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.

Career Highlights of Two World-Class Fighters

By Kieran Mulvaney

Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto bring a combined record of 79 wins and 2 losses to the ring on Saturday night. In advance of their HBO PPV clash from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, we look back on three key fights from the career of each boxer.

 

Floyd Mayweather

 

Diego Corrales (Las Vegas, January 20, 2001)

Diego Corrales - Photo Credit: Will Hart

Mayweather and Corrales were rival, undefeated 130-pound titlists when they clashed in Las Vegas, and there was no shortage of pundits who felt the lanky Corrales would prove too powerful. But in what arguably remains his greatest performance, Mayweather took Corrales apart, firing off fast combinations while exhibiting stellar defense. Corrales was unable to touch Mayweather, who floored him five times before Corrales’ corner stopped the contest in the tenth round.

 

Jose Luis Castillo (Las Vegas, April 20, 2002)

Jose Luis Castillo - Photo Credit: Will Hart

In the eyes of many observers, this was Mayweather’s toughest fight and the closest he came to defeat. Castillo applied constant pressure to Mayweather, frequently pinning him against the ropes and forcing the American on the defensive. At the bout’s end, many felt the Castillo had done enough to win, but all three judges saw the bout for Mayweather, who also won a unanimous decision in a rematch seven and a half months later. Several subsequent opponents have cited Castillo as setting the blueprint for how to beat Mayweather, but as the erstwhile Pretty Boy frequently points out, they may have all tried, but they have all failed.

 

Oscar De La Hoya (Las Vegas, May 5 2007)

Oscar De La Hoya - Photo Credit: Will Hart

This was the event that transformed Mayweather into a genuine superstar. The only previous occasion on which he fought at 154 lbs., Mayweather overcame some early resistance and a stiff De La Hoya jab to take over the fight in the second half and win a split decision victory. The 2.4 million pay-per-view buys remains a boxing record.

 

 

 

 

 Miguel Cotto

 

Ricardo Torres (Atlantic City, September 24, 2005)

Ricardo Torres - Photo Credit: Will Hart

Cotto was gaining a reputation as a hard-hitting, technically skilled but largely methodical body-puncher when he ran into Colombia’s Torres. Cotto dropped Torres in the first but was then battered and knocked down himself in the second, struggling to contend with Torres’ fast hands and hard punches. He sent Torres back to the canvas in the fourth, was hurt again in the fifth, put Torres down again in the sixth, and finally finished him in the seventh. It was the first occasion Cotto showed he could fight his way out of trouble and bring the crowd to its feet , that he could be exciting as well as effective.

 

Shane Mosley (New York, November 10, 2007)

Shane Mosley - Photo Credit: Will Hart

Cotto displayed his boxing ability against dangerous and skilled veteran Mosley, punishing the former champion with a stiff left jab and overhand rights as Mosley stayed at a distance to avoid Cotto’s punishing body attack. The American rallied down the stretch, closing the gap and hurting Cotto on several occasions, but Cotto stuck to the game plan and won a unanimous decision. Afterward, Mosley dubbed his opponent “a young lion on his way to greatness.”

 

Antonio Margarito (New York, December 3, 2011)

Antonio Margarito - Photo Credit: Will Hart

The march to greatness Mosley had prophesied was interrupted when Cotto ran into the fists of Antonio Margarito in July 2008. But when, before a fight with Mosley, Margarito was found to have tainted handwraps, the cloud of suspicion swirled around his bout with Cotto. Did he cheat during that fight? Were his wraps loaded? Cotto admitted he struggled with his confidence after that loss, but he finally exorcised his demons with a dominant display against his former tormentor, closing his right eye and stopping him after 9 rounds. With revenge secured, Cotto says he has returned to his best, in time for the clash with Mayweather.

 

Eras & Icons: From Ali to Pacquaio/Mayweather

By Eric Raskin

Oscar De La Hoya, Mike Tyson - Photo Credits: Will HartSports fans always want to know who's next. But it's important not to lose sight of who was last.

Through almost the entirety of the existence of HBO Boxing, there has been a clearly defined superstar carrying the sport, a man (or, sometimes, "men") who served as the face of the fight game. Here's a look at the fighters who ruled their eras, in the ring and at the box office, since the first boxing broadcasts on HBO in the early 1970s:

(RELATED: Eric Raskin examines the next generation of up-and-coming superstar hopefuls.)

Muhammad Ali: Arguably the most famous sports figure of all-time, Ali's inclusion on this list should require no explanation, even to the uninitiated. He was never the same as a fighter after 1975's "Thrilla in Manila," but Ali's star status remained unsurpassed up through his final bout.

Sugar Ray Leonard: While Ali was losing three of his last four fights between '78-'81, the Olympic gold medalist Leonard turned welterweight into boxing's glamour division. Undefeated heavyweight champ Larry Holmes played second fiddle to Sugar Ray throughout the first half of the '80s – even when Leonard was largely inactive.

Mike Tyson: There was some overlap with the Leonard era thanks to Sugar Ray's legendary comeback win over Marvin Hagler, but from the moment he won a piece of the heavyweight crown in '86, "Iron Mike" brought the worlds of tabloid journalism and sports journalism together like no one before.

Oscar De La Hoya: "The Golden Boy" began to emerge when Tyson was in jail, and broke through as the man to put boxing on his shoulders around the time Tyson's teeth replaced his fists as his weapons of choice. It's safe to say there's never been a fighter with a bigger female fan base than Oscar. But he also fought every great fighter of an exceptional era.

Manny Pacquiao/Floyd Mayweather: Together—but very much separately—the last two fighters to defeat De La Hoya have replaced him. Pacquiao drives pay-per-view sales with charm and dynamic offense; Mayweather does the same with a persona that many love to hate and a defense that few can penetrate.

Who will become the next Mayweather or Pacquiao?

By Eric Raskin

Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather

It is wonderfully symbolic that the last two fighters to whom Oscar De La Hoya lost, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, now occupy the position held for so long by "The Golden Boy." For years, De La Hoya was the crossover superstar who served as the face of boxing to the mainstream public. Mayweather and Pacquiao, together, have done the same in the three-plus years since Oscar's retirement from the ring.

The torch is not always passed so directly, but it is always passed eventually. Mayweather and Pacquiao will not rule boxing forever. Given Mayweather's periodic retirement announcements and Pacquiao's frequent talk of being just a handful of bouts from the end, their two-headed reign could actually end relatively soon. And who will be the face of the sport then? At the moment, eight young stars are showing the kind of potential needed to lead the next generation. Who do you think is likely to step up?

Read More at HBO.com

The Nation’s Capital Prepares for a Night of Punishment

By Steve Marzolf

Photo Credit: Will Hart

For the first time in 18 years, fight fans in Washington D.C. are getting a live look at HBO boxing on Saturday night, when Amir Khan and Lamont Peterson face off in a unified super lightweight title fight at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The local fervor was obvious at the official weigh-in, where Peterson fans far outnumbered (though barely out-screamed) the dedicated enlistees of Khan’s Army.

Those packed in at the Carnegie Library in downtown D.C. received an extra dose of the star power they were looking for, with Oscar De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins appearing alongside Paul Williams and a grinning Adrian Broner. D.C. native and former Hopkins opponent Keith Holmes also welcomed Saturday’s fighters to the scales. As the official business began, De La Hoya promised: “D.C., we will be back with big-time boxing. Over and over again.”

Khan weighed in at 139 pounds, looking lean as usual, and Peterson’s slightly thicker frame topped out at 140 pounds. Whether the homegrown mascot will be able to take advantage of his power against Khan’s famous speed, however, remains the big open question going into tomorrow’s bout.

For the televised undercard, heavyweight and former Michigan State linebacker Seth Mitchell will put his undefeated record on the line against Timur Ibragimov of Uzbekistan. Mitchell officially outweighs his opponent by almost 20 pounds (240-and-one-half to Ibragimov’s 221 pounds). All the action starts at 9:45 pm ET/6:45 pm PT this Saturday night on HBO World Championship Boxing.

 

On Cotto, Margarito and Private Hate in Public Arenas

By Kieran Mulvaney

Photo Credits: Hoganphotos.com, Will HartOn most occasions, a professional prizefight is not a resolution to a personal dispute; the confrontation is professional, fueled not by hatred but the desire for greatness, titles and money.

Chris Byrd, the former heavyweight belt-holder, once expressed to me that his approach to boxing was that, on one level, it was little different from tennis. When they were on court, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi wanted only to annihilate each other, he explained. But once the match was over, there was no reason for them not to be friends. Similarly, he offered, boxing was not violence but sport, albeit with gloved fists rather than racket and ball.

Occasionally, however, the personal intrudes on the professional, and when it does, it only whets our appetites even more. Emile Griffith may have entered the ring in 1962 consumed with rage over an epithet directed at him by Benny ‘Kid’ Paret, a rage that would ultimately have tragic consequences. More recently, the epic three-fight series between Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera was fueled by genuine mutual hatred, and Fernando Vargas never even attempted to disguise his loathing of Oscar De La Hoya.

All of those, however, pale in comparison to the antipathy between Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito.

There are those who question whether this Saturday’s contest should be taking place, whether Margarito should ever have been allowed back into the ring after the discovery of tampered wraps on his hands prior to his January 2009 bout with Shane Mosley; and whether, even if accepting that he has served a sentence of sorts for that most despised of boxing sins, he should be licensed to fight after surgery to his eye and orbital bone following the brutal pounding he suffered last year at the fists of Manny Pacquiao.

Were anyone entitled to object on the first count, it would be Cotto, who is now convinced that his brutal 2008 stoppage loss to Margarito was the result of the Mexican carrying plaster in his gloves. For more than two years, the man from Caguas seemed firm in his stance that he would do nothing – given his growing belief that he had been grievously wronged and as a consequence nearly severely harmed by Margarito’s actions that night – to help his foe earn another cent in the ring. But that conviction has wavered in the face of a $5 million payday and an apparent sense that the damage to Margarito’s eye (which required removal of a cataract and insertion of an artificial lens, and that gave the New York State Athletic commission pause before relenting and agreeing to sanction the fight) gives him a golden opportunity at redemption and revenge.

“My dog is more of a person than him,” he says calmly. “I don’t feel any respect for him. I’m going to take advantage of his eye, like he took advantage of the plaster.”

“F*** Cotto,” spits Margarito in return. “If he thinks I had plaster, it will hurt like I was using a plaster.”
In the real world, it’s the kind of talk that prompts adults to seek a way to calm things down before somebody gets hurt. But this is boxing, and it’s too late for that. Hurt – perhaps serious hurt – is a given. And because this is boxing, on Saturday night, in front of a packed crowd in New York and an eager audience around the world, two men will fight a very personal and very real battle on a very public stage.

Oscar hops on the phone, Martinez gets his man, and the Cotto-Margarito war begins early

By Kieran Mulvaney

Kieran Mulvaney reads between the lines of a few of the latest stories in the boxing…

Photo: Will HartThey Said: Nine days after his controversial knockout by Floyd Mayweather, Victor Ortiz held a conference call with reporters on Monday. Ortiz insisted that the knockout blow, which came while Ortiz was evidently trying to apologize (for the third time, it should be emphasized) for a headbutt that had just earned him a point deduction, was “a cheap shot.” Mayweather, he insisted, “is not respected by me and never will be in my eyes as a pound-for-pound fighter.”

I Say: That call, which also included Ortiz’s manager and his promoter Oscar De La Hoya, all three insisting that Ortiz was winning the fight until the knockout and demanding a rematch, was ill-advised. Ortiz lost virtually every moment of that fight; he needs simply to accept he was taught a painful but valuable lesson by a masterful veteran, pick up his career and fight his way back to the top. He’s done it before. He can do it again.

 

They Said: Speaking in advance of his middleweight title defense on HBO on Saturday, Sergio Martinez complimented Darren Barker for rising to the challenge. “The fact that Barker is willing to step up and put his undefeated record on the line shows you that he has a lot of heart and that he is a true warrior, which isn't the case for all fighters,” he said.

I Say: It’s a strange state of affairs when the middleweight champion has to express gratitude for having a willing challenger, but such is the curious case of Martinez. Several other potential opponents appeared to have other pressing appointments that prevented them from fighting for the middleweight crown, which is a sign of just how good Martinez is. Credit to Barker and his promoter, who threw down the gauntlet over Twitter, where it was rapidly picked up by Martinez and promoter Lou DiBella. (You can read more about the fight in Eric Raskin’s overview on HBO.com.)

 

They Said: “Just finished Cotto-Margarito II Face Off. Oh. My. God.” @Max_Kellerman, September 22.

I Say: The back story for the December 3 rematch between Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito writes itself: Margarito’s brutal beatdown victory was his finest hour but it was tarnished six months later by the discovery, prior to the Mexican’s fight against Shane Mosley, of tampered hand wraps. Cotto has long made it clear that he believes Margarito cheated against him that night in July 2008, and for years was unwilling to fight him again. As Kellerman’s tweet underlines, the hate between the two burns fiercely, increasing anticipation for the rematch two months from now.

The Mayweather-Ortiz Fight Week Flurry

By Eric Raskin

Photo: Will HartAs a wild week of commotion, promotion and emotion gives way to Saturday’s Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz showdown, let’s take a look through what everyone’s been buzzing about—from the HBO.com insiders to the fight fans following along:

Mayweather and Ortiz didn’t arrive at this mega-event by accident. They each scored significant wins on the road to “Star Power,” and now find themselves jockeying for position in the upper reaches of the talent-loaded welterweight division. With his sublime skills, Mayweather is the consensus favorite in the fight. But not everyone sees it that way. HBO expert analyst Emanuel Steward broke down the strategic intricacies of the fight and gives Ortiz an excellent chance, and not surprisingly, Ortiz’s promoter, Oscar De La Hoya feels the same way—and has the first-hand experience fighting Mayweather to validate his viewpoints.

But there are countless different ways to analyze a fight beyond just what the industry insiders have to say. You can explore the finer points of the matchup. You can crunch the CompuBox numbers. You can even try to figure out who won the verbal joust at the final press conference.

And when it’s all said and done, you make your predictions. The experts had their say, and unanimously went with the chalk and tabbed Mayweather to win. The fans were a little more divided. On Twitter, @rcollick and @crucifixio picked Mayweather via varying margins, but @odogg33 went with the underdog Ortiz. Meanwhile, on the comment boards on the HBO Inside Boxing blog, Elvin T. took the Ortiz side as well, predicting “Floyd is gonna be looking up at the lights thinking, WTF happened?” But commenter Ish A. envisions a knockout win for Mayweather, claiming “Victor Ortiz is nervous, has no defense, and come Saturday will receive a boxing lesson of a lifetime!”

In addition to the 12 rounds (or less) of Mayweather vs. Ortiz, there’s plenty of before and after to consider. Prior to the main event, we’ll see an intriguing undercard, featuring a plethora of popular Mexican and Mexican-American fighters—many of whom, like Mayweather, come from boxing families. And after the main event is over, attention will inevitably turn to what’s next. No matter the outcome, Manny Pacquiao’s name will be on fight fans’ minds. Two HBO.com contributors explored this in detail on different corners of the web, with Chris Mannix tackling the Pacquiao factor on SI.com and Kieran Mulvaney experiencing Floyd’s many personalities on ESPN.com.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. The opening bell of Mayweather vs. Ortiz is almost here, and there’s nothing more thrilling than that moment when fight week gives way to the fight itself.

Second Coming: Ortiz Gives Oscar Another Shot at Mayweather

By Eric Raskin

Photo: Hoganphotos.comOn May 5, 2007, Oscar De La Hoya came up a round or two short in his bid to hand Floyd Mayweather his first defeat. At age 30, “Money” was more or less in his prime. At age 34, De La Hoya most definitely was not.

“Against a younger Oscar, who knows what would have happened?” De La Hoya reflected this week in a one-on-one interview with HBO.com. “I can’t say for sure I would have won. But I like my chances.”

We’ll never see Mayweather vs. a young De La Hoya (unless the Mayweather in question is Floyd’s uncle Jeff, who fought Oscar back in ’93). The closest thing we might get is this Saturday’s fight between Mayweather and the 24-year-old Ortiz, who reminds some of a young De La Hoya and has been blessed and cursed with that “next Oscar” label since signing with Golden Boy Promotions in 2008.

“I truly feel that with Victor reaching his peak in his career, being 24 years old, he has a tremendous, tremendous shot at beating Mayweather. It’s not a tough fight for Victor; it’s a tough fight for Floyd,” opined De La Hoya, who has acted as a mentor to Ortiz the last few years. “Victor’s youth is going to make a big difference. Twenty-four years old with all the energy in the world. If Victor Ortiz catches him, it’s going to be all over.”

For all of the superficial similarities, being a young Mexican-American fighter with a telegenic smile doesn’t automatically make someone the new “Golden Boy,” and there are significant differences between Ortiz and De La Hoya. Ortiz is a natural righty who fights southpaw, whereas Oscar is a lefthander who fought orthodox. Ortiz didn’t earn Olympic gold, hasn’t fought under a bright spotlight from the day he turned pro.

He’s not Oscar 2.0. But that doesn’t mean he can’t implement elements of the strategy his promoter used to almost defeat Mayweather four years ago.

To De La Hoya, the challenge his protégé faces is more mental than anything else.

“A lot of fighters get frustrated trying to fight Mayweather,” De La Hoya said. “Victor has to not let the crowd get into his head. He has to forget about the crowd in the arena, because Mayweather doesn’t care. He doesn’t care if people are booing, he doesn’t care if people want to see more action. Mayweather just sits back and waits for you and potshots you. That’s his strategy. That’s his game. He wants his opponent to get frustrated, he wants his opponent to fall into that trap.