Posts Tagged With: Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Sports Opera


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I still haven’t posted anything about the MayGregor circus act because I just haven’t had an idea for anything that hasn’t already been said.  I still don’t, I guess, but I do think I know the best direction for any commentary to go.  At this point, so much hype has been thrown back and forth–starting before the fight was even a realistic possibility– that following one argument or another is just pretentious redundancy.   Rather than pick my poison from the various narratives being asserted by fans, analysts and self-proclaimed sports aficionados, I’m going to treat this as if it were a real boxing match.  It may not provoke arguments or even conversation the way another approach might, but I think it’s the only way to see the spectacle for what it is.

In tonight’s fight we’ll see a 29-year-old UFC fighter taking on a 40-year-old boxer in a boxing match.  That’s one advantage for McGregor (age) and one for Mayweather (experience) already.  McGregor is physically larger, and weighed in heavier than Mayweather ever has.  McGregor claimed Floyd looked out of shape, but in reality, he may have been covering his own disappointment in seeing Floyd look, I think, physically stronger than he has in any previous fight.  The fighters agreed on 8-ounce gloves, as opposed to the more common 10-ounce gloves, and of course, totally different from the 4-ounce gloves used in mixed martial arts.  The size advantage is self-explanatory, but the gloves could go either way.  Certainly, Mayweather has a lot more experience using them, being hit by them, and feeling the difference between 8 and 10 ounces.  For McGregor, on the other hand, this development probably increased his confidence, knowing that he’ll be using gloves that are as close as possible (there are none smaller in boxing) to those he’s competed with in the past.  Any crowd advantage will be McGregor’s, but Floyd is so comfortable in the ring, so accustomed to being cheered against, it shouldn’t matter.

Mayweather has never been a knockout artist or an aggression fighter.  McGregor always has been.  McGregor has never been a defensive specialist, but Mayweather is one of the best in history.  Is Mayweather’s defensive expertise somehow more powerful than McGregor’s mastery of aggression, or is it the other way around?  That’s a nonsense question with no answer.  All this means, no matter who you expect to win, is that both fighters have the chance to completely surprise their opponent with unfamiliar techniques and styles.  Overall, Mayweather has the advantage in this department, because boxing is quite literally his sport.  Let’s be clear about knockouts, though.  Both fighters have predicted a knockout, which we expected from at least McGregor, but neither one has a realistic chance.  Barring some bizarre incident like the last time Mayweather scored a knockout (when Ortiz dropped his hands to apologize for a headbutt), this will be a 12-round fight.

The number of distinct disadvantages and potential pitfalls related to inexperience are numerous for the Irishman, but to be specific: round length, number of rounds, use of balance, use of the ropes, response to verbal and physical cues given by corners and officials, distribution of punishment (only upper body), size of the ring, and defensive technique.  To be fair, though, no one who isn’t a big fan of both sports can reasonably evaluate the advantages for both fighters, and I don’t watch MMA.

It all adds up to a big confusing formula that would be pretty hard to write down on paper, much less solve.  To simplify as only a boxing fan can: McGregor is bigger and younger but doesn’t know how to box at a professional level and may have issues with his chin and endurance–Mayweather does have issues with his chin, he’s older and not likely to win with a single punch, but he’s so much better at it.  It’s an art and a science, that’s what makes it sweet, but there’s only so much influence the art can have on the science.  Both fighters have tried their best to make the entire process surreal, and they’ve successfully blurred the line(s) between reality tv and soap opera and sports, but if the fight isn’t fixed, there are certain physical rules we can trust, and certain advantages we can reasonably favor.

What we’ll probably see, in reality: 36 minutes of seldom-exciting action, the first 6 being the most interesting, Mayweather looking uncomfortable, McGregor looking uncomfortable, both hiding their discomfort with taunts, Mayweather getting caught but staying up, McGregor going all out and getting gassed, and eventually the final bell.  Then?  Then we can get back to real boxing, and the actually really important superfight coming up between Alvarez and Golovkin, two real boxers Click here for full prediction.

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Squandered Skill


Our 2017 Cinco de Mayo fight is here, but there isn’t much to say about this classically flawed matchup.  On paper, it sounded like an important fight–two famous Mexican fighters, one at the top of his division, fighting for status as their nation’s warrior–but after last week’s spectacular display between Klitschko and Joshua, the reality of the fight is looking somewhat more bleak.  There isn’t much heated debate between fans on either side about who will win or why.  That’s because there isn’t that much at stake unless you’re an old-school Mexican fight fan.  Not that there aren’t enough of those out there to generate some impressive ratings for the pay-per-view, but will the result of this fight be significant to any boxing fans who aren’t Mexican?  Chavez is clearly the one with more invested in the idea of being known as the genuine Mexican warrior, but will his machismo draw Alvarez into a career-altering mistake?

Breaking down what each athlete is trying to achieve gives us a clearer idea of what’s at stake.  Chavez is trying to prove he really is great by beating a smaller, better fighter, after years of wallowing in apathy and mediocrity.  Alvarez, by all accounts, is trying to show that he can take detours on his predestined route to greatness.  If Alvarez lost by knockout, we might think that middleweight was just too big for him.  But we would’ve known that after his first fight at 160 anyway.  If he won but got beaten up, or lost but came close to a win, then the ultimate result is the same but his ability and skill-level are called into question.  In the most extreme scenario, if Alvarez dominates the fight completely, all we get is an indication that he’s ready for middle, which again would’ve been evident in his first fight at that weight.  None of these scenarios tell us anything about the middleweight division as it currently stands (where Alvarez claims to be headed).  We still won’t know if Alvarez will be able to handle a top 160-pound fighter and we still won’t know if a fight with Gennady Golovkin will be made.  Most of all, we still won’t give a shit about what Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. does with himself, because he hasn’t been a middleweight in years and has never held an elite position in any division.

Those scenarios aside, we’re left with the purely negative possibilities for the result of the fight.  By contrast, these consequences could significantly affect the middleweight and/or junior middleweight divisions.  If by some calamity Chavez were to dominate the fight against Alvarez, the rankings for junior middleweight would be entirely upset, and the showdown between the top junior middleweight and the top middleweight would be summarily neutered.  Lastly and least desirably, we must accept the possibility of a draw.  If some cosmic aberration causes the fight to be declared a draw, the reputations of both fighters will suffer, and their fans’ devotion will be diminished, as will the revenue involving either fighter in the future.  This result would lock one of the sport’s top attractions into a messy negotiation for a rematch that very few outside of Mexico would be likely to watch.  Even if negotiations were uncharacteristically efficient and brief, Alvarez would spend at least months, and possibly years, at the peak of his career, negotiating, promoting, training for and recovering from the rematch.  Chavez would soak up all the money he could and proceed with an uneventful denouement to his career.

That brings me to a point I’ve made before, and I’ll try to make it my last lambast about this.  Alvarez has developed a pattern of struggling to make smooth transitions from one stage of his career to another.  Suddenly shifting from junior middleweight opponents to a light heavyweight opponent for this fight shows an unsettling lack of perspective from his camp.  It’s eerily reminiscent of the decision to jump from opponents like Alfonso Gomez, Kermit Cintron, Josesito Lopez and Austin Trout, to Floyd Mayweather.  He’s jumping two weight classes ostensibly to test his abilities for a fight against Golovkin, but the opponent he chooses isn’t a popular middleweight, a highly skilled middleweight, or even a middleweight at all.  Instead, he chose for his opponent a lazy, unrefined non-entity, who typically comes in 10-15 pounds heavier than Golovkin does.  Yes, these fights make Alvarez more money and afford him more recognition than almost any other could, but in terms of his reputation, they’re risks without reward.  Mayweather is still looking for number 50, and had Canelo stayed undefeated through Mayweather’s retirement, a return for the reigning junior middleweight champion would be very attractive.

Alvarez has already racked up more wins at age 26 (two more wins to surpass Mayweather) than most fighters do in a career.  He could’ve made his legacy secure simply by staying active and fighting legitimate opponents, but he wasn’t content.  It would be great if that discontent translated into big fights against gatekeeper middleweights or stay-busy fights against everyone of importance at junior middle, but instead we get this third option.

In an interview with ESPN, Alvarez said making history in his career was important to him, but what kind of history is he writing?  The dominant junior middleweight who never passed up an opportunity to overreach?  The tiny middleweight who refused to take fights at 160?  Or does he expect us to see him as the Mexican warrior who took on all challengers?  The majority of fans won’t see him that way, I can tell you, regardless of the result of this fight.  For one thing, Alvarez has clearly been strategically avoiding Golovkin, and for another, fight fans who haven’t spent a lot of time on the Mexican history of the sport don’t care who beats Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at welter, middle or any other weight.

Names with the resonance of “Chavez” are few and far between.  Chavez senior set standards for the whole sport with the level of competition he faced, his longevity, and the excitement of his fights.  Alvarez, on the other hand, is building his history on names that won’t stand the test of time, and for reasons that are less and less compelling.  The fight against Amir Khan made sense because it was hard to imagine Alvarez losing, even on points, and because it’s satisfying to watch loudmouth pretenders like Khan put in their place.  Of course, it would’ve made just as much or more sense before the fight with Mayweather.  Liam Smith was undefeated and large for junior middleweight, so that made some sense, but because no one had ever heard of him, the result was just more padding on Canelo’s record.

These factors have conspired to constrict the potential of one of the greatest fighters of our time.  In this context, when you start to look at the names and numbers on his record, the biggest accomplishments for Alvarez start to look thin.  While he already had a lot of experience at that age, he was very young when he handled Kermit Cintron so easily.  Pretty good.  In his very next fight, he handled an aging Shane Mosley impressively.  Very good.  Then, he dismantled two oversized welterweights and lost every moment of every round to Mayweather.  Not so good.  Three more upper-level guys crossed off the list after that.  Not bad.  Then, in possibly his greatest performance, Alvarez showed us new levels of talent in an impeccable fight against the shopworn Miguel Cotto.   Truly great–except that it was probably the last fight of Cotto’s career.  It was probably the most beaten up, worn down version of Cotto (who is probably one of the most beaten up fighters of all time) ever to enter the ring, and that’s the version Saul Alvarez built his middleweight reputation on.  It was no more legitimate that Cotto’s coup of the middleweight title from the all-but-absent Sergio Martinez.

So Canelo’s greatest professional achievement is asterisked.  His second greatest accomplishment, also necessary to qualify.  The more general accomplishments of gaining experience and compiling an impressive record, now compromised by puzzling decisions and an utter defeat.  If Alvarez wins tonight, will he finally feel secure in his status as a Mexican legend?  Will that release him from his obligation to take fights that don’t further his career?  Maybe then he could sign a fight against a real middleweight, or more appropriately, a large junior middleweight with real talent, like Kell Brook.  Or will the prospect of fighting David Lemieux, Martin Murray, and Daniel Jacobs scare his team into signing more set-up fights?  If so, what will his team do when fans and analysts are clamoring for the fight with Golovkin and questioning Canelo’s courage even more than before?

I guess the best possible scenario is that Canelo will win convincingly and immediately take the fight with Golovkin.  At least then, his reputation will be restored and rankings will remain intact until he faces the guy who will likely be his beginning of the end.  Maybe.

Or maybe not.  I haven’t been able to bring myself to write up a prediction for this fight yet because I just can’t shake the feeling that it’s going to be the culmination of too many bad decisions.  There’s some metaphor there about trying to be the cock of the walk and chickens coming home to roost, but I don’t know what it is.  The only way I can think to put this in writing is to painstakingly (and it will be painful) go through individual elements of each fighter’s style and compare.  I know it won’t be fun to read, but since I’m the only one paying attention…Hopefully, I’ll feel differently at the end than I do now.

Speed:  Alvarez has the edge in speed though he’s not known for slick defense or fast combinations. Chavez can be sluggish but puts massive, fluid combos together when his opponent opens his defense.

Diagnosis: Non-factor.  Chavez is sturdy enough to handle sustained counter punching, Alvarez is smart enough to avoid 12-punch combinations if he’s not already badly hurt.

Size:  Chavez has the advantage in height, reach and weight.  If Alvarez can’t fight an active, powerful, precisely measured match, he loses either by points or by KO.

Diagnosis: Could be the deciding factor for Chavez.

Stamina:  Alvarez doesn’t seem to take rounds off toward the end of a fight, but doesn’t often reassert himself late either.  Chavez takes rounds off, but tends to hit a rhythm with high output that is rarely matched.

Diagnosis: Chavez has a bigger gas tank and a diesel engine, but if he needs much maneuverability he’ll end up in a fiery wreck.

Output and Activity:  Chavez has always had a high punch output in later rounds, but Alvarez is good at controlling distance and forward momentum throughout the fight.  Chavez leaves big openings when he’s being lethargic, but both fighters start slow.

Diagnosis: Whoever asserts this skill has a distinct advantage, whoever fails to prevent his opponent from applying this skill is vulnerable.  If someone starts faster than usual, his opponent will lose the early rounds and take some punishment.

Power:  Alvarez has the ability to apply enough power at the right time and in the right place for junior middleweights, but his record belies a more musclebound and less accomplished knockout artist.  Chavez has no sense of how to use the power he does have, and he hasn’t worked very hard at being powerful.  That said, he’s bigger and stronger and relies on volume and power in the later rounds for his wins.

Diagnosis: Chavez will demonstrate superior power even as he displays a superior chin.  In combination with volume, power could be Canelo’s undoing.

Chin:  Chavez takes a punch as well as anyone in boxing, and he’s larger than his opponent but doesn’t have a lot of power, and Alvarez is no slouch himself.

Diagnosis: Non-factor.  If Alvarez is getting hit enough for his chin to matter, the fight is already over.

Heart:  Alvarez has pushed through some tough moments in ways that we haven’t seen Chavez attempt, but neither one of them has had so little to gain in a fight against an opponent with such a size advantage.

Diagnosis: Chavez won’t have the fortitude (cojones) that Alvarez has, but he may not need it.

Footwork and Angles:  Alvarez can be impressive with his footwork and use of angles in both offense and defense, but he’s so much smaller he’ll have to use every bit of skill just to keep pace.  Chavez doesn’t do much with angles but he can move when he needs to, especially to cut off the ring, and he’s no more flat-footed than his opponent.

Diagnosis: If Alvarez isn’t at his best, all his tools will be negated by size.

Resistance to Damage:  Neither fighter has a history of stoppages for cuts or swelling, but Alvarez might have it a little better with his youth and resilience.

Diagnosis: Chavez could lose the fight on cuts or swelling.

Accuracy:  Precision punching and slipping is the only area where Chavez is helpless.  If Alvarez can build on what we’ve seen in the past and be in top form against someone this big, he could book himself for an extended stay in the elite ranks.

Diagnosis: Alvarez will probably outshine Chavez in every exchange, but if he doesn’t, there may be no chance.

Ring IQ:  Alvarez will be the smarter puncher all night long, but if he doesn’t hit the gas at the right moment he could easily lose a decision.  Chavez Jr. has Senior in his corner to pick up the slack.

Diagnosis: Chavez won’t evolve any brilliant strategies, but with a little luck and the help of Chavez senior he could adjust at the right moments and keep Alvarez from taking crucial rounds.

 

Okay.  I do feel a bit better.  Chavez could lose on cuts, swelling, sheer stupidity or inability to adapt.  Even so, and as much as it pains me to do this, I have to post my prediction now, and I have to guess that the larger guy, the one with deeper fan loyalty who’s more likely to get a close decision,  will take the win.  With any luck, tomorrow I’ll repenting for my lack of faith.  I’d be more than happy to admit my error.

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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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Alvarez Wisely Vacates Title, Critics Crucify


Oh Dan Rafael.  Sometimes you have such great, insightful comments.  Sometimes the stuff you say is common sense.  And other times…well, keep it to yourself.

 

“What @Canelo says: ‘I was born ready.’ What he means: ‘I was born ready to fight GGG but not until he’s old.’ #GiveThePeopleWhatTheyWant

What @GGGBoxing says: ‘I will fight anybody at 160.’ What he means: ‘I will fight anybody at 160.'”

 

No need to translate for me, Dan.  Do you wanna know why Canelo has been advised and probably feels himself that it’s a smart decision not to take a fight with the best 160 pound fighter in boxing?  Well, it’s because he fights at 155.  –NONOHEFOUGHTCOTTOANDKHANHEHASTOFIGHTGOLOVKINNOW–

Whoah, calm it down.  Cotto was more like 147.  Khan?  He couldn’t even handle Cotto.  So why is he choosing not to fight the scariest puncher in boxing, at a class above where he normally fights?  Because it would be detrimental to his career in every way.  No matter how many eloquently inflammatory twitter posts you put up, he’s gonna keep dominating the best at 154, winning tons of money, impressing tons of fans, and keeping his career intact.  Too bad fans don’t judge you as harshly when you’re asked to step up and adopt a controversial position in a debate.  You’d have been gone back when people were calling for Pac-Mayweather.  Guess what you said?  Pac wins all day, Mayweather is scared.  Guess what happened?  Mayweather did what everyone knew he would, and what real fans knew he would’ve done years earlier, assuming Pacquiao wasn’t on steroids.  But hey, in the end, the Mexican pharmacy was better, right?  Now Mayweather is the icon of modern boxing, even as an inactive fighter, and Pacquiao is a brain-damaged mess with a compromised record.  But hey, who’s History to argue with the great Dan Rafael?

 

I salute Alvarez for his wise, brave decision.  He’s looking after his best interests as a fighter, and that actually is what some people want.  Dan, on the other hand, is doing what he’s always done, adopting the most popular and tweet-provoking stance.  Give the readers what they want, Dan, not Donald Trump-style hashtags.

 

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The Champion of Whatever I Want


p19-151120-a2Sanctioning fees for championship fights are a controversial issue in the sport of boxing and there may be no better example of the consequences of this over-regulation than the recent announcement about the upcoming megafight between Miguel Cotto and Saul Alvarez.  In this case, the defending champion and future hall-of-famer Miguel Cotto was forced to choose between paying $300,000 out of his earnings, or losing his title granted by the WBC, which, ostensibly, he already won in a previous fight.  Especially when you sense the end of your illustrious career approaching, it just makes sense to choose to keep a significant amount of money rather than potentially cashing in bigger on a future fight for a title.

Oscar de la Hoya has taken it upon himself to provide commentary on various fighters’ personal (and professional) decisions in recent weeks.  First, with his sardonic “Farewell” letter to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in which he mockingly claimed to wish the former pound-for-pound champion a happy retirement.  He went on to reveal the true reason he had a letter published in Playboy magazine, criticizing Floyd’s athletic style and conservative choice of opponents, trivializing all of his accomplishments in the sport, and basically claiming that he (De la Hoya) had had a more impressive career.  While I’m sure he won over a lot of Manny Pacquiao fans with his petty jabs, a lot of his examples were inaccurate or just wrong.  His comments included both Cotto and Alvarez, claiming that Floyd had waited until Cotto was in decline to fight him, as he had with all of his top-level opponents.  In fact, his fight with Cotto was three and a half years ago, and only later did Mayweather take on Alvarez, who’s now touted as the next junior middleweight king.  So of course De la Hoya felt it his duty to weigh in on Cotto’s decision not to pay the fee, calling it “a disgrace to the sport” and even suggesting that fighters in general should not try to negotiate the sanctioning fee.  Appropriately, the absurdity of De la Hoya’s statement was exposed by the savvy Dan Rafael, who recalled that De la Hoya had rejected the fee initially proposed for his first fight with Shane Mosley.  There are other examples of fighters becoming irrationally bitter and resentful in their retirement (see Joe Frazier), but these recent outbursts have been particularly petty and transparent.

Cotto’s response was characteristically succinct and provocative:

“I have enough belts in my house…and I can be the champion of whatever I want in my house.”

“I don’t need to pay attention to Oscar De La Hoya’s opinion. He should take care of his own business, and I will take care of mine.”

As honorable as he’s always shown himself to be, Cotto demonstrated again why heart and personality often mean more in the sport than physical ability.  This Saturday, I’m afraid, it may not make the difference.  De la Hoya will be happy for Alvarez as he walks out of the ring, and fans will be cheering for Cotto no matter the result, but nobody will be happy for Oscar.

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De la Hoya’s “Scathing” Letter


Shared from boxingjunkie.com:

Source: Oscar De La Hoya rips Floyd Mayweather Jr. in scathing letter

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“Rowdy” Ronda Rousey


Rousey-Mayweather, that’s what people are talking about.  I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise, given that Mayweather’s next opponent, who he’ll be in the ring with in about two weeks, is Andre Berto, possibly the most inappropriate opponent possible for Mayweather, Berto’s status neither warrants the opportunity nor draws the attention necessary to justify the match.  Think about it, how much have you heard about this fight? Probably not much, because whether you’re a casual fan or a die-hard addict, you’re not that aware of Andre Berto.

Actually, though, I should really rescind my previous statement about Berto being the most inappropriate opponent.  At this point, people are actually pushing for a “no-holds-barred” (UFC-style) fight between one of the greatest technical boxers of all time (I think it’s fair to say) and the 12 and 0 freak-show Ronda Rousey.  She, and I emphasize she, is a mixed-martial arts fighter.  That alone should dissuade us from seriously discussing the fight, but hey, James Toney had so much success, why not go for it, right?  Yeah.  Putting a boxer in a mixed-martial arts fight is, at best, an attempt to discover whether a boxer has enough athletic ability to improvise methods of winning a fight other than punching.  Merely posing the question implicitly presumes that mixed-martial arts is “a real fight” and boxing is more like a stylized contest.  If there’s anything that either sport teaches fans, it’s that no number of bouts between equally matched opponents would prove that argument either way.  An unlucky but formidable boxer could walk into an arm-bar in the first round of a mixed-martial arts fight, just as easily as an unlucky but formidable MMA fighter could walk into a check-hook that puts them down for the count. The success achieved in professional wrestling by the clever intermingling of reality and fantasy has had an effect on the entire sports world.  Maybe that’s why we’re more interested in entertaining the thought of an emotionally-charged melodrama than we are in analyzing a fight with real-life implications for the sport.

Granted, Rousey is an extremely impressive athlete who would certainly defeat many fighters, man or woman, in MMA or boxing, at her weight and probably above.  But, that’s what great fighters do.  Real greatness, in the classic sense of the word, doesn’t come from looking scary or impressive on any once specific night.  Or, maybe it can, if you’re to believe the UFC.  Think about it.  Mayweather is an internationally recognized athlete who’s moved up in weight over several years fighting progressively larger, more elite opponents, to establish a 48-0 record.  Many of these opponents were some of the best fighters in the world, including guys who will go down in the history of the sport, like Miguel Cotto, Saul Alvarez, and now, Manny Pacquiao–all defeated soundly by Mayweather.  Ronda Rousey, in reality, is a novelty warrior in a burgeoning sport with a record of 12-0.  That’s twelve wins.  Against who?  And that pattern holds for the entire UFC organization.  Fighters are made and canonized in a matter of months rather than years because the sport itself has no historical lineage.

So, beyond the glaring inconsistencies in the judgment and evaluation of the athletes involved in the potential fight, one is a man and one is a woman.  Wait, let me rephrase: one is man with a domestic violence record, and the other is a woman.  Does anything more need to be said?  If so, Mayweather fights around 154 pounds, and Rousey fights at 135.  In other words, while some people might be excited by the novelty, no one will enjoy watching the fight for the same reasons Pacquiao-Mayweather wasn’t a slugfest.  In fact, it’s reminiscent of the strange “boxing” match put on by the WWF for Wrestlemania 2 between Rowdy Roddy Piper and Mr. T.  The clash of styles would create an awkward, low-action display of frustration that would reveal nothing about either fighter’s talent or legacy.  A lot of the people clamoring for this fight are probably the same “fans” who were disappointed in the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight because they thought it should have produced more action or that Pacquiao’s injury prevented him from performing.  Neither of those statements is accurate because based on the fighters’ styles, the result was exactly as any knowledgeable fan would expect, and both men did perform at or near their best, which is all you can hope for in any contest.  I’m not saying we should blame Rousey for puffing out her chest (so to speak) and making a big scene about challenging a fighter who automatically attracts media attention, just that fans shouldn’t be taking it seriously.

Back on planet Earth, some great fights have been taking place in a broad range of weight divisions.  Last weekend, Marco Huck took on relative unknown Krzysztof Glowacki for the WBO World Cruiserweight title.  Not only did the fight produce great back and forth action with both men going down, but the pace of the fight was unusually intense for cruiserweights.  Well worth watching, I think it should be considered a fight of the year candidate.  Just two nights ago the showdown between Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares more than lived up to expectations, with both fighters averaging over 70 punches a round and the action rarely slowing for even a moment.  Fighting at featherweight, Leo Santa Cruz is still very rangy by comparison to most other fighters in the division, towering a full three inches above Abner Mares, who is the better boxer.  Mares made the mistake of rushing Santa Cruz from the opening bell, according to his corner.  I’m not so sure it was a mistake, however, as he actually found moderate success in that approach, even though Santa Cruz is the seasoned brawler of the two.  While Mares has the superior technique and plenty of power and athleticism, it can be difficult  to overcome a physical disadvantage of reach or height for any fighter, no matter how talented.  Yielding to his corner, Mares tried boxing from about round three forward, but took increasing punishment as he did so, naturally slowing down over the course of the fight.  Being unable to slip away from the wingspan of Santa Cruz often enough to make his infrequent but effective counter punches matter, Mares lost a lopsided majority decision.  Both fighters mentioned they’d be willing to work out a rematch, but given the end result, I’d be surprised if there was much demand, despite the fireworks.

The undercard featured some great bouts as well, including Julio Cesar Ceja’s triumphant comeback against Hugo Ruiz.  With both men hitting the canvas, the action was intense, measured and effective, with very little wasted motion.  Another in the continuing series of great fights from PBC.

Unfortunately, not all matchmaking is quite so inspired.  Shane Mosley, who has been inactive for two years after a 1-3 run, was matched against former opponent and former athlete Ricardo Mayorga, who didn’t even feign an effort to make weight.  Their first match was lopsided with Mosley putting Mayorga down and out in the last second of the last round, but this one, between an aging Mosley and an inflated Mayorga was slightly more competitive, until the sixth round, when Mayorga was again knocked out, this time by a body shot.  Somehow, Mosley’s promotional company, GoBoxing, managed to charge pay-per-view prices for the fight, possibly deluding himself into believing he can mount some kind of a comeback in the division.  Certainly not approaching Roy Jones proportions, Mosley still needs to have perspective on his place in the most competitive division in the sport.  As boxer-turned-commentator Antonio Tarver showed us recently against an aging Steve Cunningham, just because you still can, doesn’t mean you should.

On the horizon we have the long anticipated showdown between MIguel Cotto and Saul Alvarez.  This is a fight that we can count on for action and impressive skill, and while it won’t necessarily determine the direction of the division in the coming years, it will give us a strong indicator of where the top fighters stand, Cotto and Alvarez both being great benchmarks.

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Cotto-Geale


This past weekend’s bout between Miguel Cotto and Daniel Geale showed just how talent Cotto has.  Against a much larger man, he was able to use combination punching and power to dismantle his opponent completely in round four.  In the first round it looked as if Cotto’s punches might not be powerful enough to keep Geale at a distance, but as Cotto landed more and more targeted shots, Geale began to wilt and was held up by the ropes at the end of round three.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t a combination or a punch that dazed Geale in the first place.  It was a headbutt.  Watching in real time the impact was hard to see, but in the replay it’s unmistakable, with Geale’s head snapping to the left as Cotto pivots upward before throwing an otherwise unimpressive right hook that seemed to floor Geale.  I don’t mean to suggest that the result of the fight was affected, but it was certainly accelerated, with Geale finally quitting on his feet after the third knockdown.

This win is said to be setting the stage for a “megafight” with Alvarez.  While both fighters command a strong fan base, I’d be surprised if the numbers rivaled Mayweather-Pacquiao, despite what analysts claim.  I do think the fight would be a great way of settling the score for both fighters.  Cotto had been underappreciated since his brutal defeats against Mayweather and Pacquiao, but he’s been far overhyped since the fiasco of a “fight” with Martinez.  Taking on mediocre competition even at the middleweight level is no challenge for someone in Cotto’s class.  Alvarez, on the other hand, is touted to be “coming into his man-strength,” as Oscar de la Hoya put it, even though he’s been taking on at least upper-level competition and pushing opponents around the ring, primarily using his power, since 2011 when he knocked out Alfonso Gomez.  While no superstar, Gomez had a formidable chin, as did his next opponent, also knocked out, Kermit Cintron.  Following those knockouts were an impressive, comprehensive win against Shane Mosley, a knockout against Josesito Lopez, and then decisions over Austin Trout and Erislandy Lara, and knockouts against Alfredo Angulo and James Kirkland.  While I do believe that Freddie Roach has been good for Cotto in ways that haven’t served Pacquiao as well, I don’t think he’ll have what it takes to get a win over Alvarez.  While Cotto throws hard, Canelo throws harder; where Cotto is accurate, Alvarez can’t miss; and where Cotto is exciting, Alvarez is a thriller.  The big fight will live up to the hype, if it’s indeed signed, and we’ll see two fighter’s reputations cleared up once and for all against undeniably legitimate competition.

Speaking of thrilling megafights, I haven’t felt the need to write anything more than the result about the biggest fight in history because it was exactly what I expected, and there was nothing left to do other than be grateful we finally got to see it.  Fans all over the world are still criticizing that the fight would have been different, better, if it had happened five years ago when the demand was first high, but these are casual viewers who don’t understand the styles they were watching.  The same can be said of those viewers who shelled out the hundred big ones and came away crying foul because there wasn’t a knockout.  I truly don’t know what they were expecting to see.  Even Pacquiao has been unable to produce knockouts in most of his recent fights, and Mayweather was never known for his power.  If you knew what you were watching, then like me, you should have been very satisfied with that fight, even thrilled.  Both fighters fought to the best of their pound-for-pound ability (all claims of pre-existing shoulder conditions aside), and we finally saw how the styles matched up in action.  As expected, Mayweather was able to throw Pacquiao off his rhythm and avoid any significant damage.  The megafight did live up to the hype and some of the biggest questions in boxing have been answered.  The only new one it may have left is whether there is anyone left to challenge Mayweather.  My votes would probably be for a fight with Mathysse, Brook or Thurman, in that order, but I think he would comprehensively dismantle all of them.  Mayweather’s former challenger, Cotto, will be answering some questions about his own status soon, and unfortunately, the answers won’t serve his legacy as well as those in Mayweather’s future.

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The Secret Ingredient


Last night Canelo demonstrated again why he’s considered among the sport’s elite in knocking James Kirkland down and out after a brutal assault.  Kirkland tried to match Alvarez punch-for-punch from round one, but only landed solid shots during the first three minutes, while Alvarez measured the distance to adjusted to Kirkland’s movement.  Kirkland isn’t at the level of competition an elite fighter should be, but as a big puncher he always had a chance, and the fight wasn’t even close.  Alvarez has shown that he can be a successful boxer, as he was against Erislandy Lara; he can be a successful mover, as he was against Austin Trout; and he most certainly can be a successful fighter, as he showed against Kirkland.  Canelo is that special ingredient that can work in nimbly in the background, or be exploding in every bite.  Last night we saw that most exciting side of Saul Alvarez, which puts his impressive chin and offensive skill in the spotlight.  The only time we’ve seen Alvarez falter has been against the man who is now, indisputably, the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.  Even then, Alvarez didn’t look badly hurt.

I admit, even I had started to forget why I had so much faith in Alvarez before the Mayweather fight.  He lost so comprehensively, it was hard to remember what made anyone think he was such a worthy opponent (which many did).  The Kirkland fight is a reminder.  Alvarez has the potential to reign after Maywether retires for the final time.  What’s more, he has the talent to make it interesting.  The next proposed fight for him will be a fall superfight with Miguel Cotto.  Cotto being one of my favorite fighters of all time, it’s hard for me to admit how sure I am that Cotto will lose, but it’s even harder to imagine how violently the loss might be.  Cotto’s chin and heart have always been too strong for his own good, going all the way back to the plastered bastard, Antonio Margarito.  It showed in his fights against Mayweather and especially Pacquiao, both of whom had open access to his head for the last rounds of their fights.  Alvarez may not box as well as Mayweather, or use angles as well as Pacquiao, but he’s a bigger man than either, and he’s defensively skilled enough to hold off Cotto’s formidable counter punching attack.  His endurance may even be enough to outlast this aging version of Cotto, who’s already been through so many wars.  After Cotto, however, there may not be any other exciting opponents for Alvarez, unless they can make a fight with Golovkin.  It remains to be seen if Alvarez can handle fighters from that division or if his dominance will be limited to junior middle.  Maybe more importantly, he has the style and star power to ascend to the top of the sport where others are lacking.  He’s skilled and has an (almost) unblemished record, like Floyd, but he’s also got the exciting aggression that the mainstream demands.  Cinnamon may just be the secret ingredient for the future of boxing.

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In Wake of Megafight, NBC Primetime Boxing


Tonight’s co-feature on NBC will undoubtedly be some of the best exposure for boxing in recent years.  Even the occasional pay-per-view hit can’t revitalize a sport like better, more accessible events.  Keith Thurman will have an interesting challenge taking on a former opponent of Floyd Mayweather in Robert Guerrero.  Guerrero performed much as expected in his over-hyped bout with Mayweather.  He showed he does indeed have an impressive chin and an effective reach, but not necessarily an effective style.  I believe Thurman to be a legitimate up-and-coming star who, guided well, should ascend to the highest ranks of the sport very soon.  This may be the first time a Thurman opponent has offered a serious technical challenge, however, so it’s a perfect opening event for NBC’s prime time show.

The co-featured bout between Adrien Broner and hard-hitting John Molina will also provide the audience a great mix of action and technical ability.  Molina may well prove an interesting test for Broner if not as much as did underdog Marcos Maidana when he unexpectedly defeated Broner by knockout in December of 2013.  I think Broner has been exposed since his rapid rise through the lower ranks because he’s stopped trying to improve.  If at one point he believed he needed to improve, or that working to improve was at least beneficial, he doesn’t anymore.  No fighter, no matter how gifted, can progress that way, so I see an even more severe exposure in Broner’s future, one that may be more detrimental to his career than the loss to Maidana.

In conjunction with the long-awaited announcement between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, the scheduled slate of NBC fights helps to put boxing back in position to become a well-regulated fixture of American sports.  It’s been five years since the talks of a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight really began, and almost ten since Mayweather’s famous defeat of De la Hoya.  Some of the greatest fighters of the last decade have tried and failed against one or both of these men: Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto, just to name a few.  That’s why it’s going to be the biggest in history.  Now, for whatever reasons the circumstances have become favorable, they’ll finally face each other on May 2nd.  What do you think?

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