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Greatness could be a curse for Guillermo Rigondeax.

Boxrec.com

Boxrec.com

Sometimes being great at something could be a curse instead of grace. Legendary Dutch impressionist, Vincent Van Gogh died in obscurity in 1890. Today some of his paintings are considered priceless. It took regular folk sometime to understand and appreciate a true talent of exquisite Dutch painter.

Similar things happen in boxing. Fans never really appreciated the talent of Roy Jones Jr. because of the ease with which he dominated his opponents. Fans claimed that he picked and chose his foes, even though he dominated future hall of famers like James Toney and Bernard Hopkins. May be we will truly appreciate his greatness after he retires and gets inducted into boxing’s hall of fame.

Currently, former two time Olympic gold medalist from Cuba, Guillermo Rigondeaux is suffering the same fate. Guillermo was one of the most decorated amateurs in history of sweet science. Aside from two Olympic gold medals Rigondeaux won two world amateur championships as well as seven Cuban national championships. After a failed attempt to defect Cuba in 2007, Guillermo finally made it to the land of the free in February of 2009.

I remember watching Guillermo spar at the Wildcard Boxing Club in Hollywood, California during a brief stint he had with legendary trainer, Freddie Roach. I remember writing that Cuban southpaw was like a cross between Mayweather and Pacquiao, only his offence was more accurate than Pacman’s and his defense was more subtle than Floyds. I remember watching him knock out a solid featherweight contender in sparring with one crisp uppercut. Freddie Roach said that Guillermo is probably the greatest talent that he has ever seen.

Still fans have a hard time getting behind his talent because there is little competition during his fights; he dominates his opponents. Guillermo Rigondeaux epitomizes the essence of sweet science – to hit and not get hit. So, what’s the problem? The problem is he doesn’t get hit enough, he doesn’t take chances and he doesn’t face adversity. At least he hasn’t faced it so far.

Rigondeaux won his first legitimate world championship title in January of 2012. The Jackal knocked out Rico Ramos in the sixth stanza with a single body shot. Exciting, it was not. It was not competitive. Then Rigo dominated one of the top pound for pound fighters, Nonito Donaire in a unification bout in April, 2013. Fans were not happy it wasn’t a shootout. Networks were not happy. Guillermo felt disrespected by his promoter, Bob Arum for not being able to secure a meaningful fight following a signature win.

New promoter, Caibe promotions recently won a purse bid to secure Rigondeaux title defense against hard punching Chris Avalos from Southern California. But before they could even secure a date and a venue, camp Avalos turned down the fight in favor of other opportunities. Why? Isn’t it obvious?

Frustrations are mounting in camp Rigondeaux. At the age of thirty three his window of opportunity to shine seems to be slipping away. What can he do?  Guillermo’s most formidable challenge up to date Nonito Donaire demonstrated that he did not want a rematch by moving up to featherweight and looking at other opportunities. Another worthy opponent, a fellow super bantamweight titlist, Leo Santa Cruz recently called out Rigondeaux on Showtime right after winning his title defense. But Guillermo noted that it was just a news ploy since he never heard from camp Santa Cruz.

May be Rigondeaux should follow Donaire and move up to featherweight for better opportunities. And if Nonito declines a rematch, there is a fellow two time Olympic gold medalist from Ukraine, Vasyl Lomachenko who holds one of the featherweight trinkets. That could be the fight for the ages.

The Greatest Muhammad Ali had to face Joe Frazier three times to prove his greatness. Could Guillermo Rigondeaux find his Frazier?

 
 

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Amazing Boxing Tales – Bob Arum

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2014 in Professional Boxing

 

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Hoffer Delivers A Knockout

Courtesy of Richard Hoeffer

Courtesy of Richard Hoffer

By Rick Assad

A man for all seasons, there are few subjects that award-winning sportswriter Richard Hoffer can’t handle. Whether covering a college football game that decided the mythical national champion, penning long-form features, or insightful essays, Hoffer always delivered the goods.

But it was ringside chronicling the sweet science where Hoffer, first with the Los Angeles Times for a decade, and later Sports Illustrated for two decades, truly shined.

Hoffer’s thoughtful prose is lyrical and expressive, and it has left an indelible imprint on the literature.

The author of five books that range from the 1968 Mexico City Olympics to John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach who won 10 titles in 12 years, or gambling in America, Hoffer’s most recent offering, “Bouts of Mania: Ali, Frazier, Foreman And An America On The Ropes,” may just be his best.

In it, Hoffer, who still contributes to Sports Illustrated, details the classic bouts involving Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and George Foreman that took place between 1971 and 1975, and feature the “Fight of the Century,” the “Thrilla in Manila,” and the “Rumble in the Jungle.”

“Bouts of Mania,” has received excellent reviews, and the book, brilliantly researched, should be on every boxing fan’s shelf. Hoffer recently agreed to do a Q&A over the Internet.

What prompted Hoffer to write this book? “The whole point of my book is that, for a few years there, there was one epic spectacle after another,” he said. “One after another! A Thrilla, a Rumble. They kept coming. You didn’t have to look for them, they just rolled you over.”

While boxing books are usually excellent reads, they can be tough to get published. “Boxing books are a notoriously hard sell,” Hoffer explained. “A real problem for publishers (and would-be authors). But I kept coming back to some kind of Ali project, figuring his charisma trumped the literary unpopularity of the sport. As I noodled around with the idea, trying to find some unexplored angle (there’s been a ton of stuff on him), it occurred to me that it wasn’t an Ali story so much as it was a slice of Americana, a story about a few riotous years and a few colorful characters.”

Hoffer went on: “The fact that it was so neatly bookended by the country’s social and political dysfunctions helped give me a logical timeline in what might be an arbitrary series of fights.”

Ali is now 72 years old and battling Parkinson’s disease, Frazier passed away in 2011 at 67, while Foreman is 65 and seemingly thriving. All three held the heavyweight title and each captured an Olympic gold medal. But does one stand out?

“That has to be Foreman, a man who has reinvented himself over and over,” said Hoffer. “When I was doing this book, I worried that I was just contributing another Ali enterprise. But by the time I finished and realized that, out of all the chaos I had just documented, there was only one true survivor, I thought, have I just done a Foreman book. He’s not just an intriguing athlete, but a fascinating person.”

Many believe that boxing is healthier than ever, given the money that’s being made. But is it?

“I have to admit I haven’t paid attention to boxing since I covered my last fight, five years ago,” said Hoffer. “I don’t know many who have. It’s become such a niche sport, catering to a few demographics, whatever support PPV (pay-per-view) buys, that it’s difficult to even think of it as a sport any more. It’s just a special event every now and then. When I started there were weekly fights, at more than one location in Los Angeles, all contributing to a kind of background noise. Now? As far as I can tell the sport exists to support a few mega-fights each year. It’s just dropped off everyone’s radar. Well, mine.”

Hoffer, whose first book on boxing was, “A Savage Business: The Comeback And Comedown Of Mike Tyson,” believes the sport will eventually fall by the wayside.

“Boxing ultimately will be abolished,” he explained, “but not because it’s a rogue sport. This is the curmudgeon in me, but I don’t see a future for a sport that no longer attracts youth, either as participants or fans. We talk about this every four years when we realize how paltry our Olympic boxing pickings are. It’s been a long time since those U.S. teams regularly graduated champions. Ali, Frazier and Foreman were all famous amateurs who inspired yet more amateurs. Now, without any accessible role models in boxing, I’m afraid our young athletes are employing their talents elsewhere.”

The biggest name in the sport is Floyd Mayweather Jr., the pound-for-pound best in the world. Undefeated in 46 bouts, Mayweather, who will fight Argentina’s Marcos Maidana at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 13th, makes as much news out of the ring as in the squared circle.

“I like Mayweather. He’s a consummate athlete, a dedicated boxer and a genuinely crazy person,” said Hoffer. “Certainly the best of his time. And yet, I can’t recall a singular moment from any of his fights. That’s not his fault. But he lacks his Frazier, his Foreman, someone to test him, or at least reveal him. I guess I wish his fights were half as exciting as a night on the town with him.”

Even now many fight fans still want to see Mayweather face off against Manny Pacquiao. Will this ever come to pass?

“They probably won’t meet and, if they do, under unpalatable circumstances,” said Hoffer. “Mayweather is 45, coming out of retirement, whatever. Once this could have been the kind of fight that restored, however briefly, some interest in the sport. It feels to me that the window has closed on this one.”

Though he’s covered hundreds of fights, Hoffer doesn’t have a favorite. “I’m not one of those guys who ranks fights, or even remembers them very well,” he said. “Stories, that’s another matter. I covered lots better fights than Tyson-[James] Douglas, but I doubt I ever had more fun writing one of them.”

That fight took place in Japan’s Tokyo Dome in February 1990, and ended with Douglas knocking out Tyson, a 42-to-1 favorite in the 10th round.

The loss was startling given that Iron Mike came in with a 37-0 record, and was a human wrecking ball.

“I sometimes feel bad for Tyson, because he’s going to be remembered as this psychotic burn-out,” said Hoffer. “He was not nothing. In that brief, and highly orchestrated prime of his, he was one of the most exciting attractions the game has had. And he wasn’t bad. Not great, of course, but for that little period of time, pretty damned astonishing.”

Hoffer said a couple of former boxers were both fun to watch and easy with a quote. “I tend to remember them in terms of personality, how story-friendly they were. Guys like Randall (Tex) Cobb or a long-forgotten fighter like Bobby Chacon remain more vivid to me than all those champions that passed in front of me.”

Cobb, a heavyweight who finished his career with a 42-7-1 mark and 35 knockouts, battled some of the best in the division like Larry Holmes and Ken Norton, while Chacon, a super-featherweight who fashioned a 59-7-1 record with 47 knockouts, likewise slugged it out with such titans as Alexis Arguello, Ruben Olivares [three times], Danny Lopez, Ray Mancini, and Chucho Castillo.

No, they don’t make them like Cobb and Chacon any more. Nor do they come any better than Hoffer.

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2014 in Articles by Rick Assad

 

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Going down memory lane in Las Vegas.

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The City of Sin also known as Mecca of boxing is rich with pugilistic history and magical moments.  Big boxing weekend in Las Vegas is like a convention of sweet science people; you know you are going to run into regulars, but there is always a surprise. Such was the case when I came to cover the fight before the big event (Pacquiao vs. Bradley II), Friday Night Fights card televised by ESPN and promoted by Top Rank at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. Just as I was interviewing former champ, Zab Judah and hearing about his most memorable fight and a famous left hook to the body he took from Mickey Ward, the Irish slugger appeared and started to exchange pleasantries. “I was just talking about you, bro!” exclaimed Judah. What a coincidence, what a surprise. Zab couldn’t forget asking his father to stop the fight after taking a left hook to the body from Mickey. I can’t forget Gatty Word l; it was brutal and breathtaking. Irish Mickey Ward remembers his bid for a title in England, seemingly hopelessly behind on scorecards landing his famous left hook… those were the days, and boxing seemed more pure back then.  But maybe this is what every old timer does, reminisce about old times.

Running into Shane Mosley’s dad Jack later on made me remember good old days some more. One particular fight that came to my mind was Oscar DeLaHoya vs. Shane Mosley l that took place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles in June of 2000. It was a violent, high skill level and high drama, frantic pace battle. Sugar Shane Mosley was able to pull off a split decision victory with a spirited rally in the twelfth round. I remember feeling guilty about enjoying the violence in the ring and at the same time worrying about amount of hard punches each man had to absorb. I remember thinking that it really takes super human resolve and conditioning to be a professional prize fighter.

Jack Mosley remembered his son’s fight with Puerto Rican slick boxer, Wilfredo Rivera at Pechanga Resort and Casino in 1999. “I told Shane they have him winning the fight son,” said Mosley Sr.:” And Shane went out and knocked him out in the tenth round.” Aside from his son Jack Mosley reminisced about Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston fight. Ali looking down on his fallen prey and yelling:” Get up, get up!!!!” That was a long time ago. I wasn’t even three years old at the time and I wasn’t thinking about fistic combat.

HBO’s Max Kellerman didn’t have to think twice about his favorite fight.” Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo I,” said Max:” It’s the best action fight in recorded boxing history.” I remember watching this fight at my home on a big screen TV, getting up from my couch in the middle of the first round and thinking: ”Wow, here we go!”, standing on my feet and jumping around and screaming , bothering my wife, until a dramatic ending in the tenth. Veteran scribe David Avila agreed:” everybody expected it to be a war and it was and it even surpassed that. The drama, knockdowns… It was so exciting that you saw fighters that never really get excited running around the arena, jumping up and down. Fighters like James Toney and Winky Wright. They were like little children.”

“Ali Frazier I in Madison Square Garden in 1971,” said HBO’s Larry Merchant who got to interview “The Greatest” only a hundred times:” It was an extraordinary emotional time. The whole world seemed wired into that.” And the fight itself took both men to the brink of death and was probably only decided in the fifteenth round when Smoking’ Joe Frazier dropped Ali with a left hook. I was nine years old then and didn’t get to see my first fight till 1975, Ali Frazier III, a fight known as” The Trilla in Manila”. I watched that fight on a black and white TV at my grandmother’s house. I couldn’t fall asleep that night thinking about brutality and beyond human endurance and determination of both men. I became an instant boxing fan for life.

Thirty nine years later I was at the Mecca of boxing, MGM Grand Garden Arena enjoying Pacquiao Bradley II scrap. It was a good fight with high level of skills and intensity, but it lacked drama of Pacman fights of earlier days. The first fight with Marquez sticks out in my mind. Those were the days when Pacman was like a Pacific typhoon in the ring. Before anybody could blink Marquez was down three times. It was a miracle referee didn’t stop the fight then. Or maybe it was boxing gods smiling on fans and allowing history to create itself, because few rounds later I thought:” Wow, Marquez is in the fight!” And then a few more rounds later:” Wow Marquez is controlling this fight.” Judges scored it a draw, but fans are debating who the victor was till today.

 

Ring TV’s prolific scribe Lem Satterfield remembered watching Leonard Hearns when he was eighteen years old and how the roles reversed and Sugar ray Leonard became the puncher and Tommy Hearns turned into a boxer. “There was not one instant in that fight of let down,” said Satterfield.

However, Arguello vs. Pryor I is the most intense battle I have ever seen. I think I held my breath for the whole fourteen rounds and thought:” They can’t keep doing it!” And they kept doing it. That is my favorite fight of all times. What is yours?

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2014 in Professional Boxing

 

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Video

Interview with Larry Merchant

Larry Merchant talks about his favorite fight of all times as well as his favorite fighter as well as Pacquiao Bradley rematch

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in Professional Boxing

 

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