The last time we saw the former king compete at center stage of the welterweight division was over seven months ago when the three-division world champ handled the risky business by outboxing the mediocre Luis Collazo in a twelve round bout.
Now, the 36-year-old veteran encounters his most dangerous opponent in three years, the undefeated WBA welterweight champion Miguel Cotto. Will this be the last time we see Sugar Shane competing at the peak?
Father Time has been known as a merciless killer who stops the water supply to a fighter's fountain of talent without warning. Turning 36 two months ago, Mosley doesn't have much time left. He is now standing at the crossroad, poised to go downhill, or perhaps, climb back to the top. For Mosley, if he wins this fight, he might earn a berth to face the pound for pound king Floyd Mayweather before twilight comes. In that sense, the showdown tomorrow would be his next career defining fight.
While many believe that Cotto has the slight edge, I'd pick Mosley by a decision victory.
Sugar Shane Mosley is a natural in the ring, as well as one of those rare well-preserved legends.
He was born to be a fighter with both lightening speed and thunderous power. His body shots are devastating, as handsomely shown in his rematch with Oscar De La Hoya. His flashy combinations are a thing of beauty that have always enchanted me.
He has experienced a number of big time title fights and his adaptability is second to none. He could box, punch and brawl, if necessary, with a technician's grace. He has also proven his sturdy chin. During his 14 years as a professional, Mosley has never been knocked out and rarely been knocked down. He has won world titles at junior middleweight. He is a full package.
Although the relentless Puerto Rico punching machine holds the age advantage, he wears his deficits on his sleeve.
Cotto has a suspect chin, which was manifested in several brawls where he has been clearly rocked by some whose power was far less threatening than Mosley's. He has proven to need a few rounds to warm up and has been hurt in the early going, which gives Mosley a chance to get off to a good start and take the lead. Successive beatings take a toll on fighter, and that is what Cotto usually does, turns fights into wars. In the long run, that usually makes for a short ened career.
The masterful Sugar Shane, who is a more formidable and consistent version of Zab Judah, will fully exploit Cotto's deficiencies and fight a smart strategic fight, creating angles, landing his trademark laser-like shots, working to the body while mixing it up.
The scenario would be Mosley go the distance with Cotto and triumph over with a unanimous decision. Zhenyu Li is the columnist for People's Daily online and a member of the International Boxing Research Organization (IBRO). He can be reached at email@example.com
Here are the guesses from the TSS crew, who are leaning towards the undefeated Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto, by a 4-2 margin.
MICHAEL LYNCH As Robert Mladinach pointed out in his excellent piece, this is a very difficult fight to prognosticate. Like he said, there are many reasons why both combatants should win. There are also several reasons why each ought to lose. Cotto is undefeated, hungry, tough as nails and younger. Sugar Shane is the superior athlete and veteran of ring wars of a level that Cotto has yet to visit. Still, Cotto was in trouble more than once against Zab Judah and his well-timed (and placed) low-blows may have helped him more than we realize. Alternately, Sugar Shane is 36 years old, and despite winning all of his fights since back to back losses to Winky Wright, he is no longer the man that handed the Golden Boy 2 of his first 3 defeats. However, Cotto is smaller and far less elusive than a Winky Wright. No chess match here. His brawler style is far more conducive to success for Sugar Shane. Sugar Shane has a healthy reach advantage and if he outmanuevers the slower Cotto he should be able to keep him at bay. I seem to be talking myself into picking SSM, don't I? Cotto is a blood and guts fighter, though. I will make an all gut decision, then. Cotto by late KO (and I think he'll need it). Enjoy this unique match-up.
RALPH GONZALEZ I think that Cotto being the younger man will be a huge advantage for him. Shane has the speed factor on his side. Cotto has the power. He also has weaknesses that can be exploited. Mainly, a questionable chin. In the end, the Puerto Rican's body attack will pay huge dividends. Cotto wins by stoppage in eleven torrid rounds.
RONAN KEENAN As evidenced by Calzaghe-Kessler, when everything seems even it makes sense to go with the more proven quantity - and that's Mosley. What's more, he's also the physically bigger fighter, which should help him offset Cotto's pressure-fighting style. Mosley W12.
This fight is a great match up because of Mosley's willingness to throw down. Unlike Zab Judah, Cotto's previous opponent, Shane Mosley does not hesitate to throw his fists. I expect Miguel Cotto to apply non stop pressure. However, Cotto leaves himself exposed at times. This flaw could be essential in the outcome of the fight. Mosley will hit him with some good shots. But the fight will come down to how well Shane boxes his way out of trouble. It must be remembered that Shane Mosley has only lost to boxers, not brawlers. There will be knockdowns but no knockouts. I expect a Shane Mosley to win by a very close decision.
TIM STARKS I see Mosley having the speed, power and fancy footwork to win most of the early rounds, and maybe even put Cotto on the deck. But Mosley doesn't have the one-punch authority at welterweight needed to stop the young tank-like Puerto Rican, who will recover and set about steamrolling the older man. Mosley's too proud and determined to get KO'd, so he'll hang on til the final bell, but he'll lose in the end. Cotto by close decision.
PHIL WOOLEVER The few times I've seen Cotto live, which was earlier in his career, he looked like an already tough fighter who could conceivably improve to the range of non-hype greatness. If that's still the case then Mosley will get slammed a lot closer to retirement, but I don't see that happening. This will sound ridiculous to some, but however impressive Cotto has looked, he still hasn't proved he could outmuscle a naturally bigger guy like the Fernando Vargas who showed up the first time against Mosley. I wouldn' be surprised to see Cotto with a lump like Vargas got. Mosley TKO 11.
MICHAEL WOODS Sure are a lot of questions about Cotto, for an undefeated guy who has fought good competition to get to that level. I have 'em myself, somewhat. I was surprised he couldn't take down Urkal, and Urkal's corner threw in the towel in the 11th of their battle in March. people question the kid's beard. He gets up, don't he? Y'all think Mosley has more power than everyone Cotto has met? More power than Torres? I have more questions on Mosley than I do Cotto, and all of that stems from his being 36. Call me ageist, if you wish. But like Hollywood and the sperm donation racket, boxing is a business for young people, by and large. That's why I'm picking the younger man, the 27-year-old, in a fight that will have plenty of trades in it. The Garden is certain to be electric, I can't wait. Somebody will hit the canvas, nobody will stay down...Cotto SD.
“We sparred a few times,” said Santa Cruz (25-2, 14 KOs), who was hired by Casamayor because of his long thin build and relentless style. “I helped him prepare for his second fight against Diego Corrales.”
Santa Cruz, 27, lives in Lincoln Heights, a small hilly section of East Los Angeles, and comes from a family of boxers. He’s twice attempted to win a world title but has been thwarted each time.
First by David Diaz in August 2006, where Santa Cruz was beating him for nine rounds when he was stopped in shocking fashion by the Chicago fighter. Referee Richard Steele stopped the fight at 2:26 of the 10th.
“I was caught with a good punch,” says Santa Cruz whose appearance outside the ring belies his persona inside.
A year earlier, in August 2005, it was Fernando Trejo who was sustaining heavy damage against Santa Cruz but rallied with 41 seconds left in the 10th round. Santa Cruz was stopped in that fight too.
Maybe this fight will be different? It’s not going to be held in the month of August.
“I don’t know what it is,” said Rudy Hernandez who trains and manages Santa Cruz. “Nobody trains harder than Santa Cruz. I never have to tell him to do anything. He just comes to the gym and does his work.”
Hernandez, whose brother Genaro “Chicanito” Hernandez was a long reigning junior lightweight champion, knows there are only so many chances a fighter can receive at a title shot.
Title shots mean big money.
“If you can’t make big money why continue fighting,” Hernandez says. “That’s why anybody should get into this sport for the big money.”
Now it’s come to Casamayor, one of the most talented lightweights in the last 10 years. Though he’s a friend of his opponent it won’t stop the crafty southpaw from using every single trick in his thick book. Especially that he’s back with trainer Joe Goossen.
Remarkably, it’s Casamayor’s first title defense that he won from Diego Corrales last year.
“I haven’t fought in a year but I feel great,” says Casamayor.
Ironically, it was Santa Cruz who helped him prepare for that fight and others.
“The kid is top five or top 10, he was beating David Diaz easily,” said Casamayor respectfully about Santa Cruz. “He may be better than all three Diazs.”
Though Casamayor thinks his foe is better than Juan, David and Julio Diaz, he is Casamayor. Enough said.
“He’s a good fighter. I sparred with him he was one of my main sparring partners, but that was sparring,” said Casamayor. “He has a suspect chin and he won’t be in there with David Diaz, he will be in there with Joel Casamayor.”
Team Santa Cruz knows what to expect.
“We need to take advantage of the opportunity that’s being presented, no excuses. I know were underdogs in this fight and to be honest the public favors Casamayor,” said Hernandez. “The only thing I’m asking is when we win nobody comes up with excuses that Casamayor was too old or too rusty. That’s all we ask.”
Casamayor shrugs off any feelings for his former ally.
Unfortunately for the (Cesar Gracie) Jiu-Jitsu black belt and professional boxer, the win would later be declared a no-contest by the Nevada State Athletic Commission after their tests revealed a high level of marijuana in his system.
“I feel it was done out of ignorance. The win was taken away from me because I smoke weed and that’s stupid,” said the 24-year old Diaz. “I’m a fighter and a martial artist. I feel martial artists and all artists in general could benefit from smoking weed and we should be able to smoke it all we want.”
Diaz has proven himself in the past by impressively knocking out Robbie Lawler and most recently besting Josh Neer, Mike Aina and the aforementioned Gomi.
“I already know that I’m the best fighter in the world on a technical level. It’s fine that they took the Gomi win away from me. *^*^ them!” Diaz said. “I know that I won. It’s only going to make me strive harder to be the best.”
Whether you call it marijuana, cannabis, chronic or ganja, it’s clear that the stigma associated with the use of the herb still prevails. Obviously, the “Reefer Madness” mentality still exists in the minds of many individuals. Why else would any commission bother testing for a drug that no one in their right mind would consider performance enhancing?
Diaz sees this as a personal attack on his freedoms.
“I don’t know why they’re trying to keep marijuana out of the sport. The worst thing they can do is to try and attack me on the issue,” Diaz continued. “I’m a fighter. I fight back. I’ll speak out as much as I want on the issue. I believe in fighting for my rights.”
When handing down their judgment, the N.S.A.C.’s commission’s chair Dr. Tony Alamo reportedly stated, “I was there at this fight and believe that you were intoxicated and… that it made you numb to the pain. Did it help you win? I think it did.” That assumption, ridiculed in pro-smoke circles as ludicrous, was used to justify a $3,000 fine out of Diaz’s paltry $15,000 purse. He also received a six month suspension and had the win stripped from his record.
Diaz remains defiant and defensive.
“I’m not scared to make waves. If people want to keep me from making a living because of this then fine,” he said. “I’m not scared to live on the streets if I have to. This is about being able to make a personal choice.”
He’s been hearing the same lectures for years.
“People say that marijuana is going to hurt my career. I say to them that on the contrary, my fight career is getting in the way of my marijuana smoking.”
He makes no apologies for lighting up Stockton’s finest which he considers to be some of the highest quality herb in the nation.
“When I go somewhere else you’ll see some stuff that literally looks like a weed and they’re hiding it and smuggling it,” Diaz said. “I was in Hawaii and people are selling fake weed and treating it like its crack. It’s kind of scary because where I’m from it’s pretty much legal.”
Diaz speaks of the free living mentality that prevails in Northern California.
“I’m pro marijuana, pro organic food, pro natural living. I don’t need much. I’m just grateful to be healthy and alive,” Diaz said. “I want the freedom to get high if I like. It’s one of the reasons I fight. For freedom to do what I want. That’s the bottom line.”
Diaz’s training regimen is certainly not suffering from his affection to T.H.C., he says.
“My typical day starts off with a thirty to fifty mile bike ride, then a five to seven mile run. After that I take a break. Then I go do a boxing workout and practice jujitsu five, six or sometimes seven days a week.”
His message to those who vilify his lifestyle?
“People need to lighten up. They fine me, they try to stop me from becoming famous but you know what?” said Diaz. “It’s too late. People stop me on the street all the time. It’s almost too much at this point.”
Diaz has reached a certain degree of fame that he feels has turned bothersome at times.
“I don’t get paid like a superstar. I don’t have an entourage or anything and I’m not some stuck up a*****e but for some drunk to be all over your face trying to talk fighting while I’m trying to kick back. It can get annoying.”
Oh, and what about his opponent for Saturday, K.J. Noons?
“Yeah he’s a tough fighter. I’ve seen quite a few of his fights. All the ones on Youtube mainly,” Diaz said. “I’m going to try to break him apart. Tear him down. Make sure you watch.”
As for his favorite smoke?
“I like different kinds. Especially the ones grown under the sun. The outdoor crops,” says Diaz. “Those have real healing powers.”
All I know is that if Diaz wins, that’ll be one heck of an after-party.
Catch Nick Diaz vs. KJ Noons for the EliteXC lightweight title on Showtime this Saturday from the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas. Also on the card will be Youtube sensation Kimbo Slice taking on Bo Cantrell and Jake Shields against Mike “Quicksand” Pyle. The action begins at 10:00 P.M. Pacific Time.
But the stoic Cotto (30-0, 25 KOs) is yet another marvelous fighter from that island with a population of about 4 million residents who seem to pop up every decade.
It’s Cotto’s turn to determine if he can be included in the pantheon of great Boricua fighters when he meets Sugar Shane Mosley (44-4, 35 KOs) at Madison Square Garden on Saturday Nov. 10.
HBO pay-per-view will telecast the WBA title fight called “Fast and Furious.”
How can a small island like Puerto Rico put out such great fighters in professional boxing?
“It’s a cultural thing,” said boxing promoter Bennie Georgino who’s seen a multitude of prizefighters evolve into stardom. “They love boxing.”
From that island have come a list of pugilists beginning in the Depression when Sixto Escobar captured the first world title. Then came one of the greatest lightweights to ever lace a glove in Carlos Ortiz and the superb light heavyweight Jose Torres during the 1960s. After that, the dam burst and Boricuas have emerged as a force in the boxing world.
Cotto is the newest to arrive and has slowly emerged from the murky waters of professional boxing to become a force in the welterweight division. The fighter is dripping with talent.
It was seven years ago during the 2000 Olympics held in Australia that Top Rank Promotions spotted Cotto among the many amateur stars and felt he was the true golden nugget of the group.
Todd Duboef, president of Top Rank, liked what he saw in Cotto though the Puerto Rican boxer immediately lost during the Olympic games.
“Todd always liked Cotto and believed he would be the greatest fighter to ever come out of Puerto Rico,” said Arum, adding that Cotto was beaten by Mohamed Abdulaev in the Olympics and enacted revenge five years later with a brutal knockout as a pro. “He was totally convinced of his talent.”
After five years of watching Cotto rummage through the junior welterweight division and now look even stronger as a welterweight, Arum is completely convinced his fighter will be considered among the other great Puerto Rican boxers.
“No question about it,” said Arum. “If he beats Sugar Shane Mosley he should be considered among the greatest Puerto Rican fighters.”
Better than Tito?
Whenever a comparison is made between Felix Trinidad and Cotto, a look of irritation crosses the WBA champion’s face.
“I’m not the next Trinidad,” Cotto, 27, says almost tiredly. “I’m Miguel Cotto.”
There’s not a more humble person than Cotto. But humble doesn’t mean he can’t fight. Inside the ring he morphs into a wrecking machine and all opponents should beware.
“Everybody knows Cotto has one of the best left hands in the business,” said Mosley, 36, a student of the sport and one of the more astute analyst in boxing. “And he likes to go to the body.”
Cotto never brags, boasts or belittles any opponent. It’s not his style.
“It will be an honor to face the great Shane Mosley,” is about as nasty as Cotto can offer.
Road to Sugar
It’s true that the Puerto Rican boxer hit road bumps along the way. It wasn’t always easy for Cotto.
Most of his detractors point to the problems Cotto had against DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley and Ricardo Torres, but forget about the convincing victories over Kelson Pinto, Mohamad Abdulaev and Paul Malignaggi.
Even those victories didn’t seem to raise the public’s consciousness of Cotto. Then stepped in New York’s Zab Judah. That proved to be the launching pad the Puerto Rican boxer needed.
“I think Zab Judah is more dangerous than Shane Mosley,” said Cotto, who cited that fighter’s southpaw stance and combination of speed and power as worrisome Judah weapons. “Shane Mosley is not faster than Judah.”
A converted southpaw, Cotto tucks in his chin tight and always moves forward with a high defensive guard and head movement. His mission is to hurt opponents in the ring and nothing else with those left hooks that look like a scythe cutting down wheat.
“My goal is always the same to go to the body,” said Cotto with as much simplicity and straight-forwardness as his boxing style. “I know Shane Mosley can take a punch. We’ll see.”
Judah was able to withstand almost 11 rounds of Cotto’s relentless and unmerciful attack. But even the former junior welterweight and welterweight champion had his limit. Now it’s Mosley’s turn.
Fight of the year written all over
Mosley comes from Pomona, a former farm area that changed from a sleepy country town in the 1950s into a suburban extension of Los Angeles with all its congestion and city elements including the rise of boxing.
The city grew from less than 20,000 to a bustling 155,000 people that have produced several world champions including Albert Davila, Richie Sandoval, Mike Weaver and now Shane Mosley.
Mosley is considered the best of all.
“Shane has always been a great fighter even when we were kids,” said Oscar De La Hoya who first faced the Pomona-based boxer when he was nine and Mosley 10. “He’s always had that speed and desire.”
Desire is something that Mosley possesses in abundance.
“I guarantee that Sugar Shane Mosley is going to win, no contest,” said Fernando Vargas who was beaten twice by Mosley. “I have nothing but respect for Shane.”
Even others who have not faced Mosley feel the former Pound for Pound king (circa 2000) is a notch above Cotto.
“The first time Shane hits Cotto he’s going to knock him out,” said current Pound for Pound king Floyd Mayweather. “Shane has too much experience.”
Regardless of who wins it should be exciting.
“This fight has Fight of the Year written all over it,” said Tony Walker, HBO’s pay-per-view coordinator who’s seen hundreds of title fights.
Cotto seeks to become one of a train-length of former world champions from Puerto Rico who have stamped their names with greatness like Escobar, Ortiz, Torres, Wilfredo Gomez, Wilfredo Benitez, and Trinidad.
“Shane Mosley has been a great champion for a long time,” says Cotto with nary a tint of sarcasm. “Now it’s my time.”
The title is certainly appropriate because most experts believe that the key components of the fight, which will be held at Madison Square Garden, will be the speed of Mosley vs. the furious pace that Mosley puts forth for every minute of every round.
What makes this fight so compelling is that anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of boxing could easily make a strong case for either fighter to win or lose.
At 35 years of age, Mosley, 44-4 (37 KOS), has fought a who’s who of champions and contenders. His only losses were to Vernon Forrest and Winky Wright, both of whom outpointed him twice.
While Forrest and Wright are the slickest and savviest of boxers, it is hard to imagine Mosley being out-machoed by anyone.
However, the 27-year-old Cotto, 30-0 (25 KOS), is no ordinary macho man. While he is significantly slower than Mosley, as he has been against many other opponents, he is an absolutely relentless offensive machine who gives no quarter and expects none in return.
A former junior welterweight title holder, he has been dropped several times but has always got off the canvas to come back and win in dramatic fashion.
TSS interviewed 22 boxing insiders to get their predictions on this intriguing fight. What is most interesting about the poll is how evenly divided the predictions are:
Tim Smith, New York Daily News: “Although Mosley has the kind of power to finally get Cotto’s respect, I think his (Mosley’s) speed and experience will be the key factors. Cotto is a relentless guy who walks through everyone, but he’s never met anyone with the speed, power and smarts that Mosley has.” Mosley by decision.
Steve Farhood, ShoBox: The New Generation commentator: “This is a 50-50 fight and I would have no trouble picking either guy. Cotto has more to prove because there are still some question marks with him. Mosley’s wins over (Fernando) Vargas don’t really mean much. I think Cotto will overcome a Mosley points lead by stepping it up in the second half of the bout.” Cotto by decision.
David Diaz, current WBC lightweight champion: “Cotto is younger, hungrier, and will put lots of pressure on Mosley. Mosley is a great fighter, but I have to give the edge to Cotto. He is non-stop pressure, and the older Mosley will have trouble with that.” Cotto by late round stoppage.
Gerry Cooney, former heavyweight title challenger: “In his day Mosley was a much more explosive fighter than he is now. All around I think he is a better fighter than Cotto, but Cotto is young, aggressive and a real banger. Mosley will probably make Cotto look bad, but he’s been in lots of tough fights. I don’t know if Mosley can keep up with Cotto for 12 rounds. I’m going to take youth over age in this one.” Cotto by decision.
Calvin Brock, heavyweight contender: “This is a real good boxing match that I’m really looking forward to seeing. If Mosley looks as good as he did against Vargas, he could win. But Cotto seems unstoppable. Cotto just keeps getting better and better and he’s relentless. He’s in great shape and he never gets tired.” Cotto by decision.
Andy Lee, undefeated middleweight prospect: “Shane will win a few rounds early, but Cotto will eventually find his rhythm. He’s too young and aggressive and has too much speed and power for Mosley.” Cotto by TKO 11.
George Peterson, trainer and manager of welterweight contender Paul Williams: “Mosley has much more experience and speed. Plus he’s never been hurt, except for maybe a second against Vernon Forrest, and he came back fighting. Mosley has the edge.” Mosley by decision.
John Scully, current trainer and former light heavyweight title challenger: “I don’t think Mosley is as long in the tooth as the Cotto people hope he is or that many people believe he is. Cotto won’t be able to break down Mosley the way he did Judah. I’m going for the upset and pick Mosley to win a decision.”
Eileen Olszewski, top female flyweight contender: “Cotto has been knocked down a few times, but he always gets up and wins. I think the fight will go 12 rounds and that Cotto will win a decision.”
Joey Gamache, former WBA lightweight champion: “Cotto is too young and too determined, so I think he will win by decision or late round knockout.”
Sean Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief, Boxing Digest magazine: “Mosley needs to gets off with body shots to be effective. If I was Cotto, I’d be wary of Mosley’s body attack. Cotto will probably wear Mosley down and win a decision.” Cotto by decision.
Emile Griffith, multi-division champion: “This is a hard fight to pick, but I’m going with Cotto’s youth and undefeated record over Mosley’s experience. Cotto will somehow keep his undefeated record.”
Iran Barkley, multi-division champion: “This is a tough fight that is hard to call. I could see it going either way. This is a pick-em fight, but if you’re forcing me to make a pick I guess I have to go with Cotto, but not with a lot of faith.” Cotto by decision.
Bruce Silverglade, owner of Gleason’s Gym: “Style-wise this is an easy fight for Mosley. I was ringside when Cotto beat Zab Judah, and he looked very tough. But Mosley is an altogether different character. I think Mosley will stop Cotto late.”
Hector Roca, trainer: “This is a great fight, a toss-up. Mosley is very slick and Cotto is very tough. Cotto has problems with guys who move, like Paulie Malignaggi. He wasn’t able to stop him (Malignaggi), even though he beat him. Mosley will win a decision.”
Melissa “Hurricane” Hernandez, multi-division female champion: “I’m a huge Cotto fan, but Mosley is smart enough to box him. Cotto might stop him, but I have to pick Mosley by decision.”
Alicia Ashley, female super bantamweight contender: “Mosley is pretty fast, but will probably get caught by Cotto. I think Cotto will win handily by decision.”
Dave Selwyn: manager of female boxers Eileen Olszewski, Christy Nickel and Ronica Jeffrey: “Cotto will be Mosley’s toughest fight since Oscar De La Hoya. At this point of their careers, Cotto is younger and fresher.” Cotto by decision.
Tommy Dades, head coach at the Park Hill PAL Gym in Staten Island, New York, and lead investigator in the notorious Mafia Cops case: “Mosley is stronger, faster and more experienced. Cotto is an excellent fighter, but he hasn’t fought anyone like Mosley.” Mosley by decision.
Termite Watkins, former junior welterweight title challenger: “Cotto is a great young fighter who should probably win. But if anyone is going to upset him, it will be Mosley who is tested, proven, strong and fast.” Mosley by decision.
Teddy B. Blackburn: photographer: “If Mosley beat Oscar (De La Hoya) twice, he can beat Cotto once. Mosley by split decision in a very competitive fight.”
Bob Mladinich, TSS: “In almost every fight I have a good idea who the winner will be, even if I’m dead wrong. What makes this fight so great is the fact that I can’t pick a winner with any confidence at all. Even as I’m writing this I’m conflicted, but something tells me that Mosley will utilize his enormous offensive and defensive arsenal to win a hard fought decision.” Mosley by decision.
With that in mind, I thought it would be nice to let Joe Calzaghe smell the roses, let him savor his 21st title defense.
Time to ponder what's next for "Slappy Joe." (And you know, Joe, I use that tag with good humor, with full comprehension that even if you don't subscribe to the "shortest distance between two points is a straight line" dictum, you are still an ace boxer.)
It's looking like a fight with Bernard Hopkins, the wily vet from Philadelphia, is in the cards for Slappy's next one. The bout would be held up north, at 175 pounds, as Slappy would wave bye bye to 168, for a meaningful match at light heavy.
Meaningful, that is, if money is the main consideration. And since this is boxing, and a fighter's life is on the line every time, he should be well compensated.
There must be ample reward for putting your head on the chopping block. I'm all for it. But.
I'm not feeling a Calzaghe/Hopkins match.
I think it would be a plug ugly festival of slapping and holding, grabbing and ducking. The money, of course, won't be plug ugly. From a money standpoint, this match makes the most sense.
Hopkins is the only obvious option for Slappy from the economic standpoint. Roy Jones would've commanded same-neighborhood money, but he and Tito Trinidad are due to tangle on January 19, so his eyes are on that prize.
Hopkins, no fool, is keen to fight another boxer who cannot hurt him, for another tasty payday.
"He said after the fight that he would fight me anywhere, even in my backyard, but I'm not asking him to come to Philadelphia," Hopkins said to Dan Rafael of ESPN.com. "I wouldn't ask him to come to anywhere but Yankee Stadium. Hopefully for boxing, and for our legacy, it will happen."
I'm not on board with Bernard, for the good of boxing, or for the legacy. For the retirement accounts of both, yes.
From the legacy standpoint, Joe has few good options. He beats Bernard, which he will, because Bernard will throw about half as many punches as Kessler did, and he didn't throw nearly enough, and people shrug.
Eh, you beat a 42-year-old man. Same thing with a win over Jones.
Shrug. You beat an old guy.
Glen Johnson, same deal, only it's a harder fight, for less money. Same goes for Clint Woods, the IBF 175 pound champ. Money would be OK, cause he's a Brit, but at this juncture, Slappy can pick and choose, and he's going to choose a name. It won't be Lucian Bute, who has the IBF's 168 pound strap that Joe tossed to fight Peter Manfredo, though if I were his promoter, I'd be squawk real, real loud, and beefing why everyone's calling Joe C the undisputed, unified 168 pound champion. Unified, to be, means owning every damned belt out there. Shoot, Bute, wouldn't you like a crack at THE MAN at 168? Or maybe he knows he wouldn't stand a chance against Slappy Joe?
Chad Dawson makes tons of sense, from everything from a money standpoint, so to request Calzaghe fight the Connecticut -based WBC light heavy king would be a waste of time. Anyway, the name I'm thinking of is Kelly Pavlik. Let's go out on a limb and say Pavlik beats Taylor in their February rematch. Wouldn't you like to see how Pavlik trudges forward through Slappy's tosses?
He's young, so no one could say anything about Slappy beating on a faded vet. Pavlik is 25, a Top Rank fighter, so they could help manufacture Calzaghe/Pavlik scrap into a superfight in 2008. The money wouldn't maybe be as much as Slappy could get for Hopkins, but how much does money matter?
I know, dumb question...
Calzaghe seems like he's leaning towards the fight with the best risk/reward ratio, with Hopkins.
"Hopkins is 42 but the guy is like a freak with regards to age. He's in great shape, lives healthily, is very professional, and is in great condition," said Calzaghe to Gareth Davies of the UK Telegraph. "He's proved himself to be the No 1 in the division. I want to go up to 175lb and fight the best. It was great fighting in front of a home crowd, but I can't see him coming to Cardiff. I'll fight him anywhere."
Slappy, here's a deal for you.
Chuck the Hopkins idea.
Take the winner of Pavlik/Taylor, and I'll throw you this bone.
I won't call you Slappy Joe anymore.
I know it ain't a mint, but it's the best I can do.
Give us fans a compelling matchup against a young buck in his physical prime, as Kessler is. That's the best you can do.
The Queens, NY based Jaidon Codrington (168 pounds, 23-years-old), with an 18-1 (14 KOs) record, met Aussie resident Sakio Bika (167 1/2, 32-years-old, 24-3-2 (15 KOs) in the tournament final, a match pitting the prospect with a black-mark KO on his ledger against a wily vet who hadn't been able to lift himself to that top echelon when given the opportunity.
To heck with expectations, because this fight, which featured back and forth knockdowns in the first, was the fight of the year in 2007, an ebb and flow drama from the first to the eighth and final round.
In the eighth round, Codrington ate clubbing rights, and couldn't get off the ropes as Bika threw home run tosses. Codrington was almost out, but held on briefly. Bika shoved him off, and looked to get back to finishing. Referee Dick Flaherty halted the bout as Codrington turned his back and walked away from Bika, and toward his corner, unable to absorb any more punishment.
The official time was 2:18.
Codrington shed tears as he was declared the TKO loser, and realized that Bika would be leaving with the $750,000 winner's purse.
Think I'm sippin' the Kool Aid, cause I do work for the company? Brian Kenny, a credible voice, said, "It's probably the best fight I've ever seen."
Codrington was classy after, calling Bika a warrior. He said he thought he had Bika out three or four times. You knew he was OK, too, after he managed to toss in a shoutout plug for his vitamin company.
In the seventh round, any viewer had to be leaning forward. Anyone could go at any time, it was clear. Bika was still strong, and Codrington still chose to trade, unwisely so. This was a pretty tight one, with Bika probably the winner here because he had Codrington rattled. "Don't get in a shootout," McGirt told Codrington.
In the sixth round, both men took a breather for the first minute. Then Bika went to the body, twice in a row, and landed a left hook. Codrington had been moving more, but not throwing too. His mouth hung open but he still traded haymakers as the round came to a close.
At the middle point, in the fifth, Codrington landed a left hook that dented Bika. Later, Bika landed a right uppercut that hurt his foe. Codrington was almost out on his feet at the end of the round, his legs were almost toast.
In the fourth round, Bika trapped Codrington on the ropes, and threatened a stoppage, as he rained punches on the younger man. Jaidon nailed Bika with a short right in tight, but Bika was busier.
The third round saw Bika throwing bombs. Would he punch himself out, or catch Codrington on the end of a fierce toss? Codrington didn't keep the bomber at bay with a strong jab, and looked tentative, like the pressure was weighing on him.
In the second, things stabilized after the wild first. This round was fought more like a typical first round, until the last minute, when Bika started landing some power shots. Codrington looked in a precarious state again at the end of the round.
In the first, Bika scored a knockdown with a smashing right, which tossed Codrington off his feet. He was up, with clear eyes, quickly. Codrington and Bika went at it, with Codrington's back to the ropes, when The Don left rip a nifty left hook that sent Bika to the mat. He got up quickly, but his legs looked jellied. Bika held on for his professional life, and it looked like he might make the end of the round, as Codrington burned out some.
Bika got his legs back enough to land a left hook of his own, and the round came to a close. Codrington did himself no favors by head hunting too much, because Bika still had enough faculties to slip and duck. Bika, by the way, committed an obvious foul when he struck Codrington twice while he was on the floor.
Buddy McGirt worked Codrington's corner, while Pepe Correa worked with Bika in the scheduled ten rounder. Amateur psychologists may have been interested to see Codrington look away from Bika during the stare down.
Hearts had to be on Codrington's side, as the fighter was told his dad Jamsey killed himself was he was filming the show. Bika said he was fighting hard for the grand prize so he could give his son a superb education, and buy his family in Cameroon a home. Harvard, here the kid comes.
In the semifinal showdown, Aussie Sam Soliman (165 pounds, 34-10, 13 KOs) met up with New Jersey's Wayne Johnsen (168, 17-2, 9 KOs). Soliman is a swarmer, with an awkward, herky jerky style. Johnsen looked out of sorts, a bit, as the whirlwind touched down on him. There were some sloppy moments, with some grabbing and grappling. This was Boston after all--I half expected bird of a feather John Ruiz to be working Soliman's corner.
"He does everything but take your wallet," Atlas said of the grabby Aussie. "How do you spell ugly, as in ugly fight?" Atlas asked. "I would say it is S-O-L-I-M-A-N. He makes ugly beautiful, as far as he's concerned."
Watching him, I wonder how the heck, or why the heck, Winky Wright was ever persuaded to give Soliman a shot.
Johnsen's last outing, he was knocked out by Jaidon Codrington in the first round, so he was probably happy he was in with a light hitter in Soliman, to look on the bright side. The stats showed Soliman in front, with a 145 to 69 edge in punches landed.
The judges were put to use, and they saw Soliman the winner, 59-55, 60-54, 60-54. Atlas scored it 60-54, Soliman.
The show kicked off with David Banks (163 pounds, 14-3-1, 2 KOs coming in, from Portland, Oregon) meeting Donny McCrary (163, 23-6-2, 13 KOs, from St. Joseph, Missouri) in a six rounder middleweight attraction.
Banks cracked Donny with rights from the start, which made him blink, but McCrary kept coming. Teddy Atlas mentioned that Banks' two wins over Elvin Ayala was perhaps helping him mentally, as Ayala just had a draw with season one winner Sergio Mora.
By the way, these fighters were working with their normal cornermen, not Buddy McGirt and Pepe Correa, the show's helmsmen.
McCrary looked urgent in the sixth, knowing he needed a KO, probably, to get the nod. Banks has the quicker hands, and better footwork, and that spoke to the judges. The crowd was jazzed at the action, and the men hugged hard aft the closing bell. Stat-wise, Banks landed more (167-165) but McCrary threw more (422-399). Atlas had it 59-56, while the judges saw it 57-57, 58-56, 58-56, for Banks.
SPEEDBAG Brian Kenny talked to Pats d-back Rodney Harrison, who gave boxers props. He said he and his wife hit bouts in AC, and said he tried boxing this past offseason. He couldn't last a round in there. You may know that Teddy Atlas has acted as a mentor and motivator to the NY Jets, a Patriots rival. The Jets are having a rough go of it: they are 1-8, while the Pats sit pretty at 9-0. Maybe Teddy can get one of his former clients to whack the Jets around, and help 'em snap out of it.
--Irish Micky Ward took in the action at the Gahden.
Back in the early eighties, I’d met Gersh when he was managing 1976 Olympic gold medalist Howard Davis Jr. He was a straight shooter who, during the short time he worked with Davis, resurrected his stagnating career.
Although Gersh is an academic who graduated with advanced degrees from New York University, he made his fortune in real estate and the creation of West Hills Day Camp, which has been an institution in Huntington, Long Island, for five decades.
Throughout his life he has loved boxing more than any of his other passions, of which there are many.
As a penniless student at NYU, Gersh, who fought as Eddie Irwin (Irwin is his middle name), won the New York City Golden Gloves Open Heavyweight Title in 1943. To this day, he is the only Jewish fighter to ever do so.
Just recently, Gersh addressed more than 5,000 graduates at Radio City Music Hall when he received a Distinguished Alumni Award from his alma mater.
After serving in the armed forces during World War II, Gersh, still fighting as Eddie Irwin, had a brief professional career. Over the course of just two months in 1945, he compiled a 4-0-1 (2 KOS) record.
His first and last pro fights were at Madison Square Garden, both against the much more experienced Tony Gillo. When Gersh squared off against Gillo in his pro debut, Gillo was a veteran of 44 bouts.
Had Gersh known that at the time, it wouldn’t have mattered. “I never knew who I was going to fight, and I really didn’t care,” he said. “I left that up to my manager.”
Gersh gave up fighting for a number of reasons, all of which he explains in his wonderful autobiography, “A Strong Collected Spirit: A Fighter’s Memoir,” which he co-wrote with Stuart Murray.
A gifted athlete, Gersh grew up poor and utilized sports as his ticket out of poverty. Besides finding success in the ring, Gersh was a superb football player and later an assistant football coach at NYU.
Because Gersh has worn so many hats during his nine decades on this earth, it is hard to keep track of them all. Among other things, he was the disciplinary dean for many years at one of Spanish Harlem’s toughest public schools.
Gersh utilized his own brand of discipline, most of which would be frowned upon today, to earn the respect of the most difficult students. One of those students, Wilfred Avellez, became a professional heavyweight boxer.
Between various prison stints, Avellez compiled a 12-5 (5 KOS) mark from 1959 to 1964.
“I was the most stabilizing force in his life,” said Gersh. “Anytime he was with me, he was okay. When he wasn’t with me, he would get into trouble. One time he started a riot in a minimum security prison, so they sent him to a maximum security prison. Because Wilfred is such a born leader, they put him in solitary for the last two weeks of his sentence so he couldn’t influence the general population.”
Avellez is now over 65 and lives in a home near Gersh’s day camp. In the summer, he teaches children how to fish and ride horses.
“I always saw something in him that other people didn’t,” said Gersh. “He is a wonderful person and a wonderful teacher. The kids love him.”
As much as Gersh loved the world of academia, he wanted more out of life than being a teacher or school administrator could provide. In mid-1950s, he and others scraped together enough money to establish the day camp. Although they hit one roadblock after another, Gersh, being the fighter that he is, persevered.
He eventually made a fortune through camping and real estate, which enabled him to get back to boxing in a big way in the early 1980s. Although he had been a longtime professional wrestling referee, boxing had always been nearest and dearest to his heart.
In later years, however, it would bring him no shortage of grief.
He writes of being betrayed by Davis and other championship caliber fighters like Darrin “Schoolboy” Van Horn, who briefly held a super middleweight world title, and “Fearless” Freddie Pendleton, a talented but hard-luck lightweight with a losing record who Gersh transformed into a top contender and eventual world champion.
This great book has something for everyone. Those who love old New York will relish Gersh’s anecdotes about growing up in the world’s greatest city, his forays to the fabled Gleason’s and Stillman’s Gyms, and his time at NYU.
Equally interesting are his descriptions of East Harlem in the 1950s, when Italian and Puerto Rican gangs were battling each other over turf. Gersh was in the middle of this evolving social saga, which he describes vividly and colorfully.
Equally compelling is the daunting task of doing business with promoters like Don King, Bob Arum, the Duva family and Cedric Kushner, all of which is covered in entertaining and illuminating fashion.
It is obvious that Gersh is a savvy businessman, but trying to gain entry into the small and unfriendly fraternity of major boxing promoters was more than he bargained for.
As much as Gersh loves the sport of boxing, he abhors the business aspect of it. His third wife, Holli, to whom he’s been married for 20 years, couldn’t agree more.
“The business of boxing is terrible, no question about it,” she said. “My husband says he has to conquer the urge to get back into boxing. I conquer the urge for him.”
As rich as Gersh is from a financial, familial, emotional and logistical standpoint, you can’t help but think that he looks back nostalgically to simpler times, when as poor and struggling as he was he could always find refuge in a boxing ring.
Few people have lived life with the gusto, relish and personal integrity that Gersh has. What makes him so endearing, and his book so whimsical and readable, is that he seems to have spent his entire life doing the right thing.
“I’ve lost a lot of money promoting fights and managing fighters,” said Gersh, whose Manhattan apartment was owned by the late Howard Cosell. “But I loved every minute of it, and I would do it all over again if the right fighter came along.”
“A Strong Collected Spirit: A Fighter’s Memoir” can be purchased on-line at Amazon.com or Beekmanbooks.com.
In front of 50,014 fans at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Saturday evening, Joe Calzaghe produced a fiery display of boxing to outpoint the previously undefeated Mikkel Kessler and finally earn recognition as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet.
All three judges voted in favour of Calzaghe, with Raul Caiz rendering a 117-111 verdict, while John Stewart and Massimo Barrovecchio scored it 116-112.
Despite making 20 defenses of his WBO title, critics continually dismissed the quality of Calzaghe’s opposition, but on Saturday the Welshman overcame an exceptional opponent who entered the ring with an impressive 39-0 (29) record.
“Mikkel is one of the toughest fighters I’ve ever fought,” said Calzaghe after the fight. “He is an excellent fighter and he’s going to come back when I’m gone, but tonight was my night.”
“This is the best night I’ve ever had in boxing,” claimed Calzaghe’s promoter Frank Warren. “Joe is the best fighter I’ve ever been involved with. He makes fights that he could win easily hard because of his fighting heart.”
Having thoroughly dominated the best fighters in the 168-pound division, Calzaghe now wants to fight only the sport’s most recognized names.
“Dig up the old guys like [light heavyweights] Roy Jones and [Bernard] Hopkins,” declared Calzaghe. “I’m looking at fighting for another twelve months and I want to fight the big fights. When I add the seven pounds on, there’ll be proper destruction.”
“We want Hopkins and the TV companies should make it happen,” demanded Warren at the post-fight press conference, while pointing at HBO’s head of sports programming, Kery Davis. “Whatever way Hopkins wants it he can have it. He can pick the weight, the date and the town.”
But in the immediate term Calzaghe said that he just wants to relax and let his body rest after Saturday’s frenetic twelve rounds of action.
The bout was fought at a swift pace throughout, with Calzaghe forced to adapt to the sharp accuracy of the powerful Dane. Calzaghe, 44-0 (32), was unable to consistently unleash the speedy flurries that have highlighted his title reign as Kessler utilized a stinging jab and fierce right uppercut that disrupted the champion’s rhythm. But the adoption of more conventional tactics eventually led to Calzaghe out-landing Kessler with increasing frequency as the bout progressed.
“I felt I could have won the fight a lot more comfortably than I did,” maintained Calzaghe. “When I was sticking to boxing and using my jab, I felt my jab was doing great things. He caught me with some good punches and stung me a few times. I could have run but I stood toe-to-toe. I wanted to give the crowd their money’s worth.”
“Joe is a great fighter,” stated Kessler. “When I tried to punch in combination and get away, he would not let me throw all the punches [that I wanted to]. Tonight was his night.”
The spacious sports venue may have been rather chilly as the fighters made their way to the ring, but the contest took little time to warm up as Kessler quickly established his sharp jab, repeatedly tagging Calzaghe on the forehead. Yet the Welshman answered back with his southpaw lead left hand to force Kessler onto the defensive.
Kessler’s jab continued to find the mark in the second, stymieing Calzaghe’s attempted salvos. In a possible sign of frustration, Calzaghe dropped his hands and goaded Kessler to attack. The Dane, 168 pounds, accepted the offer and tagged Calzaghe with a hard right hand, but Joe responded with a trademark flurry at the round’s end.
The third round saw Calzaghe display the form that brought him the stunning victory against Jeff Lacy. After launching an attack that saw Kessler lose balance and tumble to the canvas, Calzaghe unleashed a series of raid-fire combinations that had Mikkel reeling on the ropes. The Welshman then began taunting his taller foe, but Kessler responded with a stiff jab-right hand combination that earned Calzaghe’s respect.
Kessler’s most potent weapon, the right uppercut, became a factor in the contest during the fourth round when the punch landed flush on Calzaghe’s chin. The blow saw Calzaghe on the back foot and a second accurate uppercut late in the frame silenced the formerly boisterous crowd.
The Copenhagen native enjoyed more success with the right hand in the fifth, sending sweat spraying from the 35-year-old champion on numerous occasions as Calzaghe seemed bemused at Kessler’s composed assaults. Nonetheless, he absorbed Kessler’s precise blows and managed to get his own jab working in the latter half of the round, landing it with increased frequency.
“I studied Joe and a number of his fights,” revealed Kessler. “I hit him with some cleans shots in the fourth and fifth rounds, but he has a great chin.”
Calzaghe, who had been standing in his corner between rounds, decided to sit on his stool after the fifth as his agitated father/trainer Enzo shouted, “Are you all right? Wake up! Wake up!”
A more conservative approach from Calzaghe saw him enjoy success with his jab and straight left cross in the following round. Even though Kessler did not appear to be visibly hurt, he later revealed that a Calzaghe body shot caused him some trouble.
“I had a problem in the sixth due to a body shot,” admitted the 28-year-old. “That made the last six rounds very hard.”
The swift tempo of the bout continued in the seventh with Calzaghe, 166 1⁄2 pounds, managing to avoid Kessler’s venomous uppercuts. The eight round saw momentum switch between the fighters as Kessler unloaded with heavy three-punch combinations in the early stages before a sharp left hand from Calzaghe sent Kessler onto the retreat.
The ninth and tenth rounds saw a continuation of the battle between Calzaghe’s frequent straight lefts and Kessler’s thudding right hands, with the Welshman’s superior volume the deciding factor in the scoring.
“Maybe I should have punched more,” reflected Kessler. “I should have used more combinations instead of trying to punch hard.”
Kessler rallied in the eleventh, shutting down Calzaghe’s attacks with a stiff jab, but Joe still managed to maintain a frenetic work rate.
The champion showed signs of fatigue in the final frame, with a solid right uppercut from Kessler punctuating the round. Calzaghe attempted to raise his hands in a victory salute in the closing twenty seconds but Kessler launched a last-ditch attack in an unsuccessful attempt to grab the victory.
“Obviously, he was very strong and I got a bit tired at the end,” acknowledged Calzaghe. “But I threw over a thousand punches. When I get hurt I come back even stronger. That’s why I’ve been champion for so long.”
In the main undercard attraction, highly-touted cruiserweight Enzo Maccarinelli successfully defended his WBO title, stopping Mohamed Azzaoui in the fourth round.
Maccarinelli took control of the fight from the start, utilizing his long jab to put Azzaoui on the defensive. The New Zealand-based challenger offered little offence, hiding behind a high guard while circling away from Maccarinelli’s vaunted right cross.
The Welshman, 29-1 (21), was content to keep Azzaoui at bay with the jab, while constantly threatening with the left hook.
The pattern continued until the fourth when Maccarinelli, perhaps buoyed by Azzaoui’s lack of aggression, began putting more weight into his right hand. Azzaoui, 22-1-2 (8), managed to evade Maccarinelli’s initial attacks, but he was unable to block a heavy left hook that landed just under his elbow.
Azzaoui crumpled to the canvas clutching his side and was counted out by Dave Parris at 58 seconds of the round.
Other undercard bouts:
Light heavyweight: Harry Miles W4 Mark Phillips
Super middleweight: Nathan Cleverley W8 Joey Vegas
Light heavyweight: Tony Bellew KO3 Adam Wilcox
Super featherweight: Ricky Burns W6 Yousef Al Hamidi
Middleweight: Kerry Hope W4 Ernie Smith
Middleweight: Thomas Povslen W6 Lee Noble
Light heavyweight: Anders Hugger W6 Hastings Rasani
Light welterweight: Barrie Jones W8 Silence Saheed