'The Brooklyn Rocky' packs a wallop

May, 15, 2014
May 15

Skills do indeed pay the bills, as they say, but KOs such as the one above put butts in seats and earn fighters more opportunities to shine on bigger stages.

Frank Galarza (13-0-2 with 9 KOs), the Red Hook, Brooklyn, native dubbed "The Brooklyn Rocky" by local sportscaster Bruce Beck, came out in the second round of his second-to-last fight, against John Thompson, and came at his foe with a nasty intent.

Bing-bang-boom, down went Thompson, and up went Galarza's visibility in the sport.

It often works like that, right or wrong. Many fans do indeed appreciate the sweet science, look up to those pugilist-specialists who work with a "hit and don't get hit" MO ... but let's face it, highlight-reel knockouts go a long way in boosting a young prospect into that contender class, which is what the 28-year-old junior middleweight Galarza craves.

The Thompson win was seen by viewers of the ShoBox series on Jan. 17, and he followed up with a KO2 win over Franklin Gonzalez on April 5. Galarza gets another shot to keep the buzz going as he meets 8-0 Canadian Sebastien Bouchard at Foxwoods in Connecticut on Friday night, once again on ShoBox.

Analyst Steve Farhood will work the fight, so I asked him for an assessment of the clash, which features a fighter who has had to travel a long way to get here -- Galarza's dad died from a gunshot wound complication when he was 7, and his mother died of an overdose just two years later.

"Galarza is nicknamed 'The Brooklyn Rocky,' and I think that's appropriate because there are name fighters from Brooklyn, like Louie Collazo, Daniel Jacobs, and Curtis Stevens, and he was never one of them," Farhood said. "Also, he was a big underdog in his breakthrough fight on ShoBox vs. 14-0 John Thompson, and he won in Rocky style. Galarza had minimal amateur experience, and that's a lot to overcome. But he's rangy, has good power, and seems to be on the improve as a boxer.

"In Sebastien Bouchard, he's fighting a short pressure fighter who lacks a big punch. It seems a good style matchup for Galarza. Bouchard isn't proven yet; he's been scheduled for only six rounds to date. I look for Galarza to keep his momentum. Against the exceptionally tall Thompson, he needed a way to get close. Against Bouchard, he'll want to keep an arm's length away. We'll see if he can adjust.

"In terms of his development, this is a big fight for Galarza. Fighting on ShoBox gives him the opportunity to grow and advance, and to do so on a national stage. For a fighter who didn't have much buzz before his initial ShoBox appearance, the exposure is invaluable."

Galarza certainly sounds ready. "Just be ready for a show -- the same thing as last time," he said. "I come to fight, I don't come to play games."

To help insure that atmosphere is electric in Foxwoods, Galarza's manager, A.J. Galante, rented a bus to take fans for free from Brooklyn to Connecticut, so the joint should be rockin' to see BK Rocky, and see if he can offer up another stellar stoppage.

I did a double take, no, a triple take, when trainer Billy Giles gave a scouting report on Junior Wright, the man his fighter, Steve Bujaj -- pronounced Boo-yay -- will be taking on in the main event of a Dmitriy Salita show Thursday night in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.

[+] EnlargeSteve Bujaj
Elsa/Golden Boy/Golden Boy/Getty ImagesSteve Bujaj
"Good boxer ... tough guy ... fair puncher," said Giles, a New York institution who trained Hector "Macho" Camacho, and Paulie Malignaggi early on, "but he's in there with the wrong guy. It's the best fighter in the world he's in with. The world. You ever seen any of the prospects I've had progress this fast? He's the best in the world. ... I'm the best trainer in the world. All my kids can fight. Never been a time when you can say my kids couldn't fight. Even the bums! What other trainer would take a chance with a guy, like Bujaj, 12-0, against a guy like Wright, 10-0, with nine KOs?"

I can't speak to that, but there is some solid local buzz on this bout, which will top a card at the Millennium Theater, and for which the vacant WBC international cruiserweight title will be up for grabs. And as for Bujaj being the best in the world, well, let's table that talk for a spell until he gets to glove up for the No. 1 WBC cruiser strap, shall we? I will give Giles props for believing heavily in his fighter, who was born in Albania, and lives in Yonkers.

"Everybody will get their money's worth," Giles said before a Wednesday presser at a restaurant across from Barclays Center. Bujaj, who won two New York Golden Gloves, had a bum right shoulder, but that is fully healed. "We got no excuses. I predict a 10-round decision win. Wright's a good fighter, we didn't pick no bum. But he's gonna be beat up."

Wright disagrees, no surprise there. The 27-year-old told me he doesn't really watch tape of foes, but thinks Bujaj will come straight forward so the bout will be a "head-on collision." Wright says he likes to pursue, be first, and he told me he wants to test himself, see where he's at as a pro. The out-of-town hitter told me that boxing has been a lifesaver for him, because he got into trouble, as he had a penchant for theft as a teen. At 17, he saw the light and got pushed into boxing after getting turned onto it via a boxing video game. "I kinda changed my life around," he said. "This fight may go the distance, because this guy ain't going to go down easy, and neither will I."

The 23-year-old Bujaj said Wright "is a solid opponent, but he's never fought anyone like me. I'll figure everything out in the first round. ... I can't say what's gonna happen, how it will play out, but I know I'm gonna be the winner."

Heavyweight Jarrell Miller, junior middleweight Steve Martinez, super feather Amanda Serrano and lightweight Dimash Niyazov will also see action on the Salita card.
Oscar De La Hoya didn't think fighting the Cuban, who might well be, on any given night, one of the five best boxers on the planet, was the best plan of attack. But Oscar, the president of Golden Boy Promotions, was convinced that a Canelo Alvarez-Erislandy Lara fight was needed when Canelo told him he wanted it.

My fans want it, I want it, make it happen, said the 23-year-old Mexican to Oscar. Team Golden Boy and Team Lara hashed it out.

The scrap, which is seen as a 50-50 faceoff in many circles, unfolds July 12 at the MGM in Las Vegas, on pay-per-view, produced by Showtime.

The principals appeared on Thursday in NYC, at the Hard Rock in Times Square, to bang the drums for the squareoff, which will be contested at 154 pounds.

Canelo owns a sort of throwback, cowboy-style countenance isn't prone to being effusive, or facially demonstrative. He told fans --it was an open event, with most of the persons off the street there to see the 43-1-1 hitter -- that he took this fight because the fans asked for it. Lara lobbied hard for it, taking to social media to needle the redhead. "Lara has talked a lot, [to the fans] you guys asked for the fight, and here it is," he said. "What you guys ask from me, I will give you."

[+] EnlargeErislandy Lara and Austin Trout
Elsa/Golden Boy/Golden Boy/Getty ImagesErislandy Lara beat Austin Trout in a landslide decision in their WBA Interim Super Welterweight title fight at Barclays Center.
Lara, who owns a 19-1-2 record, came off as exceedingly confident in NYC. Makes sense, seeing as how he handled Austin Trout, his last opponent, with more ease than Canelo did when they clashed. Lara, age 31, who grew up in Cuba and jumped ship a few years ago, beat Trout in Brooklyn in December. Canelo's UD12 over Trout, eight months earlier, featured narrower scorecards. Alvarez looked crisp and nasty, like a landshark with gloves on, in his last outing, against Alfredo Angulo on March 8 (TKO8 win). He likes how he dispatched Angulo in snarlier fashion than did Lara, when the Cuban met Angulo, in June 2013, as Lara was sent to the mat twice in that TKO10 win.

Lara is calling himself "The American Dream" these days. He's enjoying life in Texas, as his bouts gets more high-profile, his paydays get beefier, and he comes within sniffing distance of a Floyd Mayweather fight. (Though I'd be extremely surprised if Mayweather signed off to fight such a specimen, with that considerable set of technical chops.) Lara, through interpreter/promoter Luis de Cubas told me he expects to down Canelo, who had little luck trying to decipher "Money" last September, and then he desires a test against Mayweather.

He talked some decent trash in NYC, including this line: "I came from Cuba where I fought the best. I earned this in the ring, fighting the best in the division, not on a Mexican street corner."

A lot of smart folks I talk to echo what Oscar said. They think Lara is a high-risk, low-reward situation for Canelo. But props to the Mexican -- he is a takes-on-all-comers type, and in this day and age, where so many guys are businessmen first, and ultra-competitors second, that deserves hearty back slaps.
Amir Khan, Luis CollazoEthan Miller/Getty ImagesAmir Khan, left, got the win over Luis Collazo with a well deserved unanimous decision.
LAS VEGAS -- Luis Collazo took on a foe with maybe the best hand-speed of anyone he's scrapped with since turning pro in 2000, in Amir Khan, and the Brooklyner did his best to adapt to that at the MGM Grand on Saturday night on the Floyd Mayweather-Marcos Maidana undercard.

But the Brit Khan boxed as well as he ever has, arguably, and his sometimes iffy chin held up throughout 12 quite rugged rounds. There was no shortage of rasslin', with Khan taking the opportunity to tie up the 33-year-old whenever he got in tight, to try and land a sneaky left hook, or right cross to test the Khan chin.

Collazo (now 35-6) went down three times, and while he went to the final second looking to land the difference-maker, the judges spoke loudly, with scores giving Khan the UD, 119-104, 119-104, 117-106.

Khan (29-2) got buzzed in round eight, but said in the postfight presser that he wasn't too hurt. Collazo, down in the fourth, and twice in the 10th, looked to the ref time and again to keep Khan from holding but he wasn't able to keep the Brit from that tactic.

His trainer, Nirmal Lorick, told me Collazo broke his right hand in round five. "And the referee didn't help things," he said, speaking of Vic Drakulich. "The ref sucked."

Paul Malignaggi, who fought Khan in 2010, and helped call the fight on Showtime pay-per-view, told me that Khan does a lot of holding and pushing down on the head on the inside, and Khan does what he can do, what he can get away with, to secure the win. "He knows how to win rounds, simple as that," he said.

My take: Khan, frankly, surprised me with how fluid he was, how smartly he stuck to the game-plan, how well he avoided firefights. Basically, Collazo was fighting A-grade Khan, and we've seen a lot of lesser grade Khan in recent years. Bad luck for Lu, really. Khan has been listening and absorbing what trainer Virgil Hunter has been teaching the last couple fights, they have jelled, and that didn't help Collazos' chances.

The cluster of people around Mike Tyson at the 89th Boxing Writers Association of America awards gala, held at the MGM on Thursday night, spoke volumes.

Iron Mike is still one of the biggest names in boxing. At age 47, almost 10 years since he's gloved up in the ring, he's still got the buzz, the aura, the "it" factor, the masses surrounding him wanting a photo, an autograph, a hug.

[+] EnlargeMike Tyson
AP/Richard Shotwell/InvisionMike Tyson would like to see more boxers, and fewer businessmen, in the ring.
I cornered the ex-Baddest Man on the Planet, whispered to him that I wish him well on his continuing bout with substance use, as I truly comprehend the difficulty involved in putting a cork in it.

Then I asked him about the current Cold War, the fractured state of the sport which has resulted in there being, essentially, two boxing big leagues. One featuring Top Rank and HBO, with Manny Pacquiao being the lead wagon puller, and the other linking Golden Boy and Showtime and uber adviser Al Haymon ... with the result being that because some of these various personalities can't get along, the fans lose out on seeing some no-brainer matchups.

"It's a shame that Mayweather and Pacquiao haven't fought yet," he told me, a little bit after giving the Fight of the Year award to Ruslan Provodnikov and Timothy Bradley, and about an hour after Floyd won Fighter of the Year. "That's what kills boxing and gives boxing a black eye."

So what explains the gulf, the inability of people to get along enough to make the fights fans want and deserve to see? Greed?

Tyson told me that back in the day, he and Evander Holyfield and other guys possessed a fighting spirit that would override allegiances among deal-makers. They needed to know if they were the best, or not. So, how can we achieve peace, Mike? Can you, in your promoter role, help in a mediation process?

"It will take humbleness, and people stopping being so self-centered," he said. "They're robbing the fans. If you believe you're the best fighter in the world, you should be willing to fight everyone in your division."

So, the fighters have to demand that the best fight the best?

"Absolutely, the fighters have to stand up. But they're not interested in fighting, they're businessmen now. In my era, we liked money, we had money, we lost money, but our main concern was nobody could say they were better than us. In my time, there were 6 billion people on the planet. In my time, I said I could beat every single one of them in a fair fight. Will they be able to say that?"

mike tyson

I asked Luis Collazo what he saw in the eyes of the man he will be fighting Saturday night, at the MGM in Las Vegas on the Floyd Mayweather-Marcos Maidana undercard.

Did he see fear in Amir Khan's eyes? A window to his soul? Something in the body language to indicate that he was in the head of the Brit who is making his debut at 147 pounds?

[+] EnlargeTom and Jerry
Subir Halder/India Today Group/Getty ImagesWhat do Tom and Jerry have to do with Brooklyn boxer Luis Collazo? Read on.
"I don't know," said the 33-year-old Brooklyn native. "I'm at peace, Mike. I'm blessed, I'm ready for this opportunity and ready to go."

In other words, he doesn't really care what Khan is feeling or thinking, he knows in his heart he is in the right place. But I pressed. "He looked like he's trying to intimidate me," Collazo said, "but I'm from New York, there's nothing intimidating to me."

The boxer, a crafty lefty with more than enough pop to drop you if you don't see one coming -- or maybe, some figure, even if you do; Khan (28-3, two of three losses via KO) has something of an iffy chin -- gave me a tidbit of insight into his MO when I asked what he'd do the rest of this Thursday. Have a light workout, he said, and then, "Watch some 'Tom and Jerry.'"

Doesn't matter the episode, Collazo chills and gets his game face that much readier by watching a cat and mouse messing with each other before big bouts.

What about messing with Khan, what with the stakes so high, what with Khan being the favorite to get Mayweather next, in September?

Collazo (35-5, 18 KOs), who holds the WBA International welterweight title, offered this summation via a prediction: "Victorious. One to 100, 100 being most sure of myself, I'm at 110. Can you put that in?"

Damn straight. Now all that's left is waiting, to see which one is Tom Cat, and who plays Jerry Mouse.
Because the pool of talent is rather shallow, many of the best female fighters in the world find themselves getting frustrated at the lack of viable opponents and enticing matchups to choose from.

The Serrano sisters, Amanda and Cindy, may have found a solution to the woes which face the female fighters: just fight each other.

Amanda Serrano, 25, with a 20-1-1 (15 KOs) record, would likely be the favored hitter when and if such a face off were arranged against big sis Cindy, 31, who sports a 20-5-2 (5 KOs) mark.

When might we see this novel exercise in sibling rivalry gone to the extreme?

"Them fighting each other, that's in talks," said Jordan Maldonado, who trains and manages both. "It seems like it's going to happen."

It may not surprise you to learn the context of this matchmaking: a reality show.

Maldonado said the Serranos have filmed a sizzle reel for a reality series, with the production house which puts out the "World's Dumbest ..." series, which runs on truTV. " He foresees a first season introducing the boxers to the world and leading toward an all-Serrano clash in the second season.

They both campaign as super featherweights, and in fact, Cindy is due to glove up on May 15, against Belinda Laracuente, on a card promoted by Dmitriy Salita.

"That would be the ultimate sibling rivalry!" Salita said about a sisters clash. "Both are excellent boxers. The sisters both have a fierce desire to win. I, however, would take no part in such a match. I imagine their will to fight each other comes from frustration of women's boxing not having a home network to showcase their talents. Women are world class boxers and athletes. The Serrano sisters are prime example of that. I hope they will have a chance to become household names without having to fight each other. The shows I promote feature competitive fights with much on the line, but no blood between brothers or sisters! My May 15th show is a prime example, with Steve Bujaj, at 12-0 fighting Junior Wright, who is 10-0, for the WBC international title. Both are hot prospects putting their 0 at risk, and they are not even distant relatives!"

Khan not looking past Collazo

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
The main support bout on the May 3rd "The Moment" promotion is a clash between Amir Khan, a former champ at 140 pounds, and Luis Collazo, a former champ at 147 pounds. A title will be up for grabs, but the stakes, truly, are so much larger than a piece of shiny metal affixed onto a leather strap.

Stacks of cash, piles suited for a vault -- not a mere safe -- will be on the table when Khan, the Pakistani-Brit who spends his time in England, and California and visits with family on Staten Island now and again, takes on spirit-warrior Collazo. Collazo who is on a high after seeing the light and undergoing a transformation of the soul the day before his 32nd birthday.

I checked in with Khan, a 27-year-old hitter is trying his luck at 147 pounds for the first time. If he gets past Collazo, he'll likely have the inside track on Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s September date. I wondered about his level of confidence heading into the scrap, and how highly he rated Collazo. I put it to him straight, in a phoner: Is Luis Collazo on your level?

"He's up there with good fighters," Kahn answered. "He's been in with very good boxers, like Shane Mosley, and Ricky Hatton, but he mostly falls short. His last fight was against Victor Ortiz, and he knocked him out, so that gave him confidence."

I take that as a qualified yes.

But if you're thinking that there is a glimmer of a chance that Khan is looking past Collazo, I'd advise you to ditch that notion. Collazo is a clever lefty who moves well, with his feet, his head and torso. He's a rock-solid defender who sets traps and possesses enough power to hurt a foe when one of those traps get sprung. Khan -- I do believe -- has his head screwed on straight on the stakes at hand May 3.

"I have to win, and not just win, but in spectacular fashion," he told me. "I'm definitely not looking past Collazo. He's a good fighter. And it's a big fight for us."

I admit, I always enjoy talking to Khan. He handles even pointed queries like a pro, doesn't get defensive or nonsensical in trying to perpetuate some illogical counterpoint. Like when I asked him about his chin, which can be described as iffy. The man has been stopped in two of his three losses, and was dropped in round four of his last bout, against Julio Diaz in April 2013. OK, maybe the negative nellies focus on that part of his body too much, but still, will chin be an issue versus Collazo?

"Making 140, I killed myself to make the weight," Khan said. "I've been working with big guys, 165, 170 pounds, fighting with them," and not getting buzzed, he said. His resilience should improve at 147, he said. I also like the way Khan incorporates the chin issue into his hype strategy. "Every fight of mine is an exciting fight," he said.

Khan did acknowledge he's still a bit irked at Mayweather, who dithered for months on who he'd fight in this May date. "I'm a little pissed still," Khan admitted. "You'd have to be. The way we spoke, and contracts went back and forth and were signed ... But I'm not looking past Collazo at Floyd." He also makes it clear he's not dissing Marcos Maidana, who he said earned the Floyd fight with a win over Mayweather-lite, Adrien Broner.

Floyd has been talking for a while now about conquering other territory, heading to the UK. You could picture, if Khan handles Collazo in flashy fashion, and Floyd downs heavy underdog Maidana, a date at Wembley Stadium in England, with Floyd playing the bad guy act to the hilt. Can Khan picture the same? "It could definitely happen," he told me. "It's a superfight. But I have to look good against Collazo"

Readers, talk to me. Could Collazo upset that Wembley dream? Could the rust factor mess with Khan, keep him from getting a rhythm against a quite-clever pugilist? Or will Khan's flashy hand speed enable him to make Collazo look a step behind?
CollazoSHOWTIME/Tom CasinoLuis Collazo enjoyed his birthday Tuesday in Times Square.
He wasn't able to enjoy the piece of cake brought out for him. And he ate only about three-quarters of a cup of spaghetti at the NYC intimate media luncheon at Buca Di Beppo in Times Square on Wednesday. But it was quite clear that Luis Collazo, who meets Amir Khan on the Floyd Mayweather-Marcos Maidana undercard May 3, was enjoying the heck out of his 33rd birthday.

It makes sense, being that he holds the WBA International welterweight title, which he took when he mugged Victor Ortiz on Jan. 30 at Barclays Center (KO2), and if he beats Khan, notorious for having an iffy chin, then he gets his lotto ticket entered into the Mayweather Sweepstakes.

But really, there seems to be a deeper meaning to the good place he was in on Tuesday afternoon. The boxer was brave enough, and kind enough, to part with the reason behind his upbeat manner -- and that's saying something considering the degree a boxer has to limit their caloric intake to make weight -- and recent surge into new-found respect and relevance.

Collazo referred to being in a good place, from a spiritual perspective. I asked how long he's been bathed in this sort of light.

"A year ... yesterday made a year," said the hitter, who owns a 35-5 (18 KOs) mark and is almost a decade removed from his upset win over Jose Antonio Rivera, which won him the WBA welter title. "It took me out of the dark place I was in. I was in a dark place, I was pulling away from the sport I love, I was drinking alcohol to the point even that my wife was scared to come home, because she was scared of the person she was going to come home to. And I got to the point that I even thought about committing suicide. And I asked God, 'If you would change my life, I would give my life to you.' The next day, I woke up with so much joy. The emptiness in my heart was filled. Not even my wife could fill that."

The fight on May 3, on a Golden Boy Promotions card, Collazo told me, isn't merely important to get his career to that next vocational plateau. A win against Khan would enable Collazo to spread his faith to a wider audience.

"The way I'm living life now, I want to inspire those that always got counted out and show that being with God opens things up for you," he said.

On the subject of opening up -- it's not a given, but in many circles people are seeing this Khan-Collazo showdown as being a title eliminator, with the honor at stake being the winner gets a lucrative crack at Mayweather. Most guys are going to be earning a career best payday if and when they glove up with "Money."

Collazo admitted he's well aware of the stakes, and that a win, especially a thrilling one, could earn him a "set for life" payday. But he made clear that in no way, shape or form is he looking past Khan to greener pastures. "I believe if I beat Amir Khan, I have a bigger future in boxing," he said. "And if don't, I gotta start from the bottom again. I'm not looking beyond Amir Khan, but he's my main focus, the middle of my radar. After this fight here, whatever happens happens."

A second reporter pushed him on the Mayweather-could-be-next issue. "Yeah, it does [enter him into the Mayweather sweepstakes]," he said, allowing himself a grin, "but I gotta beat Khan first. He's looking beyond me, but that's OK, Victor Ortiz did the same thing."

Given ample opportunity to air out his laundry, advertise old grudges or blows-to-the-ego, Collazo time and again took the higher road: "I'm not upset about that because back then I was giving glory to myself, but now I give all glory to God," he said when asked if wasn't irked that more respect hasn't been thrown his way from media, being that he is a former world champ.

(Read full post)

Rare positivity at press conference

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
Boxing has a rather unique ability to shoot itself in the foot.

Sometimes with a rocket launcher...

The freelance nature of the sport, the lack of a centralized base of power, is the reason that oftentimes, the participants in the dealmaking departments squabble like hungry rodents, and chew each others' faces off, while they vie for the biggest chunk of cheese. Of course, that is part of a certain level of charm, if you are in my seat, and enjoy the political elements inside the sport, as well as the in-the-ring drama and skills which can, on a good night, leave jaws dropped on the floor.

The sport is knee-deep in one of its periodic stretches when political squabbles threaten to overshadow the in-the-ring action, at least if one is judging by the chatter among the suits and media and portions of the fanbase who follow the inside-baseball politricks.

Need a quick recap? HBO dumped Golden Boy last year and Golden Boy fights hammer and tong with Top Rank. Top Rank squabbles with venue power-house MGM Grand while Golden Boy honchos jockey for the largest thrones of power inside their own offices. Fighters are lawyering up, and serving papers to promoters left and right, choosing to sit on the sidelines and try to break contracts rather than enter rings and try to break foes' noses and wills.

But it is easy to forget some inside the game do play nice, that not everyone is involved in a beef, and that many of these power players do, by and large, prefer to "play nice," and maintain an equilibrium of mood as they put together fight cards. I was reminded of these folks, who likely received high marks back in kindergarten on the "Plays Well With Others" section of their report card, at Barclays Center on Wednesday afternoon, when reps from the building, promoters Banner and Star Boxing, and TV platform provider HBO all spoke highly of each other, and the fighters topping a June 14 card which will unfold in Brooklyn.

Russian Ruslan Provodnikov, who holds the WBO 140 pound belt he wrested from Mike Alvarado six months ago, will take on Huntington, Long Island's Chris Algieri from Barclays Center and on HBO.

No, there was no backbiting or back-stabbing, or serving of papers, or even veiled mutterings with undercurrents of animus served up to media members. Provodnikov spoke graciously of Algieri, a former kickboxer with a 19-0 record, telling the press that it was not that long ago that he, too, was entering a bout as a considerable underdog, but left the ring having gained legions of new rooters. That fight he referenced was voted the BWAA Fight of the Year for 2013, and though Provodnikov got an L against Timothy Bradley, he was dislodged from the "ESPN Friday Night Fights" tag attached to him. The implication was that Algieri too could enjoy that leap in stature.

The Long Islander certainly gave off a vibe of positivity. He told the media that this bout is a classic clash of styles, but that he and the Russian share a similarity. Both men like to break their foe down, but go about it in different ways. Provodnikov, aka "The Siberian Rocky," looks to shrink the ring, be the predator in relentless style. Algieri is a mover, who will stick and move and pile up a volume edge. He wants to tire a foe out, sap their energy, and then their will. He expects, he said, to do that to Provodnikov (23-2).

Arthur Pelullo, of Banner Promotions, said he expects "Rocky" to grind down Algieri, but noted that Algieri hasn't learned to lose. He seems to respect the talent of the challenger and "rival" promoter Joe DeGuardia of Bronx-based Star Boxing. (In fact, those two co-promote Demetrius Andrade (20-0), the WBO's 154 pound champ, who meets Brian Rose (25-1-1) in the HBO opener. DeGuardia had no spiteful words for Pelullo, as he said he knows he's taking a risk signing Algieri to meet the Russian. The underdog is a fab ticket-seller who jams the Paramount in Huntington, so DeGuardia could continue to get the kid seasoning while filling the joint for a spell longer. But no, he said, he likes Algieri's chance to use a style difference to his advantage.

I was reminded that squabbles aren't the norm, that so much of the tussling is indeed done in the ring, not the back-rooms and court-rooms, when Provodnikov said that he'd be attending church this week, as per usual, and that he'd be saying a prayer for Algieri, that he makes it to fightnight unscathed. Of course, it went without saying, on fightnight Provodnikov will be doing his damndest to remove him from his senses -- but that is a given that all the fighters grasp with eyes fully open.

"June 14 is my coming out party," Algieri announced to the assembled.

We shall see. But it was nice to get that reminder that most of the time, the scraps do indeed get played out in the most logical setting, the ring.

Cotto at MSG, and Pacquiao vs. Marquez?

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
Freddie Roach will bring client Miguel Cotto back to Madison Square Garden on June 7, to attempt to take Sergio Martinez's WBC middleweight title.

Roach is on a nice run, with Manny Pacquiao looking good against Brandon Rios in November, and then showing the world he might not have the same firepower of old but is still a superb ring general, making superlative pugilist like Timothy Bradley look befuddled this past Saturday.

Roach told us that Cotto will start sparring next week, and is doing a 5 a.m. workout and then a 1 p.m. workout as well.

What's next for Pacquiao?

"There's a fight in L.A., at the Forum, between Juan Manuel Marquez and Mike Alvarado on May 17, and the winner is a natural opponent next for Manny," Roach said. "We'd love to fight Floyd Mayweather next, but at this point it seems next to impossible, with the promoters and the networks further apart. I'd like Marquez next, we owe him something. I hope he wins, and he should win that fight against Alvarado."
Saturday night, his top client turned in a damned fine performance, no matter what the nattering naysayers, the critique cabal, might be saying.

Freddie Roach deserves a splash of sun, a session at a fancy resort kicking back, sipping cool beverages of funky hues while ogling poolside talent.

Freddie Roach-Miguel Cotto
Chris Farina/Top RankIt doesn't look like Freddie Roach will be relaxing pool-side any time soon.
So, I asked Freddie, who I caught on the phone Monday morning, what about it -- are you about to board a private jet to the Turks and Caicos, get yourself some deserved R 'n' R after Manny Pacquiao showed the sportsworld that he had Timothy Bradley's number in 2014, and oh yeah, 2012 as well?

"I just finished training Miguel Cotto," the six-time Boxing Writers Association Trainer of the Year told me. "He had a conditioning workout at 5 a.m. He starts sparring tomorrow."

Nope, Freddie didn't bite. He didn't talk about the need for some downtime, the yen for an island getaway. No sir, he was where he feels most comfortable, most in a flow, his space, his place, the Wild Card Gym in LA. And there was no place he'd rather be.

Cotto counts down to a stern test, a challenge of middleweight titlist Sergio Martinez at Madison Square Garden on June 7. (Oh, and by the way, in case you didn't know, that bout will unfold in the big room, not the Theater. And, I dare say, that big room will be packed to the pennant flags with rabid fight fans, who'll be collectively testing the sturdiness of the eardrums of everyone in the room.)

"Then, Ruslan Provodnikov [who holds the WBO 140 pound title] comes next week," Roach told me.

Provodnikov (23-2 with 16 KOs; born in Beryozovo, Russia; promoted by Banner Promotions), who took part in the BWAA's 2013 Fight of the Year, losing a UD12 to Timothy Bradley last March, meets Long Islander Chris Algieri at Barclays Center June 14. Roach has worked with the "Siberian Rocky" for his last several fights, and the two seem a nice fight. Both ruthlessly committed to the sport, both fans of conclusively finishing fights, and taking it out of the hands of judges, whose scores so often lead us to assume they are either corrupt or buffoonish.

I asked Roach if Algieri (19-0 with 8 KOs; lives in Huntington, LI, promoted by Joe DeGuardia's Star Boxing) will present a problem for Provodnikov, who took that title from Mike Alvarado, on Alvarado's home turf in Colorado, on Oct. 19, 2013.

"Algieri is a conditioning freak, a real athlete, a mover, not a big puncher," said the 54-year-old Dedham, Massachusetts native. "He will try to outbox Ruslan, and we will put pressure on him, cut off the ring."

I joked that fighting a guy like Ruslan, it's like the ring starts out at 20 feet, shrinks to 16 feet by the fourth, 12 feet by the 8th, and it feels like you're fighting in a Manhattan studio apartment by round 12. Freddie chuckled.

"But I respect Algieri a lot," he continued. He said he has watched some footage of the Long Islander, but is working on securing more, not easy to do because he has been mostly fighting off TV. "He's a good boxer," Roach said, in closing, as he prepared to hang up the phone, so he could attend to another client, keep doing what he lives for, preparing fighters to fight.

What's next for NY's best and brighest

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
New York area boxers are getting some good looks on upcoming cards, with Paul Malignaggi, arguably, topping the list of striving pugilists.

The "Magic Man," who will pick up a Boxing Writers Association of America award at their May 1 gala, as 2013 broadcaster of the year, for his work on Showtime, will first look to take care of in-ring business, against Shawn Porter.

The light-ish puncher, who is one of the top ring generals in the sport, seeks to snag his third world title, against the Ohio-based Porter (23-0 with 14 KOs; age 26), who nabbed the WBC welterweight crown from Devon Alexander on Dec. 7, 2013, at Barclays Center.

Malignaggi (33-5 with 7 KOs; turns 34 in November) topped that card, and beat faded vet Zab Judah (UD12), in the "Battle of Brooklyn."

I checked in with Malignaggi, who now again resides in NY, after exiling himself to LA for a fresh start a few years ago.

How can Porter, who wasn't seen as a world-beater by most coming into the Alexander fight, beat you?

"He can't," said the truth addict, who delights fight fans with his candid insights as a color man. "I'm too good," he continued. "No fancy answers, I'm too good for Shawn Porter, it's as simple as that."

That bout will unfold underneath a Bernard Hopkins-Beibut Shumenov light heavyweight title consolidation beef, from Washington DC, on Apr. 19, to run on Showtime. Also on that card, WBO middleweight champion Peter "Kid Chocolate" Quillin, age 30, will see action.

He's in against Lukas Konecny, a 35-year-old Czech with a 50-4 mark, who has never fought in the US since turning pro in 2001. I expect Quillin, who is still seeking that defining signature fight and win in his career, in which he has collected a 30-0 (22 KOs) record, to win handily.

I chatted with Quillin about the bout, and touched on his career, as a whole.

The boxer, who is counting down to his wife's due date, in July, joked that he didn't know much about the Czech, and had been pronouncing his name "Connecticut."

"He's going to make an exciting fight," said Quillin, noting that Konecny has never been stopped and that would be something to aim for.

Quillin said after a Konecny win, he'd like to make 2014 his year. He wants to become "legendary," and he'd welcome a mega-bout, against a Sergio Martinez, or a Gennady Golovkin. But he can't make the matches, he said. A political-business gulf between his promoter, Golden Boy, and HBO, means that those aforementioned bouts, against the HBO-aligned Martinez and Golovkin, aren't likely to occur in the near future. "It's really about the money at the end of the day," he said, while declaring that if the pot were to grow large enough, one of those marquee bouts could get made even if political differences exist.

"So let's go fight on free TV, and get some [big] sponsors," Quillin floated to me. But if that doesn't happen, he said, then basically people will be staying in their prescribed lanes, and what will be, will be. "I would like to fight on free TV," he repeated.

A decent alternative would be a Quillin showdown against Brownsviller/Park Sloper Danny Jacobs (27-1 with 24 KOs; age 27), who has looked ultra-sharp against so-so foes since kicking cancers' tail a couple years ago. But Quillin knows he isn't at the level of a Floyd Mayweather, where he can pick his own foes, so really, he tries to stay in his own lane, and let the matchmaker sorts make the matches.

Other NYC hitters readying themselves for treks to DC include Staten Island's Marcus Browne, the 23-year-old light heavy who wants to go to 10-0, with a win over seasoned vet Otis Griffin (24-15-2). Brooklyn's Sadam Ali, a 25-year-old welterweight, will test his skills and 18-0 mark against 17-3 Jeremy Bryan. Ali is advised by Anthony Catanzaro, who also advises Malignaggi, and middleweight Matthew Macklin. Macklin (30-3; age 31) has a dance date with 33-year-old Aussie Daniel Geale, the ex IBF middleweight champ. They'll bump heads on May 24, site TBD, set for ten rounds or less, on HBO, according to Catanzaro.

Long Beach, Long Islander Seanie Monaghan seeks to continue his climb up the 175-pound ranks, with a Saturday night waltz with Joe McCreedy (15-6-2) underneath the Manny Pacquiao-Tim Bradley rematch in Las Vegas. Monaghan is what they used to call a "lunchpail" type; nothing fancy, more stamina and strength, it could be argued, than slick science in his game. Monaghan (20-0 with 13 KOs; age 32) told me he'd welcome a crack at WBO light heavy champ Sergey Kovalev down the line, if, as expected, he takes out McCreedy.

"I'd love it, no doubt Kovalev is a beast, but I see some holes in his game," Monaghan told me. "Plus, he's the only champ who I don't have a promotional conflict with." Monaghan is signed to Top Rank, which doesn't play well, and vice versa, with Golden Boy, which has contracts with Bernard Hopkins and Beibut Shumenov, who also hold crowns at 175.

"Top Rank mentioned me versus Jurgen Braehmer," a German who holds the WBA version of the strap, and just downed Enzo Maccarinelli last Saturday, "in October. There's shady judging over there, though."

A more concrete possibility, Monaghan mentioned, would be a slot on the June 7 Sergio Martinez-Miguel Cotto undercard at Madison Square Garden. Top Rank is co-promoting, with Lou DiBella, and Elvir Muriqi has been floated as a possible Monaghan foe for the opening. Ex 154 pound champ Yuri Foreman, a Park Slope, Brooklyn resident, who fights for DiBella, will likely land on that bout sheet, as well. The 33-year-old has taken a deliberate path back to now, after taking 2012 off following a defeat to Pawel Wolak. He has a stellar record (32-2), and good name recognition, and patience, with his desire to restore a level of crispness before undertaking a stab at another crown.

Long Island is enjoying something of a pugilistic awakening, it could be argued, with the news that Chris Algieri will get a crack at "The Siberian Rocky," Ruslan Provodnikov. "Rocky" engaged in the 2013 BWAA Fight of the Year, with Tim Bradley, narrowly losing a decision, though he had Bradley out on his feet when the bell tolled to end the final round. Promoter Joe DeGuardia has done a solid job building up the Huntington resident, brick by brick, to the point he has a 19-0 (8 KOs) record, and a chance to outbox a fighter who also possesses a huge reservoir of stamina, Provodnikov.

Their fight, for Provo's WBO junior welter strap, will unfold at the Nassau Coliseum, on June 14, and on HBO. The Coliseum didn't even get much love when another Huntington guy, Gerry Cooney, was breaking jaws on the way up in the 70s, and into the 80s. Cooney crushed Ron Lyle there in 1980, but plied most of his trade at MSG, at the Felt Forum, and some in Atlantic City. The Barclays bunch is re-doing the Coliseum, and have promised to make boxing a large element of the slate at that arena, a plan which would be boosted measurably if Algieri were able to down the 30-year-old Russian with a 23-2 mark.

Sunset Park's Gabriel Bracero has his fingers tightly crossed. The junior welterweight contender is hearing that he's in the deep mix to fight Danny Garcia, the WBA and WBC 140 pound champ, or perhaps Adrien Broner, the talented hitter who inspires hatred in many circles for his bragging and outside-the-ring deeds and missteps. Broner fights Carlos Molina May 3, underneath the Floyd Mayweather-Marcos Maidana tangle, in Vegas. Bracero's trainer/advisor Tommy Gallagher of Queens would dearly love his kid, who is a walking advertisement for the positive powers of the boxing game upon a person who could easily go off the rails of lawfulness without a potent reason for being, would embrace either opportunity. He'd tell you Bracero is an underdog in either bout, but has a heart that makes it unwise to write him off, and a style which will please TV execs, and those watching.

Luis Collazo (35-5; age 32) has a date locked down, on that same May 3 card. His scrap against Pakistani-Brit Amir Khan, which is a pairing basically universally embraced by hard-to-please fight fans, will screen on Showtime pay-per-view. The southpaw Collazo scored a KO of the Year 2014 contender when he dropped and stopped Victor Ortiz Jan. 30 in round one at Barclays Center, and picked up the WBA international welter crown for his effort. The Collazo-Khan bout will be for the vacant WBC silver welterweight title.

Collazo has campaigned for a showdown with Floyd Mayweather, at Barclays, and should he be able to stop the iffy-chinned Khan (28-3, two losses by stoppage; age 27), a former titlist at 140, his campaign will get a massive boost.

Follow Woods on Twitter here. https://twitter.com/Woodsy1069. Email story suggestions to MJWoods99@aol.com.

Paul MalignaggiEd Mulholland/USA TODAY SportsMalignaggi will take a shot at another title on April 19.
We, the media, too often treat them, the athletes, the fighters, as objects, present to entertain and amuse us, and serve as punching bags when we see fit.

Sure, the payoff for success can be considerable, in acclaim, in compensation. But we, the media, and so many of us with a Twitter account, myself included, could be doing a better job at accentuating the positive, and not being so quick to latch on to the sensational angle.

People like me should more often highlight stories like the one I came across Tuesday, when I saw ex-world champ Paul Malignaggi present a beefy check, $25,000, to a charitable organization, Knockout Obesity, during a press event at Gleason's Gym in DUMBO.

I told the 33-year-old boxer, who once again lives in New York after a couple years in L.A., that I was proud of him, for digging into his pocket. I see a lot of athletes bragging about the dough they make and blow, but, I told Malignaggi (33-5 with 7 KOs), I'd rather see them advertise the funds they're funneling to charitable endeavors. Not to brag, or get a bump in positive press, but because that is leadership. You think maybe one or two other fighters might see this story, be impressed with Malignaggi's gesture and follow suit?

The athlete has a fight coming up, April 19 in DC (on a Golden Boy show to air on Showtime), and he'll get another crack at a crown, this time an IBF welterweight strap held by Ohioan Shawn Porter.

Malignaggi's right eye was a bit puffed and discolored at Gleason's, compliments of a launch from sparring partner Frank Galarza, the Red Hook native who is one of the best prospects in NYC. The message that eye sent to me was clear: that check Paulie handed over to Dimitrios Verteouris, a restaurant owner ("Nature's Grill") who started Knockout Obesity after getting serious about trimming down from over 300 pounds, is hard-earned cash. Malignaggi has earned that dough, and that makes the gesture that much more meaningful.

"I was born and raised in Brooklyn," said Malignaggi, as his pal Verteouris, and Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams listened intently. "I have the ability to give back to my community, help make a difference, and Knockout Obesity is a program I believe in. I know it can make a huge difference in the community. Boxing is an optimum, great way to exercise and with diet and nutrition added to the mix, it's a winning program."

Knockout Obesity incorporates boxing into its health and fitness classes geared towards adults and children throughout Brooklyn. Initially a summer pilot program at The Boys' Club of New York (BCNY), Knockout Obesity is now a year-round program in three community centers.

Dr. Wendy Scinta, an expert on adult and childhood obesity, also attended. We chatted about the obesity epidemic, and about how so many of us deal with stress with "fork therapy."

"Two thirds of adults are overweight and half of those are obese," said Scinta. "One in three children struggle with their weight. We have to take matters into our own hands, one child, one family, and then one community at a time." She told me that the rate of those with diabetes is higher in Brooklyn than anywhere in the nation, which blew me away. I promised to follow her on Twitter, check out her book, and do what I can to spread the good word.

Malignaggi said that he was moved to act by seeing old pal Verteouris change his lifestyle, and stop over-indulging in bad-for-you foods. "I saw my friend become a better person," he said, "and I've come to realize that people are always fighting, not just as I do, in a combat sport, but to overcome obstacles in life."

On April 19, I like Malignaggi to impose his superior ring generalship on Porter and win another crown. If he pulls that off, he will be showered in praise. But what he did on Tuesday, making that donation and trying to spread words of positivity in his community, deserves just as much, if not more, praise.

Pacquiao fight at MSG gaining steam?

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
Manny PacquiaoNicky Loh/Getty ImagesNew York fight fans would stand and cheer for a Pacquiao fight at MSG.
Manny at MSG.

Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

Can you picture it?

Can you conjure the earlobe-wobbling decibel level that would be achieved if Pacquiao did his thing in NYC -- if the Manny-iacs jammed the Garden to the rafters, and made the Knicks pennants flap with the force of the sound waves?

That notion has heretofore merely been a pipe dream for folks like myself with decidedly selfish interests, New York residents who believe there is nothing quite like an NYC arena packed to the gills with hyperactive boxing fans, screaming their lungs into their cups for their preferred pugilist.

Manny indicated he was enamored of the atmosphere at a big Garden fight, like when Cotto fought Antonio Margarito there. He would love to fight at the Garden if it could be worked out.

-- Top Rank's Carl Moretti
I've asked Pacman's promoter, Brooklyn-born Bob Arum of Las Vegas-based Top Rank, and his responses over the years have ranged from wistful to dismissive.

Mostly, the primary impediment of late has been the tax situation. Onerous rates imposed by the state, as compared to states which do not collect income tax, have made a Pacquiao fight in N.Y. a no-go concept.

But the boxer himself has warmed up to the idea, I am told.

Carl Moretti, a New Jersey resident who is a VP at Top Rank, told me he was talking a couple days ago to Pacman at the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles, where Pacquiao is holding court with trainer Freddie Roach in anticipation of an April 12 scrap. That bout is a rematch, running on HBO pay-per-view, between Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley, the California-based boxer who is coming off a career-best win over Pacman rival Juan Manuel Marquez on Oct. 12, 2013.

"It came up at the gym about Miguel Cotto fighting at the Garden June 7 against Sergio Martinez, because Freddie Roach is training Cotto for the fight," Moretti told me. "And Manny indicated he was enamored of the atmosphere at a big Garden fight, like when Cotto fought Antonio Margarito there [on Dec. 3, 2011]. He would love to fight at the Garden if it could be worked out."

But what about that T-word, Carl?

"The tax thing, I think, could maybe be worked out if you went over it with a fine-tooth comb," he replied. "What you lose on taxes, you might pick up in value you cannot measure exactly, in exposure and marketing."

So chew on that, area fight fans. That would be a great get, Pacman at MSG. Sounds to me like it is more of a possibility than it ever has been.