Boxing: Manny Pacquiao

'Cold war' a good thing? Just wait and see

January, 9, 2014
1/09/14
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Next month will mark exactly one year since Floyd Mayweather Jr. left HBO to sign a widely publicized six-fight, 30-month deal with Showtime/CBS.

Mayweather's leap was, for all intents and purposes, the final straw to kick off the current promotional and network cold war that had been brewing for years. One month later, HBO severed ties with Golden Boy fighters, essentially creating two independent professional boxing leagues.

The immediate aftermath wasn't the doom and gloom many had feared, however. In fact, the intense competition created loaded fight cards that, in turn, helped produce a year as enthralling as boxing has seen this century.

Last week, we celebrated the end of 2013 by marveling at what it delivered -- a fact perfectly illustrated by how much positive debate surrounded many year-end awards. But all of the excitement had a certain fools' gold quality to it when you consider: (1) the best still aren't fighting the best, and (2) we aren't any closer to resolving this petty and short-sighted debacle than we were 12 months ago.

Blogging on how annoying and potentially damaging the cold war is to boxing is far from a novel concept. And it would be naive to think that one or more of these stories have any kind of power to change the current culture.

Promoters and the equally culpable networks will continue to accept short-term reward without care for the long-term consequences created by this current segregation. So, too, will many big-name fighters look to protect their immediate financial gains by not rocking the boat.

It's difficult to fault the fighters, considering how unorganized and unforgiving this sport truly is. But it also stands to reason that things would likely be different if more fighters spoke up. Ultimately, the power is theirs.

We enjoyed something pretty special this past year, during which the overall health of the sport seemed to improve following a dark 2012 marred by drug suspensions, injuries and lopsided matchmaking. Attempting to write off 2013 as merely an aberration would be disingenuous, but predicting a repeat is far too optimistic.

It's not that the New Year fails to offer any intriguing in-house promotional bouts, with a likely Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley Jr. rematch in April topping the list. It's just that each of these fights brings us closer to an inevitable letdown as major bouts in multiple weight classes fail to get made while notable elite fighters run out of realistic opponents.

In the meantime, we'll wait as Mayweather chooses between an undeserving Amir Khan and an overmatched Marcos Maidana for his next fight, instead of Bradley or Pacquiao (who both failed to help matters by not even mentioning Mayweather's name after recent wins). And we'll be sure to shrug our shoulders with a look that says "that's just the way it is" when outraged casual fans can't seem to grasp why obvious fights have no prayer of getting made.

In a way, we're all accomplices: the fans who continue to pay for second-rate fights, the writers worn down enough to accept dysfunction as the new norm and the fighters who are willing to fight "whoever my promoter wants." But too many of us submit to an easy-out justification of the sport's current reality: You can't change the system, so why bother trying?

In 2013, we were paid handsomely, up front, with a perfect storm of great fights that allowed us to forget the fact that pure selfishness continues to control (and plague) the sport. As long as the getting is still good, you won't hear many complaints.

But as the months roll on, it's inevitable that the rust within this faulty system will begin to show. Does anyone really believe that a year from now we'll still feel this accepting of the current state of affairs?

Until those in power are forced to come to their senses and fighters with the most clout openly campaign for Mr. Arum and Mr. Schaefer to -- with apologies to the late Ronald Reagan -- "tear down this wall," there will be no great thaw.

This past year was a good one -- no, a great one -- for boxing. But let's not lose sight of the consequences of allowing the ignorance and greed of boxing's two most powerful entities to prevent its two most important ones, the fighters and the fans, from getting what they want and deserve.

'12 Days': Alvarez-Cotto

December, 25, 2013
12/25/13
3:22
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Canelo AlvarezAl Bello/Getty ImagesWould Canelo Alvarez have the sand to grab the torch from Miguel Cotto?
In the spirit of the holidays, ESPN is celebrating the season with our own "12 Days" wish list of the fights we want to see most, regardless of promotional or other entanglements. Keep checking back over the coming days to see new fights revealed, discuss our choices, or even suggest some of your own in the comments section or via Twitter using #ESPN12Days.

The skinny kid from L.A. who grew up wanting to be a ballplayer, not a boxer, wasn't so skinny anymore and certainly had grown into his fighting form. An Olympic gold medalist and 10-time professional world titleholder, Oscar De La Hoya was boxing's rock star by the time he laced up a pair of gloves for the final time on Dec. 6, 2008.

Although "The Golden Boy" had lost two of his previous four bouts and three of his past six, those defeats had come against all-time greats who had been in their primes, and De La Hoya himself remained a force at age 35. When the match was made with a then-29-year-old Filipino fighter with a perma-smile and speed to burn, the fight was no foregone conclusion. Manny Pacquiao was already the world's leading pound-for-pound fighter, having come into his own under the guiding hand of trainer Freddie Roach, but De La Hoya was favored by many of the sport's cognoscenti.

The skinny kid from L.A. actually had to drop down a weight class, to 147 pounds, while Pacquiao -- a lightweight -- jumped two divisions to meet De La Hoya near the welterweight limit. As much respect as Pacquiao had earned in dispatching Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales and Juan Manuel Marquez while climbing the ladder from his origins as a speedy but raw flyweight, many considered a 12-pound leap to meet the great De La Hoya a bridge too far.

It wasn't, as we now know. Pacquiao's speed, funky angles and relentless volume punching trumped De La Hoya's size and experience, and boxing witnessed a clear-cut changing of the guard as one pound-for-pound and pay-per-view colossus fell at the hands of the man who would be king in a rightful claiming of the throne.

But by and large, the act of torch passing -- especially in boxing -- is a far trickier thing. Such ceremony is usually prevented by pounds, promoters and egos, and the thing is settled not in the ring but in the minds of fight fans, slowly and well past any in-the-moment appreciation.

Yet five years after De La Hoya-Pacquiao, there is one matchup that shapes up similarly -- and in some ways more interestingly: Mr. Miguel Cotto, meet Mr. Saul Alvarez.

Cotto, 33, whom many believed ruined after his 2009 thrashing by Pacquiao and who was considered shot before last year's losses to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Austin Trout, has improbably risen in stature since that time. The Puerto Rican icon remains one of boxing's top draws and, if anything can be gleaned from a dominant stoppage of Delvin Rodriguez in his most recent outing, still has some scrap left in him.

For his part, the decade-younger Alvarez -- a star in his native Mexico -- is coming off a defeat, also to Mayweather, this past September. It remains to be seen how Canelo reacts to his first loss as a pro and whether he can embrace it as a learning experience -- the sort that could carry him through a new set of trials in a matchup with a legend like Cotto.

And what a matchup it would be: Mexico versus Puerto Rico, young meets old, two offense-first fighters and body punchers exchanging at kidney-swelling levels and refusing to wilt. Let's put it on in New York, at the Garden, where Cotto is the house fighter and adopted hero but where the local Mexican community would no doubt show Canelo plenty of love.

If Cotto wins, his legend -- and Hall of Fame dossier -- grows. He becomes emperor of the island, Puerto Rico's supreme leader (if unofficially), and maybe even puts himself in position to land a Mayweather or Pacquiao rematch. Few in Cotto's position -- a glorified but battle-worn stallion who not long ago had been all but put out to pasture -- get to spend their twilight years so well.

And Canelo? A victory over Cotto likely would be just the beginning for him, a royal seal that legitimizes a fighter still deemed more style than substance by many. With fights against Mayweather and Cotto -- and a torch-grabbing triumph -- under his belt, Alvarez would presumably then have the chops, confidence and track record to regularly land the biggest fights and build the sort of decorated career that will make him the prime target, let's say sometime around 2025, for the sport's next skinny superstar-to-be.

Roach: Pacquiao will 'destroy' Rios

November, 22, 2013
11/22/13
9:46
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Roach/PacquiaoChris Farina/Top RankFreddie Roach expects his fighter, Manny Pacquiao, to receive little resistance from Brandon Rios.

MACAU -- Brandon Rios and his trainer, Robert Garcia, think that Manny Pacquiao is in decline. It's an assertion that brings a snort of derision from Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach.

"When does he watch my guy? Does he see my guy train every day? I don't think his opinion really counts," Roach said of Garcia in Macau on Friday. "I watch my fighters carefully. If Manny had shown any signs of slippage in training camp, I'd be the first person to tell him it's time to go. It's not time yet, that's for sure."

Pacquiao, Roach says, knows full well that he has to be impressive against Rios in the Venetian Macao's Cotai Arena on Sunday morning (Saturday night in the United States), particularly as he is coming off two straight losses -- even if one of those losses, a decision defeat against Timothy Bradley Jr. in June 2012, was highly disputed.

"Being impressive is not winning a close decision," Roach said. "Being impressive is winning by knockout. He needs to win in good fashion, and the best way he can do that is by knocking the other guy out."

That's a scenario the trainer has no trouble envisioning.

"I don't feel like Brandon Rios can go the distance with the talent of Manny Pacquiao," Roach said. "I'm very confident about that. It's a world-class fighter going up against a guy who's maybe a journeyman at best."

Of course, Pacquiao was also determined to look impressive against Juan Manuel Marquez in his most recent outing, to prove once and for all that he was the superior fighter after three incredibly close battles between the two. That resulted in his being overly aggressive and walking into a sixth-round counter right hand that knocked him cold. Isn't there the danger that it could happen again?

"Sure, it can lead to that, but I think he learned his lesson last time," Roach said of Pacquiao. "He tried to finish Marquez and paid for it. I don't think we're fighting a guy like Marquez, though. Marquez is one of the slickest fighters of all time, let's face it. They had four great, close fights together. I don't think we're in against Marquez. This is not the same class as Marquez. It's not the same ability as Marquez. I don't feel this guy. He's too slow."

Indeed, Roach is doing little to sell the notion that fans should buy the pay-per-view to watch an enthralling, close battle.

"He won a title at 135 pounds; he was losing the fight eight rounds to zero, and he landed a lucky punch and got the win," Roach said. "Quality opponents: I don't see him have any. His last fight, he lost [to Mike Alvarado]; and then my guy Ruslan Provodnikov destroyed [Alvarado].

"I hope they're overconfident, because Manny's going to destroy this guy."

Pacquiao hopes to lift countrymen

November, 22, 2013
11/22/13
8:53
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MACAU -- While Manny Pacquiao's immediate focus is, of course, on this weekend's contest with Brandon Rios at the Venetian Macao, his thoughts are inevitably also with his countryman in the Philippines, who are still suffering from the ravages of Typhoon Haiyan, which plowed into the country on Nov. 8 and caused at least 4,000 deaths.

However, far from being a distraction, the crisis is, says Pacquiao, serving as stimulation during his preparations.

"I am more motivated for this fight, to win this fight because of what happened in the Philippines," he said this week. "My countrymen, I want to make them happy. To bring honor to my country."

His coach, Freddie Roach, agrees.

"I think the typhoon is motivation for Manny, because you know what? We thought about going to ground zero, and we were talking to the camp about it, and we discussed it and we agreed that if anybody goes, the camp will go," he said in Macau on Friday. "Because that's what we did in Baguio with the typhoon up there [in 2009]. But this time the fight was getting too close, and we decided Manny winning the fight was the best thing we could do. Manny has sent a lot of money down there, a lot of food down there, he's sent his people down there, the congress people who work for him. He's done everything possible that he can do, and his goal now is to win the fight for his people. That's what makes him tick."

Meanwhile, Sands China Ltd., which owns the Venetian Macao, has announced it will contribute to Haiyan relief efforts. The company has already made a $100,000 donation to the Macau Red Cross, which it will follow up by donating 100 percent of the gate receipts from its on-site closed-circuit feed and then matching that figure with an additional contribution. Red Cross donation boxes will also be placed throughout CotaiArena during the fight card.

Rios fit, says Pacquiao has slowed

November, 22, 2013
11/22/13
1:33
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Brandon Chris Farina/Top Rank Brandon Rios is seemingly much healthier at welterweight and working with strength coach Alex Ariza.

MACAU -- Alex Ariza may have made his most public mark on fight week so far with The Kick Heard ‘Round the World, but for Team Brandon Rios, Ariza's biggest contribution came long before then, and the evidence of it was in the form of the light food that Rios was eating in his suite as he spoke to a small group of reporters on Monday.

Rios is, of course, infamous for struggling to make weight. Indeed, he failed to do so for two consecutive lightweight title bouts, against John Murray and Richar Abril, in 2011 and 2012. Not surprisingly, his performance in both those contests was sluggish, and many observers believe he was fortunate to escape with a points victory against Abril.

This week, though, the hollow-cheeked prefight Rios of fights past has been replaced by a man who is apparently healthy, happy and on weight. And although it surely helps that Saturday's bout with Manny Pacquiao will be contested at the welterweight limit, Rios trainer Robert Garcia gives most of the credit to Ariza, the strength and conditioning coach whose switch from Team Pacquiao to Camp Rios is one source of the underlying tension between the two sides.

"Now that we have brought in Alex Ariza, we learned the importance of eating, drinking water and resting," Garcia said. "Before that, we all thought that making weight was not drinking water for four or five days before a fight, not eating for four or five days before a fight. That's how I did it, that's how [my former promotional mate] Fernando Vargas did it, that's what my brother Mikey did, that's what Brandon was doing. But now it's the opposite. Brandon is eating three or four times a day now. He's drinking one of these" -- Garcia holds up a bottle of water -- "every couple of hours, up and until Friday, the day before the weigh-in. That's one thing we learned. And resting: That's another thing that makes a really big difference."

His fighter's improved condition is one reason for Garcia feeling optimistic about this weekend's contest. Another is what he perceives as terminal decline in Pacquiao's skills.

"We know that Pacquiao has been a great champion, considered perhaps one of the best in history," Garcia said. "But we've seen the last two years, the last two fights, there are some differences, there are some changes, and especially his last fight when he got knocked out. We don't know -- nobody knows -- how that really affected him. We've seen other fighters -- and I would say nine out of 10 are never the same -- but we don't know."

It's a theme echoed by Rios.

"Pacquiao, in his last fight, wasn't as fast as he was in previous fights," he said. "I think he has slowed down a lot. You could see that his legs were cramping up as well. I don't know what's going on. Maybe it's his age. It's amazing: When the body says it's time to go, it's time to go."

Still KO demons to slay for Pacquiao

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
3:55
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It was one of the longest minutes I can recall as a boxing fan.

As millions around the world held their collective breath, exactly 62 seconds elapsed between the time Manny Pacquiao fell face-first to the canvas and ringside doctors completed the process of reviving him from a frightening state of unconsciousness last December.

Watching an ending as dramatic as Juan Manuel Marquez's sixth-round knockout of Pacquiao in their brutal fourth fight creates a Molotov cocktail of emotions for any fight fan. Warm from the celebration of such a historically significant war, yet chilled by concern for Pacquiao's health, all anyone could do was exhale at the first sign of movement from the Filipino icon.

Thoughts flash through the mind at a rapid pace during moments of shock, making a minute feel infinitely longer. But like most, I wasn't contemplating whether Pacquiao would ever be the same as a fighter or whether his prime had been taken with one punch as he lay motionless in the ring.

I wonder whether he would wake up.

The only person not privy to the same inner conflict was Pacquiao himself, who could only later view a replay of the knockout -- and did so with the emotional disconnect of watching an actor, dressed up as him, stand in to endure the fall.

In some ways, I wonder if that act has only continued during the promotion of Saturday's bout between Pacquiao and all-action slugger Brandon Rios in Macau, (HBO PPV, 9 p.m. ET).

It's no secret that Pacquiao doesn't reveal much of his true self to the public. He can be an excruciating interview. And as questions about his physical and mental state have built over the past 12 months, Pacquiao has fielded media inquiries with one of two scripted personalities.

There is PacMan, the jovial celebrity who replies to queries with an intoxicating smile and a thunderous laugh, often deployed to mask a lack of depth to his answers. And then there is Shy Manny, who isn't above concealing his full understanding of the English language if he feels the need to withhold a fitting response.

I saw a little of both when I got a few minutes to sit down with Pacquiao during the fall media tour for the fight, with the transition from Shy Manny to PacMan eased by my admission to sharing a love for his Boston Celtics, prompting questions of whether the team would ever be the same without Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

But just as pleasant small talk at the doctor's office can be merely a precursor to a penetrating exam, the inevitable questions about whether Pacquiao -- like his beloved Celtics -- would ever be the same soon followed.

Trying to get inside Pacquiao's head is a lot like trying to trade punches with him in the ring. He has the muscle memory to instantly parry the true meaning of your question before countering from an awkward angle, forcing you to take a step back.

For the most part, Pacquiao was direct and consistent, firing back variations of the same responses:

"I am not thinking about my last fight."

"This is part of boxing."

"That's not my first time to lose like that."

By no means was I expecting an emotional admission of any fear or doubt he was battling inside. Yet with each response, I couldn't help but shake a feeling of understated heaviness behind his prodigious brown eyes.

Manny Pacquiao has done a great job throughout the promotion of the fight playing the role of Manny Pacquiao. But the one person I believe he has yet to fully convince is himself, and that won't happen until he finally steps into the ring and regains his comfort level in an actual fight.

This goes deeper than any superficial fear of facing Rios, or even Pacquiao doubting his own punch resistance after such a brutal knockout. This is more about overcoming the loss of his invincibility, something Pacquiao had been able to maintain even through multiple defeats.

Pacquiao is quick to mention that he has come back from a knockout defeat twice before. But those fights came in the 20th century, when Manny was still a teen, and in both cases he was depleted after missing weight. In fact, his most recent KO loss, in a 1999 flyweight title fight against Medgoen Singsurat, came on a body shot.

The knockout loss to Marquez holds significantly more meaning. Pacquiao is now a worldwide star and a not-long-deposed pound-for-pound king who has redefined what's possible for a fighter his size by successfully making unprecedented climbs in weight. Moreover, before last December, he hadn't suffered a legitimate knockdown in nearly 10 years.

Moreover, history has been unkind to fighters Pacquiao's age -- he turns 35 next month -- and particularly those attempting to regain top form after such a brutal defeat. Having to deal with the realities of suddenly feeling mortal is a heavy burden for anyone, but it carries a special sting for a fighter: It means he's frighteningly close to his scariest opponent -- the end.

Pacquiao may have built himself a life of royalty as an international celebrity and humanitarian who moonlights as a congressman in his native land. But in his heart, he's a fighter. It's his identity and has been his profession and craft for more than half his life. Without that foundation, he might think, what is he really?

After listening to Manny dance and feint around more questions with typical deftness -- "That's just boxing" and "It comes with the territory" -- I closed my time with him by asking whether he hopes to someday avenge the defeat to Marquez. He told me about how he was convinced, after watching the replay of their fourth fight, that he was one round away from finishing JMM.

"Before that accident happened ..." Pacquiao said, before stopping in his tracks to catch himself mid-sentence.

It was the way he said "accident" that was startling, and we locked eyes with the same surprised look. It was as if the word snuck out from behind his tight defense -- a rare moment of honest clarity during an otherwise forgettable stop on an infinite journey of standard-fare interviews.

Pacquiao paused, prompting members of his team to break free from their own conversations, as if a record playing in a club had come to a screeching halt. He looked at them. They looked back at him. And just like that, the curtain revealing the man closed. Pacquiao began again, as if the moment had never happened: "Before the knockdown happened, the fight is very good."

But Pacquiao will find that he can't dodge or slip any lingering self-doubt he carries into the ring on Saturday. He'll have to face it just as he does a come-forward brawler in Rios: head on.

Rios' perceived slight a blessing in disguise

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
9:12
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Every big-time fight could benefit from a marketable hook or back story associated with each fighter. A pair of marketable names, dominant personalities and exciting in-ring styles wouldn't hurt the number of potential pay-per-view buys, either.

When it comes to Saturday's welterweight showdown between Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios from Macau, China (HBO PPV, 9 p.m. ET), the fight itself essentially features all of the above. But at its core, the fight promotion is still driven by the central themes surrounding each fighter: Will the veteran Pacquiao rebound from a devastating knockout loss against Juan Manuel Marquez, and can Rios, the all-action fighter with the crowd-pleasing style, establish himself as a star in the making?

The narrative to the fight has been pretty cut and dry without too many changes (the recent fight between camps notwithstanding), except for the fact that each time Rios has opened his mouth in recent months, the same sequence of quotes continue to surface.

Rios doesn't like being labeled as the opponent. He doesn't appreciate being considered a one-dimensional slugger for whom few are giving a legitimate chance. And most of all, he's none too pleased with the assertion that Pacquiao's team handpicked him due to his straight-ahead style.

Wait a second ... are we missing something here?

Any issue Rios might have with the perception of his talent, style or chances in Saturday's fight should probably be taken up with the person most responsible for getting his career to this point as a headlining fighter in an international pay-per-view: himself.

Rios is only in this fight because of how perfect his qualifications and in-ring characteristics matched up as the ideal opponent for Pacquiao, who enters fresh off two straight defeats for the first time in his career. Not only has this not been a secret to those close to boxing about how cleverly wrapped of a "get well" fight it was intended to be from the start, it was Pacquiao's camp themselves who have been transparent from the start about why Rios was chosen.

If he were any more dangerous as a technician or one-punch slugger, Rios simply wouldn't have been in position to cash in on the biggest opportunity of his career. Moreover, if he hadn't built his name in recent years on the provocation of violence and his caveman fighting style, he wouldn't have had the brand name to hold up the other side of the marquee.

Rios' one-dimensional style of straight-ahead brawling is the perfect compliment to Pacquiao's counterpunching from multiple angles, not just from the standpoint of giving PacMan the best chance to bounce back by playing to his strengths, but also from a marketing perspective for a fight expected to be entertaining regardless of how it plays out.

"If [Pacquiao] thinks that I'm going to be the same as [Antonio] Maragarito, he has something else coming," Rios told ESPN.com. "I'm not the same fighter like Margarito was. I'm totally different. I'm younger, I'm more experienced, I have a lot of amateur background. So I'll be ready."

There was a time Rios was considered more of a well-rounded prospect, offering a bit more boxing ability to offset his love for mixing it up. But it has come down to Rios being the one all too willing to simplify his own style to that of a go-for-broke pressure fighter looking to turn every single fight into a war.

Whatever the shift in philosophy has done to stunt his growth as a complete fighter (along with potentially shortening his career), it has provided him faster glory and a higher immediate ceiling thanks to his standing as one of the sport's top must-see attractions.

Although I don't begrudge Rios the opportunity to use the perceived slighting as motivation to, in his words, become the fighter who "retires Manny Pacquiao," a bit of proper perspective does need to be in order.

"People are always going to criticize and say I'm just a walking punching bag," Rios said. "It doesn't bother me. I just keep proving them wrong.

"I want to be a star in boxing. I want to be the new guy. I want to get paid like these guys are getting paid. I want to be like what they are. I want that. I want to experience all that."

Regardless of how he got here, Rios will have his chance to make that leap on Saturday. Now it's just up to him to take advantage of his opportunity.

Rival camps a study in contrasts

November, 19, 2013
11/19/13
10:24
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MACAU -- Fight week allows observers only the briefest of glimpses, through slightly open windows, behind the curtain of boxers' camps. Sometimes, though, even those glimpses are enough to allow for a reasonable inference of conditions and contrasts in the rival corners.

Brandon Rios elected not to work out as usual on Tuesday morning, but he and his team hung out as promotional mate Evgeny Gradovich went through his paces, and while "The Russian Mexican" approached his business with a quiet diligence, Rios and friends, including trainer Robert Garcia, were more ebullient.

"You're going to hear all kinds of things from this guy," said Lee Samuels, PR maven for Rios promoter Top Rank, shaking his head with a wry smile. "Words, noises, everything."

Most of those words, Rios himself might have observed, began with the letter "F." He says he learned from watching himself on HBO's "24/7" that he says those words a lot. But amid the colorful language, there was a lot of joking, laughing, pulling of pranks and, at random intervals, Rios dropping to the floor to do push-ups -- the result, he says, of him losing a bet to strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza, the details of which seem hazy even to the bet's apparent winner.

Ariza concedes that the uninhibited, free-flowing atmosphere in Camp Rios is somewhat different to the one that surrounds his most recent and most famous employer, and that contrast was soon on display after the Oxnard, Calif., crew exits and Manny Pacquiao appears, greeted by a throng of cameras and microphones.

If Rios is completely devoid of filters, Pacquiao's utterances are sifted through a series of them -- to ensure accuracy of language, to avoid any semblance of controversy. Where Rios is voluble and loud, Pacquiao is reticent and quiet.

As he wraps his hands in readiness for his own workout, Pacquiao listens to each question posed to him by a small gaggle of reporters, takes each inquiry on board and seemingly rolls it around in his head for a few seconds, then offers a concise and suitably sanitized response.

And yet, for anyone looking for signs of intrigue, even PacMan's considered answers showed hints.

Asked what he thought about Garcia and Rios suggesting their best chance would come in the later rounds, Pacquiao offered only that such things were easy to say, and he smiled when it was suggested to him that it wouldn't necessarily be easy for his opponent to survive into those later rounds. Prompted to describe his foe's most dangerous attributes, he suggested that Rios might be better served to say less and save his talking for the ring. And when it is pointed out to him that Rios has said he hopes to send Pacquiao into retirement, the Filipino icon responded that only God can tell him when to retire. "Brandon Rios," he said, "is not greater than God."

It wasn't exactly Mike Tyson grabbing his crotch and launching into a profanity-laced tirade, but by Pacquiao's gentle standards, those were some major burns. And there are enough subplots to the contest -- Ariza's somewhat acrimonious departure from Team Pacquiao and subsequent partnership with Rios; the burgeoning rivalry between Garcia and Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach; and Rios being captured on camera a few years ago apparently mocking Roach's Parkinson's disease (and don't think Pacquiao, for one, has forgotten about that) -- to suggest that maybe, just maybe, there is a genuine needle between the two sides.

Sometimes, opposites attract. Sometimes, they're just opposites. And when opposites meet in the ring, the result is often an intriguing and even explosive clash. Boxing fans will be hoping for just that on Saturday night.

Bradley: Marquez's confidence will hurt him

October, 11, 2013
10/11/13
6:36
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In what has been a relatively uneventful promotion leading up to Saturday's welterweight title bout between Timothy Bradley Jr. and Juan Manuel Marquez, the one thing that has stood out is the high level of respect shown by the fighters toward each another.

This simply isn't the fight for those attracted to the sport by taunting and braggadocio. In its place has been a steady stream of each fighter talking up the other's ability and warrior spirit.

The careers of both Marquez and Bradley have been marked by their professionalism, and both men are keenly aware of how evenly matched they are in a bout that's as close to a pick-'em bout as you'll find between top-10 pound-for-pound fighters.

But if there's one thing that might rub Bradley the wrong way -- even just a little bit -- it's the belief that Marquez could potentially be overlooking him just a hair.

"Confidence is everything when it comes to fighting. The more confident you are, I think the better you perform," Bradley told ESPN.com last week. "And Marquez's confidence right now is through the roof. It's almost to the point where it's pretty damn near arrogant."

Few could blame Marquez for believing so highly in himself, however, especially in the aftermath of his one-punch knockout of career rival Manny Pacquiao in their fourth fight last December. But Bradley says he believes the challenger's recent surge of what he considers overconfidence is something that can play directly into the younger fighter's hands.

"[Marquez] is going to come out and think he's 'Mr. Big Shot,' " Bradley said. "He just knocked out Pacquiao and he's saying to himself, 'Who the hell is this little guy from Palm Springs, California, this Timothy Bradley? This young kid. I just knocked out Manny Pacquiao.' He's going to come out with that on his shoulder."

Because of Marquez's all-time high confidence, and the fact that the 40-year-old legend is giving up 10 years to his opponent, Bradley says he believes he'll be met in the center of the ring Saturday by an aggressive fighter intent on pushing the action and testing his chin early.

Bad idea, says Bradley.

"I hope he presses the action, because it's going to be his biggest mistake," Bradley said. "If he tries to go at my pace, he's going to die out."

In the aftermath of the hellacious beating Bradley took in an all-action March victory over Ruslan Provodnikov, there's a theory about the fighter's punch resistance that he is all too aware of. Naturally, it's a belief that he outright dismisses, pointing to a tremendous training camp in which he felt as fresh as can be.

But the thought is that if Marquez, a technically gifted counterpuncher and finisher, can land anything close to the number of clean shots that Provodnikov connected with to the chin of Bradley, Saturday's fight doesn't have a prayer of going the distance.

"One reporter told me Marquez was at camp breaking bags and busting this and that," Bradley said. "I'm like, 'I don't give a damn what he's doing.' I don't care, man. I'm not a bag. I'm not going to sit there and let this guy just hit on me. It's not going to happen.

"He's definitely stronger. He's probably hitting harder and carrying his weight better. But I think I'm the naturally bigger 147-pounder. I should be the stronger and bigger guy in this fight, without a doubt."

Mayweather-Canelo biggest in a decade?

September, 14, 2013
9/14/13
1:50
AM ET

LAS VEGAS -- The idea has begun to take hold that Saturday's Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Canelo Alvarez clash at the MGM Grand Garden Arena could be boxing's best in years. The expectations for the bout confirm it: Records already have been broken for live-gate revenue and closed-circuit sales, and it's hoped that the pay-per-view bount for the card will exceed, or at least approach, the total that Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya set six years ago in their blockbuster, also staged at the MGM Grand.

And if you think about it, the Mayweather-Alvarez main event would seem to check every box that we would want in a prizegfight: a confrontation between skilled, popular and undefeated representatives of the sport, fighters who together span cultures and generations.

Mayweather and Alvarez are the yin and yang of boxing. The former has speed, exceptional defensive gifts and ring intelligence that has gone unmatched in the past quarter century, and he has been the standard bearer for American boxers for at least a decade. The latter is young, strong and precocious, having demonstrated his popularity in drawing almost 40 thousand people to San Antonio's Alamodome and specifically connecting with his Mexican countrymen.

And the matching of these fighters, although compelling, is actually trumped by the stakes: Either Mayweather or Canelo is going to lose his unbeaten status on Saturday night. Pondering how that will happen is an interesting enough thought, but take it a step further and imagine how this will affect not only the future of both fighters, but also of boxing itself.

Floyd has the chance to reach the magical mark of 50-0, which would not only surpass the touchstone career record of the legendary Rocco Francis Marchegiano (better known as Rocky Marciano), but would also funnel more millions into his considerable bank account.

Is "Money" going for broke in this fight? If he recognizes any risk in Alvarez, it's also true that he knows -- and, more importantly, knew when it came time to decide on an opponent -- he is the favorite, regardless of any age or weight disadvantages. But the fact remains: The public sees a risk, and in that sense, Mayweather is giving fight fans what they want.

Canelo, for his part, has a chance to begin a new era. His popularity has grown by leaps and bounds in the shortest of spans, and he is convinced that he has what it takes to become the new face of boxing -- a title that he would instantly take on if he were able to upset the reigning P4P and PPV champ.

Speaking of, Canelo is headlining his first PPV event, one that will reach nearly two million homes -- an extraordinary figure that he stands to gain greatly from, even in a loss. In that sense, this fight is enormous -- and, yes, perhaps the biggest in a decade. The exploits of Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez last year were nothing to scoff at, but considering what hinges on this fight -- one star adding another win to his record and the other adding a "1" to the other side of the ledger -- the hype of "The One" figures to hold up over time.
videoIt has become the big Tuesday-of-fight-week tradition at the MGM Grand: The fighters make staged entrances to the casino and then, after talking with fans, they slip into a back room to sit down for a half hour or so with members of the media.

Few have been through this rigmarole more often than Floyd Mayweather Jr., and as he has grown in stature, and as his relationship with the media has become less prickly than it once was, these sessions have often become stream-of-consciousness abstractions: a news conference as imagined by Salvador Dali. Which is fair enough. There are only so many times you can ask a man about his defense, his training or his opponent -- and on Tuesday, Mayweather showed irritation when questioned how Canelo Alvarez ranked on the Index of Tough Fights because, as he pointed out, he couldn't say as he hadn't actually fought him yet.

So instead Mayweather relaxed, talked about his friends and his team, berated one employee who put honey in his coffee ("You don't put honey in coffee, you put honey in tea," he chided) and who then had to put up with his boss explaining how he once almost put diesel in one of Floyd's Ferraris and generally had a tendency to fail at most tasks, "but I keep him around anyway because he's my friend."

There was also a brief detour into discussion of shopping at Dupont Registry. The "Money" advice: Never buy yachts, but private jets are OK. Floyd did, however, take the opportunity to reflect on his progress from a man who felt frustrated with his career direction at Top Rank to one who is inarguably the single most powerful athlete in the sport. In hindsight, he says, he understands some of the decisions against which he chafed while with his former promoter.

"When I was younger, I didn't understand business," he said. "For Top Rank, Oscar De La Hoya was their cash cow. They're not going to take the risk of me fighting him and him taking a loss. Eventually, Oscar left and [Top Rank President Bob Arum] wouldn't let me fight Miguel Cotto, because 'Floyd's going to leave, and I can't let him beat Cotto and then leave. I need to build Cotto to become my cash cow.' And then when he got Manny Pacquiao, he said, 'Pacquiao's my cash cow,' and he didn't mind feeding Cotto to Pacquiao."

In that same vein, was he concerned that his present promotional partners, Golden Boy, might be viewing the 23-year-old Alvarez as the future star to take over from the 36-year-old Mayweather?

"He's not the future," Mayweather said without hesitation. "He's not the future. He's still going to be a star after this promotion. After he loses, he's still going to be a star because he's young, he's still going to be able to do pay-per-view numbers. But I've got a lot of young guys under my banner who are going to make a lot of noise."

He is unconcerned by the presence among Saturday's judges of C.J. Ross, one of two who infamously scored Timothy Bradley Jr. the winner over Manny Pacquiao.

"I can't fight the judges," he said. "I can judge myself. I can rate myself. Like with the Robert Guerrero fight."

Guerrero, of course, is his most recent foe, who came up short in a May bout in which Mayweather, according to most ringside and couch-bound observers, was nothing short of masterful, despite his long layoff and two-month incarceration for a domestic assault charge. Mayweather, however, disagreed.

"I gave myself a D," he insisted. "I wasn't impressed with myself. I could have been better. But I had been off a year, my body had totally changed because I got big from doing push-ups every day [in jail]. But you know, things happen. But I wasn't impressed with myself at all. I know me as a fighter. I could have done better, and in this fight I'm going to be totally different."

He smiled.

"Watch!"

Expect boxing's banner year to get better?

August, 20, 2013
8/20/13
4:26
PM ET
So let's be real with each other about boxing in 2013:

Like a no-hitter through seven innings, this year shouldn't be celebrated too early. Can't be too careful to avoid jinxing anything to do with this cruel and unpredictable sport. But ... this year has been crazy. Amazing. Riveting. Scintillating. And it just seems to keep getting better with every week.

[+] EnlargeGeale-Barker
Courtesy of Alex Ridley.Saturday's fight between Daniel Geale and Darren Barker continued this year's trend of barnburners, stirring something unfamiliar in fight fans: hope.
From the blockbuster cards to the low-profile shows featuring prospects and journeymen, it isn't just that there has routinely been something to talk about at the proverbial watercooler. The talk has even been positive.

Even now, in the midst of a promotional cold war I personally abhor and will never accept as simply "Well, that's just the way it is," we are getting the fights we want -- and they are actually living up to expectation.

Fans have been able to enjoy at least five legitimate candidates for fight of the year (and that was before Saturday's Darren Barker-Daniel Geale scrap), including at least two -- Timothy Bradley Jr.-Ruslan Provodnikov and Mike Alvarado-Brandon Rios II -- that produced enough drama and savage artistry to be considered on par with the best of this century.

But it goes beyond that. We've also seen breakout campaigns from exciting and marketable action fighters such as Gennady Golovkin, Lucas Matthysse, Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev. We've seen the development of young stars who appear more than ready to be labeled "next." (I'm looking at you, Abner Mares, Adrien Broner and Mikey Garcia.) And we've seen more than the typical number of under-the-radar fights (think Omar Figueroa-Nihito Arakawa and Sakio Bika-Marco Antonio Periban) deliver unexpected fireworks.

What this all amounts to, especially with a jam-packed final five months already on the slate, with fight-of-the-year hopefuls and big-name pairings jumping off the schedule, is two-fold.

First of all, and probably most important, the sport is relatively healthy again. Go ahead, bring on the backlash to that comment. And don't forget to mention the lack of a central governing body, too many titles, far-from-ideal drug-testing protocols and, oh yeah, that whole promotional catfight. But all things considered, boxing appears to be moving in the right direction after such an up-and-down decade.

And it clearly had been a rough ride for the sport since 2004, when a clear and distinct changing of the guard began to take place. There was the sudden crumbling of the heavyweight division, with the retirements of Lennox Lewis and Vitali Klitschko, not to mention the fallout of two knockout losses in a 17-month span for current champion Wladimir Klitschko. You also had a group of fighters who had become the face of the sport over the previous seven or eight years -- Oscar De La Hoya, Roy Jones Jr., Shane Mosley, Felix Trinidad -- hit career snags as losses and the impact of age began to erode their elite status.

Every valley, however, eventually leads back to another peak, and boxing rebounded in a big way with a banner year in 2007. In fact, it was the sport's last truly great year.

You had the anchor of the highest-grossing fight in history between Floyd Mayweather and De La Hoya. There were marquee bouts between unbeaten fighters such as Mayweather-Ricky Hatton, Kelly Pavlik-Jermain Taylor I and Joe Calzaghe-Mikkel Kessler. There also was a run of memorable action fights: Miguel Cotto-Mosley, Paul Williams-Antonio Margarito, Cotto-Zab Judah, Juan Manuel Marquez-Marco Antonio Barrera and the first two Rafael Marquez-Israel Vazquez wars. (And let's not forget about the Bika-Jaidon Codrington "Contender" finale and the two Michael Katsidis fights with Graham Earl and Czar Amonsot.)

Seriously, take inventory of the past 10 years or so in boxing and you simply won't find a more action-packed and memorable year than 2007 ... until now. And that leads to my second point.

The buzz of excitement surrounding the sport in 2013 has been a virtual runaway train. For the first time in many years, boxing's traditionally cynical group of fans and experts have grown to expect things to go their way. This is a huge departure from just a year ago, when a flurry of injuries and drug suspensions wiped out nearly a complete summer of entertaining fights.

So what was the tipping point? Ironically, it was a date that was supposed to have been representative of the type of greed that continually has plagued the sport in recent years. With both HBO and Showtime airing competing blockbuster cards on Sept. 15 -- which pitted a Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. PPV against a cable show headlined by Canelo Alvarez -- a night that was expected to further darken the sport's black eye somehow had the opposite effect.

Instead, the fighters on both cards applied the black eyes to each other. The momentum of the evening then spilled into a memorable three months to close out the year, highlighted by Marquez-Manny Pacquiao IV, and it hasn't slowed yet.

The fact that 2013's biggest fight to date -- Mayweather's May 4 win over Robert Guerrero -- featured a poor promotion, lackluster sales and a rather unexciting in-ring result, yet still hasn't killed the buzz, is proof that this will be a year to remember.

And think about this for a second: The next few months, we expect, will bring us continued excitement from the likes of Danny Garcia-Lucas Matthysse, Bradley-Marquez, Alvarado-Provodnikov and Pacquiao-Rios. But what about Mayweather-Canelo? What if this fight -- the one most experts continue to downplay as likely one-sided, with an almost predetermined result -- ends up bringing the kind of action, drama and excitement on par with what we've seen throughout most of 2013? What happens next?

It's crazy to think about, of course. But for a sport that is regularly labeled as cursed to yield a year so sublimely fun to be a part of, I'm not going to bet against it.

I have to admit, it's kind of weird going into a season of big fights and actually expecting them to live up to expectations. Don't lose heart -- this is really how it's supposed to be. Let's savor the flavor while we can.
Back in July 2010, when the people from the Brooklyn arena that hadn't been built yet, Barclays Center, announced they were getting into boxing, with an exclusive deal with California-based Golden Boy Promotions, it's fair to say the reaction wasn't shock, awe and optimism across the board.

After all, the topic was boxing, that much-maligned throwback sport whose best days were in the rearview mirror of the Camaro. A niche sport, they sniffed, relevant once or twice a year -- and probably for not that much longer, once Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao packed it in.

I confess, I had doubts myself, whether the NYC region would sustain the demand for regular dates at the Barclays Center. At the time, I recall asking Brett Yormark, the CEO of Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets, if the arena would have a micro-arena built, a theater to accommodate 5,000 or so fans, max. The implication of my question was clear: I don't think you can find enough boxing fans to fill up the barn on a regular basis. He assured me then that there would be no mini arena and that the fans would come.

Fast forward to today; I admit my skepticism was misguided. Barclays and Golden Boy has put on four boxing shows, the most recent one taking place on June 22, topped by a Paulie Malignaggi-Adrien Broner welterweight tussle. The attendance for each event has been healthy, and 11,461 people watched Broner take a split decision from the Brooklyn native.

I sat down last week for a chat with Yormark and asked him to reflect on the journey, getting boxing back to being more of focal point, not just a side dish, in the region.

"In some respects I feel vindicated," he said. "We've been able to do exactly what we hoped for, and more, and that's to bring an incredible sport back to Brooklyn, where it has a heritage, and have it flourish. And in less than a year we've been able to do that."

The grumblers, the tear-down artists, were out in force at the start. Boxing debuted on Oct. 20, 2012 at Barclays, and the "I told you so" crowd noted that they saw ticket markdowns and package deals available everywhere in the weeks leading up to opening night. They cited that as proof the endeavor would fail. In fact, audience response has been quite respectable, Yormark said. The first show drew 11,112; the second, on March 9, 2013 drew 12,293; the third, on April 27, drew 13,048. All the main events and select undercard bouts were televised on Showtime.

Critics mumble under their breathe that those figures represent a large dose of "comps," or freebies, to paper the house. Not so, Yormark told me.

"We did not comp," he said. "We're not comping. There are very few comps. The first two fights we discounted probably a little more than we wanted to, but we have not comped. We don't believe in comping here. One of the things we had to learn, we had to learn price it right, and in the last two fights, I think we really priced it right."

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Top 10 fighters we love to watch

June, 5, 2013
6/05/13
4:08
PM ET
In boxing, just as in all sports, there's nothing quite like a fresh set of rankings to stir debate and help bring order to the subject at hand.

We use pound-for-pound rankings as a method of classifying the best and most skillful fighters regardless of weight. We've seen lists similar to the Grantland Relevance Rankings, which aggregates superiority based on a combination of ability, marketability and importance. Heck, even HBO's Jim Lampley has his "Gatti List," named after the late Arturo Gatti, which attempts to order the best blood-and-guts warriors who lay it all on the line.

But what about a set of rankings aimed at the very reason why we watch fights? Which major-network attractions -- superseding in some cases titles won, drawing power and even likeability -- are the most entertaining, compelling and watchable fighters on any given Saturday?

This isn't a list of simply the best all-action brawlers or most artistically beautiful fighters, but in some ways a marriage of both, with a chunk of personality thrown in -- a nod to the fighters who do a better job than others of selling their brand through creative sound bites and flamboyant antics.

Without any further ado, here are boxing's current top 10 most entertaining fighters, with a tip of the cap to honorable mentions Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Abner Mares, Sergio Martinez, Miguel Cotto and Carl Froch, who just missed the cut:

10. Leo Santa Cruz

Pros: Fights at an absurdly relentless pace behind a high guard, using his long arms to punish with hooks to the body. He's as exciting on a minute-by-minute basis as any fighter in the sport. In his May 4 victory over Alexander Munoz, he became the first boxer in history to have both the Watson brothers and Mariachi Skull Guy in his corner at the same time during the prefight introductions. Now that's some serious representation.

Cons: Even with an ambitious five appearances on television in 2012, Santa Cruz needs a bit more time to build a bigger following and audience.

9. Victor Ortiz

Pros: It's getting to the point where fans can expect one of two scenarios each time Ortiz steps into the ring: It's either going to be a toe-to-toe battle or it'll end in a Tyson-esque meltdown. Sometimes we even get both. Interviews with Ortiz can be an equally bizarre ride. He is at times painfully honest -- such as following his loss to Marcos Maidana when, at 22, he openly contemplated retirement -- and at other times detached and almost unaware of the gravity of what just took place. He added to his fan base with a surprising appearance on ABC's "Dancing With The Stars" and never fails to entertain in some fashion.

Cons: Oritz is the kind of personality you can only take in occasional doses, unlike other polarizing fighters who draw you to the screen time and again, regardless of your level of loathing. And, of course, there's always that VO FaceLube commercial.

8. Canelo Alvarez

Pros: The red-haired and freckled Mexican warrior with the matinee idol looks is, despite having 43 pro fights under his belt, still just 22. Not only does he have an Oscar De La Hoya-like ability to attract mainstream female fans due to his smile, he brings in casual male fans with his exciting style. There's a certain star quality to Canelo that you can't teach, let alone describe, and few fighters his age have looked as comfortable as he does in the spotlight.

Cons: Up until this year, he had been brought along far too slowly for a fighter of his popularity and potential, feasting on an unexciting mix of faded names and journeyman contenders. Although he has made strides, he still isn't fluent enough in English to give his own interviews.

7. Gennady Golovkin

Pros: Has the face of a 12-year-old boy, but punches like Wreck-It Ralph. He also once endearingly referred to opponent Gabriel Rosado as "a good boy" in a postfight interview after stopping him. Such a polite fellow. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find another fighter who is as efficiently violent inside the ring and almost naively sweet outside of it. That contrast is compelling enough on its own, never mind his crushing right hand.

Cons: Despite the fact that he's been a middleweight titlist for three years and is a featured player on HBO, the only thing holding back Golovkin's ability to entertain is the fact that he’s too dangerous for his own good and could end up having difficulty finding big-name opponents -- same as Martinez did. But will it ever really get boring watching him knock out middle-of-the-road competition?

6. Amir Khan

Pros: The combination of his dynamic and top-end offensive talents mixed with his shaky chin make the vulnerable Khan, who fights with a tremendous amount of courage, a must-see attraction. He also has a way of speaking with a confidence that defies the reality of his own limitations, which is encouraging to some and tremendously irritating to others. Either way, we keep watching.

Cons: He's somehow equally overrated and underrated at the same time, making it impossible to get a grasp at any point on just how good he really is.

5. Manny Pacquiao

Pros: Still brings a very exciting style to the table and has arguably the most recognizable name among active fighters. Also, the expectant drama that should come as he attempts to recover from a brutal one-punch knockout against Juan Manuel Marquez while navigating the twilight of his career could be interesting. And, you know, there's always Buboy Fernandez.

Cons: Outside of a pair of recent bouts with Marquez, we really haven't seen Pacquiao in a competitive and evenly matched fight since 2009. The storylines in his personal life have also been played out ad nauseam in the various documentary series leading up to his fights.

4. Brandon Rios

Pros: There might not be another fighter in the sport who loves brawling at close range and testing his manhood more than Rios, who not only doesn't know how to make a bad fight, but might actually be crazy. Rios very well may have more talent and potential inside the ring than his style lets on, meaning he doesn't go to war each fight because he has to, but does so instead because it's too much fun for him not to. He's got the Gatti gene.

Cons: Only a lack of one-punch knockout power really separates Rios from becoming a breakout star and topping this list.

3. Lucas Matthysse

Pros: He has the best nickname in the sport -- "The Machine" -- and an explosive, wrecking-ball style to match. Oh yeah, and he don't need no stinking judges. (How does an 86.5 percent knockout rate grab ya?) Throw in the rat tail, tattoos and the raw emotion with which he fights, and Matthysse has become appointment viewing. The power in his hands, even on grazing shots, is frightening.

Cons: With his stock at the moment being as hot as a fighter's could be, Matthysse has a window to make a crossover leap. But although you could argue that his fists do enough talking for him, the opportunity to address the masses in English after one of his spectacular knockouts would greatly improve his value to the casual American audience.

2. Adrien Broner

Pros: If you find yourself irritated at the end of a Broner interview, it means he's doing it right. Although some say the fighter owes too much of his style and swagger to Floyd Mayweather Jr., Broner is slowly carving out his own niche with his intentionally polarizing persona outside of the ring and his spectacular potential inside of it. By standing right in front of his opponents and sitting down on his power punches, all the while with a smirk on his face, viewers will be tuning in to see Broner knock people out -- or end up the victim of one -- for years to come.

Cons: Even if you're sick of the postfight hairbrush already, no one provides a sound bite quite like the self-proclaimed "Can Man." But Broner often steps too far over the line of decency. See his recent comments during the buildup to his welterweight debut against titlist Paulie Malignaggi.

1. Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Pros: The greatest reality star the sport has ever seen, Mayweather dominates the spotlight he helped create and does so despite a defensive style that is appreciated but not always considered entertaining. Along with his brilliant ability to market fights and the general buzz he creates by making claims that he is the best fighter in history, "Money" never fails to deliver inside of the ring despite his advancing age and multiple layoffs. His pursuit of perfection and the ongoing debates about his legacy remain boxing's biggest storylines. There isn't a more consistently compelling figure in the sport who demands our attention and keeps us watching.

Cons: Outside of any differences you might have with his lifestyle or opinions, the only criticism anyone can rightfully hurl at Mayweather relates to the fights he failed to provide fans when the opportunity was there. His September bout with Alvarez should help quiet the critical chatter.

Marquez: I don't think about Pacquiao

June, 1, 2013
6/01/13
3:56
PM ET
Pacquaio/MarquezJohn Gurzinski/AFP/Getty ImagesJuan Manuel Marquez wants the feeling of knocking out Manny Pacquiao to last forever.

MEXICO -- As Juan Manuel Marquez begins training for his Oct. 12 fight with welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr., for the first time in a long time, he won't be thinking about a possible future fight with Manny Pacquiao.

Marquez insists that regardless of what has been reported, he won't participate in a fifth fight with Pacquiao.

Top Rank and Zanfer Promotions have been open about their plans for a fight next year that would match the winner of Bradley-Marquez with the winner of the Pacquiao-Brandon Rios bout on Nov. 23. But when reminded of those plans, Marquez reiterated his stance.

"Speaking sincerely, I don't think about that anymore," Marquez said of the notion of yet another Pacquiao fight. "Anything that was pending was settled, in every way. If he would have knocked me out the way I did to him, how am I going to ask for another fight?

"Keeping that feeling would be grandiose, and to have my Mexican supporters and the whole world enjoy that feeling and say, 'Remember the best pound-for-pound fighter that was knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez?' -- to me, that is worth more than all the money in the world."

But a fifth fight with the Filipino icon would earn Marquez a substantial sum -- and would mean a lucrative payout for all involved. Might

"We know that the offer will be tempting, but it isn't worth more than the feeling, what was lived, what was acquired after that knockout," Marquez said. "That's worth more than several million dollars. I would rather retire with this feeling than take a risk in whatever happens with Pacquiao [such as another controversial decision]."

Marquez wasn't happy about having to wait for Floyd Mayweather Jr. to make a decision about his next fight before the date with Bradley could be settled. (Top Rank's Bob Arum announced Thursday that Bradley-Marquez would be moved off the original date of Sept. 14 after Mayweather announced his megabout with Canelo Alvarez for the same day.) But that aside, he assured that his training schedule is on track.

"I'm running in the mornings, getting stronger at the National Talent Development and High Performance Center (CNAR) in order to start getting some rhythm," Marquez said. "[I was] only waiting for the date and location to start training harder."

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