THE HAUSER REPORT. A significant anniversary in boxing history is drawing near. Thirty years ago – on 22 November 1986 – 20-year-old Mike Tyson annihilated Trevor Berbick to claim his first championship belt. Nine months later, he was the undisputed, unified, heavyweight champion of the world.
Tyson-Berbick was contested at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas. Berbick (31-4-1, 23 KOs) had claimed the WBC crown with a narrow points win over Pinklon Thomas eight months earlier. Tyson entered the ring with 27 victories and 25 knockouts in 27 outings.
It was a coronation rather than a competitive fight.
Don King once said of Tyson, “No fighter has ever been more committed to the knockout. And no fighter was ever better able to deliver it.”
There was no feeling-out process in Tyson-Berbick. Tyson went after his foe like a pitbull tearing apart a rabbit. He dominated Berbick from the opening bell and staggered him several times in the first stanza. In round two, he pummeled Berbick around the ring, knocking him down twice. After the second knockdown, Berbick tried to rise from the canvas and fell down. Twice. It was over at 2:35 of the second round.
Tyson looks askance now at the person he was when he was heavyweight champion. The self-loathing he felt then appears to have been replaced by cautious optimism on his part regarding the future and how he has evolved as a person.
“The best decision I ever made was to retire from boxing,” Tyson says. “I like the person I am now more than I did. I don’t like Iron Mike. I like Mike Tyson.”
That said; I hope that, on some level, Tyson understands and derives satisfaction from what a great fighter he was when he was young.
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Manny Pacquiao has remained an active fighter past his feel-good date. He’s still a formidable ring presence. But he’s no longer the electrifying warrior who thrilled boxing fans around the world with his destruction of Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, and Miguel Cotto during an eleven-month period that ended seven years ago. Pacquiao’s faux retirement after decisioning Tim Bradley this past April didn’t help his marketability. And the “Senator Manny Pacquiao” storyline has some of lost its luster. Americans had their own election to worry about this year. And Pacquiao was tarnished by his support of Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte’s dictatorial policies as well as his own homophobic rants.
Pacquiao was a 5-to-1 favorite on November 5 when he faced Jessie Vargas. Because of his diminished marketability, Manny had agreed to slash his contractually-guaranteed minimum purse to, in promoter Bob Arum’s words, “no guarantee that would get us in trouble.” Later reports put the number at $4,000,000; well below the $20,000,000 that Pacquiao had been guaranteed for his previous fight.
Pacquiao adviser Michael Koncz said the deal made sense for Manny because the fighter would have a piece of all revenue streams from the promotion, making Pacquiao and Top Rank “true partners.” Arum elaborated on that theme, saying, “Anything north of 600,000 buys would be a big night, and he would make a lot of money.”
If I won the Powerball lottery, I’d make a lot of money too. The widespread assumption is that this will be Pacquiao’s lowest take from a fight since he fought David Diaz eight years and fifteen fights ago.
Pacquiao-Vargas showed that Pacquiao is still a good fighter, although not as good as he once was. He dropped Vargas with a straight left in round two. Jessie rallied a bit, helped by the fact that the bursts of machine-gun fire from Manny’s fists are fewer and further in between than they once were. After six rounds, the fight was close with Pacquiao having a slight edge. But by then, he’d figured out Vargas’s one-dimensional style. And Jessie was tiring. That enabled Pacquiao to run the table for the rest of the fight en route to a unanimous decision triumph.
Pacquiao would like to fight Floyd Mayweather next. The guess here is that Mayweather will fight again. Who Floyd fights is an open issue.
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Danny Garcia has been going in soft lately. His latest victim was Samuel Vargas, whose previous moment in the spotlight was in the role of cannon fodder en route to a fourth-round knockout defeat at the hands of Errol Spence at Barclays Center on April 11, 2015. Garcia fought in the main event that night. Clearly, Danny decided that his skills would match up better against Vargas than against Spence.
Garcia-Vargas evoked memories of Garcia vs. Rod Salka, a woeful mismatch that was contested 27 months ago. Against Vargas, Garcia was listed as a 50-to-1 favorite. He looked sharp. Samuel looked awful.
Vargas is an arm-puncher who doesn’t seem to understand that a fighter should move his head when the opponent is punching. He also kept his left hand low, brought his jab back slowly, and got hit all night with right hands over the top that everyone in the arena except Samuel could see coming. By round seven, it was clear that his cause was hopeless and he was taking too much punishment. Mercifully, the fight was stopped.
As for what comes next . . . The crown jewel in Showtime’s recently-announced fight schedule is Garcia vs. Keith Thurman, which boxing fans have been promised will be contested on March 4, 2017.
Garcia-Thurman would be a very good fight. Has it actually been signed? Are the fighters locked in? Or will Garcia find an excuse to avoid Thurman by taking what is billed as an “even bigger fight.”
Premier Boxing Champions, Showtime, Garcia, and the fighters’ respective camps all say that Thurman-Garcia will happen on March 4. I hope they’re right.
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The November 12 match-up between Luis Ortiz and Malik Scott epitomized why boxing fans are turning away from the sweet science.
In the best of times, the heavyweights are boxing’s flagship division. These aren’t the best of times.
Initially, fans were promised an autumn match-up between Tyson Fury and Wladimir Klitschko. Then Fury fell victim to his demons, and we were told that Klitschko vs. IBF beltholder Anthony Joshua would happen. Joshua-Klitschko (like Fury-Klitschko) would have been a compelling fight. But that too fell apart. Now Joshua is slated to face an overmatched Eric Molina on December 10. That same day, Joseph Parker will square off against the habitually overweight Andy Ruiz for a bogus WBO heavyweight belt.
The WBA recently decreed that Lucas Browne and Shannon Briggs should do battle for its strap before the end of the year with the winner to face Fres Oquendo within 120 days. Browne has fought a string of has-beens and never-weres. Briggs will be 45 years old in December. His last win over a quality opponent was ten years ago. Oquendo is 43 years old and hasn’t fought in 28 months. His best wins were in 2001.
To complicate matters further, the WBA has also ruled that Joshua and Klitschko have been granted a “special permit” to fight for its “super” heavyweight belt (presumably in spring 2017). And the WBA has been making noises about an “interim” heavyweight title fight involving some combination of Manuel Charr, Alexander Ustinov, and David Haye.
WBC beltholder Deontay Wilder is on the shelf until next year because of surgery.
All of that left Luis Ortiz (who would have been a credible challenger) as the odd man out. Rather than fight a competitive opponent, Ortiz was in the ring on November 12 against a shopworn Malik Scott (who was knocked out by Wilder in 96 seconds 32 months ago and hadn’t fought in over a year).
It was a horrible fight. Scott, a 30-to-1 underdog, didn’t even pretend to be interested in winning. Nor did he box, move, or dance. He flat out ran for twelve rounds. Malik landed one punch in round one and one more in round two. Overall, CompuBox credited him with just 45 punches landed over the course of 36 minutes.
Ortiz had trouble cutting off the ring and didn’t look particularly good despite knocking Scott down three times. On a half dozen other occasions, Mailk went to the canvas voluntarily to avoid punches. The final tally of the judges was 120-105, 120-106, 119-106.
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UFC made its long-awaited New York debut at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
The star of UFC 205 was Conor McGregor, a trash-talking former plumber who stepped into the void when Ronda Rousey lost to Holly Holm on November 15 of last year. McGregor subsequently lost to Nate Diaz. But unlike Rousey, who has been out of action since losing to Holm, Conor returned quickly to the octagon and defeated Diaz on a razor-thin majority decision in a rematch this past August 20.
When UFC 205 finally arrived, McGregor disposed of Eddie Alvarez with relative ease to claim the UFC 155-pound throne. Tyron Woodley and Joanna Jedrzejczyk prevailed in other title fights.
Boxing can learn from UFC. Take the September 27 kick-off press conference for UFC 205 as an example. The curtain went up on the stage at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. UFC president Dana White was standing center stage at a podium flanked by a dozen combatants who would appear on the card and were seated on either side of him. There were no longwinded speeches from managers, trainers, television executives, athletic commission personnel, or sponsors. White and the fighters took questions for thirty minutes. Then it was over.
On fight night, the attitude wasn’t, “We have Conor McGregor in the main event so the undercard can be garbage.” It was, “Let’s give people who are buying tickets and paying for the pay-per-view a lot of exciting fights.” Moreover, by and large, UFC gives its fans what they want to see when they want to see it. It doesn’t “marinate” fights until the meat turns rancid.
Compare that with the slop that Mayweather Promotions and Top Rank inflicted on the public on the night of Mayweather-Pacquiao.
Unfortunately, the behind-the-scenes activity surrounding UFC 205 and the legalization of mixed martial arts in New York has revealed how inept and morally lax the New York State Athletic Commission and its puppet-masters in Albany have become. I’ll have more to say on that subject next month.
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Sixteen years ago – on November 11, 2000 – the eyes of the fight world were on Las Vegas when Lennox Lewis successfully defended his heavyweight throne against the challenge of David Tua. But the world was focused on the uncertainty surrounding the November 7, 2000, presidential election and whether George Bush or Al Gore would be awarded Florida’s 25 electoral votes and become the next president of the United States. Ultimately, Bush prevailed before the United States Supreme Court by a 5-to-4 margin.
Eight years later, on November 4, 2008, Barack Obama defeated John McClain to become the 44th president of the United States. The next day, Roy Jones and Joe Calzaghe met at the final pre-fight press conference prior to their November 8, 2008, fight at Madison Square Garden.
“Last night made us all equal,” Roy told me.
Three nights later, I was with Jones in his dressing room after he lost a lopsided decision to Calzaghe. Roy sat on a folding metal chair with his head down, his face battered and swollen. Roy Jones III, age eight, stood to the side with tears streaming down his face. Raegan Jones, as cute as a four-year-old can be, moved to her father’s side and put her arms around him.
“I’m a big girl, daddy,” Raegan said. “I don’t cry.”
Roy smiled and gave her a hug. Then I reminded Roy of what he’d said the morning after Barack Obama was elected president.
Roy’s face lit up.
“God is good,” he said.
On November 19, the eyes of the fight world will once again be on Las Vegas when Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev meet in the most significant boxing match of the year. Once again, presidential politics will provide the backdrop; this time with the reality that Donald Trump has been elected president of the United States.
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Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at email@example.com. His most recent book – A Hard World: An Inside Look at Another Year in Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism.