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Manny Pacquiao Led the Charge of Fortysomethings into the Weekend

Bernard Fernandez

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George Foreman was 14-0, all of his victories by knockout, 22½ months into the comeback he had launched to much derision after a 10-year retirement, when he uttered the words that since have become a beacon of hope to all boxers who dare to believe they can still compete and win beyond an arbitrary age when most members of their brutal profession either are retired or ought to be.

“Forty isn’t a death sentence,” Big George reasoned upon reaching birthday No. 4-oh on Jan. 10, 1989, to continued skepticism from those media holdouts who correctly pointed out that the former heavyweight champ’s career revival had thus far been built on whacking out a succession of has-beens and never-weres. But Foreman kept on keeping on and, well, you know the rest. That one-punch flattening of WBA/IBF heavyweight champion Michael Moorer in the 10th round of their Nov. 5, 1994, title bout demonstrated that advancing age is not necessarily a hindrance to certain fighters capable of at least temporarily extending the boundaries of their pugilistic skills.

“When I turned 40, boxing experts thought it was time for me to hang up the gloves,” Foreman is quoted as saying in God in My Corner, the inspirational book he authored with the assistance of writer Ken Abraham. “The great trainer Gil Clancy said, `Boxing has too many retreads. What is George Foreman doing out there boxing? He shouldn’t be fighting.’

“As the calendar pages turned, I wasn’t getting any younger and the skeptics weren’t getting any kinder. What was an old man like me doing in the boxing ring, fighting guys half my age and in much better physical condition? In spite of what the critics said, I was winning every match. They said I was too old at 41. Really old at 42. Should be on a respirator at 43. Age 44? Nearly in the grave. Age 45, heavyweight champion of the world!”

At the 146 pounds he officially weighed in for Saturday night’s Showtime Pay Per View-televised defense of his secondary WBA welterweight title against 29-year-old Adrien Broner, Manny Pacquiao was 104 pounds lighter than Foreman had been the night he instantly turned the lights out on the surprised Moorer, who was too far ahead on the scorecards to have been beaten on points. But although the parallels between the Pacquiao of now, who celebrated his 40th birthday on Dec. 17, and the Foreman of late 1994 are limited, the impact made by each at this presumably twilight stage of their respective Hall of Fame careers is eerily similar. Who knows? Maybe “Pac-Man” soon will be pitching his signature line of grills on television.

“At the age of 40 I can still give my best,” Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs) said after pitching a near-shutout at the outclassed and delusional Broner (33-4-1, 24 KOs), who loudly and ridiculously proclaimed that it was he who should have been awarded the victory despite what a sellout crowd of 13,025 in Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden and the Showtime PPV audience had just witnessed. As it was, judges Dave Moretti, Tim Cheatham and Glenn Feldman seemingly were overly generous to Broner, favoring Pacquiao by respective margins of 117-111 and 116-112 (twice) when a case could be made for the once and maybe still Fab Filipino winning all 12 rounds, and no less than 10 by any reasonable assessment. Punch statistics compiled by CompuBox further verified “Pac-Man’s” level of domination as he connected on 112 of 568, on several occasions clearly hurting and wobbling Broner, who landed just 50 of 295.

Maybe the 40-year-old (and counting) Pacquiao no longer can still give his very best – that would be the version who brutalized and stopped such elite opponents as Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto – but those watershed triumphs occurred nearly a decade ago. The elder statesman on display against Broner, fighting for the first time on U.S. soil in 26 months and for the first time under the banner of Premier Boxing Champions, nonetheless is popular enough and good enough to remain a factor in a welterweight division loaded with such young, dangerous champions as Errol Spence Jr., Terence Crawford and Keith Thurman, all of whom presumably would be favored were they to be paired with the living legend who might not be as far gone as previously had been imagined.

Interestingly, Pacquiao’s Saturday night dismissal of Broner began what might be termed the Weekend of the Fortysomethings, which a day later featured two long-in-the-tooth NFL quarterbacks who were attempting to embellish their legacies as all-time greats by punching their tickets to Super Bowl LIII Feb. 3 in Atlanta. Tom Brady, 41 and still going strong, engineered another clutch, game-winning drive in leading the New England Patriots to a 37-31 overtime victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game in frigid KC, and the New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees, who turned 40 on Jan. 15, was shafted out of a marquee matchup with Brady on possibly the worst non-call in NFL history, a missed pass interference call in the red zone that opened the door for the Los Angeles Rams to pull out a gift 26-23 overtime victory in the NFC Conference title contest in N’Awlins.

In retrospect, George Foreman was correct. Forty need not be a death sentence in the athletic arena, not with improved health and training regimens that have turned 40 into the new 30, or at least the new 35. It should be noted that Floyd Mayweather Jr., who turns 42 on Feb. 24, was sitting ringside for Pacquiao-Broner, fueling speculation that he and Pacquiao, whom he outpointed in their May 2, 2015, megafight that even then was criticized as having been staged five years later than it should have been, might share the ring again for pride and profit. Looking as fit as ever, Mayweather journeyed to Japan where, on Dec. 31, he destroyed 20-year-old kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa in less than three minutes. A do-over between the two old guys, which not so long ago would have scoffed at, almost certainly would be another must-see attraction were it to happen.

Other Big Names at Welterweight

The mix ’n’ match possibilities at 147 are enough to make any true fight fan salivate. Promotional and TV alliances of course will prove problematic, as they always are, but what’s not to like in a division that includes current or former world champs Spence, Crawford, Thurman, Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, Amir Khan, Jeff Horn, Jessie Vargas, Luis Collazo, Devon Alexander and an apparently revitalized Pacquiao? But upon further inspection, those are not the only big names at welter. In fact, there are much bigger names in the ratings of the four most widely recognized sanctioning bodies.

Literally bigger, that is.

Thanks to the steady stream of Eastern Europeans and Central Asians making their mark in several weight classes, among the ranked welterweights are Egidijus Kavaliauskas (21-0, 17 KOs) of Lithuania, Karen Chukhadzhyan (13-1, 7 KOs) of Ukraine, Bakhtiyar Eyubov (13-0, 11 KOs) of Kazakhstan and Radzhad Butaev (9-0, 7 KOs) of Russia.

Another fighter who should be on that list of difficult-to spell tongue-twisters is the Man With Two Names, an Uzbekistani who is listed as Qudratillo Abduqaxorov by the IBF, which has him as its No. 4-rated welterweight, and Kudratillo Abdukakhorov, who is rated No. 5 by the WBC. By either name the 25-year-old has the same 15-0 record with nine knockouts, same age and same country of birth. To avoid confusion, I’ll go with Kudratillo Abdukakhorov because that’s how he’s listed by BoxRec.com.

All of these guys figure to cause nightmares for most U.S. sports writers and broadcasters, who I’m guessing will struggle with the correct spelling and pronunciation of their names if they begin to get regular fights on these shores. They can only hope that the ring announcer assigned to work their bouts in America or anywhere is Jimmy Lennon Jr., who learned from his Hall of Fame father, the late Jimmy Lennon Sr., that getting it right is and always should be a paramount consideration. I mean, who would ever think that the proper pronunciation of the last name of famed Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski is Sha-shef-skee?

“To have an affinity for languages is important,” Jimmy the younger told me in advance of his own induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2013. “That was instilled in me by my father. I take the time to talk to the fighters if I don’t know them and find out the pronunciation of their name, their nicknames, what hometown they’re from – everything that’s important to them. There’s nothing more sweet to a man’s ear than to hear his name pronounced properly.”

Really, though, the ring announcer’s job is so much easier when the guy being introduced is, say, Joe Smith Jr., the light heavyweight who spoiled Bernard Hopkins’ farewell fight and will challenge WBA 175-pound titlist Dmitry Bivol on March 9 in Verona, N.Y. It’s pretty hard to mess up a name like Joe Smith.

Photo credit: Marcelino Castillo

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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Re-visiting the Walker Law of 1920 which Transformed Boxing

Arne K. Lang

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One hundred years ago this week, on March 24, 1920, a boxing reform bill sponsored by Sen. James J. Walker passed the New York State Senate. The bill ultimately became law and its provisions came to be adopted by law-makers in other states, bringing some uniformity to the most anarchic of the mainstream sports. And what better time to re-visit this transformative legislation than now, the centennial?

Prizfighting was an outlaw sport in the Empire State until 1896 when the legislature passed the Horton Law which allowed bouts up to 25 rounds with five-ounce gloves in buildings owned or leased by a chartered athletic club. New York was a beehive of world class boxing during the days of the Horton Law, but the hubbub was short-lived. A spate of fixed fights and ring fatalities sparked a cry for reform and the law was repealed in 1900.

The Lewis Law, which supplanted the Horton Law, reduced the maximum number of rounds from 25 to 10 and stipulated that no decision would be rendered. The Lewis Law also restricted patronage to members of the athletic club sponsoring the event.

The Frawley Law of 1911 re-opened the fights to the general public but otherwise left the provisions of the Lewis Law pretty much intact. The most important fight in New York during the Frawley Law days was Jess Willard’s defense of his world heavyweight title against Frank Moran at Madison Square Garden in 1916. The fight went the distance, the full 10 rounds, and Willard had the best of it although you wouldn’t know that from the official decision as there was none.

During the last years of the nineteen-teens, several boxing reform bills were presented to the New York legislature. In fact, the Walker Bill was one of four that was taken under consideration. When it finally came to pass, the no-decision rule had been struck down by a 1919 amendment to the Frawley Law that gave the referee the authority to designate the winner.

A key feature of the Walker Law was that everyone involved in a boxing match — from the lowliest spit-bucket carrier to the promoter — had to be licensed. This included managers, matchmakers, referees, judges, ring doctors; even the ring announcer. The licensees were accountable to the boxing commission, a panel appointed by the governor. The commission had the power to approve matches, assign the officials, and establish and collect fees.

The Walker Law approved matches up to 15 rounds and allowed official decisions. Two judges would determine the winner and if they disagreed, the referee would act as the tie-breaker.

Previous laws allowed prizefighting under the guise of sparring exhibitions. The Walker Law made no distinction and this took the police out of the equation. Historically, it was the Sheriff’s responsibility to determine if a bout should be stopped because it had become too one-sided; too brutal. And if, pray tell, one of the contestants died as a result of blows received, his opponent and his opponent’s chief second and perhaps others would be arrested and charged with manslaughter.

Under the Walker Law, the decision of whether to stop a match rested with the referee or the ring physician or the highest-ranking boxing official at ringside. A boxer could now fight full bore without worrying that he could be charged with a crime.

After passing the Senate, the Walker Law passed the Assembly by a margin of 91-46. It was signed into law by Gov. Al Smith on May 24, 1920 and took effect on Sept.1. This ignited a great flurry of boxing in the Empire State. By March of 1924, the state had licensed 6,123 boxers.

The Walker Law became the template that lawmakers in other jurisdictions followed when they introduced their own boxing bills. Cynics would have it that the most attractive feature of the Walker Law to those that embraced it was the tax imposed on gate receipts. In New York under the guidelines of the Walker Law, it was 5 percent.

This wasn’t too far off the mark. The drive to legalize boxing picked up steam in the Depression when state coffers were depleted and new sources of revenue were needed to cushion the fallout. By 1934, boxing was legal in every state in the union, but not in every county. Nowhere was the Walker Law adopted word for word – every politician had to put his own little spin on it, tweaking this and that – but the map of boxing, from an organizational standpoint, became less disjointed.

For the record, the first boxing show under the imprimatur of the Walker Law was held on Sept. 17, 1920 at Madison Square Garden. Joe Welling fought Johnny Dundee in the featured bout. It was the eighth meeting between the veteran lightweights. Welling won a unanimous decision, which is to say that both judges gave the bout to him (their scores were not made known). Ten weeks later, after two intervening bouts, Welling returned to Madison Square Garden to face lightweight champion Benny Leonard. This would go into the books as the first title fight under the Walker Law. Welling was stopped in the 14th round.

James J. “Jimmy” Walker spent 15 years in Albany, the first four as an Assemblyman, but would be best remembered as New York City’s flamboyant Jazz Age mayor. He served two terms, defeating his opponents in landslides, but was forced to resign before his second term expired, leaving office in disgrace. In January of 1941, at the third annual dinner of the Boxing Writers Association, Walker was honored for his “long and meritorious service” to the sport and in 1992 he would be enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Walker (pictured) was a fascinating man, the big city version, in many respects, of Louisiana’s colorful Huey “Kingfish” Long. In a future article, we’ll peel back the layers and take a closer look at the man who did so much to popularize boxing.

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Think you know boxing? Then Man Up and Take Our New Trivia Test

Arne K. Lang

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Beneath his salty exterior, Roger Mayweather had the soul of a scholar when the subject turned to the history of boxing. We suspect that Mayweather, who left us on March 17, would have fared pretty well on this 15-question multiple-choice trivia quiz and we dedicate it to him.

All good trivia tests should have a connecting thread. Here the common theme is “places,” more exactly U.S. cities and towns.

This isn’t an easy quiz. We have too much respect for our readers to dumb it down. Get more than half right and give yourself a passing grade. Twelve or more correct answers and proceed to the head of the class.

Here’s the catch: To find the correct answers, you need to go to our FORUM (Click Here). There this trivia test will repeat with the correct answers caboosed to the final question.

  1. In 1970, Muhammad Ali returned to the ring after a 43-month absence to fight Jerry Quarry in this city:

(a) Miami

(b) Atlanta

(c) Houston

(d) Landover, Maryland

 

  1. Rocky Kansas and Frank Erne, recent inductees into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in the Old-Timer category, were products of this city:

(a) Buffalo

(b) Hartford

(c) Scranton

(d) Portland, Maine

 

  1. The July 1, 1931 match between heavyweight title-holder Max Schmeling and Young Stribling was the icebreaker event in the largest stadium ever built to house a baseball team. What city?

(a) Detroit

(b) Cleveland

(c) St. Louis

(d) Milwaukee

 

  1. Jake LaMotta was from the Bronx, but he acquired his most avid following in this city where he lifted the world middleweight title from Marcel Cerdan.

(a) Detroit

(b) Chicago

(c) Cleveland

(d) Syracuse

 

5.  Jess Willard was called the Pottawatomie Giant because he hailed from Pottawatomie County. What state?

(a) Oklahoma

(b) Kansas

(c) Montana

(d) West Virginia

 

  1. There is a statue of former welterweight champion Young Corbett III, born Raffaele Giordano, in this California city.

(a) Oakland

(b) Bakersfield

(c) Anaheim

(d) Fresno

 

  1. Elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2011, this iron-chinned bantamweight was stopped only once in 163 documented fights. Fill in the blank:

______ Pal Moore.

(a) Laredo

(b) Memphis

(c) Peoria

(d) Pasadena

 

  1. More of the same. Fill in the blank.

(a) George Lavigne, the ______ Kid            Boston

(b) Jack Johnson, the ______ Giant            Joplin

(c) Jeff Clark, the _______     Ghost           Saginaw

(d) Jack Sharkey, the _______ Gob            Galveston

 

9. In the 1930s, there was a second Madison Square Garden in this southwestern city. Future light heavyweight champion John Henry Lewis had several of his early fights here:

(a) Albuquerque

(b) El Paso

(c) Pueblo

(d) Phoenix

 

  1. Match the fighter with his nickname.

(a) Max Baer                  (1) Astoria Assassin

(b) Paul Berlenbach      (2) Fargo Express

(c) Billy Petrolle            (3) Livermore Larruper

(d) Bud Taylor              (4) Terre Haute Terror

 

  1. Match these boxers with the city with which they are associated.

(a) Fritzie Zivic and Charley Burley         (1) San Francisco

(b) Johnny Coulon and Ernie Terrell       (2) New Orleans

(c) Abe Attell and Fred Apostoli               (3) Chicago

(d) Pete Herman and Willie Pastrano      (4) Pittsburgh

12. The first great prizefight in Nevada, pitting James J. Corbett against Bob Fitzsimmons, was held here:

a. Goldfield

b. Carson City

c. Reno

d. Las Vegas

 

13. On March 28, 1991, Sugar Ray Leonard headlined a boxing show at the new Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY. Who was his opponent?

(a) Larry Bonds

(b) Wilfred Benitez

(c) Donny Lalonde

(d) Floyd Mayweather Sr.

 

  1. Match these Hall of Fame boxing writers with the city in which they spent the bulk of their newspaper careers:

 

(a) Jack Fiske                   (1) New York

(b) Michael Katz              (2) Philadelphia

(c) Jerry Izenberg            (3) San Francisco

(d) Bernard Fernandez    (4) Newark

 

  1. Match these Hall of Fame boxing promoters with the city that served as their headquarters:

(a) Herman Taylor         (1) Boston

(b) Rip Valenti               (2) Philadelphia

(c) Sam Ichinose           (3) Los Angeles

(d) George Parnassus    (4) Honolulu

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A Chain of Fistic Violence in Southern California in the ‘70s

Ted Sares

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 The decade of the 1970’s was a great one for boxing and the Southern California scene was especially a hotbed. Throw a dart and you’d come up with a fan-friendly sizzler at the Inglewood Forum, the Olympic Auditorium, the Convention Center in Anaheim or even the Valley Music Theater in Woodland Hills. Throw that same dart at the following fighters and you would land on fighters who made the West Coast scene a special one.

Men like Danny “Little Red “ Lopez, the star-crossed Bobby “Schoolboy” Chacon, Jose Napoles, the legendary Ruben Olivares, the underrated Ernie “Indian Red” Lopez, Armando Muniz, Rafael Herrera (who beat the great Olivares twice), Carlos Palomino (who made one of the greatest comebacks in boxing history), Carlos Zarate, Art Hafey, Shig Fukuyama (who had that one big moment against “Little Red” in 1974), Octavio Gomez, Rudy Robles, Frankie Baltazar (who practically lived in the Olympic where he had 31 of his 43 career bouts), and Alberto Sandoval who had 37 of his 38 career fights in the Olympic Auditorium!

Many of the above were world champions; six are in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

The following fights are representative of this super exciting and very violent time:

Chacon vs. Olivares (June 1973)

This one was at the Forum in Ingleside, California and the Associated Press report said it best:

“Former world bantamweight champion Ruben Olivares of Mexico ruined the perfect record of local featherweight hero Bobby Chacon, scoring a 9th round knockout. Chacon, 126, appeared strong in the first two rounds, but Olivares dramatically changed the complexion of the fight in the 3rd and didn’t lose another round. Olivares, 125 3/4, knocked Chacon down with a straight right in the first ten seconds of the 9th and then pounded the San Fernando fighter unmercifully for the remainder of the round. During the intermission, Chacon’s manager, Joe Ponce, asked referee Dick Young to stop the fight, which had been scheduled for 12 rounds and for the NABF featherweight title.”

The pin-point exchanges in the ninth were non-stop and raised the bar for ring malice; it was legal assault and battery.

The two met twice more.

In June, 1975, Olivares met Chacón who was then the WBC’s world featherweight champion. Olivares won the fight by savage stoppage in round two and became a world champion for the fourth time.

The trilogy ended in August 1977 when Chacon won a UD at the Forum.

However, the equally adored Olivares dominated the bantamweights and retired with a record of 89-13-3 with an astonishing 79 wins coming by knockout.

Lopez vs. Chacon (May 1974)

Danny “Little Red” Lopez was 23-0 when he faced off with Bobby Chacon (then 23-1) at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles in front of 16,000 screaming fans. Both fighters personified excitement; in fact, Little Red was a “Gatti before Gatti” as he often would come back in dramatic fashion to snatch victory from certain defeat.

As for drama both inside and outside the ring, no one ever topped Chacon. His career against the toughest opposition imaginable included historic fights against Cornelius Boza- Edwards and four thrillers against Bazooka Limon against whom he was 2-1-1. His name was synonymous with “Fight of the Year” but so was Danny’s. He was all heart and all action; you had to staple him down to the canvas if you wanted to keep him down. His only loss prior to the Lopez fight was against the aforementioned Ruben Olivares (71-3-1 at the time).

LA Times sportswriter Steve Springer recalled that fight in a story that ran in the Times on April 28, 1995:

“In the early rounds of that memorable night in 1974, both fighters absorbed and delivered a terrifying amount of punishment. If not for the breaks between rounds, there would have been no time to breathe. But by the end of the fourth round, having seen and survived the best Lopez had to offer, Chacon took command…Chacon maneuvered Lopez into the ropes. Lopez dropped his hands and Chacon moved in for the kill. But referee John Thomas stepped in and ended it.”

It was not quite malevolence but it was something pretty close. The fans got what they paid for and more. Sadly, Bobby would pay a terrible price, but he kept his sense of humor almost until the end. When questioned about his failing memory, he would smile that smile that would stop you in your tracks and say, “I forgot I forgot.”

Bobby Chacon, like Ruben Olivares, was adored by his fans in a special kind of way.

Lopez vs. O’Grady (February 1976)

There was never a time where I thought I was going to be anything other than a boxer…” – Sean O’Grady

Now it was Danny Lopez’s turn to prevail against the young but talented and undefeated Sean O’Grady who had run up 29 straight wins until he met “Little Red” at the Inglewood Forum. In 1975 alone, the upstart, who turned pro at age 15, fought 26 times with 22 stoppages (but mostly against weak Oklahoma-style opposition which ill-prepared him for the likes of “Little Red” who was honed on Southern California-type opposition).

O’Grady instinctively chose to brawl with the gritty and hard-hitting Lopez rather than use fundamentals and technique and while it was a good fight for as long as it lasted, the youngster absorbed serious punishment prompting his “corner” which was composed of father, manager, mentor and trainer Pat O’Grady to toss in the towel after four rounds, saving Sean for another day.

It would prove to be an extremely wise decision as the youngster would later have great success. O’Grady won the WBA lightweight title in 1981 and finished his career at 81-5 with 70 wins coming by way of stoppage, an eye-popping KO percentage of 81.4 %.

While the 70s were considered the golden age for heavyweights, serious fans and historians know that the smaller men should receive the same level of respect. They also know that Mexico’s bantamweights of the 50s were nothing less than sensational, building the platform for the chain of sizzlers that delighted Southern California fight fans in the 70s.

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com

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