The fight has been agreed to, in principle, and will take place on in either Las Vegas or New York.
The 25-year-old Berto (23-0) told TSS that he’s pumped up for the scrap, and thinks the style matchup will give fans good bang for their buck. The fight will run on "free" HBO.
“I’m an exciting fighter, and I need to be fighting exciting opponents,” said Berto, who acknowledged that he’s itching to test himself and take on a superstar. “Me and Mosley have similar styles, we get touched and we give back two, three, four shots. He has speed and power like me. People had been talking about Shane against Floyd Mayweather. This is the next best thing.”
The 37-year-old Mosley (45-5) told TSS that some Ts need to be crossed, but he is pretty certain the old guard versus new guard tussle will take place. He applauds Berto for taking the match. “Accepting a fight like this, it’s the mark of a true warrior,” he said, as he offered the theory that Margarito’s decision not to fight him came more from promoter Bob Arum than himself.
When asked to compare Berto to someone he’s taken on in his 15-year pro career, he didn’t hesitate. “Myself. I told Richard Schaefer and Eric Gomez that this fight is probably harder for me than Margarito.”
TSS asked Berto about that contention, and the Floridian agreed. “From his perspective, he’d have the speed advantage over Margarito,” Berto said. “It’s easier to fight a straight-forward guy, you saw that with Hopkins facing Pavlik.”
“Comparing himself to me, that’s a compliment. I was telling friends not that long ago, Shane Mosley was my favorite fighter. Now he’s my opponent.”
Thanks to Tim Struby, ESPN The Magazine writer, for putting us in touch with Berto. A Struby feature on Berto will run in ESPN Mag in January.
Word must have gotten out that Pacquiao’s training camp is tighter than Fort Knox because there were less than 100 fans of Pacman, but more than 100 reporters. Something was wrong in Hollywood.
Let’s back track.
On Monday, I woke up earlier than usual so I could prepare for a long day. I picked up fellow boxing writer Ronan Keenan of Ireland in a Riverside hotel, then we trekked across Riverside and San Bernardino counties on our way to the city of dreams, Hollywood.
Keenan traveled from his native town of Dublin to the Ultimate Fighting Championship fight card last Saturday, and then flew to California to take a look at the hefty boxing scene of Southern California.
It’s been around 90 degrees the last week.
Our first destination was a Hollywood Greek restaurant near the Paramount movie studios where we expected to have lunch with a few reporters and Top Rank’s Bob Arum. The reporters showed up for the delicious food at La Petite Greek, but no Arum. Replacing the super promoter was Todd DuBoef, president of the company.
After an hour of lunch, we all jumped in our cars at around 1 PM and headed for the Wild Card, which is located about a half mile from the restaurant. It was packed with cars so we parked a few blocks away.
Walking up the staircase of the Wild Card I spotted a few of the hardcore boxing fans I usually see at the big events. These are the fans I love. They come to most of the fights and they’re the lifeblood of the sport. Without these diehards boxing would be lost.
Inside the boxing gym that first was built by Hollywood star Mickey Rourke (who has a great movie coming out called The Wrestler), a number of the best boxing journalists on the West Coast are assembled. Television cameras are everywhere and the main part of the gym is rather empty. It’s because Manny is in the other room where about 100 reporters are squished in trying to interview Freddie Roach or Pacquiao.
Keenan and I hung in the back. No sense fighting the hordes of hell for nothing. Lee Samuels and Ricardo Jimenez, two of the top public relations specialists in the sport, spot me waiting for the others to finish their huddle with Roach. They motion me over so I can get a closer spot to speak with the boxing guru Roach.
Roach is one of the nicest guys in the sport and has always been very giving of his time. In this interview he revealed to the two dozen reporters that he does not like Oscar De La Hoya’s new trainer Nacho Beristain.
“He’s an (donkey),” said Roach.
Now Roach rarely, I mean rarely gets mad at anybody. It’s like waiting for an eclipse of the sun. Don’t hold your breath.
The boxing trainer related how one day he wanted to take a photo with Beristain and the famed Mexican trainer shrugged him off and made a comment in Spanish that when translated meant he was trying to have sex.
Roach fumed while telling the story.
“That was disrespectful,” he said. "(Forget) him.”
One thing about Roach, he does not lie.
In boxing you learn who are the truthful fellows and who likes to exaggerate. You also learn who would rather die than lie and those who avoid answering anything. It’s part of being a journalist to determine where your interviewees fall.
Roach is very honest.
There have been secrets he’s shared with me that I will never reveal because I know he said them in trust. Boxing is better because of guys like him.
After speaking to Roach, it was the Pound for Pound champion’s turn.
If you’ve talked to Pacquiao more than a few times you know what to expect from the boxing super star.
He’s a humble cat.
Now, he would never say 'I’m going to crush Oscar De La Hoya' because he knows he’s fighting one of the living legends of the sport. Pacman has class. A lot of class.
“I cannot comment on that, I can only comment on myself,” said Pacquiao when asked to comment something De La Hoya said during his media day last week.
About 45 minutes later the interviews are over and the speedy boxer begins his paces in the gym. First he warms up, then hits the speed bag, then finally jumps in the ring, without a shirt on, and looks like he’s ready to fight on the spot.
This guy was a flyweight?
Pacquiao looks ripped, and like he’s been fighting at welterweight his entire life. But still, he is much shorter than any welterweight I’ve seen on the elite level.
Working on his punches he displays the speed of a machine gun spitting punches like bullets in the air. He’s quick.
After a few rounds, Roach puts on the green padded body harness that he uses to allow Pacquiao to hit him with body punches. The trainer looks good working with his protégé.
While looking at the super fast Filipino boxer I think of all the great Filipino fighters of the past. My grandfather was stationed in the Philippines during World War II and always had a fondness for the people and the islands. Now 94, he still likes to talk about the great Filipino fighters of the past who he saw fight at the Olympic Auditorium and in the various Southern California arenas.
He’s never seen Pacquiao live but he can imagine how good he is if many are claiming he’s not only the best ever Filipino boxer, but probably the best fighter Asia has ever produced.
On December 6, at the MGM Grand, the world might see if he’s one of the greatest fighters the world has ever seen if he beats De La Hoya.
Paulie Malignaggi disagrees. The man who will be challenging Hatton for supremacy in the 140-pound division Saturday night thinks what will shorten his career is far more simplistic than that.
“(Hatton’s lifestyle) is not something that’s going to help him at the end of the day but I don’t look into that stuff,’’ Malignaggi said. “I just know on fight night he’s ready to fight.
“I think the way he gets punched in the face is what will shorten his career. The amount of punches he takes is more of a concern than what he does outside the ring. Ricky Hatton is what he is. He’ll fight like he fights.
“I don’t care what his plan is. Everyone has a plan until he gets punched in the mouth. Saturday night he’ll get punched in the mouth. Then we’ll see.’’
Malignaggi (25-1, 5 KO) knows as much about defense as any fighter in the world today. He became a junior welterweight champion because of his mastery of it and he gave up that hard-earned world title for the opportunity to face a man who, to be kind, believes defense is something that goes around de-yard.
Ricky Hatton is many things. He is a powerful puncher, a hyper-aggressive proponent of pleasing the crowd by displeasing his opponents and is one of the most popular fighters in the world because of it. What he will never be, however, is confused with Willie Pep.
In an attempt to shore up the defensive part of his game after being stopped by Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and then looking less than overwhelming in a fight in which he took far more punishment than seemed necessary to subdue Juan Lezcano in his last outing, Hatton hired Floyd Mayweather, Sr. to replace his long-time trainer, Billy Graham, in an effort to shore up his long vulnerable defense.
Mayweather claims to be the world’s greatest trainer and a professor of the manly art of self-defense. That may well be, Malignaggi countered Tuesday, but just because you can teach defense doesn’t mean your student is capable of mastering it.
“You can teach someone anything but you have to be born with natural radar (to be an effective defensive fighter),’’ Malignaggi said. “Ricky Hatton has absolutely no sense of anticipation. You can teach him all of the defense you want but Ricky Hatton is awful defensively.
“He doesn’t deal with speed well. Speed bothers him. If there’s one thing you think of when you think of Paulie Malignaggi it’s speed. I always had natural speed.’’
Hatton insists he has speed as well. Or at least more defensive abilities than he’s shown in his last few outings, or eve on the night he was nearly beaten by lightly-regarded Luis Collazo in Boston when Hatton made his first, brief foray into the welterweight division.
Collazo, who is not considered especially heavy handed, got off the floor to rock Hatton several times and leave his face marked up and swollen by the end of what proved to be a tight victory for the then undefeated Brit.
Since then it has more and more seemed that the result of a Ricky Hatton fight was that his hand was raised and his face was braised. Global warming may be threatening the environment but the night after a Hatton fight his face is so covered with ice bags he’d never know it.
“I do have this boxing ability nobody seems to see,’’ Hatton (44-1, 31 KO) insisted. “Floyd has brought it to the fore.
“I admit my last few fights there hasn’t been a lot of method to the madness but sometimes Ricky Hatton doesn’t show all the boxing ability he has. I’ve got this (defensive) ability but at times I haven’t used it.’’
Malignaggi doesn’t believe Saturday night will be one of those times. He is convinced that although he lacks any significant punching power (as witnessed by his five knockouts in 26 fights) he will still be able to pummel Hatton until his features are barely recognizable.
His punches may only carry the sting of a bee but put your head inside a beehive for long enough and eyes begin to swell, noses begin to run and pain begins to mount.
Inflicting such pain is now Malignaggi’s goal. Originally he was talking the more standard “I just want to win the fight’’ but after hearing that the champion had said he would retire if he couldn’t beat the likes of Malignaggi, well, the bee began to buzz.
Hatton tried to clarify that statement Tuesday when he said he was not questioning his challenger’s ability, only pointing out that “I just look at what he’s got in his arsenal and what I’ve got in my arsenal and I should beat him.
“A fighter has to be honest with himself. If I don’t perform I gotta look at things a little closer.’’
If Paulie Malignaggi is right about what he sees in Ricky Hatton, the champion may have to wait a few days for the swelling to go down to be able to do that.
“My basic game plan is to beat his butt,’’ Malignaggi said. ‘It doesn’t matter. Inside, Outside. I do it with speed. I’m going to beat his butt.
“He can have whoever he wants in his corner. Saturday night he’s not going to win the fight. Look at his resume. He’s been in with a lot of names. The problem is other than Mayweather and Collazo they were all 100 years old when he fought them. Paulie Malignaggi is only the third guy in his whole career he fought who was in his prime and still had all his tools.’’
It is Malignaggi’s opinion that when he begins to use those tools, all of them will be running at high speed. A speed Ricky Hatton will once again find out he cannot match.
When he does, Malignaggi says, he will forget all about whatever Floyd Mayweather, Sr. has been trying to teach him and return to a familiar, face-first style and when he does, his challenger will be waiting for him.
Waiting to make his face as unrecognizable as possible.
But Caballero isn’t really buying into this home-field advantage hogwash. If he thought a fighter got a big edge by staying home and fighting in his own back yard, he probably wouldn’t be catching a plane out of Panama City to fly to Ontario, Canada in mid-November. The only reason most people might go north into Canada at this time of year is to catch a hockey game, visit friends or maybe ice fish. You don‘t visit Canada for its warm beaches.
Caballero is flying north to both defend his WBA super-bantamweight title and to win the IBF belt presently in the frozen grasp of Steve Molitor, the undefeated “Canadian Kid.”
Unification is a pretty thing.
According to the people who keep track of these things, Friday night’s 12-round title unification fight at Casino Rama will be the first of its kind in the eight-year history of ShoBox, and the first unification bout ever hosted by Canada. Along with being televised in the United States, the fight will also be shown across Canada on TSN.
“It doesn‘t really affect me going to Canada,” said Caballero (30-2, 21 KOs) in a recent conference call. “We could fight anywhere and it wouldn’t make a difference. Fighters fight. We don’t see any advantage Steve can get from the hometown crowd because once you’re inside the ring, a fight is a fight. Fans can’t fight for you. We don’t see it being an obstacle.”
Neither does Molitor (28-0, 11 KOs). He won the IBF title two years ago when he stopped Michael Hunter in a fight in England, which is a long way from Ontario, Canada and the friendly folks back home.
“Like Caballero said, once the bell rings, no fans can fight for you,“ Molitor said, maybe smiling to himself a little. “Sure, it’s nice for them to cheer you on, stuff like that. But it’s man versus man. The crowd doesn’t really have an effect. That’s the way it was in England. (Hunter) could have had a million people there and it wouldn’t have made any difference. It’s just me versus him.“
This newest episode of “me versus him,” holds a lot of possibilities. Molitor is listed at 5-foot-7. And he’s (gasp) a southpaw. Caballero is a 5-foot-11 right-hander and very tall for a super-bantamweight.
That‘s why most of Molitor’s sparring partners look like they’ve been recruited off the basketball court. At 6-foot and 6-foot-1, they’ve been getting good long looks at the top of Molitor’s head.
“(Caballero’s height) is definitely going to be an obstacle,“ Molitor said. “A 5-foot-11, 122-pounder is unheard of. But with my hand and foot speed and with the sparring we’ve brought in, we’ll be ready.“
Apparently lack of confidence doesn‘t seem to be a problem for either side. Molitor says whatever Caballero brings, they’ll have an “antidote” for it.
“Whatever we want to do in there, we’re just going to do it,“ said Molitor, who has wins over Fernando Beltran Jr., and Fashan 3K Battery.
Caballero put this fight right up there in the lofty place he’s put all his other fights. He said he’s approaching it no different than all the rest.
“”I’m prepared for Molitor and what he’s going to bring,“ said Caballero, who has wins over guys like Daniel Ponce de Leon, Jose Valbuena and Lorenzo Parra. “As far as Molitor being the best I’ve seen in the ring, I respect every opponent, no matter their record, no matter their title belts. I approach each opponent the same way.“
Yeah, with a long reach and some serious pop.
Promoter Allan Tremblay put it in perspective, saying it was “arguably the biggest fight in the history of Canada.“
“I want to welcome Mr. Caballero,“ Tremblay said. “He will be treated exceptionally well as everybody is when they come here.”
For now, anyway.
TORONTO, ON – November 18, 2008 – Puerto Rico's Luis Pabon has been given the refereeing assignment for Friday night's Super Bantamweight title unification bout between IBF champion, "The Canadian Kid" Steve Molitor, and WBA kingpin, Celestino Caballero, of Panama.
Like Pabon, all three ringside judges scoring the bout are geographically neutral, with Connecticut's Glenn Feldman, New Jersey's Eugene Grant, and Thomas Miller of Ohio rendering the decision should the fight go to the scorecards.
Supervising from ringside will be IBF representative Lindsey Tucker, and the WBA's Michael Welsh, both hailing from New Jersey.
Steve Molitor vs. Celestino Caballero, the first unification fight ever held in Canada, will be televised live in the US on Showtime's popular ShoBox: The Next Generation series, and across Canada on TSN, beginning at 11:00 PM Eastern (Tape delayed on the West coast in the US).
Tickets for Rumble at Rama VI are $50/$75/$125/$175 and are available in-person at the Casino Rama Box Office, at all TicketMaster locations, by calling (416) 870-8000 and online at www.casinorama.com. Ticket prices do not include applicable taxes or service charges.
“I’ll be extremely disappointed if this does not end in a knockout,’’ De La Hoya said of his showdown with the little big man widely seen as boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighter. “It would be a total disaster.’’
A total disaster? No, a total disaster would be if De La Hoya leaves the MGM Grand Garden Arena without a victory of some sort for the sixth straight time in a big fight.
De La Hoya, of course, is not pondering that possibility. Although he insists he believes Pacquiao will be stronger and more powerful at welterweight than he was at featherweight and super featherweight even though he’s moving up from lightweight after only one fight at 135 pounds, he seemed to make clear that he is among the many who feel he will dominate a man who began his career fighting 24 pounds below where De La Hoya did, a range that has continued as both have moved up in weight throughout their careers.
In fairness, De La Hoya is fighting at 147 for the first time in seven years himself, having last done it against Arturo Gatti long before he moved on to junior middleweight and then middleweight titles. His new trainer, Nacho Beristain, expressed concern last week that De La Hoya had actually gotten down to 147 faster than he would have hoped and had even slipped below it, to 145. He said he had ordered changes in De La Hoya’s diet and conditioning regimen to prevent him coming in too weak but De La Hoya insisted Monday he was right where he wanted to be, which meant in shape to destroy Pacquiao.
“I’ve been at 145 for several weeks,’’ De La Hoya said. “Weight has been no problem. The first couple of weeks I tried to make it I did feel a little bit light headed and weak. Now that I’m used to it I feel very strong and fast. I’m thinking about going to 140 for my next fight. The weight has been easy.’’
One assumed that was mere joshing on De La Hoya’s part but with him you never know, except for one thing. You know he wants that knockout to confirm to the world that all those previous and often disputed losses by decision were the result of unsightly judging, the kind of Las Vegas judging he knows he can only avoid by ending Pacquiao’s night before he’s been allowed to work a full shift.
“Big or small what matters is if you have the chin and the heart and the desire,’’ De La Hoya said of the size and possible strength differences between the two of them. “I was able to move up (in weight) and be successful in my career because I had the chin, I had the heart and I can fight.’’
De La Hoya was saying this as a way of assuring doubters that Pacquiao had the same qualities, yet the way it came out it seemed more like he was implying he had proven he could go up and down in weight and win and now we would see if Pacquiao had the same qualities.
He noted his own past stamina problems as well and admitted those issues plus coming down seven pounds in weight (from the junior middleweight class he’d been fighting since being stopped by Hopkins) obviously raised questions and doubts about him as well.
But he quickly added he has convinced at least one person well-versed in boxing that his own rapid weight loss has not resulted in a power outage as well.
“Coming down in weight is a big issue,’’ De La Hoya said. “I don’t know how my body will react come fight night. But from the looks on (former world champion) Daniel Zaragoza’s face I don’t think I’m losing any power. He’s holding the mitts for me.’’
Hitting the mitts is not the same as hitting Pacquiao however. This is true for several reasons, not the least of them being that the mitts don’t hit back. Pacquiao certainly figures to do that but that actually is what De La Hoya claims he’s hoping for.
In his mind, the stoppage he craves will be made easier the more Pacquiao comes after him. Since relentless pursuit and a constant search for knockouts have been a large part of what has made Pacquiao a legend in the Phillipines and has him widely considered to be the best boxer in the world, De La Hoya assumes he will be facing someone who comes to fight.
If he does, boxing’s Golden Boy thinks he will finally leave a Las Vegas arena after a big fight with his hand raised and, in this case, Manny Pacquiao’s head lowered and his vision blurry.
“Look I’ve had problems with strictly boxers in the past,’’ De La Hoya said. “If you look at my losses they were against the likes of Shane Mosley, (Floyd) Mayweather and Bernard Hopkins. Strictly boxers. Slick boxers. That kind of style irritates me a bit.
“But if you are the kind of fighter who is going to come at me, throw punches full speed, stand in front of me…I welcome it. I open the door and let him into my home.’’
Clearly that is what Oscar De La Hoya believes he has done. He has let into his home a great champion who will come to Las Vegas not to box him but to fight him. A champion, he thinks, ripe not just for the taking but for the concussing.
If he’s right, De La Hoya says it will not be his final fight. If he’s wrong, who knows but history says that would all but assure a return to the ring for the 35-year-old, six-time world champion because they never want to leave on their shield, believing not only that this is unsightly but also counter to their destiny.
Either way, his aim on Dec. 6 is clear. It is not simply to win a boxing match. It is to dominate a big fight in a way he has not since he faced Chavez the first time 12 years ago, when he was 23 years old and his opponent was a 34-year-old grand champion just as self-assured as De La Hoya is today.
Will Dec. 6 be different than that night? Will the young lion, Pacquiao, be stilled in a way De La Hoya was not? Or will De La Hoya inflict his will on Pacquiao in the same way he did on Julio Cesar Chavez even though he is now on the same side of the calendar as Chavez was that night 12 years ago while at 29 Pacquiao is clearly in his prime?
No one can know such things but one matter is beyond dispute - Oscar De La Hoya is not prone to bold predictions. He fell short of that Monday afternoon but suggesting that anything less than a knockout victory would be a “total disaster’’ for him seemed to make clear where he stands.
Now we must wait until Dec. 6 to see where Manny Pacquiao stands - or if he’s still standing when that night ends.
Silver, a lifelong New Yorker, has carried on a love affair with the beleaguered sport since he trained as a youngster at the fabled Stillman’s Gym in the 1950s. Over the past few decades he’s been a promoter, as well as an inspector for the New York State Athletic Commission, and a renowned historian who has offered commentary on HBO, PBS and ESPN. Anyone who knows him will agree that when Silver talks boxing, you can’t help but listen.
In his new book, “The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science,” (McFarland & Company, 229 pages, 50 photos), Silver offers compelling evidence of the ongoing regression of boxing skills. He explains how—and why—the top fighters of the past 20 years are not on the same level as those who came of age during the sport’s Golden Age of talent and activity, which he defines as the 1920s to the 1950s.
When he writes that “unlike their golden age counterparts, one rarely sees today’s fighters—from rank novice to multiple belt holders—duck, parry, slip, sidestep, ride, weave or roll to avoid punches,” the reader is given a crash course in the lost arts of infighting, feinting, body punching, footwork, and counter-punching skills that used to be part and parcel of a seasoned contender’s repertoire.
Silver utilizes his own vast knowledge, as well as the insights of a respected array of panelists that includes trainers Teddy Atlas, Freddie Roach, Emanuel Steward and former lightweight champion Carlos Ortiz. In addition, over a dozen other experts, some of whom are old enough to have personally witnessed the greatest fighters of the past 70 years, offer their discerning comments. This may be the last opportunity to delve into the wealth of information and knowledge they have to offer concerning these issues.
Dozens of champs, both past and present, are scrutinized and evaluated. Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s fights with De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton are deconstructed, revealing weaknesses in Mayweather’s style that, the experts claim, would have been exploited by the top lightweight and welterweight fighters from previous decades.
“If Floyd was born 50 years earlier his athleticism and natural ability would be the foundation—not the end product—for his development into a seasoned and technically proficient fighter,” opines Silver.
Silver does not blame the modern day fighters for their inadequacies. He sees them as a product of their time. Many possess the raw talent but have no chance of reaching their full potential because fighters no longer have to “pay their dues the old fashioned way.” By fighting just 3 or 4 times a year against mediocre opposition, there is simply no opportunity to acquire the kind of extensive experience and bout-to-bout education that empowered the great fighters of the golden age.
The book reveals how the current vacuum of expert teachers/trainers has created “a fertile breeding ground for gimmickry and artifice that is of little use to a fighter.” An entire chapter is devoted to the misuse of weight training and the effects of steroid use. Even the popular and ubiquitous “punch pad” workouts are taken to task.
“Old school trainers rarely, if ever, used them,” writes Silver. “They believed that hitting the pads with the same combinations over and over had limited teaching potential and emphasized a robotic ‘bang, bang’ style of boxing. Their use did not encourage a fighter to think…everything that is taught with the pads achieved better results using the heavy bag.” The extent to which punch pad workouts are used, he adds, “is just another indication of the dumbed down quality of today’s boxing instruction.”
As Silver makes abundantly clear, today’s fighters are also impeded by the pressure to maintain an undefeated record. Promoters, managers and television executives have magnified the cost of defeat to the point that many former amateur stars are carefully navigated to maintain an unbeaten record while waiting to secure a lucrative TV appearance. This “must win syndrome” hinders the fighter’s progress. Over the past 20 years it has fostered a “mismatch culture” that minimizes the number of competitive matches because no fighter with any promise wants to take a chance on losing. When boxing was in its heyday, a defeat did not carry the same stigma that it does today. It was considered a normal part of the learning process.
Silver also places Bernard Hopkins’ decade-long dominance of the middleweight division in historical context. He gives Hopkins his due as a talented and well-rounded professional “by today’s standards,” but considers his placement among the all-time greats as unwarranted. He explains, “Great middleweight champions such as Sugar Ray Robinson, Harry Greb, Freddie Steele, Mickey Walker, Marcel Cerdan and Jake La Motta could never have defended their titles 20 times over 10 years against the kind of brutal competition that populated the middleweight division from the 1920s to the 1950s. It is even more ridiculous to think any of these fighters—no matter how great—could have been ‘dominant’ in their respective eras as they approached their 40th birthday”. The conclusion reached is that Hopkins’ dominance of a division that was once considered the toughest in boxing is not proof of his greatness— it is proof of how far boxing has regressed.
Silver believes that if Hopkins campaigned 50 or more years ago his talents would be considered just average. He believes it would even be questionable if Hopkins would have been world-rated, let alone win a world championship. “Both Roy Jones Jr. and Bernard Hopkins benefited from the worst assortment of challengers ever faced by a middleweight or light heavyweight champion since the advent of boxing gloves,” he asserts. “Is it any wonder they stood out as giants in a land of pygmies?”
Silver also exposes the fallacious nature of the absurdly high KO records of today’s fighters. Another eye-opening chapter debunks the myth that today’s 250-300 pound heavyweights (he calls them “dreadful dreadnoughts”) would have been too big for the “small” 190 to 210 pound heavyweight contenders and champions from the 1920s to the 1970s. He is particularly critical of media “faux experts” who, lacking both perspective and frame of reference, too often attribute greatness to ordinary fighters, thereby obfuscating the superior achievements and skills of the truly great fighters of the past.
“It is high time for boxing’s overused words ‘dominant’ and ‘great’ to be given a rest,” writes Silver. “Since the 1990s both words have been used to wretched excess. Let’s be perfectly clear: there are no great fighters today, and under the present circumstances it is impossible to produce one.”
Last, but certainly not least, he describes what he believes to be the severe damage done to boxing and boxers by what he calls the “alphabet-promoter cartels” who he says “have had a free hand in ruining the sport for the past 30 years.”
Although it might sound like it, Silver is not a curmudgeon or a knee-jerk believer in the myth that what’s old is always better than what’s new. He, as well as his panel of experts, persuasively state their cases while speaking with great authority and insight. After reading this entertaining treasure trove of boxing “insider” knowledge I felt like I had taken a graduate course in the finer points of the “sweet science.” The book is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand what happened to boxing.
The following is a question and answer with the #5 World rated, NABF Heavyweight Champion, Travis "Freight Train" Walker as he prepares for his showdown with Riverside's and Inland Empire's Cristobal "The Nightmare"Arreola, the WBC Continental Americas Heavyweight Champion.
QUESTION: How has training camp been?
ANSWER: Training camp has been great. I have great sparring sessions, I’m healthy and in great shape.
QUESTION: Who have you sparred against?
ANSWER: I’ve sparred with Raphael Butler and David Rodriguez, both big heavyweights. They’ve been throwing a lot of punches and keeping the pressure on to get me prepared for Arreola.
QUESTION: What weaknesses do you feel Arreola has?
ANSWER: Arreola has a lot of weaknesses but I can’t divulge them right now but he can be sure of this... come fight night – I will target his weaknesses.
QUESTION: What makes you think you can beat Arreola?
ANSWER: Because I can and I will. Styles make fights and my style can beat Arreola. Also, I’ve got the determination. I work hard for what I want and I want to walk out of the ring as Champion that night. It’s just a matter of time.
QUESTION: Do you feel he can take your punch?
ANSWER: He can’t take my punch, it’s too powerful for him. He has never been in the ring with a real puncher or heavyweight. Arreola is used to small heavyweights – more like light heavyweights.
QUESTION: Do you feel you can take his punch?
ANSWER: Yeah... I can take his punch. I know his punches aren’t hard. He is more about throwing a lot of combinations.
QUESTION: How many rounds will the fight go?
ANSWER: It’s not going to go so long. It’s going to go 5 rounds at the most before I take him... and make no mistake, I will take him.
QUESTION: If you had to pick which hand you will beat him with all night – which hand would it be?
ANSWER: I’m going to beat him down all night with my left and finish him up with my right.
FINAL COMMENT: Because of my determination and hard work, finishing off “The Nightmare” will come easy... then eventually it’s on to my “dream match" against Vitali Klitschko.
At stake for the winner of the Arreola-Walker bout will be the WBC Continental Americas Heavyweight title, the NABF Heavyweight title and the IBF Heavyweight Elimination ranking.
Sometimes you also need some luck. Andrade (27-2, 21 KOs) could’ve used some in his fight against I.B.F. super middleweight champion Lucian Bute, which took place on Oct. 24 in Montreal and was televised on Showtime.
“I’m not the type of person that gets upset about anything that easy so I’m okay. I learned a lot from that fight,” Andrade said after three weeks of reflection on his controversial loss against Bute. “I proved that I can be a world champion. I had Bute knocked out and I made every round a struggle for him.”
It was referee Marlon B. Wright’s performance that outraged some boxing fans after he applied an unusually long count to Bute who had been knocked down and was sitting on the canvas looking dazed, like a little kid lost at Disneyland. Wright started the count on Bute and then turned and admonished Andrade for allegedly straying from the neutral corner. The respite gave Bute, the home town fighter, some extra time to pull himself off the canvas and to a wobbly standing position against the ropes with only seconds left in the fight. The ten-count turned into a twenty second moment that made all the difference as the fight was sent to the cards and cost Andrade the I.B.F. belt.
“I hit Bute and he went down and the crowd got all quiet. I remember looking at the referee and then looking at Bute, thinking ‘He has to stop the fight. I’m a world champion’,” Andrade said. “And he (Wright) just kept looking at me. He wasn’t looking at Bute, who was out. He just kept looking at me. He was more worried about what I was doing. And then I heard the bell. I was thinking ‘what’s happening now?’”
Bute had out-boxed the Mexican American for most of the fight and it seemed like Andrade had pulled off a “Hail Mary” knockout in the last few seconds. But it wasn’t to be. The final clang of the bell sealed the result as Bute was announced the unanimous decision winner. Andrade’s trainer, Howard Grant, was so incensed that he went after Wright and shoved him repeatedly before being restrained by the rest of Andrade’s corner.
Wright defended his actions after the fight by declaring on Showtime television that Andrade hadn’t followed directions to stay in the neutral corner and that he cost himself the win and the championship.
The La Habra native felt dejected at first then came to terms with the situation. “When I first thought about it, I thought ‘I was so close and it didn’t happen’,” Andrade said. “I was thinking, ‘My god, for whatever reason, I was so close and it didn’t happen for me that night.’ But the important thing I learned is that I can become a world champion. With all the limitations that people put on me, I’ve made two of the best fighters in the world like Kessler and Bute work very hard to beat me.”
It was Andrade’s second try at a world title. He lost in his first attempt, when he tried to wrestle the WBC and WBA straps from Mikkel Kessler, who boxed his way to a clear unanimous decision win in March of 2007. He’d come back strong since then with three knockouts to earn himself the I.B.F. title shot against Bute.
The I.B.F. and its president Marian Muhammad backed up Wright’s questionable refereeing and claimed to see no wrongdoing on his part. “I have carefully reviewed the tapes and that boy (Andrade) did not lose the fight because of anything Marlon did,” Muhammad would state to boxingconfidential.com. You’d think Muhammad would take the time to learn the names of fighters disputing the titles of the sanctioning body she heads so as not to refer to a thirty year old man like Librado Andrade as “that boy”. Her statements certainly don’t help the credibility of her organization.
Andrade and his promoters at Golden Boy Promotions would like an immediate rematch but the I.B.F. has rejected the idea so far. “If I fight him again I know I would win. I feel like I have his number now,” Andrade said. “I figured him out late and now it would just be a matter of making some adjustments.”
Ultimately, Bute earned Andrade’s respect in the ring. “He fought a good fight. He boxes well and he’s a difficult and awkward fighter,” Andrade said of the slick Romanian-Canadian boxer. “I respect what he’s accomplished. I would like him to give me a rematch so there are no doubts. I think boxing fans would respect him more. Many of his Romanian fans told me I was robbed.”
Rematch or not, Andrade plans to work his way back up the championship ladder. “I’m not afraid to start over again,” Andrade said. “What’s done is done. I’m moving ahead.”
The bottom line is this: Referee Marlon B. Wright wasn’t up to the task on that night of October 24th. Wright was so worried about the reaction of the hometown fans that he failed to do his job and was exposed on national television. Referees are there to make tough decisions like having to stop fights against hometown favorites during the last few seconds of the fight. To make such a call takes guts, cojones, huevos, you name it. Wright didn’t have it that night and Andrade paid for it by having his dream swiped away.
Andrade is a better man than most. Other fighters would still be screaming at the top of their lungs that they got jobbed. “What’s the point?” Andrade said. “All I can do is count my blessings and be grateful for everything that boxing has brought me. I wasn’t supposed to win the world title that night but my day will come. I’ll do whatever it takes.”
It turned out a new punisher was born on November 15 as Brock Lesnar pounded on Randy Couture to claim the 45-year-old’s title in front of 14,272 noisy spectators at the MGM Grand Arena.
The old adage about inevitability of the result in a fight between a good big man and a good little man played itself out as Couture was unable to bully the mammoth Lesnar, who likely weighed 275 pounds on fight night, against Couture’s scaling of 220.
Couture’s punching skills were expected to somewhat neutralize Lesnar’s size advantage, but a swift one-two combination from the former professional wrestler felled the 45-year-old, with the right cross landing just behind Couture’s ear, robbing him of his equilibrium.
A crude but effective follow-up assault of fists to the head forced referee Mario Yamasaki to stop the bout at 3:07 of the second round.
The disparate force of the two fighters’ punching power was on display throughout the contest, with Lesnar rocking the normally resilient Couture on numerous occasions. The 31-year-old Lesnar began his mixed martial arts career just 17 months ago, but his speed of hand belied his huge frame, while his chin proved solid, withstanding the same Couture right-hands that have felled other exceptionally large foes.
During the event’s build-up Couture insisted his 15-month absence from the Octagon would have no impact on his performance, since he had been grappling at full intensity throughout that period. But the intensity of a boxing match cannot be easily simulated, while little can prepare a fighter to withstand the velocity of Lesnar’s chopping blows.
Despite entering the bout with a skimpy 2-1 MMA record, Lesnar seemed unperturbed by the magnitude of the occasion as he strode in a business-like manner toward the Octagon while being greeted by a chorus of heckles from the partisan pro-Couture crowd.
The defending champion appeared typically relaxed before the contest, looking jovial as he awaited the bout’s commencement. But when the fight began Couture, 16-9, quickly lost his smile, attempting to crack the onrushing Lesnar with a right cross. The hulking challenger absorbed the blow and soon forced Couture against the side of the cage, initiating a battle of wrestling skills.
Both fighters were highly accomplished amateur wrestlers, and Couture was forced to use all of his expertise to avoid getting trapped underneath Lesnar. When the Minnesota native took Couture to the ground, Couture managed to keep Lesnar in a half-guard position and eventually scrambled to his feet.
“The first round was a feel-out round for me. I wanted to see what [Couture] was capable of doing,” said Lesnar.
Couture sought to focus on boxing at the start of the second round, but it was Lesnar who enjoyed the success, briefly freezing the Las Vegas resident with straight punches. A Couture blow opened a cut near Lesnar’s left eye, but the challenger remained unperturbed, and a quick jab followed by a long right cross saw Couture collapse to the canvas.
Lesnar wasted little time in pressing his advantage and unloaded a sustained series of right handed blows to Couture’s head. Couture struggled to avoid some of the strikes, but the unanswered barrage forced the referee’s intervention.
Now Lesnar wants the chance to avenge his defeat to Frank Mir, who will face Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in January.
Critics had questioned Lesnar’s merit before the contest, with some labelling him a media creation and liking the former WWE star to the since-exposed Internet sensation Kimbo Slice.
“The only thing that matters is I believe in myself,” responded the new champion. “I don’t even have the Internet and I don’t read newspapers.
“And who is Kimbo Slice anyway?”
Couture refused to clarify his career plans, but said his immediate future will involve relaxing and spending time with his wife, Kim.
“My wife’s fighting on Friday, so I’ll focus on that and make sure she’s ready to go.”
The matchup was billed as the biggest in MMA history and is expected to become the sport’s highest-grossing event by making a projected 1.2 million pay-per-view sales. The event failed to break the gate record, but UFC President Dana White says the sagging economy is to blame.
“It was a very successful event tonight, just shy of a sell-out, but it’s $4.8 million at the gate,” he revealed. “Obviously in this economy that’s considered a home run for us.”
White also heralded the increased mainstream exposure Saturday’s event received, but said the UFC is likely to remain on cable television for the foreseeable future.
“I could have had a network deal a long time ago,” he stated. “Just because you get a network deal, doesn’t mean it’s a good deal. I’m not chasing a deal. When it comes, it comes.”
In the card’s chief support bout Kenny Florian positioned himself for a lightweight title shot, submitting Joe Stevenson with a rear-naked choke at 4:03 of the first round. Stevenson, 34-9, was the aggressor early, but Florian showed exceptionally strong ground skills, mounting the Californian and unleashing a series of punches before securing the choke.
Florian, 13-3, now hopes a showdown with 155-pound champion B.J. Penn will materialize. “B.J., you’re a master, but it’s time to kill that master,” declared Florian, after his victory.
In a welterweight bout the UFC billed as a showdown between “untypical-looking fighters” Dustin Hazelett submitted Tamdan McCrory with a painful-looking armbar. Hazelett initially attempted an omaplata on McCrory, but later succeeded in hyper-extending the arm at 3:59 of the first round to gain the win. Hazelett moves his record to 14-4, while “The Barn Cat” McCrory drops to 11-2.
Gabriel Gonzaga landed a sharp right cross to made quick work of Josh Hendricks, stopping the American at 1:01 of the opening round. Gonzaga, 10-3, moves closer toward heavyweight title contention, while Hendricks sees his record decline to 18-5-0-1.
In a middleweight contest, Brazil’s Demian Maia moved his record to 10-0 with an impressive first round submission victory over Nate Quarry. Maia used his jiu-jitsu skills to control the action on the ground and ultimately applied a tight rear-naked choke, forcing Quarry, 16-3, to submit at 2:13 of the round.
In a brutal back-and-forth war fought predominantly on the feet, Aaron Riley won a unanimous decision over Jorge Gurgel in the 155-pound division. Both fighters landed a plethora of clean strikes throughout the 15 minutes, with Riley enjoying considerable success in the final round to secure the victory.
Jeremy Stephens scored a spectacular knockout victory over stoppage over Rafael dos Anjos, connecting with a wild right uppercut that sent the Brazilian crashing to the canvas. Dos Anjos showed dangerous ju-jitsu skills, but the Iowan’s huge punch, which connected viciously on Rafael’s jaw, earned Stephens the win at 39 seconds of round 3 in the 155-pound contest.
Lightweight Mark Bocek utilized outstanding ground skills to control Alvin Robinson, attempting a variety of submission attempts before eventually finding success with a rear naked choke. Robinson tapped out at 3:16 of round three.
Matt Brown executed a textbook arm-bar submission to defeat Ryan Thomas at 57 seconds of the second round in their welterweight bout.
Hey, Shaw is a big guy, but he learned the hard way that even a super heavyweight of the fight industry can spread himself too thin.
“There are only so many hours in a day,” Shaw said of his dual gigs as president of EliteXC Live Events and head of his own boxing promotional company, Gary Shaw Productions. “My health was suffering. My marriage was suffering. Nor that I was about to get a divorce or anything like that, but I was spending almost no time at home. I was on the road 40-something weeks this past year.
“Look, I had an apartment in California, a nice one overlooking the beach. But I’m a Jersey guy; that wasn’t my home. Trying to do what I was doing, I had stopped being a good father, a good grandparent. It was taking a toll on me.”
Shaw was able to jump off the merry-go-round that seemingly never stopped or even slowed down when EliteXC, which made a major splash earlier this year with the announcement of its affiliation with CBS-TV, shut down and filed for bankruptcy after the guy who brought down its marquee attraction alleged that he was “encouraged” to fight in a manner that would aid his opponent.
Seth Petruzelli, a last-minute fill-in for the injured Ken Shamrock in the main event of a CBS-televised card in Sunrise, Fla., on Oct. 4, exposed headliner Kimbo Slice (real name: Kevin Ferguson) by scoring a first-round knockout after an elapsed time of only 14 seconds. That would have been bad enough, given the fact that EliteXC and CBS had relentlessly hyped Slice, a menacing-looking onetime street fighter whose YouTube videos had made him a cult sensation. But when Petruzelli said afterward that he was pressured to stand up and trade shots with Kimbo, instead of taking the fight to the ground where his ju-jitsu skills might give him an edge, that made a bad situation far worse. MMA is not professional wrestling, where the outcome of bouts is scripted, and any suggestion that the bouts were not fully on the up-and-up stained EliteXC as surely as the revelation of rigged ratings for the Don King-promoted “U.S. national championship” tournament stained King’s embarrassed broadcast partner, ABC-TV, in 1977.
Shaw, who had been at the forefront of the Kimbo-as-superstar marketing campaign, claimed to have had no knowledge of Petruzelli’s allegations. But he said he wasn’t surprised that, given the circumstances, Kimbo – a former bodyguard for a porno production company -- got caught with, um, his pants down.
“In retrospect, I wouldn’t have allowed Kimbo to fight on Oct. 4,” Shaw said. “He wasn’t experienced enough to prepare for one opponent and switch to another on such short notice.”
So what, if anything, does Shaw know about Petruzelli’s claims that pressure was brought to bear for him to fight in such a manner that was supposed to help Kimbo?
“I don’t know anything about that and I can’t make any comment,” Shaw said. “I wasn’t there. I was doing an HBO fight on that date. But I’m sure it didn’t help public perception of the brand.”
Shaw still likes mixed martial arts and wouldn’t mind getting involved in it again, although he said the likelihood of that depends on whether Dana White, who rules MMA’s dominant organization, Ultimate Fighting Championship, with an iron fist, ever decides to loosen his grip.
Shaw and others who have tried and failed to challenge UFC’s supremacy, like Jay Larkin, who recently resigned as president and CEO of the International Fight League, have characterized White as the biggest impediment to the growth and full acceptance of MMA.
“I still believe very strongly in MMA,” Shaw said. “It’s a very good sport, a very exciting sport, very fan-friendly. The demographics are terrific. But I don’t think it will ever be as successful as it can be if there’s only going to be one brand.
“Think about it. Years ago, Miller Lite and Bud Light had all these tremendous commercials on TV around the time of the Super Bowl. They were competing hard against each other. But if there’s only one beer available to consumers, why bother to advertise at all if nobody has a choice?
“If MMA wants to elevate itself to Super Bowl status, it has to have UFC fighters fighting people from outside its organization. Competition only makes for a better product. What’s wrong with having the best fighting the best? I don’t know why Dana or his people could be against that. I mean, think about it. If you have one restaurant on a street, it’s only a restaurant. If you have 20 restaurants on that street, it becomes `Restaurant Row.’ And they’d all be trying like hell to get and keep your business.”
To its detriment, boxing might be fragmented, but not so much that accommodations can’t be occasionally reached. When it suits his purpose, Don King does business with Bob Arum, who does business with Richard Schaefer, who does business with Shaw. Rare are they might be, there have been at least a few unification bouts involving champions of the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO. OK, so HBO and Showtime still are the equivalent of warring factions in the Middle East. Maybe someday they, too, can be involved in some sort of peace talks.
Being able to forge periodic alliances is one of the reasons Shaw has moved easily back into full-time boxing promotion, which, he admits, seems like a breath of fresh air after his failed attempts to break down the UFC-constructed walls that keep lesser MMA factions on the outside.
“None of my boxers ever said a world to me about my involvement in MMA,” Shaw said. “None of their managers did, either. But do I feel more involved in boxing now? Oh, sure. Because it’s all I’m doing.
“I have a lot of bright, young prospects in boxing. In a way, I guess you can say I’ve gone back to my roots.”
Among the boxers in Shaw’s ever-enlarging promotional stable are IBF light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson, WBC/WBA/IBF super flyweight titlist Vic Darchinyan, former bantamweight and super bantamweight champ Rafael Marquez, super middleweight contender Andre Dirrell, lightweight contender Antonio DeMarco and bantamweight contender Yonnhy Perez.
Those, and other fighters, figure to keep Shaw busy as he arranges the sort of attractive matchups that clearly have reinvigorated his ardor for boxing.
“Chad Dawson is the man at light heavyweight,” Shaw said. “Hopefully, he’ll get a chance to fight (Joe) Calzaghe. If not, we want to clean out the senior citizens that are left, whether that’s Roy Jones, Bernard Hopkins or Winky Wright.
“I’m trying to make a fourth fight between Rafael Marquez and Israel Vazquez, and Darchinyan is hot right now, coming off his unification knockout of Cristian Mijares.”
Shaw also envisions a continuing relationship with Kimbo Slice, a 34-year-old married father of six whom he insists still can become a major force in either MMA or boxing if he receives the proper training.
“I said it before and I meant it: I believe he has superstar potential,” Shaw insisted. “Whenever Mike Tyson walked into a room, everybody stopped what they were doing, got up and looked. Why? Because he was Tyson. I was with Kimbo the other night, and it was pretty much the same thing. We were in a four-star restaurant and even the chef wanted to come over and meet him.
“In today’s era of heavyweights, do I believe he’d have a shot at some version of a heavyweight championship? Absolutely. He’d have to get a good trainer, a good strength and conditioning coach to help him get limber, but I definitely can see him becoming a factor in a heavyweight division that is as decimated as my 401k. This guy can punch, and punch really hard. He does certain things that are natural, things even he doesn’t realize he’s doing.
“If he ever learned to sit down on his punches, to plant his feet, how to get proper spacing, how to turn his punches over … look, I admit he’s a novice. But he’s got what I call the `It’ factor. I’m not sure if you can explain it to anyone, but people know it when they see it. And Kimbo has it.”
If not in boxing, Shaw said he can see Kimbo going to Japan and becoming the same sort of monster hit that 6’5”, 375-pound former NFL lineman Bob Sapp became with Asian MMA audiences.
“He looks menacing, that that isn’t necessarily a drawback in this business,” Shaw offered. “And Kimbo is intelligent. He gets it. Yet he’s 100 percent street. He doesn’t have to pretend to be street; he is street.”
What Shaw won’t miss, if he never becomes involved in MMA again, is the “haters” who he said infest the sport.
“MMA has a lot of haters. Boxing doesn’t,” he said. “When I’m around boxing people, they never talk about MMA, or at least they never talk about hating MMA. But MMA people hate boxing and everybody connected with boxing.
“Why do they do that? What is there to gain by being that way? When it comes to haters and hating, MMA is like nothing I’ve ever seen. It’s a whole different world.”