At the time of his death, Sanchez was considered one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world. A good case could have been made that he was the best. He was the reigning WBC featherweight champion who had just stopped Azumah Nelson in his last fight on July 21, 1982 at Madison Square Garden, making his ninth successful title defense.
Salvador Sanchez turned pro at the age of 16 and won 17 of his first 18 fights by knockout. In his first major fight, Sanchez was dropped in the first round by Mexican featherweight champ Antonio Becerra. Becerra went on to win the fight scoring a 12 round unanimous decision. This would prove to be the only time Sanchez was ever knocked down or lost. Sanchez would go on to win 15 of his next 16 fights with the only blemish being a draw against Juan Escobar. Among Sanchez's victims were Carlos Mimila and Felix Trinidad Sr.
On February 2, 1980, Sanchez fought reigning featherweight champ Danny "Little Red" Lopez. Lopez was a popular champion who fought many exciting fights on network TV in the late 1970's. "Little Red" was coming off impressive wins over Dave Kotey (twice), Juan Malvares and Mike Ayala. Sanchez took the title from Lopez giving him a one-sided battering and stopping him in the 13th round. However, many ringside observers at the time felt that Sanchez's one-sided win was a fluke due to the relative ease in which he accomplished it.
After making one title defense, Sanchez and Lopez would fight a rematch on June 21, 1980. Sanchez proved the first fight was no fluke and took Lopez apart again stopping him in the 14th round this time. From September 13, 1980 through July 21, 1982 Sanchez made seven consecutive title defenses. Some of the fighters he defeated were the highly touted Patrick Ford, Juan LaPorte, Wilfredo Gomez and Azumah Nelson.
Sanchez is probably best remembered for his 1981 destruction of WBC junior featherweight champ Wilfredo Gomez. Gomez was undefeated in 33 fights winning 32 by knockout before fighting Sanchez. Going into the fight Gomez was just about a 2-1 favorite. In a fight that titled "Battle of the Little Giants" by Don King, Sanchez destroyed Gomez in eight rounds sending him back down to the junior featherweight division. In the fight, Sanchez put Gomez down in the first round and broke his cheekbone in the fight.
Tragically, Sanchez's life came to an end during the early morning hours in his speeding Porsche. The list of beaten opponents by Sanchez reads like a who's who list of the great featherweights of his era. Ruben Castillo, Wilfredo Gomez and future champs Juan LaPorte and Azumah Nelson.
Although Sanchez was not known to be a knockout puncher, he could hit. However, he was an excellent counter-puncher and dismantled his opponents with swift accurate counter punches. At the time of his death, there were talks of Sanchez facing Gomez in a rematch and then possibly moving up to lightweight and challenging champion Alexis Arguello. Sadly, we can only imagine how it would have turned out. Sanchez retired with a record of 44-1-1 (32) and was inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991.
Like Sanchez, Alexis Arguello also turned pro at age 16. He lost his pro debut when Cachorro Amaya stopped him in the first round. Arguello would go on to win world titles in three separate weight divisions and never lost any of his titles in the ring. After losing his debut, Arguello ran off nearly 40 straight wins when he challenged WBA featherweight champ Ernest Marcel. Arguello would lose a unanimous decision to the more experienced Marcel in his home country Panama. Soon after beating Arguello, Marcel retired and the hard punching Mexican, Ruben Olivares, would win Marcel's vacated title.
On November 23, 1974 in his first fight in the United States, Arguello won the WBA featherweight title with a 13th round knockout of Ruben Olivares. After making four defenses of the featherweight title, Arguello relinquished it. In his fifth fight at junior lightweight, he fought WBC junior lightweight and long-time reigning champ Alfredo Escalera. Arguello stopped Escalera in 13 brutal rounds to capture the title.
After making three defenses of the title, Arguello fought Escalera again, and again stopped him in the 13th round. Arguello in total would defend the junior lightweight title eight times, more than any other title he held. Like Sanchez, only at junior lightweight, the list of fighters Arguello defeated is a who's who list of outstanding fighters the likes of Ruben Castillo, and future titleholders Bobby Chacon, Bazooka Limon and Rolando Navarette.
In October of 1980, Arguello vacated the WBC junior lightweight title. Eight months later, he decisioned WBC lightweight champ Jim Watt to win his third title. In his first defense, he stopped top contender Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini in the 14th round. After Mancini, Arguello made three more successful defenses of the lightweight title before vacating it in hopes of adding a fourth title to his resume.
Arguello would attempt to win the junior welterweight title after fighting one time in his new division. On November 12, 1982, Arguello challenged the top 140-pound fighter in the world, WBA junior welterweight champ Aaron Pryor. On a beautiful night at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Pryor proved to be too much for Arguello. In a fight that ranks as one of histories best, Arguello couldn't overcome Pryor's speed and power in suffering the worst beating of his brilliant career, being stopped in the 14th round.
Ten months later Arguello fought Pryor again and the rematch proved to be a rerun with Pryor stopping Arguello in the 10th round. After failing a second time in capturing the junior welterweight title Arguello retired. Arguello would come out of retirement twice fighting four times and winning three comeback fights suffering a decision loss in his last fight. Arguello retired with a career record of 80-8 (64) and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992.
When comparing Arguello and Sanchez, it's difficult to make absolute accessions because of Sanchez's career being cut short while he was only 23. Two absolutes I'll make are that in this comparison I'm matching them as featherweights, although Arguello was most successful as a junior lightweight and made the most defenses of that title, and was champion as a junior lightweight longer than in any other division.
The other is that their fighting styles were completely different. Arguello was a boxer-puncher who liked to push the fight, and carried knockout power in both hands. Sanchez was a counter-puncher who was a tremendous boxer who had very fast hands. Both fighters also possessed a great chin.
Salvador Sanchez was a fighter who ate up punchers who brought the fight to him. He gave both Lopez and Gomez the two worse shellackings they ever took while they were at or close to their peak. Fighters who didn't jump on him and go right at him usually fared much better. Sanchez was also marvelously conditioned. I don't ever recall seeing him winded or tired.
Even in his fight with Gomez, a fight that was fought at close to a Hagler-Hearns pace, only for eight rounds, Sanchez maintained a blistering pace versus Gomez and never seemed the least bit tired. He also had a concrete chin. Both Lopez and Gomez could really punch and caught Sanchez flush on the chin and Sanchez never even changed his facial _expression. However, he is probably best known for his wonderfully accurate counter-punching. Talk about a fighter making his opponents pay for making them miss, Sanchez was the master. Loading up and missing Sanchez led to getting ripped with three and four punch combinations that were accurate and seemed almost laser guided.
Alexis Arguello was the prototype boxer-puncher, and at 5'10", he was exceptionally tall for a fighter who weighed under 150 pounds. He was a fighter that exhibited tremendous basics. Like a little Joe Louis, he threw straight punches while always keeping his chin down and his hands up. Arguello was also economical with his punch output, you rarely saw him throwing wildly, or wasting punches. When he let his hands go, they usually found their target. One difference between Louis and Arguello was that Arguello's hook and uppercut had a more looping ark to them. Like Louis, Alexis also had dynamite in both hands.
Arguello mostly fought a somewhat pressure style. He didn't pressure his opponents like a Frazier or Duran; it was more a subtle type pressure like Louis. Another thing Arguello shared with Louis was that they were vulnerable versus fighters who had fast feet. That's not saying they couldn't fight fighters that had good movement. It is verifying that fighters who moved against them usually fared the best. The fighters who brought the fight to Arguello are the ones who he defeated in the most devastating fashion.
Like Sanchez, Arguello also had a great chin. Arguello was never really hurt until he fought Aaron Pryor at junior welterweight. He also had outstanding stamina and could fight at any pace. Just watch both fights with Pryor and you'll see the tremendous pace they both kept for 14 and 10 rounds.
Who Would Have Won
Many times over the years when discussing a hypothetical Arguello-Sanchez fight, when asked to pick the winner, I couldn't. I usually responded saying the only way I can pick this fight, is if someone put a gun to my head. From a style standpoint, it's tough to give one fighter a decided edge over the other.
Arguello would've pressured Sanchez but not over aggressively. Sanchez would've been comfortable with Arguello coming to him. However, it's not the type of pressure that he usually dismantled. Sanchez had tremendous feet, and moved side-to-side and back very effectively. However, Sanchez wasn't a mover like a Hector Camacho who basically just ran. So, it's not as if Arguello wouldn't have been able to find him.
Sanchez's superior hand speed would've been effective versus Arguello, but not as it was against most fighters because Alexis didn't miss many punches once he let his hands go, thus he wouldn't be left as open to be countered. Although Sanchez would've nailed Arguello on the way in, Arguello had such a great chin I can't see Sanchez dropping him. On the other hand, Sanchez also had a great chin and was rarely caught by two big punches in a row.
This is a fight in which I can't envision either fighter stopping the other and can very easily see it going either way. I think at featherweight they are that evenly matched. I guess the outcome may hinge on the pace of the fight. If Arguello can turn the fight into a war or a street fight that would favor him. We know that if pushed, Sanchez would fight him back and try and stand his ground. Both Lopez and Gomez were able to get Sanchez to war with them in spots. However, Sanchez wasn't really bothered by their power. I'm not sure that would've been the case with Arguello.
On the other hand, if Arguello fights at his normal measured pace, it would benefit Sanchez. Without Arguello applying unrelenting pressure on him, Sanchez could pick his spots. With Sanchez picking his spots, his movement and hand speed may have carried him to a decision.
One thing that really makes this match up so difficult to handicap is that we may not have seen the best of Sanchez. He was only 23 when he was killed. I don't think it's a stretch to believe that it's possible we didn't see all that he had. When it comes to Arguello, we saw his best and know that he really couldn't be dealt with until he fought at 140 when he fought Pryor. So it's hard to imagine him being taken apart by another featherweight, all be it a great one in Sanchez.
I will say this; I don't think Sanchez could've gone up in weight as successfully as Arguello. He wasn't as big a man as Arguello. I think Sanchez may have hit the wall at lightweight like Arguello did at junior welterweight. And at that, I'm not sure Alexis hit the wall at 140, it may have been Pryor was the wall. I have no doubt that Arguello probably wins the title if he's fighting any other top junior welterweight in the world other than Pryor.
When it comes to evaluating Arguello and Sanchez at featherweight, there can be no doubt that Sanchez beat better fighters than Arguello did. The best fighters Arguello defeated at 126 are Ruben Olivares, and Royal Kobayashi, compared to Sanchez who beat Danny Lopez, Juan LaPorte, Wilfredo Gomez and Azumah Nelson, all of whom Sanchez stopped except LaPorte. Based on that fact, I'll go with Sanchez by a razor thin decision. Realistically, this is a match up I really can't pick with any conviction.
Instead, like a surly cop busting up a loud party, the left hook of Jeff Lacy arrives unexpected and uninvited, the kill joy of all kill joys.
Lacy's hook has already earned top billing. He goes by the nickname "Left Hook" Lacy, which pretty much spells out what to look for. It's like telling the other team you're going to throw a screen pass on your next play. See if you can stop it.
So far, no one has.
The 2000 Olympian is 15-0 as a pro with 12 knockouts. He expects to be 16-0 when he comes back from his Dec. 13 televised fight against Donnell "Cadillac" Wiggins (20-2-2, 11 KOs) in Manchester, England. He'll be defending his WBC Continental Americas super-middleweight title on Showtime Championship Boxing starting at 10 p.m. EST and 10 p.m. PST (tape delay).
It will be his second fight overseas, but he doesn't mind traveling.
"It doesn't bother me going into their backyard to fight," said Lacy, who trains at Winky Wright's gym in St. Petersburg. "When I get in the ring, that's my turf."
He expects Wiggins to give him his toughest test as a pro.
"He's pretty much a stand-up fighter who is physically strong," Lacy said. "I look at this as a lesson for me, another stepping stone."
So far, Lacy has been learning on a fast curve. He's only 2 ? years and 15 fights into this thing and he already holds three titles. Along with the WBC Continental Americas title, he's the USBA and NABA super-middleweight champ. At 26, he's got more belts than the men's department at Macy's.
Managed by Shelly Finkel and trained by Roger Bloodworth, Lacy remains independent of a promoter, though he's working with promoter Gary Shaw on a fight-to-fight basis.
"He's exciting just walking into the ring, because you know anything can happen," Shaw said. "He's a tremendous fighter and he's got the punching power of Mike Tyson. At the Olympics, they had a punching-power test and Jeff won it, beating out guys in the super-heavyweight division. He just needs to hone his skills."
Lacy knows it. He blames his loss in the Olympics on his lack of polish. He got as far as he did mostly on raw talent. And that crippling left hook.
"I didn't have a trainer going into the Olympics," he said. "In the fight I lost, (Russian fighter Gaidarbek Gaidarbekov) held me when he got inside and boxed me on the outside. I didn't know what to do."
That's where Bloodworth helps. Though Lacy says he's always had a pro style while fighting as an amateur, they don't go 12 rounds in the PAL.
"I've had a little trouble focusing in the later rounds," said Lacy, who has seldom ventured that far into a fight. "That's something we're working on. I'm learning to stay more focused."
He hopes 2004 is his big year, the year of his first world title. It doesn't matter to him which title it is or which fighter. He just wants a world title fight.
In the meantime, he's learning what it takes to become a world contender, discovering the little secrets that can make all the difference in the 11th or 12th round.
"I'm learning to sit behind my jab a little more," he said. "And I'm beginning to use my right hand better. If there's one asset I have that most people don't know about, it's my speed, my delivery. A lot of people underestimate my speed."
Shaw calls it a "deceiving" speed. "He's learning how to throw his right hand better," Shaw said. "And when he gets that right hand down pat, along with his left hook."
He's also a quick learner. In his scheduled pro debut in January 2001, Lacy's opponent got a look at him at the weigh-in and caught a ride back home to Toledo the morning of the fight. Now Lacy leaves his t-shirt on.
His devastating power has already caught a lot of attention. It's one of the reasons Shaw likes to have him on his shows.
"(Fans) don't want to see fighters dance or they'd go to the ballet," he said. "Jeff doesn't dance."
But what about those in boxing? Yeah, it's a tough game and it can be the cruelest of games and toughest of businesses. But they have things to be grateful for too, right?
Yup. And here's a sampling of who is saying 'thanks' and for what.
Roy Jones: For Antonio Tarver not being more aggressive in trying to give him his first legitimate loss. And also that everyone is playing up the issue of his weight loss as the reason for why he struggled with Tarver.
Floyd Mayweather: That his managerial contract with James Prince is finally over. Giving up over a half-million bucks to a guy per fight that never really did anything for your career can make anyone cranky.
Bob Arum: That the Nevada State Athletic Commission did nothing in the way of disciplining him for his incendiary remarks following Oscar De La Hoya's second loss to Shane Mosley. When you make slanderous accusations like Arum did following that fight, they shouldn't go unpunished.
Shane Mosley: For having three judges that weren't influenced by who was promoting his rematch with Oscar and didn't care about the possible ramifications of a De La Hoya loss.
Oscar De La Hoya: That his loyal fan base believes that he won the fight with Mosley, and despite what the official record says, will consider it a win for 'the Golden Boy' Therefore, maintaining his popularity and market value.
James Toney: For finding some professional discipline that has revived a Hall-of-Fame career.
Mike Tyson: For the fact that despite his recent track record there are still a group of deluded fans who still thinks he has it and can once again be a force in the heavyweight division. It's because of this and his mystique, that there will always be a place for him in the game of boxing.
ESPN2: That their studio segments with Max Kellerman and Brian Kenny on Friday Night Fights are so entertaining and informative because the bottom line is that their fights this past year, for the most part, have been lacking.
Joe Calzaghe: That his promoter Frank Warren keeps protecting him so that he won't have to fight any real, live opposition at 168 pounds. Calzaghe, is very good, but he should have stepped up a long time ago.
Arturo Gatti: That HBO loves him and his brawling style. That's why after his three wars with Micky Ward, he now gets to take on guys like Gianluca Branco on their airwaves and soon after that, Jesse James Leija.
Derrick Gainer: For being Roy Jones' best friend over the years. Without that relationship, there was no way in the world that he and his stinky style would have ever been on HBO so many times. Hopefully his fight with Juan Manuel Marquez will be his last appearance on the network.
Manny Medina: Despite what all the pundits have said time and time again, not quitting and calling it a day. Every few years it seems like 'Mantecas' takes a bad loss to a world class fighter and everyone pronounces him dead. Only to see Medina then win another title in stunning fashion. That's exactly what happened when he got stopped by Juan Manuel Marquez for his IBF belt in February, but then five months later he'd shock the world by downing Scott Harrison for the WBO belt. Amazingly, his fifth title.
Mark Johnson: That he gave up drinking, got focused and trained hard, which led to his upset win over Fernando Montiel for the WBO jr. bantamweight crown. It's really a shame that the world never got to see the prime 'Too Sharp' of the late 90's but this recent win suggests that Johnson still has something left in him.
Acelino Freitas: That he has a cushy multi-fight contract with Showtime that has allowed him to take soft, easy fights for big money. Since decisioning Joel Casamayor in January of 2002, he's taken on the likes of Daniel Attah, Juan Carlos Ramirez and Jorge Barrios. Not exactly the most stern tests if you ask me. Yeah, I know you're supposed to get a 'gimme' after a big win, but three?
Sharmba Mitchell: That he is somehow getting another shot at Kostya Tszyu. Remember, when the fought the first time, Mitchell was in the fight till his knee gave out. It was thought that Tszyu would never give the slick southpaw a rematch but he gets one. Yeah, it's in Moscow, but still, beggers can't be choosers. And it says here that Mitchell is a 'live' dog in that fight.
Johnny Tapia: Just to be living and breathing, much less fighting. Seriously, how many times has this guy been pronounced dead? If he was a cat he'd be running out of lives.
Julio Gonzalez: That he somehow, someway got a fair shake in Germany against Dariusz Michalczewski, in winning the WBO light heavyweight title. I guess miracles do happen.
The Fans: That there are still fighters like Manny Pacquiao, Arturo Gatti, Erik Morales, Ricardo Mayorga, Antonio Margarito, Juan Manuel Marquez and James Toney to enjoy.
Boxing: That despite all the self-inflicted wounds the game continually give itself, it still has a loyal base of fans that stick with this game through thick and thin.
In my opinion, Sugar Ray Robinson at welterweight is the greatest fighter who has yet lived. What does that mean? To me, it means I can make a better case supporting that he is the greatest fighter ever, than you can make one against it. In my opinion of course. The way I interpret or formulate an opinion is probably the way most do. That is gathering all facts and data, and then weighing them against common themes and probabilities in order to come up with a most likely and reasonable scenario.
Some people such as myself take their opinions seriously, maybe even too seriously. That's just who I am, and I know that having a strong opinion will always cause some to resist what you say if they disagree. Again, I'll accept that. All I can say is that when I form an opinion on boxing or a fighter, it comes after much thought and evaluation. I can tell you that I try to rid myself of all bias. However, it would be foolish on my part to believe that I am 100% pure and objective on every opinion I form on the sport of boxing. And believe it or not, as much as you try, you're not perfect either. No one is, we are all somewhat swayed by our favorites and preferences. We're all human, it's something that none of us can overcome totally. Even though we try.
Hard core boxing fans are more passionate about the sweet-science than any other sports fans in my opinion. I love College and NFL Football. I'm ashamed to admit that during the fall, I spend Saturday watching College Football games from 12:00 noon to the end of the last game which is usually after midnight. Sundays are the same. I watch the games from 1:00 PM through 11:30 Sunday Night. And that passion pales in comparison to the passion I have for boxing. And I know that there are many other fight fans who know exactly what I'm talking about.
Most boxing addicts have given much thought to the things that they have formulated an opinion on. That is why when someone expresses a different one with conviction, it evokes such strong emotion from those who see it differently. I will be the first to admit, when I hear or read that someone has stated an opinion that is in total contrast to mine, it gets me going. First, I try and look at why they came to the opinion that they did, hoping to see it from their angle. Second, if I can't find what I think supports their view, I usually attack it. And though that may be wrong, it's just me and my personality. When I attack an opposing opinion, I never mean to do it in a fashion where it becomes personal. But I know that my passion can get the better of me, sometimes.
I just love a good fight and debate. I don't care if someone disagrees with me or my opinion. Just give me a good argument on why I should see it your way. Make me think or look at something that I've missed or overlooked. Believe me, if you highlight something I missed, I'll pay homage to you. I figure that if someone points out an angle that I've overlooked, it can only make me better and wiser.
I have many opinions on boxing that I believe are well thought out and reasoned. If everyone agreed and saw and interpreted everything the same, what fun would any discussion be? Below are some opinions that I feel very strongly about, and I say them with conviction. Remember, they're mine. So I think they are well thought out and reasoned. I'm sure that as well as I think they're reasoned and make sense, some will see them as being foolish and ridiculous.
*In my opinion, championship fights should be 15 rounds, not 12. The modern history of boxing was defined by title fights being scheduled for 20 and 15 rounds. I'll settle for 15, lets separate the champions and contenders.
*In my opinion, there should be one recognized sanctioning body to regulate boxing. There is only one world, so there should only be one world champion.
*In my opinion, Sugar Ray Robinson at welterweight is the greatest fighter who has yet lived. He was the best package of fighter ever. He had blinding speed, dynamite in both fist, he could throw every punch and was a great boxer. He also had a cast iron chin and had the heart of a lion, along with an undeniable will. I could go on, but I think the point is clear.
*In my opinion, HBO and ESPN have too much control and influence over boxing. ESPN has their favorite promoters, and puts their fighters on most of the time. HBO has an agenda to push their house fighters who they have contracts with. And they have final say on refusing or accepting the opponents their fighters face. They ridicule the sanctioning bodies, but they are just as bad.
*In my opinion, Joe Louis is the most faultless fighter in history. He was ahead of his time and is a boxing text book. If I had a son who wanted to learn how to box, I'd encourage him to study Louis. That's not saying he should fight like Louis, because he may not have the same skills. I just believe he would see things done the way they should be done, with the least amount of mistakes being made.
*In my opinion, Howard Cosell brought an added excitement to boxing. He wasn't the most knowledgeable fight broadcaster, but him being there gave the event the feel that something important was about to happen, and that it was the place to be at the time.
These are just a few of the opinions that I hold regarding boxing. I feel absolute about everyone of them. I can't see me ever being convinced that 12 round title fights are better than 15 round title fights. I'll go to my grave believing that boxing would be a better and more respected sport if it was governed by one major body, like the NFL or NBA. If their is a fighter who was better than Sugar Ray Robinson, I haven't seen him. Although ESPN and HBO televise boxing, and that's good, I think their influence is more than it should be. If someone has seen a more perfect fundamental fighter than Joe Louis, let me know who it was.
And yes, I thought Howard Cosell brought and air of excitement to the sport of boxing. However, I hate how he turned his back on it after the Larry Holmes-Tex Cobb heavyweight title fight. And lastly, in my opinion, Cobb deserved the decision over Holmes. No way Holmes won that fight! No, I really don't believe that, I just thought I'd give an opinion that was wrong. Yes, some opinions can be wrong, and that is one of them.
He could put you to sleep if you weren't concentrating so hard on trying to understand what he was saying. Because "The Executioner" has a tendency to ramble, and if he tells you more than you wanted to hear, well that's OK because he also never lacks an opinion. He's fun to listen to if you're not really waiting for an answer.
One of the rare undisputed champions of the world, he faces WBA middleweight champion William Joppy (34-2-1, 25 KOs) on Dec. 13 at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
He said it's his 17th title defense and he's gunning for 20 before he finally saddles up and rides into the sunset, no doubt brought to you exclusively by the Bernard Hopkins Sunset Company.
One of the best fighters in the world, he's not too concerned with Joppy. At least that's how he sounded on a conference call this week. Asked what he was expecting from the WBA champ, he said Joppy's recent performances were "self-explanatory."
"His (fifth-round TKO loss) to (Felix) Trinidad didn't help him and in his fight with (Howard) Eastman, he should have lost that one, too" Hopkins said. "I don't think he's on anyone's pound-for-pound list."
So why is he fighting him?
"You have to follow the rules when they make them," he said, referring to the fact that Joppy is a mandatory challenger. "I just follow the rules to keep my status."
That was about it on the subject of William Joppy.
After that, Hopkins talked about more important things, like where he came from, what his childhood was like, who he wanted to fight and who was ducking him.
He talked about short purses and promoters and about Miami (where he was training) and Philadelphia (where he was from).
One of the few other fighters he paid homage to was IBF junior-middleweight champ Winky Wright, who has come out and challenged Hopkins.
"Winky Wright is the only guy out there with enough heart to ever mention my name," said Hopkins, who, like Roy Jones Jr., likes to talk about himself in the third person. "You don't hear Oscar De La Hoya calling Bernard Hopkins out unless it's four or five fights down the road. You don't hear Sweet and Low ("Sugar" Shane Mosley) calling me out. You never heard (Fernando) Vargas mention my name. Winky Wright is the guy calling Bernard Hopkins out, and I give him a lot of respect for that. The rest are scared. That's the only excuse they're going to have."
Hopkins also said his past is what keeps him in line, what provides him with perspective.
"Bernard Hopkins understands where he's been and that's what keeps me in check," he said. "It's where you came from and where you are now. I realize Bernard Hopkins has come a long way. I'm a premier fighter and a future hall of famer."
Some of his other nuggets included: "I recognize life. I understand that no matter what you do, you'll never please everyone." He also said, "When you got the chickens, you don't have to look for the fox." And this one: "I don't have a wish list (of fighters he wants to face). I have the biggest prize in boxing, the undisputed title."
Meanwhile, a surly Joppy took his turn when Hopkins was done.
"Bernard Hopkins is living off one fight - Felix Trinidad," he said. "Before that, he had no respect as a fighter. His whole career, he's looked like s---."
Joppy sounded like he was talking about the guy who just shot his dog.
"Hopkins is a basic fighter who can't handle my skills at all. He can be knocked out. He doesn't have the chin everyone thinks he does. If he had a way out of this fight, he'd take it. You'll be able to count on two hands the number of times he punches me."
Cedric Kushner's Fistful of Dollars promotion on Nov. 30 in Atlantic City might not sit well with boxing's die-hards, but the guys who love Hulk Hogan, Dusty Rhodes and Goldberg will be the first in line to call Thunderbox pay-per-view.
According to Kushner, the secret to success as a promoter is to take eight unemployed heavyweights, match them together by picking names out of a hat, and then have them fight each other until only one is left standing. That last guy gets to take home a cool $100,000.
It's a pretty simple idea, really. Kushner shows seven three-round fights, provides a little pocket change for seven heavyweights (they get $5,000 per fight) and gives the eventual winner enough money to survive the winter on.
The eight heavyweights include two-time heavyweight champ Tim Witherspoon, fresh off his retirement fight against Lou Savarese in September. The scary thing is, Witherspoon, at 44, has to be one of the favorites to win this thing.
Among the others invited to fight is the well-known and ever-popular Gerald "The Jedi" Nobles, who came up with a novel idea at the press conference held last week promoting the fights.
The clever Nobles, whose record is 20-0 with 16 knockouts, said they could make it a short night and make everything easier by just giving him the check right away instead of letting everyone fight for it.
Most of the other fighters were against the idea. "I'm gonna be playing Beethoven on these guys,'' Nobles was quoted as saying by Fightnews. "I'm lightening fast and I got a lot of first, second and third round knockouts.''
Of course, the combined record of the fighters he's stopped inside three rounds is something like 72-144-9. They include wins over Caseny Truesdale (7-322) and the always dangerous Exum Speight (9-32-2). Nobles has only beaten three guys with winning records, and those three have a combined record of 36-22-2.
"People are finally going to get a chance to see who Gerald Nobles is,'' he said. Is he sure that's what he wants?
Next up is Paolo Vidoz of Gorizia, Italy, who slammed home the truth.
"This tournament is crazy,'' he said. "Three fights in one night is very hard.'' Finally, an honest man. "I want to win the tournament because I need the money. I want to buy land and a farm in Italy.'' I hope this guy wins. Then there's Ray Austin (17-3-1, 13 KOs) who claimed, "I'm the best man out of all these guys so I know I'm going home with the money.''
He's right. He'll be going home with some money. My guess is $5,000.
How about Anthony "Tony the Tiger" Thompson? He's 17-1 with 9 KOs. Anyone who has the chutzpah to call himself, "Tony the Tiger'' has to be tough.
Finally, there's Jeremy "Half Man, Half Amazing'' Williams, a legitimate heavyweight with a catchy nickname who is probably the big pick to win the Fistful of Dollars. "For me, this tournament is something to do before Christmas,'' he said, sounding like he was talking about getting his oil changed. "These guys are good guys, but there's nobody at my caliber. That's the plain honest truth.''
One of the alternates chosen is wild man Mitch "Blood" Green, 45, who has fought only once in the last four years, decisioning "tough" Danny Wofford (17-93-2) in March.
"Can I talk?'' Green was quoted as saying at the press conference. "Can I say something? I'm the alternate.'' Word on the street is, Green took the offer after both Ronald McDonald and the Grimace turned it down.
After Manny Pacquiao's dominating 11th round stoppage of Marco Antonio Barrera this past weekend in San Antonio, Texas, which comes off the heels of James Toney's ninth round knockout of Evander Holyfield in October, it's not even close.
One of the few knocks on Roach as a trainer is that he has never developed a fighter from the beginning. Which may be true, but how can you ignore the reclamation job he's done with Toney and the steady improvement of 'the Pac Man'? If a guy goes in a turns around a corporation that's bleeding in red ink and turns it into a Fortune 500 company, do you hold it against him that he wasn't one of the founding fathers of the business? Of course not.
Perhaps he doesn't get enough credit because unlike other trainers he isn't much into tooting his own horn or prone to self-promoting, that simply isn't his way. But make no doubt about it, Eddie Futch, his former trainer and mentor would be proud. This gutty featherweight of the past is one of the games best cornermen.
And he was the man that laid the groundwork for Pacquiao's scintillating win. But the win itself wasn't the biggest upset, but really it was the sheer dominance showed by his man.
" You've got to be surprised when you beat a guy like Barrera that badly," said Roach, from his Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood." The thing was I really believed in Manny this fight, I even bet on Manny, I bet on Manny to knock Barrera out at eight-to-one. The thing was I thought Manny's speed was going to be too much for him and the power- and it was overwhelming."
Which is true, Pacquiao, simply showed Barrera all the respect of Rodney Dangerfield. He simply jumped him from the opening bell and didn't let up. It was the central component in their game plan.
" It was funny because the guys that he fought in his last fights like 'Prince' Naseem, Johnny Tapia and Kevin Kelley, they all let him be the 'new' Barrera, they let him box and think, set things up and fight at a slow pace," explained Roach." And like I said, Manny's not going to let him do that. We're going to jump on this guy, we're not going to show him any respect at all. Because we're going to take it to him, make this older fighter fight three minutes of every round. And that's what we did. It was easier than I thought, though. I expected more difficulties of course, because Barrera is a game guy and I thought he was going to have to suck it up and fight like he did against Morales the first time but he just didn't have it."
Like most fights, they can either be won or lost leading up to it during training camp. And like a lot of camps, they are a team effort.
" He came eight weeks and Justine Fortune did a great job with him, taking him to Griffith Park everyday," said Roach of his assistant, a former heavyweight out of Australia that once battled Lennox Lewis." All the other fights he was running around the neighborhood here in town. So we took him to Griffith Park every morning, we had him in great condition and his stomach was rock hard."
Seeing Pacquiao work on a daily basis, it was as hard as I've seen any fighter prepare for a fight. The sheer enthusiasm and intensity of his work shone through everyday. For him the fight didn't start at the opening bell at the Alamodome, but two months before when he arrived in Southern California.
" He was in great shape and more than physically, mentally, he was prepared," said Roach." He was so happy, two days before the fight he weighed 123 pounds, I gave him two days off before the fight. So we had the luxury of keeping him nice and fresh. I think Barrera had trouble making the weight and suck his weight a little bit.
" Towards the last day, I saw the scale going up to his room a couple of times on the weigh-in day."
Which is a sign that perhaps Barrera didn't have his best camp- or even a good one. Leading into this fight he had been embroiled in a bitter breakup with his former manager and promoter( Ricardo Maldonado and John Jackson), had signed on with Oscar De La Hoya's promotional firm, it was revealed that Barrera had undergone brain surgery in 1997 and had been boxing since then with a steel plate in his head and to cap off this hectic period in his life, weeks before the fight he had evacuate his Big Bear camp because of the forest fires that ravaged the lower part of California.
Even Roach admits that Barrera may have lost a little focus leading into the fight.
" With the problems between he and Maldonado, I'm sure there was some distractions with the story on the surgery on his brain and they thing was he had to break camp and he had to go to San Antonio two weeks before the fight.
" But he didn't make any excuses after the fight. He just said,' Manny was the better man tonight' and we offered him a rematch, if he wants one."
So where does Barrera go from here? Already his trainer, Rudy Perez had suggested publicly that his fighter call it a day. After all, he can get out of this game at a relatively young age of 29 with his faculties intact and a Hall-of-Famer career to look back on.
But in many respects, it's an 'old' 29, with a lot of miles on the odometer. Even though he had gone to safer, more technical approach in recent years, he still had his wars with Kennedy McKinney, Junior Jones and Erik Morales in his past. It looked, at least on this night, that they had finally caught up to him.
Perhaps he himself saw this coming when he remarked to Larry Merchant at the HBO fighter meetings that, " He( Pacquiao) reminds me of myself when I was 24." In other words, he was now facing a young, hungry lion with the passion and commitment to do whatever it takes. Something, that maybe in his own heart, he no longer was.
Sadly on this night, he was out-fought and painfully slow on the trigger. What was even worse is that when the going got tough, he tried to get out of the fight. In the seventh round after an accidental clash of heads, he would basically try to get the ring doctor to stop the bout. But unlike a Julio Cesar Chavez against Frankie Randall in their rematch back in 1994, he didn't have a Flip Homansky to bail him out.
As the one-sided beating continued, Barrera would then try and purposely butt Pacquiao and was even deducted a point for flagrantly hitting his Filipino foe during a break. As he was taking a barrage of punches in the 11th stanza, the fight would be mercifully halted by his corner.
In many ways, it was a fitting conclusion. But the bigger question is, will it be the last we've seen of a great champion?
Not since the rematch between Larry Holmes and Michael Spinks in April of 1986 has a heavyweight title fight gone or been scheduled for 15 rounds. I don't care what anyone says, 15 rounds separates the champions and contenders. To this day, I don't think anyone knows for sure the real reason for the title fight distance being shortened to 12 rounds.
Some have said it was for safety reasons and protecting the fighters. The fight that is highlighted as the reason for the 12 round distance is the 1982 WBA lightweight championship between champ Ray Mancini and challenger Du Ku Kim. In that fight, which was a war, Kim was knocked out in the 14th round. The Mancini-Kim fight was a non stop toe-to-toe brawl. The bout ended when Mancini landed a devastating right hand to Kim's head. Kim never recovered and was pronounced dead shortly after leaving the ring on a stretcher.
The Mancini-Kim fight followed the jr. welterweight title fight between Aaron Pryor and Alexis Arguello the night before. The Pryor-Arguello fight ended in the 14th round with Pryor stopping Arguello with a barrage of devastating bombs. Although Arguello took a terrible beating, he recovered and even went on to fight Pryor again 10 months later. The thought that arose after these fights was that fighters lose too much fluid around the brain in the last five rounds and become more at risk for head injuries.
Has anyone noticed that most of the fighters who have died in the ring have been below 150 pounds. When is the last time a heavyweight died due to injuries suffered in a fight. The last one I can think of is Sonny Banks. Banks is best known for being the first fighter to drop Cassius Clay, early in Clay's career in 1962. Banks died shortly after being knocked out by Leotis Martin in their 1964 fight. If another heavyweight has died as a result of injuries sustained in a fight, I can't recall who it was.
In my opinion, the reason that you hardly ever see fatalities in the heavyweight division is because the big guys don't have to make weight. In many cases, fighters under 150 pounds dehydrate themselves shedding those last few pounds too make weight. This leaves them vulnerable to brain injuries with a lack a fluid around their skull protecting the brain from crashing against it when they are hit. I believe this is more of a danger than fighters fighting 15 rounds. If I'm wrong, someone please explain why we rarely see heavyweights being killed in the ring? You would think most boxing fatalities would occur in the heavyweight division since they are clearly the most powerful punchers.
Another reason that was given for making title fights 12 rounds instead of 15 was so they could broadcast them on network television. What a joke! Network boxing doesn't even exist. It's either cable, satellite, or pay per view.
I have long felt that the 12 round distance is inept. Any 10 round fighter can fight 12 rounds. However, not every 10 round fighter can fight 15 rounds. Shouldn't there be a border separating the men from the boys? The champion should be a special fighter. Conditioning and stamina should be part of his make up. In my years of following boxing, I've always felt that it took a special fighter to train and pace himself for the real championship distance. A fighter doesn't have to be anything special to fight and prepare for 12 rounds. Not since they all can do it.
The questions that abound from looking back at history if certain fights were scheduled for 12 rounds instead of 15 are very intriguing. And the same goes for if some title fights had been scheduled for 15 rounds instead of 12.
In 1941, heavyweight champ Joe Louis was slightly behind in his title defense versus light heavyweight champ Billy Conn. The fight ended when Louis caught Conn with a devastating six punch barrage knocking him out in the 13th round. What if that fight is only 12 rounds? The longest title reign in heavyweight history is shortened to four years instead of just under 12. Some may say if the fight was scheduled for 12 rounds instead of 15, Louis would have went after Conn sooner. I say it's easier to stay away and move for 12 rounds than it is 15.
Rocky Marciano is the only undefeated heavyweight champion in history. However, in Marciano's title winning effort against Champion Jersey Joe Walcott, he was trailing on all three scorecards 7-4-1, 7-5, and 8-4 after the 12th round. In round 13 Marciano knocked out Walcott with one of histories best right hands. In this fight, it took Marciano 13 rounds to get Walcott in position to land that right hand. Had this fight been only 12 rounds, Marciano loses the decision. Thus we would've been cheated out of one of the greatest punches ever thrown in boxing history. Not to mention the only perfect career in heavyweight history.
In the biggest and most anticipated fight in welterweight history, Sugar Ray Leonard trailed Thomas Hearns in the scoring after 12 rounds before rallying to stop him in the 14th round. Some say Frazier didn't seal his victory over Ali until he dropped him with one of histories greatest left-hooks ever thrown in the 15th round of their first fight. There are many other fights that would've altered history had they been scheduled for 12 rounds instead of 15. Too many to mention in this space.
The other side of this debate is, how would some recent fights have turned out if they were scheduled for 15 rounds instead of 12. Wouldn't it have been something to see if the De La Hoya-Mosley rematch had three more rounds. Although I scored the fight 7-5 De La Hoya, Mosley was surely coming on in the last rounds. It's not out of the question that Mosley may have stopped De La Hoya, thus ending any scoring controversy.
Another De La Hoya fight that could've ended in a knockout, is his fight versus Felix Trinidad. I had the fight 7-5 De La Hoya, and felt that he definitely should have been declared the winner. However, like in the Mosley fight, Trinidad was coming on. It's not out of the question that Trinidad may have stopped De La Hoya in the last three rounds if it was scheduled for 15. Had the fight been 15 rounds I doubt that there would have been any controversy in regard to the decision.
Just last week we saw a dead tired Roy Jones pull out a hard fought decision over Antonio Tarver in the 11th and 12th rounds. At the end of the 12th round, Jones was clearly more spent than Tarver. Who knows how it would've turned out had there been three more rounds? Maybe Jones runs out of gas and gets stopped. Who knows, but I for one would have loved to see it play out.
Let's go back to 15 rounds. I've heard it argued that today's fighters are bigger and stronger along with being better conditioned than those of previous generations. I'm not sure I agree with all of that, but if it is so, lets test them over the course of the real championship distance. 15 Rounds!
Bringing back 15 round title fights is just one of the reforms I'd like to see boxing under go. Having one governing sanctioning body is another. And I'd love to see boxing brought back to network TV again. Wouldn't that be great? If you really think about it, there is only one reason why these reforms have no shot at ever being implemented?
What Antonio Tarver did was fight in spurts and won some rounds solidly over Jones. However, there were no 2-point rounds in favor of either fighter. The bottom line is, Tarver didn't let his hands go enough and just followed Jones around the ring. While Tarver was following Jones, Jones' was scoring and fighting more effectively. Tarver let too many crucial rounds slide by without taking charge. The rounds that Tarver wasn't assertive, Jones won.
I had the fight 5-5 in rounds at the end of the 10th. All anyone has to do is listen to Buddy McGirt's instruction to Tarver between the 11th and 12th rounds. He emphatically implored Tarver to go out and throw punches and finish the fight. Believe me, in most scenarios, a fighters corner has the correct pulse of the fight.
McGirt knew that by Tarver not being busy enough, he was leaving the door open for Jones to pull the fight out. And that's exactly what happened. Just to make it clear. Jones didn't take Tarver apart, as I expected, but going by rounds, Jones won more than Tarver did.
To those who have read any of my past writings on Jones, you know that I've been one of his staunchest critics. That being said, I must admit that Jones won me over more in his fight versus Tarver than he had in any other fight in his career. Jones showed against Tarver that he is made of some of the same stuff as some of the past all-time greats. On a night when he was not at his best physically, he won with his heart and determination. He also demonstrated another characteristic, only exhibited by the greats.
What Jones did was get inside of Tarver's head. What he did was bluff Tarver. He convinced Tarver that it was unsafe to pressure him and take chances down the stretch. This is something that Robinson, Ali, Leonard, and Holmes did in a couple fights in their career when they weren't on top of their game down the stretch of a close fight.
This is what Jones did in the last two rounds that enabled him to at least score a little and kept Tarver from taking over the round. It wasn't that Jones was so spectacular, it's just that he conned Tarver into not really going for it when the fight was on the line. And I'm not talking about the judge's scorecards, they were way out in left field as usual. I'm talking about the scorecard of the fans watching the fight. Most of them had the fight pretty close to even after the tenth round.
Another thing Jones did in this fight was prove that he could take it. Tarver hit Jones with some big shots to the body and Jones never seemed bothered in the least. He also caught Jones to the head with a few good shots and Jones never really seemed shook or in trouble. I know that Tarver has nothing in his arsenal close to Foster's left hook, or the Spinks' Jinx. Never the less, Tarver is an adequate puncher and Jones was never hurt. Only frustrated and slightly overwhelmed in certain spots, but never close to going down or out.
Toughness is something I have questioned about Jones for sometime. In his fight versus Tarver he showed me he was tough. Not Matthew Saad Muhammad tough, but tough enough to hold his own with some of the past greats. I never doubted his skill, I knew it was there. It's just that I knew he would need more than his speed and skill had he crossed paths with the likes of some of the best fighters who ever campaigned at 175.
Now that Jones has been forced to show what he is made of, I have no doubt that he is in the league with the best of the best of those who held the light heavyweight crown. I'll wait until he is retired before trying to place him historically, but he definitely must be mentioned among the greats at 175. I won't rank him now because he can still go on to accomplish more, which would move him higher in the overall pantheon of light heavyweight greats.
At this time, in my opinion, he is one of the five greatest light heavyweights of the last 50 years. Along with Archie Moore, Bob Foster, Michael Spinks, and Dwight Muhammad Qawi.
That's where the other guy was, the guy he was fighting who was trying to knock his head into a fantasyland of its own.
At least that's how Norm "Stoney" Stone explains it, justifies the loss, explains away the poor performance.
"He wasn't the same kid," Stone said of his fighter, former WBA heavyweight champ John Ruiz, who lost his title to Roy Jones Jr., back in March at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas. "Physically, he was there, but Disney World is where his head was at. But he's back now. The divorce is over and I feel like he's ready. He's taking this fight (against Hasim "The Rock" Rahman) for peanuts, so you know he's going to be hungry."
No wonder Ruiz couldn't slip a punch or land a hook or force Jones into a corner and rip his insides out. He was thinking about other things.
We should have seen it coming, known right away it was a woman who cost him his title and the biggest opportunity of his life.
"The Wednesday before the fight, his wife called him up and talked about reconciliation," Stone said on a conference call this week, insinuating that Ruiz's mind got a little side-tracked just before the Jones fight and caught the red-eye to Mickeyville. "If I had known about the call, I never would have let him fight."
A phone conversation with a dueling spouse might be grounds for canceling a dentist appointment, but it's not strong enough to call off a championship fight worth several million dollars. That close to the opening bell, it would take the loss of a limb to stop the fight. Money talks. Emotions walk.
And if you think about it, his wife's timing was almost brutal. She calls him that close to his fight? Messes with his head? Makes you wonder how much she bet on her ex-husband to lose. Call him up, make some promises.
Or maybe she just wanted to see if he could get her and her "friend" closer seats to the ring.
Now, nine months later, Ruiz is getting ready to fight Rahman on Dec. 13 at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City for the WBA interim heavyweight title.
It's "interim" because Jones holds the WBA title he took from Ruiz and no one really knows what he's going to do with it. He could sign to fight anyone from Mike Tyson to Arturo Gatti, if Gatti could put on an extra 40 pounds and quickly grow four inches. After his close call with Antonio Tarver, maybe Jones will decide to quit the fight game and go into the lucrative rooster-raising industry.
If Jones doesn't defend his title against the Ruiz-Rahman winner - who will become the mandatory challenger - he supposedly loses his belt. Fortunately, he has a few extras in his closet.
The problem is, the only thing mandatory in the fight game today is a protective cup.
As for Ruiz and his family troubles, Stoney said he's not the same head case he was 10 months ago.
"John lost weight for (the Jones) fight because he was having trouble with his family life," Stone said. "But he's a different fighter now and this is a great fight for us. He's training for 12 rounds, but the fight won't go 12 rounds. I guarantee it won't go 12 rounds."
Stone, who was present for the teleconference even when his fighter wasn't, gave out a warning to Rahman.
"When you guys talk to him, make sure you tell Rahman to be in shape for this fight," Stone said. "We don't want no excuses."