Wasted Talent-Five Fighter Who Threw it All Away
By: Patrick Mascoe
To achieve greatness in any field in life takes a combination of talent, dedication, discipline and good fortune. The sport of boxing is no different. Add to that list the importance of physical and mental strength and you have the recipe for a world class fighter. To see a boxer who possesses all these qualities is rare. To see a boxer throw it all away is heartbreaking.
Boxing is a sport that requires a strong element of self-discipline. Some individuals like Bernard Hopkins and Dwight Muhammad Qawi used the discipline learned in boxing to change their lives. They went from nothing to something. Both men had served time in prison but used the lessons of the sweet science to keep them from returning to a life of crime. They became world champions and are true boxing success stories.
Unfortunately, the connection between boxing and prison does not always take on a positive narrative. For every convicted criminal who uses boxing to change his life for the better, just as many boxers throw it all away and travel in the opposite direction. They go from something to nothing. In order to be a great fighter, one needs to possess self-confidence and a feeling of invincibility. However, problems arise when one fails to distinguish between the rules inside the ring and the rules outside the ring.
Here is a list of five fighters who were undefeated and on the verge of greatness but threw it all away. For some, they felt their success in the ring placed them above the law and for others they could not leave their savagery solely in the ring.
HARRY SIMON: Before Prison – Harry Simon represented Namibia at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics and finished his amateur career with a record of 121-9. From 1998-2002, Simon was one of the best Jr. Middleweights in the world. In 1998, Simon defeated Winky Wright to win the WBO Light Middleweight title by majority decision. In 2002, Simon won the WBO Middleweight title. The fighter with a 23-0 record appeared to have a bright future ahead of him. Showtime had just started promoting him as a future star.
Unfortunately, that all changed when he was involved in a serious car accident that resulted in the death of three individuals. Due to the combination of his injuries and his appealing the charges presented against him for culpable homicide, then his time served in prison, Simon entered the ring only once in the next eight years.
After Prison – At the age of 38, Harry Simon commenced his comeback. He continually faced and defeated weak opposition back in Namibia where his name still garnered some recognition. Simon last fought in 2016. He is now 30-0, but at 45 years old, he is no longer a threat to contend for a title again. We will never know how good Simon could have been as his prime was wasted due to a poor choice he made while behind the wheel of a car.
IKE IBEABUCHI: Before Prison – Ike Ibeabuchi immigrated to the United States from Nigeria in 1993. In 1994, he won the Texas State Golden Gloves Tournament in the Heavyweight division. He turned pro and won his first 16 straight fights. He was then matched against another undefeated fighter, the 27-0 David Tua. Ibeabuchi defeated Tua by unanimous decision and established himself as a top heavyweight contender. In 1999, he face undefeated future WBO Heavyweight champion, Chris Bird. He made easy work of Bird, knocking him out in five rounds.
His career became untracked when people around him began to notice his behaviour becoming more and more erratic. He began insisting that people refer to him as “The President.” At the same time, he began to have run-ins with the law. He abducted the 15 year old son of his former girlfriend and then was involved in a car accident that caused permanent damage to the boy. He pleaded guilty to false imprisonment and received 120 days in jail.
In 1999, Ibeabuchi was 26 years old with a 20-0 record yet he would never fight again. That same year, he was arrested on a number of allegations concerning sexual assault committed against escorts. Ibeabuchi was deemed incompetent to stand trial. Medical experts assessed that he suffered from bipolar disorder. He was convicted of sexual assault and served 16 years in prison.
After Prison – Ike Ibeabuchi was released in November of 2015. After only 5 months, he was rearrested for violating the terms of his probation. Now 44 years old and still in prison, we will never know what he could have accomplished. According to Eric Raskin of HBO Boxing, “No heavyweight of his generation possessed more ability and no heavyweight of his generation possessed less stability.” As a result of his mental health issues, Ibeabuchi proved to be just as scary outside the ring as he was inside it.
TONY AYALA JR.: Before Prison – Tony Ayala Jr. was considered a boxing prodigy. He compiled an amateur record of 140-8 and turned professional in 1980 at the age of sixteen. With a record of 22-0 (20 KO) Ayala was garnering national attention. He was a savage brawler who had caught the attention of the boxing world, much the way Mike Tyson did years later.
On January 1, 1983 Ayala broke into the home of his neighbour and sexually assaulted her. Despite the fact that he was only 19 years old at the time, this was his third assault against women. Under the Repeat Offender Act, Ayala was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
After Prison – Ayala was paroled from prison in 1999 at the age of 36. He proceeded to do the only thing he knew – boxing. He won his first six comeback fights all by knock out. Eventually, he was defeated by ex-champion IBF Super Welterweight champion, Yori Boy Campas. Though his comeback had been stopped, his trouble with the law continued. In 2000, he was shot in the shoulder by a woman after breaking into her home. In 2004, Ayala was sentenced to ten years in prison for probation violations.
He was finally released in 2014, at the age of 51, with no possible chance to return to the ring. He began to assist in running his father’s gym in San Antonio. On May 12, 2015, Tony Ayala Jr. was found dead in the gym from an apparent drug overdose. Angelo Dundee once said, “Ayala could have been one of boxing’s greatest fighters.”
PAUL SPADAFORA: Before Prison – Paul Spadafora had an amateur record of 75-5. However, his professional career almost never got off the ground. As a passenger, involved in a car chase with police, he was shot in the Achilles tendon. Once he started focussing on his boxing career, he proved himself to be an elite talent. In 1999, the undefeated Spadafora was victorious in his showdown with Israel Cardona to win the IBF Lightweight title. He went on to defend his title six times.
The year 2003 was the beginning of Spadafora’s downfall. His continual personal problems outside the ring ended up destroying his career. He was arrested in the shooting of his pregnant girlfriend and followed that up by running his car into a parked police cruiser while intoxicated. Add to that a drug possession charge and you have a career in a permanent holding pattern. On February 23, 2005, Spadafora was sentenced to prison for the attempted murder of his girlfriend.
After Prison – After a 32 month layoff, Spadafora returned to the ring, winning his comeback fight by KO. Before he could fight again, he was back in jail for parole violations. Once again, upon his release, his extracurricular activities continued to hinder his boxing career. He was again charged with DUI, along with assault and brandishing a knife while making threats.
In 2017, Spadafora had another run-in with law enforcement when he was arrested for assaulting his mother and stabbing his half-brother. As if that wasn’t enough, he was also charged with uttering threats against Pittsburgh police. Despite a world title and a 49-1-1 record, Spadafora completely underachieved. With his boxing career now over, Spadafora needs to work on getting his life in order. That will begin by completing a court ordered drug and alcohol program.
EDWIN VALERO: Before Prison – Venezuelan boxer, Edwin Valero, compiled an amateur record of 86-5 with an incredible 57 knockouts. On February 5, 2001, Valero was involved in a serious motorcycle accident. He was not wearing a helmet and as a result, he suffered a severe skull fracture. He needed surgery to remove a blood clot. The injury prevented Valero from turning pro and even after his recovery, there were complications. Due to irregularities in his MRI, he was not given permission to fight in the U.S.
Edwin Valero began his professional career fighting mostly in Japan and Latin America. He competed from 2002-2010 and amassed an amazing 27-0 record, with all his victories by way of knockout. Valero obviously possessed phenomenal power and fought with a high degree of aggression. The result: two world titles, an undefeated record, and emergence as a national hero in Venezuela.
His manager claimed that Valero suffered from mental health issues and needed help. He also allegedly suffered from drug and alcohol abuse. Documents show that Valero’s wife had been admitted to hospital three times as a result of falling down stairs. His behaviour on her last visit was so volatile towards the doctors, nurses and police that he was sent for a six month psychiatric rehabilitation stint. Was this a result of his earlier motorcycle accident, from boxing or a combination of the two? We may never know for sure. Sadly, on April 18th, 2010, Valero’s wife’s body was discovered in a hotel. She had been stabbed three times. Valero was arrested after admitting to hotel security that he had committed the crime.
After Prison – A day after being arrested, Valero was found hanging in his cell. The man who was invincible in the ring took his own life. Edwin Valero, much like Ike Ibeabuchi, needed people around him who cared more about him as a person than as a boxer.
Ironically, the brutality and savagery that is responsible for the success of some fighters is also the characteristic that is responsible for the downfall of others. Boxing is a violent sport that attracts aggressive individuals. It is only those fighters who can leave or separate their life in the ring from their life outside the ring that truly prosper.
Five Post Fight Thoughts from Pacquiao vs. Horn
Five Post Fight Thoughts from Pacquiao vs. Horn
By: William Holmes
A legend in the sport of boxing lost to a man that nobody thought he would lose to on Saturday in Brisbane, Australia.
Manny Pacquiao is a sure fire first ballot hall of famer and is an eight division world champion. Since 2005 almost all of his fights were made available exclusively on Pay Per View. However, many were stunned to see Jeff Horn be named the victor and were left in disbelief. Many, including the announcers on ESPN, strongly felt that Manny was robbed and clearly won the fight.
Is this the end of Pacquiao’s career? What does this mean going forward?
Here are five post fight thoughts from the Pacquiao vs. Horn fight.
1. Pacquiao Was Not Robbed
This may come as a shock to some, but Pacquiao was not robbed. I’m not saying he didn’t win the fight, but you can’t argue with the judges who felt Horn won the fight. Pacquiao didn’t dominate any round with the exception of the ninth, and many, many, rounds were “swing” rounds and could have been scored either way.
Fans have to remember that crowd reaction affects judges and this fight took place in Horn’s home country. Most of the fans in attendance were rooting for their fellow Australian and were reacting positively to every punch that Jeff Horn threw. Yes, judges are supposed to be able to block out the sound and view a fight objectively, but that’s easier said than done and no judge is completely immune to the vocal support that surrounds him.
Fans also have to realize that viewing a fight live is much different than viewing a fight on TV. When you’re watching a fight on TV you can be swayed by the commentary of the announce team and you have a much better view/angle on the action inside the ring than those who are watching the fight in person. Ring side judges do not have the advantage of wide camera angle and often their views are obstructed by the ropes, ring, competitors, and the referee.
Additionally, Jeff Horn pressed the action and was able to dominate the exchanges when they were in tight or when Pacquiao’s back was against the rope. Ring Generalship and effective aggression are two criteria that judges use to judge a fight, and it was clear that Horn was dictating the pace to Pacquiao and never stopped coming forward.
Again, I’m not saying Pacquiao didn’t win the fight, I’m merely stating he wasn’t robbed.
2. CompuBox Stats Are Overrated
Many upset boxing fans point to the CompuBox statistics as evidence that Pacquiao was robbed. They note that Horn only landed 15% of his punches and that Pacquiao landed almost 100 more punches.
However, fight fans have to understand that CompuBox punch totals are done by a person sitting ringside keeping a manual tally. There is nothing scientific or reliable about CompuBox, at best it is an estimation. CompuBox also doesn’t take into consideration the visible effects of the punches landed.
As a general rule punches are more noticeable when a bigger man lands against a smaller man, and Jeff Horn was clearly the bigger man. When his punches landed they visibly moved Pacquiao and many of Pacquiao’s punches were not noticeable to the untrained eye.
3. More Big Fights Need to Happen Outside of Las Vegas
As a fight city, Las Vegas is overrated.
Yes, it’s the gambling capital of the world and very few locations can compete with the purse sizes that Las Vegas provides. But, if you’ve ever gone to a fight in Las Vegas you’d know that most of the fans who attend a big fight in Las Vegas are more concerned with the glitz, glam and celebrity that Las Vegas provides instead of the action in the ring.
I’ve been to Vegas several times for big fights, and a good 95% of the fans in attendance do not show up until a few minutes before the main event starts. Most of the fans at a Las Vegas fight do not know the difference between a jab and a cross and are more concerned with looking good at a big event.
The Pacquiao Horn fight was held in an outdoor stadium in Australia and came across great on television. 50,000+ fans were in attendance, a number that currently can not be reached in Las Vegas. The excitement and anticipation of a fight comes off much better in a big stadium when compared to Las Vegas, and makes it more attractive to the casual sports fan.
The Klitschko vs. Joshua fight was held at Wembley Stadium and was one of the best fights of the year. The crowd was unbelievable and that fight also looked great on television.
The most entertaining fight that this writer ever attended live was when Pacquiao fought Margarito at the home of the Dallas Cowboys, AT&T Stadium. The venue was a big reason as to why that fight was so entertaining.
Granted, there will still be fight fans who only show up for the main event if a good boxing card were to be held outside of Las Vegas, but the overall experience is much better when it’s held in a stadium.
4. Pacquiao Needs to Drop Down in Weight
Ever since Pacquiao made the jump to the junior welterweight division and higher he has been the smaller man inside the ring. His walk around weight is near the welterweight limit and he often has to fight someone who has cut 10-20 pounds to make the welterweight limit.
When Pacquiao was in his prime his movement and endurance was good enough to run circles around his opponent so that they couldn’t catch him. He’s no longer in his prime and Jeff Horn was able to capitalize on his size advantage and trap Manny on the ropes with effective body work. If Jeff Horn was able to trap Pacquiao imagine what some of the other top welterweights could do to him.
Keith Thurman, Errol Spence Jr., Kell Brook, Shawn Porter, and even Lucas Matthysse are all opponents that are bigger than Pacquiao and would probably inflict more damage on him than what Horn did on Saturday.
Even though the current version of Pacquiao would still be competitive with most of the welterweights ranked in the top ten, he is risking serious damage to his body and health if he continues to campaign against bigger and stronger opponents when he is pushing 40.
5. An Aged Version of Pacquiao is Still Entertaining
Should Pacquiao retire? That’s a tough question but at the very least it should be discussed amongst him and his team.
But one thing that we learned on Saturday night is that even the faded and aged version of Manny Pacquiao is still exciting in the ring. His fight with Jeff Horn dominated social media and ESPN and has been the talk of the sports world for the past two days.
Fight fans were on the edge of their seat the entire fight and the ninth round was one of the most thrilling rounds of the year.
The ratings support the entertainment value of Pacquiao. ESPN recently released a press release indicating that the fight delivered a 2.4 overnight rating and was the highest rated fight for a cable network this decade. The release also indicated that the Battle of Brisbane was likely to be the highest-rated fight on ESPN’s networks since the mid 1990s.
The current version of Manny Pacquiao may have difficulty reclaiming a world title in the welterweight division, but he still draws eyes to the TV.
The Five Fights I Want to See in 2017
The Five Fights I Want to See in 2017
By: Eric Lunger
As New Year’s Day approaches, boxing fans can look back on the year that has been, and cast a longing eye towards the year to come. Here, in descending order are the top five fights I’d like to see in 2017, some already scheduled and some in the boxing fan’s dream world.
5. Garcia vs. Thurman
This bout is scheduled for March 4th in New York for the WBA and WBC welterweight belts, and I can’t wait. Danny Garcia (33-0, 19 KO’s) is a tough, talented, professional, Philadelphia fighter who has a number of big welterweight wins on his resume (Amir Khan, Lucas Matthysse, Lamont Peterson, Paul Malignaggi). Keith Thurman (27-0, 13 KO’s) is coming off a sterling unanimous decision win against Shawn Porter in June, a bout that will rank high on many Fight of the Year lists. This is a true unification fight with two popular American fighters, and some genuine antagonism. I was in Philly for Garcia’s battering of Samuel Vargas, and the post fight antics (which I usual discount as so much theatre) between Garcia and Thurman seemed rancorous enough to be real.
Garcia is fast, smart defensively, and adaptable in the ring. He can land from unexpected angles, especially his left hook. Thurman is powerful, athletic, and always coming forward. I think this combination of styles will present a great fight, and the unpredictability of the outcome makes this an edge-of-the-seat contest.
4. Ward vs. Kovalev II
This bout is in the “dream, but likely” column. The first fight was a tactical brilliance by Ward, a fight for aficionados. Reasonable fans and observers can certainly disagree on the judges’ cards. I felt that Kovalev was ahead going into the last three, but was not active enough to win those rounds. Nonetheless, fight fans would love a second dance, which might also allow the promoters to garner a larger national audience and tap into the general sports fan base. Andre Ward is a fantastic fighter, and a compelling human being outside the ring. Couldn’t he be the face of American boxing in the post-Mayweather era?
Strangely, Ward has been making noises on social media about retiring, though is not clear why. Maybe he’s serious about walking away, maybe he’s trying to goad Kovalev. Or perhaps this is just an odd (and misdirected) way of generating publicity for the rematch.
There are some interesting questions that a Ward – Kovalev II could answer. Can Kovalev change his style, box more, or does he remain a pressure fighter, looking for a knock out? Can Ward rely on the judges a second time, or does he need to be more aggressive in the early rounds? How much does Kovalev’s frustration at the decision, and Ward’s seeming ambivalence about the sport, drive the outcome?
3. Rigondeaux vs. Frampton
This bout is in the “dream, unlikely” category. Guillermo Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KO’s) is scheduled to fight Moises Flores (25-0, 17 KO’s) on February 25 on the Cotto vs. Kirkland undercard. Rigondeaux is putting his WBA junior featherweight title on the line, and I am excited to see the Cuban born fighter come in from the cold, so to speak. Rigo has been in boxing exile, with no one willing to face him in the ring (with the exception of Jazza Dickens of England), and no networks really willing to feature him. Rigo has had only three fights since 2014, but he remains a formidable figure in the sport because of his brilliant defensive footwork combined with devastating punching power. Of course, there are critics who find Rigo’s style boring, too cautious and defensive, not suited for the professional game. I am not one of them; I find Rigondeaux fascinating to watch – he’s certainly learned his lesson (that fans and networks want a more aggressive style) and I expect the Flores bout to be action-packed from the opening bell.
Carl Frampton (23-0, 14 KO’s) is slated to meet Leo Santa Cruz (32-1, 18 KO’s) in January for a rematch following the exciting and tense Frampton majority decision last time the two met in July of 2016. This is one of those 50-50 fights that make the lower divisions exciting to watch. Both guys are highly skilled and highly motivated. They respect one another, but they are both tough, action fighters. It should be a great bout.
So, for Rigondeaux and Frampton to meet in the ring, many dominoes must fall in the proper order. Both fighters need to win, obviously, then Rigo needs to move up to featherweight (certainly a plausible move at this point in his career), and he needs to defeat Flores in a way that makes him marketable enough for Frampton’s team to be interested in the bout. And Rigondeaux has other targets in the super bantamweight division, such as Jessie Magdeleno (the WBO titleholder) and Jonathan Guzman (IBF).
2. Wilder vs. Joshua
This bout I will optimistically put in the “dream, but possible” column.
Anthony Joshua (18-0, 18 KO’s) is wildly popular in the UK, and his upcoming April bout against Wladimir Klitschko (64-4, 54 KO’s) will probably sell out Wembley Arena in London, and should do massive numbers on PPV. British fans are convinced that Joshua will dominate Klitschko, as they can’t imagine their hero struggling against anyone. I would not be surprised if the crafty and experienced Klitschko used his puzzling combination of pawing jab and clinch to confuse and disrupt Joshua. After his embarrassing loss to Tyson Fury in November of 2015, the Ukrainian champion will be more than motivated to bring his best game to London.
However, if Joshua can get the win against Klitschko, he will capture the WBA and the IBF belts, and be the big stack at the heavyweight table. Between the other belt holders, Joseph Parker of New Zealand (WBO) and Deontay Wilder of the USA (WBC), Wilder is the much more compelling next step, should “AJ” be willing to make the leap. But there are other, complicating factors, namely that the WBA and IBF challengers, currently Luis Ortiz and Kubrat Pulev, might make more sense financially for Joshua and Matchroom Promotions, before they contemplate facing the dangerous Bronze Bomber.
1. Golovkin vs. Canelo Alvarez
This is the big one – the Holy Grail for boxing fans. Oscar de la Hoya has promised on not a few occasions that the fight will happen in September, after Canelo has “had time” to move up to middleweight. I have always been a big Canelo fan, but his two wins this year – a big knockout against an undersized Amir Khan, and a not very entertaining dispatch of an overmatched Liam Smith – did not do much for his reputation among American fans. Right now there are rumors of a Billy Joe Saunders fight for Cinqo de Mayo weekend, but I would be stunned if Saunders actually climbed into the ring against the Cinnamon destroyer.
And of course, GGG must stay undefeated, something Danny Jacobs will have something to say about. Their March 18 date in New York promises to be a great night. Madison Square Garden, practically a home fight for the Brooklyn born Jacobs, GGG with his own fan base in New York, his relentless Mexican style – these are the ingredients of a great show and a great boxing match. And let’s be perfectly clear: Jacobs is going to be a stiff test for the Kazak superstar. No one is Golovkin’s camp is overlooking Jacobs; both Golovkin’s and trainer Abel Sanchez’s comments in the media have exhibited nothing but high praise and meaningful respect for Jacobs. Fighters with the kind of power that Jacobs and Golovkin possess, they know that one punch can change the direction of any fight, and that nothing is for certain in this sport.
Nonetheless, the number one fight I want to see in 2017 is Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vs. Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. What fights are at the top of your list for next year?