Dan Rafael's chat FAQ

Our columnist addresses his most frequently asked questions for posterity

Updated: August 31, 2012, 1:09 PM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

Sugar Ray LeonardAP Photo/Leonard IgnelziAny guesses on which fighter ESPN.com's Dan Rafael rooted for while he was a budding Fight Freak?

As a writer, I'm usually the one asking the questions. But I do get asked my fair share from boxing fans, too, especially from the Fight Freaks on the website chats I've been doing for years. I did chats when I covered boxing for USA Today from 2000 to 2005, and I have been doing them every Friday since joining ESPN.com in 2005, and many times on Saturdays after that evening's fight card.

I have answered a lot of questions in 13 years, some time and time again. So I figured I'd select some of the most common queries and create a file of frequently asked questions for users to refer to whenever they want.

As new recurring questions present themselves, I will update this FAQ.

What are some all-time mythical matchups you would have wanted to see?
Sugar Ray Robinson-Sugar Ray Leonard (at welterweight), Roberto Duran-Pernell Whitaker (at lightweight), Duran-Manny Pacquiao (at lightweight or welterweight), Muhammad Ali-Joe Louis, Marvin Hagler-Bernard Hopkins, Leonard-Floyd Mayweather Jr., Mike Tyson-George Foreman.

Who is your favorite fighter?
As a kid, my No. 1 guy was Sugar Ray Leonard. In the late 1980s, when I was in high school, I was a huge Mike Tyson fan -- like everyone else. My two other favorites are the late Arturo Gatti and Acelino "Popo" Freitas.

Is it true that you have cats named after fighters?
Yes, it's true. My wife and I have two cats. The older one is named Popo (after Freitas) and the younger one is named Thunder -- although his full official name is Arturo Thunder Gatti.

What did you think about referee Richard Steele's stoppage in the first Julio Cesar Chavez-Meldrick Taylor fight?
From the time I first saw their epic 1990 junior welterweight unification fight, I always felt like Taylor was robbed of the victory. There were two seconds left, and he deserved to finish the fight -- he was on his feet with no time left for any more punches to be thrown, with Chavez on the other side of the ring -- and earn his greatest victory. I know many say that there was no way Steele knew how much time was left, but he was an elite referee; he had to have known instinctively that there was very little time left, not to mention that he was able to refer to the flashing light in each corner that indicated fewer than 10 seconds were left in the fight. It was a great comeback for Chavez -- one of the most dramatic in boxing history -- but Taylor deserved two more seconds after easily beating the count. Steele should have let the fight continue.

Who did you think won, Sugar Ray Leonard or Marvin Hagler?
Every time this fight comes up, boxing fans could spend hours arguing the decision. I thought this in 1987, and I still believe it today: The two judges who had it for Leonard got it right. He deserved the decision, no matter how much it upsets Hagler.

Who is the better brother, Wladimir or Vitali Klitschko?
I had a conversation with Vitali once when I was with him on the set of "Ocean's Eleven" years ago, and I asked him that very question. Maybe he was just being a protective older brother, but he said Wladimir was the better fighter. His reason, he said, was because Wladimir had only trained as a boxer and was a natural talent, while he had spent years training as a kickboxer, so boxing didn't come as naturally to him. But if they ever did fight -- and they have said over and over that they won't -- I would probably have to pick Vitali. There's just something about the psychology of the little brother/big brother thing. Big brothers usually handle little brothers, so I'd go with Vitali if it ever came down to a showdown.

[+] EnlargeDiego Corrales
AP Photo/Matthew MinardWhen Jose Luis Castillo finally succumbed to Diego Corrales in their 2005 fight at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay, Dan Rafael needed a moment to process what he had just witnessed.

What is the best fight you ever covered?
Hands down, the first Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo fight in 2005, at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. There were high stakes (it was a lightweight unification bout and for supremacy in the division), both were at the top of their games, and it was an enthralling, epic slugfest with one of the most dramatic endings in sports -- not just boxing -- history. Even before the incredible ending, it was already a lock for fight of the year and one of the best of all time. And then came the 10th round. All of us at ringside thought the fight was over after Castillo knocked Corrales down for the first time in the round. After Castillo dropped him for a second time, we knew the fight was over. When Corrales survived and rallied for the knockout win a few seconds later, it was as shocking and amazing as anything I've ever seen. I vividly recall pushing my chair away from the ringside table for a minute or two and taking a few deep breaths to collect myself and process what had just happened before I could write my story.

What is the first fight you covered?
The first professional fight card I covered was headlined by Buddy McGirt's 10-round unanimous decision against George Heckley on Aug. 12, 1996, at the Saratoga City Center in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. I was working for The Saratogian. When we got word that the show was going to take place a block from the office, I asked my editor to assign me to it. Covering that card changed my life.

How did you score [fill in the blank] fight?
Here is a list of scores I've tallied for fights I covered that I'm asked about most often.
Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez I: Marquez, 114-111
Pacquiao-Marquez II: Marquez, 114-113
Pacquiao-Marquez III: Draw, 114-114
Jermain Taylor-Winky Wright: Draw, 114-114
Taylor-Bernard Hopkins I: Draw, 114-114
Taylor-Hopkins II: Taylor, 116-112
Joe Calzaghe-Hopkins: Hopkins, 114-113
Paul Williams-Sergio Martinez I: Martinez, 114-113
Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Oscar De La Hoya: Mayweather, 116-112
Miguel Cotto-Shane Mosley: Cotto, 115-113

Here are my scores for two fights that I'm often asked about, fights I didn't cover in person but scored while watching on TV:
Felix Trinidad-Oscar De La Hoya: De La Hoya, 116-112
Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Jose Luis Castillo I: 114-114

What do you think about MMA?
Read this story about my experience attending a UFC card for a detailed answer.

Have you ever seen a fight live at ringside and then watched it on tape later and changed your opinion?
Not often, but it's happened. Watching a fight from ringside can be a lot different than watching it on video. The one that stands out to me is the John Ruiz-James Toney heavyweight title bout at Madison Square Garden in 2005 (my first fight for ESPN after leaving USA Today, by the way). I scored it for Ruiz and blew it. I rewatched it later and had Toney winning, as the judges did (although the result was later overturned to a no-contest because Toney tested positive for a steroid).

How do you rank the top 10 heavyweights of all time?
1. Muhammad Ali
2. Joe Louis
3. Jack Johnson
4. Larry Holmes
5. George Foreman
6. Jack Dempsey
7. Lennox Lewis
8. Joe Frazier
9. Rocky Marciano
10. Evander Holyfield

What do you think about open scoring?
I despise it. For 100-plus years, we've found out the scores after a fight. It still works, as far as I'm concerned. For those who suggest that open scoring somehow improves judging, I couldn't disagree more. It only makes the poor judging known ahead of time and wouldn't do anything to change a bad score. Open scoring also saps much of the drama from the announcement of a decision.

Should a super heavyweight division be added to boxing?
Absolutely not. Seventeen divisions are more than enough. In fact, rather than adding a division, I'd like to see a few eliminated. Adding another division isn't the right move, even if there are some really big guys at heavyweight. Either fight at cruiserweight or deal with the big men.

Of all the fighters you have talked to, who gives the best interview?
There are several. In no particular order, I'll go with Mike Tyson, Bernard Hopkins (as long-winded as he might be) and Hasim Rahman.

Who will win if they ever fight, Pacquiao or Mayweather?
When -- if -- the fight is ever made, I will make my pick the week of the fight. I'll say this, though: the opinion I have has never wavered. From the moment the fight was contemplated, I have had a strong opinion on who would win.

What was your best fight pick?
I picked Hasim Rahman by knockout over Lennox Lewis in their first fight.

What was your worst pick?
I picked Hasim Rahman by knockout over Lennox Lewis in the rematch.

Who do you think is the best referee?

There are plenty of good referees, but there are two who stand out to me as the best of the best and, when I see they are assigned to a fight, I have a good feeling about it: Kenny Bayless and Steve Smoger.