Big Talk


This past weekend Keith Thurman defeated Danny Garcia in an important welterweight title unification fight.  I had predicted Garcia taking the win by decision, but his inactivity during the fight prevented his superior accuracy from being the deciding factor, as Thurman was relatively accurate himself.  Mostly, though, he was busy.  Thurman started out at such a fast pace that just about everyone, including Garcia, questioned whether he could maintain it.

It was clear before the fight that Thurman was the better natural athlete, and if anything, had a slight size advantage.  Those factors were likely highly influential in the outcome, as Garcia kept his composure and displayed impressive technique throughout the fight, but was unable to increase his output in key rounds.  Garcia’s response, and that of his corner team, was somewhat extreme–they suggested Garcia might retire after his first defeat, at 28 years old. Thurman’s assessment was more realistic, saying he knew he had won when he heard the scores, but in reality the scores reflected a very close fight: 2 judges had it 115-113, and one had it 116-112.  This supposed ambiguity is reflected in contrasting statements from analyst Dan Rafael, who initially praised the fight as being “between undefeated, prime, 28-year-old titleholders was as good as it gets in boxing, and Thurman and Garcia produced an entertaining fight that was often tactical but had enough exciting exchanges to keep everyone on the edges of their seats,” but later commented that he hoped “Angel was right that there won’t be a rematch, because it is unnecessary. Thurman was the rightful winner and the fight wasn’t good enough to warrant one.”  My perspective and that of many viewers more closely matched his first appraisal.  Sometimes enthusiasm for the new champ clouds objectivity.

Speaking of objectivity, there was none of that in the charade perpetrated by David Haye and Tony Bellew.  The fighters primed their audience for the fight with violent histrionics at press conferences and claims that someone would die in the ring, both agreeing that Haye was the most feared heavyweight in boxing.  Where they came up with that alternative fact is anyone’s guess.  Bellew identified himself as a fat cruiser, and claimed he was now the best heavyweight, having beaten Haye, whose most significant win was over Dereck Chisora (now at 7 losses, 26 wins).  I’m sure they have a fan base in the UK, walking the line between professional wrestling and boxing, but for fans who seek more than sensationalism from their athletes, the fight was meaningless.  Even moreso, given that David Haye lost due to a torn Achilles tendon.

Mayweather is still purporting negotiations between himself and McGregor.  Arum reports that talks of a fight between Pacquiao and Khan are little more than rumor, not that either of them should be ranked at the top anyway.  I think we all know how Gennady Golovkin vs. Danny Jacobs will go.  And Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (a light-heavyweight) is still convincing fans it means something for him to fight the world’s best junior middleweight in May.  Lots of big talk, not much to say.

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Big Flop for B-Hop


Bernard Hopkins has had a truly unique career.  23 years is a long time for anyone, in any profession, to hone their craft.  But that’s how long Bernard Hopkins was considered one of the best in the world at what he does.

Up until this past Saturday, Hopkins had been at the top of his profession since 1993. With a record of 21-0 the young(er) Hopkins took on one of the soon-to-be-great legends of the sport, Roy Jones Jr.  Suffering his first defeat, and one of the few one-sided losses of his career, Hopkins pushed onward, blazing through another 20 opponents before taking on no less than Felix Trinidad.  Winning his first signature fight gave Hopkins the momentum to blot out 4 more never-weres on the way to his greatest accomplishment of all.  In 2004, Hopkins had his first of what would turn out to be many opportunities to play the role of the hopeless underdog. Hopkins’ defeat of Oscar de la Hoya was a passing of the torch.  While Hopkins never possessed any of Oscar’s flash in the ring or his irresistible charisma outside the ring, he was consistently showing the skills to take on the best in the business.

Hopkins won a few more at middleweight after De la Hoya, but eventually ran into a roadblock.  Whether the real problem was weight or not, we’ll never know, but the roadblock made itself evident in the form of Jermain Taylor.  After moving up a full two weight classes to light heavyweight, Hopkins resumed his crusade to the top in 2006, when he took the title from Antonio Tarver.  He defeated feared fighters like Winky Wright, completely battered Kelly Pavlik, and even avenged his loss to the great Roy Jones.  During this time at light heavyweight the only fight in which he was outmatched in skill was against Calzaghe, another titan of the industry.  He was an “old man” during all of these fights, having passed what would be considered prime boxing years before he even went to light heavy.

Two years ago I watched live as Hopkins knocked down Beibut Shumenov while the crowd filed out the door.  Everyone there expected to see an old man falter against a lesser opponent, so they packed up prematurely.  Instead, he won just about every round, and physically dominated the younger, larger fighter.  That kind of transcendent greatness doesn’t often show itself more than a few times in an athlete’s life, and for Hopkins, the Shumenov fight was the last time.  What we saw when B-Hop fought Kovalev, who is now considered by many number 1 or 2 in the world, and when he fought Joe Smith this past weekend, wasn’t pretty.  But it wasn’t a travesty.  Hopkins made history.  This past weekend, he did it one last time, he just didn’t come away with a win to show for it.  I salute Bernard Hopkins for being one of the most meticulous athletes in the history of any sport, and I’m grateful to have witnessed his ability.  Like with most fighters, it will serve us better to remember the achievements of his better years than to reflect on the conclusion to one chapter in the story of this great athlete.

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Fates and Furys


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In his recent interview with Rolling Stone, Tyson Fury came clean about the delays in the fight with Klitschko, and provided some insight into his state of mind.  This was just after having tweeted an announcement that he was retiring, and then retracting the statement, also on twitter.  Actually, words like “statement” and “announcement” are somewhat overly generous terms for the incoherent regurgitation he posted online:

Boxing is the saddest thing I ever took part in, all a pile of shit, I’m the greatest, & I’m also retired, so go suck a dick, happy days. 🙂 🙂 🙂

Then, just hours later…

Hahahaha u think you will get rid of the GYPSYKING that easy!!! I’m here to stay. #TheGreatest just shows u what the Medea are all about. Tut tut

So, ignoring the incomprehensibility of this thoroughly unsettling rant, tweeting something so strange and then hysterically retracting it hours later, especially when it concerns his career, ought to be enough indication that he’s in no condition to fight.  It’s almost redundant when, during the interview, Fury admits that the doctors diagnosed him with “…a version of bipolar.”  His followup, however, was far from redundant: “I’m a manic depressive. I just hope someone kills me before I kill myself.”  Whatever that is, it’s not redundant.  These disturbing, semi-lucid comments only confirm the kind of mental instability we’ve speculated about in the past.  Klitschko has made statements to the effect that Fury’s mental health issues account for his behavior since long before their fight in November of last year.  It was around that time, when Fury managed to defeat Klitschko, that even Fury’s own family made comments indicating that he was suffering from psychological issues.

The Fury camp claimed two setbacks that have delayed the rematch with Klitschko as being due to injury, but this interview reveals otherwise.  As if by some mysterious intervention of fate, the potential disaster of the rematch has been avoided, as after repeatedly testing positive for cocaine, and refusing to defend his championship, he’s likely to be stripped of his titles.  Most boxers probably sit somewhere below the threshold of ideal mental composure, but putting someone with serious issues in a ring with Wladimir Klitschko would be criminal.  With shades of the infamous Lennox Lewis-Oliver McCall rematch, Fury, in his current condition, against Klitschko, would be even more catastrophic.  Fortunately for McCall, he was in decent physical condition for the rematch against Lewis, and his immediate collapse signaled his opponent early enough not to use full force.  For Fury, it may not have turned out so well.

If, by some miracle, these events lead to the eventual signing of a legitimate opponent for Klitschko, then this embarrassment of the sport may serve some purpose.  For example, rumors indicate that a fight between Klitschko and American Anthony Joshua might be possible.  That would not only mark the long-awaited return of Americans to the top of the heavyweight ranks, but also the first exciting Klitschko match in years.  With Deontay Wilder also waiting in the wings, there is always potential for a rejuvenation of the heavies, but if Klitschko’s last 20 fights are any indication, the fights just won’t be made.  In all likelihood, Fury’s stain on the sport will be merely a shameful episode people reference less and less as time goes on, but maybe a power vacuum in the sport’s glamor division could be the catalyst for something positive.  We can always hope.

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Fury Fight Off Again


Still in recovery from the disappointment of the first canceled rematch between Tyson Fury and Wladimir Klitschko, fans are now enduring yet another delay, as Fury has presented a letter from his doctor stating that due to mental health issues, the fighter will be “unavailable for the foreseeable future.”

Now, beyond the obvious possibility that the out-of-shape behemoth only managed a victory over Klitschko by some stroke of luck, this delay is perplexing for many reasons.  For one thing, this will be the second time Fury has canceled the fight for health issues in about three months.  The first injury was probably legitimate.  After all, an overweight man who brags about not training wouldn’t be anyone’s top choice to survive a heavyweight-title-fight training camp.  But come on, who among us was familiar with Tyson Fury and thought he did not have mental health issues?  Wladimir has said that himself in interviews and at press conferences.  Dressing up in a five dollar batman outfit and knocking over a display table in front of the press doesn’t exactly speak to a person’s mature, stable demeanor.

Are we really expected to believe that this diagnosis by Fury’s doctor is some kind of revelation?  Even if it were, could it possibly be a coincidence that Fury has just now reached the absolute pinnacle of his career, or, more to the point, that not calling off the fight would mean putting his reputation on the line?  Fury’s accomplishments, up to the Klitschko fight, were minor and unimpressive, for a 7-foot-tall man, at least.  Now, he could lose all the respect and admiration in 36 minutes or less, if he can’t perform the way he did in the first fight.  He’s even been accused, along with his brother Hughie, of using PEDs.  So maybe the success against Wladimir was a direct result of doping, or maybe he needed the drugs to sustain his oversize frame and (probably) enlarged heart.  But all of a sudden, he has health problems that prevent him from fighting for the foreseeable future?

And how about that for phrasing?  “Foreseeable future” implies that the condition is serious enough that Fury may never fight again, much less return in time to fight the aging juggernaut who challenges his place at the top of the division.  At this point, Wladimir could hold on for a couple more years, with great success, but to give any meaning to that time, he would have to fight the biggest guy (physically) in the division.  If Fury did come back, and finally made the fight, and kept the date, he’d win or lose to man who had passed his prime a decade earlier.

Based on the tests of character, displays of talent, and the statements made by Fury in the past, it’s hard to believe that these delays are pure coincidence.  It’s not very plausible that his mental health issues were unknown up until this diagnosis, either.  We were all very impressed by the performance Fury put on during and after the match against Klitschko, but now we all have to face reality.  Turning one fight into a circus of novelty is one thing, but to associate the heavyweight championship with a farce is another thing entirely, one boxing fans won’t tolerate.  We won’t cater to his ego or his warrior mentality; we won’t acknowledge his accomplishments to soften the blow of this exposure.  Fury is a phony.  We suspected before, and now we know.

It’s not that there aren’t other interesting fights to be made at heavyweight, there are, but protected prospects will likely never meet a close-to-prime Klitschko.  We’ll have to wait for another cycle to run through before we get an active heavyweight scene again, and by then, we may have already said farewell to Klitschko’s glimmer of greatness.

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Contradiction


Following his triumphant demolition of the delicate Amir Khan, Saul Alvarez had strong words about the possible match with Gennady Golovkin, saying things like “we can put on the gloves and fight right now, we don’t fuck around.”  After all, he had just won a middleweight title, somehow.  Of course, neither fighter was actually at 160 pounds in that fight, but nevermind that.  Alvarez won by knockout and showed the kind of ferocity his fans have been longing for since we first watched him on television.  He didn’t really want to put the gloves back on and fight him right at that moment, but we thought he might be willing to make him his next opponent.  Alvarez ended up making what was probably the smart decision, and declined the offer, giving up his “middleweight title.”  Fans and commentators criticized him for the deicsion, and Golovkin says it made him lose respect for Alvarez, but as Ring magazine pointed out in its most recent issue, it wasn’t long ago that fans were pushing for a fight between Golovkin and Andre Ward, who even now isn’t a full-size light heavyweight.  Golovkin openly admitted that Ward was too big for him, even though the difference between weight classes is about the same(13 pounds from welter to middleweight, 15 pounds from middle to light heavyweight).  Maybe Alvarez shouldn’t have made such a big deal about being willing to fight him right away, but it seems his place as fighter-most-willing-to-take-anyone-on is secure.  At least, he’s as willing as anyone else.

Last night Danny Jacobs set the record straight, breaking down his opponent in a rematch from last August when Sergio Mora put on a good show until his ankle broke during a fall.  The result of the previous fight implied that Mora might have a shot against Jacobs, scoring a knockdown early in the fight before his injury.  In the rematch, Jacobs showed superior power from the outset, and Mora showed no improvement in his strategy, electing to slug with Jacobs and fight off the ropes when necessary.  Jacobs may have more talent than we’ve given him credit for in the past, and his power seems to carry him through a lot of situations where he’d otherwise be outsmarted.  Mora, on the other hand, has been fighting to establish relevance, if not dominance, for years.  With yet another loss on his record, it seems he’ll never quite make it to that level.  His best hope will be to spend a few years serving as official gatekeeper for young fighters who haven’t been tested yet, then fade away into anonymity, and hopefully, preserve his health.

Tonight’s fight features an unusual match between Golovkin and Brook, drawing comparison to the weight disadvantage overcome by Ray Robinson taking on Jake Lamotta.  Clearly, “Special K” Kell Brook is no Ray Robinson, but whether he’s special enough to handle Golovkin remains to be seen.  Golovkin is the only one with a lot to lose here, because if he doesn’t do very well, as Alvarez did against Khan, then his reputation will suffer greatly.  If, on the other hand, Brook were to get blown away in the first or second round, fans would chalk it up to the size difference and move on with their lives.  Golovkin speculates that appearing vulnerable might be the only way to attract Alvarez for their showdown.  I won’t hold my breath, but it might not be up to Golovkin whether he appears vulnerable this time.  Brook is fast and accurate enough to force Golovkin to measure his power.  If Golovkin’s too wild, Brook may be able to score enough points to win rounds, and make the decision close.

After five years of writing about the sport, I’ve come to expect the contradictions you see every time you watch a fight.  It can be frustrating, but that’s also what makes the science sweet. Tonight, Golovkin will probably beat Brook, probably by knockout.  Unless Brook wins, which can’t happen.  Unless it does.

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Redistribution


I’ve been decompressing since my trip to Peru a few weeks ago, and since then there’ve been a lot of interesting fights, just not a lot of significant results.  For example, the recent showdown between Shawn Porter and Keith Thurman proved to be nothing less than what we’d hoped (for the most part).  The two former sparring partners went at each other with full ferocity for 12 rounds.

Porter was especially aggressive, using risky lunges to overcome Thurman’s distinct reach advantage.  The technique worked successfully, reducing Thurman’s output without putting Porter in real danger.  In fact, Porter landed as many or more flush shots than his opponent, but none were as effective as Thurman’s hardest shots.  While I think Thurman deserved the win, the cards were a little skewed by my recollection, and his performance was certainly discouraging to anyone who expects to see Thurman become the standout welterweight in the sport.  Fighting as he did against Porter, we can imagine similar problems against other fighters like Danny Garcia, Errol Spence Jr. or even Lamont Peterson.  I don’t include Khan in the list because while Khan could cause Thurman problems, he’s not likely to get the fight, and if he did, he’d be difficult for entirely different reasons.  The fight failed to show any improvement for Thurman, and even seemed to obscure his already confirmed talents, but the resulting stagnation also affected Porter.  While Porter’s performance was impressive based on our expectations, a loss against a lazy Thurman won’t keep anyone at the top of the division for long.  Despite the entertainment value, the fight doesn’t affect either fighter’s career much.

Thurman is still very young, though, and at least gives the impression of being hungry not only to win but to learn more after each fight.  If he’s sincere in his philosophical opposition to fighters like Amir Khan, he could keep improving and keep winning, and maybe even make it to the top one day.  If I were in his corner after the fight against Porter, I’d be telling him to work on two things: distance and timing.  Thurman uses his reach effectively when his opponent doesn’t try to take it away from him using timing and aggression, but when he’s forced to adapt, Thurman struggles.  Gaining confidence in his punches at full extension would make Thurman’s whole arsenal more formidable, and it would improve his ability on the outside tenfold.  Rhythm is an asset that can change the momentum of a fight immediately.  Some of the best fighters of our era, like Klitschko, Mayweather, Alvarez and Golovkin routinely give away the first 2-4 rounds in order to get a sense for how their opponents move and react.  Then, when they hit their “rhythm,” they’re unstoppable.  Thurman’s timing is impeccable and it’s usually noticeably superior to any opponent’s timing, and his speed is always on par.  What Thurman has showed less of in recent fights, and failed to show at all in his bout against Porter, is rhythm.  He needs to be able to fall back on muscle memory and a comfortable routine sometimes so he’s not always trying to improvise.  Oh, yeah.  And, you’re not Mayweather: keep your hands up.

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Tonight Chris Arreola will serve as replacement for Deontay Wilder’s previous opponent, Alexander Povetkin.  Povetkin tested positive for a banned substance before the fight against Wilder in May, so Wilder started looking for replacements.   Chris Arreola, who has admitted how undeserving he his of the title shot, will once again give his all against a physically superior fighter.  In the past when he’s been met with top opposition, Arreola has shined, showing his world-class heart and chin.  At other times, against lesser, sometimes much lesser opponents, Arreola has looked like what you would expect from his someone in his physical form: lazy, slow, dangerous only for a few seconds at a time.  My theory is that such a rare opportunity will inspire Arreola to perform the more way he did in the years when he kept coming up as mandatory title challenger year after year.  Unfortunately for him, nobody really expects Arreola to do well enough to win or even make it through 12 rounds.  For Wilder, this is one more box checked in his route to the top of the division, and at least he’s fighting someone with real experience and talent.  Some day soon, we can hope, we’ll get to see him silence the intolerable Tyson Fury and bring American heavyweights back to prominence.

Rather than focus our attention on superfights and hypotheticals, though, we should really be appreciating the small things in our sport of kings.  There may be no fantasy fight on the horizon, but the Olympic games begin in less than three weeks and for the first time we’ll see professional boxers fighting for their countries (with no headgear) against the new generation of pugilists.   America’s beacon of hope from the last summer games, Errol Spence Jr., is still going strong, building his talent and making a name for himself in the hottest division in the sport.  The talent pool is calming down and the detritus is settling to the bottom.

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The Late Greatest


What can be said about a man who’s had such a profound impact on everyone, in so many ways?

As athlete, he was a God.

As pop culture icon and political figure, he was a King.

As a man–he was a Saint.

Now, with God, he can just be a man.

 

Our generation will never know such benevolence, wisdom and vitality again.

 

aliliston

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AIBA Decision Announced


LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND –The AIBA decided yesterday to include professional boxers in the 2016 Olympic games.  It was almost unanimous, in fact, with 84 of the 88 federations in attendance voting in favor (Newsday), and the other four abstaining.  The consequences of the decision could be profound or negligible, depending on who you talk to.  For one thing, pro boxers may not have as much of an advantage as casual sports fans might expect, being trained for longer, more strategic bouts.  Mike Tyson and Carl Frampton are among those on the professional side in opposition to the change.  Tyson commented that some pros would be unable to catch the speed-trained amateurs, and Frampton explicitly disagrees with conventional wisdom: “A lot of people are saying it would be unfair for amateurs because the top pros would wipe them out, but that’s not the case.”

AIBA President Dr. Ching-Kuo Wu made the case for inclusion eloquently: “…We have embraced reform at AIBA over the past decade, making historic changes that have shaped the present health of boxing and precipitated its ongoing surge in popularity worldwide…Our mission is to continue to make brave decisions in the best interest of our boxers and for the good for the sport.”  This dramatic change comes quickly after the 2012 Olympic games debut of women’s boxing, which led to the United States’ only gold that year.  It all sounds very exciting, but in reality the rigors of qualification, drug-testing, and the lack of monetary compensation for professionals will make the Rio games an unlikely candidate for any abrupt transition.  The effects of this decision will probably be clearer four years from now, when pros will have time to become familiar with the process.  They’ll have to consider whether they want to go through the process of qualifying and set aside part of the year for training, competing and recovering, all without making any money.

President Wu’s references to “the health of the sport” and brave decisions “in the best interest of fighters” bring up another controversial change in Olympic boxing.  Headgear is no longer required for boxers in the Olympic games, as a result of the findings of a recent study on the effects of injuries on amateurs through 15,000 rounds of boxing.  Dr. Charles Butler of the AIBA Medical Commission explains that 7,352 rounds were conducted with both fighters wearing headgear, and in the other 7,545 there was no headgear.  The fighters who did not wear headgear were considerably less likely to sustain a concussion than fighters who wore it (0.38% versus 0.17%).  Headgear was introduced in the 1980s after a series of brutal fights ended in fatalities.  This is around the same time that professional championship fights were reduced from 15 to 12 rounds in response to the tragic result of the 1982 fight between Ray Mancini and Duk Koo Kim.  With the benefit of perspective and years of study, we now know that the injuries from that fight, and other fatal injuries, were due more to dehydration exacerbated by the length of the fight than the gloves, or lack of headgear.  Reducing the number of rounds in a fight has been proven to greatly reduce the likelihood of traumatic brain injury, whereas headgear has been shown to do the opposite.

It was also a display of confidence for President Wu to prophesy a surge in popularity for the sport.  All the issues surrounding these controversies heavily influence that popularity.  I hope this further controversy sparks discussion about brain injury in sports.  I hope that in the future the conversation won’t be clouded by tradition or emotion.  We won’t have reliable data on the effects of these changes for years to come, but now is the time to start studying.  We’ll learn more about boxing and brain health than we ever could have without this evolution, and maybe we’ll figure out how to make boxing better for future generations.  Maybe boxing will be a sport worth saving.

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The Games They Are A-Changin’


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Claressa Shields won the only gold medal for the US boxing team in 2012

According to ESPN, Mike Tyson has recently come out in opposition to the potential change in Olympic regulations to allow professionals to compete in boxing events.  Since 1986, other Olympic sports have integrated professional competitors into the events, and only in 2016 will that inclusion be officially considered for boxing.  Personally, I was very excited to hear about the possibility, and even more excited when Manny Pacquiao announced he was considering competing.  I admit, Pacquiao at 37 is no Dream Team, but it would still be great to see what kinds of variables come into play when the speed-first style of amateurs collides with the wisdom and experience of a seasoned professional.  After my own experience in the amateurs, I was also relieved and encouraged to read about the AIBA’s decision to remove its requirement for headgear in Olympic competition.  This outdated convention has actually been shown to increase damage to the brain caused by rotational force, which is often the more destructive of the two types (linear and rotational force) sustained from a punch.

The 2016 Summer Games are shaping up to be an unprecedented spectacle in the context of boxing, so I was surprised to read that some of those in the professional ranks were opposed to inclusive competition.  If anything, you would expect pros to be in favor of gaining international exposure in the world’s biggest sports competition, theoretically being matched against far less experienced and less skilled athletes.  Some may harbor that sentiment, but others feel that the odds won’t be so favorable, including Mike Tyson, while others, like Bob Arum, feel the allowance would pose an unacceptable health risk.  Now, Bob Arum is the human manifestation of evil, we’re all agreed on that, but he does know boxing.  Manny Pacquiao has stated that he is open to the idea of representing the Philippines in the 2016 games, but Arum has suggested that his participation, along with other professionals, would put amateur fighters at risk of “serious health consequences.”  It could just be that he doesn’t want the reputation of his biggest and most recent cash cow tarnished if Pacquiao were to fail to earn a medal.  After all, Arum is known for nothing if not being a shrewd businessman.

On the other hand, he has a point.  How many amateurs trained purely to land ineffective shots quickly would be rushed to the hospital after being violently knocked out by a professional?  Maybe the reason boxing is an exception to the professional competition allowance is that in other sports, you don’t score points by punching someone in the face, nor can you win by knocking them unconscious.  That’s pretty sound logic.

Mike Tyson is concerned about the rule change for entirely different reasons. He speculates that disparate training styles puts pros at a disadvantage because their instinct is to find a rhythm and pinpoint weaknesses in slow-paced “feeling out” rounds, while amateurs will be conditioned to land as many punches as quickly as possible. This type of miscalculation would certainly be a risk, but you would hope that any boxer who only has three rounds to win a fight would adjust his strategy accordingly. Olympic boxing has also recently adopted the 10-point must system for scoring, meaning that no longer will blindly flailing at an opponent count towards a win. There’s no telling how accurate or objective the judges will be (not very if 2012 was any indication), but the new scoring system should improve overall results.

Another significant change that came in the 2012 games was the inclusion of female boxing. Were it not for dominant performances from Claressa Shields, the US would have failed to take home a single gold medal for the sweet science. This development adds even more flavor to the already exciting evolution of the sport.

Whether professionals will be allowed to compete this year remains to be seen, but if they are, it could only help the US to regain its footing as one of the top nations in the world for the sport, unless our fighter is facing Manny Pacquiao.  One last consideration might be that this hypothetical “revival of boxing” that promoters, fans and announcers are always talking about isn’t going to come from one fight or even a series of significant ones.  Not from Mayweather-Pacquiao II, not from Canelo-Golovkin, and certainly not from Mayweather-McGregor.  But, it actually could happen if unknown fighters are allowed the possibility of gaining international notoriety from a top performance against a well-respected pro, before ever having their names plastered on a pay-per-view ad at some Las Vegas casino.  Change hasn’t always been good to the sport of boxing, but this time, I think the changes will be better for everyone involved.

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Rousey-Mayweather-McGregor Triple Threat Cage Match Live on Pay Per View!


If we’re to believe the hype, Floyd Mayweather Jr. is planning to come out of retirement less than a year after his last bout, expecting to make over $100 million, fighting against a UFC fighter in a boxing match.  To be specific, Mayweather feels the interest is there for a fight with Conor McGregor.

Fans have long speculated that Mayweather would eventually return to secure his legacy at a full 50 fights without a loss.  While that would be an accomplishment for any professional boxer, Mayweather’s last choice of opponent, Andre Berto, was less than ambitious.  A fight with McGregor would be even less so, for so many reasons.  For one thing, McGregor is lighter than Mayweather, fighting at around 145 pounds, as opposed to the 154 pound weight class Mayweather previously dominated.  For another, he’s not a boxer, he’s a mixed martial arts fighter with a background in boxing.

Ronda Rousey recently made headlines claiming she could beat Floyd Mayweather in a fight, and saying she was the best fighter in the world.  She had become so popular, she co-wrote an autobiography which claims on the inside cover that she was “arguably the most dominant fighter in the history of the UFC.”  At the time that statement was made, she had fought and won 11 bouts.  Eleven.  What does that say about the UFC?  I’ll let you draw your own conclusion.  Not long after her public feud with Mayweather, she was knocked unconscious in the second round by Holly Holm, a former boxer whose record at the time was 8-1.  That gives you an idea of the kind of competition the self-proclaimed world’s best fighter was willing to accept.

McGregor has a slightly better record (depending on how you rate his opposition), with 19 wins and three losses.  I suppose if you’re a die hard UFC fan, you may have heard of and even esteem some of the fighters on McGregor’s record.  But then, he did lose to three of them.  Regardless of the accuracy of Rousey’s autobiography and its claims about her dominance, neither fighter compares to Mayweather in terms of athletic or professional accomplishments.

I’m not in denial about the slow atrophy of the boxing fan base, and I’m glad a new sport is getting people interested in martial arts of any kind, but can we stop comparing the legitimacy of an upstart professional hobby to a sport with an almost ageless legacy?  One of the oldest spectator sports, boxing has established a long lineage of great athletes and significant history around the world.  To compare UFC to boxing, even mixed martial arts to boxing, is an insult to both disciplines.  There’s no translation, and no reason to speculate about these potential fights.  Sure, James Toney didn’t fair so well in the UFC, but at the time he took that fight he hadn’t been a champion of anything in decades.  He also wasn’t in a boxing match.

If Mayweather returns to fight Ronda Rousey or Conor McGregor or Hulk Hogan, it will mean the same for his legacy and the same to his fans.  I know whenever there’s money to made in boxing the promoters are unlikely to pass, but Mayweather shouldn’t be able to increase his record in boxing by fighting a person who isn’t a boxer, nor should his record decrease.  I think we all know he’d agree with that if somehow he lost a decision or was knocked out by any UFC fighter. Even if the UFC had the kind of legitimacy that boxing has established over a century of history, fighters with fewer than half as many fights are not legitimate challengers for someone considered the best, “pound for pound.”

If this fight is made, I just hope the numbers Mayweather is talking about are never realized.  For that to happen, you would have to assume a similar number of pay per view buyers to the number that purchased the fight against Pacquiao, which would never happen, and you would have to assume a similar price.  If you’re a fan of boxing, I beg you not to consider paying that.  I know I won’t.  This bad joke will stain boxing in a way that will certainly hasten its decline, and I, for one, have better fights to watch.

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