Friday, July 12 (continued): Hall of Fame trainer George Benton said his chief second used to tell him, “Win this one; look good in the next one.” That was the sentiment following heavyweight Jermaine Franklin Jr.’s lopsided but less-than-scintillating victory over Rydell Booker on the Claressa Shields-Christina Hammer undercard April 13 in Atlantic City, a sentiment that the fighter also shared.
“I think I had a decent performance,” Franklin Jr. told The Ring magazine’s Joe Santoliquito back then. “There’s some stuff I could work on. I overcrowded myself a little bit. I was a little overanxious. (Booker) had a lot more experience than me and used it to his advantage. He could see what I was doing. I learned to stay more patient because I had him hurt a few times but once I got overanxious, my whole game plan went out the window. I started messing up and making crazy mistakes I shouldn’t have. Now it’s back to the drawing board to work on my mistakes and come out bigger and badder next time. I’d like to be in a bigger fight against a top guy next but we know how the boxing business works, so I’ll just keep working and wait for my turn.”
Almost three months to the day later, the 25-year-old prospect faced southpaw Jerry Forrest, a 31-year-old with a 25-2 (with 19 knockouts) record whose two losses came in his two previous “step-up” fights against Gerald Washington (KO by 2) and Michael Hunter (L UD 8) in back-to-back outings in August 2013 and June 2014 respectively. Not a “top guy” like Franklin wanted but an appropriate step up from a 38-year-old Booker who was appearing in his fourth fight since ending a 13 ½-year retirement. This was the “next time” Franklin spoke about in April and this was the fight in which he needed to back up the words of promoter Dmitry Salita, who called him “America’s best heavyweight (prospect)” in a story posted by the Detroit Free Press earlier in the week.
However instead of progressing, Franklin appeared to regress – so much so that the split decision in his favor was booed by the crowd inside the Emerald Queen Casino, criticized by the “ShoBox” broadcast team and produced descriptions of his victory in the press as an “escape” or “fortunate.” The record will state that Alan Krebs and Tim Wood judged Franklin a 97-93 winner but the conventional wisdom was more with Hunter Walton’s vote for Forrest, if not exactly his 96-95 score.
The CompuBox numbers offer nuggets for both sides of the equation, although more of them sided with the man who walked out of the ring with his third “L” than with the fighter who raised his record to 19-0 (13). The 240 ¼-pound Franklin – who was five pounds lighter than was the case against Booker so he wasn’t bigger than he was in April – was the busier fighter as he averaged 46.6 punches per round to Forrest’s 38.2, was the more prolific power hitter as he led 94-76 in connects, was the slightly more accurate fighter with his hooks, crosses and uppercuts (36.2% to Forrest’s 35.2%) and dominated in terms of body punching (40-5).
Heavyweight Jermaine Franklin (left) vs. Jerry Forrest. Photo by Dave Mandel/SHOWTIME
However the more compelling numerical arguments can be made for Forrest, who, at 222 ¾, was 6 ¼-pounds trimmer than his most recent fight, an eight-round unanimous decision win over Joshua Tufte in Lynchburg, Virginia, on the same night Franklin defeated Booker in Atlantic City. Despite being the less active fighter, Forrest still led 121-107 in total connects. Forrest landed the jab much more successfully in terms of raw numbers (45-13) and in percentage (27%-6%). Perhaps most importantly Forrest led 7-2-1 in the CompuBox round-by-round breakdown of total connects – relevant because clean punching is such a key judging factor.
In April, Franklin justified his victory by finishing stronger than Booker in rounds six through 10 (71-40 overall and 57-30 power, including 27-14 overall and 21-7 power in the final two rounds). However against Forrest, Franklin was swept in rounds six through 10 (66-49 overall, including 27-2 in landed jabs) and the 10th proved to be Forrest’s strongest of the fight in terms of connect margin as he led 17-11, larger than the gaps he earned in the other six rounds in which he led (one connect in the first, two connects in the ninth, three connects in the third and eighth and five connects in the sixth). This negative second-half fight-to-fight contrast is why this performance represents a step backward for Franklin. While he wanted to be “badder” next time, he certainly didn’t mean it to be this way.
Conversely Forrest might have officially lost the fight but the trajectory of his career turned upward with this showing. He was perceived to be the winner in many quarters and he’ll likely get another opportunity on TV to ascertain whether his outing against Franklin was a genuine, long-term measure of his talent or whether it was just an inspired night at the office. My gut tells me that Forrest could get a second shot on ShoBox but given his underwhelming performances against Booker and Forrest, will Franklin Jr. get a third?
Local hero Giovanni Cabrera Mioletti needed the first four rounds to adjust to Luis Porozo’s free-swinging, highly mobile fighting style. His punches often whizzed past the Ecuadorian’s head or were blocked by his arms and elbows while Porozo’s fists pushed the pace (54 punches per round to Cabrera Mioletti’s 41 in rounds one through four) and connected more consistently (46-34 overall, 44-25 power in that same span). The 29-year-old looked faster, more composed and more fluid than his 24-year-old rival and an upset appeared possible.
Then came the fifth round and with it, the shift that turned the fight Mioletti’s way. The vehicle by which the Washingtonian seized control was his jab, which registered just nine connects in 67 attempts in rounds one through four (13%) but eight connects in 30 attempts in round five (27%). His success in establishing range with his southpaw jab led to an extraordinary leap in terms of his power punching as he landed 14 of 23 – or 61% – of his hooks, crosses and uppercuts, a far cry from the 25 of 97 (26%) he logged in rounds one through four. Meanwhile Porozo declined from 13 of 53 overall and 12 of 43 power in round four to just 6 of 47 overall and 5 of 37 power in round five.
Junior lightweight Giovanni Mioletti (left) vs. Luis Porozo. Photo by Dave Mandel/SHOWTIME
Rounds six through 10 saw Mioletti steadily pull away as he out-landed Porozo 92-41 overall, 38-0 jabs and 54-41 power, average a robust 63.6 punches per round to Porozo’s 50.8 and sweep his way to a comprehensive unanimous decision victory (98-92 by Krebs and Wood, 97-93 by Walton). The CompuBox round-by-round breakdown had Mioletti ahead 7-3, with the American sweeping the final six rounds.
Were Mioletti’s early issues the result of nerves – this was his national TV debut – the anxiety of fighting such an important match before his home fans or the difficulties in solving Porozo’s waterbug style? My guess is it was a mixture of all three but once Mioletti’s mind settled into the fight, the rest of his body followed and the result was exactly what he and his team had envisioned. It was a growing-up fight for Mioletti, who, at 5-feet-8 ½ inches, is pretty tall for a junior lightweight.
The victory advanced Mioletti’s record to 17-0 (with 7 KOs) while eroding Porozo’s to 14-1 (with 7 KOs). Given his relative lack of power in comparison to his peers, his future fights may well be tests of conditioning and concentration against sluggers and indicators of poise and patience against boxers like Porozo. We now know he has the latter traits and it will be interesting to see if he has the first set of assets going forward.
Normally Dennis and I would leave ringside immediately after sign-off but here I needed to wait a bit because I lent my backup computer’s AC adapter to a member of Showtime’s PR team whose laptop battery was running low. We spent the extra time watching the first four rounds of the walk-out bout – Eric Hunter versus the 121-fight veteran German Meraz, a fight in which the usually iron-chinned Meraz was floored at the end of round three by a pinpoint hook. The fight was stopped by the ringside physician in round five shortly after an accidental butt opened a cut over Meraz’s left eye.
Once I retrieved my plug, Dennis and I indulged in some post-fight pizza, after which he drove me back to the La Quinta. Because taxis are not readily available, I arranged for the front desk to have a cab arrive at 7:15 a.m., the agreed-upon time by me and my carpool partner, audio man Todd Torrance. After inputting the night’s numbers into the database and sending the files to the Draft Kings people, I turned out the light shortly before midnight.
Saturday, July 13: I stirred awake at 5 a.m. (8 a.m. body clock time) and when I arrived in the lobby to check out of my room at 7:10, the taxi – and Todd – were waiting for me. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised by Todd’s punctuality; he once served as an infantryman in Iraq.
Because traffic was light, we arrived at the airport a little more than 30 minutes after we left the hotel. Once inside the American Airlines terminal, it didn’t take me long to find another person to chat with, for moments after clearing security, matchmaker John Beninati called out my name and we spent the next hour chatting for what I thought was our shared flight to Dallas-Fort Worth out of Gate D 9. However a check of the boarding pass revealed I was to leave an hour later, albeit from the identical gate.
I spent the extra 60 minutes eating a light breakfast with an older couple from Albuquerque, New Mexico, who was returning from a cruise and an Alaskan postmaster with a love of fishing and moose hunting. I didn’t get any work done but I still considered it time well spent.
The next four hours were split between resting my eyes and re-reading Jimmy Connors’ autobiography “The Outsider,” which I originally purchased six years ago. The passage of time served to make the words I first read in 2013 fresh again. I landed in Dallas at 4:30 p.m. CDT but our scheduled 6:38 p.m. flight to Pittsburgh departed 10 minutes late (at least officially – the delay seemed far longer) because the new flight crew’s plane landed two concourses away and later than expected. Such are the vagaries of modern aviation.
The plane landed in Pittsburgh at 10:25 p.m. EDT – only five minutes later than advertised – and the rest on both flights did me a world of good as I had no problem completing the two-and-a-half-hour drive home. I called home and predicted I would arrive “between 1:15 and 1:30 a.m.” My actual arrival time: 1:22 a.m.
The late hour demanded that I’ll have to wait to watch all the boxing I missed – the shows on ESPN, DAZN and FS1 as well as Argentina’s TyC channel. Because I’m now in pretty good shape on the research, I’ll have some time to catch up before starting my next trip, which will see me travel to Baltimore to chronicle a “Showtime Championship Boxing” tripleheader consisting of a lightweight match between Ladarius Miler and Jezreel Corrales, a junior lightweight contest between former champs Yuriorkis Gamboa and Roman Martinez and, in the main event, WBA junior lightweight titleholder Gervonta Davis vs. Ricardo Nunez.
Until then, happy trails!
Lee Groves is a boxing writer and historian based in Friendly, West Virginia. He is a full member of the BWAA, from which he has won 16 writing awards, including two first-place awards, since 2011. He has been an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame since 2001 and is also a writer, researcher and punch-counter for CompuBox, Inc. He is the author of “Tales from the Vault: A Celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics” (available on Amazon) and the co-author of the newly released book “Muhammad Ali: By the Numbers” (also available on Amazon). To contact Groves about a personalized autographed copy, use the email email@example.com or send him a message via Facebook.
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Thursday, July 11: In the years since CompuBox made its debut at the Livingstone Bramble-Ray Mancini rematch in February 1985, the company, like any other business, has experienced its share of peaks and valleys in terms of workload. In the early years – especially when HBO was CompuBox’s only client – co-founders Bob Canobbio and Logan Hobson worked one show per month but the pace picked up considerably when ESPN hired the company to work its “Top Rank Boxing” series, then its weekly programs on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The late, great Joe Carnicelli once worked a record 65 shows in one year and I was fortunate enough to travel to several Wednesday-Friday “doubles” during 2007-2009, my first three years as a full-time employee.
But as hectic as those days were, July 11-13, 2019 may go down as one of the busiest three days in the company’s history. That’s because its counters are set to chronicle the hits and misses for five boxing cards on Friday and Saturday as well as for tonight’s eight-fight Professional Fighters League show on ESPN+ that used the company’s CompuStrike program to track connects, ring positioning and top punch velocity. Here’s the full rundown of the boxing action:
* 7 a.m. EDT, July 12, ESPN+, from Tokyo: Ken Shiro-Jonathan Taconing for Shiro’s WBC junior flyweight title; Rob Brant-Ryota Murata II for Brant’s WBA “regular” middleweight title (a belt unrecognized by RingTV.com and The Ring magazine).
* 10 p.m. EDT, July 12, Showtime, from Tacoma, Washington: Jermaine Franklin Jr.-Jerry Forrest, heavyweights; Otto Wallin-B.J. Flores, heavyweights; Giovanni Cabrera Mioletti-Luis Porozo, featherweights.
* 7 p.m. EDT, July 12, DAZN, from Carson, California: Rey Vargas-Tomoki Kameda for Vargas’ WBC junior featherweight title; Diego De La Hoya-Ronny Rios, junior featherweights; Joet Gonzalez-Manuel Avila, featherweights; Eduardo Hernandez-Roger Gutierrez, junior lightweights.
* 8 p.m., July 13, FS1 from Minneapolis, MInnesota: Jamal James-Antonio DeMarco, welterweights; Robert Helenius-Gerald Washington, heavyweights; Karlos Balderas-Fredric Bowen, lightweights; Charles Martin-Daniel Martz, heavyweights; Bryant Perrella-Domonique Dolton, welterweights.
* 10:30 p.m., July 13, ESPN, from Newark, New Jersey: Shakur Stevenson-Albert Guevara, featherweights; Joshua Greer-Nikolai Potapov, IBF bantamweight title eliminator.
The most amazing aspect of this schedule is not only the depth and breadth of fight shows in such a short period of time but also the fact that our company provided research for every one of these fights. While Bob and I assembled content for the boxing telecasts, Nic Canobbio (the chief researcher for the company’s CompuStrike arm and the son of the CompuBox co-founder) did the same for the PFL show.
Even more incredibly, the pace will not slow by much next week as virtually all of the research has been completed for the July 18 Golden Boy/DAZN show (James Quigley-Tureano Johnson/Alberto Melian-Leonardo Baez/Marlen Esparza-Guadalupe Bautista), the July 19 ESPN+ telecast (Teofimo Lopez-Masayoshi Nakatani/Maxim Dadashev-Subriel Matias), the July 20 FOX pay-per-view pre-show (Caleb Plant-Mike Lee/Efe Ajagba-Ali Eren Demirezen) and the July 20 FOX Pay-Per-View telecast (Keith Thurman-Manny Pacquiao/Yordenis Ugas-Omar Figueroa Jr./Sergey Lipinets-John Molina Jr./Luis Nery-Juan Carlos Payano).
Needless to say, business is booming at CompuBox and that’s because boxing in general is booming. The sport is at the forefront of the streaming revolution and more than a few weight classes are deep, talented and filled with characters. The most welcome addition to this mix is the heavyweight division, which was seen as dreary during the decade-and-a-half in which the Klitschko brothers ruled with a force equal to their nicknames of “Dr. Ironfist” (Vitali) and “Dr. Steelhammer” (Wladimir). Now the division is alight with personalities such as WBC beltholder Deontay Wilder and IBF/WBA/WBO titlist Andy Ruiz, onetime titleholders Tyson Fury (the “lineal” champion), Anthony Joshua, Joseph Parker and Charles Martin and aspirants Dillian Whyte, Jarrell Miller, Luis Ortiz, Kubrat Pulev, Adam Kownacki, Dominic Breazeale and Dereck Chisora, among others. Each has his story to tell – inside the ring and out – and there is no overarching figure that overwhelms everyone else. Ruiz’s stunning stoppage of Joshua embodies the wild card persona the division now enjoys and the immediacy and impact of social media will only heighten and brighten all story lines.
A final note for America-centric fight fans. With Ruiz now holding three of the four belts and Wilder owning the other widely recognized championship, the 41 days since Ruiz’s victory marks the first time since a 38-day stretch between November 9 and December 17, 2005 in which U.S.-born fighters held all the heavyweight hardware. Back then, Hasim Rahman was the WBC titlist while John Ruiz (WBA), Chris Byrd (IBF) and Lamon Brewster (WBO) held the other championships.
Speaking of heavyweights, my contribution to this week’s hyperactive lineup is the Showtime card emanating from Tacoma, Washington, in which two of the three advertised TV fights are set to feature heavyweights (Wallin-Flores, Franklin Jr.-Forrest). That said, the real draw from a local perspective will be the opening featherweight fight between Seattle native Giovanni Mioletti (17-0, 7 knockouts) and Ecuador’s Luis Porozo (14-1, 7 KOs).
While Mioletti is now based in Chicago, he still carries the banner for Washington State, which, despite its modest profile nationally, boasts a significant boxing history. Consider:
* Hall-of-Famer Freddie Steele was known as the “Tacoma Assassin” for good reason. The former middleweight champion boasted a 123-5-11 (with 58 KOs) record and his victims included Solly Krieger, Ken Overlin, Babe Risko, Gorilla Jones, Gus Lesnevich, Vince Dundee and Ceferino Garcia – and he beat most of them multiple times.
* Tod Morgan, who registered 12 defenses of the world junior lightweight title between 1925 and 1929, was born in Dungeness and was one of boxing’s most successful “singles hitters” as he logged just 29 knockouts in his 133-42-33 record. As readers of my “How I Voted and Why” articles about my IBHOF ballot know, Morgan is my perennial choice for induction in the “Early Era” Old-Timers category that lists fighters whose careers spanned the years between 1893 and 1942.
* Spokane was the hometown of power-puncher Tiger Jack Fox, whose 89 knockouts in 139 victories landed him a spot in The Ring magazine’s “100 Greatest Punchers of All Time (as well as on the IBHOF ballot).
* Tieton in Yakima County is the birthplace of Pete Rademacher, one of boxing’s most versatile and compelling characters. Thanks to his salesmanship and business acumen, the 1956 Olympic gold medalist became the only fighter in history to challenge for the world heavyweight championship in his pro debut when he met Floyd Patterson at Seattle’s Sicks Stadium in August 1957. His brilliantly executed marketing campaign nearly achieved the ultimate payoff when he scored a shocking second-round knockdown. However Patterson arose, then proceeded to decimate Rademacher with six knockdowns on his way to a sixth round knockout. After retiring in 1962 with a 15-7-1 (with 8 KOs) record, Rademacher engineered a successful business career as president of the McNeil Corporation in Akron, Ohio, and was, at various points, a professional shooting instructor, boxing promoter, referee, inventor and prolific fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society. When I interviewed him in the late-1980s for a column in the Marietta Times as well as for an expanded story that appeared in the March 1990 issue of The Ring magazine, Rademacher said what he would have done had he beaten Patterson: “I would have never fought again. We would’ve taken this thing right up to the point where they would’ve stripped me and I would’ve retired. In the meantime, we would’ve gotten so much ink out of this thing that it would’ve gotten our youth program what it needed. When I lost, all that went down the drain.”
* It can be argued that the state’s most productive era in terms of producing world-class fighters occurred during the 1970s and 1980s. Two members of the 1972 U.S. Olympic team were from Washington State – junior flyweight Davey Armstrong from Puyallup (10 miles southeast of Tacoma) and junior welterweight gold medalist Sugar Ray Seales (who was born at a U.S. Army base in St. Croix before his family moved to Tacoma when Seales was three). The Tacoma Boys Club that developed those two did the same a few years later for future titlists Rocky Lockridge and Johnny Bumphus, the latter denied potential Olympic glory thanks to the 1980 U.S. boycott. Leo Randolph, though born in Mississippi, had deep Washington State roots and he earned gold at age 17 at the Montreal Olympics. In May 1980, before a boisterous crowd inside the Seattle Center Coliseum, Randolph scored a stunning 15th round TKO over the heavily favored Ricardo Cardona to wrest the WBA junior featherweight title and affix his name to Pacific Northwest boxing lore. Randolph lost the belt in his first defense to Sergio Palma via brutal fifth round TKO, announced his retirement at age 22 – and never came back.
* Another Olympic link for Washington State was Seattle’s Robert Shannon, who, like Bumphus, made the 1980 team but who, unlike “Bump City,” stayed in the amateurs and made the 1984 team – arguably the greatest U.S. Olympic squad of all time with its nine gold medals and controversially-rendered bronze for Evander Holyfield. Unfortunately Shannon was the only member of the team who didn’t win a medal because, while he won his first-round match, the draw had him face South Korean star (and future two-division titlist in the pros) Sung Kil Moon, who stopped Shannon in round three.
* Returning to the pros, Pasco’s S.T. Gordon shook up the cruiserweight world by blasting out WBC champ Carlos De Leon in two rounds in June 1982. Gordon, though blessed with a magnificent physique, was unable to stay at the top for very long. He successfully defended his belt against Jesse Burnett and scored a decision win at heavyweight over Trevor Berbick but he ended up losing his title to DeLeon in their rematch.
* Like Randolph, Joe Hipp was born elsewhere (Browning, Montana) but is most strongly associated with Yakima. “The Boss,” a member of the Blackfoot tribe, was a stocky southpaw who assembled a 43-7 (with 29 KOs) record during a career that spanned from 1987 to 2005 and beat two-time cruiserweight titlist Marvin Camel (KO 6), David Bey (KO 7) and Jose Ribalta (KO 2). Hipp often had to fight through cuts – win or lose – and his losses include a fifth round TKO to Bert Cooper, a 10th round TKO (on cuts) to then-WBA titlist Bruce Seldon in his only world title opportunity and, most famously, a ninth round stoppage defeat to Tommy Morrison, who overcame a broken jaw, a fractured hand and a shattered cheekbone. Entering the final round, Hipp was ahead 76-75 on two cards while Morrison led 76-75 on the third.
* One of the most notable figures from this part of the U.S. was Auburn’s Greg Haugen, who scored a stunning majority decision victory over Jimmy Paul in December 1986 to win the IBF lightweight title and begin a nice run near the top of the sport. Affectionally called “Mutt” – a name I’m told he hates now – Haugen’s trilogy with Vinny Pazienza was among the more entertaining of the era thanks to its robust action inside the ropes and the acidic trash-talk outside them, while his April 1988 IBF title defense against Miguel Santana at the Tacoma Dome ranks as one of the most bizarre. A headbutt opened a two-inch gash over Haugen’s right eye that forced the fight to be stopped in round 11 and, because the cut was believed to have been produced by a punch, Santana was announced as the winner. Officials reversed the result a half-hour later when they ruled Haugen’s cut was caused by an accidental butt and, since Haugen was ahead 106-102 and 106-101 on two scorecards (Santana was leading on the third, 106-103), the championship belt was returned to him. Haugen’s tenacity and trickery helped him become the first man to defeat Hector Camacho Sr., who was undefeated in 38 fights at the time. Haugen’s refusal to touch gloves with the “Macho Man” before the final round of their first fight induced Camacho to start throwing punches, a move referee Joe Cortez interpreted as an unsportsmanlike act worthy of a point penalty. That deduction turned a potential draw into a split decision victory for Haugen. After Camacho turned the tables on Haugen by winning a split decision in the rematch, Haugen ended Ray Mancini’s career with a savage one-punch knockout in round seven. Yes, Haugen decisively lost to the best of the best in Pernell Whitaker (L UD 12) and Julio Cesar Chavez (TKO by 5) but, then again, just about everyone fell to those two during their respective primes. Haugen’s tough-guy reputation was well-earned but those who dared to overlook his underrated boxing skill did so at their peril. Haugen fought on until age 39 and closed his 17-year career with a 40-10-1 (with 19 KOs) record with one no-decision and one no-contest.
The last few paragraphs illustrate just how much Mioletti will have to achieve if he is to be remembered as one of the best his state has ever produced. Step one of that process will be defeating Porozo in his national TV debut tomorrow night.
I expected my trek to Tacoma to be a long one and a long one it turned out to be. Starting at 7:17 a.m. EDT and ending at 6:46 p.m. PDT, I drove from Friendly to Pittsburgh International Airport, flew from Pittsburgh to Dallas-Fort Worth and from DFW to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, then met up with audio man Tim Arden, who drove us from the airport to our crew hotel, the La Quinta Inn located across the street from the fight venue, the Emerald Queen Casino.
Today’s timing was particularly fortunate; less than 10 minutes after finding a parking spot in Pittsburgh and entering the terminal building, the stormy sky cut loose with a downpour so intense that the airport was shut down for nearly a half-hour. The torrential rain didn’t adversely affect my departure time, which was a good thing because after landing in Dallas, I arrived at my connecting gate with just 15 minutes to spare.
Every so often, I am blessed with interesting seatmates. This time, the person occupying the middle seat in row 10 of the DFW to SEA leg was a 62-year-old native of Vietnam who was one of the “boat people” who came to the U.S. following the war. He now works in technical support for a computer company and was flying back to his adopted hometown after completing some out-of-town business for his firm. After chatting for a few minutes before the pre-flight instructions, he opted to rest for most of the flight, leaving me to read one of the two books I brought with me – “The Golden Age of Boxing on Radio and Television: A Blow-by-Blow History from 1921 to 1964” by Frederick V. Romano. I picked up my autographed copy a few weeks ago at the IBHOF’s card and memorabilia show and I found it to be extremely enjoyable and informative, especially the portions that profiled the early announcers as well as the challenges associated with perfecting the technologies.
We take instant worldwide communication for granted but I’m old enough to remember when crystal-clear TV pictures from faraway places were far from the norm. During my very early years, our family pulled in TV signals from an outdoor antenna that required a rotor to point it in the right direction and, more often than not, the picture we received was hazy or dotted with occasional interference from nearby electric fences.
Our area eventually secured cable service but the antenna was still pressed into service from time to time. One of those times occurred the night of November 6, 1981, when Larry Holmes successfully defended his WBC heavyweight championship against Renaldo Snipes on ABC. Our area’s ABC affiliate – WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh – was made unavailable to us, probably because the fight was staged in “The Steel City” and blackout rules were applied. Therefore we hooked up the antenna and hoped we could get a more distant ABC station.
While we couldn’t pull in a station with a good picture, I was able to hear sportscaster Myron Cope’s Cosellian performance as a ring announcer as well as the commentary of Howard Cosell himself, especially when he exclaimed, “Oh! A right hand floors Larry Holmes! Look at him! Now Holmes (is) trying to collect himself. What a startling turn of events as Snipes lifts up his arms. And Holmes is wobbly and he took a right from Snipes and Snipes is all over him! This could be one of the greatest upsets in current-day boxing!” I squinted my eyes in a futile effort to see through the snow and make out the potentially historic upset that was unfolding. Holmes, however, collected himself, landed a series of right-hand bombs to get through the seventh round and won the fight by 11th round TKO. It wasn’t until the next day when I saw highlights of what I missed and it was years before I was able to watch the entire fight without atmospheric interference.
Thankfully the plane landed in Seattle-Tacoma without interference and I met Tim at the AVIS rental car facility. While Tim drove, I gave him turn-by-turn directions provided by Google Maps on my phone. At one point, we were commanded to wedge into a left-hand lane that was stuffed with rush-hour traffic. Tim rolled down the window and asked the gentleman in the lane next to us if he would allow us to cut in front of him when the light turned green. With some hesitation, he said he would. And because he did, we were able to arrive at the hotel safe and sound.
I settled into my fourth-floor room, returned downstairs to order dinner from the hotel’s Port of Call Restaurant and Lounge and turned out the light shortly after 11 p.m., bringing down the curtain on a long but enjoyable travel day.
Friday, July 12: Remaining on East Coast time, I awakened at 4:30 a.m. and spent most of the next seven hours tending to my writing responsibilities. I stepped away for a few minutes to print out my boarding pass at the hotel’s business center as well as to watch the final couple of games of Roger Federer’s four-set victory over Rafael Nadal to reach the Wimbledon final against another longtime rival in Novak Djokovic, who defeated surprising semi-finalist Roberto Baustista Agut of Spain in four sets. I am very much looking forward to the final, and, while I am a great admirer of Djokovic – a bright, personable, charitable and funny man – I will be pulling for the 37-year-old legend to win his ninth Wimbledon championship.
To me, Federer is the Sugar Ray Robinson of tennis in this respect: If One were asked to create the perfect boxer and the perfect tennis player, that One would produce Robinson and Federer. Every punch and every stroke was a joy to watch, so much so that my eyes focused mostly on what they were doing. Not only that, they possessed every possible intangible, including off-the-charts intelligence in knowing what to do and when to do it and the resourcefulness to dig deep to extricate themselves out of difficult situations.
For these reasons, boxing historians have deemed Robinson the greatest pound-for-pound fighter ever to pull on gloves and Federer the best to ever swing a racket. If physical and mental weaponry were the only factors to be considered in the “greatest of all-time argument,” then I would heartily agree. However all GOAT arguments have a third component – success against their best peers. In this respect, their cases, in my eyes, become suspect. Here’s why:
While Robinson is universally considered the greatest welterweight to live, his record as a middleweight – which must be included when assessing his candidacy – is not one that projects GOAT-worthy supremacy. His mark between February 1951 (when the 29-year-old TKO’d Jake LaMotta to win the middleweight championship for the first time) and March 1961 (when the 39-year-old lost a unanimous decision to Gene Fullmer in their fourth and final meeting) was 23-8-1 (with 14 KOs) with one no-contest, which translates to a .697 winning percentage. Robinson deserves kudos for winning the middleweight title five times – including three times after returning from a nearly three-year retirement – but to be a five-time champion, one has to lose the belt four times. Three of those losses to Randy Turpin, Gene Fullmer and Paul Pender were considered upsets (Robinson was a 4-to-1 favorite against Turpin, a 6-to-5 choice against Fullmer and a 5-to-1 favorite against Pender) and, when they were matched again, Robinson, no doubt motivated by professional pride and a desire for vengeance, performed like the favorite he was entering those first fights and emerged victorious.
Coming into his first fight with Carmen Basilio, Robinson was a surprising 6-to-5 underdog to the reigning welterweight champion and, to Basilio’s credit, he fought like the narrow betting choice he was and defied the “little man vs. big man” dogma with the performance of his ring life. In their rematch nearly six months later, Robinson fought off illness to capture a rugged split decision victory. As great as Robinson was – and he was great in so many respects – one has to be far pickier before definitively crowning him as the best of the best of his sport. And to me, others have assembled strong enough resumes to be considered the greatest of all. One of them is Willie Pep, the only fighter in history to assemble two winning streaks of 60 fights or longer (62 and 73) and a winner of 37 decisions against hometown or regional favorites, which requires skills so superior that even local judges could not deny Pep those victories.
Would Robinson’s case for being boxing’s GOAT, to me, be stronger had he not been victimized by the 104-degree heat when he challenged light heavyweight champion Joey Maxim (a fight he was winning easily and the only inside-the-distance loss of his 201-fight career) or if he had been given the deserved victory in fight three against Fullmer instead of a draw? Unquestionably yes but because neither scenario happened, there is no rational alternative but to judge his case based on what is, not what could have been.
As for Federer, he does hold the all-time record for major championships won with 20 as of this writing – the best argument for the Swiss master – but when his record against his stiffest competition is examined, he falls far short of the mark. Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are the other members of tennis’ “Big Three” and both have better overall head-to-head records against Federer (24-15 in favor of Nadal, 25-22 in favor of Djokovic entering Sunday’s final after a 0-4 start) and a superior head-to-head mark in major finals (8-5 Djokovic as of today, 10-3 Nadal). Also Nadal has defeated Federer on his best surfaces on the biggest stages (he beat Federer twice in Australian Open finals on hard courts and was the victor once on grass in the 2008 Wimbledon final, considered by many as the greatest match in tennis history) while Federer is 0-6 against “The King of Clay” at the French Open, including 0-4 in the final. Djokovic..
Former IBF junior welterweight titleholder Sergey Lipinets will meet perennial contender John Molina in a scheduled 12-round welterweight clash on the undercard of Keith Thurman-Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Saturday.
The 30-year-old Russian edged fringe contender Erick Bone and then impressively stopped Lamont Peterson in 10 rounds. The Molina fight, at least on paper, looks to be an all-action tear-up.
“Fighting John is something that was always on the table and it almost felt inevitable,” Lipinets (15-1, 11 knockouts) told The Ring through manager Alex Vaysfeld. “I think that the timing of that fight is right.
“Stylistically we match up pretty good. I’m sure fans will get their money’s worth.”
Lipinets appreciates what Molina brings to the table for their encounter.
“John is a big puncher and he was trained by the best in the game throughout his career,” said the former titleholder in relation to Molina having worked with acclaimed coach Joe Goossen. “That means he does most things well and it will be up to me to poke some holes in his game.”
Goossen, who now trains Lipinets, is obviously well-versed on Molina’s abilities.
“John is a very dangerous fighter and I know it first-hand, having trained him for most of his major fights,” said Goossen. “We are aware of how we need to approach that battle. Lipinets is an exceptional athlete that I don’t need to tell twice what to do. Stylistically it’s a very intriguing match.”
Molina (30-8, 24 KOs) turned professional in 2006. This blood and guts warrior has twice challenged for world titles, falling short against Antonio De Marco at lightweight and Terence Crawford at junior welterweight. His never-say-die attitude and comeback capacity makes him a dangerous opponent for anyone.
Lipinets is excited to be appearing on such a huge promotion and has his eyes on the winner.
“The main event is awesome and being on the undercard of Manny [Pacquiao] versus Keith [Thurman] is incredible,” he said. “I hope that if all goes according to plan that I get the chance to fight the winner.”
As manager Vaysfeld knows this is a huge opportunity for his client to get a leg up towards a more significant fight in the future.
“It’s a very entertaining scrap between two guys that are willing and able,” he said. “Sergey has been training hard and has excellent sparring partners.
“Stepping in to the 147-pound division was just natural transformation for Sergey and we believe he’ll do well and become champion at that weight class. Joe Goossen is a perfect match for his style and it’s a match made in heaven.”
The bout will be broadcast live on Fox in the U.S. and on ITV Box Office in the U.K.
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow him on Twitter @AnsonWainwright
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Dillian Whyte rolls the dice again on Saturday when he welcomes Colombian banger Oscar Rivas into London’s O2 Arena.
The London heavyweight is on a run of high-profile wins having dispatched Derek Chisora (twice), Lucas Browne, Robert Helenius and Joseph Parker in five of his last six and he’s been sat in the WBC’s No. 1 spot for nigh on two years.
And while he’s had no choice but to be patient, a fight with one of the sport’s big four heavyweight franchises – Anthony Joshua (a rematch he’s craved since losing to AJ in 2015), Andy Ruiz, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury – has eluded him.
Wilder is the man he has long been at the front of the queue to face, but the WBC have not forced the American’s hand, and Wilder has already talked about his next two fights possibly being a rematch with Luis Ortiz and a return with Fury.
That means the wait will go on for Whyte, but he’s refusing to sit still.
He wants to fight. He still wants to improve. He wants to make sure he is ready when the time comes.
That mindset sees him go in with 26-0 (18 knockouts) Rivas with the stakes as high as they’ve ever been. A slip-up now and the big chance he’s been fighting for will have evaporated, likely for months, possibly for years, maybe for good.
“I’m just trying to give the fans the best fights I can give them until a title comes along,” said Whyte, as fight week came around. “There’s no point in just fighting dead bodies.”
He realises that, at 31, and with a brief unpaid career behind him, he will learn by boxing at a high level, while walking a tightrope that could cost him mega-fights.
“[It’s] to improve as a fighter,” he said, when asked of his level of opposition. “I’ve had seven amateur fights and 26 professional fights, some of these guys have had 200 amateur fights. All of these guys I’m fighting, they’re all banana skins. That’s why I’m different. I go out there, I fight the best, I beat the best, so what. What can people say? At least I’m not hiding. At least I’m not fighting Tom Schwarz… I’ve fought proper contenders, people who were hungry, young and fresh who hadn’t had a loss on their record or who had been world champion the fight before. I try to fight the best people there so some don’t know who’s the underdog in the fight and some people say, ‘Dillian’s going to lose to him, this guy’s going to beat Dillian, Dillian’s going to get knocked out’. I’ve just got to do my thing, man.”
Whyte cracks Lucas Browne. Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images
When asked about motivation he pauses for thought. He has become an attraction in the U.K. He has become a Sky Box Office fighter, he’s on the popular TV show Masterchef in the near future and he’s one of the biggest names in British boxing.
But it’s his relationship with his supporters that drives him.
“The fans have really been behind me and they’ve really supported me and I want to give them the best fights possible,” he insisted. “Of course I want to make money. Of course I want to win world titles. Of course I want to outweigh the negatives but it’s the fans. The fans have put me in a position where, without the fans I wouldn’t be where I’m at. So I have to give back to them, there’s no point conning them and putting on fights that are nonsense and pretending that it isn’t what it is, you know?”
There are big contests for the big names in the big division but Whyte, clearly irritated by the showpiece events not happening, reckons that as exciting as the heavyweight landscape might be, it counts for nothing if the top guys don’t fight one another.
“Yeah, there are some good fights there but the problem is making them,” he explained. “I think there are two or three of the top fights that will never happen.”
When asked to pinpoint which ones might be lost for good, he doesn’t identify contests individually but he soon turns his attention to Wilder, the long-reigning WBC titleholder.
“Why was Wilder so pleased Joshua lost?” he asked rhetorically of the failure for the fighters to be on the same commercial page. “He lost that massive payday, he lost one of his biggest fights. Why would he be happy? It’s things like that that’s nonsense.”
Wilder and Joshua’s teams argued over percentages and A-sides and B-sides and before the fight could be made, the momentum of having an undefeated unified champion was gone with Ruiz’s stunning upset of the London heavyweight. The talk of 70-30, 60-40, 50-50 was gone, and the Americans would have delighted in Joshua’s demise. It’s a sentiment Whyte can’t get on board with. He felt Wilder would have been better off taking a small slice of a bigger pie rather than a large slice of a smaller pie.
“But Joshua is still a bigger draw than him, even in defeat. It makes no sense,” he said, before venting on the man who’s kept him waiting at the alter.
“Wilder’s a piece of shit, that’s all, man. He’s been refusing to fight me for so long. I’ve been number one, I’ve done everything asked of me, this guy’s a piece of shit. That’s all.”
Whyte said that he’s seen Wilder only once in person (“he didn’t say anything to me”) but if he saw him now, what would he say to the champion?
“Stop being a bitch!”
Then there’s Fury.
He’s on an opposing network to Sky’s Whyte, fighting on BT Sport in the U.K., and he and Whyte have traded public barbs in recent weeks.
Dillian seemed unsure whether Tyson is all talk. For a man who has spent more than a year on the outside trying to get a look in, it’s unsurprising he’s a little sceptical of fighting Ring No. 1 Fury.
“I would take the fight with Fury in a minute but people say a lot of things,” Whyte said. “Tyson Fury says random stuff sometimes that doesn’t make any sense, you know?”
Then, when asked about the network clash, Whyte believed it was not an obstacle.
“Well, it’s an easy fight to make,” he said. “I’m with Sky but I’m sure for a big fight like that we could come to some sort of agreement to get the fight done.”
Whyte said he had agreed to box for ESPN in the U.S. provided they matched him with Fury inside the first year of the deal, but they wouldn’t agree.
Whyte (right) in action against Anthony Joshua, the only fighter to have defeated him. Photo courtesy of Sky Sports
Then there is his old rival, Joshua. The two seemed destined to rematch at Wembley stadium in April but a deal couldn’t be done over a proposed return fight.
Whyte is asked how dramatically Joshua’s stock dropped in defeat to Ruiz.
“I don’t know, it’s hard to say,” he said. “If he loses again then he’s lost a lot. But if he wins then they will just say it’s a little blip in his career and that’s it.”
So what happened that night in the Garden, when Ruiz shocked the world?
“It’s hard to say because it was very strange behaviour with Joshua, the whole way through,” Whyte continued. “I’m baffled by the whole thing. For someone who appears to be so professional, so humble and stable… The stuff he was doing, the stuff he was saying in the ring, the way he was acting… But he’s a human being. Everyone thinks he’s a God but he’s a human being and everyone has their ups and downs and everyone breaks down and maybe he just had a mental breakdown and that was that.”
Some said Joshua was simply looking beyond the man in front of him, to Wilder, to Fury. Whyte insisted that’s not the case with him. He is not allowing himself to look beyond Saturday’s visitor, even though he reckons he’s faced better men.
“He [Rivas]’s not the best [I’ve faced] but he’s one of the best,” Whyte added. “He hits hard, he’s undefeated so he will have confidence, he’s a very experienced man, a top amateur who competed in the Olympics. He’s a tough, dangerous man, he’s a top contender.
“I don’t overlook no one, man. I’ve been working hard. You haven’t seen me much on social media, doing a lot of media, doing this and that. I’ve been locked away and training, training in Loughborough and just grafting.”
Some of Whyte’s rare posts have included his training. He’s incorporated some CrossFit-type movements and workouts to improve his shoulder strength but says he will do whatever his coaches tell him to do in order to get the victory.
But Whyte is also staying true to his sport. He’s spoken with Frank Bruno for Sky Sports and when Gerry Cooney stopped by to see him in camp recently, he was asking the American how he preferred to set up his devastating left hook.
Cooney said it would start to the body, and then he’d go up top. Dillian, who is trained by Mark Tibbs, was all ears.
But throughout a conversation with “The Bodysnatcher”, he notably sounds down on occasions.
He’s asked, for instance, whether he feels he gets the respect he is due.
Sounding low rather than fired up, he said, “I don’t really care to be honest. I just have to get the ‘W’ and just keep moving on. To be honest a lot of times people don’t give fighters credit they’re due until after they’ve retired and gone. I can’t spend my life focusing on what respect I get and what respect I don’t get. I just have got to win, improve and progress and move on.”
There are points in discussion when he sounds disenfranchised by the business, frustrated at being made to wait, having to watch, while he grinds through difficult assignments.
The conversation dips, again, when he’s asked whether he sees himself as the best in the world.
“I don’t know, man,” he tailed off. “That’s for you guys to decide. I don’t know.”
Then, he carried on, equally nonchalantly, saying, “It’s hard to say who’s number one at the minute. Who has Fury beat to be number one? If you beat Tom Schwarz are you number one? So if I fight Tom Schwarz in my next fight and I knock him out in a round, then I should be number one or number two if I did what Fury did?
“Fury hasn’t had a good win since he beat Klitschko. Who has he beat since Klitschko? He beat Klitschko, he had the world at his feet and he destroyed his own career. Everyone says it was the governing bodies… No, Tyson Fury destroyed himself. It’s all self-inflicted.”
It’s an unforgiving, hard-line stance from Whyte on a man who’s battled demons but he’s been jerked about by the sport for months and maybe, just maybe, that’s why he wants the tougher tests.
He wants to work out his frustration on tough nuts like Rivas.
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Mark Magsayo will keep busy with a fight in his home province on August 31 when he faces Pungluang Sor Singyu.
The fight will be Magsayo’s first in his home country of the Philippines in nearly two years, and just his second fight since leaving the ALA Boxing stable after missing all of 2018.
Magsayo (19-0, 14 knockouts) returns to the Bohol Wisdom Gymnasium in Tagbilaran City, the capital of his home province of Bohol. His opponent, the 29-year-old Sor Singyu (53-6, 35 KOs), is a two-time WBO bantamweight titleholder from Bangkok, Thailand who has had a reputation for his victories over Filipino fighters. Most notable among them was his first visit to the Philippines in 2012, when he stopped AJ Banal in nine rounds to begin his first title reign.
“I’ve seen him fight. I just need to train hard for him because he is a former champion. I will do my best to show Filipinos a good fight,” said Magsayo, who is five years younger than Sor Singyu at 24.
The card will be promoted by Vladimir Boxing Promotions, which is run by Magsayo’s manager Vikram Sivapragasam. After a brief stay in the U.S., Magsayo is now based out of Manila, training with Rissan Muelas and Ali Belonguel at Elorde Gym.
Magsayo is rated no. 8 by the WBC but isn’t rated by the other organizations, mostly due to inactivity. The fight will be contested for regional IBF and WBC titles, which should help his rankings with those organizations.
Magsayo was last in the ring in April, knocking out Erick Deztroyer in four rounds in Singapore. Sor Singyu also fought in April, winning a unanimous decision over Carlo Magali in Thailand. Prior to that, Sor Singyu had lost three straight fights dating back to 2016.
Gervonta Davis has always aspired to be Floyd “Money” Mayweather, that type of magnetic fighter who drew everyone else to his weight class for the big paydays.
The 24-year-old WBA super featherweight beltholder is taking baby steps in that direction. He’s yet to have any of the major fights his mentor “Money May” had at the same age.
Ricardo Nunez is not exactly Jesus Chavez, Jose Luis Castillo (twice) or Victoriano Sosa, who Mayweather all fought at 24.
But Davis could be right about one thing, when “Tank” says “I’m getting mature, I’m getting older and wiser and I’m happy to be here. I don’t believe I’m the most ducked (super featherweight), because I’m already like the cash cow of the 130(-pound) division.”
Davis (21-0, 20 knockouts) may be right about something else: Nunez (22-2, 19 KOs) doesn’t really stand much of a chance against him when they meet at the Royal Farms Arena, in Davis’ hometown Baltimore, Md., on Showtime’s Championship Boxing (9pm ET/6pm PT) on July 27.
“I believe it’s a big risk to fight me,” Davis said during a conference call with the media on Monday. “I don’t to call anyone’s name yet. I definitely want to unify 130, before I move up. This is my mandatory. I notice a lot of people have mandatories, and no one says anything about their mandatories.
“I’m fighting who they put in front of me.”
Davis said he would like to fight someone more competitive than Nunez. There is WBC titlist Miguel Berchelt (36-1, 32 KOs) and IBF beltholder Tevin Farmer (29-4-1, 6 KOs). Farmer will actually be fighting the same night as Davis, taking on Guillaume Frenois in a title defense on the DAZN in Arlington, Texas.
“I’m very motivated, this is personal for me,” Nunez said through an interpreter. “I do want to beat Gervonta Davis and have a great showing in Baltimore, though it’s his hometown. I want to bring the championship back to Panama.
“Not only for myself, but my family. We’ve prepared very well physically for this fight.”
This will only be Nunez’s second fight outside of his native Panama.
He says he’s matured as a boxer and says he’s prepared.
Davis has only failed to stop one of his opponents.
“I’m going to use the style that’s best for me as a conditioned fighter,” Nunez said. “We’re looking to hit (Davis) with the hardest punches we can, knowing that he’s also a strong boxer. That’s the game plan. You’ll see the style when we get in there.
“If you look at our records, it’s two rivals and our knockout percentages are high. He has one more knockout than I have and it’s why I say this fight is going to be action-packed. We’re both knockout artists. I don’t think will go the full rounds. Someone is definitely going to get knocked down.”
Davis began laughing during the conference call. He said he was scared, between cracking up. He has dealt well with the deluge of hometown requests, between tickets and media obligations. Tank is not going to let it be a distraction.
“I’m close to weight now and I’ll definitely be 130, or 129 come weigh-in day,” Davis said.
“I’m just ready. Coming home to fight on a big stage, I started in Baltimore. Coming back home and I’m actually training home.”
Joseph Santoliquito is the President of the Boxing Writers Association of America and has written for The Ring/RingTV.com since 1997. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.
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Manny Pacquiao concluded training camp at the Wild Card Gym on Monday, sparring four rounds with AB Lopez. After wrapping up camp, Pacquiao and his extensive team began their road trip towards Las Vegas, where he will face WBA welterweight titleholder Keith Thurman this Saturday in a pay-per-view fight at the MGM Grand.
Here’s a look into his last day of camp from photos by Jhay Oh Otamias.
Boxing Esq. Podcast #29 - Herbert Goldman - SoundCloud (4246 secs long, 264 plays)Play in SoundCloud
The Ring is proud to present “The Boxing Esq. Podcast with Kurt Emhoff”. Emhoff, an attorney based in New York City, is a top boxing manager who has represented over 10 world champions in his 20-plus years in the sport.
His guest on this podcast is boxing historian Herbert Goldman. They discussed Herbert’s time as a managing editor at The Ring and his role in putting together the last three Ring Record Books. They also discussed Herbert’s four-volume magnum opus record book for the sport “Boxing – A Worldwide Record of Bouts and Boxers,” with a particular focus on the “Timeline of Boxing History.”
Additionally, they went through an abbreviated history of the sanctioning bodies in the interest of tracking how we got to the present proliferation of organizations and how close we came at various points to having one overarching regulatory organization.
Below are a few excerpts from the interview:
On his time at The Ring from 1978-1987 as Managing Editor:
“Well, my business up until that time was in the theatrical field. But I walked in there and I had gotten friendly with Nat Loubet, the son-in-law of the founder, Nat Fleischer. He told me, “I like your mind.” So there came a time when his daughter Trudie was leaving and she had been doing the nuts and bolts work on the magazine. So he hired me and I was given a cram course on how to put out a magazine. I will say that I finally really mastered this thing as it was in the very last magazine, the very last issue I did for Nat Loubet and immediately after I got done with that, the place was sold and I did not do any production work from that time on. The method of doing it was entirely different, but really, I was switched over, unofficially, to doing research.
And what I did was, I had a pretty good knowledge of boxing history up to that point. But then I got a chance to read in The Ring files and so forth, and I started to do a lot of really original research and I have to say I was dumbfounded after awhile at how many things, so called facts about boxing that everybody cherished – absolutely incorrect. And I went on from there and I have to say that after all those years, record keeping and history in boxing improved out of sight.”
On the idea for his four volume set “Boxing: A Worldwide Record of Bouts and Boxers”:
“I had discussed the idea of an all-time boxing reference book with a friend of mine, Don Majeski. Don Majeski is a very knowledgeable man who’s been in the business of boxing for many years now as a manager, a promoter, a matchmaker, a booking agent and so forth. So I started to do it and without going into a lot of detail about what happened, the publisher I wound up getting was McFarland. They brought it out and I must say they did a pretty good job on volume four. (Note: Herbert was not happy with the formatting of volumes 1-3.)”
On the origins of boxing and the sanctioning bodies:
“It’s a funny thing now. Boxing or a form of it, pugilism, was practiced by the ancient Greeks. The Romans picked it up and so forth. And then it was outlawed in I believe 394. At that point the Olympics were abolished and the sport disappeared for like 1400 years by and large. Sometimes you’d have a two guys box in front of the audience of a Duke in his castle or a King. But that was really it. Sometimes you might see them at country fairs. Things began to be a little bit more open and so forth with the Restoration, the Glorious Revolution, the whole bit. After the Glorious Revolution, more and more entertainments became public. Boxing, of course. The stage was outlawed when the Puritans came in and, but after the Glorious Revolution, the stage was restored.
And, you did have a real revival of interest in the sport. There was no one really who went around designating himself or his people as the arbiters of boxing. The fancy did that. Who were the fancy? They were the aristocrats who were the fanciers of boxing at that time. And the only money in those days, sometimes a wealthy individual would put up purse money. Then there was, of course, all of these side bets that took place. And, really this idea of all this regulation of the sport, to a large extent, starts in the Queensberry era. We had gloved boxing with three minute rounds and so forth. And there was no money in this end of it at that time.
You had in 1920, the formation, 1920-21 of the National Boxing Association, which the New York state commission claimed it was prohibited from joining. (That) was a bunch of nonsense. New York had a lot of power at that time with the Garden and all that. They wanted to be independent of the NBA so they could make rulings and so forth favorable to New York promoters. And that’s one of the troubles with this because. There is what might be termed a certain selfishness in boxing. Everybody is constantly jockeying for additional dollars, shall we say. And it’s rather a difficult thing to try to lasso these people. But I happen to believe that if the sport is to survive in the United States and regain its position possibly as a major sport instead of a niche sport, which is what it is in this country at this time, something is going to be have to be done.
And what kind of organization, I don’t know for certain. But the goal of the world sanctioning bodies, there is no doubt, let’s be honest about it – they are out to make money. It’s no sin to make money. But at one point in time that was not the purpose. The World Boxing Association, when it was the National Boxing Association, did collect sanctioning fees – a dollar for a title fight. (Later) it became $150. And thanks to a particular situation at one point, the powers that be (took advantage of) the way things went with TV (1977 – Don King’s failed U.S. Boxing Championships that ABC stopped televising after allegations of bribes for ratings in The Ring). And now, being the head of a sanctioning body, you’re the head of a multi-million dollar moneymaking operation. And that’s where it’s at right now. I would love personally to see one champion in each division from now on. But you have the WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO plus a plethora of minor world sanctioning bodies. Now overseas, they’re not bothered by this too much. Why? They have no history of any generic world champions. So when I was a boy, the goal of a fighter might’ve been, I want to win THE world title. Now it’s I’m going to win A world title and that’s where it’s going.”
On the state of boxing and the overarching entities that affected it from the 1920s through the 1970s:
The Ring magazine founder Nat Fleischer sits in his office overlooking the marquee at the old Madison Square Garden at 50th St. and Eighth Ave.
“Well, The Ring was very much of New York and the New York State commission and Madison Square Garden. They didn’t always go along with them, but usually they did. And as time went on, (The Ring) were the leaders of the sport in this country. We have a tough time imagining that today. Because the idea of a magazine running any field is foreign to us. But they went along and you had the NBA accepting certain foreign bodies as affiliates of it. But really, the American promoters, more or less, they ran the NBA and the BBB of C (British Boxing Board of Control) or in the ’30s, the IBU (International Boxing Union, precursor to the European Boxing Union (EBU)), they were treated as poor stepchildren by the NBA.
And this continued for quite a while. I mean you had in the 1950s a permeation of the sport on a level that was unprecedented before. And it was pretty much there before anyway, by the – let’s say beyond the law faction. All right. And things went along. Boxing was . . . a lot of people considered the 1950s to be the height of the sport. For the fan, watching television at home, the Fight Of The Week or the Wednesday Night Fights on CBS, whatever it was, he could now sit back in his chair and sip his favorite drink and just watch the main event, 9:00 to 10:00 PM. And then his wife could come back in the living room and they could resume watching television together. Meanwhile, across the country, small clubs were folding up like mad. And if you had gone to a promoter in those days, you know, a small time promoter and said, “This is really the greatest period in boxing that has ever been”, he would have looked at you like you’re out of your mind.
And, from a height in 1953, where there were six weekly telecasts of boxing in this country on various networks, one on NBC, one on CBS, three on ABC and one on DuMont (small broadcast network that existed from 1942-1956). But for the consumer, for the guys sitting at home, fine. But after a while, there was a decrease in the number of telecasts among the major networks. And, finally in 1964, it was down to one and they went off the air as well. And in the midst of all this, you had a Benny “Kid” Paret beaten to death on national television in 1962 (March 24, 1962, Emile Griffith stopped Paret in the 12th round, Paret died as a result of injuries from the fight a few days later). And finally boxing, having been used to put over network television, boxing was out of network television.
The only fights televised from 1965 onto about 1977, with the exception of ABC when they came on Wide World of Sports, the only a boxing that was televised was syndicated. Syndicated shows that, uh, oh, okay. But, you no longer had boxing as a staple of the regular television diet. That was over. And then you had a resurgence of boxing in a way in 1976. What happened in ‘76, the movie Rocky came out. You had the great U.S. Olympic team of that year. You also had the start of casino boxing whereby the super fights were basically guaranteed profits for the promoter, both via television and via these casinos. The promoter would make a deal with the network, pay-per-view, whatever it was, and the casino printed the tickets and put the fight on after the buying of the site rights from the promoter. So on fight night, all the promoter had to do was sit back and count the money.
Anyway in ‘76, this prompted Ring Magazine to get involved in what was called a U.S. Championship Tournament. And as the tournament went on, allegations of a number of things came out and finally ABC, which was doing the televising, threw the U.S. Championship Tournament off the air. And, as they used to say, “another black eye for boxing.” But this had the effect though of strengthening the world sanctioning bodies becasuse the networks no longer could point at Ring Magazine and say “Well, they didn’t say it’s a world championship fight or they say it belongs in this U.S. championship tournament.” Now they needed some other source of credibility. So they turned to the WBA and the WBC. The WBC at that time also stripped Leon Spinks of the world title because he signed for a return bout with Muhammad Ali instead of fighting the WBC mandatory, Ken Norton. So the WBC declared Ken Norton the new Champion, he lost to Larry Holmes. And then Larry Holmes made a good number of title defenses on ABC. This had the effect of putting the WBC especially over, and it’s been a matter of a television and sanctioning bodies ever since.
On the Manager’s Guild, the IBC and the mob influence on boxing:
“Well you didn’t have the sanctioning bodies, right? You had promoters and some of them are quite powerful, but managers really ran the sport. It was a seller’s market in those days because of all the promoters, no television really. And even radio did not pay that much. So these guys, I’m talking about the big time managers who manage world champions, top contenders, they had a lot of power in those days. They could deal with this promoter here, this one over here and say, “We’ll go with this one over here.” And this was the case. I mean, if you were a young fighter, to you, the greatest thing that could happen was to get under the management of a top manager who really held a lot of cards. Cause somebody who controlled one or more world champions and let’s say maybe a dozen contenders, he had a lot of power. He could say, “Oh you want so and so to find your local kid. All right, we’ll do it for such and such amount of money. I want three of my other kids on your show.”
The contenders were known to the public. In fact it was a much more discriminating public in those days. They knew the fights and the fighters. I mean, today, I don’t know how many network executives which put on boxing know the fighters. But the public in those days surely did. Now the Manager’s Guild, established 1944. This really had a lot to do with Jim Norris and the International Boxing Club, which succeeded the 20th Century Sporting Club of Mike Jacobs. Jacobs was the promoter at the Garden for a good many years. (In 1944) this was pretty much pre-Jim Norris. Yes. And a then, of course, Mike Jacobs had a stroke. And, the managers quickly towed the line with a friend of Jim Norris named Frankie Carbo. And this all ended at the end of the fifties in 1961 and all that. The manager’s guild was ordered dissolved by the courts because this really was getting, it seemed to a lot of people rightly, it was getting a reputation as a corrupt sport.
And so that was out. And I would say basically that mob controlled boxing to a large extent went out of the window in 1965 because Muhammad Ali had his own people. So after he beat Floyd Patterson it was a different era and basically so-called organized crime, to a large extent, went out of boxing at that time.”
On the point when the WBA and WBC split apart and where they are today: “(Note: At the 1962 WBA convention there was a battle over voting rights – according to the WBA rules, each U.S. state got one vote, the same as each country outside of the U.S. There was push back from Mexico and many countries that also had multiple commissions in their country to get a vote for each commission.) The foreign contingents came in with all kinds of provincial chairman and so forth. And demanded that each state in Mexico, Argentina, and so forth have a one vote of its own. So they got the WBA away from the U.S. to that extent, you know, in the ’70s and all that. But it was a sea change and and finally the world championship committee that became the nucleus to a certain extent, to a large extent for the formation of the WBC. Which when it first began was a committee of the WBA and then broke away gradually and said finally they were completely independent of the WBA (Note: this happened officially in 1966 according to Herbert’s “Timeline of Boxing History”).
And so the genesis of the modern situation began at that point. Different world sanctioning bodies with their own champions. But after a while it became not a question of, we should recognize the man who really has the most legitimate claim to the championship. No, it became more and more, we want our own champion in every division. Now it’s gotten to the point for some years now, the WBA has its own champion and that champion fights, let’s say the WBC champion or the IBF champion and uh, and becomes more or less of a unified champion. The WBA then would sort of say, yes, he’s the Super champion. We have another WBA championship. We’re going to start beneath him. I mean, if this sounds absolutely crazy and comprised of unbelievable amount of amounts of gall, well, welcome to boxing.”
Editor’s Note: This feature originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of The Ring.
Pernell Whitaker was a southpaw version of Floyd Mayweather Jr. Before Mayweather, a defensive wizard who was almost impossible to hit. As a result, he was almost impossible to beat.
Whitaker burst onto the scene as a member of the gifted 1984 U. S. Olympic team, winning a gold medal in the lightweight division. He reportedly finished his amateur career with a sterling record of 201-14.
The Virginia resident has fond memories of his Olympic experience.
“I was with 11 of the greatest guys you could wanna be with,” Whitaker told The Ring. “We were teammates, we were together all the time, we supported one another when guys had fights, everybody showed up. It was fun being around.
“It’s like one big family, having 11 brothers. The Olympics was different. It was the most successful time in my life winning the Olympic gold medal.”
Whitaker was extremely successful as a pro, too, winning world titles in four weight classes to earn recognition as one of the greatest fighters of his generation.
And “Sweet Pea” succeeded even though he often found himself on the wrong end of controversial decisions, starting with his first title shot against WBC champ Jose Luis Ramirez in 1988 in France.
The only people who thought Ramirez won the fight were those closest to him and two of the three judges, who awarded him a split decision victory. Whitaker rectified the injustice in 1989, first by dominating Greg Haugen to win the IBF 135-pound title by a unanimous decision and then avenging the loss to Ramirez six months later.
Whitaker (right) against Azumah Nelson. Photo from The Ring archive
Whitaker wouldn’t lose again until 1997, when Oscar De La Hoya defeated him by another disputed decision, and would finish with a record of 19-3-1 in world-title fights against some of the best fighters of the time.
The most bitter disappointment of his career might be his draw with Julio Cesar Chavez in San Antonio in 1993, when The Ring ranked Chavez and Whitaker Nos. 1 and 2 in the world.
Once again, Whitaker, too quick and slick for the Mexican legend, appeared to win a clear decision only to learn upon the announcement that he had to settle for a majority draw in a pro- Chavez environment.
Whitaker has come to terms with the result.
“Fighting Chavez is one of my favorite memories,” he said. “I know I won. The good thing was the fans know who won.”
Whitaker (40-4-1, 17 knockouts) retired after losing a wide decision to Felix Trinidad in an attempt to win back the IBF welterweight belt in 1999 and being forced to quit when he broke his clavicle against Carlos Bojorquez two years later.
He has no regrets.
“I think I had a complete career,” he said. “I had a good 17 years as a pro. I tried to fight everybody, I didn’t pass up anybody.”
Whitaker was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2007. He has five children and three grandchildren. “Life is great,” he said. “I’m enjoying myself.”
Whitaker kindly agreed to speak about the best fighters he fought in his career in 10 categories.
Buddy McGirt: I didn’t really get hit with them jabs. I tried to keep guys on defense. That was one of my best assets. That’s where I start off at, using the jab and being constant, keeping my jab out there. I think every fighter should have a good jab; a good jab could take you a long way. Of the guys I fought I would say Buddy McGirt had the best jab.
Azumah Nelson: (Laughs) That’s a tough one because it never took me long to get to anybody. But if I picked someone, I would say Azumah Nelson. I don’t think nobody on this planet had a better defense than I did. There are a lot of fighters with good defense but not like Pernell Whitaker.
McGirt: Had a pretty good chin. It’s kind of hard to say who had a good chin. I liked hitting to the body; I liked to work from the body up. McGirt took a good punch.
Julio Cesar Chavez: Everybody I’ve been in the ring with was considered a big puncher. The one who stands out the most would be Julio Cesar Chavez. I didn’t experience any big shots. I don’t like taking punches.
Oscar De La Hoya: I made all these fights so easy, it’s hard to say who had the better hand speed. I consider all of them being great, they just weren’t quicker than I was, though I would say Oscar De La Hoya had good hand speed. They start off with speed but by the time I break ’em down, the speed’s over.
Diosbelys Hurtado: I didn’t have a problem with anybody. All the fighters I fought were good fighters. It’s hard to give credit when you make guys look so bad all the time. I would say Diosbelys Hurtado had good feet. Like I say I just went in there and took fighters out of their fight game, turn them into being ordinary fighters.
All of them: All of the guys I fought were smart fighters; I was just a little smarter. Chavez was pretty smart, De La Hoya was a pretty smart kid, McGirt, I fought him twice, he was a veteran. I don’t have no favorite.
Nelson: I didn’t give anybody the opportunity to punch. I tried to be the complete boxer. I outboxed all off them. The one that comes to mind is Azumah Nelson. He was a strong guy. He just kept coming forward.
Chavez: [He] was just a good fighter. He had great boxing skills, he was a big puncher, you had to be careful. You don’t get caught up with him, going toe to toe.
Nelson: I liked Azumah Nelson. He kept on coming, he never gives up, he hung in there.
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The news of Pernell Whitaker’s untimely death hit hardcore boxing fans hard, especially those who came of age watching the 1984 Olympic gold medalist dazzle the best of the best with sublime boxing skill during the late 1980s and throughout the ’90s. Whitaker, who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2007, is one of the few modern-era boxers that historians rank among the all-time greats of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s.
The Ring Magazine was proud to crown Whitaker with its lightweight title in 1989 and honored to bestow him its first Pound-for-Pound championship belt in 1995. Below are select Ring Magazine covers and photos published during his magnificent 16-year, 46-bout professional boxing career. The images are from The Ring Magazine collection via Getty Images.
Whitaker shows off his Ring Magazine lightweight title during a studio photo session in his hometown of Norfolk, Virginia in December 1989. “Sweet Pea” already held the IBF and WBC belts, and would add the WBA strap to his collection in August 1990 to earn undisputed champ status at 135 pounds.
Whitaker was Ring Magazine’s 1989 Fighter of the Year.
Whitaker defended his Ring Magazine, WBC and IBF titles with a unanimous decision over Ghanaian great Azumah Nelson in Las Vegas on May 19, 1990.
One of the livelier debates among boxing heads of the early 1990s was who was the sport’s pound-for-pound king, Whitaker or Mexican idol Julio Cesar Chavez, who had compiled a mind-boggling 87-0 record. The two stars sought to answer the question in the ring and a superfight was made for September 1993.
If you were a hardcore fan at the time of this fight, you knew what happened in San Antonio and you knew who won the fight.
Whitaker blasts Julio Cesar Vasquez with an uppercut en route to a unanimous decision on March 4, 1995 in Atlantic City. Whitaker won the WBA 154-pound belt, his fourth world title in a fourth weight class, and then dropped back down to resume his WBC welterweight title reign.
Shortly after the Vasquez victory, Whitaker was awarded Ring Magazine’s inaugural Pound-for-Pound title belt.
Whitaker lost the WBC welterweight and Ring Pound-for-Pound titles to Oscar De La Hoya via unanimous decision on April 12, 1997, in Las Vegas, but he gave the superstar and future hall of famer fits for 12 rounds.
Whitaker, now well past his prime, never regained a major world title after ’97 (although he gave future hall of famer Felix Trinidad a competitive fight in 1999) but he will forever remain a Pound-for-Pound King in the eyes and hearts of boxing fans worldwide. Rest in Peace, Pea.