olympic flag was draped over it and boxing gloves carefully arranged on top. The few thousand who attended his Saturday morning memorial service came to mourn and to celebrate a perfect fighter, an imperfect man, and a community that has long-since learned to look up no matter what.

Mark Breland was there. He came down from New York to honor the captain of an Olympic boxing team that won nine gold medals in 1984. Long gone is the fresh-faced amateur smiling under a laurel wreath, but Breland remains reed thin. He stood at the podium in a gray suit with a powder blue shirt and was too overwhelmed with grief to say much. “We knew him differently,” he said.

Kathy Duva, now a promoter, then his publicist, was there too. “Pound-for-pound,” she said. “That’s how he signed his autographs.” And that’s exactly what he was: the pound-for-pound best boxer in the world from September 1993 through March 1996, despite performances that struck the unsophisticated as pusillanimous. “He simply chose not to engage in outright brutality,” Duva said. “It was so much more fun to tease and toy with his opponents.” Whitaker teased and toyed with everyone, including a young Floyd Mayweather Jr. who, she said, “could not lay a glove on him” even as he sparred with those hands of his behind his back in 1996. Whitaker brought laughter into the midst of danger because of his cosmic level of skill, and because it kept boredom at bay. Merely making world-class fighters miss wasn’t enough; so he’d dart behind them and as they looked around to see where he went, he’d tap them on the rear end. When Roger Mayweather was known as “Black Mamba” and feared for his right hand, Whitaker—fighting here at the Norfolk Scope—yanked his trunks down in the middle of the sixth round.

“An imp with gold teeth,” said one wit during his glory days, “floating around that blue canvas like a cloud,” added Duva.

No one could outbox him. It isn’t easy to settle firmly on a lightweight in history who could. But the product of Young Park, a housing project just east of the Scope, wasn’t raised to shrink from violence. As a child, his father wouldn’t tolerate tears when he was hurt by neighborhood bullies. He’d turn him around. “Go back,” he’d say. “Give them everything you got.” When he was eight, he and nine-year-old Mario Cuffee got into a street fight and Clyde Taylor, a mailman who moonlighted as the neighborhood’s recreation director, hustled over and grabbed both by the scruff of the neck. “Do your fighting in the gym,” he said, and with permission from the boys’ parents, restaged the fight in the ring, with boxing gloves that looked like balloons. Whitaker lost that one, but found a mentor who began the process of transforming an undersized project kid into a giant of boxing and boxing history. Whitaker credited Cuffee almost as much. “Come to think of it,” Cuffee told me Monday, “I beat him that first fight, though I gotta come clean, he got me back a few years later.” When Whitaker fought Greg Haugen at the Coliseum in 1989, Cuffee bought a ticket and made his way across the Hampton Roads Beltway through a blizzard to see Haugen lose every round. At the post-fight press conference, Cuffee was standing in the back, “in cognito.” Whitaker spotted him and told the story of their fateful childhood fight. “Thanks Mario,” he said. Haugen, his face scuffed and swollen, looked up. “Yeah,” he said. “Thanks Mario.”

In Detroit, while still an amateur, he was invited to spar with Hector Camacho just as Floyd Mayweather was later invited to spar with him. Camacho couldn’t land a glove on him either. “He got mad and started fighting dirty,” Whitaker told the Newport News. “He grabbed me behind the head, pulled it down, and hit me with an uppercut. Then I grabbed him and threw him to the canvas and we started wrestling and fell out of the ring.” Whitaker offered to take it outside. Camacho talked a lot but never went near him again.

In 1984, after the Duvas had convinced Whitaker to throw in with Main Events, they introduced him to trainer George Benton. Benton, who understood the science of belligerent invisibility like no one else, took what Taylor had begun and finished it. He taught him to stop running around the ring, to stand on a dime; to see the difference between wasting energy and ducking and slipping just enough to let punches graze your hair or flick your ear. Benton made sure he became, in his words, “harder to hit than the numbers,” and a master at punching around, between, over, and under what’s coming in. “When I talk he stands and listens like a private would a general,” he said in 1986. “Sweet Pea’s going to be one of the best fighters ever.”

Seven years later, Whitaker swaggered into the ring against Julio Cesar Chavez, then 87-0 and rated by The Ring as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Whitaker fought him on a dime—twisting, rolling, fast-stepping outside his lead foot, and punching around, between, over, and under whatever came in. He had a trick that kept working. He’d turn his right shoulder in to narrow himself and hide his left until the moment it clubbed Chavez on the side of the head. You could hear it land—“whump!”—and it landed all night. In the ninth round, he was outfighting Chavez on the inside—“whump, whump!”—which no one had ever done. Chavez was befuddled and —“whump!”—puffing up. And then, at the end, 59,000 witnessed one of boxing history’s most egregious heists. Two of the three judges called the fight a draw. That’s what we were told anyway. Josè Sulaimàn, WBC president, countryman of Chavez, and favorite stooge of Don King, was seen collecting the scorecards after every round that night.

It is a grandiose irony. Whitaker put an exclamation point on Benton’s prediction in two fights he didn’t win. The second one was nearly as bad as the first.

At 33, he faced a 24-year-old Oscar De La Hoya, then 23-0 and rated by The Ring as the second best pound-for-pound fighter behind Roy Jones Jr. Whitaker made him look like a golem and won that fight too despite an official loss that stinks to this day. “The world saw it,” he said afterward, and smiled anyway, gold teeth gleaming. “The people saw it.”

Bishop Jones saw it. He remembered him standing triumphantly on the ropes before the decision against him was announced. He remembered it well.

“What I loved most about Sweet Pea Whitaker,” he told the mourners at the Norfolk Scope,

“.…was when he KNEW he had won the fight he DIDN’T WAIT on the referee to hold up his hands. He didn’t WAIT on the THE JUDGES to tell him whether or not he had won the fight, but if you look on the back of your programs, there’s a SIGNATURE MOVE that the champ would always do when he knew he had WON THE FIGHT. Family! HE WOULD THROW UP BOTH HIS HANDS!”

With that, Jones stepped back from the podium and thrust both hands in the air. When the people saw that, they roared as one. But Jones was just getting started, the crescendo wasn’t reached, not yet. He stopped them short. “EXODUS CHAPTER SEVENTEEN, VERSE ELEVEN! Whenever Moses held up…” and stepping back again, struck the same pose, “…HIS HANDS the people always had the victory…if the champ could hold up his hands in the middle of his fight, then SURELY you and I ought to HOLD UP OUR HANDS!”

Mario Cuffee jumped to his feet and thrust both hands in the air. Thousands, dressed in their best on the hottest day yet this year, rose as one and thrust both hands in the air. Whitaker’s signature move, multiplied. It was a transcendent moment; the spirit of a man—a father, a brother, a friend, a neighbor—merging with the spirit of the city he loved.

Bishop Jones lowered his gaze to the black coffin at the center of it all. “SWEET PEA!” he thundered as if to wake him up, “That one is for you! You got the victory! CHAMP!”

I closed my eyes and somewhere, I know, Whitaker opened his.

“—YOU GOT THE VICTORY!”

 

 

___________________

Special thanks to Dr. James E. Jones Jr. senior pastor and founder of Greater Grace Church in Portsmouth, VA.

 Springs Toledo is the author of Smokestack Lightning: Harry Greb, 1919, now available in paperback.

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Mad Max and Manny

Ted Sares

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Mad-Max-and-Manny

The crowd chants “Manny, Manny, Manny” at the weigh-in at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and Pacquaio’s beloved Pinoy fans are going wild. It’s a BIG event, bigger even than many heavyweight title fights.

Max

Meanwhile, Maxim “Mad Max” Dadashev’s wife Elizabeth is flying from her home in St. Petersburg, Russia, to be with her husband at a hospital in Maryland. Dadashev was critically injured on Friday night while suffering an upset loss to heavy-handed Puerto Rican bomber Subriel Matias at another MGM property, the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland.

Dadashev, 28, was 281-20 as an amateur, undefeated in 13 professional fights, and the IBF’s third-ranked junior welterweight, but Matias had his number and dominated throughout in a tough and grinding affair.

Capture 9

Maxim Dadashev

At the end of the 11th round, Buddy McGirt told his fighter, “I’m going to stop it, Max.” Dadashev protested. Maybe Max’s brain signaled no, maybe not. But his heart surely said “I’m not done.”

McGirt overruled him, a sage move, but unbeknownst to anyone the damage had been done and it was severe.

“He had one hell of a fight,” McGirt told the Washington Post. “Tough fight, tough fight; took a lot of tough body shots. I just think it was time to stop it. He was getting hit with too many shots. I said to him, ‘I’m stopping it.’ He said, ‘No, don’t.’”

The scores at the time of the stoppage were 109-100, 108-101 and 107-102 in favor of Matias. According to CompuBox, Matias out-landed Dadashev 319-157; 112 of Matias’ punches were body shots.

Max was stretchered out of the arena and rushed to UM Prince George’s Hospital where his skull was opened up to relieve the pressure caused by bleeding. The cavity reveals brain damage, and memories of Mago surface. The dreaded and familiar scenario then begins as he is put into an induced coma. Hopefully, the swelling goes down, the bleeding stops, and no blood clot appears as the later would make a terrible situation grave. In any event, Max will never box again. His well-publicized dream to win a world title will not be fulfilled.

In a post-fight interview, ESPN’s ringside analyst Tim Bradley said, “That’s a scary situation and every time you step foot in the ring you know that was always the talk that I would have with my wife. You know before I would step foot in the ring, I would sit her down, I would look at her and I would say, ‘Look at me, honey. Take a good look at me, open your eyes wide open because I might not come out the ring, for one, and I know I’m not coming out of the ring the same way that I came in.’”

Manny

Back to the big fight the following evening:

The crowd chants “Manny, Manny, Manny” as he enters the ring to battle Keith Thurman for still another championship as his worshipers are now virtually in a state of mass hysteria and begin singing and cheering loudly. The scene borders on the surreal.

Across the Pond

Earlier on Saturday, across the pond in London, heavyweight David Allen took a bad beating from 6’9” David Price and required oxygen. He also was stretchered out and sent to a hospital, adding to the angst. But he will be okay. According to his promoter, Eddie Hearn, Allen had a broken orbital bone and a damaged tongue, but brain scans suggested he was okay.

David Allen — “Very happy and proud of David Price. I will be okay, but the last 12 months or so my health has been deteriorating and I’m glad I hung on, took the chance, and made money. [I’m] now probably done.”

“Manny, Manny, Manny”

In Las Vegas, Manny has decked Thurman in the first round and the place is delirious. The crowd senses that this is his night although Thurman is not backing up. In the tenth, Pac almost puts “One Time” away after landing a devastating body punch.

Finally, the fight is over and Manny is declared the winner. The decibel count goes off the chart as the Pinoys sing “We Are The Champions.” Viewers hit the mute button. These are not fans as much as they are cultists. One wonders if those who are chanting even know that this has been a week where boxing exposed its grim side.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

Ted Sares is a member of Ring 8, a lifetime member of Ring 10, and a member of Ring 4 and its Boxing Hall of Fame. He also is an Auxiliary Member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA). He is an active power lifter and Strongman competitor in the Master Class.

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