On Friday night in a welterweight contest from the Chumash Casino in Santa Inez, CA., it was no exception. Estrada gave a spirited showing against untested Argentine Luis Carlos Abregu, but in typical fashion, he was unable to elevate to another level. Abregu earned a split decision win after ten rounds, and his handlers learned a little bit more exactly what they have in the man: someone with heavy hands, enough of a chin to move deeper into the division, and a heart that spurred him into staying focused and busy late in the fight when Estrada pressed him hard.
Showtime televised the action on the ShoBox program. There were no acknowledged knockdowns.
The judges saw it 98-92 (A), 96-94 (E), and 98-91 (A).
Can we lump Abregu in with other Estrada conquerors, like Shane Mosley, Kermit Cintron, Andre Berto and Jesus Soto Karass? Prob’ly not; the Argentine is a bit rawer than those more seasoned pros. But he showed enough solid traits that his arc bears watching moving into 2009.
The Argentine Abregu (24-0, 21 KOs entering; age 24) weighed 148 pounds while the Chicagoan Estrada (22-5, 13 KOs coming in; age 29) also tipped the scale at 148.
In the first, Abregu showed heavy hands. He showed good movement and a willingness to duck and slip. Estrada came forward, but was in feel ‘em out mode. In the second, Estrada didn’t get untracked and the Arg’s quick hands gave him fits. In the third, Abregu, who generally shuns the jab as a setup weapon, found a home for the right up top. In the fourth, Estrada employed more upper body movement. That was fine, but his slower hands didn’t hit the target enough. In round five, Estrada opened a cut on Abregu on his left eye. Estrada didn’t get down on himself, and he smelled a shift in tone. Abregu ate several sharp rights, and held a couple times. In the sixth, the American launched lead rights. But Abregu regained his footing some. The contest had tightened. In the seventh, Abregu’s low guard cost him a bit. His punch output had dropped by now, but Estrada posed too much as well. Abregu stole the round in the last 20 seconds. In the eighth, Abregu got much busier, but then Estrada got a burst of energy, and he ramped up in the last third of the frame. In the ninth, Abregu ran from Estrada, and ate some stiff shots. In the tenth, Estrada actually ran after his man, whose eye was bothering him. He got wobbled by a right, and his body language suggested he might get stopped. His left glove actually hit the canvas, but the ref missed it, and he finished the round. The judges would render the verdict.
Pennsylvanian Travis Kauffman (13-0 coming in; age 23; 221 pounds) met Chicago’s Malachy Farrell (16-1 entering; age 29; 281 ½ pounds) in the ShoBox TV opener. Farrell sported a Santa belly, and Kauffman surprisingly didn’t target it from the start. But a left hook dropped Farrell, hard. But he countered Kauffman, and dropped him with a sneaky right. The first knockdown was much more severe. In the second, Kauffman, who helped Chris Arreola get ready for his bout two weeks ago, looked to land a bombing right. Farrell didn’t crumble under his bulk, and we went into the third. Kauffman went lefty late in the second and came out lefthanded to start the third. He had Farrell caught on the ropes, and whaled away and we wondered if the beefy lad would last much longer. He ate body shots, an uppercut, a straight right, left hooks to the body, you name it. Ref Lou Moret stepped in, and halted the contest at 2:29 of the third.
SPEEDBAG Kendall Holt meets Ricardo Torres for the third time next Saturday at 11 PM on Showtime.
Tapia (10-1-1) had long wanted a world title fight and knew that it was going to be the stiffest test of his undefeated career. It was.
After spending the first round finding the punching range of his opponent, it was the extremely tall 135-pound Torres who launched a right cross on the jaw of Tapia and sent him to the floor in the second round. Then he pounced on him with hammer fists and elbows until the referee saw that the fallen fighter was going to get hurt and stopped the fight at 3:04 of the second round.
“I wanted to use my jab and measure him up,” said Torres (35-1), who has good boxing ability to go along with his superb Brazilian Jiu-jitsu skills and Thai kicks. “I wanted to fight a little bit calm this time. Last time I fought a little bit crazy.”
Talk about crazy, Torres did a forward somersault and ended up with a axe kick attempt on Tapia who was quick enough to get out of the way, but not quick enough to counter the unorthodox kick.
The Riverside fighter Tapia, who was handicapped by his lack of height and arm length, attempted numerous punches to the body. He landed a few punches to the head too but Torres took them in stride. During one exchange, Torres landed a back fist square on Tapia’s jaw.
In the second round you could see the fighter known as one of the best pound for pound MMA fighters on the planet was less inclined to move away from attacks. Instead, he was lining up his sights for the big blow. It came with a quick one-two that dropped Tapia on the floor. He recovered.
The second one-two was the killing combination that dropped Tapia for good and was overwhelmed by Torres. It was over.
“I knew Manny was going to come with big punches,” said Torres who hasn’t lost in five years. “The next step is to fight the next person in line whoever that person may be.”
America got another opportunity to see one of the best MMA fighters in the world for free on television. That doesn’t happen very often.
Brian Bowles (7-0) choked out Brazil’s Will Ribeiro (10-2) in the third round. Bowles could be Torres next challenger in the 135-pound bantamweight division.
Brazil’s Wagnney Fabiano choked out Japan’s Akitoshi Tamura at 4:48 of the thrd and final round of a 145-pound featherweight match. Both were ground fighters.
Carl Froch’s showdown with Jean Pascal for the World Boxing Council’s super-middleweight belt at the Trent FM Arena in Nottingham may not be the “Dream Match”, but among boxing purists it represents a clash of two flashy, unbeaten stylists.
Neither fighter has yet broken into the elite class of the division, but in the case of Froch it hasn’t been for a lack of trying. Negotiations with the biggest names have proven futile, as Joe Calzaghe dismissed the Nottingham native’s challenge, while Jermain Taylor opted for a more lucrative fight with Jeff Lacy, with Taylor’s promoter Lou DiBella admitting that Froch would have posed a more difficult challenge for his fighter.
Moreover, a matchup with the undefeated Denis Inkin for the WBC belt failed to materialize on two occasions after injuries forced the Russian’s withdrawal.
In all, the lack of progress has seen Froch grow increasingly disillusioned with the business side of the professional game.
“It’s been difficult at times,” Froch, 23-0 (19 KOs), said last month. “Some big fights should have happened. I’ve had two so-called superstars flat-out run from me this year in Joe Calzaghe and Jermain Taylor. But on December 6 you’re going to have two undefeated fighters, in their prime, fighting for the world title.”
Froch, who is promoted by Mick Hennessy, has yet to encounter a stern test in his six-year pro career, and his only fight in 2008 was against the obscure Albert Rybacki, who was a late replacement for Inkin last May.
Froch’s most significant victory to date was a one-sided beat-down of a faded Robin Reid last year. Froch consistently pierced the former champ with sharp jabs and stinging right-hands, flooring Reid on three occasions before the fight was stopped at the end of the fifth round.
The 31-year-old fights with a relaxed style, carrying his left hand low while sizing up opponents for the swift right cross. But on occasions he has appeared lazy against overmatched foes, leading to the development of bad defensive habits that could be exploited by a boxer with Pascal’s speed.
Froch’s self-assured nature inside the ring carries through to life outside the ropes, as the former Loughborough University student has been unafraid to voice his opinions on British sporting demigods.
Commenting on soccer star David Beckham a few years ago Froch said: “I’m better at boxing than Beckham is at football. He’s great at corners and free kicks and passing, but he can’t tackle and is not an all-round talent.”
And on Joe Calzaghe: “Joe doesn’t pack a big punch and he’s past his best, which is why he hasn’t stopped anyone lately. I wasn’t surprised he didn’t knock [Roy] Jones out [last month] because he hasn’t got it in him.”
But Froch’s Canada-based opponent isn’t lacking confidence either, and the 26-year-old Pascal has no fears about fighting in front of an expected 7,000 partisan fans in Nottingham.
“I have good memories of England,” said Pascal, 21-0 (14 KOs), who was born in Haiti but moved to Canada at a young age and has fought most of his pro bouts in Montreal. “I won gold [at the Commonwealth Games in 2002] against a British guy in front of 15,000 people [in Manchester], so I don’t know why I won’t be able to repeat that. Right now, I can’t wait to be back in the UK because they’re good fans. I can’t wait to show them my skills.”
So far in his neophyte three-year paid career Pascal has stylistically resembled Roy Jones, skating around the ring with a languid guard and slippery defense. He will prove to be a difficult target for Froch, but like the Brit, he is thus far untried in the pro ranks.
His most notable scalp was that of a rusty Kingsley Ikeke, with Pascal cruising to a relatively comfortable twelve rounds point win. Despite his large frame, the gangly Ikeke failed to test Pascal’s punch resistance, giving little indication of how the Canadian will react to Froch’s powerful right cross.
Yet Pascal’s apparent defensive prowess could frustrate Froch, possibly resulting in a taut, highly skilled contest.
But both fighters are preparing for an intensive battle and relocated to camps away from home, with Pascal based in Phoenix, Arizona, while Froch spent six weeks in Ireland, training alongside Junior Witter.
Froch will be hoping to fare better against North American opposition than Witter did last May, when the Bradford fighter lost his WBC 140-pound title to Timothy Bradley. Adding to Pascal’s apparent omen advantage, his promoter Yvon Michel points out that Canadian fighters Donnie Lalonde, Dave Hilton and Eric Lucas have all captured the WBC 168-pound trinket.
Regardless, Froch and Pascal will need to put on a riveting show if they are to make headlines in the boxing world on Saturday. The fight will be available on free network TV in the UK, but will be running in competition with Amir Khan’s comeback fight with Oisin Fagan in London, which comprises the British De La Hoya-Pacquiao pay-per-view broadcast.
But don’t tell the brash Froch that he won’t be making the news. He believes it’s only a matter of time before his performances will attract mainstream publicity.
“I want to get the newspapers to take note of boxing and say [about me] ‘look we’ve got a talent here, someone who is going to dominate on a world level’,” he stated.
“As soon as I unify the world titles everybody will be onto me like a rash.”
The 24-year-old from Salta, Argentina has been completely devastating in his current boxing campaign but the quality of his opposition hasn’t been anywhere near the elite level. Estrada should prove to be a good test. “I’ve studied his tapes. He put up a good fight against Shane Mosley. He comes forward and doesn’t stop throwing punches,” Abregu said. “He likes to brawl. If he wants to brawl then we’ll brawl. If he wants to box then we’ll box. I can do either.”
It helps that Abregu’s been sparring with former welterweight champion Carlos Baldomir who like Estrada, is a face first fighter continuously looking to engage. Not only has he been an asset in the gym but also as Abregu’s manager. Baldomir is the one that brought him to Sycuan Ringside Promotions and to the United States, where he’s knocked out two mid level opponents in Thomas Davis and Roberto Valenzuela. “I know I’m taking a step up in competition and that’s exactly what I need,” Abregu said. “Estrada is no joke. If I’m going to get a major fight I have to impress people and that’s what I hope to do.”
Currently the South American champion, Abregu concedes that this is a big event for him but feels no anxiety about possibly being watched by a potential audience of millions on Showtime during the eve of the De La Hoya vs. Pacquiao mega-fight. “On the contrary. I love to fight. This is what I’ve always dreamed of,” Abregu said. “I’ve fought in big venues in front of 15,000 people as the main event so I’m not anxious at all. This type of event invigorates me.”
Like every kid from Argentina who’s ever put boxing gloves on, he idolizes legendary middleweight Carlos Monzon. Monzon is Argentina’s equivalent to Muhammad Ali or Mexico’s Julio Cesar Chavez, a boxing icon that will always be remembered and revered for his performances. “Monzon and Carlos Baldomir are both big heroes in Argentina and my heroes,” Abregu said. “I’m also a fan of Miguel Cotto and Oscar de La Hoya.”
Abregu had a chance to watch De La Hoya at work since “The Golden Boy” has been training at “The Summit” in preparation for his big fight against Pacquiao. The 4,000 square foot gym is owned by Abregu’s trainer Abel Sanchez. It was a glimpse into the life of a boxing superstar that gave him much to reflect on. “Seeing people like Oscar and Nacho Beristain and Daniel Zaragoza and talking to them was an amazing experience. It was exciting,” Abregu recalled. “I learned a lot about how to formulate a plan and how to execute it in the ring.”
According to Sanchez, Abregu is more than ready for his upcoming test. “I think he’s done the work and now it’s a matter of throwing him in the ring,” Sanchez said. “He’s a raw talent and a good prospect with a big punch and fast hands. He’s going to show the world that he belongs at that level.”
Sanchez should know. He was the trainer for Hall of Famer Terry Norris and his brother Orlin, who both won world titles under his tutelage. He’s been in this position before. He understands that if Abregu loses, most of the fingers will be pointing in his direction. “I don’t mind that. We trainers know how the business works. A fighter wins by himself but the trainer loses all the time,” Sanchez added and laughed. “It just gives me more motivation to make sure my guy performs well.”
It often happens that fighters from other countries come to the United States with undefeated records and high knockout rates. After stepping up in opponent quality they realize the harsh reality that fighting in America is a whole different proposition. The list of prospects that returned to their countries with their luggage filled with broken dreams is too long to list. Will Abregu be one of the few that cracks his way into big time American boxing?
He certainly displays the right attitude inside the ring where he mauls his opponents with bullish force and fast, accurate hands. He’s got a message to boxing fans that will be watching him on Friday. “Have faith in me. I’m going to be the figure in boxing that you’ve always been looking for. I’ve been boxing since I was a kid. I want to be champion,” Abregu said. “It’s my goal and I want to reach it. I’ll never rest until I become world champion.”
Roach, who was a resilient fighter educated by Eddie Futch, believes he can toughen up the Brit’s apparently fragile chops.
The Hollywood based trainer has been using techniques derived from martial arts to “try and deaden, or toughen, those nerves on the tip of [Khan’s] jaw.” The method involves applying pressure to Khan’s mandible using an assortment of exercises.
But the main focus at the Wild Card Gym has been trying to tighten up the once-beaten fighter’s porous defense, while maintaining the blistering hand speed and attack-minded style ahead of his comeback bout against Oisin Fagan at the ExCel arena in London this Saturday on a pay-per-view telecast available on SKY TV in the UK.
“He’s got a lot of tools and is unbelievably fast,” says Roach at his crowded gym on Vine Street, which has seen fighters such as Bernard Hopkins and James Toney pass through its narrow doors. “I think the biggest thing with Amir is he just needs not to look for the knockout. That’s when he gets a little lazy and forgets about defense.”
There was a time when it seemed like Khan didn’t need to learn the finer points of the Sweet Science as his rapid-fire combinations simply overwhelmed opponents.
After avenging his 2004 Olympic final defeat to the exceptional Cuban Mario Kindelan, Khan entered the paid ranks under the guidance of promoter Frank Warren and trainer Oliver Harrison. Khan’s route to superstardom looked secure after signing a contract with network TV broadcaster ITV, while mainstream sponsors rushed toward the Muslim fighter of Pakistani heritage who was viewed as the ideal ambassador for a multi-cultural Britain recovering from the July 2005 terrorist attacks.
If Khan’s performances are not always technically proficient, they are certainly entertaining, as evidenced by his back-and-forth struggle with the light punching Willie Limond in July 2007. After Limond sent the Bolton native reeling to the canvas in the sixth round, Khan rallied back to dominate the subsequent two frames, forcing the Scot’s corner to retire their fighter after he suffered a cracked jaw and nose.
But one year later Harrison was axed as trainer and the esoteric former Cuban national coach Jorge Rubio was surprisingly appointed to the post. The change did little to improve Khan’s punch avoidance as Prescott caught the static fighter with a left hook on route to ruining Khan’s perfect record in Manchester.
Yet Roach believes his protégé’s style can be easily refined.
“When he gets hit with the big shot [in sparring], I tell him why,” he explains. “The thing about him is that he understands. He's a smart kid. If you understand it, you can make the adjustment much more easily.”
During his six week tenure in Los Angeles, Khan, 18-1 (14), sparred with Manny Pacquiao and undefeated junior welterweight Dean Byrne. During those reportedly intense sessions Roach reckons he has found a new weapon to add to Khan’s arsenal.
“He’s got a beautiful jab; a better jab than [Oscar] De La Hoya,” claims Roach. “Jabs win world titles.”
“Khan’s jab is amazing. The sparring between us has been great,” adds Byrne, a highly-touted prospect from Ireland with a 9-0 (3) résumé.
On Saturday, Khan will be facing another Irishman, and while Byrne is a skilled boxer, Oisin Fagan is a rugged fighter, willing to absorb punches in a vigorous effort to wear down opponents.
“I’m not as skilled as Khan but he’s over-rated, as was proven when Prescott dumped him on the boards for the full count. If an unknown like him can do it, then why can’t I?” states Fagan, 22-5 (13), who has been training with John Breen in Belfast.
The 35-year-old’s buoyancy has been founded on a chequered career comprised of impromptu events and gritty resolve.
After earning a scholarship to study at the University of Science and Arts in Chickasaha, Oklahoma, the Dubliner enrolled for a degree in physical education and political science with the possibility of pursuing a soccer career. But a leg injury derailed Fagan’s soccer plans and a lack of jobs in Oklahoma meant he would have to return home before his visa expired.
Yet there was one problem. He had no money for a flight to Ireland.
“To get money I went down to this boxing club in Oklahoma City,” Fagan told the Irish Times. “It was called the Badlands Gym. I'd three amateur fights under my belt from back in Dublin. So I just walked in the door and asked this guy to throw me in with anyone. I told him I didn't care who he put me in the ring with. I just needed the money to get me home so I didn't care who it was I was going to fight.”
Fagan was matched with one Sheldon Mosley at the AMC Flea Market in Oklahoma City. The Irishman wore down his opponent for a fourth round stoppage win, but any thoughts of a flight home were quashed as Fagan left the ring.
“At the end of the fight a school principal came up to me and we started talking,” recalls Fagan. “I told him I was a PE teacher and he said the PE teacher in his school had just left the previous week. He told me to come around to him the following week for an interview. That was a real God thing, I believe. It was crazy. But it was meant to be.”
On the boxing front one fight led to another and Fagan was pitted as fodder against the much hyped Julio Cesar Chavez Junior at the MGM Grand Arena on the Erik Morales-Jesus Chavez undercard. Fagan lost a four round points verdict, but surprised onlookers with a strong performance and attracted the attention of some minor promoters.
The bouts came thick and fast for Fagan, and soon after he racked up an 11-fight win streak that was ended by a split decision loss to the undefeated former lightweight titlist Paul Spadafora. The slick stylist struggled to keep the aggressive Fagan at bay, and many ringsiders thought the former champ was lucky to escape with the win.
But the offer to fight Khan in London presents an unexpected opportunity for Fagan, who has had little luck in finding employment since his return to a weakening Irish jobs market.
“I came back home in the summer and I’ve come back to a terrible economy,” says Fagan, who has been living with his parents in Dublin since his return. “I was finding it hard to get a job at home since coming back so the Khan fight came along at just the right time for me.”
Looking back, Fagan feels he may not be playing the role of opponent if he had a bigger promotional presence earlier in his career, which may have helped swing some of the close points verdicts that have gone against him.
“I’ve never really had a big promoter backing me or a big sponsor. I'm not bitter about that but you wonder what it might be like to have that behind you,” he reflects.
Conversely, Khan has had no shortage of big name backers, and his handlers deem Fagan a suitable opponent to showcase their fighter’s newfound skills.
With all the hype surrounding Khan’s chin, it may be Fagan’s punch resistance that grabs the headlines on Saturday. The Irishman has a limited offense, but has been stopped only once in his career, and that was in his fourth fight when a butt from Isaac Mendoza broke Fagan’s nose and damaged his cheekbone. Fagan admonished calls for the fight to be stopped, but was bleeding with such perfusion that the referee halted the contest with just forty seconds remaining.
Yet a stout determination doesn’t necessarily win fights, and Roach has been working on a punch that could take advantage of Fagan’s lack of speed.
“I was also working with [Amir] on a left hook,” Roach told The Observer. “[It’s] a little counter shot. When he's facing someone slower than him, when they throw a lazy jab out there, he can let go a hook over the top of the jab, with his elbow higher. He delivers it actually when the [opponent’s] jab starts to come back. It’s a timing shot, a very calculated shot. It was one of the favorite moves of my trainer, Eddie Futch.”
But nobody from the Wild Card Gym will be shouting advice to Khan on Saturday, as Roach will be in Las Vegas for the De La Hoya-Pacquiao showdown and his assistant Gary Stretch is unable to travel to London due to “politics”.
“It’s nothing to do with me and Amir, politics has got in the way,” Stretch, a former British 154-pound titlist who was trained by Roach, told the BBC on Monday. “I was all ready to go, but on the day of the flight [from LA to the UK] I got a phone call and it was Freddie asking me not to go. I have to honor Freddie.”
Frank Warren’s chief matchmaker Dean Powell will now resume his role as Khan’s chief second. Powell prepared Khan for the up-and-down tussle with Michael Gomez last June but his coaching ability isn’t rated too highly by Stretch.
“Dean Powell is a good second, but he doesn’t really know boxing,” said Stretch.
Stretch added that Khan will return to the Wild Card Gym after Saturday’s bout, but the mysterious circumstances surrounding his sudden departure from Khan’s corner has raised doubts about the relationship between the fighter and his new training team.
Frank Warren had earlier attempted to get Khan a fight on the Vegas undercard, but negotiations broke down when Golden Boy Promotions insisted that the Warren-promoted Nicky Cook defend his WBO 122-pound title on the show. Warren balked and instead intended on putting both Khan and Cook on his London card, but that show has deteriorated since injuries saw Cook withdraw from his fight with Stephen Foster and Jonathon Banks pull out of a bout with Enzo Maccarinelli.
Logistically, it has been a complex time for Khan, and Fagan should give him a few more headaches on Saturday.
Pacquiao showed up at the final press conference looking like an investment banker, sporting a blue tie and dark suit. De La Hoya showed up looking like a fighter in a grey sweatsuit with The RING logo on his chest and back. His cornermen wore similar outfits, all walking billboards for the boxing magazine De La Hoya bought over a year ago and is trying to resurrect. So while Pacquiao was dressed like an investment banker, De La Hoya was acting like one, advertising his product, which is still himself most of all.
De La Hoya is the kind of conglomerate that seldom comes along in sports. His holdings are bigger than Michael Jordan’s and rival those of Tiger Woods’ despite the fact he practices a dying sporting art – he boxes.
In the past two months two pay-per-view shows have done disappointing numbers, both Kelly Pavlik vs. Bernard Hopkins and Joe Calzaghe vs. Roy Jones doing less than 200,000 buys. That is a worrisome thing because while those shows struggled, a recent UFC mixed martial arts show did 850,000 buys, an omen some feel does not bode well for boxing’s long-term health.
But none of this seems to affect De La Hoya. The press conference is jammed with reporters from newspapers that haven’t covered a fight since, well, the last time De La Hoya entered the ring in Las Vegas, which was a year ago against Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
There are television crews everywhere and languages being used that range from English to Spanish to French to German to Japanese to Tagalog, the most widely spoken language in Pacquiao’s native Phillipines. Boxing may be struggling in the U.S. but internationally it seems to have reached a high note, a point Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum, made clear.
“Boxing is not as vibrant as it once was in the United States but it’s not out-rating soccer in Great Britain,’’ Arum said with a straight face. “It’s competing with the Bundesliga (Germany’s major soccer league). My hope is we can get boxing back where people can see it where it belongs – on free TV.’’
This from one of the guys most responsible for taking it off free TV. Promoters like Arum, Don King, the late Dan Duva and now De La Hoya have all conspired against the long-term health of the sport by focusing on events like Saturday night’s – pay-per-view shows that limit the audience for the biggest fights and best advertisements for the sport.
De La Hoya may be only a fighter Saturday night but Wednesday he was a salesman first, which seems right when you consider that his company is the lead promoter of what is expected to be the highest grossing fight of the year.
In the midst of a discussion about the fight, De La hoya broke into an infomercial for people on the fence about ponying up the $54.95 fee (and possibly $5 or $10 more to see it in HD depending on your individual cable system’s policy).
“We know it’s a tough economy,’’ De La Hoya said. “For a lot of fight fans it’s difficult. They have to pick and choose what fights to watch. They’ve picked and chosen this one (with a projected number of buys in excess of one million).
“One thing I pushed for as hard as I could with the sponsors was rebates. You buy a 12-pack of Tecate (beer) that you’re going to do any way and you get $20 back (in a rebate on the pay-per-view purchase of the fight).
“You move on and buy the Cazadores (tequila). You get $20 back. After the tequila some of you get happy, some of you get aggressive. To have that hype (before the fight) buy a Coca Cola Full Throttle (energy drink). You get $10 back. That’s $50 off so you watch the fight for free!’’
Unless, of course, you consume those 12 bottles of Tecate and that bottle of Cazadores tequila first. Do that and you’ll need more than one Full Throttle to be awake for the fight, whose main event figures to start around 11:30 p.m. East Coast time.
Pacquiao’s promotional team began a Mexicans for Manny campaign, listing Julio Cesar Chavez and his son, Julio, Jr., as well as welterweight champion Antonio Margarito and Jorge Arce as Pacquiao backers. De La Hoya’s associate, Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, countered by parading out a who’s who of retired Mexican champions to stand with De La Hoya.
They included Ruben Olivares, Carlos Zarate, Pipino Cuevas, Chiquita Gonzalez, Rudolpho Gonzalez, Rudy Carmona, Juan Manuel Marquez and his brother Rafael, Israel Vasquez, Oscar Larios and Daniel Zaragoza. De La Hoya came down from the podium to shake each of their hands before announcing they would sign 50 canvas pieces cut from the ring on which Juan Manuel Marquez defeated Marco Antonio Barrera for $500 apiece.
“One hundred per cent of the proceeds will go to a charity for Mexican fighters,’’ Schaefer said. “The first recipient will be the family of Daniel Aguillon.’’
Aguillon was a Mexican fighter who died following a knockout loss in Las Vegas last month. He left behind a wife and two children. De La Hoya has agreed to match each purchase with another $500, meaning the Aguillon family could end up with $50,000.
Despite the charitable nature of the presence of those Mexican champions, Arum found a way to turn it inside out, pointing out that most of those champions were “a little bit long in the tooth.’’
“It was very impressive to have all these Mexican champions up here,’’ Arum said. “Great champions with great accomplishments, but most of them are a little bit long in the tooth. It reminds me of the Presidential election. In John McCain you had a candidate who was a man of great accomplishments but he was a little bit slow. A little bit long in the tooth.
“Oscar De La Hoya is a man of great accomplishments but like John McCain. A little bit long in the tooth. A little bit slow.’’
After which Arum compared a 135-pound Filipino boxer to President-elect Barack Obama.
That’s absurd but that’s boxing.
This is a fight that has brought together some of the biggest names in boxing, including 87-year-old trainer Angelo Dundee. Dundee continues to work with young fighters but remains best known for training first Muhammad Ali and then Sugar Ray Leonard for some of the biggest fights in boxing history.
De La Hoya brought him in as a “technical advisor’’ to work with his latest new trainer (No. 7) Nacho Beristain. Wednesday Dundee said he had been studying tape of both fighters and has come to the conclusion that Pacquiao has some fatal flaws, including locking his right leg when he throws, which makes him more vulnerable to being countered, and lunging in and throwing wide when he comes inside.
His prediction, not surprisingly, is that his fighter, De La Hoya, will win because “he’s the bigger man and he’s a better fighter.’’
But he also made clear that, in the end, the people who will decide the fight are not the trainers but rather the men they’ve trained.
“How can you say anything but good stuff about Freddie Roach,’’ Dundee said of Pacquiao’s trainer. “He was taught by my old friend Eddie Futch. But let me tell you I remember once a guy came to my gym, Fifth Street Gym in Miami. He said he was from Las Vegas and fought for Eddie Futch.
“I called Eddie and he said do what you can for him. So we get a fight and the corner guys were me, Eddie Futch and Freddie Roach. You know what?
“He got licked! It didn’t mean nothing who was in the corner. The important thing is the fighter on the stool.’’
Of all the words uttered at yesterday’s final press conference and through a long afternoon spent milling around Las Vegas, those few were the whole truth.
“It didn’t mean nothing who was in the corner. The important thing is the fighter on the stool.’’
Former lightweight champion Jim Watt, a erudite Scotsman who does boxing commentary for Sky TV in Great Britain, looked at De La Hoya and Pacquiao and came to a two-word conclusion on the outcome.
“Too big,’’ Watt said, echoing the feelings of many boxing insiders.
Watt said he had looked for many ways to see Pacquiao come out a winner but was unable to do so because he kept coming back to the same conclusion.
“Manny has been a lightweight for one fight so he’s not really coming up two weight classes,’’ Watt said. “He’s coming up three weight classes.
Here is a breakdown of the weight difference between the two dating back to 1995.
Even the family dog would probably get up and leave the room after hearing all the screaming and shouting.
But that’s all right. So far, that’s all it‘s been is talk, a lot of lip without any bleeding.
Super-flyweight champion Vic “Raging Bull” Darchinyan (31-1-1, 25 KOs) is scheduled to fight interim WBA super-flyweight champ Jorge Arce (51-4-1, 38 KOs) of Mexico on Feb. 7, somewhere here in the United States. It‘s one of those fights where good sportsmanship isn’t expected to be much of a factor. Won’t even appear in a cameo role.
It’s hard to say when the war of words actually started between these two or who started it, but with the reputation they each carry, it doesn’t really matter who started it. They’re both well known for their ability to spread it around.
Expect an increase of bad-mouthing the closer we get to February.
Time for bed, kids. Grandma, turn that thing off.
Coming off his big win over Cristian Mijares on Nov. 1, it took Darchinyan’s people all of about a 10-count to arrange for a fight between their guy and Arce, who says he’s been trying to get a fight with WBC super-bantamweight champ Israel Vazquez, but finally gave that up when he agreed to fight Darchinyan.
Once the Darchinyan-Arce fight was on, it didn’t take long for Darchinyan to express his respect and admiration for Arce and his fellow countrymen.
“I can’t get enough of Mexican fighters,“ said Darchinyan, who comes from Armenia but fights out of Australia. “They bounce real good off the canvas when I hit them. Let‘s see, I‘ve stopped Mijares, Victor Burgos and Luis Maldonado over the past two years. Unlike Arce, those three fighters were very tough hombres. Defeating Arce won’t take much training. It won’t even be a fight for me. More like pest control.”
Gee, that’s nice Vic.
Arce, meanwhile, took the high road.
Not really. Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.
Arce said he can only hope that Darchinyan “won’t run for the hills” like Vazquez did.
“Let‘s just see how much guts the so-called Raging Bull actually has,” Arce said.
Not one to stand quietly in the corner while everyone else has all the fun, Darchinyan was kind enough to handicap the fight for those of us who might be looking for an edge to put some serious money down on the winner.
“If Arce thinks he has a snowball’s chance in hell of beating me, then he’s a bigger sucker than those lollipops he chews on.”
Apparently, Arce chews on lollipops and Darchinyan is giving himself pretty good odds to win.
“Arce shouldn’t be worrying about me running for the hills,” Darchinyan said. “He should worry about me running him out of boxing.”
Clever. How do these guys come up with this stuff?
Darchinyan than took a more festive, cheerful stand, suggesting that this fight might end with something breaking.
“Arce is going to be my human piñata,“ he said. “It will be like a Chihuahua going against a bull. A raging bull.”
It’s all right grandma. You don’t have to turn that thing on. You’re not missing anything. Yet.
But like that faded vet who still does the roadwork, eats right, and puts in the hours at the gym hoping fortunes will reverse, and bright shiny days (and paydays) still lie ahead of him, The Contender plugs away, hoping for a shot in the arm from an upstart network, and the least sexy of all weight classes from which to feature talent, the cruiserweight division.
That all said, we at TSS root for the underdog more often then not, and have always found Danza to be an appealing, likeable enough talent. So we tuned in to see the Season Four premier on Versus on Wednesday evening, and watched as a batch of cruiserweights kicked off a battle for supremacy in an elimination tournament.
This time around, the boys are living in Signapore. Why exactly was not made clear…maybe the producers got a fab tax break from the local government?
Readers of TSS probably know more than a handful of fighters in the cast, and at least one of the trainers, Tommy Brooks. John Bray, a former heavyweight boxer, headed up the other team.
The teams were divided in two, the Blue and the Gold teams. We saw the fighters check out their new digs, of course, since that is a reality show staple. Another reality show staple, the sad pining for absent family, was of course included in the mix as well. Rich Gingras of NH almost teared up looking at photos of the fam. Felix Cora of Texas called his dad, checking in to see how his home did against a hurricane.
Ten minutes in, we’d yet to have any smack talking or territorial beefs…wait, spoke too soon…Joell Godfrey of Tennessee and Erick Vega of Texas went at each other. “You are the weakest link, you are going home first,” Godfrey said to Vega.
We had a look at a few of the 16 strivers. Castmember Darnell Wilson of Ohio and Maryland has had a taste of the near-bigtime, engaging in fringe title bouts and tussling on ESPN regularly. He should make it to at least the semis…Another hitter, Tim Flamos of Massachusetts, maybe won’t last. He’s strong, but is 41, and hasn’t fought a stellar level of competition.
The two squads went into a room, and chose the man to represent them. They did so without knowing who would be fighting for the other team. But the winning team would then have the power to choose their foe.
Vega and Godfrey both chimed in, saying they wanted to fight first. We didn’t see the decision made, until the teams reconvened. Indeed, Godfrey manned up for the Yellows. But Cora stepped forward for the Blues.
On fight night, Brooks and Bray gave their guys pep talks. Then, it was go time. In the first, we saw Godfrey stick and move, and the lefty Cora stalk maybe too patiently. Of course, only small segments of each round are shown. In round two, Cora got busier, and he tagged Godfrey, who got caught on the ropes. In round three, Godfrey came out with more vigor. Then Cora bore in, and he was sitting down on his shots, and digging in with right hooks to the body. In the fourth, both men had their moments. In the fifth and final round, Cora pressed forward, and banged away like he wanted it more. The judges thought he did: they scored it 49-46, 50-45, 50-45. Via editing, the fight looked closer than the judges deemed it.
After, Godfrey said, “I don’t know what happened. I never got into my rhythm. I was there but my body wasn’t. Felix had a little bit more edge.” Brooks laced into him for not listening, and not staying off the ropes. “I let myself, the Gold team and my family back home down.” He said he will learn from the loss, his first as a pro after nine wins.
Readers, are you watching this season of Contender? Or are you over it? Did you stop watching when Gallagher exited? Weigh in!
Throughout its history, Irish boxing has produced numerous skilled and brave warriors who have served their country proud through bloody battles and fistic fireworks. Legends like Barry McGuigan and Stevie Collins will be forever etched in the hearts of fans for their desire, talent, and achievement.
Today, Irish boxing is still rolling strong. Several world-class fighters from Ireland are making waves in the modern fight scene through their exciting styles. Some Irish pugs are even knocking on the door of a world-title chance.
With Fagan’s biggest career clash just days away, Irish fighting is back in boxing’s spotlight. So as a celebration to the warriors of Ireland, I’ve put together a little Irish pound-for-pound list, which follows. Ratings are based on an even basis of fighter talent and accomplishment.
1. John Duddy (25-0, 17 KOs):
He fights down to the level of his competition and he cuts easily, but Duddy is without a doubt a world-class middleweight. The Derry native throws punches in bunches in every round of every fight – and every blow he delivers with conviction.
In his most recent fight, Duddy looked strong in a ten-round thumping of the tough Charles Howe. Duddy evinced tremendous skill and stamina in the bout.
Throughout his career, Duddy, 29, has fought at 160 pounds. But he’s recently announced that he plans to fight six pounds south at light middleweight in his next fight, which is against Ronald Hearns in January. Duddy’s power should be more effective at the new weight class.
2. Bernard Dunne (27-1, 14 KOs):
Dunne was Ireland’s hottest fighter until was blitzed in one round by Kiko Martinez in August of last year. But don’t let the loss fool you – Dunne is still the real deal. Against Martinez, he was simply caught cold. A rematch could see a different result.
A super bantamweight, Dunne, 28, has all of the tools necessary to become a world champion. He’s a smooth boxer with robust power in both fists. If he can continue his three-fight win streak, he has an excellent shot of contending for a title in 2009.
3. Oisin Fagan (22-5, 13 KOs):
Fagan’s story is rather remarkable. He only fought thrice as an amateur, but through sheer guts and will as a pro, he’s become one of the best light welterweights in the world.
The road has been rather rocky for Dublin’s Fagan, 34. Three of his five losses have been very controversial. And all of those defeats came in his biggest bouts.
Still, Fagan has carried on, and with any luck, he’ll get a title shot before the end of 2009. Because of his all-action, come-forward style, he stands a chance against any 135 pounder in the world, including Khan, who is a heavy favorite on Saturday.
4. Andy Lee (16-1, 13 KOs):
Lee, of Limerick, carried the world on his shoulders going into his bout with Brian Vera in March of this year. The Irishman had a full plate of pressure in front of him: a large fan base, the immense praise of his legendary trainer/manager Emmanuel Steward, and a possible world title shot to think about in the near future.
But against Vera, everything came tumbling down.
Although he is 6’2, Lee did not use his size to keep the powerful and stout Vera at bay. Vera was able to get inside of Lee’s lanky frame to pound away at his body.
After six competitive rounds of back and forth action, Lee was eventually TKO’d. His run as Ireland’s top contender was over for the time being.
After the loss, Lee rebounded nicely with a tenth round TKO of tough man Willie Gibbs. But it will take more than one win for Lee to put himself back into contention. A rematch with Vera is in order if Lee wants to erase doubts that he’s an overrated prospect.
Lee has an outside shot of one day capturing a world championship. A southpaw with snappy punches, Lee can make some noise at 160 pounds if he’s able to capitalize on his immense potential. His biggest weakness is his defense; he needs to improve his strength to keep stocky fighters like Vera off of him.
5. Paul McCloskey (17-0, 7 KOs):
McCloskey is young and almost as green as the Irish flag, but many pundits, including myself, have put their faith in this smooth southpaw. His lopsided win against former champion Cesar Bazan is his most impressive performance to date.
McCloskey, 29, has a bout scheduled for Friday against an opponent to be named. A win plus an active 2009 could put him in position for a title shot down the road.