Jim Lampley, Roy Jones Jr. and Max Kellerman Discuss Mayweather-Pacquiao

HBO Boxing Podcast - Episode 40 - Golovkin vs Murray Postfight

HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney discuss Gennady Golovkin's TKO 11 of Martin Murray in Monte Carlo this past weekend, plus chat about the response to the announcement of Mayweather-Pacquiao.

Terence Crawford Crowned 2014 Fighter of the Year

Photo: Will Hart

Photo: Will Hart

By Kieran Mulvaney

This time last year, Terence Crawford was seeking to prove that he belonged: that he belonged at the top of the pile of touted contenders, that he belonged in the conversation over who was the best lightweight in the world, that he belonged on HBO.

Twelve months later, that mission has been accomplished in style, a breakout 2014 now capped with his coronation by the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) as Fighter of the Year.

“It’s a surprise to me because that’s something I never thought I’d be able to accomplish,” Crawford said in response to his selection. “Now that it’s happened, it kind of feels like it’s not real. But I will say that my performance in the ring on those three nights last year brought the best out of me. I was as sharp as I could be. Everything fell into place at the right time.”

The first of those three nights fell on March 1, in Glasgow, Scotland. After an underwhelming performance against Andrey Klimov the previous October, Crawford knew he had to improve and impress if he had any hope of showcasing his talent on World Championship Boxing or Boxing After Dark. His fight that evening, against lightweight titlist Ricky Burns, was not televised in the United States; but the dominant way in which he wrestled the title belt from Glasgow’s native son ensured that his next bout would be.

That next fight, on June 28, was one of the fights of the year, a thrilling four-knockdown victory over Yuriorkis Gamboa in front of a raucous crowd of almost 11,000 in Crawford’s hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. That performance – not to mention the atmosphere engendered by Omaha’s first world title fight in 42 years – ensured that Crawford and HBO would return to the Cornhusker State. When they did, on November 29, Crawford scored an impressive points victory over seasoned veteran Ray Beltran, bringing his year to a successful conclusion.

Despite having underlined his championship credentials and secured Fighter of the Year honors, the soft-spoken champion is in no mood to rest on his laurels.

“I’m looking for a big year again in 2015,” he said. “I’m going to continue taking the biggest and best fights out there. I don’t want to take no step down. I want to prove I’m the best fighter in and around my division, and one of the best in any division. To be great, you got to set your sights on the Pacquiaos and the Mayweathers. Those are the kind of guys I want to fight, and beat.” 

Golovkin Beats Up Brave Murray

Photos: Will Hart

By Kieran Mulvaney

Gennady Golovkin said he wanted to be taken twelve rounds. He wanted to go to a decision so that he could show off his full array of boxing skills. He almost got his wish, thanks to the extraordinary heart of Martin Murray – and, arguably, a little too much bravery on the part of the Englishman’s corner. But in the end, Golovkin couldn’t help himself, and however much he might have wished otherwise, he was once again too much for an overmatched foe; when referee Luis Pabon wisely rescued Murray in the eleventh round, the man from Kazakhstan had scored his nineteenth consecutive knockout.

Murray, to his immense credit, came to fight. He came with a good plan, too: use his superior reach to land long punches from mid-range and, whenever Golovkin looked to be closing the gap, hold on tight. For the first couple of rounds, it worked with surprising effectiveness, and he might have shaded at least one of those two frames, his long right hands finding their target even if they apparently had little if any effect on the champion.

But fighting off Golovkin is like hitting an oncoming python with a wiffle bat: no matter how much you might try, the deterrent effect is negligible at best, and meanwhile he keeps coming forward, slowly coiling himself around his foe and imposing his strength. In the third round, as Murray grew in confidence, Golovkin began to make his move. A right hand landed with authority, prompting Murray, who had begun this frame brightly, to wave him in. This was unwise. Golovkin cracked him again with another right hand; and then a left hook, followed by a big right hand, hurt Murray before the bell.

The fourth seemed set to be the final one, Golovkin taking advantage of Murray’s high guard to dig a right hand to the body that sent the challenger to his knees. Murray rose gamely at eight, retreated to a corner and went down again from a short flurry, punctuated with another right hand body shot. Somehow he survived the round, but the pattern was now irrevocably set. Only two rounds earlier, he had sought to command center ring, but now, Murray was retreating backward to the ropes; by the end of the fifth, he was in possession of a bloodied and busted nose, courtesy of Golovkin switching his attack to launch uppercuts through Murray’s defensive gloves.

Plenty of other opponents have folded under such an onslaught, but Murray showed himself to be made of sterner stuff than most normal human beings. Clearly hurting from the Golovkin onslaught, he nonetheless did his best to fend off his foe with torqued punches that landed well but elicited not even a hint of a reaction from the Kazakh.

Golovkin’s strengths extend far beyond his thumping punching power. His supreme ring generalship ensures that he keeps his opponents just where he wants them, he throws and lands punches with efficiency as well as force, and the variety of his punches means foes can only guess where the next blow will land. In the eighth, Golovkin suddenly landed a right hand to the top of Murray’s head; it was a punch he had not tried before, but he would return to it several times after it set in motion another sequence of blows – left hook, right hand – that had Murray hurt and reeling around the ring.

The end of the eighth felt like a good time for Murray’s corner to pull him from a battle he could not win, as did the beginning of the ninth, until Golovkin – as if sensing he was in danger of knocking out another foe – eased off the gas. He almost looked bored, allowing Murray to tee off ineffectively, the wiffle bat now broken and limp as the coils tightened. In the tenth, too exhausted even to hold up his hands, breathing through his mouth as the blood plugged his nose, Murray sought to duck under the incoming artillery. After he slipped one right hand, Golovkin shook his head in annoyance, recalibrated his sights and landed a pair of thumping right hands that laid out Murray flat on his back.

Once more, Murray beat the count and made it to the bell, and inexplicably his corner sent him out for more punishment. The end was just a matter of time, and after a pair of right hands caused Murray to buckle in the corner, Pabon saved the Englishman from his own heart.

HBO Boxing Podcast Ep. 39 Mayweather - Pacquiao Signed

Pacquiao-Mayweather: The Long Wait Is Almost Over

May 2, 2015

May 2, 2015

By Kieran Mulvaney

It has been, as two songwriters of some repute once observed, a long and winding road. But after five years, several rounds of negotiations, a combined 16 fights on two continents against other opponents, and countless speculative column inches, cable TV minutes and social media postings, boxing’s biggest and most eagerly anticipated matchup is finally official.

Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather will meet at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on May 2.

At stake, nominally, will be each man’s welterweight title, but the two belts up for grabs are the least of the prizes on offer. The winner will not just be the true welterweight champion. He will be even more than the undisputed number one pugilist, pound-for-pound, in the world. He will lay an uncontestable claim to be the best boxer of his generation. Both will emerge as very rich men, earning more money in one night than even they have ever pocketed at any stage in their glittering careers. But as much pleasure as such riches will bring, the winner will surely derive even greater satisfaction from putting the debate to rest and emerging victorious against the man whose name has been uttered in connection with his own with infuriating, suffocating frequency.

For all that Mayweather’s torch-passing 2007 win over Oscar De La Hoya was inaccurately proclaimed as “The Fight to Save Boxing,” his clash with Pacquiao is almost certainly the most highly-anticipated meeting since Lennox Lewis bludgeoned Mike Tyson in Memphis in 2002. But to find a more accurate comparison we have to reach back 30 years or more, when undefeated welterweight champion Sugar Ray Leonard squared off against – and shockingly lost to – former lightweight kingpin Roberto Duran in 1980, or when Leonard rallied to stop fellow welterweight title holder Thomas Hearns the following year, or when Hearns battled middleweight champion Marvin Hagler in two-and-a-half astonishingly violent and captivating rounds in 1985.

The reason many boxing fans and historians look so fondly on the era of what writer George Kimball dubbed “The Four Kings” is not only that Hagler, Hearns, Leonard and Duran (and Wilfred Benitez, so often the forgotten man in the group) fought each other, but that when they did so, they were pound-for-pound the very best in the world. For all the hype that accompanied Lewis-Tyson, neither could reasonably claim such heights at that stage of their careers: one year and one fight after defeating Tyson, Lewis would retire from the sport, and Tyson – already a spent force by the time he fought Lewis – would follow him into retirement two years later, no longer able to overcome even the likes of Danny Williams or Kevin McBride.

Having the two best boxers in the world in or around the same weight class as each other is an occurrence that is all too rare, and when it happens, the desire to see them take each other on is overwhelming. That is what has sustained interest in this contest over five frequently frustrating years, and it is a testament to both men that they are now, as they were when this fight first seemed on the verge of fruition in 2010, numbers one and two on most pound-for-pound lists. There was a brief period when that was no longer the case, when Juan Manuel Marquez not only rendered Pacquiao unconscious but also seemingly knocked out the prospect of, or even the desire to see, the Filipino facing the American. But Pacquiao's six-knockdown win over Chris Algieri served notice that the fighting congressman from Sarangani province was again a force with which to be reckoned. With Marquez losing to Tim Bradley (who in turn lost to Pacquiao) and Andre Ward benching himself, Mayweather and Pacquiao are once more alone at the top of the heap.

The case can certainly be made that, like Lewis and Tyson, Pacquiao and Mayweather are past their peaks. But that likely won’t matter: after all, the best fight of the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier trilogy is widely held to have been the third one, partly because by then they had both diminished enough that they couldn’t avoid each other’s punches. And if the physical gifts are a little less than they were in 2010, the stakes are arguably even higher: five years of sniping, failed negotiations and rancorous argument have only served to increase the venom. That will make the anticipation so much greater, and victory all the sweeter.

 

Watch: Golovkin vs. Murray Weigh-In

Golovkin and Murray weigh-in ahead of Saturday’s middleweight championship on HBO beginning at 5:45pm ET/PT.

An Honest Murray Puts Himself Up for the Challenge

Photo: Will Hart

Photo: Will Hart

By Kieran Mulvaney

“I’ll be honest with you.”

It’s a particularly British sequence of words, generally uttered as a way of reducing the potential conflict arising from the statement that follows.

"I’ll be honest with you, I’m upset that you ran over my cat.”

“I’ll be honest with you, I rather wish you hadn’t burned down my house.”

Martin Murray, who challenges for Gennady Golovkin’s middleweight belts in Monaco’s Salle des Etoiles on Saturday night, doesn’t come across as the kind of person who feels the need to avoid conflict, although a series of youthful mistakes – he has been jailed three times – are firmly in the past. But he utters the phrase with sufficient frequency that it seems almost like a verbal tic. Thirty minutes in his company, however, suggests that, far from being a meaningless aphorism, it’s a window into the fact that Murray eschews bluster in favor of a refreshing candor.

Asked what weaknesses he has seen in Golovkin, he admits, “there’s no chinks in his armor, I’ll be honest with you. I was hoping a couple of his past opponents would show us some, but he’s a great all-round fighter. That means definitely he’s my toughest fight. The things we worked on [in his previous two world title bouts against Felix] Sturm and [Sergio] Martinez, we saw the weaknesses so we could work on them. We’ve not found any with Golovkin.”

Reminded that all 31 of Golovkin’s professional opponents have lost, and asked how he knows he will be different, he responds that, “I’ll be honest with you, I don’t. It’s not a foregone conclusion that I’m going to win. I’m going to go in there and give it my all. But I think my mentality for this fight, and also my versatility – I can box, I can fight, I’m good defensively, I’m good going forward, I’m good at nullifying what other people are good at – I think that’s what makes a lot of people think that’s why I’m his toughest opponent to date.”

Taken in isolation and out of context, such statements may sound defeatist, as if Murray has already found comfort in the notion of leaving the ring second-best. But rather they are the realist observations of a man prepared to emerge victorious yet fully aware that he will almost certainly have to walk through fire in order to do so.

As the two fighters sat down with media at the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel on Thursday, Murray’s manager Andrew Mikhail touched his fighter on the arm, expressed the hope that he wouldn’t mind his sharing the upcoming anecdote, and revealed that, as fight night approaches, “we always have a little talk and he always shows me pictures of food because he’s always dying to have a burger on Sunday. He said to me, ‘You know how far I’m prepared to go? Don’t plan Sunday, because I may be in hospital. I’m going to give this everything.’ That’s the mentality. He’s willing to do everything; he’s putting his body on the line to do what he has to do on Saturday night.”

To prepare himself for just that, Murray has endured a training camp above all others: six weeks over the holiday season in England, followed by five weeks at altitude in South Africa.

“It’s the first time Martin’s trained at altitude,” said Mikhail, “and we found that quite difficult adjusting in the first 10 days, but we can feel the benefit of that now coming down to sea level.” According to Murray, however, the most difficult aspect of the camp was the separation from his family.

“Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love my kids,” he said. “Being away from them for so long crippled me; it was so hard. The first couple of weeks I was thinking, ‘What have I done here?’ But I had to do something I’ve never done, and this was it. I’ve come so close twice before [in a draw with Sturm and a split decision loss to Martinez], and by the smallest of margins I’ve come up short. I just needed to take away any kind of regret come fight night. Don’t get me wrong: I want to win more than you could ever know, but if that doesn’t happen, I can be happy with myself. All I can do is my best, and I’ll have done it.”

That sentiment was echoed by his manager Mikhail. “If you’re going to take yourself to that next level, you’ve got to do things that you’ve never done before, you’ve got to put yourself through that barrier you’ve never done before,” he said. As a result of doing so, the manager insisted, Murray is “in the best shape he’s ever been, mentally, physically. I’m more confident than for any other fight he’s ever had that he’s going to go in there in his best shape. And all I can say is, if he’s not good enough on the night, there’s nothing more he could have done to be good enough.”

“It’s my toughest fight,” admitted Murray. But at the same time, “it’s his toughest fight. I know we’ll both rise to the occasion. I know that. It’s going to be a great fight on Saturday. I’ve just got a feeling it’s going to be an absolute classic.”

Honestly.