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The Top Ten Light-Middleweights of the Decade: 2010-2019

Matt McGrain

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154lbs had a fascinating decade. The first generation that came through with Saul Alvarez and Miguel Cotto soon made way for a younger generation made up of exciting young fighters like Jarrett Hurd and Julian Williams, in some cases, in real and visceral ways, trading leather over inches of real-estate in blood-teared boxing-rings. There is much head-to-head resolution in this list, sure sign of a healthy division.

It wasn’t all fun and games though. The light-middleweight decade was also marked with dreadful scoring and one or two straight-up robberies. Like every division I’ve looked at so far, it seems to run out of locked inclusions well before we hit the last berth, which is a cause for concern.

But we do get a fascinating gallery of characters and actors which includes two pound-for-pound contenders for the decade. 154lbs has surprised me during this review, and I hope it surprises you too.

Rankings are by Ring 2010-2012 and TBRB 2013-2019.

10 – Demetrius Andrade

Peak Ranking: 3 Record for the Decade: 20-0 Ranked For: 58% of the decade.

The saddest sight from this past 154lb decade was the steady descent of Demetrius Andrade down the light-middleweight rankings as he continued to win, win, win and win in the boxing ring. The reason? Alphabet politics, specifically the level of fighter Andrade has mixed with during his pitiful WBO title run. There was a time when even an alphabet belt could only enhance a fighter’s legacy.  No longer.

Andrade, out of Rhode Island, picked that title up in 2013 in a superb performance against Vanes Martirosyan in a fight that reeked of ambition. Both Andrade and Martirosyan were unbeaten, both legitimately skilled prospects with deep amateur pedigrees. Andrade won a superb fight that began with a bang but became a little too one-sided down the stretch to be branded classic; Andrade was bizarrely awarded a split in a fight he clearly dominated.

And that is his fistic peak. Three years later he dominated and stopped Willie Nelson, the then number nine contender, and that is what qualifies as Demetrius Andrade second best win.

Also speaking for him is his unbeaten decade and a quick, clean southpaw fighting style, but our number ten is a sign of the times. I’ve almost (but not quite) talked myself into replacing him with Tony Harrison.

09 – Miguel Cotto

Peak Ranking: 1 Record for the Decade: 7-4 Ranked For: 52% of the decade

Is Miguel Cotto being under-represented here at number nine? Arguably, but the following needs to be considered: Firstly, Cotto fought just eleven fights in this decade. Secondly, some of these were contested at middleweight, not light-middleweight. Third, of the 154lb contests he engaged in, he lost three; finally, he beat just one ranked contender, Yuri Foreman, in a strange, badly refereed contest where Cotto brought good pressure but unquestionably benefited from a serious injury to his opponent’s knee. This contrasts with his middleweight visit where he defeated some of the best fighters of the 160lb decade.

Cotto scrapes in at nine, then, based upon his defeat of Foreman and his exquisite performance in combat with a man unranked at 154lbs but who brought with him serious pedigree from the 147lb limit he stretched his 5’11 frame over, Antonio Margarito. Cotto’s first fight with Margarito was a thing of great infamy, and no more virtual ink need be spent on it here. The rematch at light-middleweight is what interests us.

Cotto was precise and sharp throughout; Margarito, reaching. Cotto’s sensational performance needs to be balanced against Margarito’s condition, questionable after his brutal dismantling at the hands of Manny Pacquiao but it also needs to be noted that it was Cotto, not Pacquiao, who scored the stoppage.

Cotto was unquestionably a better light-middleweight than he was a middleweight, but it is also unquestionable that he achieved more in absolute terms against elite opposition at 160lbs in the decade at hand. Nine, then, is where Cotto finds himself for 2010-2019 at this weight class.

08 – Austin Trout

Peak Ranking: 2 Record for the Decade: 10-5-1 Ranked For: 50% of the decade

Austin Trout had a fascinating decade, but he left the numerical trunk of his career back in the 00s and an ugly close to the decade marred his paper record. Trout was defeated by both Charlo brothers and Jarrett Hurd 2016 through 2018; the new generation feasted on him.

In fact, 2012 aside, Trout did not perform as well as some may assume. That year though, was a fine one. He kicked it off with a patient, waiting performance against Delvin Rodriguez, who was at that time hanging onto his number ten ranking by his fingertips. Trout deployed his tiring, distracting southpaw jab to its usual discombobulating affect and coasted to a wide points victory. Exceptional defensively against middling handspeed (and good against fast hands), Trout was a brave choice of opponent for Miguel Cotto, coming off a thrashing at the hands of Floyd Mayweather but certainly still elite.

Trout was brilliant that night. It is perhaps the defining example of how to avoid being pinned to the ropes by a pressure fighter, not just in this weight class but in any weight class for this decade. Every time Trout felt the ropes close in behind him, he made an exit by way of feint or punch and fleet footwork. He made Cotto look ordinary and he was deserving of his majority decision victory, despite a huge swathe of tight, swing rounds.

Then he ran into Canelo Alvarez. This fight is important. Despite Trout’s seeming surety that he had lost the fight clean, it was very close; what needs to be understood is that the WBC’s insistence upon open scoring made much of the last third of the fight moot and after Alvarez won the eleventh clear, the twelfth round a redundancy. Trout could only win by a knockout he was never going to score.  That he won the fight by a single point on my card is neither here nor there.

And that leaves me with a problem. Trout, a fine fighter, who turned in one of the finest performances of the light-middleweight decade, can sit no higher than eighth. Having won two meaningful fights in 2012 he went on to lose to every ranked man he ever faced; it is natural that no fewer than four of them rank above him here.

07 Jermell Charlo

Peak Ranking: 2 Record for the Decade: 23-1 Ranked For: 45% of the decade

Jermell Charlo, one of a pair of fighting brothers from Texas, also ran into Vanes Martirosyan, who served as an elite gatekeeper throughout the decade. A tension-drenched contest resulted with Charlo edging a fight that could have gone any one of three ways. Jermell hasn’t been blessed with the power of his twin brother, the inconveniently named Jermall (see below) but the quickness of his jab and decent accuracy make him a difficult opponent.

Adding a deceptively stinging hook gave him the feel of a completeness in his style and Jermell capitalized on the punch against a much-faded Austin Trout, dropping him twice to squeak home on the cards. With the division at his fingertips, the capable, defensively sound Tony Harrison came calling. To be clear, Jermell deserved the nod here for me, but the surprise loss he suffered on the cards did underline some of the problems in his execution. I saw no fewer than four of the twelve rounds close and difficult to call. Jermell perhaps deserved the benefit of the doubt here (and I personally gave it to him) boxing on the front foot and landing all but one of the hard, eye-catching shots in the fight – but he also failed, perhaps, to close the show in rounds where he had an edge but an arguable edge. He allowed Harrison to wait for him and failed to capitalize on the pressure he brought to bear. Jermell’s loss to Harrison was unfortunate but it was no robbery.

Jermell put the blot right in a rematch, surging in to attack where before he had waited, willing to get hit to land a superior, tighter offense. His pressure bore fruit; Harrison was stopped on his feet in the eleventh.

Charlo stands having learned a valuable lesson and ready to take a new decade on with precision aggression; he nevertheless did enough between 2010 and 2019 to stand here on merit.

06 – Jarrett Hurd

Peak Ranking: 1 Record for the Decade: 23-1- Ranked For: 25% of the decade

In a division festooned with classy boxers, Jarrett Hurd assumed the status of bogeyman. Huge at the weight, strong, iron-jawed, relentless with inconveniently deceptive footwork that re-introduces him to the space of even the most fleet-footed runner or stick-and-move artist, Hurd is death on a stick for a certain type of fighter.

That type: older, some tough rounds on him, a boxer. Step forwards Austin Trout. This fight is painful to watch as the ageing Trout, never stopped before, never stopped since, is pulled by his corner late in the fight. Hurd mauled and punched him into submission until he was little more than a crouch and some pit-a-pat offense in the sphere of influence belonging to a fighter who cannot be turned around by even serious punches.

Hurd stepped out of Trout’s ring and into Erislandy Lara’s, a different matter. Their fight was fascinating and brilliant, Hurd’s ceaseless hunting and adeptness in cutting off the ring against Lara’s guile and brilliant footwork. Then Lara quit on his stick-and-move strategy and stepped into Hurd’s pocket. The Cuban proceeded to outfight his much younger, bigger, stronger opponents for long stretches.

Power is power though. A visit to the canvas in the twelfth cost Lara the fight and made Hurd the breaker-in-general of 154lb boxers.

Hurd was ranked the world’s #1 light-middleweight post-Lara and it seemed, perhaps, a period of dominance might follow. Then Hurd ran into a fighter named Julian Williams.

05 – Julian Williams

Peak Ranking: 1 Record for the Decade: 27-1-1 Ranked For: 50% of the decade

Julian Williams suffered a disaster in his last fight, losing his strap and number one ranking to Jeison Rosario; but that loss occurred in January of 2020. Williams, whose career entered the Covid-19 lockdown in tatters, is unaffected here by that devastating loss.

He did suffer a loss between 2010 and 2019 at light-middleweight, to Jermall Charlo who also stopped him in five back in December of 2016; his rebuild was something rather special. He summited in the final year of the decade with a victory over number one contender, Jarret Hurd.  This was a superb thinking performance from a fighter who had learned his lessons well. He out-thought Hurd on the outside, making a seeming lie of Hurd’s clear reach and height advantages to out-jab him, then out-fought him on the inside, throwing out tides of short, snappy punches that had Hurd in such serious trouble in the second that it seemed, after dropping the number one contender, he might stop him. Hurd survived to drop a clear unanimous decision.

Hurd came to that fight based primarily upon his victory over Nathaniel Gallimore, ranked six, another taller, longer fighter. This was Hurd-lite for Williams, a dress rehearsal for that excellent performance. I was saddened to see Williams stopped early in 2020, his resurgence one of the finest lo-fi stories of the decade. As to whether he deserves the number five spot for that decade, that is debatable – although certainly, battering the fighter ranked number six helps.

04 – Jermall Charlo

Peak Ranking: 2 Record for the Decade: 24-0 Ranked For: 20% of the decade

Trout beats Cotto, Hurd beats Trout, Williams beats Hurd and finally Jermall Charlo beats Williams.  It’s helpful in interpreting the division, these matches, and there’s been refreshing traffic between the top ten light-middleweights of the decade. Jermall departed undefeated for the middleweight division before the decade was out but despite the temporal shortage, Jermall made his mark and ranks as a “best of the rest” #4, clear water between he and the number three, but a stretch between he and #5, also.

Jermall landed in earnest as late as September 2015, obliterating storied veteran Cornelius Bundrage in four rounds. Bundrage won not a minute of a round and was yoyoed throughout. It was easy.  Bundrage was shocked by Jermall’s offensive capabilities and you could see it, especially on the third knockdown. After stopping Wilky Campfort in similar short order, Jermall fought perhaps the most important fight of his career against Austin Trout. Trout had lost to both Alvarez and Lara in short order but had since rebuilt and was once more ranked the world’s number two light-middleweight.  Jermall edged him out in a close, absorbing contest, emerging as a fighter of economy and no little power, his jab a hurtful weapon, the speed on his straight right turning it into a slashing, hurtful punch. Trout didn’t go away and, in fact, made some very exciting adjustments to test Jermall to his fullest, but it was the younger man who emerged with the victory.

Jermall then scored what, in retrospect, would seem a sensational knockout over Julian Williams and stepped up to middleweight. This leave him not beyond reproach; he departed the division at the very moment it seemed ripe for his dominance and he began mixing with top contenders only a short time before; two keystones in his resume were men past their apex in the form of Trout and on the slide in the form of Bundrage. But it must be remembered, too, that Jermall got a lot done in a short time and that he looked, for the most part, superb in doing it. He spent most of the decade at the limit and left it without loss.

03 – Erislandy Lara

Peak Ranking: 1 Record for the Decade: 17-3-3 Ranked For: 83% of the decade

Erislandy Lara is still ranked among the ten best fighters in the light-middleweight division, sitting pretty at number six as of April 2020. Each of these divisions has kicked up a survivor, a fighter who hangs onto his ranking by hook or by jab and who becomes a key operator for that decade. Lara is that man at 154lbs.

To be honest though, I was a little disappointed putting him under the microscope. This is a man who rarely matched ranked contenders; in fact, Lara could be comfortably placed a little lower judged purely on quality scalps. Lara’s third best win is over Yuri Foreman.

But his longevity counts for plenty here and is illustrated by the fact that the first and best big win of his career came back in 2013, a twelve round decision awarded to him over Austin Trout. Lara exposed Trout’s limitations. If you can outland him in a given round, he will lose; if you are fast, he will struggle defensively; if you are patient, he will crack, which may have been the key to Lara’s wide decision victory.

Later, in 2016, Lara matched old foe Vanes Martirosyan, a name familiar from earlier entries. Lara had been on the bad end of a technical draw against Martirosyan in 2012 in a match he dominated but he took the unanimous decision in the rematch; he rolled straight out of that contest into a fight with Yuri Foreman over whom he scored a weird knockout in four (track it down).

And that is all. Is that enough for number three? It is not.

Untold are the interesting wrinkles. In 2012 he took the enormous, the terrifying, the rather past-it Paul Williams and timed, bullied, battered and countered the bigger, stronger, longer, ever game Williams to pieces – the judges, all of whom would be suspended from the sport in the wake of their actions, scored the fight for Williams. Lara is credited for a win over Williams for the purposes of this list.

In 2014, Lara was in an excruciatingly close fight with Saul Alvarez; I had the Mexican a winner 115-113 but the average media scorecard was 114-114. This was a fight that basically failed to settle the issue between the two and Alvarez passed on a rematch.

This is enough to close the distance on and then overhaul Jermall; Lara is the third most accomplished light-middleweight of the decade. He was also the most interesting.

2 – Saul Alvarez

Peak Ranking: Ch.  Record for the Decade: 24-1-1 Ranked For: 47% of the decade

Saul Alvarez followed a much-trodden path in his approach to his divisional summit: he walked the bones of former contenders like Carlos Baldomir, Lovemore Ndou, Kermit Cintron and a faded Shane Mosley. This is good practice for a well-funded prospect, and Saul Alvarez was always that.

But while the big bucks associated with his burgeoning fame was drawing in name fighters past their best, Alvarez was also breaking contenders in more interesting fights. Ryan Rhodes was ranked number four for their 2011 encounter while Alvarez was ranked number nine. Seeing the young Mexican learn and apply what he had seen during this fight was thrilling. He picks punches with more and more confidence as the fight nears its conclusion and indeed, he would seem to improve with every fight he had at 154lbs, eventually emerging up at 160lbs as complete a version of himself as could be imagined.

Rhodes succumbed in twelve and close victories over Austin Trout and Erislandy Lara would have made him the era’s outstanding light-middleweight.

Were it not for Floyd Mayweather.

Mayweather had made himself a force in the division before his retirement in the 00s and his re-emergence saw him inevitably clash with Alvarez in 2012. That Alvarez was so thoroughly beaten by Mayweather makes it extremely difficult to place him at number one here. This is especially hard on Alvarez because he was rendered number two up at middleweight, too – and for reasons directly opposite of those expressed here. The two differences are Mayweather’s total dominance over Alvarez and the fact that Alvarez managed fewer than half the decadal contenders that Golovkin did at middleweight.

In other words, Alvarez did not do quite enough in either division to be rendered number one, but for very different reasons in each case, which is a tough break. Had he remained at 154lbs, he would have done more than enough to justify the number one slot. As it is, he’s missed out by the narrowest of margins – the type of margin by which Floyd Mayweather might slip an oncoming jab.

1 – Floyd Mayweather

Peak Ranking: Ch.  Record for the Decade: 10-0 Ranked For: 34% of the decade

Floyd Mayweather rolled back into light-middleweight in May of 2012 and made Miguel Cotto, then rated divisional number one, look like a journeyman. Cotto was never anything less than brave and in round eight he looked his sensational self, but in the eleventh and twelfth, especially, it was clear that there was at least a full class between Mayweather and Cotto.

What most impressed about this was that Cotto was a fighter made in hell for an older fighter. Fast pressure, technically sure punching, a good engine and a withering body attack are the attributes you absolutely do not want to see named in the opposite corner when you are in your fourth decade. Mayweather, who had lost a step or two, found other ways to keep his more aggressive foe under control, first among them, peerless countering abilities. Cotto did as well as any Mayweather foe of recent memory but was, in the end, left well behind.

Arguably though, Saul Alvarez was the more dangerous challenge and for the purposes of naming the number one light-middleweight of the era is obviously the key combat. Younger and in his physical prime, Alvarez was also two weight-divisions bigger on fight night, coming to the ring a super-middleweight. Mayweather looked him over and proceeded to outbox him for ten of the following twelve rounds. It was a glorified spar; it was a fighter headed for the upper echelons of the pound-for-pound list reduced to the status of a training partner. Mayweather was landing trailing uppercuts and outlanded his opponent in all but one of the twelve rounds.

It was as vivid a demonstration of one fighter’s complete superiority over another as can be imagined over twelve and leaves no doubt as to which of the two is the superior fighter. However, a counterargument to Floyd’s holding the number one slot does present itself. As a rule, before agreeing a fighter’s final slot with myself, I look at said fighter’s third best victory under the conditions described (here, light-middleweight in a given decade). The answer to that question, for Mayweather is “Conor McGregor.” That is, Floyd’s third most impressive scalp here considered is an 0-1 MMA specialist. This is unimpressive.

Given that Shane Mosley hadn’t won a fight for more than three years when Alvarez faced him, it could be reasonably argued that Alvarez’s own #3 scalp is Ryan Rhodes and, more significantly, that what Ryan Rhodes was to Saul Alvarez, Saul Alvarez was to Floyd Mayweather. That was the gap that existed between the two in the ring.

So it’s Mayweather at number one for me, not locked given that Alvarez got better and Mayweather underwhelmed with volume of victories, but as the only man to beat two number one ranked contenders in the decade and more than that, made it all look rather easy, I’m satisfied he is the right choice.

Other divisions presented even tougher choices: Heavyweight, Cruiserweight, Light-Heavyweight, Super-Middleweight and Middleweight.

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Late Sub Jonnie Rice Bursts Michael Coffie’s Bubble on a PBC Card in Newark

Arne K. Lang

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Every thing that could go wrong went wrong as promoter Al Haymon and his associates were patching together tonight’s card at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. But it couldn’t have worked out better for journeyman heavyweight Jonnie Rice who turned his career around with a smashing TKO of heavily favored and previously undefeated Michael Coffie.

Positive Covid tests scuttled two 10-round fights on the undercard. The main event had already been disheveled when Coffie’s original opponent Gerald Washington flunked his Covid test. Enter Rice (pictured on the right) who was on standby and seized the moment.

Rice, a Columbia, South Carolina native who has been living and training in Las Vegas, came in sporting a 13-6-1 record but five of his wins had come against no-hopers in Tijuana and he had yet to defeat an opponent in a match where he was the “B” side. But these facts were misleading as five of his six losses had come against hot prospects with undefeated records and he had honed his craft sparring against the likes of Tyson Fury, Filip Hrgovic, and Michael Hunter.

Based on “strength of schedule,” Rice, 34, had the edge over Coffie, the 35-year-old ex-Marine who brought a 12-0 record but was relatively untested. And Rice, who started fast, took the fight to Coffie and out-landed him. Coffie’s left eye was swelling and he wasn’t firing back when the referee waived it off in the fifth round.

Dirrell-Brooker

Tonight’s PBC fare came in two helpings with appetizers and the main event on FOX preceding a club-level show on FOX’s affiliate FS1. The main event of the nightcap was a 10-round light heavyweight bout between Andre Dirrell and Christopher Brooker.

Dirrell, who previously held an interim version of the IBF 168-pound world title, looked very sharp coming off a 19-month layoff, scoring three knockdowns before the fight was waived off in the third round. The Flint, Michigan native improved to 28-3 (18). Philadelphia’s Brooker fell to 16-8.

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Junior middleweight Joey Spencer (13-0, 9 KOs) scored an 8-round unanimous decision over James Martin (7-3). Spencer won comfortably on the scorecards – 80-72 and 79-73 twice – but was unimpressive.

Local fan favorite Vito “White Magic” Mielnicki Jr (9-1, 5 KOs) rebounded from his first pro loss with an impressive second-round stoppage of Noah Kidd (6-4-2).

Philadelphia welterweight Karl Dargan (20-1, 9 KOs), a former two-time national amateur champion, returned to the ring after a long absence and  stopped LA’s Ivan Delgado (13-4-2) in the third round.

New Jersey heavyweight Norman Neely advanced to 9-0 (7) with a unanimous decision over rugged Texas brawler Juan Torres (6-4-1). Neely won all six rounds on all three cards.

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Leigh Wood’s Big Upset Spangles the Rebirth of Eddie Hearn’s Garden Party

Arne K. Lang

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Last summer, hamstrung by the pandemic, Eddie Hearn hit upon the idea of holding boxing events outdoors in the expansive backyard of the family estate on the outskirts of London (now Matchroom Sport headquarters) where he grew up. Four shows were staged there.

The series has been revived. Today was “episode 1” of Season Two of Matchroom Fight Camp, otherwise known as Eddie Hearn’s Garden Party. Two more shows are penciled in over the next two weekends.

The match-up getting the most buzz was the welterweight contest between fast-rising Conor Benn and battle-tested Adrian Granados. Unfortunately, Benn tested positive for Covid-19. But the main event, a WBA world featherweight title defense by Can Xu (aka Xu Can) against Nottingham’s Leigh Wood stayed intact and produced a memorable upset.

Xu, who is co-promoted by Oscar De La Hoya, was installed a 4/1 favorite. Although he wasn’t a big puncher with only three knockouts to his credit in 20 starts, he rode into Hearn’s backyard riding a 15-fight winning streak for the third defense of his WBA “regular” title. But he started slow, perhaps the result of ring rust — it was his first fight of 2021 after missing all of 2020 – and he never did crank up the volume that had carried him to victory in his three title fights.

Wood, a stablemate of Josh Taylor who has made great gains since hooking up with Ben Davison and Lee Wylie, landed the heavier punches and was ahead on the cards when he took the fight out of the judges’ hands in the final minute of the final round. He decked Xu with a hard right hand and then trapped him on the ropes, forcing the stoppage that came with only 17 seconds remaining.

The 32-year-old Wood improved to 25-2 (15). Xu falls to 18-3. The deposed champion has a rematch clause so we may have a sequel.

Other Bouts

Chris Billam-Smith, trained by Shane McGuigan, won a hard-fought 12-round split decision over Belfast’s Tommy McCarthy in a cruiserweight scrap with three domestic titles at stake. The judges had it 116-112 and 115-114 for Billam-Smith, now 13-1, with the dissenter favoring McCarthy (18-3) by a 115-114 tally.

McCarthy wobbled Billam-Smith late in the first round with on overhand right, but could never land his Sunday punch on the Bournemouth fighter in a see-saw struggle with many close rounds. There were no knockdowns but McCarthy suffered a cut over his right eye near the end of round six from an apparent head butt.

McCarthy had Carl Frampton helping out in his corner which infused the contest with the aura of a grudge match. Frampton was the best man at Shane McGuigan’s wedding, but their friendship dissolved in a bitter court fight. At the end of the grueling fight, Billam-Smith and McCarthy embraced in a show of mutual respect.

Liverpool super-welterweight Anthony Fowler whose lone setback came at the hands of Scott Fitzgerald (a split decision) won his sixth straight with an eighth-round stoppage of Germany’s Rico Mueller whose cornerman was on the ring apron when the slow-acting referee waived it off at the 2:12 mark. Fowler, who is also trained by Shane McGuigan, improved to 15-1 (11). His next bout is expected to come against fellow Scouser Liam Smith in October. This was the second fight this month for the game but out-gunned 33-year-old Mueller (28-4-1) who was subbing for veteran Tex-Mex campaigner Roberto Garcia who pulled out with a back injury.

Also, Jack Cullen (20-2-1, 9 KOs) scored a 10-round unanimous decision over Avni Yildirim (21-4) in a 10-round super middleweight contest. Yildirim, from Turkey, was looking to atone for his hollow performance against Canelo Alvarez this past February. While he had his moments, he was out-worked by the lanky Lancashire man who won by scores of 100-90, 08-92, and 97-93.

Photo credit: Alan Walton / Matchroom Boxing

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Avila Perspective, Chap 146: De La Hoya Returns Plus Other Boxing Notes

David A. Avila

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Sitting in front of several dozen reporters, the favorite son of Los Angeles area boxing, Oscar De La Hoya, and former MMA champion Vitor Belfort spoke about their mutual return to prizefighting.

“I can’t lie. I miss getting hit,” said De La Hoya.

It was a statement also shared by Belfort.

After years away from the prize ring, both return to exchange hits as boxing’s De La Hoya (39-6, 30 KOs) meets MMA’s Belfort (26-14, 18 KOs) on Sept. 11, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Triller Fight Club card will be shown on pay-per-view via FITE.tv and other modes.

De La Hoya, 48, last absorbed hits from a fighter when Manny Pacquiao battered him almost 13 years ago back in December 2008. It was a shock to the senses to see the great East L.A. fighter take blow after blow while unable to hit back.

He was only 35.

Many attribute that loss to a ridiculous agreement to weigh under 145 pounds before facing Pacquiao. At the time De La Hoya was the real gate attraction and pay-per-view king. He held all the cards but agreed to the demands acutely devised by Freddie Roach. It proved to leave De La Hoya too weak to fight back and after eight rounds the one-sided beating was stopped.

De La Hoya retired after that fight. Ironically, he called for a press conference and it was held right where he recently announced this upcoming fight against Belfort. It’s also near a statue built in his honor.

Sitting nearby, Belfort patiently waited his turn to speak. For the Brazilian MMA fighter, it’s only been a mere three years since he exchanged blows in a prize fight. It was a knockout loss to Lyoto Machida at UFC 224 in Brazil.

When Belfort spoke to the media, he expressed a desire to get hit too.

“Its fun. I’m going to have joy when I get hit. You cannot get better than that,” said Belfort.

It’s a common sentiment held by former greats. I’ve heard the same comments from James “Lights Out” Toney who ridiculously was not voted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame this past year.

Getting hit becomes as common as breathing for most professional fighters, especially those that began boxing at a young age such as De La Hoya.

“The truth is I miss it. I miss it very much,” said De La Hoya who began lacing up gloves as an amateur at five years old.

According to oddsmakers, Belfort is the favorite to win. Probably for a number of reasons including he fought a mere three years ago. Belfort is the heavier fighter and has fought foes in the 205 pound-division called light heavyweight in MMA. Plus, he is simply bigger than his foe.

“I hope I don’t end up killing him, but everything is on the table,” said Belfort. “If he doesn’t have joy in what he does he could come back in a coffin.”

Prizefighters are masochists. All truly good fighters have a streak of masochism inside. They know they’ll be pummeled with blows that truly hurt and they look forward to it. But the bitter truth is taking hits in your 30s and taking hits near your 50s are two vastly different scenarios.

It’s an extremely dangerous fight for both.

As someone who spent nearly a month in a hospital after experiencing a cerebral hemorrhage, otherwise known as a “brain bleed,” I’m stunned by the fact that more boxers are not damaged from brutal blows. I pray nothing like this occurs to De La Hoya, Belfort, or any retired boxer who returns to the prize ring for a possible payday.

They are prizefighters and like any former high-performance athlete, they miss competition.

“When you love it, no matter what happens, I’m ok with it,” said De La Hoya.

Fans will attend Staples Center by the thousands simply to see “the Golden Boy” once again and pay tribute to one of the greats. Many of those attending will be praying silently for the fighter’s safety.

I know I will.

England Fights

WBA featherweight titlist Xu Can (18-2, 3 KOs) defends against Leigh Wood (24-2, 14 KOs) on Saturday July 31, at Brentwood, England. DAZN will stream the world title fight.

This is the third defense for Can who has not fought in almost two years. The last defense was at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California when he soundly defeated Manny Robles III.

Can took the title from Puerto Rico’s Jesus Rojas, a rough and tumble fighter who takes a pound of flesh from everyone he faces. Against Can he was unable to deal out the usual punishment.

Wood is a former super bantamweight contender who has never really faced international competition. He did face former world champion Gavin McDonnell but was stopped. Perhaps the move up in weight will help.

Fights to Watch

Fri. Estrella TV 7 p.m. Erick Leon (14-1) vs Juan Marcos Rodriguez (10-3).

Sat. DAZN 11 a.m. Xu Can (18-2) vs Leigh Wood (24-2).

Sat. FOX 5 p.m. Michael Coffie (12-0) vs. Jonnie Rice (13-6-1)

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

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