HBO Sports presents an intimate video portrait of the Sept. 16 pay-per-view clash between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin for the world middleweight championship. HBO Sports cameras and microphones captured behind-the-scenes sights and sounds plus in-ring action to tell the story of the thrilling fight from sold-out T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney share their thoughts on Jorge Linares' split decision win over Luke Campbell, plus they discuss the Canelo-GGG scoring (again), Daniel Jacobs' big career move, the deaths of Jake La Motta and Joe Carnicelli, and the sudden retirement of Andre Ward.
Photos: Ed Mulholland
By Kieran Mulvaney
INGLEWOOD, Calif – For the second week in a row, a close fight ended with a split decision. For the second week in a row, the result of that split decision left at least some fans and observers disappointed. But, unlike last week’s middleweight clash between Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez, there was no bizarre outlier score at the end of Luke Campbell’s lightweight title challenge of Jorge Linares. All three cards, while differing in the details, agreed that Linares and Campbell had fought 12 highly competitive rounds that had yielded a legitimately close decision, and by scores of 113-115, 114-113 and 115-112, they awarded that decision to Linares.
Early on, it did not appear as if their contribution would be needed. After a first round in which England’s Campbell (17-2, 14 KOs) and Venezuelan Linares probed each other’s defenses – Campbell perhaps shading it behind his lanky southpaw jab – defending titlist Linares exploded into life in the second. A left hook landed over Campbell’s jab, and then another hook thudded into Campbell’s face as the Englishman sought to step forward with a left hand. Then, suddenly, the shorter Linares (43-3, 27 KOs) stepped forward with a three-punch combination, culminating in a short right that dropped Campbell to the seat of his pants. The Briton beat the count but he was cut beneath his right eye, and Linares ended the round firing ripping combinations to body and head.
When Linares opened up the third in similarly fast and furious fashion, it looked as if Campbell might be facing the prospect of an early night, but he began to recover his poise as the round progressed, and in the fourth, even though Linares again came out fast, throwing rapid fire jabs, Campbell took charge over the final two-thirds of the frame. He used his reach advantage to great effect, spearing Linares with his long jab and using it to set up left hand power punches to the Linares body.
Campbell now was drawing on all the experience and ability that had taken him to an Olympic gold medal in 2012, and in the middle rounds began to assert control. Linares was struggling with the range, Campbell making full use of his height and reach to keep the Venezuelan at the end of straight punch after straight punch; and while Linares continued to plow forward, he was no longer able to reach his target with the same effectiveness as earlier.
But although Campbell was steadily asserting control, he was by no means running away with the contest. Linares was in every round, and managed to pull out a round or two in the middle of the contest to ensure that as the bout entered its final quarter, while he had ceded the lead on the scorecards, he was within striking distance.
“I wanted to knock him out,” he said afterward to HBO’s Max Kellerman, “but in the tenth round I knew it was going to go the distance. But from round ten, I wanted to let the dogs out, and that’s what I did.”
Suddenly, Linares was once more at a range that worked for him. He opened up the round with a fast combination, and closed it with one, two, three right hands in close succession and then a fourth just before the bell. In the eleventh, Campbell was oddly quiescent; Linares had now taken away his jab and was firing his own jab rapidly and firmly to Campbell’s midsection. In the 12th and final round, he stepped up his effort yet more, and while Campbell fired back in return, catching Linares with a hard counter hook, the Venezuelan ended the round looking confident, bouncing on his toes and firing a combination as the bell rang.
CompuBox statistics underlined the closeness of the contest: Campbell landed exactly one punch more than Linares over the course of 12 rounds – 141 to his opponet’s 140 – but he also threw 110 more in the process. Campbell was the busier boxer throughout, but Linares’ explosive combinations found their target with greater accuracy.
Campbell was deflated after losing his first world title tilt, all the more so for the fact that he thought he won it.
“After the second round knockdown, I had double vision for the rest of the fight,” he said. “But I don’t think he landed anything clean. I think I outclassed him.”
Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing are delighted to announce their first American signing as Brooklyn native Daniel Jacobs, (32-2, 29 KO’s) pens a multi-fight deal as part of Matchroom Boxing’s new venture in the US.
The former Middleweight World ruler will make his debut under the new banner in November live on HBO as ‘The Miracle Man’ aims to reclaim his World champion status.
Jacobs’ last outing was against fearsome pound-for-pound king Gennady Golovkin in March at a jam packed Madison Square Garden in New York where ‘GGG’ edged the Brooklyn star out on points, and 30 year old Jacobs wants to get back into fights with the likes Golovkin and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez as he kicks-off an exciting new chapter in his career with Hearn and Matchroom.
“I'm truly excited to be joining Matchroom Boxing and HBO,” said Jacobs. “This is a new beginning for my career and I get a chance to showcase my skills to the world. I can't wait to return to the ring in November, being active and recapturing the World middleweight title.”
“It's an honour to welcome Danny Jacobs to the Matchroom Boxing team and to join forces with HBO boxing to showcase his fights,” said promoter Eddie Hearn. “I believe Danny has proved himself as the top Middleweight in World boxing and has one of the most inspirational stories you will ever see in the sport which must be told. We plan on keeping Danny nice and busy kicking off in November, then back in the spring with the obvious target of the Canelo vs GGG winner.
“This signing marks the first of many in the US market as we look forward to building on our success in the UK, raising fighters’ activities levels and profiles and providing fans with atmosphere and drama from this great sport.”
“Inspiring and electric in the ring, Daniel Jacobs is a true ambassador for boxing,” says Peter Nelson, executive vice president, HBO Sports. “Daniel is a force to be reckoned with in the stacked middleweight division. We look forward to watching his exceptionally bright future unfold as part of the HBO family.”
Photos by Ed Mulholland
LOS ANGELES, Calif -- There is a feeling of familiarity ahead of Saturday night’s World Championship Boxing lightweight title bout; and yet, at the same time, change is in the air.
The familiarity comes from the location. Jorge Linares and challenger Luke Campbell meet at the Forum in Inglewood, the third time in five weekends – and the second time in three – that HBO Boxing has broadcast from the Los Angeles area. If Campbell and Linares provide the kind of sustained action seen at nearby StubHub Center when Yoshihiro Kamegai kept valiantly impaling Miguel Cotto’s gloves with his face, or when a sextet of 115 pounders put on a trio of sensational fights, then an entertaining evening beckons.
But the sense of is also manifest that a page is turning. For one, boxing is still recovering its breath after the build-up to, furious action during, and controversy after, last week’s middleweight clash between Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez. (A replay of that terrific 12-round brawl will precede tomorrow’s live broadcast.) For another, the Wednesday announcement by Andre Ward that he is retiring from the ring after an undefeated professional career is the latest in what began as a series of coincidences and has now grown into a full-blown trend.
Wladimir Klitschko was the first, the former long-time heavyweight champion turning down the opportunity to pursue a rematch with Anthony Joshua and choosing to instead enjoy the fruits of a long and distinguished career. Juan Manuel Marquez, who had not fought since 2014, followed suit the next day, and Timothy Bradley confirmed his own retirement days after that. Within a couple of weeks, Shane Mosley had done likewise. Floyd Mayweather joined the club at the end of August. And Cotto, of course, insists that he’ll be doing likewise after he has just one more fight, tentatively penciled in for December – which means Canastota, the home of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, will figure to be a busy place five or so years from now. That’s fully six retirements from the sport in under two months – plus Cotto’s yet-to-be-enacted departure. Add to that Bernard Hopkins stepping away at the end of last year and the apparent likelihood that Manny Pacquiao will leave the ring in 2018, and that’s a profound transformation at the head of boxing’s table.
A new generation is taking the old guard’s place in rapid fashion, and one of the things that’s especially notable about it is its polyglot nature. Terence Crawford surely now stands supreme among American boxers, but he’s joined at the top of the pound-for-pound list by the likes of Ukraine’s Vasyl Lomachenko, Mexico’s Alvarez and Kazakhstan’s Golovkin. And while the United States and Mexico will always, it seems, churn out top boxers, the new wave is populated with representatives from around the world – although a few countries in particular stand out. Russia is one, represented by the likes of Sergey Kovalev, Dmitry Bivol, Artur Beterbiev and Murat Gassiev. Ukraine is another, with Lomachenko joined by Olkesandr Gvozdyk and Oleksandr Usyk. And then there is the United Kingdom.
British boxing is undergoing a surge in popularity and quality, fueled by investment in a first-rate amateur program that has achieved success in numbers at three consecutive Olympic Games. At featherweight, Belfast’s Carl Frampton is the reigning Boxing Writers’ Association of America Fighter of the Year; Billy Joe Saunders holds a middleweight belt that Golovkin craves; James DeGale may be the best man in a talented super-middleweight division; and, of course, Joshua stands very tall at the top of the heavyweight tree. At lightweight, Terry Flanagan holds an alphabet belt and on Saturday, Campbell will be aiming to join him.
For Linares, it will be the third time in a row that he has faced a British opponent, following two victories over Anthony Crolla. Two fights before he first squared off against Crolla, he defeated yet another Brit, Kevin Mitchell. He has even moved to London.
Given all that, it stretches credulity a little when Campbell says – as he did after a media workout on Wednesday – that, “I don’t know much about Jorge Linares.” He almost certainly knows far more about him than he is prepared to concede; certainly, Linares has done his research on the Englishman.
“Luke Campbell is a young and hungry fighter and that can be a critical difference in the ring,” the Venezuelan said at the workout. “Being a former Olympic fighter, the big lights and cameras won’t scare him off and neither does being the underdog.”
Campbell is not only a former Olympian, but a gold medalist at the 2012 games – and, by popular acclamation, the best amateur boxer the U.K. has ever produced. He has struggled to reach those heights as professional, and in a country with so much boxing talent from which to prove, has not really been able to break through. Victory over Linares, however, would be the catapult for him to do so, not just in his homeland but also on this side of the pond.
“Motivation is a massive thing,” he said. “I'm fighting on the biggest network out there. It's a fantastic way to introduce myself to the American market … This is my opportunity to show what I've got."
The timing, at least, is impeccable. The race is on to see who emerges.
Jorge Linares: 134.2 lbs.
Luke Campbell:134.8 lbs.
By Eric Raskin
Here’s a handy name to keep in your back pocket for your next boxing trivia night: John Revish.
The associated question is, “Who’s the last boxer to defeat Andre Ward?” For 20 years now, Revish, who beat a 13-year-old Ward in the amateurs, has held that distinction, with “last” taken to mean “most recent.” Now “last” means “final.” Ward, who didn’t lose for the next seven years as an amateur or the subsequent 13 as a pro, will never lose in the ring again, period, if he holds to the retirement he announced suddenly on Thursday.
“I am leaving because my body can no longer put up with the rigors of the sport and therefore my desire to fight is no longer there,” Ward said in a statement, headlined “Mission Accomplished,” that he posted on his website. “If I cannot give my family, my team, and the fans everything that I have, then I should no longer be fighting.”
In the midst of a boxing year overflowing with high-profile retirements, Andre “S.O.G.” Ward becomes the second former U.S. Olympian in four weeks to walk away with an undefeated record and a claim to the pound-for-pound throne. The big difference between Ward and Floyd Mayweather — who really retired two years earlier and was lured back for one last too-easy-to-pass-up cash grab — is that Ward is just 33 years old, still arguably in his prime.
For countless fighters in past eras, 33 translated to over the hill, but in this age of improved medical science and lighter schedules and Mayweather fighting at 40 and Bernard Hopkins fighting past 50, 33 is young. Even Joe Calzaghe, who, like Ward, walked away undefeated after conquering the super middleweight and light heavyweight divisions while seemingly having something left in the tank and plenty of money left to earn, was 36. To go out this on top and this close to his physical peak is just about unprecedented in boxing. The pound-for-pound title in 2017 might not be the equivalent of the undisputed heavyweight title in 1955, but Ward’s retirement timing is legitimately Marciano-esque.
So how will Ward be remembered? Firstly, as a great boxer, one of the finest of his era, with the highest ring IQ of his generation. He won Olympic gold in 2004 (still the only American male boxer since 1996 to do so), turned pro on HBO, and shot to the top when he dominated the “Super Six” tournament from 2009-2011, effectively cleaning out the 168-pound division along the way. The favorites coming into that tournament were Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham, and Carl Froch; Ward was unproven and something of an afterthought. He beat Kessler, Abraham, and Froch, as well as Allan Green and Sakio Bika, before the Super Six was through.
Then he came back to HBO and stopped light heavyweight champ Chad Dawson in a masterful performance (though Dawson appeared badly drained from getting down to 168 pounds) and won a pair of controversial fights over his most dangerous possible opponent, Sergey Kovalev. The first bout saw Ward get off the deck early to win an unpopular one-point decision. In the rematch, S.O.G. again started slow before pulling off an eighth-round TKO win that was both stunningly impressive and undoubtedly aided by low blows. By the time that was over, the master technician from Oakland with a record of 32-0, 16 KOs, found himself atop most pound-for-pound lists — at long last, five years after a case for ranking him there first emerged.
That long delay in Ward’s ascension is also a major part of his legacy. Between Dawson and Kovalev, Ward largely wasted four years. There was a 14-month inactivity followed by a 19-month hiatus, due to some combination of promotional and legal battles and quite possibly a flickering flame of passion for the sport. When he did fight, some of the bouts were utter wastes of his time and talent, specifically those against Paul Smith and Alexander Brand. Ward will be remembered, secondarily, as a boxer who could have done more. It’s not fair to call him an underachiever, but it is fair to say he didn’t fully maximize his potential.
Ward will be remembered as polarizing, both as an entertainer and as a personality. There are those who enjoyed his cerebral, neutralizing style and those who couldn’t stand it. There are those who admire him for being an articulate speaker and a class act and those who find him to be detached and pretentious. There are many who have hated him from the moment he dubbed himself “S.O.G,” or “Son of God.”
Andre Ward was, perhaps, too contemplative a person for the fight game. He was reportedly close to a new four-fight deal with HBO over the last couple of weeks, and a more impulsive man would scarcely pause to consider walking away with those millions of dollars dangling. But Ward thought things through. Maybe he thought a little too long sometimes. In this case, his thinking led him to consider how much more his body could give, how much risk he was taking every time he stepped between the ropes, how much desire he had deep down to keep doing this brutal, violent, exhausting thing that he’s been doing almost his whole life, and whether he really needed any more money to be comfortable. The conclusions he reached exemplify the Andre Ward we’ve come to know.
“Andre Ward ends his boxing career as he only knew how to live it — as a champion at the top,” HBO Sports Executive Vice President Peter Nelson reflected. “To watch Ward was to marvel at constant mastery of craft in the ring, to say nothing of his being the consummate role model outside it. The Hall of Fame will be lucky to have him.”
If you move the space in Ward’s name two characters to the left, you are left with the words “and reward.” Induction in the International Boxing Hall of Fame is a small part of what’s coming Ward’s way and what he has earned. Whether you rooted for him or not, you had to respect him. And if indeed he doesn’t fight again, perhaps the most enduring part of his legacy, the thing that no matter your opinion of Ward demands your respect, will be the when and the why of the way he ended his career.
World Championship Boxing returns Saturday, Sept. 23 with the exclusive replay of Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin's epic middleweight battle, followed immediately by live coverage of the lightweight title bout between Jorge Linares and Luke Campbell. It all starts at 10 PM ET/PT on HBO.
HBO Boxing unofficial scorer Harold Lederman previews the lightweight championship bout between Jorge Linares and Luke Campbell. Linares vs. Campbell happens Saturday, Sept. 23 live at 10 PM ET/PT on HBO World Championship Boxing.