This Saturday is an all-important Jr. Middleweight showdown in Las Vegas between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Erislandy Lara. There has been so much talk about this fight going to a decision and that Alvarez—being promoter Golden Boy’s top attraction—will win if this fight goes to the scorecards. I don’t buy it.
Sure, many of the worst decisions in boxing history—or in the the 40 years, anyway—have taken place in Sin City. Well, when you have more title fights than anywhere else, you are bound to have the most controversial endings…and scores…and judges who differ.
Let’s try to understand—and believe—that judges don’t see every round exactly the same. Especially close rounds. Especially competitive rounds. Especially two-sided rounds. At the end of a competitive, closely-contested round, two of the three judges will score the round in favor of “Fighter A.” The other judge will score it for “Fighter B.” In a close fight, just one of those rounds, coupled with an even round, can mean a swing the other way in the official tabulation.
Judges can be found in two categories: Competent and Honest. Some judges are highly-competent. Some are not. Most are honest. Some are not. In my years as head of the New York State Athletic Commission, I licensed and worked with some highly-competent officials, among them Julie Lederman, Steve Weisfeld, Don Ackerman, Billy Costello, Ron McNair and Melvina Lathan. It was a no-brainer for me to hand them the bigger, more lucrative and visible fights. There were also judges whose work almost scared me. I always felt they guessed at close rounds. Their body of work usually had them constantly on the short end of a split decision. To them, I never assigned highly-visible fights and important fights. In other matches, I always teamed them with two of my “A” judges, knowing at least two of them will get the score correct. Of course, if they were THAT bad, I retired their judging license.
While I did find competence, incompetence and honesty, the one thing I never found was dishonesty in any official—be it a judge or a referee. Had I uncovered such a dishonest official, I would have publically excoriated him/her.
On Saturday night, fight fans don’t have to worry about who Bob Bennett, the new Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, has assigned to work the Canelo Alvarez-Erislandy Lara fight. They are all well-known veterans with sterling resumes. The referee is Robert Byrd. The judges are Jerry Roth (Nevada), Dave Moretti (Nevada) and Levi Martinez (New Mexico). As far as Bob Bennett is concerned, no Nevada official will dare do anything except follow the rules. Mr. Bennett is a retired former Special Prosecutor for the FBI.
So, on Saturday, sit back and enjoy the fight card (if you have elected to buy the PPV showing). If Alvarez-Lara goes the distance, know that the decision—even though it may not be one you agree with, is an honest one.
OVER/UNDER: Golden Boy’s Oscar de la Hoya said he believes the Alvarez-Lara PPV telecast will surpass 1 million. What’s the betting line here? I say 750,000. Will it go over that number or fall short of that number? I say it falls short. This is a fight which belongs of free TV.
AROUND THE RING: You know him as the color analyst on the fights seen on the NBC Sports Network, the man alongside veteran blow-by-blow announcer Kenny Rice. His name is BJ Flores, and he is a Top 10-rated professional cruiserweight who lives in Arizona. Flores’ has been fighting as a pro since 2003. In November, 2010, Flores took a 24-0 record to Australia, where he faced Danny Green for the IBO Cruiserweight Title. After 12 rounds, Green was awarded a unanimous decision. Following that fight, Flores fought twice in 2011 and twice more in 2012, winning all four fights. Then, concentrating on his announcing career, Flores was inactive in 2013. Always in the gym, even when on the road, Flores returned to action last May 10, stopping Adam Collins in the first round on the undercard to Bermane Stiverne’s KO 6 of Cris Arreola at USC’s Galen Center. He returned to action a little over one month later, winning an eight-round decision against Anthony Smith in Las Vegas. His fight was part of a card which featured some of the best young fighters in the world, including light heavyweight Marcus Browne, welterweight Errol Spence and heavyweight Gerald Washington. There is now talk of Flores taking his 30-1-1 record and challenging 42-year-old WBA Cruiserweight Champion Guillermo Jones. GJ vs BJ…Former light heavyweight champ Eddie Mustafa Muhammad is recovering nicely from back surgery and is up and around his home and gym in Las Vegas…Danny Jacobs is training hard in Easton, PA for his August 9 fight for the vacant WBA Middleweight Title against Australia’s Jarrod “Left Jab” Fletcher. Jacobs’ main sparring partner for the bout, which will take place at the Barclay’s Center, is hard-hitting Brooklyn middleweight Curtis Stevens. For the past few weeks, Jacobs has been having training sessions behind closed doors. No visitors or media. Except one: Larry Holmes. Why only the former heavyweight champ? “He owns the town,” Jacobs says with a laugh…Speaking of training, both Gennady Golovkin and Daniel Geale have been looking tremendous in their respective training camps as they head towards their July 26 showdown at Madison Square Garden. A heavyweight matchup on the GGG-Geale undercard is one the boxing world has its eyes on. The fight is between Bryant Jennings and Mike Perez. The two unbeatens will face each other over 12 rounds. Jennings who is 18-0, is coming off an impressive 10th round stoppage of previously unbeaten Artur Spilka in January. Also that month, Perez, who is 20-0, was just two months off his brutal victory over Magomed Abdusalamov, labored his way to a majority decision over Carlos Takam. Reports say both fighters are in prime condition, but a source in the Perez camp says he frequently goes into trance-like lapses during sparring sessions, as if his head is somewhere else, something he never did before in his previous 20 fights. Ya’ gotta’ just wonder which Perez will show up on the night of the fight…Bob Arum has offered Chris Algieri $1 million to face Manny Pacquiao this Fall in Macau, China. Our Radam calls it an early Thanksgiving Turkey for Pacquiao. Hmm. In reality, it could be an early Christmas present for Algieri.
STILL DREAMING: He was once among the most feared punchers in the sport. He was also a world champion. He is Jeff “Left Hook” Lacy, the former super middleweight champ. He took his world title and a 22-0--1 record into a bout against Joe Calzaghe in 2006 and dropped a one-sided decision to the future Hall-of-Famer. Over the next four years he went 4-3, losing to Jermain Taylor, Roy Jones and clubfighter Dhafir Smith. Following the loss to Smith, Lacy hung up the gloves. As we well know, boxing retirements are usually temporary. Lacy’s lasted three years. He returned with a third-round knockout win last November over Martin Verdin. Now, Lacy has moved to light heavyweight and says he is better than ever and seeks a shot at one of the light heavyweight titles. On Thursday night in Miami, he faced Cuban transplant Umberto Savigne, who is 12-1. Although I was afraid for Jeff Lacy, feeling he has taken too much punishment for his 37 years, Savigne, while hard-hitting (he has nine stoppages in his 12 wins), was dropped and almost beaten by Dhafir Smith, the same Dhafir Smith who thoroughly outboxed Lacy in 2010. Should Lacy have won, perhaps landing one of his vaunted hooks on the questionable chin of Savigne, he’d have been looking for a big name next. Instead, there will be pressure to exit the sport. He was smashed by Savigne (TKO2).
CALLING OUT THE OPPOSITION: Unbeaten female fighter Shelly “Shallito’s Way” Vincent has called out Heather Hardy. Both are unbeaten and both are attracting lots of media attention. Hardy, 11-0, is out of New York, while Vincent is from two-and-a-half hours North, from Groton, CT. Hardy fights in her hometown, while Vincent, 12-0, has found a home at the Foxwoods Casino. Last week, after winning a decision at Foxwoods, Vincent was a guest on my SiriusXM show. She held nothing back as she called out Hardy.
“I’ll fight her in Foxwoods, I’ll fight her in New York,” said Hardy. “But I know she’ll never leave the New York area to fight. Me, I don’t care. I just want a ring and Hardy in it.” Asked if she’d be worried about the “hometown decision,” Hardy said, “not at all.” The she added, “That’s because the judges won’t be needed. All we’ll need is a ref to count over her horizontal body!”
We’re waiting for an answer from Hardy.
While Vincent tempered her remarks about Hardy, heavyweight contender Tyson Fury held nothing back about both Wladimir Klitschko and Deontay Wilder, while a guest on my show. “Wladimir is a ----y,” said Fury. He fights nobodies and then grabs them and holds them. He is the world clinching champion! I will knock him out, because I have no fear of him. As for Deontay Wilder, it looks to the public like he can punch. But who is he hitting? Stiffs! Bums! Nobodies! He’s also a ----y. I will knock him out easier than I will knock out Klitschko.”
When told of Fury’s remarks, Wilder said, “He gets tapped and he goes down. I am going to more than tap him. I am going to knock him out cold. He talks big, but if a contract to fight me ever gets put in front of him, he will cry like a b---h not to sign it. He is 99% mouth, 1% fighter.”
LATE RESULTS: Jr. Middleweightveteran Alfonso Gomez kept his career alive with a decision against Ed Paredes in Las Vegas. Fighting in the main event on FoxSports1, Gomez kept Paredes off-balance all-night long and coasted to a comfortable unanimous 10-round decision. The cards were 99-92, 98-92 and 96-93. Gomez was so impressive and so full of fight, that despite being dropped in the fourth and sixth rounds, he stormed back in both of those rounds to pull a 10-10 round in one of them and lose the other only by a 10-9 score on the card of judge Dave Moretti. Gomez is now 24-6-2 (14), while Paredes dropped to 35-4-1 (23)…On the undercard, 2012 U.S. Olympian Joseph Diaz Jr. went to 11-0 (7), taking a 10-round unanimous verdict over tough Ramiro Robles. Diaz’ victory upped the Olympic Teams’ overall record to 90-0.
HOOKED ON THIS BOOK: Author Springs Toledo is brilliant. Change that. He is an absolute genius. He is Rembrandt with the written word. In “The Gods of War,” a collection of his boxing essays, Toledo begins by tying together the ends of “fifteen degrees of separation and no less than 10 International Boxing Hall of Famers connecting (Harry) Greb’s fist to my face.” That’s right. Toledo sparred with a man who fought a man who fought a man…who fought the legendary Harry Greb. Right away, you feel his love for boxing. From one of my closest friends, Alexis Arguello, to Henry Armstrong, Sugar Ray Robinson, Harry Greb, Ezzard Charles, Roberto Duran, Charley Burley, Rocky Marciano and more, Toledo will make you smile. He’ll make you laugh. He may even make you shed a tear, as I did, when I read his essay about Arguello. There are also four short, wonderful essays on the vastly-talented and just-as misunderstood Charles “Sonny” Liston entitled, “The Liston Chronicles.” Toledo even has a list of the top 30 fighters of the Modern Era. I call it the “Toledo Thirty.” Published by Tora Book Publishing, this book belongs in your den or study, prominently displayed in your “Favorites” section. Bert Sugar once told me, “At its best, there is nothing like boxing journalism.” Springs Toledo’s “The Gods of War” is indeed boxing journalism at its very best. FYI—Springs Toledo will be a guest on my SiriusXM show next Monday at 7:15pm (ET). If you have SiriusXM, check out his interview on channel 92.
Pound-for-Pound: You’ve got under Sunday at 11:59 pm to get your PxP list of current fighters to me, so we can finally have our own official listing. If you’re holding off and waiting until you see the result of Alvarez-Lara, I understand, but with so many of you turning in your ballots already, even a super-impressive showing by either one will affect this first listing. Next month’s, perhaps, but not this one. So, if you haven’t done so yet, send me your list of the top 10 fighters in the world. All I need are the Top 10. Other vote-getters who do not make the Top 10 will be given mention.