Thurman OK with tune-up fight

December, 11, 2014
Dec 11
12:08
PM ET

Depending upon the way you look at it, 2014 will go down as either a lost year for unbeaten interim welterweight titlist Keith Thurman or the final stages before his possible launch to boxing stardom.

In support of the former is the fact that Thurman (23-0, 21 KOs), while still unproven at the elite level, has been unable to capitalize on the buzz he entered 2014 with as an attractive candidate to maybe one day face Floyd Mayweather Jr.

After taking a showcase bout in April and blowing out faded former lightweight titlist Julio Diaz in three rounds, Thurman was sidelined by an injured left shoulder. The native of Clearwater, Florida, makes his return Saturday in a bout that screams adjectives like “showcase” and “get-well” all over again -- something not uncommon in 2014 for fighters managed by Al Haymon.

Thurman, 26, faces Leonard Bundu at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET). The fight is a co-feature with the Amir Khan-Devon Alexander welterweight bout.

Bundu (31-0-2, 11 KOs) is a native of Sierra Leone who fights out of Italy. While he's unbeaten, he is also 40 and is making his first appearance fighting outside of Europe. From Thurman’s perspective, Bundu is the right opponent at the right time, considering Thurman’s preferred opponents -- which he identified as Khan, Marcos Maidana and Robert Guerrero -- were either unavailable or unwilling to sign a deal.

“Coming off of a layoff, it’s kind of not that uncommon for fighters to not go and fight the big names and to take a warm-up to brush off the dust,” Thurman said. “I already knew the different names that I was looking at weren’t going to be possible this year. So I simply told Al Haymon, ‘Well, at least give me a guy that doesn’t have six to seven losses on his record. I would like a respectable opponent.’ And he showed up with Bundu.”

An August split-decision win over unbeaten British welterweight Frankie Gavin certainly helped Bundu's chances. Thurman is prepared for a difficult fight considering Bundu's style.

“He doesn’t look 40, you know?” Thurman said. “When you watch him, he’s a hyper fighter. He’s real short, [fights] in and out similar to Manny Pacquiao. He’s a 2000 Olympian. He’s still undefeated so obviously he has a decent grasp on the sport of boxing and knows what the judges are looking for to win a fight.”

While Thurman’s 2014 has played out slower than most expected, it hasn’t dimmed his bright potential when you consider his youth, tremendous power, respectable boxing ability and contagious personality. He caught the attention of upstart promoter Roc Nation Sports, founded by rap mogul Jay Z, which offered Thurman a three-year, $6 million deal to essentially become the face of their operation.

It was an offer he declined, drawing criticism in some boxing circles because of what some construed to be a power play by his manager/adviser Haymon, who has had issues with Jay Z and his wife, Beyonce, dating back to Haymon’s past in the music business.

Another Haymon fighter, former middleweight titlist Peter Quillin, vacated his belt in September to avoid a mandatory defense against Matt Korobov after Roc Nation Sports won the rights to promote the fight in a purse bid.

While Thurman was flattered by the offer, he believes remaining a promotional free agent is the right move, claiming he felt “personally a little ambushed” by Roc Nation.

“I already knew I was going to fight on the Showtime card in December. To me, it was a rushed contract,” Thurman said. “They wanted me to get a fight this year. I’m pretty sure they wanted me to switch over to HBO. And I just felt comfortable knowing what I was going to do.

“Another thing was there were just a few stipulations that I didn’t like, and I didn’t feel like [Roc Nation] was offering me anything that we weren’t going to be able to do on this side of the fence with Team Haymon.”

What also gave Thurman confidence is his belief in himself and the value of his stock within the sport. He wants those who criticize him to wait and see how 2015 ends before declaring whether he is a wise businessman or not.

“I believe I’m going to need a very big statement at the beginning of 2015,” Thurman said. “I would like to open up the year with a respectable challenge that could force the Mayweather fight to happen a little bit more easier.”

Thurman isn’t the only welterweight who plans to use Saturday’s card at the MGM Grand as a de facto audition for a Mayweather fight, as both Khan and Alexander have similar hopes for 2015. But whether Thurman can land such a fight is still unknown.

Without experience against A-level competition, Thurman remains a risky proposition whose crossover potential from a brand perspective is still in the development stages. Much of this hearkens back to the criticism about how softly matched he was in 2014.

Yet Thurman remains optimistic about his chances, especially if he can open the new year with a big fight.

“I think [a Mayweather fight] is realistic,” Thurman said. “First thing is, I’m one of his mandatories. So the WBA -- even though they will probably let the king do whatever he wants -- could at some point in the year issue the mandatory to where they force Floyd to either fight me or vacate his WBA title. He has the WBC as well, so he could easily do that if that’s what he chose to do. Or he could take the fight.”

But Thurman, nicknamed “One Time” because of his power, will need to get past Bundu first. In case you were wondering, he likes his odds.

“I do have a motto that it’s KOs for life,” Thurman said. “I’m always looking for the knockout. I’m always looking for them to slip up one time. Drop their hands one time. Run into a punch one time.

“We are going to be in Vegas. I’m not a big gambler but I’m somewhat of a gambling man. I like blackjack. I like poker. And when we have 12 rounds to land one punch, I like my odds.”

Trout ready for fresh start against Grajeda

December, 10, 2014
Dec 10
12:29
PM ET

Call it a moment of clarity within the chaos. But former junior middleweight titlist Austin Trout remembers that moment quite well.

Down for the second time in Round 3 of an expected get-well fight against Daniel Dawson in August on ESPN’s “Friday Night Fights,” Trout was on the verge of a stunning third straight defeat.

“When something like that happens, everything that you have on the line is going through your head -- your career, your future and everything you worked for,” Trout told ESPN.com. “I kind of told myself it’s time to let go and go for it.”

It may have been hard to calculate in real time exactly how damaging a defeat it would have been, but Trout (27-2, 14 KOs) made sure not to find out. The native of Las Cruces, New Mexico, put aside his technical southpaw style to step on the gas pedal, knocking Dawson down in Round 8 and claiming a wide decision.

Trout, 29, makes his return Thursday in the main event of an ESPN boxing special (ESPN2, 10 p.m. ET) against Luis Grajeda in a 10-round junior middleweight bout at the Pechanga Resort in Temecula, California.

“The thing that got me in trouble [against Dawson] was that I was getting too anxious, so I had to tell myself to get it together and stop getting hit with that shot,” Trout said. “Daniel Dawson had one heck of a right hand, and I’m not taking anything away from him, but I shouldn’t have gotten hit with that.”

With his pair of high-profile 2013 defeats against division elites Canelo Alvarez and Erislandy Lara behind him, Trout looks to rebuild momentum toward another title. To do that, he’ll need to get past the gritty Grajeda (18-3-2, 14 KOs), 27, a native of Mexico who was competitive in defeat against Willie Nelson on FNF in August.

“I’ve seen two sides of Luis Grajeda from looking at film,” Trout said. “There’s a come forward, rough, tough, fight you the whole fight type of Grajeda, and there’s also the one who sits back and tries to counter you a bit. But with the looks that I have had [in training camp] with Lamont [Peterson], Hank Lundy, Robert Easter and the guys from Band Camp, we’re going to be ready for any kind of Luis Grajeda that he’s going to be.”

Trout moved his training camp to Washington, D.C., under the guidance of former amateur coaches Barry Hunter and Mike Stafford. Not only did it provide him with a feeling of team and family, it increased his access to top-notch sparring partners.

“I worked with them back in the amateurs, and I feel like I was at my sharpest point back then when I was under their tutelage,” Trout said. “It’s something that I have wanted to do for some time, so it was something that I just pulled the trigger. I didn’t want to go through my career thinking about what if.

“These are my peak years, and I definitely want to bring out the best of my abilities for the time that I’m supposed to be at my best.”

Trout called it an honor to headline Thursday’s card, which will be a tribute to late promoter Dan Goossen, who passed away suddenly in October at the age of 64, and is loaded with name fighters on the undercard. In the co-main event, Antonio Tarver and Johnathon Banks square off in a 10-round heavyweight bout.

“It’s going to be a tribute to a great man of boxing in Dan Goossen, rest in peace,” Trout said. “But to also be on top of the card with all of these great names under me, it was just a couple of years ago that I was on the undercard of Antonio Tarver when he was the main event in California. It shows where I’m coming, where I’m going and the direction I’m headed, and I can’t be more humbled by the experience.”

What we learned: Pacquiao-Algieri

November, 23, 2014
Nov 23
3:50
AM ET

After Manny Pacquiao's one-sided thumping of unbeaten 140-pound titlist Chris Algieri on Saturday to defend his welterweight belt at the Venetian Macao's Cotai Arena in Macau, here are five things we learned:

1. Algieri may have won the promotion, but he badly lost the war

When Algieri was originally announced as Pacquiao's opponent, the reaction from boxing pundits centered around concerns of him being undeserving. With just one major win -- and a debated one at that -- Algieri made the unlikely leap from club fighter to pay-per-view co-headliner in less than one year. But something happened along the way to Macau -- Algieri stole the show. With Pacquiao busy training in Asia, Algieri won the promotion of the fight by soaking up the spotlight with his confidence and flamboyant swagger. If anything, it had a major effect on the odds of the fight, with Pacquiao closing as low as a 6-1 favorite. But the fight was a completely different story and more one-sided than the harshest of critics could have envisioned. (Raise your hand if you remember ever seeing a 120-102 scorecard before.) When Algieri wasn't moving backward, he was getting knocked down -- six times! The jab that dominated much of the prefight headlines was largely nonexistent. With nothing powerful coming back in return to keep Pacquiao honest, Algieri (20-1, 8 KOs) was quickly exposed as too one-dimensional against a complete -- and still very much elite -- version of Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38 KOs) one month shy of 36.

2. Algieri's trainer produced one of boxing's most infamous moments of 2014

It's easy to question Algieri's strategy of giving away the early rounds with hopes of hurting and eventually stopping Pacquiao late in the fight. Algieri not only entered the bout with just eight knockouts in 20 pro fights, his attempt at magically rebranding himself as a puncher failed just as miserably when Timothy Bradley Jr. tried the same thing in his April rematch with Pacquiao. In the end, Pacquiao not only proved how wide the gap exists (in both class and experience) between him and Algieri, his speed as a counterpuncher simply overwhelmed Algieri each time he stood still long enough to throw a meaningful shot. But adding insult to injury were the untimely comments made by Algieri co-trainer Tim Lane to HBO's Max Kellerman during Round 9. "[Algieri] is going to put him asleep here in a few minutes. I'm going to let him go one more round. I've got him in the cage right now." Almost immediately after Lane told Kellerman the round (“10 or 11”) that he was going to let Algieri loose, Pacquiao floored him hard with a perfect left cross. It's a dubious moment that will likely live on for years in seven-second videos on social media. And it perfectly illustrated how delusional Algieri's strategy proved to be.

3. No more talking about Mayweather-Pacquiao until it happens

It's a vicious cycle. Five years into the soap opera that is Pacquiao's nonexistent superfight with pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr., it's still the biggest fight the sport can make. And it's still on the tip of everyone's tongue. Sometimes we care about it and sometimes we pretend we don't. Other times we really don't care. But eventually it's rinse and repeat all over again. Deep inside we all want it, we just don't want to talk about it anymore. And given the chance following his domination of Algieri, Pacquiao did very little of it. Sure, when prompted, Pacquiao told Kellerman, "I think I'm ready to fight [Mayweather] next year." But there was no big call out or challenge to close the live broadcast. No trash talking was to be found. And it was somewhat apropos. Top Rank's Bob Arum and Mayweather adviser Al Haymon are either going to sit down in the same room and negotiate who gets what percentage of the purse or they won't. So no more talking about labor pains. We want that baby.

4. Lomachenko is the goods

He dares to be great in often unprecedented ways. Yet despite making his first title defense in just his fourth pro fight, 126-pound titlist Vasyl Lomachenko continued to impress and make strides. The two-time Ukrainian Olympic gold medalist dropped and outlasted Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo in a wide unanimous-decision win. But not only did Lomachenko (3-1, 1 KO), 26, impress with his movement, improving craft and power shots, he was forced to showcase his toughness in an unexpected way. Lomachenko, a southpaw, hurt his left hand after building an early lead and was forced to switch stances and fight off Piriyapinyo (52-2, 33 KOs) with one hand. Despite slowly working his injured left hand back into the mix late in the fight, Lomachenko never gave in to the pain, nor did he buckle mentally under the pressure caused by the sudden turn of events. In just four pro fights, Lomachenko has been forced to showcase his physical talents just as much as his intangibles. He not only has star written all over him, he took a major step forward toward a possible 2015 showdown with fellow featherweight titlist -- and huge puncher -- Nicholas Walters. Bombs away!

5. The Vargas-Jones marriage is a happy one

With future Hall of Fame fighter Roy Jones Jr. making his first appearance as his trainer, secondary junior welterweight titlist Jessie Vargas made a considerable leap in a hard-fought decision win over Antonio DeMarco. Vargas (26-0, 9 KOs) temporarily put to rest some of the negative stereotypes that have followed him with an exciting and gritty effort in his second title defense. Not only did Vargas ultimately outclass the southpaw DeMarco (31-4-1, 23 KOs), a former lightweight titlist, he showed good heart and a strong chin by routinely trading heavy shots at close range. Vargas had developed a reputation as a fighter who routinely received the heavy benefit of the doubt on the scorecards. But he earned everything on Saturday, becoming a dark-horse a candidate to possibly face Pacquiao in 2015. And a lot of that credit has to go to Jones, who also assisted in light heavyweight Jean Pascal’s corner during his impressive January win over Lucian Bute.

Manny Pacquiao in his own words

November, 18, 2014
Nov 18
4:20
PM ET
Following two consecutive loses in 2012, welterweight titleholder Manny Pacquiao has won two fights in a row, a lopsided decision victory against Brandon Rios in Macau, China and a dominating win in 12 rounds against Timothy Bradley in April.

Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38 KOs) returns to the ring to face junior welterweight titlist Chris Algieri on Nov. 22 at the Cotai Arena at the Venetian Macao in Macau (HBO PPV, 9 p.m. ET).

In his own words, Pacquiao discusses how he's preparing for the fight and what fans can expect to see.

Your trainer Freddie Roach has been quoted lately saying Manny could fight at 140 or even 135 for the right fight. What are your thoughts and what does the future hold for you in boxing?

"The reason we are fighting this fight at 144 pounds is because I wanted to see how I performed at a lower weight. If I do well, I could easily fight at 140 for my next fight. 140 is the weight I walk around at when I'm not training for a fight. So that is no issue and even 135 would be easy for me to make.

"The real question is how do I feel and how do I perform when I return to those lower weighs?

"I could be faster than when I fought at welterweight and (junior middleweight) and if my power remains the same, I may be able to score more knockouts at lower weights. I weighed 138 when I knocked out Ricky Hatton, 142 when I stopped Oscar De La Hoya and 144 when I scored a TKO of Miguel Cotto. Many people consider those fights some of my best, so why not go back down if that is where the bigger and better fights are going to be fought?

"But now I am the WBO welterweight champion and my only focus is to defend that title. I didn't realize how much it meant to me until I won it back in my rematch against Timothy Bradley. I love being a world champion and i have poured my heart and soul into this training camp. My sparring mates have been the biggest and best I have ever had in training . I am leaving nothing to chance when I step into the ring against Chris Algieri on November 22.

"I want to win this fight so badly and I want to win it in a way that will have boxing fans on their feet screaming and cheering. I owe that to my fans and I owe that to boxing. Today is my last day of training camp. I will spar four rounds, work the bags, shake out and then fly to Macau for Fight Week. I have been at weight for since late October. I am ready to battle!"


What kind of goals do you still have for your career at age 35?

“As I have said before, boxing is my passion and public service is my calling. As I approach my title defense against Chris Algieri I have found that my passion for boxing has increased. I do not feel old. I feel great and I find I am able to train as hard as I always have and I enjoy it. More importantly, I still enjoy boxing -- a lot.

“As long as my skills and my passion remain strong I want to continue my boxing career. When I retire, I want it to be on my terms. I do not want to spend my retirement regretting that I walked away from boxing before I was ready. I do not want to come back and fight after I retire.

“My goals are to finish as a world champion, winning my remaining fights. Since the last Marquez fight I have approached every training camp and every opponent with 110% dedication. I would like to keep challenging myself in the opponents I will face in the future.

“I have not set a date or determined an age when I will retire. As long as I can keep fighting at the level I expect from myself I will continue my boxing career.

“I do have one specific goal and that is to give the boxing fans the fight they have always asked for. I want that fight too. I believe good faith negotiations could produce that fight. But it is impossible to negotiate when you are the only one sitting at the table. Two fighters who want to fight each other have never been kept from fighting each other.”


Pacquiao and China, is that helping boxing popularity? Why fighting in China?

"Asia is a fertile market for boxing. The sport has been very popular in the Philippines, Japan and Southeast Asia for a long time, but China, with its billions in population, has long been an untapped source for potential boxing fans.

"Boxing owes a great debt to Zou Shiming, China's two-time Olympic gold medalist, for opening his homeland to boxing by fighting professionally at The Venetian Macao these past two years. Shiming has sold out the Cotai Arena every time he has fought there while allowing fighters like me to share his cards and display our talents to his enormous fan base -- both in-person and throughout the country on television. There's even a new televised boxing show which was developed from the popularity of The Venetian Macao shows.

"I love fighting in the United States. I have fought many fights in Las Vegas but when I fought Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito at Cowboys Stadium it added a whole new dynamic to the event. Not only did fans from the Dallas-Fort Worth area get to experience boxing at a world championship level, but millions of fans tuned in to see those two fights because they took place at Cowboys Stadium. It was exhilarating.

"The same is true fighting in Macao, China. Fans from all over the world are watching my fights at The Venetian Macao not just because of the fight itself but because they want to see a live event from China. And the billions in China now have the opportunity to watch world championship boxing on their own national and regional networks. That is a lot of exposure for fighters and for sponsors of boxing events held there.

"It is also tapping into a new segment of athletes which can only improve the sport and its popularity. Every country loves to root for their own athletes and by having more Chinese fighters in the professional ranks more Chinese fans will begin following our sport and making it a bigger international attraction.

"I love fighting in Las Vegas but when I fight in Macao I feel like I am playing a home game. Macao is only a 90-minute flight from the Philippines so many of my countrymen are able to attend where the expense of traveling to the U.S. may have been too much for them. Fans from Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Europe filled the Cotai Arena the last time I fought there, and that was a great experience. And the Chinese fans were so enthusiastic. It was a wonderful experience to fight for them. The biggest difference between fighting in Las Vegas and fighting in Macao is that virtually all the fans are in their seats before the first bout begins. They really love their boxing in Macao."


How difficult is it to prepare for a fighter who has an awkward style like Algieri, someone with MMA experience and not too much video to study from?

"Chris Algieri poses many puzzles for me to solve. In terms of his height and reach, only Antonio Margarito surpasses him in the scope of opponents I have faced. Algieri is also the most scientific, fluid and fittest fighter I have ever opposed. All of those factors, plus he is five years younger than me, make him the most dangerous opponent of my career.

"To me, boxing is a lot like chess. You don't just move a piece and wait for your opponent to respond, you have to see the board and think 10 to 12 moves ahead and anticipate the variables your opponent may counter with. Algieri does that and he does that very well. If you look at his recent fights -- against Mike Arnaoutis, Emanuel Taylor and Ruslan Provodnikov -- each victory for him was considered an upset. Yet Algieri never considered himself an underdog, he went into each fight confident and with the right game plan and no matter what happened in the ring, he was disciplined enough to stay with that game plan. And it worked. He outfought them and out-thought them.

"Algieri's reach and height will require me to work on closing the distance with him in the ring and I will need my speed more than ever to be able to score damaging blows to him while avoiding his own counters. I watched him fight Provodnikov and he fought the perfect fight against him. But I do not intend to fight Algieri's fight. I intend on fighting my fight and more importantly, making him fight my fight. This will be a battle of wills as much as it will be a battle of blows. There will be a lot more going on in the ring than fans will realize, and it will be fast and it will be exciting.

"There are no shortcuts to victory. My success begins and ends in training camp. You win a fight by winning each round and it is the same in training camp. I give my all each and every day -- running in the morning, working out in gym and praying in my home -- and focus on being the best I can be physically, mentally and spiritually. That is how I am preparing to fight Chris Algieri. I am sacrificing everything to defeat him and produce not just a convincing victory but my most impressive performance."

Chris Algieri in his own words

November, 18, 2014
Nov 18
4:13
PM ET
Junior welterweight titlist Chris Algieri is having a good year. In February he defeated Emanuel Taylor to set up a title fight against Ruslan Provodnikov four months later. After being down twice in the first round, Algieri rallied to defeat Provodnikov by split decision and win the title.

Algieri (28-0, 8 KOs), who was a heavy underdog before the fight with Provodnikov, credited his conditioning to being a nutritionist and taking care of his body.

On Nov. 22, in the biggest fight of his career, Algieri will face welterweight beltholder Manny Pacquiao in Macau, China (HBO PPV, 9 p.m. ET). Pacquiao has won two fights in a row since losing consecutive fights in 2012 for the first time in his career -- a split decision against Timothy Bradley Jr. and a sixth-round KO to Juan Manuel Marquez.

In his own words, Algieri talks about the advantages of having the perfect diet, exercising and preparing for a 12-round fight against one of the best fighters in the world.

Which one of your victories taught you the most about overcoming obstacles inside the ring?

“My 10th pro bout against Julius Edmonds. I went into the fight with a sore right hand and then broke my left hand in the 2nd round. Finding a way to win has always been a major part of my style and strategy. I didn’t even tell my coaches I was injured until after the fight. I finished the fight with a 4th round KO and that truly was one of the biggest obstacles if not the biggest I have ever had to overcome.

“And let’s not forget in my most previous fight against Ruslan Provodnikov. I made a mistake in the first round and I paid for it. I was forced to pay the price and fight the remainder of the fight with a badly swollen eye. But, I still found a way to win. Sticking to the game plan, and staying focused in times of adversity, that’s what separates me from other fighters. My mental make-up and my mental strength has always been the difference in my fights, and that is what will propel me once again to victory on November 22nd.”

What is it about your opponent’s style that makes it so difficult? Is your kickboxing knowledge an advantage? Leg movements is very important when you have to fight against an opponent like Manny Pacquiao.

“It is not so much Manny’s style but his experience level that makes him such a dangerous opponent. He has had over 60 pro fights and been fighting for a very long time against the top fighters in the world. It is going to be my job to test how bad he actually still wants this.

“My kickboxing experience is an advantage not so much my knowledge of the sport. It is another one-on-one sport, the training and preparation is similar and at the end of the day you are in a fight. I have been fighting pretty much all my life.

“Yes Manny has great footwork. He is in and out and side to side, so being able to control the space in the ring is very important when fighting with someone with a style like Manny. Being a ring general is going to be a big part in this fight as it is with all my fights.”


What type of challenges come with preparing for a fight on another continent with a much different start time? What’s at stake for the winner inside the welterweight division? What are your goals for the future in boxing?

“It just means you have to do a lot more time management in terms of scheduling and thinking ahead. You can’t just wing it, but I don’t do that with any part of my training anyways, so it is of no concern to me. Also we will be fighting at noon over there, and that is exactly what time I always spar, so that will actually be better for me. I am a morning person so being able to fight during the day will actually play in my favor.

“This is the top of the sport. The winner here goes on to make the biggest fights that are possible not only the welterweight division but in all of boxing. A win will propel me into the top of the pound-for-pound ratings and viewed as one of the best fighters in all of boxing.

“At this point I want the biggest fights out there. I have spent a long time fighting off TV and outside of the public eye. Now I want that exposure and I want to fight the biggest names out there in boxing. I want to show that I belong here. It has taken me a long time to get to this point, and I don't plan on leaving now that I am here.”

Does being a nutritionist give you an advantage on how to prepare your body for a 12-round fight and 12 weeks of training? Describe your diet, exercising habits and hours of sleep.

“I average between eight to nine hours of sleep a night/day between naps. I generally eat between five to seven times a day, around 3,500 calories during training camp. I eat lots of fresh fruits and colorful veggies to help with recovery.

“I also eat a lot of complex grains and no processed foods. I prepare and cook about 90 percent of my own food and meals.

“I train six days a week. Most days I train twice a day. I do strength and conditioning twice a week, cardio four times a week and boxing five days a week. With my cardio I do more sprint work than distance work, but I alternate between the two.

“I also get weekly massages for recovery once a week and take an ice bath after every sparring session, which is not fun, but it is necessary.

“I take a very scientific and calculated approach to everything I do when in training leading up to the fight and in the ring on fight night. Manny said that I will be the most conditioned and smartest fighter that he will ever face. He is right.”

Five things we learned

November, 9, 2014
Nov 9
2:51
AM ET

After Sergey Kovalev’s one-sided domination of ageless wonder Bernard Hopkins in Saturday’s light heavyweight title unification bout from Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, here are five things we learned:

1. Kovalev is who we thought he might be.

It was easy to question whether Kovalev (26-0-1, 23 KOs) was everything his gaudy knockout percentage led you to believe entering the fight. But despite his never having been past eight rounds as a professional or having faced an elite opponent, the Russian destroyer finally earned the critical respect he has coveted. In fact, he might even be better than we thought. Facing a durable, difficult opponent who was able to take the fight into the championship rounds, Kovalev showed us there was far more to his craft than a big right hand. After making a statement by knocking the 49-year-old Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 KOs) down in the opening round, Kovalev nearly bookended the feat by coming dangerously close to becoming the first fighter to finish Hopkins in the closing seconds of the final round. In between, it was all Kovalev, all the time, in a performance that solidified him as for real.

2. There are plenty of wrinkles in Kovalev’s game.

Through 26 professional fights entering Saturday night, Kovalev hadn’t been in too many situations in which he needed to prove he can box. His power has been more than enough. But Kovalev made a statement with both his poise and his accuracy in the way he systematically dismantled Hopkins. The “Krusher” was never in a hurry and held back from emptying the tank until the final minute of Round 12. He was prepared to box for 12 full rounds and did that by using his jab and footwork to constantly corner Hopkins. Even when he had Hopkins in compromising situations, Kovalev never overextended himself, and by doing that, he avoided falling into any traps. His head movement was strong. There was a thought coming in that if Hopkins could make Kovalev think instead of react, the wily veteran could gain control. But Kovalev not only never gave him that chance, he proved he has both power and polish. And that’s a dangerous combination.

3. Give Hopkins full credit for taking the fight.

Hopkins entered the ring less than two months shy of 50 (50!!!). Sure, you already knew that. Hopkins’ age was -- rightfully so -- the major selling point for the fight, as “The Alien” once again looked to defeat a younger fighter in his prime, who they said he couldn’t beat. But this was a fight Hopkins didn’t need to take. It was an old-school gesture from a guy who wrote the book on daring to be great. It was a gift for the sport in a year when more often than not, the best refused to face the best. Hopkins ended up spending the majority of the night in survival mode amid Kovalev’s constant onslaught. He needed every inch of his legendary chin to make the final bell. But he took on a dangerous challenge against arguably boxing’s biggest puncher to find out how great he can be. That’s how things used to be. And that’s how they still should be.

4. The fight was a passing of the torch.

Adonis Stevenson might still be, from a lineal sense, the champion of the world at 175 pounds. But Kovalev’s shutout victory proved he is very much the division’s most dangerous fighter. Saturday’s fight was also a passing of the torch in a way that is bigger than simply the light heavyweight division. Historically, a new star in boxing doesn’t fully begin to shine until he takes out an established name. Kovalev did just that against Hopkins, and a new star was born -- a humble knockout artist with a big smile and unique sense of humor.

5. Sadam Ali had a coming out party.

Unbeaten welterweight Sadam Ali had the glossy record and strong amateur pedigree as a 2008 U.S. Olympian entering his step-up fight with hard-punching Luis Carlos Abregu. But what he sorely lacked was experience against an established name. To make matters worse, he was coming off a shaky split-decision win in his latest bout. All of that quickly became null and void once Ali (21-0, 13 KOs) entered the ring in the co-main event. After boxing circles around the surprisingly cautious Abregu (36-2, 29 KOs) in a fight that thoroughly lacked excitement, Ali stepped forward to make a statement in Round 6 by flooring the durable Argentine with a big right hand. Ali continued to pour it on in Round 9 to score a breakthrough stoppage that announced him as a welcome new name to a loaded division at 147 pounds. We knew Ali could box, but we didn’t know he could punch -- at least not on this level. But his performance has many taking notice.

Five things we learned

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
1:08
AM ET

After an exciting doubleheader at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, featuring knockout victories from a pair of unbeaten titlists on the rise, here are five things we learned from the card titled “Mexican Style”:

1. Golovkin is ready for true crossover stardom

Although Gennady Golovkin’s second-round knockout of veteran middleweight Marco Antonio Rubio on Saturday proved somewhat anticlimactic, it was no fault of the “Kazakh KO King.”

Golovkin’s 18th consecutive knockout and 12th straight defense of his 160-pound title only escalated American boxing’s love affair with the grinning, humble fighter wielding dynamite in both hands. Golovkin (31-0, 28 KOs) has not yet fully made the leap into the conscious of the general sports fan, but he doesn’t appear to be far off.

Plain and simple, he delivers on the action promised in a time when fans haven’t consistently received an equal payout for their money spent. With the brands of boxing’s incumbent kings growing tired due to factors such as age and unwillingness to make the best fights available, Golovkin, 32, is a breath of fresh air to the sport.

While his few remaining critics are quick to remind that he has yet to face true A-level competition, his insistence on staying busy and being willing to fight anyone over a span of three weight classes has more than compensated. The Tysonesque buzz that has followed Golovkin from one devastating knockout to another is real. It won't be long now before the rest of the American sports world begins to fully take notice.

2. California debut proves GGG’s brand has closed the gap

Mixing his danger with his lack of a native fan base made it an easy justification for Golovkin to become boxing’s most avoided fighter. But prospective opponents can no longer make the excuse that GGG is not a marketable draw.

[+] EnlargeMarco Antonio Rubio, Gennady Golovkin
AP Photo/Alex GallardoGennady Golovkin, left, scored his 18th consecutive KO victory by stopping Marco Antonio Rubio in Round 2 on Saturday.
Golovkin made his West Coast debut in front of a sold-out crowd of 9,323 at a venue that repeatedly opened extra seating in the lead-up to the fight. Three months earlier, he made his debut in the big arena at New York’s Madison Square Garden to spectacularly knock out former titlist Daniel Geale in front of more than 8,500 fans.

GGG is ready to fill the big arenas and make the leap onto the pay-per-view level for the right fight in 2015. What that will do is dramatically enlarge the name-value of his potential opponents.

With Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez signing a long-term deal to return to HBO, along with his promoter Golden Boy showing a newfound willingness to play nice with others, big fights are on the horizon at middleweight.

By the time the winner of a possible spring 2015 showdown between Alvarez and middleweight champion Miguel Cotto has his hand raised, Golovkin -- who became Cotto’s mandatory challenger in winning a vacant interim title Saturday --- should see his brand further developed.

Although that won’t make him any less dangerous for the winner to face -- especially if his knockout streak continues -- potential Golovkin opponents can no longer contend fighting him isn’t a smart move, financially.

3. Bad weekend for Rubio

Despite entering the fight as a heavy underdog, Rubio (59-7-1, 51 KOs) was expected to challenge Golovkin in ways other recent opponents were unable to do.

Rubio, 34, entered the fight with height and reach advantages over Golovkin, along with respected durability. With 51 knockouts in 59 victories entering the fight, he also represented arguably the hardest puncher Golovkin had seen.

But the native of Mexico lost both his interim belt and his ability to challenge Golovkin for his full title the day before the fight, when he weighed in over the middleweight limit at 161.8 pounds. Despite having two hours to shed the extra weight, Rubio never made it back to the scales and forfeited $100,000 of his $350,000 purse.

To make matters worse for Rubio, along with his unprofessionalism, he failed to live up to his end of the bargain inside the ring. Despite a solid opening round in which he pressured Golovkin and landed a mixture of left hooks and body shots, Rubio folded quickly once he tasted GGG’s power in Round 2.

Golovkin set up Rubio’s exit with a perfect right uppercut that sent him reeling and running for cover along the ropes. Golovkin swooped in and capped off a flurry with an overhand left to the top of the head that sent Rubio to the canvas.

Rubio sat up quickly but took his time getting up, as referee Jack Reiss counted him out with Rubio appearing to not want any more.

4. A featherweight star is born in Walters

Secondary beltholder Nicholas Walters entered Saturday’s bout against 126-pound titlist Nonito Donaire known mostly for his power, which stopped 10 of his previous 11 opponents.

But the native of Jamaica left the bout with a memorable knockout against the biggest name in a loaded, red-hot division.

Walters (25-0, 21 KOs), 28, announced himself to the boxing public in his first appearance on American television by outworking and ultimately stopping Donaire in Round 6.

Out-jabbing Donaire to the tune of 44-4 according to CompuBox, Walters set the stage for his devastating power. Donaire was floored in Round 3 for the first time in his career on a beautiful uppercut that opened a cut above his right eye.

By Round 6, Walters was simply wearing him down as the bigger man and finished him with a right hand to the side of the head that sent Donaire to the canvas face first, moments before referee Raul Caiz Jr. called off the fight.

The victory also showcased Walters’ humility and the respect he held for Donaire during their postfight interview. Walters not only doesn’t lack for confidence, but he’s also a potential handful for any of the other titlists in the division, including two-time Olympic gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko.

5. The end is near for Donaire

Donaire gave Walters full credit for the victory and said he entered at his best and never trained as hard for a fight in his career.

But what Donaire’s loss illustrated was that, at 31, the former four-division titlist is no longer the guy who captured fighter of the year honors in 2012. It also gave credence to the thought Donaire had moved up one weight class too big.

Either way, the future of his career, at least against elite opponents, appears to be over. While Donaire refused to take the bait when HBO’s Max Kellerman suggested retirement after the bout, his comments spoke volumes.

“I have to go back to the drawing board,” Donaire said. “I know I can’t compete with guys like Walters. He was just overwhelming me. I succumbed to his size and power and his overwhelming aura.”

Golovkin in his own words

October, 10, 2014
Oct 10
3:13
PM ET
After a dominant victory over Daniel Geale in July, Gennady Golovkin is ready to take his act to the West Coast to face Mexico's Marco Antonio Rubio on Saturday, Oct. 18 (HBO, 10 p.m. ET) at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.

Golovkin (30-0, 27 KOs), a middleweight titlist since 2010 -- when he beat Milton Nunez in Panama -- faces Rubio (29-6-1, 51 KOs), who owns an interim title in the 160-pound division.

For this fight, Golovkin is back training in the mountains of Big Bear in California.

In his own words, Golovkin talks about training and fighting in California and the opportunity to build a fan base on the West Coast.

Discuss what it feels like to be fighting in California for the first time.

“I first came to Big Bear to train over four years ago with my coach, Abel Sanchez. I liked that it was quiet and peaceful and a good place to work and prepare for my fights.

“The other fighters in camp made me feel welcome right away, as did Coach’s family. I missed my wife and son back in Germany, but knew this would be best for my career. And I would see my family when I go back home in between fights.

“Along with training, I’ve been able to attend other fights and have always been approached by fans who wanted my autograph and picture. While they see me fight on HBO in New York City, they also always wanted to know when I would be fighting in Los Angeles.

“The StubHub Center I’ve been to many times for other fights, and each time the support from the fans increases. Also, when I go into Los Angeles for other events, fans are very supportive as well.

“So this fight against Marco Antonio Rubio is a gift to all my fans here in Southern California, everyone who kept asking about fighting here and have been so supportive. I’m very happy to be fighting on October 18th at the StubHub Center and promise a great show to those in attendance and those watching at home on HBO.”

New style suits Martirosyan well

October, 7, 2014
Oct 7
2:13
PM ET

Vanes Martirosyan will never forget walking into promoter Dan Goossen’s office for the first time.

Coming off his first defeat against Demetrius Andrade in their vacant junior middleweight title bout last November -- and having recently been dropped by promoter Top Rank -- Martirosyan was at a crossroads moment of his career at age 27.

“[Dan] looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘You have so much talent -- let me help you out.’” Martirosyan told ESPN.com. “I believed him because he looked me straight in the eye when he talked to me. Then I got with [Dan’s brother and trainer] Joe [Goossen] and it was the same with him. It’s all a family with 100 percent honesty.

“When you get people that are 100 percent, you are going to get 100 percent of the results. Nobody believed in me after my loss, except for Dan.”

Less than a year later, Martirosyan scored his second straight win under the Goossen banner -- and the biggest of his career -- on Saturday when he outdueled Willie Nelson by unanimous decision in an action-packed bout at the Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut.

Not only was the victory an integral one for Martirosyan (35-1-1, 21 KOs) in terms of his future as a title contender at 154 pounds, but the bout took on substantially more meaning following Dan Goossen’s death less than a week earlier after a short battle with liver cancer.

Martirosyan (35-1-1), a native of Armenia who fights out of Glendale, California, entered the bout unsure if going on with the fight was the right move. But it was a message relayed to him from Dan Goossen shortly before his death that spurred him on.

“What motivated me the most was that Dan, before he left, told Joe to make sure that we do good Saturday,” Martirosyan said. “So we had to grant his wish and we had to make him proud. That was one of the most motivational things that he said, and it helped me a lot.”

The combination of a heavy heart and a new attitude under the tutelage of Joe Goossen helped Martirosyan put forth a performance against Nelson that was atypical to what we have seen from him in the past.

This was an all-new Martirosyan -- a fighter focused on seizing the moment and bursting right through it.

[+] EnlargeVanes Martirosyan, Willie Nelson
Ed Diller for ESPNVanes Martirosyan, right, scored a much needed win against Willie Nelson last Saturday.
After suffering a cut above his right eye in Round 4, he never wilted. Martirosyan not only hurt Nelson (23-2-1, 13 KOs) with a series of uppercuts and straight right hands late in Round 8, he came out of his corner the next round like a man possessed.

“I wanted to get into a brawl, to be honest,” Martirosyan said. “After Round 8, I thought about Corrales-Castillo for some reason having Joe in my corner.”

Joe Goossen was in Diego Corrales’ corner when he rallied to dramatically stop Jose Luis Castillo in their legendary first bout in 2005. He was also the trainer of record when John Molina did the same in the final round against Mickey Bey last year.

So the marriage between fighter and trainer would appear to be a perfect one when you consider Martirosyan, once a standout amateur who represented the United States at the 2004 Olympics, has had difficulty fulfilling his potential on the pro level.

Both in his loss to Andrade, in which Martirosyan scored a first-round knockdown, and his 2012 draw with Erislandy Lara, he was plagued by stretches of passive inactivity. That has changed under the influence of Joe Goossen, who has long preached an attacking style.

“It’s all Joe Goossen. I used to just box and move, but Joe is making me become a complete fighter,” Martirosyan said. “I think working with Joe is going to make me more action-packed and smarter, with more knockouts.

“One thing he always talks about is [fighting with] balls. He always asks me, ‘Do you have your mouthpiece? Do you have your cup? Do you have your balls?’”

Martirosyan’s turn to a more exciting style should also help him get him the fights he desires against the very best in the division. His short list includes Austin Trout, rematches against Lara and Andrade, or a showdown with Canelo Alvarez.

“This is boxing, and we are warriors. People pay to see us fight and want to see a good fight,” said Martirosyan, who is managed by Al Haymon. “[Canelo] comes forward to fight and, as you guys saw Saturday, I come forward. It will be action-packed and something the fans would love -- something like Castillo-Corrales, maybe.”

There’s a reason why Martirosyan has referred to his new alliance with the Goossen family as a second chance for his career. He claims the loss to Andrade showed him “who my true friends are, including some family members,” leading him to keep a much smaller inner circle these days.

It’s that family atmosphere within camp that has allowed Martirosyan to blossom and begin to find out how good he can be. There’s a feeling of trust that is tangible. For the first time against Nelson, Martirosyan entered a fight feeling like he was fully prepared, which simply wasn’t the case under former trainer Freddie Roach.

“No disrespect to Freddie, but he always had to go and train Manny Pacquiao or Miguel Cotto,” Martirosyan said. “So I never had 100 percent focus in my training. Now that I do, I see the difference. Joe puts 100 percent of his time into me, and that’s why you saw a good performance on Saturday, and you are going to see more in the future.”

End of the road for a legend in Arce

October, 6, 2014
Oct 6
1:58
PM ET
LOS MOCHIS, Mexico -- Jorge Arce kept it honest.

Despite being a fighter who lacked great technique, he routinely compensated by being a brave, fan-friendly and courageous boxer in each of his pro fights.

Arce stood by his style on Saturday night while challenging for countryman Jhonny Gonzalez's featherweight title. By using his all-or-nothing approach, Arce tried to squeeze one more win onto his impressive résumé.

But Gonzalez punished him severely, opening a cut over Arce's left eye and forcing him to slow down and focus more on surviving as Gonzalez left the Centro de Usos Multiples with an 11th-round TKO win.

"I think I achieved that, since Jhonny is one of the best fighters I've faced in my career," Arce said.

After losing the fight, Arce (68-4-2, 49 KOs) went home, where his wife Karime had prepared a party with his friends, to celebrate his career and his last day as an active boxer.

Arce, 35, won his first world title at age 19. In the end, he was involved in 28 world title fights, in six different weight classes, from 108 to 130 pounds. He won world titles at junior flyweight, flyweight, junior bantamweight, bantamweight and junior featherweight.

And boy, could Arce be one courageous fighter. Even when he was a couple of inches away from being knocked out, he was still dangerous enough to stage a comeback to claim a miraculous victory.

Every fight involving Arce was worth the price of admission. While he took some tough losses against names like Michael Carbajal, Nonito Donaire and Vic Darchinyan, he also scored some memorable victories. Hussein Hussein, Wilfredo Vazquez and Yo-Sam Choi are three of his most cherished wins.

Against Gonzalez, in front of his home crowd in Los Mochis, Arce was well aware that the odds were against him. But he tried, one more time. Despite his severely damaged eyelid, Arce tried to keep on fighting, but it all ended in the 11th round.

It was the end of the road for "El Travieso,"a true boxing warrior, who loved to defy the odds. And even Gonzalez took his hat off, to honor Arce, and admitted to taking his foot off the gas pedal late in the fight out of respect.

"I defeated a great boxer, a very courageous one," Gonzalez said. "He earned my respect. I was convinced that I would win. I had no mercy, I wanted to knock him out. But, as the fight progressed into the later rounds, and his eyelid was so damaged, the punishment was unnecessary. He had to go back home, to his family, so it was time to slow down."

Payano focused on Moreno's title

September, 25, 2014
Sep 25
1:52
PM ET
Remembered for his strong record as an amateur, Juan Carlos Payano, a two-time Olympian from the Dominican Republic, is aiming high in professional boxing.

With only four years of paid experience in the sport, Payano will compete for his first world title Friday when he meets Panamanian bantamweight titlist Anselmo "Chemito" Moreno (35-2-1, 12 KOs) at the Mesquite Arena in Mesquite, Texas.

Payano (15-0, 8 KOs), who owns a pair of silver medals from the Pan American Games, is aware that this is a golden opportunity for him on a card put together by Mike Tyson's Iron Mike Productions.

[+] EnlargeJuan Carlos Payano
AP Photo/Murad SezerFormer Olympian Juan Carlos Payano of the Dominican Republic enters his first title shot on Friday against Anselmo Moreno.
"I'm in the final stages, and I'm basically ready for the fight and waiting for that time and the moment we go head to head," Payano said. "After training with my trainer Germán Caicedo in Miami, as always, and having prepared in the best way possible, I'm ready.

"I realize that Moreno is a tough fighter, but it makes me very proud to be fighting a great champion like him. It has always been my aim to fight against the best and become one of them myself. My goal is to reach the top, and if I'm to achieve that, then [Friday] is the big challenge."

Payano, 30, assured that a victory will open the doors to the big leagues for him and his team, something that he has always dreamed of.

"I want to be among the best," Payano said. "Moreno is in my sights right now, and I'm confident of winning on the night, although I'm expecting a tough fight. Thanks to that, I'm 110 percent ready to get in there and fight."

Known as a versatile boxer who is able to unleash the dynamite in his knuckles, Payano said that, along with the chance to compete for a world title, he is eager to be a titlist under the flag of Iron Mike Productions.

"I'm certainly delighted to be working with someone like Mike Tyson," Payano said. "I've always really looked up to him, and now he's my promoter. To have him in my corner gives me a great pride and great motivation. It makes me really happy. I enjoy being part of the firm, and I don't want to let him down."

Payano rejected the claim that fighting in the United States would have an effect on him, as he has always been used to fighting away from home.

"It's not important whether I fight at home or not," Payano said. "I'm a fighter, and I fight wherever I have to. I'm not really one for favoritism. I'm here to fight, whether it's in Panama or wherever. We're on neutral ground; he's outside Panama, and he has always fought there. The main thing in my favor is my excellent training."

Garcia to leave Mayweather's corner

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
8:18
PM ET
Rafael Garcia is no longer in charge of taping Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s fists and being his cutman, something he has done since 2001. The main reason: It's time to retire at 85 years of age.

Garcia's name is among those mentioned in possible changes that Mayweather will make to his team along with Maayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe. Garcia did not wrap Mayweather's hands during Saturday's rematch against Marcos Maidana.

And Garcia said that before Mayweather notifies him regarding his future, he has already thanked him.

"Yes, it's true I didn't tape him, but he hasn't fired me," Garcia told ESPNDeportes.com. "I thanked him after the fight because I retired from boxing, but I'm fine with him. Thanks to him I live how I live.

Garcia didn't find out that he had been relieved of his duties on Saturday until the last minute.

"Floyd told me to go with Mickey Bey for his fight against Miguel Vazquez," Garcia said. "When I came back they were already taping him. I didn't oppose to it, he's the one fighting, not me, and before they push me aside, I leave and thank him for everything."

With over 50 years in boxing and having worked with stars such as Lupe Pintor, Rafael "Bazooka" Limon, Alexis Arguello, Roberto Duran, Wilfredo Gomez and many more, Garcia will always have a special place for Mayweather.

"I know he went to Miami on vacation, when he comes back I'll talk to him and I will thank him [and] tell him it's been a pleasure to be with him," Garcia said. "But now I'm leaving.

"Maybe I'll go to the gym and watch him and the others, but I'm all grown up, I want to enjoy life."

Garcia would not comment whether he was upset at Bob Ware for wrapping Mayweather's hands before the Maidana rematch. He also said he wouldn't be surprised if unofficial camp member Alex Ariza continued working with Mayweather for other fights as a strength and conditioning coach.

He also declined to comment about Ellerbe, with whom he has a good relationship. Garcia said those are things that Mayweather and Ellerbe have to take care of and that getting involved in that issue would bring bad memories of the experiences he has had with both over the years.

Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s still got it

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
1:22
PM ET
LAS VEGAS -- It was an intense yet very different 12 rounds of action between pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Marcos Maidana in Saturday’s rematch at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

But after Mayweather (47-0, 26 KOs) defended his welterweight and junior middleweight titles via unanimous decision to remain unbeaten, here are five things that we learned from the rematch:

1. Mayweather stuck to his strengths

After how close their first fight was in May, as Mayweather stood and traded with Maidana before making adjustments and hanging on by a slim margin, we figured Mayweather would go back to the basics and use his legs to create separation.

We were right.

Mayweather largely avoided confrontations and spent the whole night backpedaling and circling away from Maidana’s advancements. But that doesn’t mean Mayweather wasn’t brilliant in his execution.

Outside of a few dangerous situations early on, Mayweather stuck to the basics of hit and not be hit, never allowing himself to get pinned for too long against the ropes or in the corner. Mayweather sought preservation over retaliation and by doing so showcased the clear gap in ability between the two fighters.

2 Floyd had some help too

It was easy to predict that the change in referees from Tony Weeks in the first fight to veteran Kenny Bayless would have an impact on the rematch. And boy did it.

Weeks’ liberal stance on dirty tactics from both fighters in the first meeting clearly favored Maidana’s strategy and gave him a distinct advantage. In the rematch, Bayless’ conservative handling of clinches did exactly the opposite, and Mayweather was the beneficiary.

The fight was still plenty dirty, with Mayweather claiming he was bit on the left hand in Round 8 and Maidana losing a point in Round 10 for shoving Mayweather to the canvas. But the quickness with which Bayless separated the two fighters at even the first sign of a clinch had a major impact on how the fight played out. As did the blind eye he appeared to turn by failing to police -- or even warn -- Mayweather for his constant holding.

3. ‘Money’ was all business

Gone was Mayweather’s elaborate ring entrance from their first fight in May. There weren’t any dollar bills with Mayweather’s face on them falling from the sky or celebrity rappers performing by his side during the ring walk. We didn’t even see Justin Bieber.

Instead, Mayweather entered the ring with a stoic look and his head down. With two fights left on his lucrative Showtime/CBS deal and the potential of retiring undefeated, there was little room for error. Even though Mayweather helped build up the fight’s promotion by talking about wanting to stop Maidana in recent weeks, his mentality turned to that of surviving and advancing when he entered the ring.

Considering the dangerous and unpredictable nature of Maidana, it was a mindset he needed to have. But credit Mayweather for blocking out the many distractions that have followed him in recent months and removing any lingering doubt created by the first fight.

4. Mayweather showed his age in subtle ways

Checking the pulse of social media after the fight, it was clear Saturday’s rematch was deemed a disappointment by many looking for a repeat of the drama and uncertain ending from the first fight.

Mayweather took home a much wider decision in a fight mostly void of two-way exchanges. But that doesn’t mean the second fight lacked for intensity to those watching from ringside.

A case could be made that Mayweather, who largely avoided getting hit cleanly to head and face in the first fight, had to work much harder in the rematch, finding himself in specific situations that were much more dangerous and compromising.

Maidana landed a flush left hand at the bell in Round 3 that clearly appeared to hurt Mayweather. Maidana followed it up with a brilliant Round 4 in which he routinely backed Mayweather up to the ropes and landed clean and heavy shots from close range.

Although Maidana was never able to quite duplicate that level of success later in the fight, he created a real sense at times that Mayweather was one clean punch away from real trouble. It’s a feeling that is foreign to most fans of Mayweather fights and one that didn’t show up as much in their first fight despite the close nature of the scorecards.

Mayweather may have proved Saturday that, at 37, he’s still got it. In fact, he connected an astounding 51 percent of his punches overall and 58 percent of his power shots. But he appeared legitimately vulnerable to Maidana’s pressure and rarely put forth a posture that screamed of poise and control.

Clearly we hold Mayweather to a different standard than others due to his greatness. But there were times he appeared to be surviving as much as he was thriving in the later rounds.

5. Floyd is (somewhat) open to a Pacquiao fight

It was sure nice to hear Mayweather handle questions about a fight against Manny Pacquiao without instantly shooting the idea down. But does this mean the fight actually happens in 2015? Based on the history between the two (not to mention the ongoing beef between Al Haymon and Top Rank’s Bob Arum), I wouldn’t be so sure.

But Mayweather didn’t dodge Pacquiao’s name when asked by Showtime’s Jim Gray after the fight, saying, “If the Pacquiao fight presents itself, let’s make it happen.” Moments later, when asked the same question by ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna, Mayweather said the fight would have to take place on Showtime PPV.

Later in the evening at the news conference when asked again, Mayweather said, “You can keep asking the same questions, and you can keep getting the same answers.”

So the results are somewhat inconclusive. But if the pay-per-view numbers from Saturday’s fight come back lower than expected for the third time in four fights since Mayweather signed the exclusive deal with Showtime, the hurdles that would need to be cleared to make the Pacquiao fight could have a better chance of actually happening.

A lot more red tape would need to be sorted out than even mentioned above, and considering the proven stubbornness of the parties in question, it’s hard to gain too much confidence. But it would appear we are a heck of a lot closer than we were in the recent past.

Sorting out controversy entering Mayhem

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
5:54
PM ET
Considering the controversies that happened during the first fight between Marcos Maidana and Floyd Mayweather Jr. in May, which ones should we keep in mind when they step inside the ring to face each other for the second time on Saturday in Las Vegas?

There are some people who believe that the worst storyline from the first fight was the judges’ scorecards. The opinions are split: some think Mayweather won easily at least eight out of the 12 rounds, while others take Maidana's side, claiming that the Argentinian should have pulled the upset (or at least, received a draw).

Controversy No. 2 for this fight involves the gloves. This controversy might be well remembered by the fans, since Maidana and his team have brought it up over and over again during the media tour.

Hours before the first fight back in May, Mayweather threatened not to step inside the ring if Maidana refused to switch gloves. Originally, the Argentinian wanted to use a pair of custom Everlast MX gloves, but Mayweather protested, arguing that the gloves were a threat to his health. In the end, the managers made a deal, and Maidana wore a pair of regular Everlast gloves. For Saturday's fight, it appears Maidana will wear the Everlast Powerlock gloves.

Or maybe, people should have a close look at controversy No. 3: Maidana's dirty tactics. In May, he had an aggressive approach, going after Mayweather head-first, throwing elbows and even trying to hit him with his knee.

All three controversies were factors that weighed on Mayweather's decision to give an immediate rematch to Maidana. On Saturday, both fighters will try to settle the score, only this time without any controversy.

Mayweather-Maidana by the numbers

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
6:36
AM ET

This Saturday, Floyd Mayweather Jr. will once again step in the ring with Marcos Maidana at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Mayweather won the first fight in May by unanimous decision, but many felt Maidana came the closest anyone has to becoming the first fighter to defeat Mayweather. He will try once again, while Mayweather looks to move to 47-0 and one step closer to retiring undefeated. Here are the numbers you need to know for Saturday’s fight:

2: This is the second rematch Floyd Mayweather has given in his illustrious career. After a controversial unanimous decision win in 2002 against Jose Luis Castillo, Mayweather defended his newly won WBC lightweight title almost eight months later in a rematch. Mayweather outlanded Castillo 162-137 en route to another unanimous decision victory.

221: Punches Maidana landed on Mayweather, the most of any Mayweather opponent in 37 tracked CompuBox fights. Maidana used an aggressive approach in the first six rounds of the fight. He attempted 78.5 punches per round and outlanded Mayweather 125-98 (110 power punches). The only other fighter to land more than 200 punches against Mayweather was Castillo in their first fight (203).

114: According to ESPN Stats & Information tracking, 114 of Maidana’s 221 punches were landed with Mayweather against the ropes (51 percent).

3: The fight in May marked the third time in Mayweather’s 46-fight career that he won by majority or split decision. Although some might argue the first Castillo decision, Mayweather’s only win by split decision came when he defeated Oscar De La Hoya in 2007. More recently, the Maidana fight and the previous bout against Canelo Alvarez were both victories by majority decision for the undefeated champion.

25: The plus/minus rating for Mayweather, the highest among active fighters. Plus/minus rating is determined by subtracting an opponent's connect percentage from a listed fighter's overall connect percentage. In his past three fights, Mayweather has plus/minus ratings of plus-28 (Maidana), plus-24 (Alvarez) and plus-22 (Robert Guerrero). Second on the plus/minus list is Erislandy Lara at plus-17.

54: Mayweather's connect percentage against Maidana. Mayweather was the less active fighter of the two, but he was by far the more effective. Mayweather landed between 50 and 59 percent in six of 12 rounds, 60 and 69 percent twice, and 14 of 20 punches in Round 4 for a 70 percent clip. Maidana's highest connect percentage in any round was 30 percent in the eighth round.

15: Million dollars gained from the live gate in the first Mayweather-Maidana fight, the third most in MGM Grand history. Mayweather has said MGM Grand is the place where "Money gets money," and that's proven in live gate sales. Mayweather has the three largest gates in MGM Grand boxing history, according to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, and has garnered $20 million from the Alvarez fight and $18.4 million from the De La Hoya fight.

12: The money helps Mayweather stay in Vegas, but the MGM Grand is also home to 12 Mayweather victories. Mayweather won at MGM Grand for the first time in 2000 against Gregorio Vargas and has defeated legends such as Castillo, De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez and Miguel Cotto. MGM Grand has hosted every Mayweather fight since 2007.

85: According to Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, Mayweather is an 8-1 favorite (minus-800), which gives him an 85 percent chance to win the rematch. In the previous bout, Mayweather was given an 87 percent chance to win the fight, with closing odds of minus-950 to Maidana’s plus-625 (13 percent to win).

5: Kenny Bayless will be the referee for Mayweather-Maidana, which marks the fifth time he has been in the ring as the referee for a Mayweather fight. Bayless was the referee for Mayweather's victories against Alvarez, Shane Mosley and De La Hoya and for Mayweather's pro debut against Roberto Apodaca.

3: Three of Mayweather's four titles will be on the line when he defends the WBA and WBC welterweight titles as well as the WBC junior middleweight title. The most recent time titles from multiple divisions were on the line in a fight was 1988, when Sugar Ray Leonard fought Donny Lalonde for belts in the super middleweight and light heavyweight divisions.

--Statistical support provided by CompuBox

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