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January 21, 2018
January 21, 2018
Manny Pacquiao

Action Images/Reuters/Steve Marcus

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ON THIS DAY back in 2006, Manny Pacquiao’s reputation continued on its upwards trajectory as he avenged his defeat the year previously to Erik Morales, stopping the Mexican in the 10th round at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

Pacquiao defended his WBC International super featherweight belt that he had won the fight before, a 6th round stoppage win over Hector Velazquez and the contest was also an eliminator for the WBC title. Even so, to the majority, this was viewed as a world title fight.

After their first fight, which ended in a close unanimous decision in Morales’ favour, anticipation was high for the rematch and another clash between two of the biggest names in the smaller weight classes at the time.

Morales was already a three-weight champion, losing the super featherweight title in the final chapter of his famous trilogy with arch rival Marco Antonio Barrera and he was desperate to reclaim it. Pacquiao had won titles at different weights, and the aura surrounding him was growing at a rapid rate back in 2006.

The two entered the fight having both fought separate opponents in September 2005 on the same night. Pacquiao got the win over Velazquez, whilst “El Terrible” was defeated by Zahir Raheem as he stepped up to lightweight.

Following the defeat, many observers put their faith in “Pac-Man”, who made the weight with ease, whilst Morales struggled in camp and just squeezed inside the limit of 130lbs.

Pacquiao justified the faith, seemingly knocking Morales down twice early on, however the wily Mexican survived both attempts, when he held himself up on the ropes the first time around and then falling onto referee Kenny Bayless.

Pacquiao, who was guaranteed a $2 million purse, put his foot on the gas and really started to get to Morales, but the Mexican kept it close until the 10th round. Morales went down early and was quickly into survival mode.

But the unrelenting Pacquiao homed in on him, putting him down again heavily and forcing Bayless to stop the fight with 2:33 gone in what was to be the final round.

The Filipino moved to 41-3-2 whilst Morales slipped to 48-4 and the decline would continue for the future Hall of Famer.

He would take on Pacquiao again in October that year to lose his second trilogy, to go with the Barrera defeats, but this time he was stopped inside three rounds, before a loss to the lightweight champion David Diaz convinced him to announce his retirement. He did return three years later winning a light-welterweight title, but two defeats to Danny Garcia retired him for good in 2012.

After this win over Morales, Pacquiao had to wait two years to get his shot at the WBC title, where he beat Juan Manuel Marquez for the belt in the second fight of their long rivalry.

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January 20, 2018
January 20, 2018
Floyd Mayweather

Action Images/Reuters

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ON THIS DAY in 2001, a 23-year-old Floyd Mayweather, campaigning as a super-featherweight, met tall gunslinger Diego Corrales. What followed was, some experts say, Mayweather’s finest performance.

The anticipated thriller took place at The MGM Grand in Las Vegas, and “Pretty Boy,” as Mayweather Jnr was then known, defended his WBC super-featherweight title against the big-hitting warrior known as “Chico.”  The expected tough night for Floyd did not materialise. Instead, the bout turned out to be a one-sided beat-down in the favour of the unbeaten master from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Sporting a 24-0 record, Mayweather shone like never before. The tall and ultra-dangerous Corrales was coming off an impressive third-round stoppage of Angel Manfredy, and the undefeated 22-year-old  who was 33-0 had won six of his last seven by KO. The former IBF 126-pound ruler (title never lost in the ring), was widely expected to give the flashy, superbly-skilled Mayweather his toughest test yet. Some fans even went further, comparing the upcoming fight to the 1981 welterweight classic between Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns. Instead, though we saw a classic performance, no great fight was witnessed.

What we saw one man’s utter dominance over another at the highest level of the sport. Five times in all the freakishly brave Corrales hit the man – only to get up and fight back, or try to fight back, on each occasion. Corrales never won a round all night, and in the end, after the fifth knockdown, in the tenth-round, Diego’s corner threw in the towel. As was his warrior nature, Corrales went all-but berserk, chewing out his corner for coming to his rescue.

In actuality, though, Corrales was saved for another day. On this night he was never going to beat Mayweather. Of course, to this day, no man has bested Mayweather, but back when he was making a very good fighter look incredibly ordinary, Mayweather was busy meeting and defeating the best around. Today, some critics say the number-one fighter on the planet is guilty of “cherry picking” his opposition.

That accusation is another article altogether. But when Mayweather was willing to risk his perfect record against dangerous and risky punchers like Corrales, “Money” showed he is more than capable of rising to the occasion.

Since January 20th in 2001, Mayweather has boxed 24 times and he has claimed titles up at lightweight, light-welterweight, welterweight and light-middleweight compiling an overall 49-0 (26) ledger. However, some say he has never looked better than when he was chopping down Chico.

As for Corrales, he went on to engage in some fantastic wars; his 2005 epic with Jose Luis Castillo being a fight that will never be forgotten. Sadly, he left us far too young, when a motorbike accident took his life in 2007. Then aged just 29, Corrales’ final ring record reads 40-5 (33).

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January 20, 2018
January 20, 2018
ricky hatton

Action Images/Andrew Couldridge

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RICKY HATTON began the Las Vegas journey that captured the imagination of British boxing fans On This Day back in 2007, when he picked up his 42nd straight victory and the IBF light-welterweight belt, beating Juan Urango by a wide unanimous decision at the Paris Hotel.

It was Hatton’s debut in Vegas and the victory set the wheels in motion for a huge fight with Floyd Mayweather later in the year. “The Hitman” was fighting for the first time in seven months, since he captured the WBA welterweight title from Luis Collazo in Boston.

Hatton was making the step back down to light-welter and came up against Urango, the tough Colombian, who had made rapid progress through the pro ranks, to pick up the title Hatton had himself vacated in just his 18th fight.

Urango won the belt six months previously against Naoufel Ben Rabeh in Florida, but he wasn’t ready for the storm that Hatton brought to Las Vegas, including 3,000 screaming Brits who had made the trip over to the boxing capital.

The fight itself did fail to live up to expectations, with Hatton starting brightly, but tired badly as the fight went on. Urango tried to use his vaunted strength and bully Hatton, but in the end he rarely troubled the Manchester man.

Urango seemed overawed by the occasion early and was static in his movement, which left him easy to exploit. He did catch Hatton in the third and rattled him with some body shots in the fifth.

After 12 rounds, all three judges saw it exactly the same way, scoring it 119-109, and giving Hatton back the IBF belt, as well as the IBO belt that was also on offer.

Hatton went on to take on Jose Luis Castillo, who fought on the same bill that night at the Paris, at the Thomas & Mack Center in June, as the interest in a clash with Mayweather began to grow. Castillo, a former two time lightweight champion was no match for Hatton, who stopped him in the fourth to secure the huge clash with Mayweather.

Hatton went on to lose to Mayweather, before retiring in 2009, after a disastrous loss to Manny Pacquiao. He returned in 2012 in Manchester, but lost in his comeback to Vyacheslav Senchenko and decided to hang up his gloves for good.

THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF RICKY HATTON

Urango won the IBF belt back in 2009 in Montreal, beating Herman Ngoudjo on points. Ngoudjo, was also on the card the same night Hatton beat Urango, in a losing effort to Castillo. After re-claiming the title, Urango lost his next fight to WBC titlist Andre Berto, although his belt wasn’t on the line.

The Colombian did defend it next time out, knocking out Randall Bailey, before getting stopped himself for the first time in his career against Devon Alexander. Urango didn’t fight for two years after the loss, but returned in 2012 with two simple wins. He hasn’t fought since.

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January 19, 2018
January 19, 2018
Roy Jones Felix Trinidad

Action Images/Reuters/Ray Stubblebine

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ON This Day in 2008 the great Puerto Rican Felix “Tito” Trinidad entered the ring in for the last time in a losing effort to Roy Jones Jnr.

Trinidad, a three-weight world champion who was inducted into the Hall of Fame last year, was widely outpointed by Jones in his final fight at his home away from home, Madison Square Garden, losing 119-107, 116-110 and 116-110 on all three scorecards.

It was only “Tito’s” fifth fight since 2001, and the first time he would step between the ropes in two-and-a-half years following a lopsided decision loss to Ronald “Winky” Wright in a WBC eliminator.

The Puerto Rican remains one of the greatest fighters of the 90’s, with devastating power which was there for all to see during his remarkable reign as IBF welterweight champion, however he was way past his best – like Jones – by the time this fight occurred.

In a card billed as “Bring on the Titans”, both hardly entered the ring in sparkling form. Jones had lost his last three big fights, getting knocked out by Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson, as well as losing a return with Tarver, but was on a two-match winning streak, after points win over the unheralded pair of Prince Badi Ajamu and Anthony Hanshaw.

Nevertheless, in his understated way, promoter Don King announced that the fight between the decorated pair was a “dream match” and “the most remarkable thing out of my 40-year career”. The clash was set at a 170lb catchweight without a title on the line, marking it as the only time Trinidad ventured towards the light-heavyweight limit.

“Tito” started quickly and aggressively, probably taking the first two rounds, but Jones took control in the third and his confidence began to grow as the rounds went on, taunting Trinidad in the sixth and showing no effect from the Puerto Rican’s assault to the body.

A short right hook floored Trinidad in the seventh and “Tito” was down again in the 10th after another rapid combination. Trinidad survived till the final bell, but the usual cries of “Tito” that had echoed around the Garden were no more as he fell to one last defeat.

A crowd of 12,162 saw the fight live and it generated nearly $25 million in domestic television revenue, but the fight is not one that will linger long in the memory, especially for Trinidad fans.

He now holds his own place in Canastota at the Hall of Fame and is one of the greatest fighters to come off the boxing-mad island. As for Jones, he went on to lose his next fight to Joe Calzaghe and is still optimistically pluggin away.

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January 19, 2018
January 19, 2018
Sugar Ray Robinson

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IT has never actually been established who was the first critic to utter those immortal words “They never come back!” But whoever it was, he certainly knew what he was talking about. The pages of fistic history are full of great names such as Jim Corbett, Jim Jeffries, Joe Louis, Ezzard Charles, all of whom were world’s champions – but none of whom could beat Old Father Time.

Now a new name has been added to the list – Sugar Ray Robinson, former world’s welter and middleweight champ, who gave an inept display before being outpointed by Ralph “Tiger” Jones in front of 7,282 punters at the Chicago Stadium in Chicago, Illinois on January 19, 1955.

Jones had lost his previous five fights, and no one gave tuppence for his chances against Robinson, who was a 3-1 on favourite.

But this was not the old Sugar Ray. It was fantastic to watch him backing away from his opponent for practically all of the 10 rounds. Jones went to work right from the opening bell and punished Robinson freely, the latter finishing the first round with a bleeding nose.

Although he improved slightly in the following session, Ray was still on the receiving end. Soon he had a gash over the right eyebrow, which gave trouble throughout the bout.

Each round was a pattern of the former, Ray striving to keep out of trouble, and Jones plodding after him relentlessly. The former champ was pitifully slow, and Jones found no difficulty in belabouring him on the ropes with two-handed attacks.

In the last two sessions, when it was obvious that Robinson would have to knock his man out to win, we saw flashes of his old form. But these were all too few, and Jones was in no real trouble.

The “Tiger” was a unanimous winner, and hopes to get some lucrative matches as a result of his victory. He is nearly 27, and has only lost one fight inside the distance during five years as a pro. He has met Kid Gavilan and Joey Bratton, Danny Womber, and Bobby Dykes.

Robinson strongly denied that he now intends to retire. “I never figure to win them all,” he said. “You’ve got to figure you’ll get beat somewhere along the line. I don’t want to quit. This was a test. Like my manager said – just too tough for a second fight on a comeback.

“I knew it wasn’t good, but I thought I’d have some. I don’t know what I’ll do now. But I’m not through. More training and more fights.”

Why bother, Ray? Surely you don’t need the money.

For the record the referee was Frank Sikora who scored it 99-94 in Jones’ favour. Judges Ed Hintz and Howard Walsh had Jones by scores of 100-88 and 98-89 respectively.

The gross gate was $27,419 and the net gate was $22,778.

READ Sugar Ray Robinson: There will never be another

January 18, 2018
January 18, 2018
Oscar De La Hoya

USA Today Sports

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IT is a measure of the quality of WBC light-welterweight champion Oscar De La Hoya that his unanimous 12-round points win over previously undefeated challenger Miguel Angel Gonzalez at the Thomas and Mack Center was but a warm-up for big things.

For many, overcoming a man who had won 41 straight fights as a pro, including 11 for the WBC lightweight crown before weight problems forced him to vacate, would constitute the highlight of a career.

But such are the expectations now surrounding the “Golden Boy” that the win, De La Hoya’s 23rd in a row, seemed overshadowed by his next fight.

De La Hoya will now step up to challenge Pernell Whitaker for the WBC welterweight title.

Oscar’s chances against slippery southpaw Whitaker remain intriguingly uncertain after a performance which mixed some sublime skills with a caution not previously seen.

At times, 23-year-old De La Hoya could hardly miss with the left jab. He also jolted Gonzalez with some superb left hooks, which the Mexican did well to absorb without going down.

“When I move up to welterweight I will be even stronger than I am now,” he said, admitting he had sometimes had trouble preparing for Gonzalez because he was looking forward to Whitaker.

“Now I can focus on Pernell Whitaker. He is the best fighter in the world, a southpaw and very difficult.”

“Against Whitaker I will be in the best shape of my life. I’m not at all surprised that Miguel Angel Gonzalez took my punches. He is a warrior. He was unbeaten and had won a lot of fights.”

Gonzalez conceded: “I couldn’t cope with his jab. He was just too much tonight. He is a very strong fighter. Very strong, very fast and accurate.”

Confusion and controversy surrounded the other light-welterweight championship bout on the show with Kostya Tszyu’s IBF title defence against Leonardo Mas ending in a first-round technical draw (later changed to a no contest).

The brilliant Sydney-based Russian Tszyu, had already floored Mas twice when a big left hook sent the reluctant Puerto Rican to the deck just before the bell sounded to end the round.

Ref Joe Cortez sent 27-year-old Tszyu to a neutral corner and picked up the count which he completed during the interval.

It was then that things became complicated. Mas stayed sprawled out on the floor, raising himself onto one elbow to dab at his right eye with his left glove as Cortez attended to him and the crowd booed.

It soon became clear that Mas either could not or would not go on, but the way Tszyu was ordered to stay in the neutral corner by Cortez left the outcome in doubt.

At first it seemed Tszyu might be disqualified for landing the final punch after the bell – it did not seem late – but after several minutes it was announced that because Mas had been unable to continue as the result of “an unintentional illegal blow”, the result was declared a technical draw.

“The referee said that as it was an accidental foul, he would have given Mas five minutes to recover,” commented Marc Ratner, the Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic Commision.

“But the doctor said Mas had a possible dislocated jaw. He certainly couldn’t go on. Under our rules, and the IBF rules, it was a technical draw. If the fight had gone six full rounds, it would have gone to points.”

The draw enabled Tszyu to keep his crown, but he felt he had been robbed of a conclusive victory.

“I never heard the referee say anything” he protested. “I kept hitting him. This was wrong. I deserved the win.”

Tszyu rejected accusations that Mas was pretending to be hurt.

The Puerto Rican, who fights out of Miami, looked petrified from the start. It was so one-sided that it was only a question when Tszyu would nail Mas. After two knockdowns he was hanging on for dear life when Tszyu broke free long enough to bang in the big left hook which sent Mas down and began the controversy.

Atlanta Olympics bronze medallist Floyd Mayweather Jnr (19) scored his third win in as many pro fights, the second inside the distance, when he outclassed Jerry Cooper in the first of a scheduled four-rounder.

Las Vegas-based Mayweather – with uncles Jeff and Roger in his corner – calls himself “Pretty Boy” and is in no danger of having his features damaged by the likes of Cooper.

Jerry did not land a significant blow. Instead he was on the receiving end from the start, being jolted by a left jab in the opening seconds and then floored from the same blow to the body not long after.

He rose but was nailed with lefts and rights from the fast and accurate Mayweather.

Floyd banged the body to put him down again. He rose at three but referee Mitch Halpern sensibly waved it over.

“I just wanted to do something to get the crowd going and make them like me,” said Mayweather. “I went out there first to win and second to impress people.”

More starpower came in the form of the great light-flyweight champion Michael Carbajal lost his IBF title to Mauricio Pastrana via split decision on the show.

Also shining on the bill was a rising Puerto Rican welterweight prospect called Daniel Santos. He stopped fellow southpaw Reynaldo Ramirez. There were also successful outings for Stevie Johnston, Vassily Jirov and Butterbean on an unforgettable winter’s night on the Strip.

January 17, 2018
January 17, 2018
muhammad ali

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THERE wasn’t another like [Muhammad Ali]. Before the first fight, he was all mouth and saying, “I’ll stop Cooper in five but if he gives me asthma I’ll stop him in four”, that kind of thing. It used to go in one ear and out the other! A lot of the Americans talked more to their opponent than the British fighters but I used to ignore them. He used to try and call me everything but I knew it was putting bums on seats. People would ask if he was upsetting me and I’d say, ‘Let him carry on! I’m on a percentage as well!’ Everyone was buying seats.

We’d read about him and seen him on film beforehand. He had fast hands and he was fast on his bleeding feet. He could move fast and in a lot of his fights he never knocked people out, what he did was hit them with a series of punches, six or seven punches at a time, all in about three or four seconds, and the referee had to jump in and stop it because he didn’t want the opponents to be injured.

I was still confident and I thought I had the style, which I did, that he didn’t like. I didn’t stand off him, I took the fight to him and you have to because he was six-foot three in them days and he had the long reach so if I stood off him and tried to box, he’d have poked my head off. So that’s why I had to trap him in corners and on the ropes to stop his mobility.

I knew that if I’d have hit him with that left hook that I hit him with 15 seconds earlier, and he’d have been in the middle of the ring, he’d have gone down heavy. He’d have hit his head on [the canvas] and that would have knocked him a bit more silly. Unfortunately, the ropes let him down gently; he went from the top rope to the middle rope to the bottom. That’s just how it goes.

He always praised me [afterwards], and he never knocked me. He paid me the greatest compliment when he said “That left hook that Cooper hit me with didn’t only shake me, it shook my relations in Africa.” That’s a good line!

For the second fight we had the weigh-in at the Palladium and I was confident. For the first three or four rounds, I was a bit short in my punches and the next round or so I started connecting and got my distance.

I thought I was holding my own and I thought I was going to go and win. And then, suddenly, bosh, he’d cut me. Ali had this habit of knocking punches down. He’d see a punch coming and he’s gone to stop one of my punches and he’s chopped me right across the eye with his glove.

I always knew when I had a bad cut if it dripped and it was warm blood. I knew then I was in trouble. You then have to do things out of sequence that you wouldn’t do if you were not in trouble.

I was gutted because I’d trained hard and I went in there confident thinking I could beat him but, once again, it wasn’t to be. Them two cuts I had in the Ali fights were the two worst cuts I ever had in boxing. Ali wasn’t a puncher, he was a flicker and he dragged your skin with his gloves. I had 40 stitches in the eye with a plastic surgeon. They stitched the top of the cut and the inside of the cut.

henry cooper

I followed his career, of course I did. He had four fights he shouldn’t have had at the end and he had no need to have them. He fought Larry Holmes and Holmes gave him a systematic beating. Holmes said twice in that fight, “Ref, stop the fight”. That fight tipped him over.

Ali was very unorthodox in the ring. If I saw a punch coming I’d move to the side but when he saw punch he’d move his head back, when another one came he’d move back further and when he couldn’t get back any further he would turn his head. He took a lot of punches on the back of the neck that killed off some brain cells – his doctor told me that himself. His doctor said that Ali had two or three too many fights at the end of his career.

When I boxed him he was six-foot three, he had the longest reach, he weighed 15-stone, Christ he was marvellous. Then when I see him now, he’s all bent over and he has dark glasses on. They introduced me to him and I told him it was lovely to see him but he is so small now. It’s a shame to see that when you think of what he was like. He was the fastest-moving heavyweight of all time, no heavyweight moved like he did on their feet. He was above any heavyweight. He did things that nobody else could do – if I’d have done them I’d have got caught, but he got away with them because he was so good.