Closing the Year with Boxing’s Best

by Kieran Mulvaney

What to do when HBO’s live boxing broadcasts have wrapped for the year? Revisit the very best bouts from an action-packed 2012, of course. The last 12 months have provided some jaw-dropping action, and for five days, beginning December 25, HBO will be showcasing seven of the year’s best examples of boxing brilliance. All times are ET/PT.


Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto
Tuesday, December 25 at 11 PM


In May, Puerto Rican superstar Cotto put his junior middleweight belt on the line against pound-for-pound king Mayweather. In one of the finest performances of his likely Hall-of-Fame career, Cotto pushed Money May to the edge, forcing Mayweather to dig deeper than he has had to in at least 10 years.

 

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Sergio Martinez
Wednesday, December 26 at 11 PM

 

Martinez was regarded as the true middleweight champion. But Chavez had the belt he coveted, and Martinez agitated for over a year for an opportunity to take it from him. When the chance came, the Argentine appeared well on his way to doing what he had sought to do, until a dramatic finale that was one of the most explosive rounds of the year.

 

Robert Guerrero vs. Andre Berto
Thursday, December 27 at 11 PM

 

Three years ago, Guerrero was campaigning as a junior lightweight, having begun his professional career as a featherweight. One month ago, he appeared on HBO World Championship Boxing in just his second bout as a welterweight, taking on a hard-hitting former 147-pound-title-holder whose own professional debut had been at 162 pounds – almost 37 pounds heavier than Guerrero’s. But Guerrero was the aggressor, dragging Berto into an old-fashioned down-and-dirty street fight that was one of the roughest, toughest and best of 2012.

 

Antonio DeMarco vs. Adrien Broner
Friday, December 28 at 11 PM

 

Flashy Adrien “The Problem” Broner inspires a gamut of emotions – and it’s safe to say that few if any of them are ‘indifference.’ Love him or hate him, it is hard not to respect him; increasingly tipped as the sport’s next big star, Broner went a long way to establishing his bona fides with a devastating and dominant performance against Mexican DeMarco.

 

Andre Ward vs. Chad Dawson
Friday, December 28 at 11:45 PM

 

Light-heavyweight titlist Dawson took the unusual step of dropping down in weight to take on super middleweight kingpin Ward. He may still be regretting it, after Ward – in many pundits’ eyes, second only to Mayweather on the pound-for-pound list – opened his full bag of tricks and cemented his place among boxing’s elite.

 

Brandon Rios vs. Mike Alvarado
Saturday, December 29 at 11 PM

 

The moment this junior welterweight clash was signed, boxing fans everywhere had the date circled on their calendars. Both Rios and Alvarado entered the contest unbeaten and with reputations for possessing that rare combination of immovable object and irresistible force. There seemed no way this could fail to be a serious Fight of the Year candidate, and so it proved. Each man dished out and received hellacious punishment, and the contest swayed back and forth, with first one man and the other seizing advantage and momentum, until an ending that seemed to come almost out of the blue.

 

Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez 4
Saturday, Dec. 29 at 11:40 PM

 

Pacquiao and Marquez had pursued each other like Ahab and the whale, across eight years and 36 rounds, before meeting for a fourth time on December 8. Each man insisted beforehand that this would be their final battle, but after six rounds that exceeded even the dizzying heights of their previous encounters, and a conclusive, concussive ending that was among the most shocking and emphatic in years, who would bet against a fifth?

 

Jim Lampley Previews the Next Installment of ‘The Fight Game’

by Kieran Mulvaney

The third episode of ‘The Fight Game with Jim Lampley’ airs on HBO on Saturday night, following the re-broadcast of last Saturday’s victory by Sergio Martinez over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. We spoke with Lampley, while he was in Las Vegas preparing to call the Martinez-Chavez fight, about what we can expect from episode 3, and what he has learned from producing the previous two episodes.

It’s a very small sample size, but is there anything that has surprised you about the process of putting these shows together, if there is anything that has stood out to you?

My experience on ‘The Fight Game’ has affirmed my perception that there is a very large core within our audience: well-versed, well-educated fight fans, who are on the web maybe every other day and at least once a week, who are following the schedule, who understand the business conflicts and business parameters and how they contribute to what we see in the ring, and who are just as interested in following the business steps that take place from fight to fight as they are the fights themselves.


You threw out the script for episode 2, and went with a powerful editorial slant, including a segment at the end in which you called on fans to ‘occupy boxing.’ I’m curious what was the response to that?

The response from fans is enormous. I’ve always been recognized in the arena; there have always been people who’ve called out my name and wanted an autograph or photograph, something like that. That’s not new. But the intensity of it, and the number of people, is significantly larger than before. People are yelling at me about The Fight Game as soon as I walk into the arena; people are confronting me about it, and asking me what’s on the next show, and that’s very gratifying.

And I have people who send me emails or call me up, both from boxing media and from the fan group, who want to advise me on what to do next and what the editorial content of the next show should be.


What can we expect for episode 3?

You know, 9/22 is an interesting date, because it’s one week beyond this unusual business confrontation of 9/15, and so for me the lead story is obvious: What happened when Chavez Jr. and Canelo Alvarez went head-to-head with each other down the street in Las Vegas, and is that, as most people see it, a sign of the sport’s insanity? Or could it be seen as a positive? Is it a sign that boxing’s health is back, that 19,000 people [were] in the Thomas & Mack Center, and apparently [almost] 15,000 in the MGM Grand? And even though Mexico’s two great attractions were forced to split their audience that night, both business enterprises feel as if they’re going to be making out OK. So maybe our sport isn’t as dead as all those general media people think it is.


Which leads to my final question: Over the years, there has always been despair when the top fighters approach retirement, but there is always somebody else to take their place. As Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao near the end of their careers, did Andre Ward make the definitive case on September 8 that he is next in line to sit in the throne atop the sport?

He certainly came off the page in a big way, and he provided the kind of dramatic excitement that hasn’t always been the case in his other fights. He’s demonstrated extreme competence, and he’s shown that he can beat good opponents, that he can shut them down defensively and with his enormous intelligence, but he has not produced a real offensive explosion prior to last week. And now, viewers have the image of him knocking down Chad Dawson three times, and really exploding with that left hook, and that provides a tantalizing template for the future. Can he do that kind of thing again? Can he do what [Sergio] Martinez has done: going from having a good career to suddenly skyrocketing and saying “Wow, look at me, I’m really one of the best there is”?

The Dream Match-Ups You’re Clamoring For

By Kieran Mulvaney

Floyd Mayweather - Photo Credit: Will Hart

The boxing action is set to heat up in September, including the eagerly anticipated matchups between Andre Ward and Chad Dawson on September 8, and Sergio Martinez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on the 15th. Until then, while we wait out the dog days of summer, we took to Twitter and Facebook to ask which dream matchups you most wanted to see.

Some of you offered your ideal fantasy all-time contests, which yielded some intriguing responses. For example, on Twitter, @Brianjohnson197 pitched “Welterweight / Thomas Hearns vs Floyd Mayweather - Jr. Middleweight / Terry Norris vs Sergio Martinez,” while on Facebook, Robert P suggested Mayweather against Roberto Duran, a contest that he reckoned would end with a Duran KO win.

In terms of what bouts you’d most like to see over the coming months, there were a lot of familiar names – Mayweather, Martinez, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto and Yuriorkis Gamboa – and also someone who wasn’t on most folks’ radar screens when last we asked for your wishlists: Adrien Broner. The brash young Cincinnati lightweight seems to be gaining in popularity, to the extent that some want to see him in the ultimate test already:

“MAYWEATHER vs. BRONER” exclaimed Shandan B on Facebook. On Twitter,  @Raiders4Life80 wants to see Gamboa vs Broner, while @LastBoxingFan had a couple of suggestions for Broner among a number of possible matchups: “Rigondeaux-Donaire, Alvarez-Cotto/Mayweather, Broner-Gamboa/Pacquiao, Wladimir-Vitali, Chavez-Ward.” Wladimir-Vitali? You’re not the only one to suggest that, but I think Mrs. Klitschko would like to have a word with all of you who want to see her sons go at it.

Interestingly, a few want to see Mayweather take on Pacquiao’s nominal conqueror Timothy Bradley (and of course, plenty want to see Floyd and Manny face each other). It’s also encouraging to see that a lot of you want to see more from some of the younger up-and-coming fighters who’ve been showcased on Boxing After Dark lately; for example, @MsRandall2 wants to see more of Keith Thurman Jr, who impressed with a stoppage of Orlando Lora in his HBO debut recently.

Feel free to keep the conversations going. We’re paying attention. And maybe some of those dream matchups will be among the fights we’ll see come to fruition as the boxing calendar fills in.

8 Boxing Stars Who Rose from Olympic Fame

By Kieran Mulvaney

The 2012 London Olympics officially kick off on Friday, with much of the attention for boxing focusing on the hopes of promising young Rau’shee Warren and the inaugural appearance of women’s boxing at the games. Will Warren – or indeed any of the other competitors in London – turn out to be a superstar in the professional ranks in the years ahead? Only time will tell. In the meantime, here’s a small selection of boxers who have excelled at the Olympics and then brought us drama and excitement on HBO:

George Foreman

Foreman won heavyweight gold at the Mexico City games in 1968 and went on to rip the heavyweight championship of the world from Joe Frazier five years later. He lost the title in the Rumble in the Jungle to Muhammad Ali in 1974 and then retired from the sport in 1977. He made an improbable comeback 10 years later and regained the heavyweight title in 1994 at age 45, when he knocked out  Michael Moorer – an achievement immortalized by HBO commentator Jim Lampley’s cry of “It happened! It happened!” During his second career, and for several years afterward, Foreman joined Lampley and Larry Merchant on HBO broadcasts.

Sugar Ray Leonard

Like Foreman, Leonard  won gold – at welterweight in 1976; also like Foreman, Leonard commentated for HBO; and, also like Foreman, he had more than one retirement. After a stellar career that included epic wins over Roberto Duran and Tommy Hearns, Leonard retired in 1982. He returned for one fight in 1984 and then, in 1987, returned again, dethroning middleweight champion  Marvin Hagler via a points decision that remains heavily disputed. He finally retired for good in 1996.

 

Lennox Lewis

Another fighter who would go on to become an HBO commentator, Lewis knocked out Riddick Bowe to win Olympic gold in 1988, and erupted on to HBO screens with a two-round stoppage of Razor Ruddock, following which he was awarded the vacant WBC heavyweight title. Lewis lost his title to Oliver McCall, regained the vacant belt against McCall in 1997, unified the titles against Evander Holyfield at the second attempt (after their first fight, seemingly a clear Lewis win, was adjudged a draw), lost them to Hasim Rahman in 2001, won them again by crushing Rahman later that year, and closed his career with dramatic wins over Mike Tyson and Vitali Klitschko.

 

Roy Jones, Jr.

Officially, Jones won silver at the Seoul Olympics despite dominating his South Korean opponent, a decision that was universally regarded as larcenous and led to a change in the scoring system for Olympic boxing. For the first 15 years of his professional career, Jones was peerless, winning titles at middleweight, super-middleweight, light-heavyweight and, memorably, outpointing John Ruiz in 2003 to win a heavyweight title. Jones finally suffered his first true defeat as a professional the following year, against Antonio Tarver, but has continued to fight on. He is part of the commentary team for HBO’s Boxing After Dark broadcasts.

 

Oscar De La Hoya

The Golden Boy in many ways carried boxing on his back during the post-Mike Tyson years, turning Barcelona gold into a professional career that yielded world titles from 130 to 160 lbs., and produced memorable battles with Pernell Whitaker, Shane Mosley, Felix Trinidad and Fernando Vargas, among others; his 2007 split-decision defeat to Floyd Mayweather remains the highest-grossing boxing pay-per-view of all time. De La Hoya is now a major promoter.

 

Floyd Mayweather Jr.

David Reid may have been the only American to win gold at the 1996 Atlanta games, but bronze medal-winning Mayweather became the sport’s biggest star. Sixteen years later, he has yet to lose as a professional, compiling a 43-0 record against the likes of De La Hoya, Mosley, Diego Corrales, Arturo Gatti, Zab Judah, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto, and racking up pay-per-view records.

 

 Amir Khan

It’s hard to believe that Khan is only 25 years old, such is the fanfare that has greeted him ever since he secured silver at the 2004 Athens Olympics. The Briton has become an HBO staple, scoring dominant wins over Paulie Malignaggi and Zab Judah and recording a close and exciting defeat of Marcos Maidana, as well as enduring a hugely controversial setback to Lamont Peterson last December and suffering a shock knockout loss to Danny Garcia in July.

 

Andre Ward

The sole American gold medalist in 2004, Ward’s early professional progression was slightly delayed by injuries, but he has fought his way to the top of the super middleweight ranks. Voted Fighter of the Year last year by the Boxing Writers Association of America, the undefeated Ward takes on light-heavyweight champion Chad Dawson on HBO on September 8.

The Perfect Plan, Perfectly Defeated

By Kieran Mulvaney

Floyd Mayweather - Photo Credit: Will Hart

The blueprint for how to defeat Floyd Mayweather was laid down by Jose Luis Castillo 10 years ago:

Back Floyd Mayweather to the ropes, and keep him pinned there as much as possible. Work to the body. Hit him anywhere you can, just keep hitting him, without winding up and over-committing. Keep him pinned, keep him pressured. Make him uncomfortable.

For the best part of eight rounds on Saturday night in Las Vegas, Miguel Cotto did just that. He tucked his chin, pumped his jab, and used his left hook to keep Mayweather in front of him. And when he had him where he wanted him, he threw combinations, digging to the body and not showing concern when the punches that were aimed for the head glanced off the shoulders of his defensively sublime opponent.

He kept trying, kept plugging away, and round by round, he seemed to be steadily making progress. He bloodied Mayweather’s nose, and in the eighth he launched a sustained assault that had the Puerto Rican crowd roaring. Mayweather was smiling and shaking his head, to indicate that the punches weren’t landing cleanly, but for the first time in a decade, Floyd Mayweather was in a fight.

Read more at HBO.com.

Fight Day Now

24/7 Mayweather-Cotto: Four Double-Take Moments

By Eric Raskin

Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Cotto - Photo Credit: Will Hart

The 24/7 franchise celebrated its fifth birthday this spring, and by now, you would think we’d have seen it all. But the show, and its protagonists, continue to find ways to surprise us. With 24/7 Mayweather-Cotto now complete, here’s a look back at the most double-take-worthy moment from each episode, four scenes that caught us a bit off guard:

Episode 4: Secret ’Stache (4:20)

As Cotto and his team got ready to board a plane from Orlando to Vegas, they amused themselves by drawing moustaches on one another. That, in and of itself, wasn’t necessarily worthy of a double-take. But the particular style of ’stache that Cotto drew on his buddy Bryan Perez’s upper lip was. Let’s just say it called to mind a certain unpopular German dictator. Then again, maybe we should give Cotto the benefit of the doubt and presume he was painting Perez with “The Michael Jordan.”

Watch 24/7 Episode 4 on HBO.com

Episode 3: Driving While Dilated (18:42)

First off, props to the 24/7 post-production team for their musical selection here, as Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called To Say I Love You” provided the perfect backdrop for Mayweather’s vision-impaired drive down the Vegas Strip. His eye doctor told him to take it easy and stay off the road until his pupils return to normal size, but Mayweather risked life, limb, and a fairly sizable payday (for himself and everyone else involved in the promotion) by ignoring the doctor’s orders. They say the hardest punch is always the one you don’t see coming. Thankfully for everyone, Floyd proved elusive in the face of danger once again.

Watch 24/7 Episode 3 on HBO.com

Episode 2: Strange Bedfellows (19:45)

To paraphrase Principal Rooney: “So thaaaat’s the way it is in their training camp.” We learned that when Cotto is in camp and doesn’t have his wife to keep the other side of his bed warm, his best friend Perez takes her place. As Perez explained, “Nothing weird. Sharing the bed with Miguel is like sleeping with your brother.” As long as we’re referencing John Hughes movies, how great would it have been if Cotto woke up exclaiming, “Those aren’t pillows!”?

Watch 24/7 Episode 2 on HBO.com

Episode 1: Functional Family? (20:22)

Admit it: When Floyd Mayweather Sr. rolled into the Mayweather Boxing Club with a few minutes left in the episode—right around the same point in the broadcast at which he and his son went at it in an all-time classic scene last fall—you sat up straight and braced for some NSFW language. But in perhaps the most shocking twist of this 24/7 run, the two Floyds acted with civility toward one another. No cursing. No histrionics. Not even a subtle snide remark. Maybe it wasn’t as memorable as Floyd Sr.’s last appearance on 24/7. But it was, in its own way, every bit as unpredictable.

Watch 24/7 Episode 1 on HBO.com

Full Fight Day Schedule for Mayweather-Cotto

This weekend’s boxing mega-event, Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto, airs live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas at 9 pm ET / 6 pm PT. But before the opening bell rings on HBO PPV, InsideHBOBoxing.com has a full day’s worth of fight news and events to get you fired up for the big bout:

- Catch up on all the action of Fight Week, all day long -

InsideHBOBoxing.com has reported every angle of Mayweather-Cotto straight from the ground in Vegas.

- Watch the full run of ‘Mayweather-Cotto 24/7’ -

The full episodes are playing now on HBO.com and YouTube.

- Show up early for the untelevised undercards LIVE on HBO.com -

At 4 pm ET / 7 pm PT, live streaming of the initial bouts of the evening will be available free.

- Kick off your night with ‘Fight Day Now’ -

At 8 pm ET / 5 pm PT, catch HBO’s prefight show right before the televised matches begin.

- Join the Twitter conversation right here -

When the PPV broadcast starts at 9 pm ET / 6 pm PT, stay online for live updates, round-by-round scoring and more.

Get Up to Speed on All the Action of Mayweather-Cotto Fight Week

By Eric Raskin

Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Cotto - Photo Credit: Will Hart

They spent two months preparing. They’ll spend 36 minutes (or less) fighting. We explored every angle of the matchup with a week’s worth of coverage direct from Las Vegas, building up to the collision that is Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto on HBO PPV. In case you’re joining the fight-week party late, here’s what you need to know:

Mayweather vs. Cotto matches two of the three most bankable stars in the sport, and as you might expect, that stardom was hard-earned by each gladiator in a series of signature victories. Both Cotto and Mayweather made major statements in their most recent bouts, setting the stage for arguably the biggest-selling event boxing has seen in five years.

Emanuel Steward - Photo Credit: Will Hart

Fight Week officially kicked into gear when the combatants rolled into town, greeted by throngs of fans in the MGM Grand lobby. The people made their predictions, and the next day, when Mayweather and Cotto shared the stage at the final prefight press conference, the media got in on the act of picking a winner. Meanwhile, online, fans were going over the literal blow-by-blow breakdown in HBO’s Under the Lights.

Still more experts weighed in with strategic analysis, including HBO broadcaster and Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward and a man who has faced both Mayweather and Cotto mano a mano, Zab Judah.

Canelo Alvarez - Photo Credit: Will HartSpeaking of mano a mano, Inside HBO Boxing bloggers Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney absorbed the CompuBox stats and exchanged analytical thoughts of their own. Meanwhile, the fine folks on the interwebs have had their say as well, and while Mayweather is the consensus pick, some bolder fans are stepping up and picking the upset.

Of course, Saturday’s action isn’t limited strictly to what happens in Mayweather vs. Cotto. There are three additional televised undercard fights, most notably Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vs. “Sugar” Shane Mosley in a battle of the ages that’s worthy of its own CompuBox analysis.

Fight night is almost here. So sit back, relax, cue up the appropriate soundtrack, get in the zone, and let the “Ring Kings” do their thing.

Mayweather and Cotto Finally Talk Some Trash at Weigh-In

By Kieran Mulvaney

One day before fight night, the final act of theater. If the prefight weigh-in serves an important function for the boxers, a final opportunity to ensure that each man has trained to perfection, that both have met their contractual obligations and that neither will carry an unfair weight advantage, it also offers each man a final opening to assert psychological dominance, by staring into his opponent’s eyes and seeking to divine his level of anxiety.

For the promoters, meanwhile, it is the chance to make one last sell, to increase interest and hype up the fans. The fans obligingly play their part, lining up en masse hours in advance to catch a glimpse of the combatants up close, 6,000 or so filling seats in one half of the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

One by one, young and old, active and retired, professional prizefighters in attendance are brought up on stage and introduced to the crowd: Abner Mares, Danny Jacobs, Danny Garcia, Seth Mitchell, Adrien Broner, Bernard Hopkins, Erik Morales, and even Leon Spinks. Then Saturday evening’s participants step on the scale.

Surprisingly, Shane Mosley is one half-pound over the 154 lb limit for his clash with Saul Canelo Alvarez, who weighs in at 154 on the button. Mosley is surprised; on another scale, he said, he tested himself and was right on 154. No matter, he shrugs, he’d lose it easily, and sure enough, within a half hour he does.

The crowd roars as Miguel Cotto arrives, and boos in anticipation and upon the appearance of Floyd Mayweather. Mayweather, the challenger, steps on the scale first; at 151, he is the heaviest he has ever been, one pound more than he weighed when he fought Oscar De La Hoya five years ago. Cotto hits the 154 limit on the nose.

The two men pose face to face. They stand inches apart, staring into each other’s eyes. They stare. And stare. And stare. Neither moves, neither yields an inch, Mayweather chewing gum, Cotto with ice running through his veins, unmoving. As their handlers begin to move pull them apart, the roars of the crowd echoing through the arena, the two men start jawing at each other, Cotto in particular straining at the leash and shouting across at his foe as camp members ease their men in different directions.

“I told him he’s facing the best,” says Mayweather afterward.

“I said he’s undefeated, but he hasn’t fought Miguel Cotto,” counters Cotto.

Game on.

Watch the slideshow on HBO.com.