Boxing: Oscar De La Hoya

Mayweather-Maidana by the numbers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Statistical support provided by CompuBox

Pacquiao: 'I love competition, I love to win'

March, 26, 2014
Mar 26
2:06
PM ET
Two years removed from the most controversial fight of his 19-year professional career, Manny Pacquiao is focused on getting a chance to set the record straight against Timothy Bradley Jr.

The rematch, set for April 12 in Las Vegas (HBO PPV), marks the first time the fighters will meet since their June 2012 bout -- won by Bradley via split decision -- which produced some of the most contentious scorecards in modern history.

Pacquiao (55-5-2, 38 KOs), 35, enters the bout one fight removed from a wide unanimous-decision win over Brandon Rios in November -- a fight that served as a comeback for Pacquiao following his December 2012 knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez.

At 35, how has your motivation to compete changed from earlier in your career?

My motivation is the same now as it was when I started my boxing career. I love competition and I love to win. When that stops, so does my professional boxing career. But I don't see that happening for a long time.

Because I am facing Tim Bradley again I am extra motivated for this fight. I may not have won the decision the first time we fought but I know I did not lose that fight. I want the world title he won from me back around my waist. I want to prove I am the better fighter.

Freddie Roach and Justin Fortune are asking more from me in this training camp than I have ever given before and as hard as that is to do, I am giving them everything they have asked of me. Too much is at stake for me and for my country. I want to end my career on a winning streak and against the best fighters.

No one has ever defeated Tim Bradley during his professional career. I want to be the first name in his loss column. It will not be easy. Nothing at the world championship level is easy. I still have the hunger and the desire to win and I appreciate Tim Bradley giving me this rematch to prove it. Unfortunately for him, on April 12, I will not be able to repay him that favor with kindness.




Pacquiao: 'I intend to win all the rounds' (Posted on March 20)


The perception is that you sacrificed punching power against Rios in favor of speed in order to outbox him. How much did the result of the Marquez fight impact your strategy against Rios? What will be your strategy against Bradley?

I was very happy with my performance against Brandon Rios. Speed has always been a major weapon for me and I used it throughout the fight against Rios for one simple reason -- it was working. The power is still there and I used it effectively against Rios to keep him off balance. [Trainer] Freddie [Roach] and I came up with the game plan to mix things up against Rios. I would utilize my speed and foot movement in boxing him to keep him off balance. Then when he would come in out of frustration I would land the power punches.

The one thing I learned from my fight against Marquez was patience. When I had him teetering I became reckless and went in to finish him. I was careless and he landed the perfect punch. That was learning a lesson the hard way. But I learned it. I still have the killer instinct. I am not afraid to use my power and go for the knockout. But I will remember the lesson I learned from my last fight with Marquez. Knockouts need to come naturally, you should not force them. But Freddie likes knockouts and I like to make Freddie happy.

I won at least 10 rounds against Tim Bradley the first time we fought. I intend to win all the rounds against him this time regardless of the length of the fight. He said I have lost my hunger and that my time is over. Everything I am doing in training camp is aimed at proving to him just how wrong he is. I have all the respect for Bradley and what he has accomplished but I have no fear of him. He has inspired me to exceed my previous performances inside the ring. If Bradley wants to meet the fighter who stopped Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera, he's going to get his wish on April 12.

De La Hoya worth his weight in gold

October, 9, 2013
10/09/13
11:39
AM ET
Oscar De La HoyaJed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesOscar De La Hoya moved up to junior middleweight in 2001 and defeated Javier Castillejo by decision.
Leading up to Juan Manuel Marquez's bid to win a world title in a fifth different weight class on Saturday, ESPN.com will look back at the elite group of fighters who have already achieved the feat -- we'll roll out a new one each day this week -- in our "Five In Five" series.

Entering the night of June 23, 2001, Oscar De La Hoya had not been a world champion for more than a year. The "Golden Boy" had last held a title in June 2000, when he lost his welterweight belt by split decision to Shane Mosley. But after rebounding with a fifth-round TKO of Arturo Gatti, De La Hoya moved up seven pounds to challenge Spain's Javier Castillejo for the WBC 154-pound title.

The 33-year-old Spaniard might have been unknown to fans in the United States, but had been a standout in the European fight scene for several years. Castillejo had a record of 51-4 and had won 14 consecutive fights, including a 1999 victory over Keith Mullings for his junior middleweight title.

A victory for De La Hoya would not only make him a world champion once again, it would place him on a very short list of quintuple champions. How short? At the time, the list had only two names on it: Thomas Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard.

On fight night, De La Hoya proved his weight in gold as he dominated the action from start to finish. Castillejo was tough, but outmanned. In the final seconds of the 12th round, Castillejo landed a solid left hook to De La Hoya's face. This only enraged De La Hoya, as he then responded with a flurry of punches that sent the champion to the canvas. Castillejo beat the count, but not the judges' scorecards. All three scored the fight 119-108.

The CompuBox numbers also showed the Golden Boy's dominance. He landed 54 percent of his 749 punches, compared to just 18 percent for Castillejo.

At age 28, De La Hoya became the youngest man to win world titles in five different divisions (both Hearns and Leonard were in their early 30s), and he would not stop there. After losing his rematch with Mosley in 2003, he stepped up to middleweight where he took the WBO title from an undefeated Felix Sturm in 2004 -- his sixth title in a different weight class.

Looking back on 10 years at ringside

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
9:00
AM ET

Time flies, and last week’s festivities at the MGM Grand brought home a sudden realization that Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s master class on Saturday night came 10 years and one day after my first credentialed fight.

There were a fair few differences between that first fight and my latest: In 2003, my credential was red (signifying I rated only a bleacher seat) instead of ringside green, my affiliation was merely "freelance," and in the identifying photo my mouth was smiling and my hair wasn’t gray. But there were similarities, too: Both bouts were at the MGM, both involved the most popular boxer in the world at the time and both were the culmination of weeks of hype and publicity.

My memories of that first fight are as fresh as though it had been fought 10 months, rather than 10 years, ago, and the passage of time has spawned reflections on the numerous notable memories from a decade of being paid to watch fights.

So here’s a list of my top 10 (12, actually, because I kind of cheated) ringside recollections -- not necessarily the best fights (although some of them were terrific) but what, for me personally, have been my most memorable ringside experiences so far.

Shane Mosley W12 Oscar De La Hoya -- MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Sept. 13, 2003

Shane Mosley, Oscar De La Hoya
Chris Polk/Getty ImagesShane Mosley edged Oscar De La Hoya for a decision win in 12 rounds in 2003.
Not exactly a ringside recollection, as I watched proceedings from the auxiliary section, but this was the first of what -- although I had no way of knowing it at the time -- would turn out to be more than a decade of professional prizefights for which I was credentialed.

From my seat in the bleachers, I thought the Golden Boy had eked out a decision in a good fight; most of those ringside, where the power of Mosley’s blows were more telling, seemed to agree with the official verdict. Personally, I most remember the thrill of experiencing my inaugural big-fight atmosphere, and the strange feeling of anticlimax on Sunday morning when it was all over.

Antonio Tarver TKO2 Roy Jones Jr. -- Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, May 15, 2004
The defining moment of postfight shock and awe. Jones had looked mortal in the first encounter between the two men, but that had widely been attributed to his struggles returning to 175 pounds after his brief and successful excursion to heavyweight. But Tarver had his number, and when he landed the big punch that marked the end of Jones’ era of dominance, the crowd responded with an initial roar, followed by a stunned silence, culminating in 12,000 people reaching simultaneously for their cellphones to tell friends, “Holy ****, Roy Jones just got knocked out!”

Diego Corrales TK10 Jose Luis Castillo -- Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, May 7, 2005

Jose Castillo and Diego
Donald Miralle/Getty ImagesEverybody in boxing remembers the incredible fight between Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo fight in Las Vegas in 2005.
Even if this fight had been a dud, it would for me have been memorable: The previous night, the Boxing Writers Association of America's annual dinner had concluded with one of the finest gatherings of past and present champions to stand on one stage; and Gordon Absher, then the Mandalay Bay’s PR guru, had indulged my literary bent by seating me next to the great Budd Schulberg on fight night. Seriously, how could it possibly get any better? Then Corrales and Castillo started throwing punches, and the 4,000 or so souls in the arena became bound together in witnessing one of the very greatest professional prizefights ever -- a fight that effectively ruined both the combatants while leaving an indelible memory on everyone fortunate enough to be there.

Manny Pacquiao TK10 Erik Morales -- Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, Jan. 21, 2006
Manny Pacquiao KO3 Erik Morales -- Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, Nov. 18, 2006

For reasons I can’t quite remember, but presumably related to a lack of money, I watched the first tilt between these two on TV in my cabin in Alaska. The indelible memory of their second contest, apart from Pacquiao turning around a fight he was losing and storming to a stoppage win, was the unrelenting volume inside the arena, as rival Mexican and Filipino fight fans shouted themselves hoarse. I imagined it was like sticking your head next to a jet engine. The third was much the same, and at the end of that contest the feeling was of one man reaching the end of his career and another about to launch his into the stratosphere.

Floyd Mayweather TKO10 Ricky Hatton -- MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Dec. 8, 2007

Ah, the Brits. My people. So very many of them, so very drunk, and singing so very loudly. For a week, Las Vegas became Manchester with better weather and colder beer, as Hatton’s fans sang constantly to remind themselves how many Ricky Hattons there are; and even when that one Ricky Hatton was stopped in the 10th round, they sang and drank some more.

Antonio Margarito TKO11 Miguel Cotto -- MGM Grand, Las Vegas, July 26, 2008
Miguel Cotto TKO10 Antonio Margarito -- Madison Square Garden, New York, Dec. 3, 2011

Miguel Cotto
AP Photo/ Ronda ChurchillAntonio Margarito demolished Miguel Cotto in their first fight, but then was suspended for alleged handwrap tampering.
During the buildup to the first fight, I was convinced that Cotto was on the verge of breaking through to the next level, to the very top echelons of pound-for-pound lists. And for much of the early going, the Puerto Rican appeared vastly superior to his opponent in every way, until Margarito ground him down and stopped him in what became a truly violent brawl. The suspicions that emerged afterward, following Margarito’s suspension for alleged handwrap tampering, led to a febrile atmosphere in New York three years later. The fact that Margarito was essentially a one-eyed man being served up for punishment concerned the Puerto Ricans in the arena not one bit, and the guttural roar when Cotto glared at his beaten foe segued into dancing on Seventh Avenue afterward.

Manny Pacquiao W12 Joshua Clottey -- Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas, March 13, 2010

The fight itself was kinda meh. Clottey spent most of his time impersonating a turtle as Pacquiao bang-bang-banged away. But there was a real sense of occasion about it all: Jerry Jones, Cowboys Stadium, that scoreboard … One can only wonder how immense it all would have been had the man across the ring been, as originally intended, not Joshua Clottey but Floyd Mayweather.

Lamont Peterson W12 Amir Khan -- Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C., Dec. 10, 2011.

For all but seven of the nearly 20 years I’ve been in the United States, I’ve lived in the District of Columbia or its northern Virginia suburbs, so to have an HBO fight in what is effectively my hometown, and with a hometown fighter -- a hometown fighter who had grown up sleeping on the streets near the arena where he was now fighting, even –- scoring an upset win over a big star, with a fevered crowd screaming “D.C., D.C., D.C.” … it was all very cool, even if a pair of point deductions by an over-officious referee (to say nothing of the later revelations of Peterson’s synthetic testosterone intake) fouled the punch bowl.

Juan Manuel Marquez KO6 Manny Pacquiao -- MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Dec. 8, 2012

Manny Pacquiao
Zumapress/Icon SMIIn his fourth attempt, Juan Manuel Marquez finally beat Manny Pacquiao.
If much of the world greeted the buildup to their fourth encounter with a comparative shrug, the predominantly Mexican crowd viewed it with eager anticipation, desperate for Marquez to finally secure the official victory they felt he had three times been unjustly denied. It did not matter to them that Marquez entered the ring looking like the Incredible Hulk; they wanted a win, and when it came -– with Pacquiao dropping face-first like a stone -- the tide of emotion that crashed through the arena was a mixture of delirious joy and inconsolable grief, with the fevered wailing of a distraught Jinkee Pacquiao a powerful reminder of the realities of what is at stake when two men enter the ring.

Floyd Mayweather W12 Canelo Alvarez -- MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Sept. 14, 2013

From the massive throng that spilled out of the MGM Grand lobby to watch the fighters’ arrivals on Tuesday, to the crowd that stood three-deep to catch a glimpse of even the undercard fighters working out the next day, to the incomparable weigh-in experience in front of 12,200 fans -- and, of course, the enthusiastic but ultimately futile cries of “si se puede” and “Ca-ne-lo” during the main event -- this was, from beginning to end, almost certainly the most intense big fight week I’ve yet experienced.

Note to the “this was boxing’s last big fight” crowd: At the time of my first fight, nobody would have predicted that in 10 years’ time, Mayweather Jr. would be the man carrying the sport on his back, as De La Hoya did before him, as Mike Tyson did before him. Someone out there is boxing’s next big superstar. He may already be on HBO, he may be fighting undercard six-rounders, he may not yet have turned pro. But when he hits the highest heights, his biggest fights will be true events, just as much as Mayweather’s are now. And if I’m fortunate, I’ll be there covering them.

Ishe Smith is where he hoped to be

September, 12, 2013
9/12/13
2:38
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On a personal level, fight week is a milestone of sorts because it marks 10 years since I was first credentialed for a fight. That fight was the rematch between Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley, and a few weeks before the bout, I was in Big Bear, Calif., for a media day at both men’s training camps. That was where I met a young Las Vegas-born junior welterweight prospect named Ishe Smith, who was sparring with Mosley.

I had no intention of covering boxing on a regular or ongoing basis. My intent was to write a book on boxing and Las Vegas, and to that end I focused on a number of Sin City-based boxing figures -- cutman Stitch Duran, referee Joe Cortez and ringside physician Margaret Goodman, among others -- as well as a trio of Vegas boxers at various stages of their careers. One of them was Smith.

For the previous couple of years, Smith had been a mainstay of Guilty Boxing’s Friday Night Fights, held once a month at The Orleans casino west of the Strip. But when we talked, he was moving up to the major leagues; he had been signed by Gary Shaw Promotions and had recently appeared for the first time on Showtime’s ShoBox series.

A good technician who was adept at working the body, Smith looked destined for a title shot, but things didn’t quite work out the way he planned. I was ringside in Santa Ynez, Calif., when he scored a tough, close win over Randall Bailey -- an impressive win for a young fighter, but one that wasn’t aesthetically pleasing or clear cut. Then his relationship with Shaw cratered acrimoniously, and Smith was a man without a promoter.

By this stage, my book project had foundered, but I had been bitten by the boxing bug and continued to write from ringside. And I stayed in close touch with Smith, who told me one evening at a Guilty Boxing card that he had been approached to participate in a reality show called "The Contender." He had some doubts about the project but went ahead with it anyway, and although he didn’t win the Contender title, he became one of the show’s standout stars.

Then it all slowly unraveled. He parted with the people behind the "Contender," was signed by Golden Boy, lost an ugly bout to Sechew Powell, was released by Golden Boy, signed with Lou DiBella, lost a few other fights, went a long time between bouts and was released by DiBella, who said he was having a hard time getting Smith fights and suggested he may find more success with someone else.

By this stage, Smith and I weren’t in touch as much. He was adrift, his family life in turmoil, his career stalled. For a while, his thoughts turned suicidal, and even when he emerged from that darkest of places, he had all but resigned himself to being finished with boxing.

Then, suddenly, everything turned around again. Floyd Mayweather Jr. hired him to spar prior to Mayweather’s bout with Miguel Cotto last year. Then Mayweather signed Smith to Mayweather Promotions and promised to get him a title shot. A couple of wins led to a bout with Cornelius Bundrage in Detroit earlier this year, and with Mayweather in attendance, Smith finally achieved his dream of becoming the first Las Vegas-born fighter to win a world title.

Now here he is, on hometown soil, about to defend that title against Carlos Molina on the biggest boxing card in years. Ten years after we first met in Big Bear, I interviewed him once more, in a packed MGM Grand lobby.

That book of mine? Never happened. But for Smith, everything finally turned out right. The path may have been much longer and more tortuous than either of us might have expected a decade ago, but the destination wound up better than he could ever have imagined.

What more could Angulo have given us?

June, 9, 2013
6/09/13
5:36
PM ET
Alfredo Angulo and Erislandy LaraTom Hogan/Hoganphotos/Golden Boy PromotionsAlfredo Angulo had Erislandy Lara on the ropes before suffering an injury and calling it quits.

CARSON, Calif. -- Cus D'Amato once said, "When two men are fighting, what you're watching is more a contest of wills than of skills, with the stronger will usually overcoming the skill."

On Saturday night in Carson, Calif., Erislandy Lara's demonstrative advantage of skill over Alfredo Angulo only served to inflame Angulo's reserve of willpower. The elegance of Lara's skills simply weren't capable of removing Angulo's will from the equation of the fight. Then, in the fourth round, Angulo's fiendish efforts were rewarded when he dropped Lara, the first knockdown Lara has suffered as a professional. For the duration of the round, every fan in attendance stood to roar approval. Round after round, Angulo took even more risks, applying pressure and striving to close out the fight while eating enough leather to reconfigure his face. Again Angulo dropped Lara, yet the Cuban got off the deck to continue.

In the 10th round, Angulo ate nearly everything Lara threw at him in order to land something meaningful of his own. Then a crisp left hand from Lara struck the swelling over Angulo's eye. Angulo grimaced as another left followed, then another, and finally the referee called off the bout, fearing a broken orbital bone.

Boos. Beer tossed into the ring. "Tijuana style!" a writer next to me laughed. Everywhere you looked, aggrieved faces contorted in expressions of betrayal.

It was all a little incomprehensible to me. Everyone on hand had enjoyed a brilliant fight stopped only after one fighter's health was gravely in danger.

Boos?

Wait a minute. When exactly was enough enough? What was the expectation here?

Victor Ortiz quit against both of Saturday's headliners, Marcos Maidana and Josesito Lopez. Were those unreasonable decisions? In one of those fights, Ortiz's jaw was broken in two places. Should he have been booed for not fighting on with a broken jaw, as Muhammad Ali did against Ken Norton? Ali was praised for such courage. Oscar De La Hoya was fully capable of getting off his stool to continue against Manny Pacquiao, yet sensibly recognized the futility. Does he get a pass? At the time, his corner asked if he felt like continuing, and Oscar didn't launch much of a protest when it was suggested he not bother. Joe Frazier was legally blind in the only good eye he had left against Ali in the "Thrilla in Manilla." Was his trainer, Eddie Futch, right to call off the fight? Did Futch betray his fighter?

What about the most famous quitter in boxing history? Is Duran's "No Mas" a more defining moment in his career than his victory over Sugar Ray Leonard in their first fight? For many, it is. Mike Tyson notoriously looked for a way out against Evander Holyfield when it was clear Holyfield had his number. Suddenly, Tyson's cowardice in gnawing off Holyfield's ear overshadowed nearly everything he had accomplished as a fighter. Twice, Andrew Golota snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against Riddick Bowe when he swung gratuitously low. His career never recovered.

So in boxing, when is it acceptable to quit? How much abuse is a fighter expected to endure before he can be allowed to show some concern for his own welfare? Anyone who has been around fighters knows they all share the same secret: They are more afraid of embarrassment and humiliation than injury. Do fans and writers use this fact against them in what we celebrate or criticize?

In the documentary "Facing Ali," nearly half the fighters involved required subtitles despite speaking English, their speech slurred by the physical toll of their ring lives. This was their reward for testing their furthermost physical and mental boundaries.

As Guillero Rigondeaux's recent near-shutout of 2012 ESPN.com fighter of the year Nonito Donaire demonstrated, the days of fans cheering Willie Pep for winning a round without throwing a punch are long over. Arturo Gatti's induction into the Boxing Hall of Fame is further testament of boxing giving fans what they clearly reserve their loudest cheers for: fighters who lay their lives on the line at every possible moment of every fight. The truth is, fighters have always done this. We just didn't used to boo the ones who committed the cardinal sin of trying to minimize some of the risk.
LAS VEGAS -- Sin City is best known, in boxing terms, for its mega-events -- the high-stakes clashes that today headline Saturday nights at the MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay and formerly brought regular doses of sanctioned violence to the likes of Caesars Palace and the Las Vegas Hilton. (If, incidentally, you've ever tried to picture the rusting hulk of the Starship Enterprise being turned into a casino, check out the former Hilton, now shorn of its franchise and known as the LVH. It's a ... thing.) But Las Vegas is also home to a thriving community of boxers, managers, promoters, gyms and off-the-radar smaller-scale fight cards -- and has been for many years.

Beginning with this fifth professional fight in 1979, for example, a scrappy New England featherweight called Freddie Roach contested the majority of his bouts at such long-lost Vegas venues as the Showboat and the Silver Slipper (the latter of which was famously purchased by aviator, inventor and wackadoodle Howard Hughes, just so he could disassemble the rotating neon slipper that shone light into his quarters at the Desert Inn across the street). More recently, the social highlight of the Vegas boxing calendar every month wasn't found on the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Avenue, but west of the Strip at the Orleans, where Guilty Boxing's regular Friday Night Fight cards attracted local crowds to watch young boxers like Ishe Smith and Alfonso Gomez in closely contested matches.

So when veteran broadcaster Rich Marotta moved to the Silver State from southern California, he thought, "I'm going to try to support the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame -- go to their events, go to their dinners. So I did a bit of research, and found out to my astonishment, there is no Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame. How can that be? There's one in California, one in New York, in New Jersey, in Washington, in Pennsylvania -- and you're telling me there isn't one in Nevada?"

And so, Marotta decided to start one himself, reasoning that it would not only be a vehicle for honoring Nevada boxing legends, but would provide an opportunity that would allow the boxing community to mingle and give fans the chance to rub shoulders with stars of the sport. In the process, it would also raise some money for worthy, boxing-related causes "like the University of Nevada Las Vegas boxing program, the Boys' and Girls' Clubs that have boxing programs -- those kinds of things."

The effort was, he admitted, "a much bigger undertaking than I anticipated," but, aided by a board of directors comprising fighters, writers, casino officials and others, the Hall now has its first round of inductees and, on Thursday evening at Diego's restaurant in the MGM Grand, hosted its first dinner and fan event.

Oscar De La Hoya was there, remembering his 30 (!) professional fights in Nevada, and jokingly bemoaning the fact that, while he was renowned for attracting female fans to the sport, today those female fight fans scream for Canelo Alvarez. Mike "The Body Snatcher" McCallum cheered and shouted along with the rest of the room as video played of his knockout victory over Donald Curry. Freddie Roach and Wayne McCullough signed autographs and posed for pictures. The loudest table in attendance was the one occupied by the fraternity of officials, including Kenny Bayless, Robert Hoyle, Tony Weeks and Robert Byrd, who will be the third man in the ring when Floyd Mayweather squares off against Robert Guerrero on Saturday night. It was all, as they say, a rousing success -- even if, at the end of it all, Marotta was exhausted and hoarse.

"I think we've really got a boxing community here that was waiting for something like this to bring it all together," he said as he unwound and the restaurant slowly emptied. "Boxing takes a lot of shots, but there's a lot of great people in boxing and a lot of great characters in boxing. This is just a stepping-off point for us. It's a beginning, and I really expect the boxing community here will get behind the effort."

De La Hoya: Canelo wise to snub Floyd

April, 18, 2013
4/18/13
1:06
AM ET
Canelo Alvarez-Floyd MayweatherTom Hogan/Hoganphotos/Golden Boy PromotionsCanelo Alvarez's promoter says pulling out of Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s May 4 card was the right move.
The decision made by Canelo Alvarez and his team to drop out of the May 4 card headlined by Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Robert Guerrero took a bit of a toll on the fighter's promoter, but in the end, Oscar De La Hoya says he would have made the same choice.

Alvarez had been scheduled to face Austin Trout in the co-headler at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, but when Mayweather wouldn't commit to a follow-up September fight with Canelo, the undefeated junior middleweight titlist quickly broke away to put on his own card, set for Saturday at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

"I applaud him. It was not an easy decision to make, but it was the right one," said De La Hoya, who during his time as a fighter helped transform Cinco de Mayo weekend into a celebration that encompassed some of boxing's biggest blockbusters. "The fact that Mayweather did not want to sign the contract to fight Canelo in September, I think I would have done the same thing -- set my own card -- to show the fans that I can tell Mayweather, 'I don't need you.' It was the right choice."

Alvarez says that he initially didn't want to be part of the May 4 card, but he agreed to it only on the condition that Mayweather face him a few months later. It wasn't long, though, before Canelo and his team decided that, without a contract signed by Mayweather, it wasn't in the fighter's best interest to remain on the card and help boost pay-per-view sales for someone else's main event.

"We are a team -- my father, Saul and myself got together," said Alvarez's trainer, Eddy Reynoso, whose father, Chepo, is Canelo's manager. "Mayweather did not want to sign the agreement that was made to fight him in September. We don't need to do whatever everybody else says. Each person must take care of his own business.

"We are not in a hurry. [Canelo] is 22. He already has five title defenses. He is making very good money, so we do not need to depend on other fighters."

De La Hoya praised Alvarez and the Reynoso family for knowing what they want and sticking to their guns to achieve it: "They want to become the best in the world, the best in this sport, the best in history.

"I think we made the right decision for Canelo's career. Because Mayweather is already established. He is the king of pay-per-view. And I'm taking care of Canelo, to develop him and make him a superstar."

And then De La Hoya made a promise: that the September card his company is scheduled to put on -- most likely on the eve of Mexican Independence Day -- will be headlined by Alvarez.

"He is Mexican," De La Hoya said, "it is Mexico's Independence Day, where a Mexican fights on that date. Like Julio Cesar Chavez did. Like I did. Even though I was born in the U.S., I've got Mexican heritage. So Canelo wants to fight in September, and I will deliver the promise I made."

Alvarez was a main-eventer on Mexican Independence Day last year in Las Vegas, beating Josesito Lopez by TKO in the fifth round, and was a co-main event fighter in Los Angeles on split cards in 2011 and 2010 against Alfonso Gomez and Carlos Baldomir, respectively.

After it was all said and done, De La Hoya said, the reason Mayweather wouldn't commit to face Canelo came down to a healthy respect.

"They know it is a dangerous fight," De La Hoya said, casting an eye to the future, "but in the end, they will have no choice but to take the fight."
It has been almost 15 years since he closed the book on his four-fight rivalry with Azumah Nelson by scoring a unanimous decision win at the very venue where Canelo Alvarez and Austin Trout will face off on Saturday. But San Antonio's own Jesse James Leija still looked pretty close to being in fighting shape as he surveyed the crowd that gathered on Alamo Square on Wednesday to watch several of Saturday's fighters go through their paces in a public workout.

[+] EnlargeJesse James Leija
Bob Levey/Getty ImagesJesse James Leija says he's proud of his native San Antonio for the fans who attended Wednesday's workouts. "You can't do this in Vegas," he said.
The former world champion now trains a stable of boxers -- including Raul Martinez (29-2, 17 KOs), a former Nonito Donaire victim and two-time title challenger, who will face off against Shawn Nichol in a four-rounder on Saturday and who worked up a swift sweat in the humid air while Leija watched carefully. And he is one half of Leija-Battah Promotions, which has staged some local cards over the past year and is co-promoting Saturday's showdown at the Alamodome.

At this particular moment, though, Leija was primarily an admirer of his fellow San Antonio fight fans.

"I am so proud of the fans," he said as he scanned the faces -- by this reporter's guesstimation, a couple hundred of them -- who watched and cheered the workouts, as a microphone-wielding Paulie Malignaggi kept them animated. "You see this crowd? This is just an open workout, on a Wednesday morning when people are at work and at school. You can't do this in Vegas. But here you can do it, and I'm so proud of San Antonio."

Such crowds are reminiscent of the heyday of Oscar De La Hoya, and there was little question which of the main event fighters the throng was most keen to see.

"Alvarez is the next De La Hoya," Leija said. "He's been the next Oscar De La Hoya for the past two years. He just has that superstar quality to him. He has the looks, he has the charisma, he has the talent."

But all of that counts for little when the bell rings, and Leija is one of many who believe that in Trout, the young Mexican has selected an exceptionally dangerous opponent.

"He's in a really, really, really tough fight Saturday," Leija said. "If you asked me to pick a winner, I couldn't tell you right now."

He did, however, offer some unsolicited advice, from one champion to another: "He has to slow Trout down. How do you slow down a fighter who moves around a lot? Body shots. Don't worry about the head. Chop down the body and the head will fall."

First, the caveat:

Purely from the perspective of its immediate importance in the world of boxing rankings, what Bernard Hopkins did at age 48 to Tavoris Cloud in New York on Saturday night was of less significance than what he meted out to Jean Pascal when Hopkins was a mere 46 years old a little less than two years ago.

Pascal, after all, was widely considered the man at light heavyweight, and Hopkins' comprehensive victory on that May evening in Montreal allowed the Philadelphian to usurp that position. But since then, the veteran has surrendered that title to Chad Dawson, and the fact Dawson dropped down to super middleweight to be taken apart by Andre Ward doesn't change that equation.

So Hopkins is still not the light heavyweight champion, but he is once more a light heavyweight titlist (which we note and celebrate even as we are supposed to spend all our waking days railing against sanctioning bodies' very existence. So be it). Had Hopkins been 20 years younger, Saturday's main event might have been regarded as a technically brilliant if not always aesthetically pleasing triumph over a lesser contender. However, Hopkins isn't 28, but a full two decades older -- and that, of course, is the point.

For all its achievements, for all its moments of brilliance, Hopkins' career is now defined by its longevity, and arguably has been ever since his seminal victory, when he stopped Felix Trinidad in September 2001 to become the undisputed middleweight champion of the world.

"I have a history of destroying young champions and never having to see them again," Hopkins said after his win over Cloud. And in that vein, it's worth noting that Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya and Kelly Pavlik are all among the relatively young guns he has dispatched in the past 10 years or so and who are now retired; at the time of their last fight, they were all younger than Hopkins was when he overcame the Puerto Rican, and he has since added an additional decade-and-counting of ring victories.

As a way of grasping the length of The Executioner's presence on boxing's biggest stage, consider some of the following:

When Hopkins first challenged for a world title, a tilt for a vacant middleweight belt that he lost to Roy Jones Jr. in May 1993, Bill Clinton was president of the United States, George W. Bush had not declared his candidacy to be governor of Texas and Barack Obama was a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School.

Osama bin Laden had not yet moved his base of operations to Afghanistan.

The U.S. national debt that year was almost 12 trillion dollars lower, and summer Arctic sea ice extent was approximately 1 million square miles greater, than they were in 2012.

J.K. Rowling was an unpublished writer. George Clooney played a recurring guest role on "Roseanne." Jennifer Lawrence was not quite 3 years old. Justin Bieber was not even a zygote.

O.J. Simpson was a popular former NFL running back and "The Naked Gun" co-star. His automobile association was with rental car commercials not Ford Broncos.

As a consequence, nobody had heard of Kato Kaelin.

Monica Lewinsky would not become a White House intern for two years.

There was no Viagra.

There was no ESPN.com -- or, indeed, very much .com at all. No Amazon, no Google, no Yahoo, Facebook or YouTube. No iPod or iPhone or BlackBerry. There would be, for at least a few more months, only one ESPN network. Max Kellerman's only TV outlet was on a New York public access station.

Oscar De La Hoya had just run his professional record to 7-0. Floyd Mayweather Jr. was a 106-pound amateur. Manny Pacquiao was living in poverty in Manila. Mike Tyson was in jail. Evander Holyfield had 100 percent of both his ears. What is today the biggest venue in boxing -- the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas -- was in the process of being built.

And all of this, recall, was when Hopkins first challenged for a title. He made his professional debut before that -- when Ronald Reagan was still president and the Soviet Union still existed. But the remarkable element of Hopkins' career is not solely its length, per se, but the period over which it has been conducted at the highest level. The Philadelphian made reference in the wake of his win over Cloud to the fact he has left his contemporaries Roy Jones Jr. and James Toney in his dust. And indeed, whereas boxing fans everywhere cringe at every mention of Jones' next fight and Toney long ago waddled into irrelevance, Hopkins has adapted to age rather than yielding to it, his years of experience more than compensating for any inevitable physical decline.

While one might whimsically imagine a yet more aged Hopkins still fighting when, to quote Sheldon Cooper, we are transported to work at the Thinkatorium by telepathically controlled flying dolphins, even he apparently now has his sights set on the finish line. In the immediate aftermath of victory on Saturday, he joked that he wouldn't be around for more than five years. By the time of the postfight news conference, he had acknowledged that he wouldn't be in the ring when he turned 50. Come Sunday morning, he was telling the Associated Press that, "If I'm not motivated, and the competition is not there, if it's a meaningless fight, it's time to roll, man."

Time will tell. After all, Hopkins had already famously promised not to fight past age 40. Still, even popes retire these days -- something else that has changed since Hopkins started boxing. If Saturday were to prove the final time we see him in the ring (and it says here that it won't be), it would be a fitting finale, a Jedi master schooling a wannabe Padawan before riding off into the sunset -- a performance by the aged to cap a career for the ages.

Julian Ramirez sets sights on Golden future

January, 24, 2013
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Twenty years ago, the city of Las Vegas played host to a young boxer from East L.A. who would go on to become one of the greatest pound-for-pound champions in boxing history. Oscar De La Hoya collected the fifth win of his professional career by defeating Jeff Mayweather at the Hilton in March 1993, an early step in his Hall of Fame career.

Julian Ramirez
Courtesy of Team RamirezJulian Ramirez's aggressive style makes him one of the more entertaining rising prospects to watch.
And this weekend, three decades on, one of East L.A.'s latest Mexican-American fighting sensations, Julian Ramirez, hopes to follow in the footsteps of his promoter and inspiration.

One of boxing's hottest young prospects, Ramirez, 19, will enter the ring at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino aiming to take the next step in his blossoming career. On Saturday, he can complete an almost punch-perfect first 12 months in the professional ring, adding a seventh win to his unblemished record -- form that's not too surprising when you consider the family history.

As the great nephew of Genaro Hernandez, the Mexican-American former unified junior lightweight champion who dominated the division throughout the '90s, Ramirez knows all about pressure. Signing with Golden Boy after just two fights only amplified the expectations.

"My family would never compare me to Genaro, but they do play a role in motivating me," Ramirez told ESPN.com. "They always say there is somebody better than me out there, and that I've just not faced him yet. And that drives me to work hard. I try not to think of what's happening to me as pressure. Signing with Golden Boy, I never saw none of this coming. I knew I was good to a certain level, but I never expected to get signed by Joel, Oscar's brother. So all this has happened just so fast, and I am just going with it."

Ramirez insists his style is also very different from his uncle's. "It's kind of the opposite to his, so there is nothing to compare. I mean, I can box too, but he was a complete boxer and I'm a little more aggressive."

Ramirez's glittering 73-5 amateur card proves that. However, despite winning gold medals at both the Junior Olympics and Mexican Games in 2011, and not forgetting his four National PAL titles, the stylish featherweight insists the amateur ranks lost their appeal a long time ago.

Despite proud parents who were keen to see their son box under the Olympic rings, Ramirez always had his eyes fixed firmly on the pro ranks. A mixture of politics and a lack of scoring for body punches, he says, turned him off the amateur code. "I actually wanted to go pro at age 16," he said. "I wanted to run away to Mexico and go pro, but my parents reassured me that things would work out at home."

Call it divine intervention, or simply parental experience, but the advice has paid off in spades. With Golden Boy in his corner, and having already traveled to spar with world-class operators such as Miguel Vazquez and Scott Quigg -- who utilized Julian as his main sparring partner in a junior featherweight world title eliminator last year -- the quiet southpaw's future certainly looks bright.

Quigg, who defeated former title challenger Rendall Munroe in November to put himself within striking distance of a title shot, is a big fan: "I've sparred very good fighters from all over the world, and Julian is definitely one of the very best I've been in with," he said. "And he's only had a couple of fights."

Dubbed "Little Canelo" by fight fans across the West Coast -- a nod to current light middleweight titlist Saul Alvarez -- Ramirez certainly doesn't lack ability or the confidence to go with it. He believes the "Canelo" comparisons have more to do with the light shade of his skin than his in-ring style. After all, Ramirez says, he's the more exciting fighter to watch.

"When it comes to fighting style, I wouldn't say I'm better, but I do think I have more of a fan-pleasing style, because 'Canelo' holds back a lot," Ramirez said. "He's a really good fighter, but for me, personally, I didn't like his style because when he'd hurt somebody he wouldn't go in for the kill right away. He would try to play it safe. That's the truth right there. 'Canelo' is really strong, but he would hurt his opponent and then wait a round or two to finish them."

De La Hoya took out Jeff Mayweather in four rounds 20 years ago. Safe money would be on Ramirez doing the same to outgunned club fighter Juan Sandoval this weekend. Ramirez has a world of work ahead of him before he can be talked about in the same breath as great ones such as the Golden Boy, but the early returns should motivate him all the more.

Time for Felix Sturm to meet the challenge

August, 30, 2012
8/30/12
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Felix Sturm, Martin MurrayAlex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty ImagesFelix Sturm, right, may be the best middleweight in Europe, but can he step outside his comfort zone?
Among the many things that rub boxing fans the wrong way, two are particularly troubling: hometown fighters and underachievers. And in the past few years, middleweight titlist Felix Sturm has made a case for being both.

As a long-reigning champion (12 defenses of his current belt) who has had two previous title runs at 160 pounds, Sturm has held at least a portion of the title for almost 10 years and has lost only twice in his career -- one of which was debatable, against Oscar De La Hoya in 2004. But the underlying question remains: Is Sturm a zoo hunter, a guy who preys on weaker opposition inside a cage of local favoritism and excessively generous judges? Or is he a true champion who has trouble finding a real challenge at middleweight?

The 33-year-old champ, born Adnan Catic in Germany to Bosnian parents, became a fan favorite after drawing the short stick in his fight against De La Hoya, in which many viewed him as the true winner after outlanding and outboxing the Golden Boy in Las Vegas.

After that fight, the general consensus was that Sturm would be back in the States for another challenge in a talent-rich division that then included Bernard Hopkins, Felix Trinidad and other attractive potential foes. Instead, Sturm reacted with disgust at the De La Hoya decision and nurtured his own strong hometown edge by fighting the next eight years of his career exclusively in Germany, with an occasional trip to his parents' old Yugoslavia for a stay-busy fight.

The result for Sturm has been a very low profile outside the borders of his native country, virtually zero visibility in the U.S. -- a Catch-22 situation depriving demanding U.S. fans of seeing some of his great fights, but also shielding them from a string of weak performances -- and an unwillingness by other champions to travel to Germany to unify titles in an openly hostile environment.

That's about to change on Saturday, when Sturm will face Australia's Daniel Geale in -- of course -- Germany, for a unification bout that will kick-start a series of interesting middleweight matchups that could help clarify the division picture. Regardless of the result, doubts about Sturm's reputation (in certain circles) as one of the most underrated middleweight champs in recent history won't be resolved.

Part of those doubts stem from two particular fights in which Sturm not only failed to impress but also seemed to need generous help from the judges to escape with a win.

The first: a split-decision victory over Matthew Macklin in June of 2011, in an interesting fight that exposed many of Sturm's shortcomings. And then there was an excellent fight in which England's unbeaten Martin Murray was slapped with a split draw after delivering a 12-round boxing lesson to Sturm that starkly contrasted the fighting spirit of the two men.

And it's the quality that is most strikingly missing from Sturm's arsenal. His jab is there (one of the best in the business), his physical conditioning is superb, and his punch rate and accuracy are above average for the division. Even his inability to consistently deliver finishing blows (40 percent KO percentage) obscures other, more worrying failures.

In essence, the problem is this: Sturm amounts to less than the sum of his parts. His many virtues should add up to a dominant ring presence and attractive, entertaining performances. Instead, Sturm fails to excite fans with spectacular stoppages or put together interesting combinations, and he squanders his great sense of timing by not following up on his attacks.

But there may be light at the end of the tunnel. Sturm dominated former interim titlist Sebastian Zbik in his most recent title defense, in April, and now seems committed to jumping into the big market at 160 pounds. It won't be a surprise to see him beat Geale and then call out the winner of the Sept. 15 Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.-Sergio Martinez fight.

But for that scenario to come to fruition, Sturm would have to break hard from his recent path, travel to the U.S. and overcome his fear of being robbed again (or in his case, possibly take a dose of his own medicine) to try his luck against one of the division's top fighters.

Sturm has a limited amount of fights left to consolidate his legacy and show the world that he's capable of beating legitimate contenders beyond the borders of his homeland. A year ago, he would have been favored to beat Chavez, and to give Martinez a terrific challenge. But given Martinez's destruction of Macklin, Sturm's dubious victory against the same opponent and the fact that a non-puncher such as Murray was able to beat the wind out of Sturm, both Chavez (a devastating body puncher) and Martinez (a superb boxer with all the killer instinct Sturm seems to lack) would seem to have the edge over Sturm.

In any case, Sturm-Martinez or Sturm-Chavez each has the potential to be a great fight, the kind that could redefine Sturm's career and give the middleweight division a great three-way rivalry that could revitalize one of boxing's elite weight classes. Let's hope we don't have to go to Germany to watch them.
On Saturday, boxing fans will celebrate the Mexican festival of Cinco de Mayo by watching an American and a Puerto Rican do battle in the Nevada desert. More than anybody else, Oscar De La Hoya -- an American of Mexican descent -- popularized Cinco de Mayo (or the Saturday nearest to it) as a big fight weekend in Las Vegas, but since his retirement, the aforementioned American (Floyd Mayweather Jr.) and the Philippines' Manny Pacquiao have been the date's biggest pugilistic stars. Hey, imagine how crazy it would be if the two of them ever ... no, let's not go there. We have an actual fight to look forward to this weekend, a title bout between Mayweather and Miguel Cotto, and in the meantime, here's a reminder of some of the best May 5(ish) fights in Sin City's recent history.

5. Julio Cesar Chavez TD8 Frankie Randall, May 7, 1994, MGM Grand
Earlier in the year, Randall's points victory in the same venue brought Chavez his first official loss, in his 91st professional bout. The rematch was closely fought, but when Chavez said he was unable to continue after being cut by an accidental clash of heads, he was declared the winner on a technical decision (aided by a WBC rule that the accidental butter always be deducted a point; without that stipulation, the result would have been a split-decision draw.) The fight was the main event of a Don King card called "Revenge: the Rematches" that featured Terry Norris, Simon Brown, Julian Jackson, Gerald McClellan, Azumah Nelson and Jesse James Leija in perhaps the most stacked pay-per-view broadcast in boxing history.

4. Oscar De La Hoya TKO6 Ricardo Mayorga, May 6, 2006, MGM Grand
De La Hoya's final victory on the Las Vegas stage, and what a stirring one it was. Mayorga had genuinely infuriated the Golden Boy with his prefight taunts, and the vastly superior former Olympian punished him for it, dropping him once in the first and twice in the sixth. At his peak, De La Hoya brought an unmatched electricity to fight crowds, and this night was no exception. The atmosphere was off the hook, and as De La Hoya climbed the ropes to salute his fans in victory, it felt at the time like the perfect coda to a Hall of Fame career.

3. Manny Pacquiao D12 Juan Manuel Marquez, May 8, 2004, MGM Grand
The first installment of an intense and ongoing rivalry almost didn't make it past the first round of this encounter. Pacquiao, fresh off his shocking annihilation of Marco Antonio Barrera, flattened Barrera's countryman three times in that opening frame. Somehow, Marquez survived and fought his way back into the contest. Two fights and eight years later, Marquez remains Pacquiao's nemesis, and vice versa.

2. Manny Pacquiao KO2 Ricky Hatton, May 2, 2009, MGM Grand
This year was Pacquiao's annus mirabilis, in which he followed his 2008 demolition of De La Hoya with stoppage wins over Cotto and, previously, Hatton. The Englishman was down twice in the first round, unable to escape Pacquiao's right hooks, but was working his way back into the contest until PacMan uncorked a thunderbolt of a left hand at the end of the second to leave him spread-eagle on the canvas.

1. Diego Corrales TKO10 Jose Luis Castillo, May 7, 2005, Mandalay Bay
One of the greatest fights of all time -- heck, one could make a case that it was the greatest fight of all time -- will be forever remembered for its conclusive 10th round. Castillo put down Corrales hard and seconds later knocked him down again. Corrales spat out his mouthpiece and earned a point deduction for doing so, but it bought him precious time while the mouthpiece was cleaned, time that trainer Joe Goossen used to tell Corrales, "You'd better f---ing get inside of him now." And so Corrales did, summoning the strength to crack Castillo with a perfect right hand and then tearing into him on the ropes until referee Tony Weeks stopped the contest.

Corrales never won another fight. Two years later, to the very day, he was dead. But his memory, and the memory of his greatest moment in a boxing ring, will live forever.
Corrales & Mayweather Tom Hauck/Getty ImagesDiego Corrales gave Floyd Mayweather Jr. a run at the MGM Grand in 2001 before falling late.
Saturday's challenge of junior middleweight champ Miguel Cotto will be Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s sixth successive fight at the MGM Grand and his ninth overall. Here's one man's take on Mayweather's five most memorable appearances at what has become boxing's marquee venue:

5. Sept. 17, 2011: Victor Ortiz

Ortiz was at a high point, coming off his dramatic win over Andre Berto, but he was no match for either Mayweather or his own lack of judgment. Frustrated by his inability to pierce Mayweather's defense, Ortiz launched his head into his opponent's in Round 4, prompting referee Joe Cortez to call time out and deduct a point. When Cortez called time in, Ortiz was focused more on hugging Mayweather to apologize than on defending himself; Mayweather clocked an unprepared Ortiz with a left and a right, putting him down for the count.

4. April 20, 2002: Jose Luis Castillo

Notable for being a fight that, in the eyes of many observers, Mayweather lost. Mexico's Castillo was able to pressure Mayweather for periods and take him out of his comfort zone, but the American won a unanimous decision on the judges' scorecards, and he did so again in the rematch across the street at Mandalay Bay.

3. Dec. 8, 2007: Ricky Hatton

Unforgettable. An estimated 30,000 Brits descended on the Strip, all but emptying the MGM of beer and constantly reminding everyone that there was "only onnnne Ricky Hatton." That one Ricky Hatton was likely seeing two Floyd Mayweathers after walking into a check hook that sent him face-first into the ring post in the 10th. And still the Brits kept singing ...

2. May 5, 2007: Oscar De La Hoya

Was this really five years ago already? Overdramatically dubbed "The Fight to Save Boxing," this was the event that turned Mayweather into a superstar. Overcoming early resistance from a stiff Golden Boy jab, Mayweather scored a split decision win in a contest that secured a record 2.4 million pay-per-view buys.

1. Jan. 20, 2001: Diego Corrales

Like Mayweather, Corrales was an undefeated 130-pound titlist, and there were plenty of prognosticators who expected him to prove too strong. But you can't hurt what you can't hit, and in what remains Mayweather's most sublime performance, Corrales could hardly lay a glove on his rival. Mayweather, by contrast, couldn't miss his, dropping Corrales five times before Chico's corner stopped the contest in the 10th.

Arum talks Pacquiao past, future

November, 8, 2011
11/08/11
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After Manny Pacquiao scored a disputed split-decision win over Juan Manuel Marquez in their second fight in March 2008, the cries were strong -- not just from the Marquez camp but from much of boxing fandom -- for a third fight to finally settle the score.

But Pacquiao's promoter, Bob Arum, had other ideas. He was determined to match Pacquiao with lightweight beltholder David Diaz. It seemed a gratuitously defiant act: Yes, Diaz held a lightweight title, affording Pacquiao the opportunity to add a world title in a fifth weight class. But the Pacquiao-Marquez rematch sold 400,000 pay-per-views in the United States, a record for the lower weight classes, and there seemed no way a matchup with the solid but limited and little-known Diaz could possibly do better than that.

Arum, however, says he was mapping out a longer-term plan.

"I was beginning to feel what I had in Manny Pacquiao, basically because of the adoration from the Filipinos, whether in this country or elsewhere," Arum told reporters at the MGM Grand, where Pacquiao will finally meet Marquez for a third time this Saturday. "So I knew I had someone, like [Cassius] Clay, who, if I could only bring him to the attention of the general public, could be someone quite special."

Which, perhaps counterintuitively, is where Diaz came in.

"I realized the only way he could be special is if he fought higher-weight fights, if he fought guys like [Oscar] De La Hoya, like [Miguel] Cotto, like [Antonio] Margarito and not if he just limited himself to the fighters at 126 and 130 [pounds]," Arum said. "We luckily promoted David Diaz, who was a very good fighter, but nothing exceptional. And he lucked into a WBC lightweight title, and then he defended it against Erik Morales and barely eked out a win, and so I figured that that was the move. Even though it would [sell], which it did, [to] less homes than a third fight -- and it didn't do particularly well -- it wouldn't make it crazy when I could pull off the impossible and put him in with De La Hoya. As it was, after he beat Diaz, the Philippine Congress passed a resolution saying he shouldn't leave the country because he was going to get killed [by the much larger De La Hoya]. Can you imagine if he hadn't fought Diaz?"

Even so, Arum had second thoughts about the notion of putting in his young phenom with his former phenom, who had been fighting at junior middleweight and even middleweight -- more than 20 pounds higher than the weight at which Pacquiao was now campaigning -- since 2001.

"When the De La Hoya fight became possible, I had a big meeting -- I'll never forget it -- with Pacquiao in the suite at the Mandalay [Bay]," said Arum. "And I said: 'Manny, do you know what you're doing here? De La Hoya's so much bigger, so much stronger, you're liable to get hurt. There's a lot easier guys to fight. I'm telling you all of this because I want you to realize that maybe you shouldn't fight him.' And he got angry, and he said, 'I want to fight De La Hoya. I know I can beat him.' He looked at me with those steely eyes, and he really was sincere. It wasn't a question of the money or anything else. That's when I knew we had a helluva shot, and Freddie [Roach], who had trained Oscar, told us that Manny was going to beat Oscar. So we knew it internally, although Bruce [Trampler, Top Rank's Hall of Fame matchmaker], who knows fights, was leaning toward De La Hoya."

Of course, Pacquiao demolished De La Hoya in December 2008, sending the Golden Boy into retirement, and went on to defeat Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto before taking on larger-yet foes such as Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito. Arum admits that, in the aftermath of the Margarito fight, he realized matching the former flyweight with such relatively hefty opponents had to end.

"After he fought Margarito, when he told me how much he was hurting from those body shots -- to the public, it looked like a one-sided fight, but really, Margarito banged him around to the body, and the guy hurt him. He was in pain for a month. I thought, 'Am I crazy? I can't keep him fighting bigger guys all the time.' So he's in with Marquez now, and maybe down the road he'll fight Timothy Bradley, guys he matches up better with physically."

For that reason, Arum is dismissive of the notion of a matchup with middleweight champ Sergio Martinez, even if Martinez commits to weigh in at 150 and weigh no more than 164 on fight night. If Martinez and promoter Lou DiBella really want to make that fight, Arum says, he has an idea that is simultaneously novel and old school:

"Now, what I would say is, if you really want to fight Manny Pacquiao, you say you want to fight him at 150, let's go to a commission -- not necessarily this [Nevada] commission; maybe New York, maybe Texas -- and say, 'Both fighters want to do the fight and they want to go back to the old days and they want to do the weigh-in at noon on the day of the fight.' Once they do that, we can start talking."

As for the never-ending saga of the prospect of a bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr., Arum, naturally, puts the blame for the fight not being made solely on the man from Michigan.

"It's not a question of him making it difficult," Arum said of Mayweather. "He's making it impossible, because he's not making it. I thought to myself: 'OK, maybe he's got a point, even though I think it's baloney on this doping/drug test thing.' So Manny and I discussed it, and I said, 'Manny, even though they can, they're not going to go into the dressing room on the night of the fight to take blood, and if they do, let 'em take it from your ass, not your arm. So he said, 'OK, OK, no conditions.' None. And then [Mayweather]'s on [TV] this weekend, saying, 'I'll fight him, take the test.' What is he saying? And why doesn't the press take him up on it? How many times are we supposed to say that that is not an issue?"

Whether that fight does or does not happen, time for potential opponents is running out. Pacquiao's boxing career, says Arum, has a finite time remaining and a clear end date.

"Let me give you the political situation. He's now a Congressman from Sarangani. His term is up in 2013, when he will run for governor of Sarangani Province, and probably win," Arum said. "That's the end of boxing, because as a [Filipino] congressman -- like [U.S.] congressmen -- you don't work very hard. It's the truth! Some of them do, but how many days are they in session? Two days a week?

"But as a governor, it's different. As a governor, you've got to run the whole province; you're responsible for the water, the electricity, everything. So that's what he's going to concentrate on, and then in 2016, he's going to run for the Senate, which is a six-year term, and then in 2022 when he'll be over 40 years of age, that's the first time he's eligible to run for president. So that's a big, tough, political career to build up to, and he won't have time -- nor should he have time -- to spare coming over to the Wild Card, doing press conferences and so on."

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