Expect the building to be chosen in the next day or so, as Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum and Hatton’s rep, Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy are hashing out venue details today.
Ricky Hatton had tried to give himself a hometown boost, politicking to hold the scrap in England. That location had more than a bit of merit to it, as the thought of jamming 50,000 rabid Hatton boosters into Wembley Stadium makes sense from a gate revenue perspective. But the time difference—England is five hours ahead of us on the East Coast—throws a hitch into that plan. Starting the main event at 4 AM is not fair to the punters who paid good money to see their man Hatton try and derail the Pacquiao P4P Express.
The Thomas and Mack Center or MGM Grand are believed to be the two arenas in the mix to stage the signature fight for the first half of 2009. The 30-year old Pacquiao (48-3-2) will enter the bout as the favorite, on the strength of his nine fight win streak, and the buzz that remains from his conclusive takedown of Oscar De La Hoya. Hatton (45-1), also 30, is enjoying a bit of a career boost, as he looked sharp and strong in battering Paulie Malignaggi in November. Under the gaze of new trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr., fight fans think the old dog may be learning some new tricks at this late stage of his career, and will provide a stern test for Pacquiao. The bout will take place at the 140 pound class, Hatton’s best division. Pacquaio last fought in a welterweight scrap with Oscar, but weighed 142 pounds at weigh in, so he was basically a junior welter on that night.
Most pundits expect, with the aid of hindsight, that Hatton will provide a much more grueling, physical hurdle than Oscar, who by all accounts was sapped by caloric deprivation. Will Pacquiao be able to employ his Coach Roach style, now perfected, against Hatton, who will look to mug and maul the Filipino more than any rival in recent memory? Will Manny be thrown off not fighting someone of Mexican descent? After ten straight bouts against Mexicans or Mexican Americans, will Pacquiao, not wearing his Mexicutioner cape, be able to function with the same efficiency?
Weigh in, TSS Univserse, on Pacquiao-Hatton. And may I be the first to go out on a limb, and refer to the bout as Pacquiao-Hatton I? I expect a war, a bloody, harsh war of attrition, with the winner eking out the nod by no more than a point or two on the cards. A sequel, I say, is a given.
In 2008, the 25 year-old witnessed the negative aspect of boxing politics first hand. Since destroying Jason Litzau on February 27th, Robert Guerrero has lived up to his nickname. “The Ghost” was in an extensive contract dispute with his former promoter Goossen Tutor for ten months. Instead of building on the momentum of a knockout victory, Guerrero was restlessly sitting on the sidelines.
The Gilroy, California native signed a contract with Golden Boy Promotions a few weeks ago. Now he feels fully vindicated, and foresees a bright future. TSS chatted with the Ghost and delved deeper. Raymond Markarian: Hey, how is it going Robert? Robert Guerrero: Doing great man, thanks. RM: I guess my first question has to be, what happened? Why was there a long hold up? RG: Well, I was stuck with arbitration with my old promoter Dan Goossen. My contract was up and he was trying to extend it. But, I did not want to extend it. So, it went on from there. RM: But, those arbitration cases do not usually take that long, do they? RG: I don’t think so. I think we broke the record for the longest arbitration case in history, that’s for sure. (Guerrero laughs.) It took pretty long. I was out for basically the whole year. RM: Yeah, I was at your last fight in February against Jason Litzau. That was a pretty exciting fight. RG: Yeah, it has been the longest time that I have ever been out of the ring. I am just happy to get back in. RM: I guess the first thing that comes to my mind about a long layoff like this would be the motivation factor. From the outside looking in, especially from a sports fans point of view, I would think that a lengthy layoff would hurt your motivation. RG: Not at all, it made me more anxious to fight. Especially after my last fight against Litzau, I knocked him out and put on a great performance by taking him out. I wanted to capitalize on that momentum right away. You always want to capitalize on a performance like that. I wanted to jump up to 130 pounds and make an impact. But it did not happen. RM: How about that Golden Boy signing, is that pretty much a done deal? RG: Yeah, it is a done deal. Man, I am excited. I signed with Golden Boy on Thursday. I have a good feeling. RM: That’s great. You are scheduled to fight on the undercard of Mosley/Margarito on January 24th, have they found an opponent for you yet? RG: No, we have not gotten an opponent yet. They want to get me back in the ring very soon. I want to get some work in. What can I say, I am excited. There are many guys around 130, 135, and I am right in that area. I am excited to be signed with Golden Boy because I will have the opportunity to get those big fights. RM: Well, who would you want to fight, if you had a choice? RG: Pacquiao would be my first choice. If you put two explosive lefties together it will be a war. I feel like I have the perfect style to beat him. RM: Why is that? RG: I have the speed and power. They say people are afraid to come in on Pacquiao, but I have fought a lot of lefties before. If you get a guy that could push Pacquiao back, then you have a real good fight. RM: You have a point. Pacquiao has not fought many guys that can make him go backwards. If you could do that against him then it would definitely be an interesting fight. RM: Yeah, Pacquiao has not fought a naturally lefty with speed and power that could stand and trade with him, and also bring in side to side movement. I just feel like I have the style to beat him. RM: What can you tell about the difference between Goossen Tutor Promotions and Golden Boy Promotions? RG: Well, it is just the way Golden Boy has been treating me. There is just so much excitement. There is all this good talk about the fights coming up and what they want to do with my career at 130, and 135 pounds. Just knowing that the opportunity is there for the big fights is exciting. RM: How did your relationship with the Goossen’s end on a personal level? RG: Well, I don’t hold any grudges. I don’t dislike anybody. You know, the past is the past. The Goossen’s got me on TV. They got me a title, but it is time to move on. I feel like Golden Boy is the right place for me at this point in my career. RM: Do you feel like you are at the driver seat at 130 pounds? Or, do you feel like a hungry tiger look for a meal? RG: I feel like I am a tiger out on the hunt. I have been out of the boxing ring for a whole year so I am hungry. My manager and I always say “We are not hungry like lions, we are hungry like cockroaches. There is nothing more hungry than a cockroach.” RM: (Markarian laughs) With the move up in weight, do you plan on switching up your style at all? RG: No, I am just going to continue doing what I am doing. If it isn’t broken don’t fix. It is all about getting sharper and better. My style depends on my opponent. You have to adjust to each fighter. RM: Do you have any interests outside of boxing? RG: I like to work on cars and spend time with my family. RM: If you don’t mind me asking, how is everything going with your wife’s cancer situation? RG: Everything is going great. She is doing amazing. She is remission right now. To know that she is doing well, that pumps me up even more. She is defeating a sickness that is a killer and that motivates me to work hard. My training to fight is nothing compared to the fight she has went through. So I just go to the gym everyday and let it go. She is doing excellent. RM: That’s good to hear. I have a couple of more questions. What can you tell me about Robert Guerrero that no one really knows? RG: I am just a normal guy, blessed with a great talent to fight, that works hard and spends time with his family. RM: Ok, the floor is yours, you have been out of the game for a year, tell me something that you want the boxing world to know. RG: I have been a ghost for the last year but I am back. Just be ready because I am I back. Contact: Raymond.Markarian@yahoo.com
"When Floyd Patterson regained the world heavyweight championship by knocking out Ingemar Johansson in June, 1960," Liebling begins, "he so excited a teenager named Cassius Marcellus Clay, in Louisville, Kentucky, that Clay, who was a good amateur light heavyweight, made up a ballad in honor of the victory." He goes on to discuss in brief the history of "pugilistic poetry," and then moves into the Department of Parks gymnasium on West Twenty-Eighth Street in New York where Clay, doing sit-ups while Angelo Dundee held his feet, recited his verse about Patterson.
"'You may talk about Sweden, You may talk about Rome, But Rockville Centre is Floyd Patterson's home. A lot of people say Floyd couldn't fight, But you should have seen him on that comeback night.'"
And later, after Patterson had knocked out Johansson:
"'A reporter asked: 'Ingo, will a rematch be put on?' Johansson said: 'Don't know. It might be postponed.''"
Although Liebling never said it, Clay's poem is, in respect to the canon of English poetry, non-canonical. Clay had composed trite, doggerel rhymes, but that didn't matter. What fascinated Liebling was that Clay had composed them at all. Clay had been inspired enough by a fight to translate the emotion he experienced into song. Liebling, who'd made a career doing the same, felt a kinship.
Evident in the way Liebling wrote about boxing is that he esteemed two things: boxing, and the language used to discuss it. He wielded metaphor deftly. For instance, in recalling Clay's gold medal victory over Zbigniew Pietrzykowski, Liebling said, "Clay had a skittering style, like a pebble scaled over water." Later, as the fight between Clay and the Detroit fighter Sonny Banks commenced (this bout was, after all, the subject of that New Yorker article I found), Liebling wrote of Clay, "The poet, still wrapped in certitude, jabbed, moved, teased, looking the Konzertstück over before banging the ivories." Clay, the poet, becomes the concert pianist, ready to delight the audience with his music. To Liebling, what happened inside the ropes was high art. He felt, therefore, that a good fight demanded an artful retelling as deliberate and thoughtful as a prizefighter's training.
The Sweet Science is dedicated to in-depth boxing coverage and breaking news, but as a new member of the team, I will be trying to preserve the art of boxing journalism. I don't make any claims to possessing Liebling's linguistic prowess, but in writing my impending series, Brute, a section of which will run every Tuesday for 20 weeks starting January 5th, I had Liebling in mind.
Brute follows two Sacramento boxers: Mike Simms, a cruiserweight who trained with the Olympic team in 2000, who when I found him had lost five successive fights; and Stan Martyniouk, a young, Estonian-born featherweight, who when I found him had just fought and won his professional debut by decision, despite breaking his right hand in the first round.
Over the next 20 weeks I look forward to sharing the stories of these two fighters with the readers of the Sweet Science, and I look forward to hearing from any and all of you.
Along the right wall, facing the training floor, were two men in basketball shorts. I sat down beside them and put my notepad on my lap. The man closest to me looked familiar, and I asked him why I thought I recognized him.
"Maybe from THE ULTIMATE FIGHTER," he said.
I recalled then that he was Billy Miles, and that on the sixth season of Spike TV's THE ULTIMATE FIGHTER he had looked tentative in the Octagon, and had been submitted with a rear-naked choke in the first round of his first fight. "I believe we went to high school together," I said instead. "Did you go to Del Oro?"
"Yeah," he said, and we shook hands. Then he turned back to the man to his left and picked up their conversation where he'd left it.
More men started filtering in—thick, short fighters with wrestling pedigrees and aspirations, I supposed, for the cage rather than the ring. On the radio was the Adam Carolla Show. A woman walked in wearing tear-away pants. She took a bottle of water from the refrigerator behind the desk, and when she walked onto the floor she didn't speak to anyone. She appeared anxious amongst all these men, and went to the rear of the room near the ring and began to stretch.
A tall man who had been hitting the speed bag stopped and walked from the back of the gym the length of the bench, talking to the men who sat wrapping their hands. When he got to me he said, "I want to train the lefty." I was writing notes with my left hand. He introduced himself as Eric Regan, and I told him that I had come to interview the boxers. There was a fight scheduled for the following week, on the 15th of May, at the Red Lion Inn in Sacramento. When I had read the press release, Brandon Gonzalez's name was at the top of the bill. He'd fought three times as a pro, and had knocked out each of his opponents in the first round. The other fighters appeared less distinguished, especially Mike Simms, whose record stood at 19-9, the five most recent consecutive losses.
As far as I could tell from the fight poster and various websites I had visited, Gonzalez's opponent was still 'To Be Announced,' so I asked Eric, "Do you know who Gonzalez is fighting yet?"
"You'll have to ask Nasser." Nasser Niavaroni co-owned the gym. "He's promoting the fight. He should be in this afternoon around three if you can hang out."
I had intended to hang out, but not necessarily for six hours. "When is Gonzalez going to be in?" I asked. I looked out into the parking lot where the Isuzu still sat parked, wondering if it wasn't Gonzalez in the car, talking with his girlfriend.
"I don't think he will be," said Eric. "He's probably still in Vegas. But Simms and Otis will be. That's Simms right there in the parking lot." He watched the door as a young woman in white sweats and a green top came in, carrying a small duffle bag. Then he looked back at me. "You should write that these guys are always late for training."
"I've noted that," I said.
The woman in green sat down beside me and began winding her hands in pink wrap. Eric watched her. "Who's your favorite cage fighter?" he asked her. "Tweeto Ortiz?" She didn't laugh so he repeated himself to ensure that she'd heard the joke.
"No," she said, but she didn't provide an alternate. Eric walked to the front desk, and she took out her phone and began writing a text message.
Outside Mike Simms got out of the Rodeo and walked through the front door. Eric said hello to him and pointed over at me. I stood up and went to the desk and introduced myself. If Gonzales wasn't in California, I would interview whomever was.
Simms is a big man with small hands. His face resembles Bernard Hopkins', although he appears to have taken fewer punches on the nose. I told him that I was there to interview the fighters featured on the May 15th card, and he said that he would be happy to talk with me. He walked back to the ring with his bag, and I followed him and sat on the mat, waiting for him to change. Near me a man was doing sit-ups on a declined bench. Across the gym Regan yelled for the congregation of recreational kickboxers to assume their formation, and en masse they began doing arm circles.
Simms came out of the dressing room and sat down on the mat. He took out his ring boots and a tangle of hand tape that he separated into its unique lengths. He rolled each strip into a coil and then began wrapping his right hand.
"Who are you fighting on Thursday?" I asked. I hadn't paid close attention when I'd read about his scheduled bout.
"Derrick Harmon," he said.
"You're a heavyweight?"
"Cruiser," he corrected me. "Two hundred pounds." He had finished with his right hand and had started on the left. "One of the last fights I had was in New York," he said, without provocation. "I fought Roman Greenberg, who was like 240. I knew I was gonna come in close to 200, and the promoter told me I had to come in well over that so it wouldn't be such a big gap in the weights. I was like, 'That's a part I can't help.' I'm naturally walking around at one ninety-five. So an hour before the weigh-in they took me across the street from Madison Square Garden and gave me French fries, a big ol' burger, juice, and everything. They had me try and pack on some weight. I think I came in at 206. Greenberg got on the scale and he weighed 241."
Simms finished with his left hand and put his sweatshirt into his bag. As he laced up his boots he said, "I think the biggest gap I had was my first pro loss, to a guy named Akuzia. Akuzie? I think I was 192 and he was like 246." He didn't seem to remember the fight well. (Later, when I was looking over his record, I found that his first pro loss was to Yanqui Diaz, in a six round decision in Reno. Diaz had weighed in officially at two twenty-seven, so perhaps this was our man, renamed and enlarged, but certainly a heavyweight).
"But I never worry about a guy being heavier than me," Simms continued. "If you land just one, ugly punch, you can do some damage. It don't got to be accurate. Just an ugly punch."
I mentioned that Rocky Marciano had never looked beautiful in the ring, that he had thrown brawler's punches, or what Al Weill, his manager, had called his "Suzie-Qs."
The man doing sit-ups had stood up and was wiping the sweat off his forehead. "He could hit like hell, though," he said, speaking of Marciano, and we all three agreed that Rocky Marciano could hit like hell.
"Or you take Joe Calzaghe right now," said Simms. "He throws a lot of punches, but he don't throw nothing with bad intentions. Like amateur scoring punches."
This, I assumed, was the other way Simms assumed he could fight a heavier man, by darting in and pecking at him. I mentioned that I thought Calzaghe's approach to fighting Hopkins recently in Las Vegas had been to slap him rather than slug him. The other man, whose name I later learned was Eric Regan's brother, Ezra, said, "That's what he does." I reminded them that Calzaghe had KOs—thirty-two of them, in fact—and that perhaps it had been Hopkins refusal to meet Calzaghe in the center of the ring that had inspired Joe's style.
"He just pummels you down," said Ezra, still speaking of Calzaghe. "The way he beats guys up is probably worse than getting caught with one. Ask Jeff Lacy. He ruined Jeff Lacy."
Since we had discussed the two extremes of boxing style—the brutal slugging of Marciano and the light, aggressive, percussive boxing of Calzaghe—I asked Simms how he considered his own work in the ring. "Are you a puncher or a boxer?"
"I definitely can punch," he said. "But it's like, people believe more in my punching ability than I do." He laughed.
"Mike be a boxer," Ezra said. "Switching left and right, doing every move in the book." Simms brightened at this compliment.
"My old trainer, Ray Williams," said Simms, "would tell me that when I got in the ring it was like my stage. I could go in there with the skills I had, and the toughness, and knock guys out in the first round or two. If I mentally wanted to. But that's not how I think." I wondered then why any boxer who had consistent, first round knockout punches, wouldn't use them exclusively, or at least box his way into as many fortuitous situations as possible. Simms continued, "I go into the ring and people tend to think that I'm in there playing around. People get confused because I'm not all mean-mugging, I'm not huffing and puffing, foaming at the mouth, or trying to scare my opponent with any kind of mental tactics. They think I don't take it serious, when I am serious." The tenor of his voice when he said serious made me wonder if he actually was.
“I’m always willing to fight,” said Cooper (19-0, 11 KOs), who lives and trains in Las Vegas. “It’s been really hard to find anything this year. I really don’t know why.”
Cooper and the 400 or so other professional female fighters in the country are always in a two-way battle to find promoters willing to stage their bouts and opponents willing to travel to other states and other countries. It’s a never-ending journey.
Unlike men, the female fighters rarely get television exposure.
Though only in her early 20s, Cooper has been boxing for more than 12 years as both an amateur and professional. Except for two fights, the feared boxer has breezed through competition and is anxiously waiting for a “big fight.” Cooper is a big puncher among female fighters who rarely win by knockout. Winning by stoppage is as common as women dunking in basketball, especially fighting in two-minute rounds.
“Melinda will fight anybody from junior bantamweight to junior featherweight,” said James Pena, who has been training Cooper since she was 11 years old. “We’ve looked all over. We even fought in France.”
The sport of boxing was not kind to female prizefighters in 2008. In fact, it hasn’t been kind for the past five years with fewer and fewer fights emerging for those women willing to engage.
“There’s definitely been a drop off,” says Pena, who searches worldwide for possible opportunities.
American female prizefighters only wish they could have parity with their European counterparts where women prizefighters like Germany’s Regina Halmich, France’s Anne Sophie Mathis and Bulgaria’s Galina Koleva Ivanova are big draws and make substantial purses.
Fighting overseas, however, has its disadvantages. If an American boxer does not knock out the European boxer, then chances are it’s going to end with a loss.
“You have to take it out of the hands of the judges,” said Layla McCarter, who has fought overseas on numerous occasions. “When I fought in Canada I made sure I had at least one American judge.”
McCarter won by split-decision when she beat Jelena Mrdjenovich, a talented Canadian lightweight champion. But that was Canada.
Other female fighters have not fared well in Europe, such as Jeannine Garside who traveled to Bosnia and lost to that country’s Irma Balijagic-Adler for the WIBA featherweight title a week ago and to South Korea’s Ji-Hye Woo for the IFBA junior lightweight title last summer.
Hollie Dunaway is set to fight in Korean this coming March and a few others are preparing for fights in the more lucrative European market.
When fighting overseas it’s always best to wield a knockout punch. But few female prizefighters carry that kind of firepower.
With 11 knockouts in 19 pro fights, Cooper remains her own judge, jury and executioner and displayed that against France’s Daniela David, who was forced to quit in the first round in 2007. The bashful Cooper intends to win world titles in several weight classes.
But she really wants those green belts.
“I want to win the WBC belts, that’s why I got into boxing,” says Cooper, who is a former flyweight titleholder. “I’ve always wanted one of those green belts. But I’ll take any world title belt if the opportunity comes.”
Opportunities are what the female boxers are hoping to find in 2009.
“Women fights usually steal the show when they happen,” said Jackie Kallen, who manages several boxers including Garside. “They just don’t get enough exposure.”