Canelo-Golovkin Press Conference Recap + Gallery

Photos: Ed Mulholland

By Kieran Mulvaney

Both sides had said what they needed or wanted to say, said Gennady Golovkin trainer Abel Sanchez at Wednesday’s final press conference before Saturday’s middleweight championship bout between Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez (HBO PPV, 8PM ET/5PM PT). There was, he continued, no more need for claims and counter-claims. And when Golovkin and Alvarez took to the podium shortly afterward, they echoed Sanchez’s approach.

“I don’t want to talk too much,” said Golovkin. “I really respect Canelo’s team, and this is the biggest day for us,” he continued, before correcting himself. “Not for us, for boxing. September 16 at T-Mobile Arena is a huge, historic fight.”

“You know me. I don’t like to say a lot,” added Canelo. “I know what it’s going to be. It’s going to be a tough fight, I know that. And that’s what I’m ready for. I just want you all to enjoy it, like I’m going to enjoy it. I’ll see you all on Saturday night.”

Sanchez is right. The time for talking is over. The time for action is ahead.

The middleweight championship of the world – the biggest fight in boxing – is just three days away.

“A Fight For the People”: The Canelo-GGG Press Train Rolls into New York

Photos: Ed Mulholland

By Bradford William Davis

“We’re respecting the fans’ wishes,” Oscar De La Hoya told the appreciative crowd on hand for the latest stop on the Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin press tour. Fans in attendance at The Theater at Madison Square Garden interrupted the Golden Boy promoter’s words with enthusiastic cheers for both fighters, proving his point.

The red carpet event was driven by the passion fans have for Canelo and GGG, and their relief that the fight they longed to see is finally happening. The atmosphere had the feel of a generational rivalry, a “Yankees vs. Red Sox” or “Celtics vs. Lakers” of boxing, with supporters of each elite fighter trying their best to outdo the other.

De La Hoya announced that the September 16th mega-fight at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas will have a fan friendly start time of 8 PM ET/5PM PT.  

In his remarks, De La Hoya was careful to note that Canelo and Golovkin were “two real boxers,” eliciting another roar from the crowd, as he not-so-subtly hinted that this is the biggest fight that boxing has to offer.

After the fighters and their array of handlers and promoters answered questions, De La Hoya tapped the audience once again, selecting four spirited fans to come on stage and give their predictions for the fight. Two fans draped in Mexican-flag ponchos and sombreros seized the opportunity to lead the crowd in a “Canelo” chant. In response, the GGG fans touted their fighter’s technical skill.

After leaving the stage, one of the Golovkin fans, Carlos, told Inside HBO Boxing that he found this fight particularly meaningful because “it’s the fight that fans want.” He added, “When fans want a certain fight, and they get made, it becomes a special occasion.”

Ward vs. Kovalev 2 Weigh-In Recap and Slideshow

Photos: Ed Mulholland
By Kieran Mulvaney

LAS VEGAS -- One day after walking off the press conference dais, Sergey Kovalev stood face to face with Andre Ward at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on Friday afternoon. Having appeared to be on edge of losing control because of his dislike of the American, who took his light-heavyweight belts in a controversial decision win last November, Kovalev displayed an altogether lighter mood after tipping the scales at 175 pounds, the same as his rival. He had left the press conference, he explained, because he was just tired of hearing Ward’s team talking, and he just wanted to get on with things and fight.

Ward was of pretty much the same mind, stating that the rematch was effectively the 13th round onward of the contest that the two men began seven months ago. As the two men stared at each other after making weight, Ward appeared to say a few words to the Russian.
Asked if he wanted to share what he had said, Ward demurred.

“As long as he understood me, that’s all that matters.”

The two men will be talking with their fists on HBO Pay-Per-View on Saturday night.

Weights from Las Vegas:
Andre Ward 175 pounds | Sergey Kovalev 175 pounds
Guillermo Rigondeaux 121.5 pounds | Moises Flores 122 pounds
Dmitry Bivol 174.5 pounds | Cedric Agnew 175 pounds
Luis Arias 160 pounds | Arif Magomedov 159.75 pounds

Weigh-In Recap + Slideshow: Alvarez and Chavez Battle for the Love of a Nation

Photos: Ed Mulholland

By Kieran Mulvaney

There were plenty of eyes trained on Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on Friday as he stripped off and prepared to step on the scale in front of several thousand fans at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. One of the big, hitherto unknown, variables in the build-up to his Saturday contest with countryman Saul “Canelo” Alvarez was the physical condition of Chavez, who once fought at middleweight but of late has been fighting at roughly 10 pounds above that division’s weight limit. Would he, the notoriously undisciplined bigger man, be able to force his lanky frame down to 164.5 pounds, the contracted catch weight for this battle for Mexican bragging rights?

As it turns out, he would be able to and indeed he did, with half a pound to spare. Chavez didn’t look great: His cheeks were positively sunken and his whole body looked somewhat drawn, but he didn’t look on the verge of imminent collapse, either. He will doubtless have been grateful for the water and protein shakes that he is likely downing as you read this, but there’s no reason to disbelieve his camp’s assertion that he will rehydrate and gain perhaps 20 pounds by the time of the fight.

That will likely leave him with an advantage of 10-15 pounds over Alvarez, who also weighed in at 164 pounds, confidently shedding his shirt as he marched toward the scale and looking, in contrast to his rival, taut and toned.

The weigh-in and the subsequent face-off elicited raucous roars from the assembled throng, and if the atmosphere on the day before the fight is any guide, fight night itself is going to be an electric experience. It is anticipated that the capacity crowd inside the T-Mobile Arena will be the largest ever to watch a Las Vegas fight at an indoor venue, and outside of the media section, it is hard to believe that there will be more than a handful of neutrals in the entire building. The festive mood is divided evenly between partisans who are either solidly pro-Canelo or resolutely pro-Chavez.

There is an immense amount at stake for both men on Saturday, with each man seeking to forge an undisputed claim to being the country’s boxing lodestar, and neither able to stomach the notion of losing to a hated rival. The smell of victory will be sweet, the prospect of defeat unthinkable. This is more than just a fight; it is a battle between glory and shame.

Weights from Las Vegas:

Canelo Alvarez: 164 pounds | Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.: 164 pounds

David Lemieux: 163 pounds | Marco Reyes: 163 pounds

Lucas Matthysse: 147 pounds | Emanuel Taylor: 147 pounds

Joseph Diaz Jr.: 125.5 pounds | Manuel Avila: 125 pounds

Slideshow: Canelo vs. Chavez Jr. Final Press Conference

Photos: Ed Mulholland

By Kieran Mulvaney

“This is a fight that’s consuming Mexico,” said the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez on Wednesday, at the final press conference for the Cinco de Mayo weekend battle for Mexican bragging rights between his son, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., and Canelo Alvarez.

Alvarez – whose lone loss came to Floyd Mayweather three and a half years ago, when he was significantly less developed as a boxer than he is now – is the favorite with bookmakers and fans; but, insisted Chavez Jr., “I am here to win and not just to fight.”

“For my part, I’m going to do all I can to ensure that this fight goes down as one of the greatest fights in the history of Mexico,” stated Alvarez.

The HBO PPV card is live from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas this Saturday, beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.

Purchase the fight here.

Ward-Kovalev 2 Announcement Recap and Press Conference Slideshow

Photos: Ed Mulholland

New York City -- The rematch is officially on. After months of debate, speculation and verbal jabs, unified light heavyweight champion Andre "SOG" Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) and former unified light heavyweight champ Sergey "Krusher" Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs) met in midtown Manhattan on Monday to formally announce their highly anticipated rematch set for Saturday, June 17 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. The championship event will be produced and distributed live by HBO Pay-Per-View beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.

After a controversial loss by unanimous decision last November, Kovalev has been outspoken about his desire to get back in the ring with Ward -- and that bravado was on full display Monday. After taking a moment to apologize to his fans for his loss in the previous fight, Kovalev -- through an interpreter -- said, "I’m not going to do much talking -- June 17 will talk for itself. The only thing I can hope is a week, or two weeks before the fight that Andre Ward does not get injured and that he has the balls to come and fight me on June 17."

On the other side, Ward allowed his team to do much of the rhetorical sparring for him. Longtime manager James Prince predicted a decisive victory, saying, "Don't be surprised if Kovalev gets knocked out -- don't be surprised. We don't have no fear of nothing you bring to the table. Once again the United States will be victorious against Russia, as always."

For his part, Ward addressed critics who have suggested he feared a rematch with Kovalev. "Nobody in this room can point to a fighter I've run from. That's not on my track record," Ward said. "Whether you with me or whether you against me, tune in. It's gonna be a great show. Don't miss this fight. June 17, [Kovalev] got what he asked for."

Follow the conversation leading up to the contest using #WardKovalev.

Weigh-in recap and slideshow: Lemieux, Stevens to Work Out Private Conflict on Public Stage

Photos: Ed Mulholland

By Kieran Mulvaney

VERONA, N.Y. -- It only took a few minutes of a conference call with boxing media – normally the kind of anodyne event notable, if at all, only for the occasional puzzlingly left-field questions thrown fighters’ way – for the feelings that David Lemieux and Curtis Stevens have for each other to erupt into view.

Stevens was in the middle of answering a question when Lemieux, disagreeing with his answer, interrupted him. Stevens jawed back. And then the verbal back-and-forth escalated.

“You’re going to get knocked out,” asserted Lemieux.

“Tell the doctor to bring smelling salts,” shot back Stevens. “They’re going to need it to wake your ass up, pretty boy,” 

“I’m going to destroy you,” Stevens continued. “You’re going to get what you want. Your whole front furniture will be missing from your mouth.”

If the whole exchange (of which the above is a mere excerpt) reads in transcription a little like a case of “I know what you are but what am I?” served with a side of “I’m not touching you!”, the animosity between two men who bludgeon people into unconsciousness for a living is real. 

“'The last time that my opponent spoke so much and I so disliked him … I broke three of his ribs and his nose,” said Lemieux a few days ago. On Friday, the morning of the weigh-in for his Boxing After Dark main event clash with Stevens at Turning Stone Casino on Saturday night, Lemieux expanded a little on the reason for his animus. 

“Stevens is a guy who likes to downgrade fighters to hype up a fight,” he explained. “I dislike him because of his character. He’s a clown and I’m going to have to deal with it in the ring.”

And yes, this is boxing, where it can be a challenge to distinguish between the honest and the deceitful, the authentic and the artificial. And yes, some of Stevens’ statements and actions have clearly been with the deliberate attempt to stir up a reaction: witness specifically his establishment of a GoFundMe page to pay for Lemieux’s hospital bills. 

But while there doesn’t appear to be the depth of dislike that characterized the relationships between, for example, Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales or Fernando Vargas and Oscar De La Hoya, there is legitimate needle between the two middleweights. Part of it may be fueled by some past personal history, dating back seven years or so, although the extent to which Stevens and Lemieux palled around in the past as a result of a mutual association with light-heavyweight Jean Pascal is a matter of some dispute: Stevens insisting they were good friends until he arrived in the Canadian’s weight class, Lemieux throwing cold water on the notion of them fraternizing much at all.

Stevens, it should be noted, has some history at getting under the skin of his opponents. Prior to his November 2013 encounter with Gennady Golovkin, for example, he posted several photos on social media of he and friends gathered in prayer around a coffin emblazoned with the Kazakh’s initials. Infuriated, Golovkin turned to Stevens at the final pre-fight press conference and asked, “Are you serious?” After angrily beating the New Yorker into submission after eight rounds at Madison Square Garden, Golovkin emphasized that it was important to, as he put it in his then-very-fractured English, “respect box.”

Some of that needling is a consequence of Stevens’ character and origin. Whereas Lemieux is sociable and frequently smiling, Stevens is less so. He isn’t hostile to interlocutors by any means, and when in the right mood can be interesting and expansive company. But there is an intensity to his very being that perhaps reflects his being birthed in the same rough Brooklyn neighborhood that spawned Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe and Zab Judah, among others.

“I’m from Brownsville,” he said on Friday. “I wasn’t supposed to make it out. I’ve got to be special. I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want to make my mother happy.”

How she feels about her Curtis relentlessly poking his opponents into fury is unrecorded, but however much Stevens and Lemieux may want to do harm to each other, they are professional enough to ensure that they set about their task in a measured way, not being reckless and doing only what they do best. Fortunately for fans, what each man does best is box very well and punch extremely hard; their skills and in-ring intensity, mixed with a dash of vitriol, make for a set of ingredients that should ensure the resolution of their rivalry will, for the neutral, be a satisfying one.

Weights from Verona:
David Lemieux: 159 lbs. | Curtis Stevens: 158.25 lbs.

Yuriorkis Gamboa: 131 lbs. | Rene Alvarado: 130.25 lbs.
 

Weigh-In Recap/Slideshow: Vargas and Berchelt Quiet Outside Ring, Furious Inside It

Photos: Ed Mulholland

By Kieran Mulvaney

INDIO, Calif. -- It is said often that, for boxing to survive and thrive in the modern mass media world, it needs big names and big personalities. Consider the most recent Golden Age of boxing, when the stage was bestrode by the likes of Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard, between them assuming the mantle passed by the greatest of them all, Muhammad Ali, before in turn handing the baton to that perfect storm of terror and parody, Mike Tyson. 

But if outsized personalities are what helps propel boxing – and indeed any sport – into broader public consciousness, what keeps it ticking over, what captures new fans and maintains existing ones is good, exciting, high-quality fighting. On Saturday night in Fantasy Springs Resort and Casino, the assembled audience and those watching at home on HBO Boxing After Dark can expect just that.

Neither Francisco Vargas nor Miguel Berchelt is much of a trash talker. Neither is a shouter. Neither wears outrageous clothing, drives limited-production, incredibly-expensive supercars, or takes selfies on a private jet. But both denizens of the 130-pound division can fight.

Vargas, in fact, has been in the Fight of the Year two years in a row: last year in a bruising draw against Orlando Salido, and the year before that against Takashi Miura, against whom he rallied from a beating to score a dramatic ninth-round knockout. Vargas may have to produce a third such outing in a row if he’s to overcome the challenge of Miguel Berchelt, who has fought only once outside Mexico and never before on HBO or against someone of Vargas’ caliber, but who appears to have the skills and strength to, at the very least, ask serious questions of his countryman.

Should Berchelt, who breaks down his foes with a multitude of punches including a highly effective version of the patented Mexican left hook to the liver, prevail, he will upset his compatriot’s hopes of a rematch with Miura, who takes on Miguel “Mickey” Roman in the broadcast’s opener. 

Berchelt, of course, would be just fine with that.

“Francisco Vargas is a great champion,” he allows. “He’s very valiant and he has a lot of heart. But I bring my own [heart]. It’s two Mexicans in the ring. It’s going to be a great fight. But for me, it’s an opportunity I can’t let go by.”

After back-to-back battles that left him severely bloodied and bruised, Vargas laughs when it is suggested to him that maybe this time he might try to box a little more and slug a little less, to protect the scar tissue that is accumulating on his face and preserve his body for the long haul.

“There is a possibility,” he smiles, “but it all depends on what happens in the fight and what the opponent brings.” In fact, the very word “boxing” causes Vargas to wrinkle his nose. “Box, box, box all night … that’s really not my style,” he says. He is indeed a fighter in the true sense of the word, and he sees as much in his younger opponent, too.

“It’s his opportunity. He has to come with everything. I have to be ready when he comes,” Vargas says, before countering the cautionary note with the closest thing either man comes to any kind of trash talk: “When he feels the power of my punch, it will give him pause.”

And rest assured that once Vargas lands that punch, Berchelt will respond in kind and any early boxing will yield to a true fight once again. That’s something that both main eventers will relish. And so too will the fans.

Weights from Indio:

Francisco Vargas 129.6 pounds | Miguel Berchelt 129.8 pounds

Takashi Miura 129.8 pounds | Miguel Roman 129.2 pounds