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November 9, 2018
November 9, 2018
Evander Holyfield

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THE fight with Tyson in 1996 was the most satisfying night of my career because everything I had ever done was built up to that moment. Whatever I achieved it was always being compared to Mike Tyson. It was always, “well you can’t beat Tyson” I think there is one person in everyone’s life who you have to face to pass the test. And Mike Tyson was the guy who everyone put before me, “you beat Buster Douglas but you can’t beat Mike Tyson.” But I was able to do that and it kind of got the monkey off my back.

“So when I beat him it gave me a lot of peace.

“We were in camp for about six or seven weeks. I was specific about being fast so we worked on speed in training. The thing is with Mike is that he’ll try and jump on you and hit you with the big shots right from the start. So we practised for everything he may do; he fights in spurts, so we practised in high energy spurts. That is how Mike fought, he would come out crazy, then he would slow down for a while, then he’d come in crazy again. We concentrated everything we did on how Tyson fights. We used short powerful sparring partners with that in mind – Jerry Bell and David Tua.

“Realistically, Mike was the guy who I expected to go to the Olympics with in 1984. We trained together and all that. I had pretty much seen all his fights since then. Ultimately, the two best guys have to fight each other; I know what the game of boxing is and it is fortunate to have somebody as good as you in your division because that is where you make money. You don’t make a lot of money just by beating everybody and I was fortunate enough to have about six or seven people in my division that were very capable fighters.

“I realised that a person like Tyson was like a bully, and all my life, me and bullies just didn’t get along get well. I realise that they can only take from people who they feel they can take advantage of. I’m not taking anything away from his ability, but I realised that I could take his shots, but could he take mine? But bullies don’t like people to fight back, they just like people to get out of the way.

“If you notice in that fight, I am the one who engaged, I made it happen because if you give any sign that you’re caving into him or take a step back, he gets stronger so I realised I wasn’t going to do that.

Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield

“He didn’t hurt me. I’m not saying he didn’t hit hard, he did, but I’m not going to say he hit harder than anyone else. I’ve been hit hard by a lot of people and of course, the best thing is not to get hit. The art is not to see how hard he hits, but to see how he reacts when I hit him. Every time he did connect with a punch, I wanted to make sure I got in the last punch. It is important to get in the last punch because it is the last punch that you remember. So in every round, I made sure I landed the last punch so he can think about how hard it was.

“He changed his attitude. Tyson gave off those signs of distress when he kept complaining to the referee. He twisted my arm, so I twisted his arm back and he complains to the referee. Hey, he twisted my arm first! You have to fight fire with fire; you can’t just say ‘okay’ and let it happen. He headbutted me on purpose a couple of times – I didn’t tell the referee. He would push off and put his elbow in my face so I did the same thing back. Whatever he did to me, I did it right back. Shoot, if you want to play that way then we can do it that way. I didn’t try to do it sneaky, if you do it to me, I’ll do it right back. I wasn’t going to involve the referee because to me, it didn’t matter. Mike looked at me and I looked at Mike, I made it clear that whatever he did, however he played, I would do it all night.

“I dropped him in the sixth round with a body shot and to the top of the chest. I realised that a race is not won until you cross that line. I remember when John Tate fought Mike Weaver and he got hit with an uppercut. Tate had won that fight but he got caught in the last round and fell flat on his face. With that in mind, I knew the fight wasn’t over until it’s over. Realistically I knew that Tyson was a man that had to be respected because every time he threw, he was trying to knock you out.

“By the 10th I knew that he was done. I was surprised that he came out for the 11th round because he was still so dazed. I started jabbing because I knew that I didn’t have to get in close because he would be swinging hard, I could stay outside. I wanted him to reach for me with the jab, which he did. He put the jab out and all of a sudden I hit him with the right hand and he went staggering sideways. I knew that was it. Even if I had to keep throwing hard shots for the rest of the round that is what I was going to do.

“After I had won I thought ‘okay, I did it. Everyone said I couldn’t do it.’ Maybe it didn’t happen in 1991, but it happened in 1996. Out of all my victories at heavyweight, that was the most exciting one to me.”

Holyfield-Tyson was ranked No.25 in the Boxing News 100 Greatest Fights of All-Time. Order your copy here

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November 8, 2018
November 8, 2018
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Action Images/Andrew Couldridge

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OCTOBER 8, 2008 was a day the legend Joe Calzaghe said goodbye, and perhaps the other legend he shared the ring with that day should have too.

Joe Calzaghe got the better of Roy Jones Jnr at Madison Square Garden with a unanimous points decision to retain the linear light-heavyweight belt he won from Bernard Hopkins earlier that year and leave boxing with an unblemished 46-0 record.

All three judges gave it 118-109 to the Welshman who was relentless throughout and eventually overwhelmed Jones, whose slide from the top of the boxing tree was well and truly underway, although he did put Calzaghe down in the first.

Save for that one flash of brilliance from Jones, he offered little else during the 12 rounds, and the blurring speed, dazzling combinations and sharp skills that he was known for were nowhere to be seen on what was a disastrous night for him.

Calzaghe rode off into the sunset, one of the few world champions to ever retire on top, with an undefeated record to boot, and while Jones is still trying to regain past glories, Calzaghe is content and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in Canastota.

It was a big fight in the USA and Calzaghe had already announced it as his farewell performance due to a lack of legitimate challenges. He had already beaten Hopkins in Vegas, and the Philadelphian was ringside in the hope of snaring the eventual winner.

Both weighed in at 174.5lbs and entered the Garden in confident moods. Calzaghe started fast, but a flashy left-right combination from Jones had him stunned on the canvas. He said after, “I was stunned. He hit me with a good shot. But that’s what a champion’s all about. When I fall, I come back stronger.”

That he did. Calzaghe found his feet in the second and his rhythm in the third, firing in fast combinations and backing Jones towards the ropes. The American showed some bravado, screaming “come on” to Calzaghe, but the Welshman’s onslaught continued and Jones must have been wishing he was anywhere but New York.

To compound the misery for Jones he suffered a cut and had to fight the majority of the second half of the fight with a closed left eye. When the final bell rang, Jones raised his arm to, if anything, persuade himself that he might have won, but there was absolutely no doubt who the victor was.

Calzaghe retired immediately after the fight, although in his post-fight interview he didn’t fully confirm that this was to be his intention. He remains one of the greatest British fighters of all-time.

As for Jones, following the fight he said, “I’ll go back and talk to my team, talk to my family and see how I feel. If I feel good, I’ll continue to fight.”

Joe Calzaghe

Needless to say he carried on and is still active, winning his last five fights and fighting up at cruiserweight. Jones has looked the shell of his former self, ever since Antonio Tarver knocked him out back in 2004 but, despite regular calls for him to retire, he continues to believe he can be a world champion again.

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November 7, 2018
November 7, 2018
Joe Frazier

Presse Sports/USA Today Sports

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JOE FRAZIER passed away on November 7, 2011. Here is our tribute to the heavyweight great as it appeared in the November 10, 2011 issue of Boxing News.

THE legend of Smokin’ Joe Frazier will live for as long as boxing bobs and weaves its maverick way forward into whatever craziness the future holds.

Frazier the man died on the night of Monday, November 7, aged 67, his body worn out by his last battle with cancer, and for anyone who can recall what it was like to be around when he was in his prime, the news was terribly sad.

For with Frazier’s passing we, who were once so very young, lost something of ourselves.

Frazier’s finest hour came, of course, at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 1971, when, in boxing’s first million dollar gate since Joe Louis fought Billy Conn, he reached out and touched greatness, hooking and slashing away at Muhammad Ali for 15 long, bitter rounds.

Sometimes a landmark occasion is just that, only that. This time it was also one of the most exciting, most gruelling fights in boxing history, with Ali hurting Frazier in the fifth and, in particular, the ninth when his raking punches had Joe bleeding from the nose and mouth.

In the end, though, Frazier was young enough, strong enough, blessed with the madness of youth enough, to carry out the menacing instructions of his trainer, the great Yank Durham.

“Get on his ass,” said Durham before the first bell. “Work him ’til he don’t want no more.”

And he did, oh, how he did.

Frazier said in his autobiography that nothing fazed him, he didn’t see any faces except Ali’s, didn’t hear anything.

“My focus,” he said, “was on the jiveass sucker in red velvet trunks.”

It was brutal, magnificently so. And the image that has stayed with me all these years was the sight of the knockdown in the last round when Frazier’s left hook finally put Ali down, the right side of his face already swelling, and the tassels on his boots twirling.

Ali got up, of course, hauled himself back to his unsteady legs, and saw it through, but it was Frazier’s night. At one point he had asked Durham what was keeping Ali up. Well, that was his greatness too, but the final bell came and Smokin’ Joe, for too long the butt of Ali’s jokes and insults, sneered at him. It was done.

“I was 27 years old,” he recalled. “And there would never be another night like it in my life.”

joe frazier

Both went away to hospital, and Frazier stayed there for six days, exhausted and with his kidneys malfunctioning. Time passed, he recovered, and as we know, fought on and on through the second and third fights with Ali, but Smokin’ Joe’s hour had already been and gone.

He lost the rematch in January 1974, and of course was pulled out of the Thrilla In Manila in October 1975 when Eddie Futch, who had succeeded Durham as main man in his corner, pulled him out after the 14th round with the words, now grown immortal: “Sit down son, it’s over. Nobody will ever forget what you did here today.”

Frazier was born in Beaufort County, South Carolina, in January 1944 to parents who worked 10 acres of poor farmland, trying to persuade enough cotton and melons to grow to feed the family. When times got especially hard, they would work for white farmers, who had the more productive soil.

When he was 15, Joseph William Frazier decided there must be more than this, and set off on a Greyhound bus for New York City. He got a job in a Coca-Cola plant, another on a construction site, then moved on to Philadelphia where he looked up a relative and found another job in a slaughterhouse. In his spare time, to get his weight down, he went to the Police Athletic League gym and met Durham and his sidekick Duke Dugent. The rest is history, as we like to say.

He lost to Buster Mathis in the 1964 Olympic Trials, but when Mathis broke a hand, Joe got the call. He was on the plane to Tokyo. He won gold, ignoring a broken thumb in the semi-finals to take a 3-2 split over a German, Hans Huber, in the final.

Today’s so-called elite athletes might pause a moment to consider this. When he got home there were no sponsors, no funding from government, no soft jobs that allowed him to concentrate on training. Frazier worked for $2.50 an hour with a removal firm. He took another one as a janitor. When he made his professional debut with a first-round stoppage of Woody Goss he picked up $125. Huge money, no doubt.

It was not until he had four wins in the bag that he was put on a salary by a group of businessmen calling themselves the Cloverlay Syndicate. He had to learn the job and it wasn’t always easy, in spite of the fire in his belly. Oscar Bonavena knocked him down twice, but Frazier won a split decision. He had to go through old-timers like Doug Jones and Eddie Machen, and the tough-nut Canadian, George Chuvalo. Nobody, but nobody, stopped Chuvalo. Frazier did.

When Ali lost his licence and livelihood over his Vietnam stance, the World Boxing Association organised a tournament to find his successor. Frazier stayed out of it, which hurt it. Instead he got the backing of the New York State Athletic Commission and, in March 1968, overcame old amateur rival Buster Mathis in 11 rounds.

As the WBA tournament meandered on, and eventually produced the talented, colourless Jimmy Ellis, Ali’s old sparring partner, as its champion, Frazier made his reputation, winning a couple of mismatches but also bludgeoning Jerry Quarry until the Californian’s right eye shut and he could no longer see the left hooks smashing into his face. And Frazier beat Bonavena again, this time over 15 rounds.

The Ellis fight was a unification natural. (In those days, they happened). I remember watching that on TV, Frazier’s rolling, relentless attacks and heavy left hooks dropping Ellis twice and forcing his retirement.

If it was a display of left-hooking you wanted to see, then the near-execution of light-heavyweight champion Bob Foster in November 1970 in Detroit was about as perfect, as ruthlessly exciting, as it gets. He was, very suddenly, at the top of his game.

And so they made the Fight of the Century with Ali, who had come back from his three-year exile to cut up Quarry and stop Bonavena. Ringside seats were $150, each man was guaranteed $2.5 million, and they delivered. Ali’s ceaseless taunting of Frazier seemed playful to some, but there was a searing, nasty edge to it. Frazier was a Baptist, Ali a member of the Nation of Islam, and noisy, belligerent supporter of the African-American revolution that had been gathering pace for the past decade or so.

As is the way of these things, quieter voices get drowned out. Frazier didn’t speak his mind on such things, or if he did, very few heard him. But when Ali taunted him, made him seem slow-witted, politically and morally stupid, Frazier’s anger festered. And the years did not ease it.

joe frazier 2

In his almost painfully slow old age Frazier refused to bend. In a documentary near the end of his life, he looked at the images of Ali, by now confined by the mask of Parkinson’s Disease, and showed no sorrow.

Some were shocked when he said, slowly, deliberately, without sympathy: “I did that to him. I did that.”

Several times Ali tried to mend the damage, to build the bridges and make friends. Frazier would have none of it. The rage still burned and it seems he did not want to extinguish it.

After he beat Ali, he cashed in. He took his soul band The Knockouts to Europe for a fun tour, he had a couple of ridiculous defences against the horribly overmatched Terry Daniels and Ron Stander.

He enjoyed himself, felt, no doubt, as unbeatable as unbeaten fighters do. And he failed to notice George Foreman sneaking up from the Mexico City Olympics, where he succeeded Frazier as the best amateur heavyweight in the world, all the way to Kingston, Jamaica, in January 1973.

Foreman hadn’t lost, had mostly battered and clobbered opposition that was often modest and sometimes not even that.

Almost everyone picked Smokin’ Joe to blast the big, robotic young man into oblivion, and the shock of the knowledge that he had lost inside two rounds to Foreman – not just lost, but had been knocked down six times, once even hit so hard that his feet came up off the canvas in a kind of hop – was incredible. Smokin’ Joe, who had destroyed Ali, was just too tough for that kind of thing to happen.

And yet it had, and we just couldn’t have known that emotionally he just wasn’t the same man any more. The youth had left him. Once he had beaten Ali, there was nothing to inspire him any more.

As we know he went on. After all, he wasn’t even 30 yet. He came to London, had a hard time subduing an on-form Joe Bugner, then lost the rematch with Ali, who almost stopped him in the second round.

He was still too good for Jerry Quarry and Jimmy Ellis, both of whom he stopped. Then came Manila and the magnificence of the third Ali fight, for the heavyweight championship after Ali’s own crazy, beautiful destruction of Foreman in Zaire. By that autumn of 1975, both were declining, but still filled with enough talent and greatness to let it all out just once more. Ali won, but admitted he almost lost. They had to drag him up off his stool and he collapsed when he realised that Frazier had retired and it was over. Ali called it The Near Room, the place next to death.

They both should have finished then. Both went on. Frazier seemed barely recognisable when he took on Foreman in a place called Uniondale in June 1976. He had shaved his head, was thicker-set, slowed, horribly flawed. Foreman took five to stop him this time.

Against the wishes of his family, Joe gave it one last try after five and a half years in retirement. Nobody apart from him could see the point. We hoped he wouldn’t get hurt. Maybe that fight, a 10-round draw with heavy-handed ex-convict Floyd “Jumbo” Cummings, took something from him. Maybe it didn’t. If he’d won, he would have boxed on. If he had lost, well, nobody wanted to see him lose.

In retirement he bought the gym where he had worked in those early years. Boxing, after all, was all he knew. He trained his sons Marvis and Hector – but came out of it badly when he matched Marvis with heavyweight champion Larry Holmes and had to watch him blasted out in one round. Marvis would eventually take over the gym that bore the family name, and Joe would sit and watch the fighters work. At one point he had living quarters there too.

Quite what he thought when his daughter, Jacqueline, boxed Laila Ali, Muhammad’s daughter, over eight two-minute rounds in a weird commemmoration of their fathers’ epic fight of three decades before, I can’t imagine.

And so he went on into the twilight years, looking older, sounding older, sometimes, it was said, struggling to cope, but always – always – the same, the great Smokin’ Joe.

My own memory of him was from Madison Square Garden, in 1995 at an Oscar De La Hoya fight. I was standing in the media area when I felt two hands on my shoulders.

“Excuse me, my man, just coming through…”

joe frazier

I turned, half-surprised, to find the great man, squeezing by to find his own seat. He grabbed my hand, shook it, said something that should have, but didn’t, stick in my memory.

That’s maybe as it should be, but what can never be erased is the sight of Frazier, that long-ago night in the spring of 1971, blazing forward, his face a mass of lumps and bruises, doing to the man we still call The Greatest what no man had done before.

Ali prayed for him in his final hours. And so, I’m sure, did so many more of us.

November 6, 2018
November 6, 2018
Canzoneri-INP-BN

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EX-SHOESHINE boy Tony Canzoneri was a brilliant box-fighter who contested world championships at four weights, was the world’s champion at three of them and became the first man in the history of the ring to win the world lightweight title twice. He still holds the record for the quickest knockout in a world lightweight title bout when he stiffened champion Al Singer in 66 seconds in November 1930. All-in-all Canzoneri beat thirteen different world champions and was only stopped once, in his very last fight.

Born in Slidell in Louisiana in November 1908 of Italian parentage Canzoneri’s family moved to New Orleans when he was two. He followed his elder brother Joe to the Gayosa Gym when he was 11 years old and came under the tutelage of ex-world bantamweight champion Pete Herman. The family then moved on to New York and settled in Brooklyn where Tony continued his amateur career, winning the New York State bantamweight title when he was just 15.

A year later in July 1925 Canzoneri lied about his age and turned professional with a 22 second knockout of Jack Gardner in New York. He never looked back. He ran up an unbeaten run of 31 fights with three draws and two no-decisions. By 1927 Canzoneri was ready to fight for his first world title. He boxed a draw with Bud Taylor in Chicago. Three months later, in the rematch, the teak tough Taylor took the title on a points decision. The growing Canzoneri was only 18 but after that defeat decided to move up to featherweight. His unique ring style was now fully developed. Standing 5ft 4ins with a 63 inch reach, the barrel chested Canzoneri had a huge upper body perched on spindly legs. He used minimum footwork and shuffled forward with his left hand dangling at knee level. Seemingly wide open he had lightning reflexes and dazzling hand speed and often, instead of jabbing, would attack with a sweeping left hook. With a solid chin and great stamina, Canzoneri also enjoyed a good tear up and rightly became a hugely popular performer in the New Madison Square Garden. He won his first world title before his 19th birthday by outscoring 300 plus fight veteran Johnny Dundee “The Scotch Wop” for the featherweight crown. A year later, struggling with weight problems, he lost the title to old foe Andre Routis and moved up to terrorise the lightweights. He was undefeated in his first 12 fights yet failed to beat tricky Sammy Mandell for the title in Chicago in 1929. He fought Britain’s whirlwind Jack “Kid” Berg but was outpointed. By the end of 1930 had knocked out Al Singer in a round to win the world lightweight title. He met Berg in a re-match for two titles as Berg had recently won the junior-welterweight title. In a stunning display, Canzoneri flattened Berg in the third round to become a dual champion. In the rubber match, as fiercely fought as the others, Canzoneri edged out a 15 round decision.

The last eight years of his phenomenal career saw Canzoneri continuously winning and losing titles in some rousing battles. He lost the junior-welterweight crown to Johnny Jadick, being outpointed twice but defended the lightweight crown successfully against tough Billy Petrolle and the “Cuban Bon Bon” Kid Chocolate. But he couldn’t master the talented Barney Ross and lost both titles to him in 1933. Ross also won the rematch.

Canzoneri kept fighting and surprised everyone by winning the lightweight title for the second time against Lou Ambers, whose nickname “the Herkimer Hurricane” fully described his boxing style. It was the first of a trio of fights between the two, each as savage as the other. Ambers took the title back in September 1936 and retained it again the following year. During this time Canzoneri split two decisions with the great Jimmy McLarnin but his title days were over. He retired after being stopped by Al “Bummy” Davis in Madison Square Garden after a 14 year career. He worked as an actor in vaudeville, did some cabaret work and opened a successful restaurant on Broadway called Tony Canzoneri’s Paddock Bar. He didn’t own the bar as his ring earnings had long since vanished because of an expensive divorce and some extravagant living but he was paid for the use of his name and was on hand to greet customers. Sadly Canzoneri did not enjoy a long life, dying of a heart attack in the Hotel Bryant, just off Broadway. He was only 51.

Tony Canzoneri was ranked No.17 in the Boxing News 100 Greatest Fighters of All-Time. Order your copy here

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November 6, 2018
November 6, 2018
Evander holyfield

Action Images/Reuters/Gary Hershorn

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BOXING has never seen a stranger incident. About a minute into the seventh round of Riddick Bowe’s rematch with Evander Holyfield at the open-air Caesars Palace arena in Las Vegas on November 6, 1993, a “lunatic parasailer” crash-landed ringside to create “the most dramatic occasion in the history of boxing,” according to Harry Mullan’s ringside report.

James Miller, 30, disturbed what was a “magnificent championship battle” for Bowe’s WBA and IBF heavyweight titles. The delay took 22 minutes, and MC Michael Buffer kept the crowd of 14,242 calm by talking to them throughout.

When the action continued, Holyfield worked toward another unforeseen event by outpointing Bowe on a majority decision to become only the third man in history to regain world heavyweight honours, with Floyd Patterson and Muhammad Ali being the first two.

Evander Holyfield

Holyfield’s performance in a thrilling fight made the night “unforgettable anyway,” besides Miller’s bizarre intervention.

Bowe had unanimously outpointed Holyfield the year before, leading Evander to be considered as the underdog heading into the rematch.

However, under new trainer Emanuel Steward, the 31-year-old outboxed and outgunned a “bloated” Bowe by sticking to a measured game plan, and the pair tried to continue scrapping after the final bell.

The third and final chapter of their fierce trilogy happened two years later, when Bowe became the first man to stop ‘The Real Deal’ Holyfield.

November 5, 2018
November 5, 2018
George Foreman

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DUBBED “One For The Ages,” Michael Moorer vs George Foreman took place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on November 5, 1994 and not only were the WBA and IBF belts on the line, the lineal title was also at stake; Moorer having become “The man who beat the man,” with his April 1994 upset win over Evander Holyfield.

26-year-old Moorer was unbeaten at 35-0 at the time of his maiden title defence and he had made history with the points win over Holyfield, becoming the first ever southpaw heavyweight champion. 45-year-old Foreman was 72-4 and he was seeking some history making of his own; that of becoming the oldest man to ever hold the world heavyweight crown.

Foreman was only a slight betting underdog according to the Vegas bookmakers, who had Moorer as a 2-1 favourite to retain his belts. However, in terms of expert opinion, “Big” George was a huge outsider – as HBO commentator Larry Merchant put it, “George was a gazillion-to-one to win this fight.”

Merchant didn’t stop there. “George has sweatshirts older than Moorer,” he said. Merchant also applauded Foreman for the sheer strength of his will and for his refusal to ever take a backward step.

‘It was a special moment’ – Foreman opens up to Matt Christie about Michael Moorer, Joe Frazier and more

Before the fight, Foreman and Moorer’s trainer Teddy Atlas got into a brief spat, with Atlas losing his cool in the build-up to the fight and shoving Foreman. “Go get me a sandwich and sit down,” responded Foreman, who refused to lose his own composure.

Also before the fight, as a result of the WBA refusing to sanction the fight, Foreman had to go to court to fight for his chance to fight. George won on the grounds of age discrimination. However, Foreman then had to prove to the court that he was still in possession of his mental sharpness along with his physical wellbeing. To prove his mental faculties, in particular his memory, George listed for the court, in reverse order, all serving Presidents of The United States.

Running into the ring on his entrance, Foreman wore the same red shorts he’d donned when losing his heavyweight championship to Muhammad Ali twenty years and one week previously. “They made me look a little chubby,” George later said, “but I had to make sure I came in as heavyweight champion.”

Also conjuring up memories of “The Rumble in The Jungle” was the presence of legendary corner-man Angelo Dundee. Back in Zaire in 1974, Dundee was, of course, in Ali’s corner. Now he was giving Foreman his words of wisdom on how to overcome the odds.

Moorer got off to a great start, cracking Foreman with right jabs, hooks to the jaw and also scoring with brutal uppercuts that snapped the old man’s head back. Behind on points at the conclusion of the ninth round, Foreman needed a KO lest his unlikely dream would become a nightmare. Reaching back in time, Foreman found a right hand bomb that sent Moorer crashing to his back in the 10th. “It happened,” bellowed HBO’s Jim Lampley, as a concussed Moorer was unable to rise before the count of 10.

Foreman knelt in a prayer of thanks in a corner seconds after he’d regained his crown. Foreman’s brother, Roy, fainted a few moments later. The crowd went into a complete frenzy. “Has this finally exorcised the ghost of Ali?” Merchant asked Foreman in the post-fight interview. A beaming Foreman knew his demons had forever vanished.

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November 4, 2018
November 4, 2018
reu_244177-2

Action Images/Reuters/Steve Marcus

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ORIGINAL BOXING NEWS FIGHT REPORT, November 4 2006

PERHAPS he was just tired, emotional and hurting, but Floyd Mayweather’s insistence that he would retire after his next fight had a petulant ring to it, as if he felt under-valued and therefore wanted to punish his unappreciative audience.

The bottom line is that if Mayweather really wanted to retire, he would have announced just that.

At the precise moment that he took the dais to talk to the media following his predictably one-sided points win over Carlos Baldomir at the Mandalay Bay, no doubt he meant what he said and therefore was not being deliberately disingenuous, but what he actually did was threaten to quit.

The details of when, where and how, even why, mattered little once he said he would box again, even once.

Like many other masters of a sporting art, Mayweather is blessed or cursed, depending on your view of how much it contributes to his ability to succeed, with a fragile ego.

In the immediate aftermath of his hour on stage, perhaps Mayweather felt the urge to warn those who did not respond with a sufficient level of adulation that they ought to sharpen up before it’s too late.

This kind of ploy doesn’t really work. Each generation of boxing heroes is replaced one way or another. Some lose their talents, some just get old, some retire, some are broken by the business itself.

Mayweather will go, one way or another, and there isn’t really any point in threatening to do what is inevitable anyway.

In the mercenary light of another Las Vegas morning, it might also be considered that this was a negotiating ploy in the long-running saga of his proposed fight with Oscar De La Hoya.

Mayweather and his then-promoter Bob Arum began talking up the idea three years ago when he was about to move up from lightweight.

Following Mayweather’s welterweight win over Zab Judah and De La Hoya’s light-middleweight masterclass against Ricardo Mayorga in the spring of this year, it was talked about for September 15, but an agreement could not be reached.

In the week before the Baldomir fight, next May seemed a probable target, the major question apparently being how the fighters should divide the suggested $50m fortune the occasion might generate.

By declaring he would retire after one more fight in February, it might be seen that Mayweather’s emotional outburst was just a fairly weak attempt to force De La Hoya’s hand.

Or maybe, if he really did mean it, having a taste of boxing a physically strong welterweight in Baldomir, at that precise moment Mayweather was too tired to contemplate the idea of boxing a light-middleweight as good as De La Hoya still is.

For the record anyway, whatever it turns out to mean, it is worth reporting that Mayweather did say he had first thought about retiring after beating Judah in April, and the Baldomir experience had merely firmed this up.

“All I have is one more fight and that’s it,” he said. “Then I’m walking away. I love this sport and it’s been very good to me.

“I’ve been blessed with the talent to do what I do and I’m very happy right now. I don’t need boxing anymore and I don’t need the money anymore.

“I have so much money, I couldn’t spend it in a million lifetimes.

“Boxing got me from the ghetto to the suburbs and I’ve accomplished everything I want to accomplish. I’ll go out on top. I fought everybody they put in front of me and I beat them all. I haven’t ducked anybody.”

He acknowledged he might change his mind but added: “Right now I have nothing else to prove, nothing else to accomplish. I don’t need this anymore.”

For some reason he believed critics had been saying Baldomir would be too strong for him. Not so. Almost everyone felt the rugged, one-paced Argentine would work hard and be systematically out-boxed.

The only pre-fight discussion centred on how much Mayweather might be able to hurt him, confuse him, how decisive the victory would be.

The four-weight champion, here challenging for Baldomir’s WBC belt, was 1-5 favourite.

Mayweather’s take was very different. “He was supposed to be too big, too strong, too powerful,” he said. “And look what I did.”

While still in the ring, Mayweather lost his cool when HBO interviewer Larry Merchant was less than enthusiastic about his performance, demanding he be positive, babbling rapidly but declaring: “Floyd Mayweather’s here to stay. Larry Merchant’s just a commentator. He don’t know nothing about boxing.”

Perhaps it was this serious ruffling that prompted the “retirement” speech a little later.

Baldomir ruefully acknowledged he could make no serious impression on the 29-year-old from Michigan.

“He was too fast and I couldn’t catch him, I felt sluggish and didn’t have any strength,” he said, before acknowledging that the year 2006 had changed his life.

At the age of 35, he has made his fortune in WBC title wins over Judah and Arturo Gatti and now this fight with Mayweather, grossing in turn $100,000, $1m and $1.5m. That’s a long way from scraping together a meagre living from selling homemade feather dusters on the streets of Santa Fe.

Sometimes he even took a bag of dusters with him when he fought, so he could pass through the crowd and try to sell a few more.

In fact, it would have been entirely understandable if it were Baldomir, not Mayweather, who had explained his intentions to retire.

“It’s been a great year,” he said. “I’m 35. I accomplished a lot. I beat Judah and Gatti and I’ve fought a great fighter.”

In the media room, there was a moment of fun when Baldomir spoke in Spanish and the translator said something like, “I gave of my best and I lost to the best in the world.”

A woman, presumably Spanish speaking, called out: “He didn’t say that!” Anything from there on was lost in translation.

Mayweather also said he hurt his right hand, a chronic problem, in the middle of the fight. He guessed at round six. This made some sense because he threw it less as the fight wore on, and although he won beyond argument, it became physically more gruelling for him as Baldomir closed him down the stretch.

At the end, it was just a matter of how much credit you wanted to give Baldomir for his pressure: judges John Keane and Chuck Giampa gave him none, with 120-108 while Paul Smith was a touch more generous: 118-110. I was more in line with the latter.

The CompuBox punchstats were a surprise. My impression was that Baldomir had landed more than the 79 punches he was given credit for over the whole 12 rounds (out of 670 thrown). Mayweather scored with 199 of 458.

The gist of it reflected what happened though: Mayweather was much more precise, accurate and economical, while Baldomir never stopped trying.

The weights were interesting. At the weigh-in 30 hours before the first bell, Baldomir was on the 10st 7lbs limit, Mayweather comfortable at 10st 6lbs.

When they were weighed as they entered the hall, Mayweather had put on only 3lbs at 10st 9lbs. Baldomir was a whopping 11st 8lbs, a rise of 15lbs.

When they actually fought, it was a welterweight against a middleweight.

Mayweather’s ring entrance was tacky in the extreme. Perched on a bizarre throne, clad in gold-painted fake body armour, holding a gladiator’s helmet in his glove, he was carried into the arena proceeded by three women carrying flowers. Not sure why. Like everybody else, Baldomir walked in.

In the first clinch, Baldomir landed a right hand, but once the round got underway properly Mayweather pecked way with feeling-out jabs, feinting, making him miss, pulling away from sweeping left hooks, coming inside looping rights, and countering. His best shot of the round was a fast right hook. Baldomir finished the session with a graze over his left eye.

Mayweather seemed to feel the weight of a right over the top in round two, and he took a couple of left hooks to the body, but his better foot work already made the WBC champion lunge in.

Although it was an improvement on round one for Baldomir, the pattern was set: he threw more, landed a lot less, Mayweather outboxed him, mostly with single punches.

In the third, after using jabs for the first minute, Mayweather demonstrated his defensive expertise when he was trapped on the ropes, making Baldomir miss by fractions.

Referee Jay Nady, who had told Mayweather he was a great champion in the pre-fight dressing-room talk, which came across very badly, annoyed Baldomir several times by warning him for petty infringements.

When he was ticked off for something that happened in a clinch, Baldomir shrugged angrily as if to tell the referee, ‘It wasn’t me.’ Mayweather won the round but didn’t want to stand and trade.

At this stage it looked a decent start for Baldomir. He was losing rounds but was in the fight, working the body, not seriously exposed, not hurt or bewildered.

In the fourth, Mayweather demonstrated a few more of the classy moves that had taken him, pretty much unmarked, to world titles from super-featherweight up to welterweight. He stood in front of Baldomir for lengthy spells and beat him to the punch, though Baldomir had his successes too.

Mayweather punch-picked beautifully in the fifth as well and for the first time Baldomir reacted, more or less abandoning defence in a show of bravado. Mayweather avoided the WBC champion’s head shots and blocked most of the body punches, placing relaxed counters without being over-busy.

The sixth was more of the same. Baldomir landed a couple of body punches here and there, wasn’t particularly worried by anything coming his way, but had a slight cut on the bridge of his nose and just couldn’t make a dent in Mayweather’s defence.

Floyd Mayweather

Mayweather bounced hooks and crosses off Baldomir’s head, playing the matador to the bull. At this stage it was an enjoyable exhibition.

Round seven was closer: Baldomir’s crowding advances brought him more success. He didn’t win the round but for the first time his strength seemed to be having an effect.

Perhaps it was because of the right hand injury, but Mayweather didn’t do much for the first minute, then landed just enough to pick up another round.

Mayweather also quietly stole the eighth, concentrating on single punches, sliding away from Baldomir’s steady, solid attacks, but by now it was far from the masterclass some had expected.

Baldomir was still coming in, trying, working as best he could. Mayweather, for whatever reason, took as few risks as possible.

In round nine, Nady warned Baldomir a second time for rabbit punching but again this looked harsh. Baldomir soaked up a solid right lead, trundling forward, getting nowhere. Mayweather’s work took on a lazy look.

I gave Baldomir the 10th and 11th for forcing the pace. Mayweather’s negative outlook provoked some boos in the crowd and some among the 9,427 paying customers began to drift away.

Baldomir landed a good left hook in the 10th, crowded forward and outworked Mayweather for me in the 11th, with Mayweather content to defend and pot-shot. There were boos again.

The last brought more of the same, except that Mayweather was a little more accurate on the move. Again he didn’t do much, Baldomir kept crowding forward and hoping, but in truth the fight was well beyond him and he knew it. Sadly the final bell was a relief because as a spectacle, it had all but petered out.

Mayweather won for the 37th consecutive time without defeat, with 24 inside the distance, while Baldomir, losing for the first time since 1998, dropped to 43-10-6, 13 inside.

Incidentally, Mayweather had his old friend Leonard Ellerbe leading his corner in the absence of his Uncle Roger, whose licence is suspended in Nevada following his outburst in the Judah fight when he protested too vehemently about foul tactics, and who anyway is in jail for assault at the moment.

As usual, Baldomir’s corner included the legendary trainer Amilcar Brusa, who guided Carlos Monzon.

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