by Kieran Mulvaney
Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios - Photo Credit: Will Hart
All kinds of prognosticators are weighing in on this week's fight between Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios. Many say that Pacquiao, the favorite, possesses a skill set that will simply outclass Rios. Others counter that Rios was built to absorb punishment, and that Pacquiao may still be haunted by the crushing punch that knocked him out against Juan Manuel Marquez last December.
But what do the real experts think? Here's how a selection of past and present fighters see the bout shaping up.
Terence Crawford (lightweight contender):
I've got to go with Pacquiao. Because Rios, he's going to take a lot of punishment coming in.
Ruslan Provodnikov (junior welterweight title holder):
To be honest with you, strategically, politically, it would be good for me if Brandon Rios won the fight. But I'm going to be rooting for Manny Pacquiao. I spent two months with him in training camp. We're very close. He's a great, great person, and I think that he will come back after his last fight, and he has still has a good amount of time left.
Mike Alvarado (junior welterweight contender, Rios opponent):
That's a really good fight. Rios is going to push Pacquiao. He's going to make him adjust. I want Rios to win that fight, so when our trilogy happens it's like, "Hey, he just beat Pacquiao." But I don't know. I don't think he's going to beat Pacquiao. I laid out the blueprint for how to beat Rios. Pacquiao's going to be like, "I can box, I can move, I hit hard." But then again, we're waiting to see how Pacquiao recovers after losing to Marquez. That was a punishing blow; it might have a big effect on his career. We'll see.
Nonito Donaire (featherweight contender and former three-weight title holder):
If Pacquiao can return to a Pacquiao with focus, he'll overwhelm Rios with power and speed. But if he goes in with a shadow of a doubt in his mind after what happened to him in his previous fight, then Rios can overwhelm him with intensity and pressure. But I think that Pacquiao has the best chance of winning this fight, if he even gets just 50 percent of his focus back.
George Foreman (former two-time heavyweight champion):
I think it's going to be a 12-round decision and I give Pacquiao the hometown decision. How about a home-region decision.
Sugar Ray Leonard (former five-weight world champion):
I think Pacquiao will win although I give Rios a shot, a big shot. It's not going to be an easy fight. I'm picking Manny because he is Manny Pacquiao.
Timothy Bradley (welterweight title holder):
I've got Manny Pacquiao by a mid to late round KO. Eight rounds.
Marco Antonio Barrera (former three-weight title holder):
I think it is a complicated fight for both of them. You have Brandon Rios who comes straightforward and will apply the pressure on Manny. Then you have Manny who moves around the ring very well and picks and chooses his spots and comes at different angles and is a very strong fighter with a lot of speed. It's just going to be a tough fight for both of them.
by Kieran Mulvaney
George Foreman - Credit: Will Hart
George Foreman knows a thing or two about fighting far from home. On October 30, 1974, he fought Muhammad Ali in an open-air ring in Zaire in a bout that was dubbed the “Rumble in the Jungle” and which concluded with Ali ending Foreman’s heavyweight title reign and unbeaten record with an eighth-round knockout. Perhaps partly because Foreman’s own big overseas adventure didn’t exactly work out as planned, the two-time heavyweight champ emphasizes the difficulties Brandon Rios will face after traveling all the way to Macau, China to take on Manny Pacquiao on HBO PPV on Saturday night.
by Eric Raskin
When Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler renew hostilities on March 25, it will have been three years, one month, and one day since they first fought. In that initial affair, Kessler won a close, unanimous decision in his native Denmark. But a lot can change in three years, and with the rematch set for London’s O2 Arena, Englishman Froch is listed as about a 2-1 favorite.
Standard rematch protocol following a very close, entertaining first fight, which is what Kessler-Froch I was, is to arrange an immediate rematch. That wasn’t an option here because Kessler-Froch I took place as part of the “Super Six” tournament and both men were pre-committed to other future fights. So this could never be like Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward or Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez, classic rivalries in which three bouts were crammed into just 12 or 13 months. If there was going to be a Kessler-Froch rematch, there would be time for the rivalry to breathe first.
Maybe that’s not boxing’s standard protocol, but it does happen. There have been plenty of famous fights throughout history that led to a rematch three or more years later.
Probably the most well known case is Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns. In 1981, they met to unify the welterweight championship. It wasn’t until 1989, when they were super middleweights, that they shared the ring again. Though both were somewhat diminished as fighters by the time they rematched in their 30s, the product was similar: a close, dramatic, action-packed fight. In the first fight, Leonard rallied late to win by 14th-round TKO. He might done the same in the rematch—but it was only scheduled for 12 rounds, so Sugar Ray ran out of time and the bout was ruled a draw.
If the eight years between Leonard-Hearns fights sounds like a lot, that’s nothing compared to the 17 years separating Roy Jones’ 1993 win over Bernard Hopkins and the revenge Hopkins exacted in 2010. When that much time passes, it’s almost certain that circumstances will be wildly different by the second go-round. In this case, Jones was all but spent and coming off a first-round knockout loss just four months earlier, and the rematch was an embarrassment all the way around.
In most cases, however, the result doesn’t change from the first fight to the second. History repeats itself, often more quickly and less memorably.
Julio Cesar Chavez defeated Meldrick Taylor via controversial 12th-round stoppage in 1990 in arguably the best fight of the decade. Four years later, Taylor was no longer an elite boxer and was dispatched in eight one-sided rounds.
When Billy Conn challenged Joe Louis for the heavyweight championship in 1941, he led on the cards before Louis caught up with him in round 13 of a legendary duel. World War II got in the way of a rematch and forced them to wait until 1946, by which time Conn was rusty, old, or both, and Louis dominated the eight rounds that the fight lasted.
Joe Frazier’s first fight with Jerry Quarry, in the summer of ’69, was not exactly summer-of-love-appropriate, as Frazier won on cuts in seven rounds in a bruising Fight of the Year. When they fought again in ’74, the battle was almost as violent as their first but a bit shorter, ending with Frazier’s hand raised in the fifth.
If Frazier had Quarry’s number, so too did George Foreman have Frazier’s. In the iconic “Down goes Frazier!” fight in 1973, Foreman stomped Smokin’ Joe in two rounds to capture the heavyweight crown. Frazier lasted longer when they went at it a second time in ’76, but he was no more competitive, getting wiped out in five rounds.
The general perception is that Froch is closer to his prime right now than Kessler is, which is why the man who lost the first time is favored on May 25. But sometimes time changes nothing and the style matchup assures the same type of fight no matter how many times they do it. If that turns out to be the case with Kessler and Froch, no fight fan will complain.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
By Eric Raskin
It’s a timeless tradition in boxing: A young up-and-comer looks to elevate his legacy with a win over whatever remains of an aging all-time great. That’s what Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is aiming for against “Sugar” Shane Mosley in the co-featured bout Saturday night, and there’s no shortage of examples over the years of sad spectacles that played out decisively in the younger man’s favor.
But there are also plenty of noteworthy cases where the “old man” rediscovered the magic and, whether he won or lost, the result was a classic fight that delivered drama and thrills.
Surely the most famous case was “The Rumble In The Jungle,” when the world feared for Muhammad Ali’s life against the destructive heavyweight champ George Foreman and Ali outwitted his stronger foe en route to an eighth-round knockout. And that wasn’t the last time ancient Ali took care of business against an opponent roughly a decade his junior. After a shock loss to neophyte Leon Spinks in 1978, Ali, in what would be his final victory, reversed the result to become history’s first three-time heavyweight champion.
Roberto Duran is another legendary fighter who twice pulled off late-career miracles in fights where he was supposed to serve as cannon fodder. His brutal beatdown of previously undefeated Davey Moore in ’83 was a stirring affair, topped six years later by Duran’s shocking triumph over Iran Barkley in The Ring magazine’s Fight of the Year.
Of course, you can’t talk about age-inappropriate warriors excelling against younger opponents without talking about the three greatest 40-and-over fighters ever, Archie Moore, George Foreman, and Bernard Hopkins. Moore’s recovery from three first-round knockdowns to top Yvon Durelle in 1958 stands as the defining fight of his career. Although Foreman’s knockout of Michael Moorer in ’94 was the fight that made him the oldest heavyweight champ ever, it’s his competitive loss to Evander Holyfield three years earlier that stands as the more entertaining cross-generational clash. And though Hopkins isn’t known for making classic fights, his recent victories over Kelly Pavlik, Jean Pascal, and, in both cases, Father Time, were stirring in their own ways.
Two of the best recent examples of classic fights between an aging great and a hungry young gladiator featured modern Mexican legends exceeding the expectations of many observers. In 2009, Juan Manuel Marquez outdueled Juan Diaz on HBO in what would be named the Fight of the Year. And in 2011, Erik Morales bravely ignored a grotesquely swollen eye to give Marcos Maidana all he could handle en route to a narrow decision loss.
It’s been said many times that boxing is a young man’s game. And that statement is 100 percent true. Except when it isn’t.
By Kieran Mulvaney
The principal focus of last Saturday’s World Championship Boxing broadcast was, of course, on the televised bouts, which in Nonito Donaire and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. featured two of the most popular of the current generation of pugilists.
But between the two contests, the emphasis shifted, and sadly so; because even as a young wave of fighters – the likes of Donaire, Adrien Broner, Gary Russell Jr, and others – prepares to assume its role in the spotlight, the past several months have seen one member after another of one of boxing’s golden ages leave the stage.
Joe Frazier, one of the greatest heavyweights of all time, died in November in the same week that one of the greatest lighter-weight fighters of all time, Manny Pacquiao, prepared to meet his nemesis, Juan Manuel Marquez. Smokin’ Joe was joined shortly afterward by another of the great crop of 1970s heavyweights, Ron Lyle, whose slugfest with George Foreman was the first fight at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and remains one of the best.
And now, we have lost two heavyweights among trainers, with the passing of Goody Petronelli and Angelo Dundee.
Petronelli helped steer, at various times, the careers of fighters such as former middleweight and super middleweight Steve Collins, and unlikely Mike Tyson conqueror Kevin McBride. But, with his brother Pat he was best known for managing and training Marvelous Marvin Hagler, one of the very best middleweights ever to lace up the gloves (and one of the best southpaws to do so, which was directly attributable to Petronelli, who took the naturally right-handed fighter and turned him lefty). Hagler earned a middleweight shot later than he should have done – as Petronelli lamented, Hagler’s problem was that he was left-handed, black and good – and when his opportunity finally arrived, against Vito Antuofermo in November 1979, he had to be content with a draw. Ten months later, his turn came again, against new champion Alan Minter, and this time he would not leave his fate in the hands of the judges. Hagler bloodied Minter’s face over three rounds to annex the middleweight crown, a title he kept until he lost it in the final contest of his career, on April 6 1987.
His opponent in that fight was Sugar Ray Leonard, and Leonard’s trainer on that night, as throughout his career, was Angelo Dundee. If Petronelli was especially famed for his involvement with one great fighter, Dundee was forever celebrated for training two – Leonard and, before him, Muhammad Ali. When both had retired, he steered the second career of George Foreman, and was in his corner when Foreman shocked Michael Moorer and the world in 1994.
Hagler described Petronelli, a gentle and universally-loved figure, as an “unbelievably great human being”; much the same has been said repeatedly of Dundee, and with good reason. To speak with Dundee, even as he approached 90, was to speak with a man of genuine humility who seemed forever surprised and grateful that anybody would want to hear what he had to say. He loved boxing and everyone associated with it, and would not hesitate to help anybody – fighter, writer, trainer or spit-bucket carrier – who needed or wanted assistance or advice.
Twenty-five years after working in opposite corners, Petronelli and Dundee were united again, Petronelli leaving us on January 29 and Dundee passing away three days later. The world of boxing mourns their departure, but their achievements and their gentle personalities shall not soon be forgotten.
When George Foreman challenged Michael Moorer for the heavyweight championship of the world in Las Vegas in November1994, I airily boycotted what I anticipated would be the shameful spectacle of an old man being beaten up for public pleasure.
On Saturday, when Bernard Hopkins attempts to one-up Foreman’s shocking knockout win and replace Big George as the oldest man to win a major belt, I will be ringside.
There are justifications for these contrasting stances.
For one thing, in 1994, I was a boxing fan; now, I am a boxing writer.
For another, 46 doesn’t seem as old to me now as it did when I was 26.
On May 21st, Bernard Hopkins won't just be fighting Jean Pascal for the light heavyweight title and a satisfactory resolution of the controversial draw decision in their last fight. He'll also be fighting to break the legendary George Foreman's record as the sports oldest fighter to win a significant world title.
"Bernard has to realize, as I did when I fought Michael Moorer, you must get a knockout."
Hopkins, 46 and dangerous as ever, would break the record Foreman set in 1994 when he shocked the world and defeated heavyweight champion Michael Moorer at the age of 45. Foreman, for his part, wouldn't be too upset, so long as it's a fighter of Hopkins' caliber breaking his record. "He’s probably the only one who could break such a record," Foreman says of Hopkins. "Not only does he possess this big punch to get a knockout, but he’s also a good boxer and at times, a counter-puncher. He can pull it off, no doubt about it." But it's not going to be easy for him. Foreman continues, "Bernard has to realize, as I did when I fought Michael Moorer, you must get a knockout. This fight and the record will not be broken on a unanimous decision. There must be a knockout."
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