Boxing: Brian Campbell
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Despite the unpredictability of James Kirkland's run as a name action fighter during the past few years, there's a scary truth each of his opponents must face.
If the rugged junior middleweight, who on Saturday ended a 20-month layoff due to legal and promotional issues that have hampered his career, is in top-level shape and completely focused, you'll have to knock him cold to get him off of you.
But being "in shape" is a nebulous, sometimes relative designation. Most would associate the phrase with quality cardio vascular capacity. But in reference to the horrors of an Ann Wolfe training camp, it means something altogether different.
Kirkland, who has endured multiple falling-outs with Wolfe to create, without question, boxing's most complicated and unique trainer-fighter relationship, was reunited with the former four-division female champion here in A.C. on Saturday, and the results were spectacular.
In a relatively obscure crossroads fight thought to have potential for fireworks, Kirkland and unbeaten prospect Glen Tapia took the concept to another level in Kirkland's sixth-round TKO victory at the Adrian Phillips Ballroom at Boardwalk Hall.
Kirkland (32-1, 28 KOs) outlasted the 23-year-old New Jersey native and ultimately quieted a passionate pro-Tapia crowd in one of 2013's most brutal action fights. And he did it by channeling the Kirkland of old -- the same guy who walked through hell in the first round against Alfredo Angulo in their memorable 2011 slugfest to ultimately break one of boxing's toughest fighters.
The same sequence unfolded against Tapia (20-1, 12 KOs), although the game fighter who showed tremendous heart simply didn't have the punching power to do enough damage.
Tapia dominated the first round and landed just about everything he threw to cut, bruise and even stagger Kirkland. But an Ann Wolfe camp, featuring a list of unconventional and even cruel training methods, doesn't prepare a fighter to simply endure 12 rounds. It prepares him for actual warfare, and that was the difference in the fight.
"I told y'all: I can train a pussy cat to go in a dog pen," Wolfe said. "James got it in him already, and he's a killer, but I know how to bring it out of him."
Kirkland walked through the damage of the opening round to pin Tapia against the ropes in the final 30 seconds, planting a seed in Tapia's head that he was in deep with a different kind of animal.
Tapia went toe-to-toe with Kirkland over the next few rounds, visibly hurting Kirkland with a left hand in Round 3. But the fight increasingly became one-sided as Kirkland's maniacal stalking wore down Tapia. The end came on a brutal left hook in the corner at 38 seconds of Round 6 as referee Steve Smoger jumped in to catch Tapia from falling.
"Glen had heart, too, but he ain't have this kind of heart," Wolfe said. "He ain't do what we did. Glen can't do what we do. Glen couldn't last a f---ing week in my training camp."
You have to wonder if anyone else could.
Kirkland and Wolfe proved once again that they are perfect for each other, despite how difficult it remains to keep their relationship -- and ultimately Kirkland's career -- on track. He is simply a different fighter under her care, with his career ceiling raised considerably thanks to her no-nonsense and intimidating approach pushing him on.
"I had to go through such hell in this camp with Ann," Kirkland said. "But we're a team."
You'll never confuse Kirkland with another fighter who actually implements defense as part of his game plan. But just try to find one as tough and savage, with such a relentless motor, willing to throw an endless stream of punches through heavy counter fire in order to break his opponent's will.
And that's a scary proposition for anyone.
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- It can be said that defensive and counterpunching wizard Guillermo Rigondeaux is likened to a $75 bottle of wine in a boxing world that prefers canned beer.
But even the taste of high-priced vino can fail to deliver the desired flavor when served in a paper cup.
Whether you're on the side of those who yawn or those who smile at the thought of watching the unbeaten junior featherweight champion dance around the ring and land flush counter shots for 12 full rounds, his opponent Saturday was expected to bring out the most crowd-pleasing elements of the Cuban-born fighter.
Ghana's Joseph Agbeko, a former bantamweight titlist known for his toughness and exciting style, chose to play chess with the master in lieu of pushing the pace at Atlantic City's Adrian Phillips Ballroom at Boardwalk Hall. Instead, all Agbeko accomplished was driving fans out of their seats and straight to the exits in droves.
What ultimately proved to be a bad style matchup for Rigondeaux in terms of improving his marketability in the end clouded what was a brilliant, one-sided performance for "The Jackal," who landed hard counter left hands at will throughout and was never in danger.
Key moment: In a fight lacking a turning point or defining moment, it was Rigondeaux's love for the left uppercut in the opening round that got Agbeko's attention and was partly responsible for sending him into a defensive cocoon.
We've got your number: 48. That was the total number of punches landed over 12 full rounds for Agbeko. Yes, that's four per round. No misprint. As Rigondeaux's trainer, Pedro Diaz, said after the fight: "It was an easy fight because Agbeko didn't come to fight."
Last word: Rigondeaux showcased his almost incomparable mastery of the "hit and don't be hit" philosophy that is the core of boxing. However, he clearly took his foot off the gas over the final third of the fight. Rigondeaux will need the right dance partner should he desire to continue headlining cards on American cable, but there are few in the world, if any, who can do what he does on this level.
Boxing fans will be treated to a plethora of fights Saturday with competing cards on American cable and an intriguing middleweight title bout overseas.
The majority of the bouts feature a specific selling point, with enough variety to satisfy fight fans of all kinds: Paulie Malignaggi-Zab Judah showcases the two biggest names. Guillermo Rigondeaux-Joseph Agbeko features the return of one of the world’s pound-for-pound best. Darren Barker-Felix Sturm will be contested for Saturday’s most prestigious prize.
Still, even though I’ve tabbed the junior middleweight duel between southpaws Austin Trout and Erislandy Lara as the weekend’s most evenly matched fight -- and one with huge sleeper potential -- it isn’t the one that has me the most excited.
That distinction, as surprising as it may be, goes to the pairing of junior middleweights Glen Tapia and James Kirkland at the Boardwalk Hall’s Adrian Phillips Ballroom in Atlantic City, N.J. This bout, nestled below the radar on the televised undercard of the HBO card headlined by Rigondeaux-Agbeko, could end up being the fight of the weekend, if not more.
The showdown between chiseled and fearless combatants is the very definition of a crossroads fight. For the erratic Kirkland, it’s a chance to steer a once promising career back onto the tracks and stay relevant. And for Tapia, this could be the fight that elevates his name into the mainstream.
Tapia (20-0, 12 KOs) may not be the most skilled fighter, but his television-friendly style could still someday make him a household name in the sport, which isn’t a surprise considering his roots. The native of Passaic, N.J., grew up a die-hard fan of Hall of Fame action fighter Arturo Gatti. In fact, Tapia is represented by Gatti’s longtime manager, Pat Lynch, and is hoping to build the same cult following Gatti once enjoyed from Atlantic City to New York.
While Tapia, 23, has made steady progress in his climb to contention thus far, he will be taking a considerable step up in class when he faces Kirkland (31-1, 27 KOs), a name synonymous with toughness, aggression and, in recent years, question marks.
For all of the excitement Kirkland, 29, has provided -- with his brutal 2011 slugfest against Alfredo Angulo the perfect illustration of his heart and vulnerability -- simply getting him into the ring consistently hasn’t been easy.
Kirkland has fought only once since the Angulo fight, claiming a bizarre March 2012 disqualification victory over Carlos Molina in a fight he was losing on two scorecards and was sluggish throughout. He enters Saturday on a 20-month layoff thanks to legal and promotional issues, and is in dire need of a victory to reignite his career.
But if there’s a wild card -- quite literally -- in Kirkland’s corner, it’s his recent reunion with on-again, off-again trainer Ann Wolfe. Not only is their relationship as complicated and unique as any between fighter and trainer in the sport, any hope of Kirkland fulfilling his true potential appears impossible without Wolfe’s unconventional training methods fueling him on.
Expect both Kirkland and Tapia to be runaway trains set to collide in the center of the ring, hungry to avoid the kind of defeat capable of slamming the door on their potential plans as featured players in high-profile fights.
I don’t know about you, but that’s exactly how I like my crossroads fights to be conjured up, with either fighter unlikely to take a step backward for any reason once the bell is rung.
It might be smart to wait at least one more weekend, just in case, before mailing in your vote for fight of the year. You never know what kind of surprise gift could show up just in time for the holiday season.
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.
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.
With a systematic dismantling of an action-friendly opponent who was never able to put enough punches together to get himself into the fight, Garcia showcased his full talents in the stoppage. Whether he was using the thudding jab to bank rounds in the early going or transforming into a counterpuncher later in the fight and picking apart Martinez with an array of hard right hands and short left hooks, Garcia -- who didn't forget to sprinkle in some top-shelf defense -- was nearly flawless in his execution.
Key moment: With Martinez appearing weary to open Round 8, Garcia connected with a damaging overhand right at 2:21 that proved to be the beginning of the end. Garcia swarmed in to facilitate Martinez's exit, seconds later landing a left hook to the body that floored Martinez and ended his night.
We've got your number: 45-8. That was the disparity in punches landed for Garcia in Rounds 6 and 7, according to CompuBox, when he began to implore his technical brilliance and take over the fight completely. In fact, Martinez landed just two of 21 punches in Round 7 as Garcia set traps and took advantage.
Last words: If Garcia showed one sign of weakness, it was when he absorbed a perfect overhand counter right on the chin in Round 2, sending him to the canvas for just the second time in his career. Did the punch reveal the lone weakness in Garcia's otherwise impeccable stock? The results were inconclusive. Although the knockdown proved to be of the flash variety, Martinez was unable to capitalize on the opportunity. In fact, out of respect for Garcia's power -- which carried up in weight with him beautifully -- Martinez was unwilling, and more importantly unable, to close the distance and do anything else of note at close range.
Any talk of Curtis Stevens upsetting unbeaten middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin this weekend has been met with a predictable level of opposition.
Sure, most are willing to give the heavy-hitting Brooklyn, N.Y., native at least a puncher's chance when he steps into the ring Saturday at New York's Madison Square Garden Theater (HBO, 10 p.m. ET/PT). But outside of that, the responses have been typical: Stevens doesn't have the skills to win a decision against Golovkin. He doesn't have the chin to withstand his power. And, wait a second, isn't Stevens the same guy who lost -- badly -- to Jesse Brinkley a few years back?
At the first two points, Stevens just shakes his head. In fact, any talk of Golovkin's supposed superhuman powers draws a villainous laugh from Stevens, who believes HBO has sold the general public "a facade" of Golovkin's true talent, thanks to careful matchmaking.
But bring up the Brinkley fight with Stevens, and you've hit a serious nerve. Stevens, once considered a top prospect at 168 pounds, was knocked down twice by the former "Contender" participant en route to a wide decision loss in their 2010 title eliminator.
The defeat was devastating for Stevens, a heavy favorite who turned in an admittedly dreadful performance. But, he says, it's also far behind him. After the loss, he was out of the ring for two years due to a contractual dispute. But he has recently undergone a rebirth at middleweight, recording four straight wins, albeit against limited competition, including three by first-round knockout.
The problem for Stevens (25-3, 18 KOs) is that most boxing observers haven't forgotten the Brinkley fight and, in a fickle way, likely will hold it against him until he produces a big enough win to erase the memory.
"I believe they're so scared to want me to excel, to achieve, to be great and meet the potential they know I have, they still want to downgrade me from the Brinkley fight. That was three years ago! And I had four fights after that. How you still living on the Brinkley fight? I know I lost. I said I lost. I said it was a learning lesson. So why y'all still just ... is that the only thing y'all have to talk about?"
Stevens, 28, credits his time away from the ring for improving his focus and drive, especially after he was forced to sit and watch fighters he came up with through the amateur ranks suddenly winning world titles.
"I believe I became a little more humble," Stevens said. "I was always mature, but I just humbled myself a little more. I had a son, and suddenly it wasn't for me anymore. It was for him, so he has a great life and has everything he wants in life when he grows up."
It's clear Stevens' punching power is what gives him the best shot at knocking Golovkin (27-0, 24 KOs) off his lofty perch as boxing's next big thing. But just as many have questioned the recent string of opponents Stevens has torn through, he believes Golovkin's competition deserves the same level of scrutiny.
"He's not all what they're making him out to be," Stevens said. "He's knocking out 154-pounders. Then they're saying he has the highest KO ratio. OK. Knockouts is what I did to Saul Roman. Knockouts is what I did to [Elvin] Ayala. Knockouts aren't the corner throwing in the towel because they seen too much damn blood."
Stevens says most of Golovkin's opponents, including Matthew Macklin in June, already had lost by the time they enter the ring to face him. He guarantees that won't be the case for him. In fact, during the months leading up to their fight being made, Stevens was the only fighter who publicly called out GGG.
"Macklin was scared s---less going into that fight," Stevens said of Golovkin's third-round KO win, on a one-punch body blow. "That's the thing I think people are always misunderstanding with me. I'm not scared in this thing called boxing of someone else. You can't be scared of someone. For me, I always have super confidence. I asked for this fight. They didn't offer me the fight, I asked for it."
Just as Stevens was humbled during his initial rise up the ranks, he is confident he can help provide Golovkin with the same humility, potentially giving the former Olympic medalist his own Brinkley moment.
"I'm just letting the world know that after Nov. 2, his ass is going to be over," Stevens said. "His little reign of terror on HBO, that everyone thinks he is this or that, is going to be dead because that's what happens to fighters when you try to make them a superstar when they haven't fought no one. Then they finally get in there and fight someone and they get beaten badly. What happens to them? They come back to where they started."
Stevens has already been there and back. Saturday will mark his chance to leave his setbacks permanently in the past, while providing a new performance for former skeptics to think about when they hear his name.
There might be nothing more avoided in boxing than the acquisition of the title "boxing's most avoided fighter."
It might not be rain on your wedding day, but it's still plenty ironic. Don't you think?
Unbeaten middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin has been wrestling with this very dilemma ever since exploding onto the radars of American boxing fans barely more than a year ago.
Although fans have clearly taken to his "Jekyll and Hyde" persona -- grinning choir boy struggling endearingly to command a new language outside the ring, void-of-emotion assassin inside of it -- that additional bit of irony hasn't turned Golovkin into a desired opponent.
He is simply too dangerous for his own good, a Kazakh crusher who lacks the built-in fan base to help create enough dollars to make it worth it for a big-name fighter to test himself against Golovkin's ferocious union of talents.
But Golovkin (27-0, 24 KOs), for his part, continues in his dogged effort to extinguish the "most avoided" label, attacking it with the same cold-blooded intensity that resulted in knockout victories in each his past 14 bouts.
If the best thing an avoided fighter can do is to stay busy while looking spectacular in doing it, Golovkin has overwhelmingly succeeded. His title defense against Curtis Stevens on Saturday (HBO, 10 p.m. ET) will be his fourth fight of 2013 and his fifth since making his American debut 14 months ago.
Saturday's bout is essentially a stay-busy fight wrapped in a flashy package, thanks to the backdrop of New York's Madison Square Garden Theater -- although there is the outside threat of Stevens' top-end power. Golovkin respects the challenge, calling it "a dangerous fight for us -- for him and for me."
What that had meant, previously, was a three-division window between 154 and 168 pounds that was open to willing opponents. But in recent months, Team Golovkin has boldly opened that window wider, now inviting 175-pounders to take their best shot.
Golovkin's confidence and commitment toward capitalizing on the relatively small remainder of his absolute prime -- he's already 31 -- is admirable. But you also have to wonder if the offer to potentially move up two weight classes to contend with a bevy of heavy hitters at light heavyweight is a bit too ambitious, if not excessive.
On the one hand, Golovkin has yet to be knocked down -- or even hurt -- in nearly 400 amateur and professional fights and he just might possess the kind of transcendent power that knows no divisional boundaries. Still, it's important to remember that he's not exactly a big middleweight to begin with.
And although politics and intelligent matchmaking probably will prevent him from luring cash cows Floyd Mayweather Jr., Canelo Alvarez and even Miguel Cotto into marquee fights at 154 pounds, Golovkin might not be in that bad of a spot, all things considered, if he focuses on what's available to him between 160 and 168 pounds.
Golovkin is on the right side of the firing line in terms of promotional politics, with the majority of big names in and around his division being HBO-friendly. In fact, the two most realistic options for him who could offer either pay-per-view buys (Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.) or critical respect on a pound-for-pound level (Andre Ward) have both expressed at least some level of interest in fighting him.
But one opponent could not only provide a gateway fight to launch Golovkin's brand skyward while offering him the kind of test to quiet his small legion of doubters, a foe who makes more sense than all the others: super middleweight titlist Carl Froch of England.
Froch, a mainstay on most P4P lists, is a marketable opponent with an exciting style that would nicely complement Golovkin's in a potential high-level slugfest. He also appears interested in the idea, provided he is unable to land a fight with Chavez.
"[Froch] is a big guy, a strong guy and a good fighter with good offense," Golovkin said. "That fight is important and is a great fight for everybody -- fans, fighters, HBO; a good deal for everybody. I want the big fight."
But none of those fights Golovkin seeks, including a potential showdown with injured middleweight king Sergio Martinez, will be possible unless GGG takes care of business against Stevens first. If he does what's expected of him, Golovkin says, he'll return as quickly as January to continue doing what he does best: staying busy, looking spectacular and trying like heck to lure the biggest and most dangerous names to face him.
"Right now is my time," Golovkin said. "I want next year to fight the same schedule of four to five fights. I feel great. I am here. I am ready. This [schedule] is very easy for me."
Provodnikov promised that the bout would turn into a street fight and spoke intensely of his belief that technique and skill wouldn't play a part in deciding which fighter would impose his will on the other.
In both cases, Provodnikov's predictions were shrewd, helped along, of course, by his predisposition for going to war.
But there was one more statement from "The Siberian Rocky" that, frighteningly, hit home harder than all the others. In reference to his urgency to face the most dangerous opponents available for the simple glory of making memorable fights -- in lieu of traditional rewards such as money and titles -- Provodnikov said, "I don't have much time left in my career."
With a face-first style dependent on his absorbing punishment in exchange for inches of space that can be used to close the distance on his opponent, Provodnikov, who turns 30 in January and is as honest a fighter as the definition allows, is telling the truth.
A fighter of his ilk, one willing to go to such barbaric lengths to outlast his opponent and win a single fight, simply doesn't have a long shelf life at the top end of the sport. But the fact that he has a place among the sport's elite to begin with is remarkable enough on its own.
Provodnikov, who identifies himself of Mansi descent, an endangered indigenous people living in Western Siberia, grew up in the tiny Russian village of Beryozovo amid the ruthless climate that formed his dogged resolve. He had a nondescript amateur career and, until recently, was considered nothing more than a club fighter.
Yet, when taken with his performance in a March defeat against unbeaten Timothy Bradley Jr., this win appears to have launched Provodnikov into the rarified air of truly must-see action fighters. Those two fights also recalibrate expectations of what might be possible for him as he continues to seek out the toughest challenges available.
There are plenty of fighters who throw around clichéd variations of the notion that they are willing to die in the ring in order to win. But Provodnikov, even when compared to those savage few who are eager to give away large chunks of themselves for greater glory, is cut from a different cloth.
Skill and will in boxing aren't mutually exclusive, but it could be argued that fighters generally fall somewhere along a spectrum between the two. Provodnikov, in case you hadn't guessed, pushes the boundaries of the latter. He doesn't utilize his jab, his punches are wide and his defense nonexistent. But unlike those who rely on speed and technique or one-punch power, Provodnikov specializes in the maniacal pursuit and poaching of his opponent's willpower, a hunt that won't end until he runs out of time or his relentless pressure causes the pipes to burst.
There's little question about whether Provodnikov is a candidate to be controlled by an elite boxer who relies on movement, as was the case for half of his fight of the year candidate with Bradley. But that opponent had better be equipped with the backbone to withstand the storm.
Did Alvarado spend too much time trying to outbox Provodnikov by switching stances instead of trying to hurt him? It's possible. And might Alvarado, at 33, simply be broken down from the toll of an incredible fifth straight toe-to-toe slugfest in just a two-year span? Sure.
But let's not overlook Provodnikov's role in the outcome. He did more than score the biggest victory of his career on Saturday, securing an unlikely world title in the process. He broke the will of one of the sport's greatest action fighters in stunning fashion, and that is something truly special.
How high, exactly, Provodnikov will be able to elevate himself on sheer blood and guts remains to be seen, but history tells us that a firecracker of his kind will shine bright only briefly before spectacularly burning out.
No one knows that more than Provodnikov, who is set on emptying himself each time out, regardless of the consequences, in order to build his legend and discover just how good he can be.
It's a quality as unnerving as it is endearing, but it's why, at our deepest core, we watch: To see if a fearless fighter with the one skill that can't be taught is able to redefine what's possible for a fighter of his class by testing his manhood in the most unforgiving sport of them all.
Enjoy him while you can.
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."
When unbeaten welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr. claims he’s willing to do something, we’re at the point now where doubting him would be a futile endeavor.
“A lot of people say that they are willing to do whatever it takes,” Bradley told ESPN.com Oct. 2. “But they don’t really believe it, especially when they get into tough situations. I think what separates me from a lot of fighters is when the tough get going, I get tougher. And that’s the bottom line.”
"Bradley’s quote probably would be written off as mere “fighter speak” had we not witnessed his incomparable will on display March 16 against Ruslan Provodnikov. It was that night in Carson, Calif., when Bradley’s claims that he was willing to “die in that ring” and “go into the devil’s mouth and do what I have to do” came to life in such startling and violent fashion.
I'm the type of guy who wants to control the tempo. I hate sitting back. I don't like to wait. I like action." -- Timothy Bradley Jr.
Despite claiming a tight victory on the scorecards in the front-runner for fight-of-the-year honors, Bradley (30-0, 12 KOs) was staggered repeatedly by Provodnikov and forced to draw on an obscene amount of heart in order to fight back and survive.
No one realizes more than Bradley -- who admitted to suffering a concussion so severe that he had slurred speech for two months -- what a mistake it was to eschew his game plan to box by trading so recklessly with a bigger puncher. It was the kind of fight, to borrow a boxing cliché, with the potential to steal a fighter’s prime in one night.
Yet even though Bradley endured one of the worst beatings administered to a winning fighter in recent years, he fought back so competently during stretches of dire danger. And by doing that, Bradley discovered a superhuman recuperative ability within himself -- and with that, a double-edged sword.
Bradley, who says he surprised even himself with the grit he displayed against Provodnikov, chalked up the fight to simply having to “do what I had to do and no one, not even my trainer, could stop me from doing what I had to do that night.” But to his credit, he has said the right things about the dangers of trading with a finisher as technically sound as Marquez (55-6-1, 40 KOs), who outright defines what a legendary counterpuncher should look like.
“Marquez is the best fighter that I’ve ever faced to date and I have to be very intelligent and can’t really open up like I’d like to,” Bradley said. “I’m the type of guy who wants to control the tempo. I hate sitting back. I don’t like to wait. I like action. But if I was going to come forward and be the aggressor, Marquez is the kind of fighter who sits back and waits on you to make mistakes.”
What complicates things, however, are the comments Bradley sandwiches around those, which hint at the fighter’s inability to hit the brakes once the bout inevitably turns into a war.
“Most fighters wither when it gets tough,” Bradley said. “When that storm comes on, they back down. I don’t back down.”
As much as Bradley, 30, intends to rely on a 10-year age difference, as well as advantages in speed and footwork, he eventually will find himself at a crossroads, when Marquez makes him fight. And at his very core, that’s who Bradley is -- a fighter.
He’s the same fighter who got off the canvas twice to defeat Kendall Holt. The same man who blocked out significant injuries to his left foot and right ankle in order to finish strong against Manny Pacquiao. And the same guy who crawled through the depths of darkness to finish on his feet against Provodnikov.
Bradley can say what he wants about introducing caution to his game plan, but there simply doesn’t appear to be an off-switch. Not for a guy who has relied this much on his iron will to defy expectations, remain unbeaten and put himself one step closer to his dream of being the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
Sadly, his greatest asset also may be the biggest enemy to his long-term health and the shelf life of his career. And despite what’s at stake for Bradley in the short term on Saturday, that could be a scary thing.
“This is a great moment for me and my family and everybody that’s involved in my career,” Bradley said. “You always think you’re going to get there but you’re never really sure because you can’t really predict the future. But it’s here, now. It’s right here in my face.
"So I say to myself: What are you going to do about it, Bradley? What are you going to do? It’s right here. No more talking, no more work. What are you going to do?”
Indeed. What are you going to do?
Miguel Cotto enters Saturday's test against Delvin Rodriguez in a spot he's never previously been throughout his 13-year professional career -- on a two-fight losing skid.
That storyline alone only adds to the narrative of what is already expected to be an exciting 12-round junior middleweight bout at Amway Center in Orlando (HBO, 9:45 p.m. ET). For as much as the fight has been categorized rightfully as a showcase bout for Cotto, he will quickly find himself in an all-action affair against the battle-tested Rodriguez, should age and attrition catch up to him overnight.
But should Cotto, who turns 33 on Oct. 29, come out with his hand raised, the talk will quickly turn to what's next. And outside of pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr., there isn't another boxer in a better spot to call his own shots than Cotto, who can circumvent today’s promotional and network cold war by signing one-fight deals with the suitor of his choice.
Cotto's name still commands respect as the best available B-side on the pay-per-view level, with his fights against Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao having sold 1.5 and 1.25 million buys, respectively. And with the attractive combination of his exciting style and the realities of his vulnerability in the ring, one could make a marketable case for matching Cotto against just about any big name between 147 and 160 pounds.
True to his form, you simply won't get Cotto to comment on any future opponents before he handles the task at hand in Rodriguez. But the fighter did confirm to ESPN.com on Monday that his days at welterweight -- where he hasn't competed since his 2009 loss to Pacquiao -- are completely behind him. New trainer Freddie Roach, who also trains Pacquiao, also has been outspoken in squashing any hope of a rematch between the two fighters.
Outside of that, the world is essentially Cotto's oyster, if he can snap his current losing streak.
""I'm in the last stage of my career and I just want to finish it the best way possible," Cotto said. "I don't know how much time I have left. We are going to return to the winning path in my career on Saturday."
I'm in the last stage of my career and I just want to finish it the best way possible. I don't know how much time I have left. We are going to return to the winning path in my career on Saturday." -- Miguel Cotto
While Cotto wouldn't bite on the notion there might be some unfinished business in terms of his legacy, he outlined the clear reason for his desire to fight on.
"It's about being one of the best, you know?" Cotto said. "It's the reason I am still here. I just want to be one of the best."
Cotto carries a clear sense of pride when talking about his May 2012 loss to Mayweather, in which he inflicted more damage on the unbeaten fighter than anyone in recent memory. Although he's quick to mention he was unable to get what he prepared for -- which was a victory -- "I made a great fight, which proved I am still hungry. For that I am proud," he said.
But the veteran fighter's tone quickly changes when the subject turns to his unexpected December 2012 loss to Austin Trout, which spoiled a prospective PPV date with Canelo Alvarez. While Cotto reflected positively on his three-fight relationship with former trainer Pedro Diaz, calling him a true professional who pushed him to work hard, it’s clear the fallout from the Trout defeat fueled the switch to Roach.
"We didn't prepare ourselves with the right strategy to beat [Trout]," Cotto said. "That was our fault for that fight."
In the end, nothing helps rebuild confidence quite like winning, which Cotto is at least expected to do against Rodriguez. But it's refreshing to see a fighter who has given so many thrills in such an unforgiving sport find himself in this strong of a position regarding his future.
Quite honestly, it's a rarefied position to find himself in, and one that, unlike at times with Mayweather, is profitable for all parties in question, from the fighter to the networks, promoters and fans due to Cotto's insistence on being matched against the very best.
The twilight of the Puerto Rican icon's career promises to be as exciting and dramatic as the first 41 fights, and the next chapter will be written Saturday, where a victory would launch Cotto right back into the mix against the sport's elite.
For everything Floyd Mayweather Jr. has accomplished as both a fighter and a businessman, one might always wonder about what his legacy could have been.
Few, of course, question his abilities in the ring and his status as an all-time great. But since becoming the face of the sport, Mayweather’s control over his own matchmaking has made it difficult to compare him to past legends.
The gripe about Mayweather’s selection of opponents, specifically above 135 pounds, slowly loses steam the more often “Money” takes on dangerous opponents who many previously claimed he would avoid. The perfect illustration is Saturday’s junior middleweight title unification bout against fellow unbeaten Canelo Alvarez.
But the gripe is still there – not out of spite for Mayweather or out of doubt about his special talent in the ring. The timing of certain Mayweather opponents and the avoidance of others has made it problematic because the calling card of other all-time greats has been a deep-rooted desire to test themselves against the best -- that whole dare-to-be-great mentality.
So as we enter the stretch run of Mayweather’s equally marketable and remarkable path toward perfection, there remains a haunting feeling about whether the fighter left a little bit too much of his potential greatness on the table.
Most will point, almost involuntarily, to the Manny Pacquiao-sized hole on his resume. It’s frustrating when you consider how rare it is in history for the sport’s top two pound-for-pound fighters to find themselves in the same division. And it’s doubly frustrating when you consider the damage done to the sport when the fight, with unrivaled potential for breaking records financially, failed to come off during a three-year window of prime viability.
To a smaller degree, Mayweather never faced Kostya Tszyu, the recognized 140-pound champion at the time, after moving up to junior welterweight.
But the biggest void may be the timing of Mayweather’s absences from the ring during his prime at welterweight, when the division was loaded with difficult opponents. Mayweather, of course, stepped away from the ring with multiple retirements following his star-making 2007 victories over Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton.
After building his brand further with crossover appearances on “Dancing With The Stars” and even in the main event of “Wrestlemania,” Mayweather fought just two times over a stretch of nearly four years between the Hatton fight and his 2011 return against Victor Ortiz.
One could argue the time away from the ring kept Mayweather fresh physically, allowing him to stay closer to peak condition today at age 36. But you also have to wonder what would have happened if Mayweather had remained active during that 45-month window, when he fought just twice -- against an undersized Juan Manuel Marquez and a 38-year-old version of Shane Mosley, who was 16 months removed from his career-saving TKO of Antonio Margarito.
Had Mayweather fought and won five more times during that stretch, consistently fighting two times per year, how would we view him historically if he were entering the Alvarez fight on the verge of 50-0?
More importantly, had he cleared out the division with victories against an unbeaten Miguel Cotto, Margarito, Andre Berto, Paul Williams and, yes, Pacquiao, would Saturday’s fight be the biggest in history? Would a victory have vaulted Mayweather into the top five in history, pound-for-pound?
Such a grind could have led him closer to his first defeat. But the truth is, Mayweather likely would have won all of those fights, and things could have been different today had he maxed out his potential just a little bit more.
An alternate reality in which Mayweather is universally beloved and adored probably couldn’t exist because he doesn’t seem to care much about being liked. Instead, he appears to thrive off playing the villain and managing his career on his own terms. That might be a more fitting legacy than even his pursuit of perfection.
But when you watch Mayweather perform on the highest level, as he hopes to do again Saturday, it always leaves you wondering a bit of what might have been, even if it is splitting hairs.
"I want to line them up," Porter said after dispatching a game Julio Diaz in Thursday's rematch of their spirited 2012 bout. "'Showtime' says line them up."
Porter, who still has yet to record a signature, breakthrough victory despite showing promise as a rising contender, took a noted step back in his first bout with Diaz last December. Despite the crowd-pleasing nature of the all-action affair -- a split draw made possible by a resurgent effort from the veteran Diaz -- many thought Porter should have been handed his first defeat.
The rematch, however, was a different story.
Although far from bland, with both fighters exchanging heavy combinations at close range throughout, the fight was much more of a statement effort for Porter, who scored a unanimous decision (98-92, 97-93 twice) at the MGM Grand Conference Center.
Porter, who bounced back in May with a near-shutout of then-unbeaten Phil Lo Greco, was commanding in his execution against Diaz on Thursday. The Cleveland native used a variety of feints to set up stinging three-punch combinations and established himself to the body throughout.
But what prevented the rematch from playing out as a repeat of their first bout was Porter's refusal to allow Diaz into the fight, meeting nearly every punch landed by the former lightweight titlist with a resounding and instantaneous counter shot.
The strategy routinely took the wind out of Diaz's advances.
"I felt like I had him the whole time," Porter said. "I went to the body early and I thought that was really effective. We had a great game plan, and about 75 percent of the fight, I carried out the plan."
Where Porter actually fits in a crowded house at welterweight still remains to be seen. But Thursday's performance officially placed Porter's journey toward title contention back on the tracks.
All he needs now, of course, is that one breakthrough victory that solidifies the diminutive, yet frenetic fighter as a top threat.
But to the boxing world, he has become known for bringing something else: hilarious, nonsensical, often offensive and always crazy sound bites during the build-up to each of his son's fights. He has threatened others to fight at news conferences and continually worn his heart on his sleeve, all in the name of taking the pressure off his son.
Just in case you're wondering whether he has appreciated the many media members and fans who haven't given his son much of a chance in Saturday’s co-main event against red-hot, Argentine slugger Lucas Matthysse ... um, he hasn't. In fact, he has been so animated in interviews leading up to Thursday's final news conference that many were expecting fireworks of some kind from the Philadelphia trainer.
Angel Garcia didn't disappoint.
And while his nearly 9-minute rant against Matthysse, Danny Garcia's doubters and even some media members in attendance didn't produce (luckily) any physical fireworks, his rant still solicited plenty of laughs and shake-your-head moments.
While his comments didn't appear to get under the skin of the stoic Matthysse, who stared at Angel Garcia throughout, never changing his facial expression enough to do more than smile once or twice, there was certainly an epic feel to his comedic routine.
Here are the top 10 moments from Angel Garcia's passionate speech:
10. American made
"I'm going to keep it simple and clean because Saturday night, Sept. 14, everyone want to be 'Argentino Valentino.' Everybody wants the Argentine flag. But they forget where they live at: U-S-A. Danny is an American fighter. He has a Latino background, Puerto Rican. But I'm born in America. He’s Latin American, but still people don't give Americans no props. The same country who send away the welfare check to you. When the U.S. government send you a check, you sign it, don't you? Then you be an American. Me, too. Then you want to be an American! Me, too!"
9. "This ain't humble"
(Garcia looks at Matthysse.) "You come up here and be humble all you want. You come up here and thank me all you want. This ain't humble. This is a brutal sport. I'm not going to be humble. You come up here thinking I’m going to lovey-dovey you. I ain't going to lovey-dovey you. You ain't give me nothing. Danny earned his. He had to fight for his. Ain't no one going to give him nothing. I always taught him that when he was a kid: No one ain't never going to give you nothing! Ok? I told him ain't nothing ever going to fall from the sky. You have to fight for you. Danny was born to fight. That's what he does! He fights!"
8. No reason to run
"Danny wasn't pampered in this game. Listen, when the phone rang and they gave me the name [of Matthysse,] we could have ran. Gone. Adios, amigo. [Matthysse] would have been nothing. He wouldn't have been standing here. But you know what I say? I want the best at 140. If he's called the best. Because, to me, the best 140 is "Swift" Garcia, right here. The champ of the world. Still, Saturday night it’s going to be the same thing as 26 other times: Undefeated."
7. Superhero worship
"Listen, if you look at and you know boxing, and you look back at Mike Dallas, who took [the fight against Matthysse] on late notice -- not putting the man down. The man was probably needing for money. We don't know the man's life. ... But [Matthysse] knocked him out and everyone was like, 'Superman! Oh! Superman arrived. He knocked Mike Dallas out. He knocked [Lamont] Peterson out. Oh sh--, Aquaman is back!' That’s not going to happen with the champ of the world if he's thinking that."
6. Can't fool me
"This was destiny, it was meant to be. Danny was born to fight. This was a dream 25 years ago. If you think this opponent [Matthysse] -- and that's what he is. Listen, they trying to put under the cover, trying to put icing on the cake, like [Devon] Alexander didn't beat him and Zab [Judah] didn't beat him. I made [Judah] come back in shape. My big mouth made Zab come back 100 percent in shape. Ten years! I brought 10 years out of Zab. Made him come back in shape like back when he first won his world title. He fought Danny on his A-game! If [Judah] would have fought [Matthysse] like that, he would have destroyed him."
5. Bum fights
(Garcia's rant was interrupted by members of the crowd who began to heckle him in Spanish.) "You come up here and do it! You see me? Fifty years old. Give me $1 million dollars, Richard [Schaefer.] I'll fight any old bum in here. Like me. Any old bum. Any old bum like this bum right here. [He points to Matthysse.] Even Bernard Hopkins -- you're on the wrong side. [Huge laughter from the crowd.] Listen this ain't funny, man. This is the real thing right here. I ain't come here to intimidate nobody. I come here to defend what's mine, and what's mine is the champion of the world. I'm worried about the champ of the world!"
4. Calling out the media
"Well here we go again: Everyone is disrespecting the champion of the world. ... [The media] still wants interviews. You ain't getting no interviews! Respect the champ and you will get interviews. You talk about the champ: 'Danny know how to win. Danny know how to win.' No! Danny wins. He gets the W."
3. No backwashing
"Saturday night, I swear to you I will not be backwashing my words. Because If I am, I’ll cut my head off. Because blood is thicker than everything. Love? No one can beat love. And my heart is with God, and Danny's heart is with God. And these opponents come from overseas and think they are going to take what's ours. Well, I'm an immigrant, too. Everyone is an immigrant in this country. You are right. But my family shed some blood for this country, and that's what makes it more American. [People say,] 'Americans can't fight. Americans can't fight.' Yes they can fight! Opponents can’t fight!"
2. Fashion statement
"I'm the most underrated coach there is. [Danny is] the most underrated fighter there is. But we still got the zero. And the zero must not go. End of story. The zero must not go! [Garcia looks at Matthysse.] You could laugh all you want. You and your raggedy a-- sweat suit. You make a million dollars? How much you take home, $200,000, because they take it all from you? The same guys right next to you. Come on, man. You can't even afford a sweatsuit, you think you’re going to beat the champ of the world! Look, Danny Swift ain't even get hit. He's 25-0 and beautiful. I take care of the champ."
1.Know it all
"If you look at Danny’s record, everybody you know, he fought. Everybody [Matthysse] fought, you don't know. There might be only two or three. And two beat him, out of four. Come on, man, do the math. Vegas don't know nothing! You don’t know nothing! I know everything! [Laughter.] I know everything! His coach don't know s---. The fighter don't know s---. His manager don't know s---. I know everything! I know every day with God! Keep believing that dumb a--. ... [He pauses.] I don't want to curse. I want to keep it simple. You know what I mean? I want to be a gentleman today. I don't want to be a Valentino. I want to be a gentleman! Come on guys. Come on. You are the ones that do this crap. Disrespecting the champ!"