Dan Rafael: Manny Pacquiao

12 Days: Mayweather-Pacquiao

December, 27, 2013
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Floyd Mayweather Jr.Johnny Nunez/BET/Getty ImagesWill Floyd Mayweather Jr. budge from his demands to make a megafight with Manny Pacquiao?
In the spirit of the holidays, ESPN is celebrating the season with our own "12 Days" wish list of the fights we want to see most, regardless of promotional or other entanglements. Keep checking back in the coming days to see new fights revealed, discuss our choices or even suggest some of your own in the comments section or via Twitter using #ESPN12Days.

When Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier were the best heavyweights in the world, both undefeated and both with a claim to the title, they eventually fought. Because the public demanded it, because each could make his biggest payday and because they dared to be great.

It became one of the most storied rivalries in sports history and produced boxing's most famous trilogy.

Showdowns between all-time greats do happen, but it's rare when they take place with fighters at the peak of their powers. It happened when Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns met to unify the welterweight title more than 30 years ago, a fight still talked about today.

In more recent years, the one fight that transcended boxing, one that even casual sports fans were interested in, was a showdown between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. It has yet to happen, and its prospects look bleak.

Filipino icon Pacquiao is the humble spirit and whirlwind power puncher who has won world titles in a record eight weight divisions, has been named fighter of the year three times and was the 2000's fighter of the decade. Mayweather is the brash, technical wizard who is undefeated and has won world titles in five weight divisions. He also has a fighter of the year award to his credit.

For a few years, Pacquiao and Mayweather were regarded as the two best fighters in the world, pound for pound. However they ranked, they were always 1-2 (or 1A and 1B, for that matter) -- and nobody else was seriously in the conversation. And, oh yeah, they were both welterweights and beating many of the same opponents, including big names such as Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley and Miguel Cotto.

As all fight fans know by now, unless you've been on Mars or under a rock, the sides have tried to negotiate the fight multiple times, including, most notably, the first try in late 2009 for an early 2010 fight. In my estimation, it would have generated more than 3 million pay-per-view buys and left the record in the dust. I think the fight would have easily shattered every single boxing revenue record known to mankind.

It was a fight the world was begging to see. It was the ultimate showdown between boxing's best, two men with opposite personalities and contrasting styles.

The camps had worked out every single issue -- from purse split (50-50) to a date and location -- with one exception. Mayweather demanded that both fighters undergo random drug testing -- blood and urine -- leading up to the fight. At the time, Pacquiao objected to blood testing so close to the bout, and the deal cratered.

A second negotiation, one the Mayweather camp still has never admitted even took place (even though Pacquiao's side and HBO, which was involved, said it did), went nowhere. By this time, Pacquiao was OK with random blood testing (which he underwent for his Nov. 23 fight with Brandon Rios), but Mayweather had other ideas and wanted a lot more than half the money. When he and Pacquiao spoke directly on the telephone about a possible fight, Mayweather offered only a flat fee to Pacquiao rather than a rightful percentage of a promotion that might be worth in excess of $200 million.

The rancorous issues between Pacquiao promoter Top Rank and Mayweather adviser Al Haymon and Golden Boy, Mayweather's de facto promoter, were also huge roadblocks to making the fight.

While Mayweather has remained on top and is now the clear pound-for-pound king, Pacquiao suffered a pair of losses -- a bogus split decision to Timothy Bradley Jr. and a rough knockout to Marquez in their fourth showdown. Those results cooled excitement for the fight. But after Pacquiao rebounded with such a dominant win against Rios, the fight is on people's minds again.

And although it will never, ever be what it should have been -- the two best facing off at their best in 2010 -- it's still the biggest fight boxing has to offer, by far.

But that hasn't made a difference for the past several years and, sadly, doesn't appear to mean anything now, either, as both fighters remain as far apart as ever.

Pacquiao is due to fight April 12 and Mayweather on May 3. Neither has formally announced his opponent, but one thing you can take to the bank: They won't be fighting each other. And for all of boxing, that is a shame.

Rios could test Pacquiao early

November, 22, 2013
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Since Manny Pacquiao is coming off such a huge knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in his last fight, you have to figure he will have at least some doubts in his mind as he enters the ring to face Brandon Rios on Saturday night.

No matter what a fighter says, coming back after such a shattering knockout has to leave some lingering impact, be it physical or psychological, especially since Pacquiao is not returning from a year off to face a journeyman opponent. He is facing Rios, who is the underdog to be sure, but still a quality fighter with a good chin, big heart and experience.

Perhaps the best game plan out of the gate would be for Rios (31-1-1, 22 KOs), an aggressive pressure fighter, to immediately jump on Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KOs) and immediately answer those questions about where he is after the knockout loss.

Rios, however, rejected that idea.

“No, we cannot do that,” he said. “We can’t go in the ring and think he’s going to be like that from the last knockout. We don’t know how he is personally. We have to go in there and wait and wait and wait and see what he has because he is still a dangerous opponent. Pacquiao is always going to be dangerous, so I can’t go in there and jump on him to see if he's done with.

“I'm not thinking like that. I'm going in there with a great game plan. [Trainer] Robert [Garcia] has a great game plan, and his dad [Eduardo Garcia] is also helping us out. So we have a great game plan going into the fight and I have to follow instructions and stick to the game plan and I think we should be ready.”

Robert Garcia did not rule out the jump-right-on him strategy entirely, however.

“That is something that everybody expects us to do, and we just might do that,” Garcia said. “We don’t know what Pacquiao has coming out. But we also have to be smart. We just can’t jump in there and think we are going to be the better guy that night. No, we have to be ready for the best Pacquiao. For him, it’s do or die so we have to be ready for the best Pacquiao.

“We can’t go in there thinking it’s going to be easy. Our game plan has turned out really good. If Brandon follows instructions and does everything we tell him to do, the sparring partners have been very helpful, so we should come out with good results.”

Trainers testier than Pacquiao, Rios

November, 19, 2013
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Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios have shown a lot of respect for each other throughout the promotion for their fight. Sure, they both predict victories, but they haven't gotten on each other too much.
Their trainers? No so much.

There is no doubt that a fierce competition has brewed between Hall of Famer Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's trainer and a five-time trainer of the year, and Robert Garcia, Rios' head cornerman and the reigning trainer of the year.

Both are heavily invested in their fighter winning by knockout on Saturday night (HBO PPV, 9 ET) at CotaiArena at the Venetian Macao in Macau.

Roach has predicted that Pacquiao would stop Rios inside six rounds, but changed his tune the other day. Now he's saying Pacquiao will have an easier time with Rios.

"Manny's last training session was nothing short of amazing," Roach said. "We were supposed to do six rounds on the mitts and I cut it off after four rounds. They were the best four rounds of mitts I have ever done with Manny. He was blazing. He was throwing the heat.

"This was the happiest and most productive camp I have had with Manny in years. I know I predicted that Manny would knock Rios out inside six rounds, but based on our last workout, I don't see how Rios makes it past the fourth round."

Garcia is also talking a big game.

"Twice during the [first] two episodes of '24/7' I've heard Freddie Roach say he will ask Manny Pacquiao to retire if he loses to Brandon Rios," Garcia said. "Well, Freddie had better buy that gold watch for Manny, because the retirement party begins on Saturday night. I guarantee you this will be the last time you ever see Manny Pacquiao on an HBO Pay-Per-View."

Pacquiao has something to prove

August, 1, 2013
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Manny Pacquiao has won world titles in a record eight weight classes, been voted fighter of the year three times and fighter of the decade, and is a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Yet as successful as Pacquiao has been, even he is feeling a bit of pressure going into his next fight, a welterweight showdown with former lightweight titlist Brandon Rios, whom he will meet in a scheduled 12-round bout on Nov. 23 (HBO PPV, 9 p.m. ET) at the CotaiArena at the Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel in Macau.

"I am feeling a little pressure for this fight since I have lost my previous two," Pacquiao said this week while in China on the first leg of a mind-boggling 23,722-mile media tour that will take the fighters to seven cities in three countries -- China, Singapore and the United States -- as they promote the fight. "An impressive victory against Rios will raise my name again in boxing. My belief in God, and training as hard as I can, will help to relieve that pressure."

Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KOs) has two official losses in a row, a one-punch sixth-round knockout loss in his fourth fight with rival Juan Manuel Marquez (the 2012 knockout of the year) in December and an all-time controversial split decision loss to Timothy Bradley Jr. last June.

"I was in my best shape when I fought Marquez last December," Pacquiao said. "I was winning the fight. I had taken control. But I got careless and made a mistake, being in the wrong place for him to land that final punch. But that's boxing. That's what makes it so exciting."

So the record reads consecutive defeats and Pacquiao is aiming to get back on track against Rios (31-1-1), who is coming off of his first defeat, a decision in his thrilling March rematch against Mike Alvarado.

"I need to prove I still can fight like the old Manny Pacquiao," he said. "I need to restore the public's confidence in me and my abilities. It's important that this be an impressive victory. I have already begun to visualize my fight with Rios."

Like Pacquiao, Rios is a very aggressive fighter. But Pacquiao has had many more big fights and faced many more top-notch opponents, which PacMan figures will work to his advantage.

"I have seen Rios fight and I am confident that I will win the fight," Pacquiao said. "One of my advantages is my experience against better opposition. I think the question that needs to be asked is, 'Is Rios ready for me?'

"Rios is an aggressive fighter. He likes to fight on the inside and toe-to-toe. He likes to fight, period. I am 100 percent confident of winning this fight. The fans will really enjoy the action."

Pacquiao normally splits his training camp between his home country of the Philippines and Hollywood, Calif., where trainer Freddie Roach's gym is located. For this fight, because it's in Asia, Pacquiao said he will train exclusively in the Philippines.

"It will be nice to fight in a location where I will not have any jetlag," Pacquiao said. "Macau and the Philippines share the same time zone and the same climate. No adjustments for me this time. Since Macau is only a 90-minute flight away from the Philippines, I expect a lot more Filipinos to be in the arena for this fight.

"I will begin three months of training in August when I return to the Philippines after the media tour. I'll do six weeks of conditioning and building up my stamina, followed by a six-week training camp with Freddie Roach when he arrives in October. I'm 34 and I now need to train over a longer period. The focus of this camp will be on speed and footwork, which have been my advantages in previous successful fights. I'll be more careful to avoid the careless error I made against Marquez."

Broner isn't sweating weight jump

June, 21, 2013
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The normal progression for a top fighter is to move from one weight class to the next and collect as many titles as possible. But Adrien Broner, who likes belts as much as the next guy, is doing something quite unusual.

A former junior lightweight titlist and reigning lightweight titleholder, Broner is skipping over the junior welterweight division and jumping up two weight classes to welterweight, where he will challenge Paulie Malignaggi for his belt Saturday night (Showtime, 9 ET) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

If Broner wins, he will become just the fourth fighter to win titles at 130, 135 and 147 pounds, joining his idol Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao and Oscar De La Hoya, all of whom stopped off at 140 to win titles.

"I moved up for the opportunity to be a 23-year-old three-time world champion in three different weight classes," Broner said. "[Malignaggi] feels like I'm just a 135-pound fighter, but he's not on my level. It is going to be the 'AB Show.' You guys will be surprised when you see me fight at 147."

Some have been critical of Broner for skipping over the talent-rich 140-pound weight class -- which includes such fighters as Danny Garcia, Lucas Matthysse, Mike Alvarado, Brandon Rios, Lamont Peterson and Zab Judah -- in order to challenge Malignaggi.

But Garcia fought in April and Matthysse fought in May, and now they are close to a deal to fight each other. Alvarado and Rios are represented by promoter Top Rank, which means no fight because Broner is with Golden Boy. Judah just lost to Garcia (and may next face Alvarado), and Peterson got knocked out by Matthysse. The point is that none of those names were available for Broner for a late spring/summer fight.

"All of the good fighters at 140 were already matched up," Broner said.

The last significant lightweight titleholder to skip junior welterweight was Shane Mosley, but even he took a couple of fights at 147 before he challenged then-champion De La Hoya in 2000.

Broner (26-0, 22 KOs) said the move up in weight is no issue for him and that there is no need for a warm-up.

"I'm really not worrying about jumping weight classes," he said. "For me, the weight is not a problem. I'm originally a welterweight anyway. I just had to lose weight, so I really didn't have to do anything different. I mean, I don't walk around at 130 pounds. I don't walk around at 135 pounds. I walk around at 147, 150 pounds, so I'm at my regular weight."

Broner's 84.6 knockout percentage is one of the highest in boxing. He said he expects to carry his power with him up to 147 pounds.

"What a lot of people don't understand is, you can't really do nothing for power -- you're either born with it or you aren't," he said. "It's like Pacquiao when he was in smaller weights. He was knocking guys out. When he went up into the bigger weights, he was still knocking guys out. It's just something that God blessed me with. I've got power, so it really don't matter what weight class I'm in. I'm still going to have the same power as I had at any weight class I'm in."

Malignaggi (32-4, 7 KOs), 32, who will be fighting in his hometown, has viewed Broner with disdain throughout the promotion. His jump in weight is just part of it.

"He's a little guy and he's going to see how overrated his power was," Malignaggi said. "I think they were better off letting him fight a live guy -- a lightweight or someone below that -- before him fighting a live guy at welterweight. He's fighting this bigger guy all in one jump, so I don't think that was the most intelligent move on his team's part. He will wind up looking like they put his face in a blender when I'm done with him.

"He's coming up to a real weight class against a real man."
The fall showdown between welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr. and Juan Manuel Marquez has moved a step closer to being finalized.

Bradley signed his contract on Friday, manager Cameron Dunkin told ESPN.com.

The fight is supposed to take place Sept. 14 (HBO PPV) at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. However, that is also the date (on Mexican Independence Day weekend) that pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. says he will next fight, at the MGM Grand in a Showtime PPV fight.

If Mayweather finalizes his own fight -- opponent TBA, but hopefully Mexican star junior middleweight champ Canelo Alvarez -- Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, who is putting on Bradley-Marquez, said he will get out of the way and move the fight to Oct. 12. Arum said he has the Thomas & Mack Center also on hold for that date in case he needs to move it.

As for Marquez, who is coming off a sensational one-punch knockout of Manny Pacquiao in December, he hasn't yet signed his paperwork, but there are no issues, according to Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti.

"He has not signed, but all is done," Moretti said. "Nothing new when it comes to this stuff."

Pacquiao-Rios payback for Roach?

May, 7, 2013
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When Manny Pacquiao picked Brandon Rios to fight for his comeback bout after the knockout loss he suffered against Juan Manuel Marquez in December, he did so with the blessing of Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach.

Roach said he liked the fight for Pacquiao -- who will fight Rios in a welterweight bout on Nov. 23 (HBO PPV) at the CotaiArena at the Venetian Macao Resort Hotel in Macau, China -- because he believes Rios' brawling style is made to order for Pacquiao.

But Roach said it wouldn't be honest if he didn't say that he also liked the match because he believes it's time for a little payback.

Flash back to November 2010, when Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KOs) beat down Antonio Margarito in a one-sided decision at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, to win a junior middleweight title, Pacquiao's record-setting title in an unprecedented eighth weight class.

A few days before the fight, Rios (31-1-1, 23 KOs), who was on the undercard, and Margarito, who shared Robert Garcia as a trainer, were seen in an internet video cruelly mocking and laughing about Roach's Parkinson's disease symptoms, which sometimes include uncontrollable shaking.

First Margarito mocked Roach's tremors and sometimes-difficult-to-understand speech, and then Rios imitated him as well, all while Garcia stood by their side laughing.

Although they later apologized for the video, the incident understandably bothered Roach. Now Roach will go up against Rios and Garcia, and he hasn't forgotten about it.

"[Garcia] was trainer of the year [in 2012], and this year we will prove otherwise with this fight," Roach, a five-time trainer of the year, told ESPN.com on Monday, which is when the fight was agreed to.

As for having Pacquiao get a chance to knock out Rios, Roach said he was looking forward to it.

"They were trying to get under my skin [with the video], and they can do what they want. They can do all the shaking they want, but they are an embarrassment to themselves, and what they did bothered a lot of people around the world," Roach said. "[Rios'] coach [Garcia] was right there with him helping him with that video. So this fight is going to be great payback for me. I can't wait for this fight. It's the fight I wanted for Manny. We're going to teach them a lesson."

Asia next for Manny Pacquiao?

March, 30, 2013
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LAS VEGAS -- Top Rank promoter Bob Arum is leaving for Macau, China on Sunday to promote his company's card there next Saturday, which is headlined by the pro debut of Chinese national hero Zou Shiming, a two-time Olympic gold medalist. But this isn't likely to be Arum's last trip to promote a fight in Asia.

Arum told ESPN.com on Friday that Manny Pacquiao -- whomever he fights next -- will probably fight next in Asia.

"He is fighting in September," Arum said. "I don't know against who and I'm not exactly sure where, but it looks like Macau or Singapore."

The April 6 card in Macau will be put on at The Venetian resort, which also has a casino in Las Vegas and Singapore. Arum said casino officials are anxious to host a Pacquiao fight and would make the call as to which Asian property it would be held at -- the one in Macau or Singapore.

"They own both properties there, so it doesn't matter," Arum said.

Pacquiao's potential opponents come as no surprise. They are the same ones Arum has been mentioning for weeks: Juan Manuel Marquez, in a potential fifth meeting against the man who drilled him in a December shocker that was the 2012 fight of the year; welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr., in a rematch of the highly controversial split decision Bradley received in June; or Brandon Rios, should he defeat Mike Alvarado in their rematch on Saturday.

"It will be one of those three guys, at 147 [pounds]," Arum said. "My idea would be if [Pacquiao] fought Marquez, we do Bradley against Rios if Rios wins."

Arum added that Pacquiao's Asian fight would take place in the morning local time in order to accommodate a live prime-time HBO PPV broadcast in the United States.

Arum also touched on a couple of other topics:

•  Former middleweight titlist Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. is currently serving a nine-month suspension by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for a positive marijuana test stemming from his loss to champ Sergio Martinez on Sept. 15, but he will fight on either June 15 or June 22. The date is at issue because Arum and the commission disagree over precisely when Chavez is eligible to fight.

"There's a philosophical question -- when the nine months are up," Arum said. "Our argument is it's up June 15. They said originally it's up the 16th. But they might change that."

Arum spent time at Friday's Rios-Alvarado weigh-in huddled in deep conversation with Bill Brady, a member of the Nevada commission, discussing the issue.

Arum said the Chavez fight, which will be on HBO, will take place at the AT&T Center in San Antonio and be fought at a catchweight between middleweight and super middleweight, probably 164 pounds. Arum said the focus is on three potential opponents: Brian Vera, who won his fight Friday night and is from Austin, Texas, and two fighters from Great Britain, former title challengers Darren Barker and Matthew Macklin. However, Arum said that Macklin was offered the fight but didn't want to fight above 160 pounds.

• Mikey Garcia, who was also at Friday's weigh-in, won a featherweight title in January in dominant fashion against Orlando Salido. Garcia's first follow-up fight likely will be in July, Arum said. He said Top Rank president Todd duBoef was meeting with HBO executives on Saturday to talk about the particulars. Arum said the likely opponent will be former titleholder Juan Manuel Lopez, who will first fight on April 20.

"Mikey will fight maybe a catchweight fight against JuanMa Lopez," Arum said. Lopez has trouble making 126 pounds. His previous fight was at 128 pounds, as will be his April 20 bout.

Top Rank and HBO are talking about Garcia's fight headlining a tripleheader. Arum said the other fights that likely would be on the card are featherweight titlist Evgeny Gradovich's first defense -- a mandatory against Mauricio Munoz -- and a heavyweight fight involving prospect Andy Ruiz, possibly against fellow prospect Joe Hanks.

J.M. Marquez weighing options

March, 5, 2013
3/05/13
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Manny Pacquiao (L) and Juan Manuel Marquez John Gurzinski/AFP/Getty ImagesWill Juan Manuel Marquez, right, take aim at a fifth Manny Pacquiao fight or go another direction?

Juan Manuel Marquez, nearly three months removed from his titanic sixth-round knockout of Manny Pacquiao in their fourth fight, is weighing his options for his next bout.

It's likely to be a fifth fight in the fall with Pacquiao, his great rival who still leads their legendary series 2-1-1. But Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, who co-promotes Marquez with Zanfer Promotions' Fernando Beltran, said there are other possibilities as well, and that Marquez is going to look at them.

The two promoters and Marquez, 39, spent time together in Mexico City last week discussing the possibilities -- and partying together.

"Marquez said he will continue to fight. That's what he wants to do," Arum said. "He thought about it after the Pacquiao fight and decided he wants to keep fighting. We had a lovely time together. They had to carry me to my room. A little too much tequila. Juan Manuel was a little loopy, too, but Fernando is like a lion. He drinks that s--- like it's water."

Before the liquid refreshments kicked in, they talked business.

"We discussed all of his options before we got drunk," Arum said with a laugh.

Arum said Marquez, who still holds a junior welterweight belt (although he beat Pacquiao at welterweight), said he will attend welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr.'s defense against Ruslan Provodnikov on March 16 in Carson, Calif., and then also be ringside for the interim junior welterweight title bout between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado, who meet in a rematch on March 30 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

"He wants to see Bradley with Provodnikov and he wants to see Rios and Alvarado," Arum said of Marquez. "And then we'll have a discussion on what his options are."

After watching those fights, Marquez and his wife will travel to Macau for an April 6 card, Arum said. According to Arum, Pacquiao is also planning to attend the show. If Marquez decides that he wants another Pacquiao fight, there's a good chance the fighters can work out the outline of a deal while in Macau, Arum said, even though the fight probably wouldn't take place until September.

"Marquez said he's interested in fighting all of them, but he'll know who he is interested in more after watching them fight," Arum said. "We never discussed money. All he said was, 'I know I can make more money fighting Pacquiao than against the other guys,' and that was the extent of the monetary discussions.

"We had a nice evening together. Whatever he and Manny want to do, I'm for it. If it's another Pacquiao-Marquez fight, fine. If it's that they fight somebody else, fine."

Remaining 2012 boxing awards

January, 3, 2013
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Manny Pacquiao and Juan MarquezZumapress/Icon SMIJuan Manuel Marquez's one-punch KO against Manny Pacquiao will be remembered for years to come.
Yes, 2012 is in the books, but beyond last week's daily annual awards for fighter, knockout, round, prospect and fight of the year, I handed out some additional hardware on Wednesday. And now, here is Part 2:

Most important business development: The return of boxing to network television. Boxing was essentially banished from network TV in the late 1990s, with a few exceptions. But in back-to-back weeks in December, it returned to Saturday afternoons on CBS (Leo Santa Cruz versus Alberto Guevara in a bantamweight title fight) and NBC (Tomasz Adamek and Steve Cunningham in a heavyweight rematch) thanks to the hard work of promoters Golden Boy and Main Events, respectively. Both cards performed very well in the ratings, meaning you can probably count on seeing more network action in 2013 and, hopefully, beyond. Boxing on free TV can be a game-changer for the sport.

Event of the year: Begrudgingly, I'm going with the night of Sept. 15 in Las Vegas. I was very clear from the outset that I despised the idea of two major cards competing in the same city on the same night when Top Rank/HBO PPV and Showtime/Golden Boy went head-to-head with Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at the Thomas & Mack Center and Canelo Alvarez-Josesito Lopez down the street at the MGM Grand on Mexican Independence Day weekend. It caused a lot of unnecessary issues and a lot of hurt feelings for a lot of people in the business. But ultimately the fans turned out for both events. The HBO PPV was a huge success, Showtime's ratings were robust, and both cards produced quality entertainment. That said, I hope we don't see another conflict like that this year. (But I won't hold my breath.)

Non-event of the year: Same as the past few years -- a Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight. And now the whole thing is down the drain after Pacquiao's knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez last month. Only in boxing could the ego, greed and stupidity of some of those involved blow up one of the biggest potential events in history. Even if the fight does happen someday, it will never be what it should have been -- easily the biggest money fight ever and the ultimate summit meeting of the two best fighters on the planet. But that ship has sailed for what will instead go down as one of the most disappointing situations in sports history. No matter what happens from here on out, there will always be a gaping hole in the legacies of both fighters.

OMG moment of the year: Has to be Marquez's stunning one-punch KO against Pacquiao with one second left in the sixth round. I thought at that point in the fight that Pacquiao was closing in on his own stoppage win, and then all of a sudden ... boom! Runner-up: Chavez dropping Martinez in the final 90 seconds of what had been a one-sided Martinez domination. Both moments were electrifying.

Best experience of the year: Thanks to my side gig as an analyst for Epix boxing telecasts, I traveled to Nottingham, England, Carl Froch's hometown, to call his upset knockout win against Lucian Bute in May. It was my first trip to England and one of the best experiences of my career covering boxing. Working with fellow announcers Bruce Beck, Sugar Ray Leonard, Chris Mannix and our whole crew on the show was a pleasure, and riding around Nottingham (on the other side of the road for the first time) as executive producer/driver Travis Pomposello navigated more roundabouts than any road system should have was quite an experience. I still regret that I was unable to convince Travis to stop at the Porsche dealership we kept passing, but at least the atmosphere on fight night was incredible. I rate it No. 2 on my all-time list behind the atmosphere at the MGM Grand for Mayweather-Ricky Hatton.

Hector
Paul Warner/Getty ImagesHector "Macho" Camacho passed away in 2012 after being shot in Puerto Rico.
R.I.P.: 2012 was a particularly tough year in terms of losses in the boxing community, including the great Angelo Dundee, good pal Bert Sugar, Johnny Tapia, Hector Camacho Sr., Goody Petronelli, Carmen Basilio, Julio Gonzalez and Corrie Sanders. They will all be missed. But the passing of Emanuel Steward, a dear friend and a wonderful ambassador for the sport, was particularly hard to take.

Misery award: The 2012 U.S. Olympic men's boxing team, which didn't win a single medal for the first time ever. This is rock-bottom status for a U.S. amateur system that has been driven into the ground for years. Runners-up (tie): HBO buying Keith Thurman-Orlando Lora and Showtime buying Jayson Velez-Salvador Sanchez II. Neither had any business airing on premium cable.

Quickest rise of the year: Leo Santa Cruz went from a prospect known only among hard-core fans (he was on my 2011 year-end top prospects list) to one of the sport's most notable young talents. He went 5-0, won a bantamweight world title, became a Showtime regular, headlined the return of boxing to CBS and, most important, made one action-packed fight after another.

Shame on you award: We have four winners, Lamont Peterson, Andre Berto, Antonio Tarver and Erik Morales, all of whom were busted for using banned substances. Performance-enhancing drugs are a major problem in boxing, and commissions badly need to beef up testing. Three of these fighters were caught by either VADA or USADA, which were contracted for specific fights outside of commission oversight. Only Tarver's test came from a postfight California commission test. Amazingly, after Morales failed multiple tests, New York still allowed him to fight.

Welcome award I: The beautiful new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., which opened for boxing in October, is a welcome addition to the fight circuit. Golden Boy will promote there regularly and already has cards slated for February, March and April.

Welcome award II: WealthTV, the upstart cable network, is in very few homes, but every boxing fan should be calling their cable or satellite provider to ask for it. WealthTV showed a number of notable fights, including those involving Bute, 2012 ESPN.com prospect of the year David Price, Tyson Fury and Adonis Stevenson. And in the programming move of the year, when the premium networks wrongly ignored it, WealthTV smartly bought a fabulous November card featuring two fights that wound up rating as fight of the year candidates: the Brian Viloria-Hernan Marquez flyweight unification match (which we all knew would be a barn burner) and the Roman Gonzalez-Juan Francisco Estrada junior flyweight title fight, which was a pleasant surprise.

Austin Trout
Elsa/Getty ImagesMiguel Cotto was the heavy favorite but he was outboxed by Austin Trout for 12 rounds at Madison Square Garden in December.
Bad luck runs in threes award: Three of the most important fighters in recent boxing history suffered clear-cut losses on consecutive Saturdays: Hatton got knocked out Nov. 24, Miguel Cotto lost a decision to Austin Trout on Dec. 1, and Pacquiao got drilled on Dec. 8.

Winky Wright School of Boxing Business valedictorian: Congratulations, junior middleweight contender James Kirkland. Forget about the fact that he nearly ruined his life and career a couple of years ago when he was sent back to prison for getting caught with a gun as a convicted felon on parole. Forget that he got waxed in one round in a comeback fight by an opponent who usually can't break an egg. In March, Kirkland was given the gift of a 10th-round disqualification win against Carlos Molina, who was winning easily before the highly suspect DQ. So when Golden Boy then offered him nearly $1 million to challenge titlist Canelo Alvarez on Sept. 15, Kirkland should have kissed CEO Richard Schaefer's feet in thanks. Instead, he accepted the fight but dropped out the next day, citing a shoulder injury that he said still hadn't healed after surgery. But Kirkland also tried to shake down Golden Boy for a larger purse to go through with the fight with a bad shoulder. Needless to say, the promoter didn't offer him another dime, instead making a new fight for Alvarez. Kirkland hasn't fought since March and is suing Golden Boy and his managers, who have done nothing but bend over backward to give him opportunities.

Replays of Pac-Marquez bouts

November, 28, 2012
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Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez have had three outstanding fights so far, each of which has ended in a controversial decision.

There was the 2004 draw in a featherweight championship fight. There was Pacquiao's split decision win in a 2008 junior lightweight title fight. And then came the most controversial of the three, Pacquiao's majority decision win in a welterweight title fight last November.

With the fourth fight in their rivalry lined up for Dec. 8 (HBO PPV) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, HBO will replay the first three fights to set the stage for fight No. 4.

The HBO2 service will replay Pacquiao-Marquez I late Friday night/early Saturday (12:15 a.m. ET/PT). HBO Signature will replay Pacquiao-Marquez II on Saturday (10 p.m. ET/PT), followed by the third fight at 10:55 p.m. ET/PT.

Also, if you want to gorge on all three back-to-back-to-back, HBO2 will replay each fight in order beginning at 10:45 a.m. ET/PT on Saturday.

Pacquiao hits Kimmel couch again

November, 16, 2012
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One of boxing's most amusing traditions in recent years continues on Wednesday night when Manny Pacquiao makes his prefight appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live."

With Pacquiao set for his fourth meeting with Juan Manuel Marquez on Dec. 8 (HBO PPV) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the promotional push is on, and that includes what has become a regular late-night appearance.

Pacquiao can't get one fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr., but he will be on Kimmel's couch for the seventh time on Wednesday night (ABC, midnight ET/PT). That's only one fewer appearance than the record number of weight classes in which Pacquiao has won titles. Also scheduled to appear on the show are comedian/actor Tim Allen and a musical performance by Flo Rida.

Since he met Miguel Cotto in November 2009, Pacquiao has appeared on Kimmel's show before each of his fights -- Cotto, Joshua Clottey, Antonio Margarito, Shane Mosley, Marquez III and Timothy Bradley Jr. -- sometimes belting out a love song.

Before facing Cotto, Pacquiao sang his rendition of the Dan Hill ballad "Sometimes When We Touch," which he and Hill later remade. Pacquiao has also sung with Kimmel ("How Deep is Your Love") and actor Will Ferrell ("Imagine") in other highly entertaining appearances.

Return of boxing reality shows

November, 13, 2012
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There must be some big fights on deck because the reality programs centered on those fights are upon us. This week brings the debuts of a new edition of "24/7" on HBO and "All Access" on Showtime.

The four-part "24/7 Pacquiao/Marquez" series, which chronicles the build-up to the fourth showdown between rivals Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez on Dec. 8, will debut on Saturday night (well, really Sunday morning -- it airs at 12:15 a.m.) immediately following HBO's live card from Atlantic City, N.J., featuring lightweight titlist Antonio DeMarco defending against Adrien Broner and a heavyweight match between Seth Mitchell and Johnathon Banks.

In a departure from the traditional "24/7" format, the debut episode revisits the first three Pacquiao-Marquez fights (a featherweight title fight in 2004, a junior lightweight title fight in 2008 and a welterweight title fight in 2011). I can't blame the producers for going that route. We have seen Pacquiao and Marquez on "24/7" so many times that it has to be tough to keep churning out episodes on them.

Included in that first episode are interviews with Pacquiao, Marquez, trainers Freddie Roach and Nacho Beristain, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum and HBO commentator Larry Merchant.

The second and third episodes air on subsequent Saturday nights, with the finale airing on Dec. 7, the eve of the HBO PPV fight from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Showtime's two-part "All Access: Cotto vs. Trout" premiers on Friday night at 10:30 ET/PT. You can check out the trailer here: http://s.sho.com/Ry2Ckb.

The series focuses on junior middleweight titlist Austin Trout's defense against former titleholder and superstar Miguel Cotto. They meet Dec. 1 (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET/PT) at New York's Madison Square Garden, where Cotto is a huge attraction.

The first episode takes viewers behind the scenes and into the lives of the fighters at their training camps as they get ready for the fight.

The second episode, which debuts Dec. 15 (10 p.m. ET/PT) on Showtime, is an epilogue to the fight. It will take viewers inside the fight-week build-up and cover the bout and the aftermath.

Pacquiao-Marquez on '24/7' again

October, 24, 2012
10/24/12
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As many times as they have fought each other, and given how many times they have been featured on various installments of HBO's "24/7" reality series, I'm not sure what ground is left to be covered when it comes to Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. Nonetheless, they will be featured yet again on the series as they prepare for their fourth fight against each other.

Pacquiao -- who is up a controversial 2-0-1 in the rivalry -- and Marquez will meet in a welterweight fight Dec. 8 (HBO PPV) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

On Wednesday, HBO announced the schedule for the four-part series, which will, as always, provide exclusive behind-the-scenes access and interviews with the fighters and their camps in the lead-up to the fight.

"24/7 Pacquiao/Marquez," the 16th boxing installment of the series (which has won 16 Sports Emmys), debuts Saturday night, Nov. 17 (12:15 a.m. ET/PT). The second and third episodes debut on subsequent Saturday nights (Nov. 24 at 12:45 a.m. ET/PT and Dec. 1 at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT), while the finale premiers Friday, Dec. 7 (8 p.m. ET/PT).

Pacquiao will be making his seventh appearance in a "24/7" series. Marquez will be featured on his third edition of the show.

"The intensity of this eight-year rivalry will be a great jumping off point for our all-new edition of '24/7'," executive producer Rick Bernstein said. "We are eager to follow both teams in the build-up to the fourth chapter. Episode 1 will be dedicated to revisiting their first three bouts [2004, 2008 and 2011] with a documentary-style production."

Aaron Cohen returns as the series' writer, and the shows will once again be narrated by Liev Schreiber.

As part of the deal between HBO and ESPN, which was announced in September, episodes of the series will also be replayed on ESPN.

Pacquiao-Marquez IV in demand

October, 2, 2012
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Plenty of fans and pundits aren't all that enthusiastic about the fourth meeting between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, the future Hall of Famers who will square off in a welterweight nontitle bout on Dec. 8 (HBO PPV) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Many view it simply as being too much of a good thing and would rather see each man in a fresh match despite the generally entertaining nature of their three previous bouts, each of which ended in controversial decisions as Pacquiao went 2-0-1.

Their most recent bout, which came last November, was won by Pacquiao (54-4-2, 38 KOs) -- boxing's only eight-division world champion -- via split decision. It was arguably the most controversial of their three fights, with many believing Marquez (54-6-1, 39 KOs), a four-division titleholder, clearly deserved the decision.

But there are apparently still a lot of people who are excited to see Pacquiao and Marquez battle again.

The tickets for the fight went on sale Friday, and promoter Top Rank announced that 13,000 were sold in the first few days, leaving fewer than 3,000 for a fight that is still more than two months away. If the numbers are legit, that's a big opening sale.

"We are ecstatic with the response," Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said of the initial ticket sales.

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