Slideshow: Chocolatito-Cuadras Weigh-In From Los Angeles

Photos: Ed Mulholland

Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez and Carlos Cuadras along with undercard pairing Yoshihiro Kamegai and Jesus Soto-Karass weighed-in on Friday in Los Angeles ahead of their fights on Saturday, Sept. 10 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO World Championship Boxing. 

Official weights from Los Angeles:

Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez: 114.6 pounds / Carlos Cuadras: 114.8 pounds

Yoshihiro Kamegai: 153.4 pounds / Jesus Soto-Karass: 154.4 pounds

Slideshow: Final Golovkin-Brook Press Conference

Photos: Will Hart

Gennady Golovkin and Kell Brook hosted their final press conference on Thursday, Sept. 8 in London.

Golovkin and Brook face off Saturday, Sept. 10 at 5:30 PM ET/PT on HBO World Championship Boxing.

Jennings and Ortiz Look to Inherit an Historic Throne

Photos: Ed Mulholland

By Kieran Mulvaney

When Rocky Balboa and Luke Skywalker took their cinematic bows, Elvis Presley was alive, Sugar Ray Leonard was beginning his professional career, and the heavyweight championship of the world was in the hands of Muhammad Ali. Nearly forty years later, Balboa is mentoring his former rival’s son, Elvis is living under an assumed name in a tropical paradise with Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix, and Leonard has been a Hall-of-Famer for 18 years. (In the interests of remaining spoiler-free, the circumstances and whereabouts of Darth Vader’s son will not here be revealed.)

As for the heavyweight championship of the world: well, it is fair to say that Ali has never truly been replaced. Perhaps it is unfair to expect anyone to replicate that unique combination of skill and flair, although plenty have taken their turn at trying to match some of it. Larry Holmes, Ali’s immediate successor, suffered in his predecessor’s shadow despite an abundance of talent; Mike Tyson wrenched the division out of its post-Holmesian drought, suffused it with an excitement and vigor unmatched before or since, but flamed out in an orgy of self-destruction; Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko brought quality and class but rarely a connection with the masses.

Now, the heavyweights find themselves in another interregnum. Tyson Fury has dethroned the king, but few expect him to be much more than a transient occupant of the throne; and Klitschko’s demise has brought life to an emerging crop of contenders awaiting an opportunity to stake their claim. Bryant Jennings – like the fictional Balboa, a product of Philadelphia – is the last man to have tried and failed to defeat Klitschko, and he returns to the ring on Saturday night against one of the oldest prospects of recent times: the 36-year-old Luis Ortiz.

That Ortiz has only 23 professional fights at his age is a consequence of his upbringing, of having been brought through the extensive Cuban amateur system that produced the likes of Teofilo Stevenson and Felix Savon, who between them won six Olympic gold medals between 1972 and 2000 but never once joined the prizefighting ranks. After a reported 350 amateur wins, however, Ortiz did turn professional, leaving Cuba for the United States, motivated largely by a desire to seek a better life for a daughter with an incurable illness. Jennings, now 30 years old, did not even lace up a glove as an amateur until he was 24, but his natural talent and athleticism earned him a shot at Klitschko in his 20th fight and an invitation to return to HBO in this, his first outing since then.

Both men are soft-spoken and enjoyable to talk to; neither has the malice of early Tyson or the self-aggrandizing wit of Ali. Even should Saturday’s winner prove to be the next to grasp the championship chalice, many fans are likely to look forward to the time they surrender the crown to Anthony Joshua or Joseph Parker, two powerful youngsters in whom the Force truly does seem to be strong. But neither Jennings nor Ortiz will care: what matters for them is not what happened 40 years ago or what might happen several years hence, but the here and now. Jennings, having fallen just short of the brass ring once, will feel he cannot possibly afford to do so twice, and will be immensely motivated not to lose his second in a row; Ortiz, particularly at his relatively advanced age, may have only one shot and knows he cannot afford to be knocked off the path he is presently on. For both, the prospect of victory on Saturday night offers a new hope.

Weights from Turning Stone resort and Casino, Verona, NY

Bryant Jennings 229.5 lbs.

Luis Ortiz 239 lbs.

Nicholas Walters 129.5 lbs.

Jason Sosa 130 lbs. 

Weigh-In Fever Caps Fight Week for the Ages

Photos by Will Hart

By Kieran Mulvaney

As Mayweather-Pacquiao fight week approaches its crescendo, what has been the clearest sign of how enormous this event is shaping up to be? Is it the Hitchockian moth invasion of Las Vegas that was a subplot of the first half of the week? (Answer: No.) Is it the signage that adorns every available square inch of real estate at the MGM Grand? (To some extent.) ESPN’s live, OJ-in-a-white-Bronco coverage of Manny Pacquiao’s bus driving from Los Angeles to Vegas? How about making a beeline for the cookies in the media room and bumping into famed former heavyweight contender Gerry Cooney? Or the fact that Cooney promptly agreed to sit down and be interviewed for the HBO Boxing Podcast – as, for that matter, did Shane Mosley, Andre Ward, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Terence Crawford, Freddie Roach and HBO Sports President Ken Hershman? (Now we’re talking.)

But really, if you want to truly understand the immensity of all this, try walking across the casino floor at the MGM Grand. Try forcing your way through the seething mass of humanity to make it to the restroom. For a couple of hours on Friday afternoon, the ultimate challenge was shuffling into out of the Grand Garden Arena for the weigh-in.

At club shows up and down the country, weigh-ins may attract 13 people. Today, the arena was rocking to the cheers and jeers of around 13,000, almost as many as will be in attendance for Saturday’s fight. It was one of those moments that required stepping back and reveling in the surroundings, enjoying and appreciating being present at the defining boxing card of a generation.

Certainly, that appeared to be Pacquiao’s attitude as he smiled for the crowd and took selfies during his walk to the weigh-in stage. And when he reached that stage, he smiled some more and took more selfies. Floyd Mayweather, in contrast, showed little emotion beyond a cursory smile as he began his own walk, appearing somewhat tense – or, as he insisted in an interview after stepping off the scale, focused on the task at hand.

It is tempting, but risky, to read too much into such prefight demeanors, but the contrast was palpable. Lewis, when talking to the HBO podcast, ventured that maybe Mayweather’s apparent tension was related to the pressure of being the favorite; but then, he said, he felt somewhat similarly before his big fight with Mike Tyson, and that worked out pretty well for him.

Right now, speculation is all there is. Late Saturday night, after five and a half years of waiting, we will have our answers.

Manny Pacquiao 145 pounds

Floyd Mayweather 146 pounds

With the Eyes of the World on Them, Mayweather and Pacquiao Offer a Peaceful Presser

Photos: Will Hart

By Kieran Mulvaney

It was not Mike Tyson biting Lennox Lewis on the leg. Nor was it Fernando Vargas lunging after Oscar De La Hoya, Marco Antonio Barrera slugging it out with Erik Morales, or Riddick Bowe cracking Larry Donald with a right hand.

Instead, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather showed each other plenty of respect at Wednesday’s final pre-fight press conference. And this is not a bad thing. There are arguably more pairs of eyes worldwide trained on this fight than have been trained on any fight in history, and given that boxing generally tests only slightly higher than Ebola in public polls, the last thing this event needed was an outburst of shenanigans that would reinforce the sport’s negative image.

The fighters know that all too well, of course. So Mayweather called Pacquiao “a solid fighter, a solid competitor,” and predicted it “will be an intriguing matchup come Saturday.” He had, he said, “worked extremely hard to win this fight and I’m sure Manny Pacquiao did too.” Pacquiao in turn offered his hope that “both Floyd and I do our best on Saturday and to put our name in boxing history,” although his suggestion that, when the dust had settled and the fight was over, he would like to “talk with Floyd about being an inspiration to people all around the world” was somewhat unexpected.

(Not everyone was on script. Speaking to media after the press conference, Mayweather’s father and trainer, Floyd Sr., insisted that, “Whatever happens on Saturday, it’s going to be one-sided. Pacquiao is going to sleep. I’m a trainer, I know what’s going on with fighters. Pacquiao doesn’t have it. Everybody can say what they want to say. I’ve said it before, Pacquiao can’t punch.”)

Of the combatants’ state of minds prior to the biggest contest of their careers: the best boxers are also poker players, not revealing the finer workings of their psyche. Mayweather, smiling when he needed to and seeming to mean it, nonetheless continued to display the same laid-back mien that has been characteristic of him during this promotion. Depending on your perspective, that is either because he is weary of its build-up or because, for all its magnitude, this genuinely is to him another day at the office.

Pacquiao, in contrast, has been expansive and relaxed and seemingly loving every minute of the experience. Whether that is a good or bad thing is a matter of opinion and conjecture, but at the dais on Wednesday he took time to reflect on the improbability of his rise to great wealth and superstardom.

“Before I became a boxer, I used to sleep on the street,” he marveled. “I can’t believe that I am in this position. The boy who didn’t have food and slept on the street can have this life.”

And in an interview immediately afterward, the famously religious Pacquiao was able to fold his love of God into what became the closest approximation of smack talk from either boxer all day.

Asked why he was apparently so confident that he would be the first person to defeat Mayweather, he smiled knowingly.

“Because the Lord will deliver him to me on Saturday night.”

Twin Arrivals Kick Fight Week into Full Speed

Photos by Will Hart

By Kieran Mulvaney

The writer was standing absent-mindedly at the boarding gate when he felt a tap on the shoulder. He looked up to see Bernard Hopkins, waiting to board the same plane from New York to Las Vegas.

“On to the next stop,” said the writer, like Hopkins moving on from Wladimir Klitschko’s defeat of Bryant Jennings to Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight week.

“People don’t realize the intensity of all this,” said Hopkins – with, as it happens, his trademark intensity. “You’ve got to be in shape just to cover these fights.”

“No kidding,” said the writer, sucking in his gut. There is, of course, no equating the fitness levels required of a professional athlete and of someone who writes about professional athletes for a living, but it’s undeniable that the biggest of fight weeks – and there are none even remotely as big as this one – generate an adrenaline-pumping excitement that can cause a person to sit heavily in the chair of his hotel room at the end of the day and think, “Is it really only Tuesday?”

It normally takes a few days for a fight week to really reach full speed; the final prefight press conference on Wednesday or Thursday might officially kick things off, but that by definition is mainly for the benefit of the media. Not until Friday and the end of the work week does the venue normally become packed and the energy level truly begin to rise.

This is not a normal fight week.

It is indeed only Tuesday, but already it feels as if the volume level has been turned all the way up to 11, following a pair of fan events – one held by Manny Pacquiao at the Mandalay Bay, one by Floyd Mayweather at the MGM Grand Garden Arena where the fight will take place on Saturday night – that officially kicked off the week’s festivities. They were events that reflected the personalities of their hosts.

Pacquiao’s arrival was preceded by Filipino folk dancing, by singers crooning ballads in English and Tagalog, by – briefly – a dance contest featuring an enthusiastic Filipina and a man wearing a ‘Sarajevo’ T-shirt, by a video of Pacquiao singing the song that he wrote and which will serve as his ringwalk music, and finally by a stirring rendition of the Philippine national anthem. Pacquiao’s emergence from behind a curtain sent the assembled and patient masses into paroxysms of joy; many of Pacquiao’s fans – particularly his compatriots – don’t just love him, they venerate him in a manner that no American athlete can experience.

“Don’t be nervous,” Pacquiao assured them. “I am the one who has to fight on Saturday, and I know I will win.” He walked from one side of the stage to the other, waving to and shaking hands with crowds at either end, and soon he was gone.

A little later, and a short distance north on Las Vegas Boulevard, the MGM Grand Garden Arena was rocking to a different, Mayweather-style tune. The lights were brighter, the hosting – by an enthusiastic Doug E. Fresh – was louder (as was the music). There was, as it turned out, also a dance contest, and one of the fans called up on to the stage was none other than the same Sarajevo-shirt-wearing man from the Pacquiao event, who was either a professional dance contest participant or having the single greatest day of his life.

The event culminated in a way that only a Mayweather event truly can: the Southern University marching band playing while a TMT bus drove in to the arena and toward a red carpet; and as cheerleaders sashayed in front of him, Mayweather led his entourage along that carpet and up on to the stage. He thanked his team, he thanked the fans, and he spent a long time with the assembled media – insisting that, whatever happens on Saturday, he will have just one more fight, in September, and then he will be done.

There were perhaps 4,000 people at the MGM, maybe a smidgen fewer at the Mandalay; in total, a conservative estimate of 6,000 folks who waited and applauded and cheered in support of their respective champions.

And it really is only Tuesday. The fun and games have only just begun.

 

Klitschko and Jennings Put Aside Distractions and Weigh In

Photos: Will Hart

By Kieran Mulvaney

Eventually, they all end up defeated, their strength and will either beaten rapidly or bludgeoned steadily out of them. It has been that way with all of Wladimir Klitschko’s challengers over the last 11 years, ever since a shock loss to Lamon Brewster that seemed at the time to portend the effective end of a promising career but in fact kick-started the development of Klitschko 2.0. That new, improved fighter – now with better defense and greater confidence – has been generally acclaimed as the best heavyweight in the world for a number of years now, and at Friday’s weigh-in for Saturday’s HBO World Championship Boxing title defense against Philadelphia’s Bryant Jennings, there was evidence that it is not only those who confront him inside the ring who end up as mere shells of their previous selves.

For months, Shannon Briggs (whose come-from-behind stoppage win over Sergei Liakohovich in 2006 was arguably the last great heavyweight title fight) has chased and taunted Klitschko: gatecrashing his press conferences, confronting him over lunch and even using a boat’s wake to knock him off a paddleboard, desperate to goad the Ukrainian into offering him a title shot. But Klitschko remained unmoved and largely impassive in the face of such insults, and on Friday (and indeed at Tuesday’s press conference), Briggs stood meekly on the other side of a rope line, unleashing the occasional “Let’s Go, Champ!” but otherwise seeming to recognize that his efforts had failed, that he had nothing left to offer bar a caricature of his recent act. Indeed, after Klitschko and Jennings had weighed in, Briggs offered, not a challenge, but encouragement. “Face off,” he cried at the two combatants, and they duly obliged, staring unflinchingly into each other’s eyes for what felt like a good minute and was certainly long enough for even the assembled spectators to start to feel uncomfortable.

His willingness to lock the champion’s gaze for as long as possible suggests – as his respectful but confident utterances during the fight’s build-up also suggest – that Jennings has not yet acquiesced to the inferiority complex that Klitschko is so effective at instilling. And indeed, there are many reasons why he should not: he is young, athletic, and undefeated, and possesses good hand speed and a strong punch.

But Jennings began boxing only six years ago, after Klitschko’s second world title reign was already three years old. His nineteen pro fights pale into insignificance when set against Klitschko’s ledger of 66 paid contests and a solid amateur career. And while Jennings may be big and strong, he is – unusually for 6’3”, 227 pound man – at a distinct size disadvantage against the champion. Klitschko, an imposing physical specimen, stands 6’6” tall, and on Friday outweighed Jennings by close to 15 pounds.

Klitschko is bigger, more experienced, and frankly better. This is the heavyweight division, where one punch can change anything; and Klitschko can be beaten, as Brewster was the last one to show.  Klitschko is far from dismissive of his challenger, hyping him up as “a real life Rocky Balboa from Philadelphia.”

But Rocky lost his first shot at Apollo Creed, and the likelihood is that, by the time all is said and done on Saturday, Jennings too will be licking his wounds and joining a mass of antecedents forced to acknowledge their fealty to Klitscho’s reign.

 

Weights:

Wladimir Klitschko 241. 6 lbs

Bryant Jennings 226.8

 

Sadam Ali 146.8 lbs

Francisco Santana 146.4

Manny Pacquiao's Hollywood Media Day

Photos: Alexis Cuarezma

Browse through moments from Manny Pacquiao's April 15 Media Day workout.

Watch a replay of Pacquiao's open workout.