Muhammad Ali: Rest in peace, Champ

The three time heavyweight champion died 74 years young, but left a legacy behind that will remain unbroken for 74 more years.

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“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”-Muhammad Ali

When it comes to athletes and legacy, there’s just one thing to really consider. What did you do for your sport and for every single kid or teenager who will eventually want to participate in that sport? Muhammad Ali inspired generations of boxers to be unlike any other fighter on the planet. He urged them to be unique, confident, and never shy away from the risks that life threw at you.

As Ali fought for his life Friday night at the age of 74-a fight he would eventually lose-I couldn’t help but think of one of his most famous quotes. Instinctively, I threw a spin on it and tweeted it out.

How about this for legacy? When it comes to boxing, Ali will always be mentioned first. He was the loud talking promo artist before Floyd Mayweather Jr. carved a career out of it. He was the man who stepped into the ring with the greats like George Foreman and Joe Frazier. Remember the Rumble in the Jungle? The documentary did it justice. For several rounds, Ali took all kinds of punishment from Foreman and suddenly turned the tables. He knocked Foreman out after a small sequence of precise punches. His brawls with Frazier were legendary, even if they were costly later on in Ali’s older age.

Ali fought for too long, falling on his sword instead of walking away when it was right. He burned out instead of drifting away, taking a pounding from Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick in his final two fights. He was 39 when he last fought. What people forget were the thrilling pair of fights he had with Leon Spinks and the three knockdown battles he had with Ken Norton.  Continue reading “Muhammad Ali: Rest in peace, Champ”

Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor Fight: Not happening

While it sounds juicy and entertaining, this fight will never happen.

Let me get something out of the way before I rip into this fantasy rumor. I would personally love to see Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor fight….in the street. That’s right. Rocky 5 style!  Get the metal trash cans, dark alley, and bad beer ready because these two millionaires are scrapping. That would be cool and would shred Pay Per View records to pieces. Sylvester Stallone can be the referee. Now, let’s get back to reality.

Stop listening to Floyd, Dana White, McGregor, and any other knucklehead trying to pound click bait pieces on why this fight may, could, should, or might happen. Here’s a hint. It will never happen. This isn’t a movie. It’s real life and two men from different sports don’t step into the same ring. A hockey player doesn’t play in an MLB game, right? Football players don’t step on soccer fields. Yes, these two men compete in different sports. Continue reading “Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor Fight: Not happening”

Manny Pacquiao no longer has my respect

Manny Pacquiao did a lot of damage with his stupid comments.

Go ahead and take yourself off the Christmas list, Manny Pacquiao.

The Filipino boxing star, set for his final bout in April, said something incredibly stupid and hateful this past week. By comparing homosexuals and lesbians who come together in same sex marriage to “animals”, Pacquiao quickly went from my favorite boxer to someone I couldn’t care less for. Yeah, it can happen that quick.

Athletes are free to have opinions. Part of what connects them to us. While they are ungodly gifted with a certain talent, they have feelings, beliefs and opinions like the rest of us. If Pacquiao doesn’t belief in same sex marriage, that is fine. PLENTY of people don’t. Hence why it took so long to become a legal thing in the United States of America. When he compares them to animals, he goes to a whole other level. Simply because a man decides to spend their intimate hours with another man, Pacquiao will now classify those two men as animals. Continue reading “Manny Pacquiao no longer has my respect”

Amir Khan is a stepping stone for Canelo

This May bout between Amir Khan and Canelo Alvarez will be quick yet explosive.

On May 7th, The Pride of Mexico, Canelo Alvarez, will take on challenger Amir Khan. I expect this fight to be competitive for 3-4 rounds before Canelo takes over and demolishes Khan.

Here are a few reasons:

First, Canelo is the better fighter and can’t be stopped right now. He has evolved from a mere puncher into something else. A boxer with speed, precision, power and an ability to be patient when the opening bell rings. He has 46 wins, 32 knockouts and has only lost to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a one sided school session. Canelo may fall again but it won’t be to Khan.

Second, Khan has one real skill and that’s speed. It will work for a few rounds while Canelo sets the table, finds his pace and creates lanes of attack. Once Canelo finds Khan and lands a few hefty shots on that glass jar, the fight will take a turn for the worse. If Lamont Petersen and Danny Garcia had their way with Khan, Canelo won’t find much trouble this May.

It’s not a one sided fight. Khan isn’t a bad fighter and is a the perfect stepping stone for Canelo before his big fall bout with Russian mega puncher Gennady Golovkin, who is undefeated and carries a 99 percent knockout rate into an easy pick up bout this spring. Khan isn’t a pushover for the chamo, but not ultimately someone who carries a real shot of rupturing the Mexican’s future endeavors.

Khan has won a few fights in a row and recently beat STL’s own Devon Alexander, but he steps into a different zone with Canelo. He wanted a payday with a big champ and after getting denied by Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez will invite King Khan to be beaten up and take home a nice paycheck for it.

This May bout is about keeping Canelo warm and showing the boxing fans some class in giving him a worthy opponent for his annual Cinco De Mayo clash. While Khan is worthy, he won’t last past the sixth round. Once the atom bomb fists of Alvarez find him and get in the range, the fight will come to an end. Khan doesn’t back down and has the heart of a lion and each men like to trade so it will quick yet explosive.

While it may not go the distance, fighters like Canelo and Golovkin are bringing back the explosive heyday of boxing. Big hard punching yet smart fighters who are marketable. A Canelo fight may not seem like a must buy to casual fans but he is quickly becoming a highly entertaining fighter and someone who could own the sport by the end of 2016.

Catch his latest step on May 7th.

 

Canelo Alvarez arrives with Cotto defeat

Get used to the name Canelo Alvarez after his dominant defeat of Miguel Cotto Saturday.

Two years and change ago, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez succumbed for the only time in his career, to Floyd Mayweather Jr. While his handlers asked him to wait before taking on the best pound for pound boxer in the sport, Canelo didn’t hesitate and lost in honorable fashion. He ate what seemed like 20,000 Floyd jabs and could never break into the vault that Mayweather built over 15 years in the ring.

Saturday night in Las Vegas, Canelo turned the tables and used the exact same strategy on Miguel Cotto. He had become the teacher in the ring. The wiser one. Cotto only landed 129 of over 629 punches, assaulting the thin air more than anything. Canelo was nearly perfect, winning the fight easily and taking the middleweight belt from his challenger.

Say hello to Canelo, boxing fans. This is a name you will want to remember for the next 5-10 years. And at last, it won’t be for his distinct look of red hair, pale skin and freckles. It will be for his dominance in a boxing ring.

The 25 year old took the final step into legitimacy Saturday night when he took down Cotto. For 12 rounds, Canelo frustrated the attacking Cotto and didn’t let the older fighter land his signature hook. It was like a dog chasing a car that never stopped moving yet Canelo didn’t have to run. He threw and landed a punch, pivoted, moved his head and set up his next assault. It marked Canelo’s final test in transitioning from a puncher to a boxer.

Alvarez tagged Cotto at will throughout the fight. He would slip his jab and punish Cotto’s body, like a hammer swinging down at the kidneys. When Cotto got risky and peered in towards Canelo, he was tagged with another jab and Canelo would unleash the hook to the body. There was nothing Cotto could do but take the punishment or risk getting dropped. Nobody got knocked down Saturday night, but Cotto’s career hit the canvas and Canelo’s rose to the rafters.

As 2015 ends, boxing is shifting away from Mayweather Jr. and towards fighters like Canelo and Russian sensation Gennady Golovkin. The future may represent the adventures of true action fighters. Boxers like Canelo and Golovkin prefer action rather than speed racing in a ring. They don’t fire a punch and run away. They fire multiple shots, step forward and throw more. Whenever people tell me boxing is dead, I tell them about Canelo and Gennady. With atom bombs for fists and a will that matches a moving tornado, these two guys will set up what could be the blockbuster fight of 2016.

In May, Gennady Golovkin and Canelo could very well meet and decide who gets to be the new face of the sport. It doesn’t matter who is the pound for pound champ. It doesn’t matter who has the most wins. It matters whose name comes into fight fans minds when the word boxing is uttered within their earshot. Between them, Canelo and Golovkin have 66 knockouts in 82 fights. For people that beg for action in the ring, look no further than these two.

Cotto won’t retire from the sport but his days as a championship contender have been fractured. He enjoyed a late career renaissance under Freddie Roach, but had no idea how to connect with anything sinister on Saturday against Canelo. A great warrior took his final pay per view bow on Saturday. Another is just getting warmed up.

It’s not about his Mexican background and legion of fans. It’s not about his look. It’s about his ability to cut down any style of fighter in the ring with him. Canelo Alvarez has arrived and isn’t moving anytime soon. No longer a novelty, he is an action packed delight that boxing fans, hardcore and casual minded, should know and appreciate today.

 

Cotto vs. Canelo: Clash of the Titans

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AFP PHOTO/ John Gurzinski/Getty Images 

Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez will produce the fight of the year. These aren’t boxers who train for six weeks only to run around a ring for twelve rounds. They carry the intent to let their hands go once the bell dings. They carry the intent to wage war on each other. It won’t be a matter of who is ahead on points at the end of the fight. It will be who is merely standing.

Each fighter is known for never backing down from a tough opponent. They don’t take easy fights. Look at their losses and the best of the best, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr., are the only people able to stop them within the laws of a boxing ring.

This fight brings together two furiously passionate boxing countries, Puerto Rico and Mexico. Cotto, the 35 year old four time champion who calls the PR powered New York his stomping ground, is fighting to stay in the big fight business. Alvarez, 25, the Mexican pale white red headed superstar, is looking to retire the older fighter and take ownership of his now vacant(Cotto forfeited it this week due to not paying a sanctioning fee) WBC title belt. This isn’t just about belts, blood and battles. This is about legacy.

Since he rediscovered his lost touch in the ring with trainer Freddie Roach, Cotto has been a different boxer, going 3-0 with two stoppages and a knockout. A man possessed in the ring, sending Sergio Martinez to his retirement party early. Canelo is fresh off bashing brawler James Kirkland in Houston, surprising many by vanquishing him in the third round with ease. In a fight that many saw as a fist willed test, Canelo produced his most impressive result to date by knocking Kirkland out cold.

Canelo has superstar written all over him. He carries a record of 45-1-1, with 32 knockouts supporting that win total. The only loss coming to Mayweather Jr. two years ago. Cotto, 40-4 with 33 knockouts, is coming off an impressive win over Daniel Geale in June. He is 3-0 with Roach and looking to extend his career with a win over Canelo.

Why is this fight going to be sensational? Styles make fights and this is a perfect matchup of two sluggers. Cotto and Alvarez can box and move their head enough to extend a fight, but they aren’t known for taking steps backwards in a ring. They move forward, hunt, peck, and work until the opponent is surrounded. They unleash vigorous combinations that don’t just get their opponents attention. They stun the nervous system. They are each known for their vicious hooks and the ability to crash the body with assault. They aren’t street brawlers, but far from defensive strategists. Most boxers devise a game plan that keeps them safe in the ring while securing victory. These two guys have no such plans. They will go out on their sword before fighting a conservative match.

Do yourself a favor and don’t worry about the belt drama. Miguel Cotto didn’t want to pay a ridiculous fee to have the WBC sanction his belt in the fight, so he gave it up. They want him to also pay an 800K step aside fee to Gennady Golovkin. If Canelo wins, he gets the belt. If Cotto wins, the belt goes to Golovkin, the opponent for the winner of this fight. It’s all a murky mess, outside the ring boxing politics that shouldn’t concern fight fans. It doesn’t affect the average boxing fan who has what belt going into the ring Saturday night.

Know this. This is going to be the fight of the year. All other fights will pale in comparison. It’s not one sided or easy to call. It won’t be boring. Will Canelo use his newfound boxing expertise to keep distance between him and Cotto for him to land his big shots? Can Cotto use his veteran skill to break into the areas of the ring where Canelo feels are his? Who lands the big shots? Who gets hurt first? While Canelo is a favorite to win in the Vegas books, the outcome is not so easy to determine due to the skill set of these two true boxers. One could think Canelo, ten years younger, is simply too much for Cotto, who is prone to wearing down late in a fight. The other may think Canelo isn’t seasoned enough to take down a never better Cotto.

Between these two fighters, there are 65 knockouts. Only five losses, all to championship level fighters. Each fighter has a chip on their shoulder. Something to prove. This could be Cotto’s last big title fight. A chance to stay in the spotlight. This is Canelo’s opportunity to seize the moment and finally equal the hype that has surrounded him his entire career. Outside the ring, two countries known for facing off against each other over the brutal sport of boxing, will look on in amazement at their best products take aim at each other in the ring.

This is an exciting fight. Go watch it. Watch it with boxing lovers. Admirers of the sweet science and people who miss the good old days. A time where two men met in a ring to fight and left the politics to the suits outside of it. They don’t make them like Cotto and Canelo anymore and you won’t see many fights like this one. These are the fights many promoters stay away from because of the unpredictability of it all.

Tonight in Las Vegas, two warriors meet in the ring. Only one can make it out. One  will win. One will lose. If a draw occurs, the ring will need scrubbing. Saturday night will be a good night for boxing.

 

Evander Holyfield: The Most Underrated Boxer of All Time

Known as the Real Deal yet underrated to this day, Evander Holyfield is my all time favorite boxer.

The Real Deal. That is Atlanta Georgia native and boxing legend Evander Holyfield’s nickname. And it fits. He is the only boxer to win the heavyweight championship four different times. He fought until he was 48 years old. He engaged in battles with Riddick Bowe, Lennox Lewis and none other than Iron Mike Tyson. Back in early November 1996, I told any breathing soul around me that Holyfield would beat Tyson in their November 9th mega fight. It was happening and nobody believed me.

As 30 for 30, ESPN’s brilliant sports documentary series, chronicled this week, Holyfield spent the better part of his boxing career chasing not only Tyson but his reputation and mythical presence as the news hungry bad boy of the sport. The 77 minute tale is an invigorating account and paints a bittersweet picture of The Real Deal. While he beat Tyson, he never got the respect because their rematch ended in a bizarre manner. This came years after a fight with Bowe where Holyfield was about to knock him out when a parachuting spectator landed on their ring. Throughout his career, Holyfield never got his rightful spot atop the sport. He did get the best of Tyson. He didn’t just knock him out. He made him go berserk.

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In 1996, Tyson, fresh out of jail, was kicking everybody’s ass. He kicked people’s ass faster than the arena he fought in could fill up. He got a vacant belt and after years of delay, was set to fight Holyfield. Evander wasn’t in a good place boxing wise. He lost the title years before to Michael Moore, and then left the sport due a heart condition that ended up being misdiagnosed. He returned and lost a one sided third fight to Bowe. He beat a nobody in Bobby Cyrz and got set to face Tyson, who everybody was still enthralled by even though he had just went to jail for beating up and raping his girlfriend Robin Givens. Back in the day when Ray Rice’s ordeal would have been called lame.

Few people gave the old man Holyfield a shot. Why would they? Even though Holyfield had fought everybody in sight, beat a majority of them and held a more impressive record than Tyson, he was the underdog. Without saying it, people still didn’t buy into this guy. No one fought with more heart or tenacity than Holyfield. He redefined what a hook could do to a man’s body and head. When you think of a boxer digging at another man’s body, you think of Holyfield. Yet, to everybody else, he was boring. A boring two time champion who didn’t duck Tyson. Mike hurt his ribs and a 1992 bout got voided. Then he went to jail for the aforementioned rape, but to boxing fans it was Holyfield’s fault. After much delay and hardship, these two met in the ring. Holyfield was a 25 to 1 underdog.

The result was legendary. I remember the second round the most. Tyson hit Holyfield flush with a right hand and the guy barely moved. He took Tyson’s best shot and kept coming. It was over right there. As the fourth round came along, Holyfield began to find new life and tagged Tyson at will. He was winning every round. He punished Tyson’s ribs and landed clean hooks to the head. Tyson was wobbling by the 9th round and went down on a Holyfield left hook. By the 11th round, Tyson was hitting hammered. He had nothing left and Holyfield knocked him out. People were shocked. They thought they were seeing an alternate reality. At last, Holyfield had beaten Tyson. He finally had a shred of the respect he deserved.

In May 1997, a rematch took place and everybody and their best friend’s uncle knows what happened. Frustrated after a few rounds of Holyfield dominance, Tyson bit the man’s ear twice and was disqualified. It was over. In a voiceover during the 30 for 30, Tyson said he was so angry with how good Holyfield was and lost it. In the end, after losing to Holyfield again, Tyson had the most coverage. In defeat, he created a spectacle with the ear bite. To this day, people will remember the ill-fated rematch instead of the mesmerizing first fight where Holyfield knocked Tyson out. History has a nasty way of defining a man’s legacy.

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The champ didn’t rest. Holyfield would eventually meet Lennox Lewis in a thrilling pair of matches in 1999. In earning a draw in a match many boxing analysts called one of the worst decisions of all time, Holyfield was once again on the flip side of notoriety. Many thought Lewis won and in a rematch, he indeed beat Holyfield to win the title. Later, Holyfield would beat, lose and earn a draw in three consecutive fights against John Ruiz Holyfield beat Hasim Rahman in order to get a third crack at Lewis, but instead Lennox chose Tyson and destroyed him. That was the last time Holyfield had a chance at the title. Throughout his whole career, Tyson never stopped pestering Holyfield and blocking his legacy.

What deserves to be remembered is Holyfield’s dominating win over Tyson, his furious bouts with Bowe, his toe to toe battles with Lewis as he neared 40 years of age and his unwillingness to quit. He is easily one of the most underrated boxers of all time.

Do yourself a favor and watch “Chasing Tyson” on ESPN On Demand or catch it on the network this week. If you don’t appreciate Holyfield now, you will after it is over. He was one of a kind and a brand of heavyweight that doesn’t exist anymore.