Tag Archives: the

Andre Ward Talks Hosting “Contender” Redux


By: Sean Crose

From 2005-2009, “The Contender” showed television viewers the struggles and triumphs of struggling boxers determined to crack through to the big time. With heavyweight star power like Sugar Ray Leonard and Sylvester Stallone, The Contender would offer viewers highlights of the contestant’s plights along with highlights of the contestant’s ring battles with one another. Now, The Contender is coming back. On August 24th, EPIX will run a new, revived Contender, which will feature 16 new contestants and the talents of host and mentor Andre Ward.

“It excited me for various reasons,” Ward said of The Contender’s comeback during a Tuesday conference call. Upon learning the show would be revived the recently retired great sprang into action. “I immediately called my lawyer,” Ward stated, referring to his plan to get in on The Contender’s return. For Ward, there’s more to the show than simple production values and ratings. “It’s about human interest stories,” he said. “It talks about human beings…you can relate to a human interest story.”

I asked Ward if he felt his personality, which is far from the showy personas many fighters like to showcase, made him a natural fit for a show which focuses primarily on people’s struggles, issues and dreams. “I genuinely love the sport,” he said. “I care about the fighters because I was a fighter.” The show’s executive producer, Eric Van Wagenen, had nothing put praise for The Contender’s new host, claiming that after “about a fifteen minute conversation with Andre, I felt the franchise was in safe hands.” A fight fan, Wagenen was impressed with what he saw in Ward outside of the ring.

“I gained a new respect for him,” he said of the new host, “how smart he is, how much he cares for the young fighters.” Ward, whose last fight was a second win over light heavyweight terror Sergey Kovalev in June of 2017, had not made specific plans for the future after his retirement. “At the time of my retirement, I didn’t know about Creed 2,” Ward stated, in reference to the upcoming film he’ll be acting in (he was in the first Creed film). According to Ward, it was important “to be a guy who left (the ring) on time.” It looks to have been a wise choice.“Sometimes,” he added, “you’ve got to take the leap of faith before these other opportunities come on board.”

Van Wagenen, a close associate of original (and current) creator Mark Burnett, promises a Contender that will be in tune with the times. “I was involved with The Contender in its original form,” he said, adding that, with better production values, the new Contender has “all the things that make a show successful now.” One of those things will be a social media presence, and also full footage from the fights, rather than just highlights.

Ward was asked if working on the show made him want to make a comeback to the ring. “Yeah,” he said, “but as soon as I got hit (in sparing)…that desire just disappears.”

More Headlines

Epix Sets Premier Date for The Contender, Reveals 16 Fighters Vying for Championship Belt


Premium pay television network EPIX® has announced the 16 fighters who will be facing off with one another for the championship belt on the revival of boxing franchise series The Contender this fall. The highly anticipated 12-episode season, from MGM Television and Paramount Television, will premiere on EPIX on Aug. 24, 2018 at 10 PM ET/PT.

Hosted by undefeated boxing champion Andre “Son of God” Ward, the first-of-its-kind competitive documentary series for the network will feature 16 fighters pushing their limits in grueling elimination-style fights and testing their grit and determination to achieve their boxing dreams. The fighters will be overseen by legendary boxing coach Freddie Roach, and renowned Philadelphia trainer Naazim Richardson.

“The Contender takes unscripted TV to its grittiest. It has incredible professional fighters and real professional fights. The edge of your seat drama and true stories sets a tone that our audiences will be expecting and I love it,” said Mark Burnett, President of MGM Television.

“With this new iteration of The Contender, the focus is on the gritty, personal stories of the fighters battling for boxing glory,” said Michael Wright, President, EPIX. “It was important for us to find individuals who not only displayed the boxing chops and resilience in the ring, but who also showed a depth of heart and humor outside of it. Our 16 fighters are vivacious, tough, funny, sensitive, driven and inspiring, and we are excited for our fans to get to know their stories and root for them inside the ring and out.”

The 16 Contenders come from a wide variety of professional boxing backgrounds and stations in life, bringing their unique stories, personalities, strengths and motivations to the series.

Each fighter will be vying to be declared the new 160-pound middleweight champion of The Contender and take home the winner’s six-figure purse — a prize, which, for all the fighters, represents a better life for their families and loved ones who have been there with them through all the ups and downs of their journeys.

The 16 fighters on The Contender this season are:

◦Ievgen “The Ukranian Lion” Khytrov, Age: 29, Rank: 20, Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.- A Ukrainian immigrant, Olympian, Ievgen Khytrov recently relocated to America to pursue his dream of becoming a world champion and to create a better life for his family. A dedicated, quiet, religious man. He’s also the one to beat.

◦Eric “Babyface Assassin” Walker, Age: 34, Rank: 68, Hometown: Plaquemine, La. – Incarcerated at 15 years old and spent 14 years behind bars for robbery and attempted murder, Eric “Babyface Assassin” Walker learned to box while in prison. He is now fighting for a second chance at life, living proof that it’s never too late to live out your dreams.

◦John “Apollo Kid” Thompson, Age: 29, Rank: 70, Hometown: Newark, N.J. – After losing his mother to AIDS at six years old, this married performing artist, painter and fighter, John “Apollo Kid” Thompson is here to prove to the world that he can’t be boxed into a single category despite holding impressive titles including the 2015 WBA-NABA Super Welterweight, WBO Inter-Continental Super Welterweight and Boxcino Tournaments.

◦Malcolm “The Punisher” McAllister, Age: 27, Rank: 172, Hometown: Long Beach, Calif. – Always at the center of schoolyard fights growing up, Malcolm “The Punisher” McAllister now channels his energy into helping others rebuild outside of foreclosure and his young, growing family. In boxing has built an impressive KO record and the 2014 Golden Gloves title on his journey to take the title of The Contender.

◦Brandon “The Cannon” Adams, Age: 28, Rank: Inactive, Hometown: Los Angeles, Calif. – A bold fighter in the ring, Brandon “The Cannon” Adams knows firsthand what it means to push through adversity and step up to care for his family when there’s no one else around to. Coming from a poverty stricken neighborhood, this larger than life father of two marks his return to boxing after a three year hiatus, initiated by a loss to fellow competitor, John Thompson.

◦Quatavious “Cash” Cash, Age: 26, Rank: 161, Hometown: Las Vegas, Nev. – This Atlanta native is the current record-holder for fastest KO in Georgia, a four0time Golden Gloves state champ and Bronze medalist. Quatavious Cash is fighting for his late mother and for the chance to prove that a life of fighting street gangs can be channeled for good.

◦Shane “Sugarman” Mosley, Jr., Age: 27, Rank: 149, Hometown: Santa Monica, Calif. – The lone single contender, son of legendary Hall of Fame boxer “Sugar” Shane Mosley, Shane “Sugarman” Mosley Jr. is fighting to step out of his father’s shadow and carve out his own legacy.

◦Daniel “El Chapulin” Valdivia, Age: 25, Rank: 116, Hometown: Tulare, Calif. – A natural salesman and real estate agent by day, nicknamed “El Chapulin” (“Grasshopper”) for his boundless energy, Mexican immigrant Daniel Valdivia was born to step into the ring. With several titles including the NABF Super Welterweight Champion as an underdog, he’s chasing fame to prove giving up college for boxing was the right move.

◦Michael “The Silverback” Moore, Age: 31, Rank: 252, Hometown:Cleveland, Oh. – Reformed from a hard life on the streets, fraught with drugs, death and family suicide, Michael Moore is a natural hustler and leader. Married with two kids, Moore is constantly moving from state to state with his family in tow in pursuit of the boxing dream.

◦Gerald “G5” Sherrell, Age: 24, Rank: 216, Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pa. – A fan of the original Contender series growing up, Gerald “G5” Sherrell is an undefeated and explosive fighter with a level of unrivaled and self-proclaimed swagger. Hailing from the projects, this multiple time Golden Gloves, Silver Gloves and Junior Olympic competitor, this local zoo security guard by day, and young father by night, is looking to bring boxing glory back to his hometown of Pittsburgh.

◦Morgan “Big Chief” Fitch, Age: 34, Rank: 154, Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pa. – Injury-plagued throughout his career, the Native American hailing from Southern Louisiana is a married father of three. Knowing that he’s old for the sport, Morgan “Big Chief” Fitch has one last shot at making his boxing dreams come true.

◦Marcos “Mad Man” Hernandez, Age: 24, Rank: 104, Hometown: Fresno, Calif. – Having been bullied from a young age after an accident left him with burns on 30 percent of his body, Marcos “Mad Man” Hernandez is fighting for his young autistic son, in hopes that he won’t be bullied the same way he was. With Junior Olympics, 2012 Blue and Gold titles and “Mexican-go-forward” style fighting he may be overlooked and underestimated.

◦Tyrone “Young Gun” Brunson, Age: 33, Rank: 39, Hometown: Philadelphia, PA – At a time when he needed to sell drugs to support himself at the age of 13, a stepfather’s ultimatum: be grounded or go to the boxing gym was his saving grace. Now a humble father of two, and sitting with one of the best rankings in the competition, his 24 KO’s send a signal that he will not fight silently but his cocky attitude has beat him more than just once.

◦Lamar “Omega” Russ, Age: 31, Rank: 115, Hometown: Wilmington, N.C. – One of four kids raised by a single mom and the first person in his family to graduate college, Lamar “Omega” Russ takes pride in being the underdog, and beneath the loud exterior is a boxer that needs to prove he can put his money where his mouth is. HBO, ESPN and a first round KO on Showtime do all the talking.

◦John “The Rock” Jackson, Age: 29, Rank: 63, Hometown: St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands – A divorced father of two, this slick and agile boxer, Virgin Islander John “The Rock” Jackson started fighting at 12 years old, following in his world champion father Julian Jackson’s footsteps at the Pan American Games and 2008 Olympics. He comes from wealth but cares for the underprivileged and dreams of making his island proud bringing visibility to those struck by recent natural disasters.

◦Devaun “Unique” Lee, Age: 30, Rank: 82, Hometown: Jamaica Queens, N.Y.

When one of his friends was shot and killed at 16, Devaun “Unique” Lee knew he needed a way out from the mean streets of Queens. Boxing keeps him straight. So do long hours fueling airplanes and caring for his five year old daughter. The real love of his life. Fatherhood and the sport are the motivation to take his NY State Middleweight championship to the next level.

The original Contender series ran for four seasons (2005-2009) and launched multiple fighters into contention for world titles, including title winners Sergio Mora, Cornelius Bundrage, Sakio Bika, and Sam Soliman.

Eric Van Wagenen serves as executive producer and showrunner of the revived franchise alongside Mark Burnett. The format is owned by MGM Television and Paramount Television.

EPIX is available nationwide through cable, satellite, telco and streaming TV providers including Charter Spectrum, Cox, Verizon FiOS, AT&T U-verse, Dish Network, Sling, PlayStation Vue and, as of June 13, Comcast.

More Headlines

Andre Ward, Freddie Roach, and Naazim Richardson Join The Contender


Premium pay television network EPIX®, an MGM company, has announced that undefeated boxing champion Andre “Son of God” Ward will host the new version of the seminal The Contender boxing franchise. Legendary boxing trainers Freddie Roach and Naazim Richardson join as trainers in the iconic series that has launched multiple boxers into contention for world titles.

The all-new 12-episode season of the boxing competition series, the first of its kind to air on EPIX is produced by Mark Burnett and his longtime executive producer Eric Van Wagenen. MGM Television has joined forces with Paramount Television to produce, and filming will begin this Spring 2018 in Los Angeles.

As host, Ward brings his undefeated record and undisputed boxing expertise to The Contender. Throughout his incredible 13-year undefeated career, he’s held multiple world titles in two weight classes including, unified WBA (Super), WBC, Ring magazine, and lineal super middleweight titles between 2009 and 2015 as well as the unified WBA (Undisputed), IBF, WBO, and Ring’s light heavyweight titles between 2016 and 2017. Ward also won the gold medal in the light heavyweight division in the 2004 Summer Olympics.

Said Ward, “I have faced the unique challenges of professional boxing firsthand and know the focus required to succeed at the highest level. Hosting a show that has enabled so many talented fighters reach their dreams is an honor and I look forward to giving the fans unique insight into the life of a fighter and leading the audience through the thrills of this competition.”

“It is so important for The Contender to have the best and most trusted boxing experts which is why we reached out to Andre, Freddy and Naazim,” said Burnett. “They are the very best and can help create an experience almost never seen before. Eric and I are really excited to exceed the fans’ expectations. We love The Contender and we love boxing.”

Esteemed coaches Roach and Richardson will each oversee a team of eight fighters, pushing their fighting skills, strength and endurance to the limit in preparation for elimination competitions. The coaches will also act as the fighters’ mentor, helping them to navigate their everyday life as the competitors live and train together and fight each other in the ring. Each fighter will be vying to become the ultimate Contender and take the winner’s six-figure purse.

Roach is widely regarded as one of the most successful boxing trainers of all time. His roster includes the eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao, five-time and four-division World Champion Miguel Cotto, former WBC Middleweight Champion Julio César Chávez, Jr., defensive master and three-time world champion James Toney, former UFC Middleweight and three-time Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre, as well as top prospects Jose Benavidez, Peter Quillin, and Vanes Martirosyan, among many others.

One of the most respected trainers from the boxing hotbed of Philadelphia, Naazim Richardson has helped shape the careers of some of the biggest names in the sport over the past 30 years. From Bernard Hopkins to “Sugar” Shane Mosley, as well as others like Travis Kauffman, and prospect Khalib ‘Bigfoot’ Whitmore, Richardson’s work and his spirit continue to be part of boxing lore. The father and trainer of boxing twin brothers Rock Allen and Tiger Allen Richardson, Naazim is also known for discovering plaster hidden in Antonio Margarito’s wraps before the January 24, 2009 fight between Margarito and Mosley.

Eric Van Wagenen serves as executive producer and showrunner alongside Burnett. The format is owned by MGM Television and Paramount Television.

EPIX is available nationwide through cable, satellite, telco and streaming TV providers including Charter Spectrum, Cox, Verizon FiOS, AT&T U-verse, Dish Network, Sling, PlayStation Vue and, later this year, Comcast.

More Headlines

The Contender Returns


By: Oliver McManus

THE CONTENDER returns to our television screens later this year after being picked up by the premium cable and satellite network Epix – the iconic show has been off air for nine years since its original run between 2005 and 2009 but with the fresh backing of the Epix network and a renewed passion for the format from Mark Burnett, President of MGM Television and Digital, this fan-favourite is sure to pick up where it left off.

When announcing the relaunch of The Contender, Burnett declared “Boxing belongs on premium pay television and there is no better home for The Contender than EPIX” , before announcing his vision to “tell stories of the fighters, the families and their difficult journeys in the emotionally compelling Contender style, so that viewers get to vicariously ‘walk a mile’ in the boxers shoes”.

The series will showcase 16 fighters, in two TUF-style teams, trained by world class boxing coaches as they live together, sleep together, train together over the course of the season in the bid to be crowned the Ultimate Contender, taking a home a six-figure purse, in an elimination competition designed to test them both in the ring and out of it.
Although no official weight class has been announced for the revival, it is understood that the show will focus on the middleweight division – where Gennady Golovkin, Billy Joe Saunders and Ryota Murata currently rule the roost.

For the boxers involved there is no better platform to launch their career into the big time than via The Contender, a proven format that has seen 11 of its competitors go on to fight for world titles with Sergio “The Latin Snake” Mora being the most notable to come through the challenging 15-week process. Having reached 180 million cumulative viewers over its first four seasons, according to Nielsen Media Research, the format is a marketable hit with audiences both domestic and international – but in a bid to enhance viewership it is understood the Epix will air each week’s elimination fight in its entirety as opposed to the heavily edited versions that drew criticism from many boxing fans previously.

The first winner of the franchise, Mora challenged for the WBC World Super Welterweight title against Vernon Forest in 2008 – winning a Unanimous Decision – before a failed defence against the same opponent, a split decision draw against Shane Mosley and two challenges for Daniel Jacobs WBA Middleweight title in 2015 and 2016.

Marking a welcome return of boxing on Epix this will be the network’s first venture into boxing since Vitali Klitschko vs Odlanier Solis back in 2011 and compliments their current sporting portfolio that features the Bellator Fighting Championship as their lead programming.

Hold on to your seats because THE CONTENDER is back and it’s bigger and better than ever before.

More Headlines

The Real Fight of 2016


by B.A. Cass

The fight between Francisco Vargas and Orlando Salido, which seemed to be just about everyone’s pick for 2016 fight of the year, was certainly a good fight. But thirty seconds into Round One and the two men were already in their first clinch, something that turned into a bizarre twirl. A minute later, Vargas was walking Salido back as if they were partners in an intermediate ballroom dance class. Yes, there were moments of intense onslaught by both men, and yes, the majority of the fight was brutal and entertaining. However, it was nowhere near as thrilling as the best fights of the past.

Over the week I watched nineteen fights, both female and male, from 2016. I had originally intended to watch twenty-four, but five of the female fights were not available online. (Click this link to get the full list of the fights I watched: http://bit.ly/2x65wKk.) I had two criteria for judging these matches. The first was that the opponents had to be well matched, meaning no early round knockouts or clear domination. The second was that that the fight had to be thrilling from beginning to end. This, unfortunately, disqualified Amanda Serrano, who KO’d Olivia Gerula in the first round of their fight. And while it was a pleasure watch the skilled Jelena Mrdjenovic, she was the more talented fighter in both her fights that I watched. On the male side, I was impressed by all of what I saw except by the Dillian Whyte vs. Dereck Chisora fight, which seemed to me just like two really big guys punching each other in slow-motion.

And while I was deeply impressed by the Carl Frampton vs. Leo Santo Cruz bout (I gave it runner up), one fight stood out from all the rest. And that’s Heather Hardy vs. Shelly Vincent, my pick for “2016 Fight of the Year.”

The public animosity between these two fighters has been well-documented. Vincent spent years trying to secure a fight with Hardy, going so far as to show up at Hardy’s fights to taunt and ridicule her. Their fans exchanged vicious words. Hardy’s mother may have even been involved in a physical altercation with Vincent at The Roseland Ballroom, though that has not been confirmed. In other words, this was the real deal, an epic fight three years in the making.

But put aside all that, and put aside the historic nature of the fight. (It was the first female boxing match televised in the US in over 20 years.) In fact, put aside everything and anything that didn’t take place in the ring that night at Coney Island’s Ford Amphitheater because it was, from beginning to end, a spectacular fight. There was no clinching, not a single moment when either fighter tried to save energy. Hardy and Vincent simply gave everything they had from the first bell to the last.

The New York based Hardy won by split-decision, which didn’t surprise Vincent, who had traveled from Providence to take the fight. “It being in New York, I knew from the gate that unless I knocked her out, I wasn’t going to get a W over there,” Vincent recently told me. “I had it six rounds to four. And two rounds she beat me. I admit that. She beat me those two rounds. But clearly I dominated. I kept moving forward.”

Devon Cormack, Hardy’s trainer, obviously doesn’t agree with Vincent’s analysis: “At no point did I feel Heather was losing the fight,” he told me over the phone. “She made the adjustments as the fight went on, more than Shelly did.” Still, Cormack acknowledges that it was close. “It wasn’t a perfect thing having a split decision, but I didn’t think it was that far removed, which is why I thought it made for an excellent fight.”

Vincent’s trainer, Pete Manfredo Sr., can’t figure out why there hasn’t been a rematch. All he knows is that it should have been done already. “It was the fight of the night, and it even had Errol Spence on the card that night. I thought Vincent/Hardy was a much better fight for the crowd, even the television crowd.”

Let’s be honest, though: if a rivalry like this occurred between two male boxers and their much-anticipated, widely-viewed fight ended in a close, split-decision win, the rematch would have already happened.

Still, Hardy remains hopeful for the future of women’s boxing. “If you put Holly Holm with someone like a Katie Taylor, or one with Cecilia Brækhus, that would be a huge money fight—maybe not in America but it would be a huge money fight because so much of the country follows MMA. Even when I had my first MMA fight, I got tens of thousands of new followers. I was on the MMA radio show with Ariel Hawani and like a hundred people had tweeted it out. And so the more public demand, the more popular it gets, the easier it will be.”

Let’s hope Hardy is right. Let’s hope that the gods of the boxing world come together and align the stars to make this rematch happen. In the meantime, you can see Shelly Vincent fight in person at the Fox Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino on September 15th. (Buy your tickets here: http://bit.ly/ShellyVincent). And, though her opponent has yet to be announced, Heather Hardy is set to return for her second Bellator fight on October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Follow B.A. Cass on Twitter @WiththePunch

More Columns

Heather Hardy Interview: “I still haven’t gotten the mainstream media attention that I’d like”


Heather Hardy Interview: “I still haven’t gotten the mainstream media attention that I’d like”
By: Matthew N. Becher

​Heather “The Heat” Hardy is one of the top ranked female fighters in the world today. With a record of 20 wins 0 losses, she is a staple in the New York boxing scene, remaining a fan favorite at her home away from home, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

image1-2

​Hardy is currently training for her mixed martial arts debut, June 24th on the Bellator 180 undercard at the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden. Hardy was kind enough to take a few moments to speak with us about her upcoming fight and the switch from Boxing to MMA.

Boxing Insider: What made you decide to switch to Mixed Martial Arts?

Heather Hardy: It’s not actually a switch, I’m just going to do both. The boxing was just taking a really long time to turn around. I still haven’t made a really nice paycheck out of it. I still haven’t gotten the mainstream media attention that I’d like. So I’m hoping that the MMA will bring back some attention to boxing and vice versa. This is just like another job.

Boxing Insider: For the most part, boxers do not typically adapt well to MMA. Does that concern you?

Heather Hardy: Every fighter is different. All boxers are not the same. Maybe a fighter that wasn’t as good as me didn’t adapt well. But I’ve been doing a lot of sparring with elite level fighters and I’m feeling pretty good.

Boxing Insider: How do you feel about finally fighting at Madison Square Garden? This will be your first time right?

Heather Hardy: It will be my first time as a professional. I won my Golden Gloves title there. I’m super excited to be fighting there as a professional and adding it to my resume.

Boxing Insider: You are 35 years old and highly ranked in the featherweight division, as a boxer. Do you think a title fight is going to be coming up soon?

Heather Hardy: Could be, I mean, I’m hoping for it. Right now all the girls that are holding titles are out of the country and they don’t want to come to America. Because in America they don’t pay female boxers. So I’m really hoping that we can change that and we can get one of those girls over here so I can take their title.

Boxing Insider: Could you go over there?

Heather Hardy: It’s hard because I’m signed to a promotional deal with Lou Dibella and I’m contracted under him. His fights are only here in New York, so it would require a lot of negotiations for me to fight somewhere else.

Boxing Insider: How much fighting do you think you have left in you?

Heather Hardy: It’s really hard to say. Your body is a machine. If you take care of it you have extended use for it. If you abuse your body you won’t have a long time. I take care of myself. As long as I feel good, I’ll keep going.

More Columns

Why Jeffries Came Back for Johnson & Marciano Didn’t for Johansson!


Why Jeffries Came Back for Johnson & Marciano Didn’t for Johansson!
By: Ken Hissner

James J “The Boilermaker” Jeffries was considered one of the all-time great heavyweight champions when he retired after defeating Jack Munroe in 2 rounds in August of 1904. His record was 19-0-2 (16).

rockymarcianoarticle

When Jack “The Galvestan Giant” Johnson became the first black champion defeating Tommy Burns in December of 1908 the white race seemed to be quite upset especially due to the arrogance of Johnson. Johnson had four defenses with the first a draw with light heavyweight champion Philadelphia Jack O’Brien, NWS decisions with Tony Ross 11-6-2, NWS with Al Kauffman 18-1 and came off the canvas to KO12 middleweight champion Stanley Ketchell.

Johnson as you can see was running out of opponents though also drawing “the color line” not defending against any of the black opponents since becoming champion. On the other hand even Jeffries Pastor in front of his congregation was embarrassing him saying “we have a coward amongst us” in trying to bring him back to take back the title from the black champion.

Jeffries had gained over 100 pounds and hadn’t fought in 6 years minus a month. He unwisely came back at 227 to Johnson’s 208. Jeffries was 224 in his last fight some 6 years before. Jeffries was stopped in the 15th of a scheduled 45 round scheduled battle. In those days if you took a knee the round was over. Johnson was 38-5-7 going into this fight outdoors in Reno, NV.

In Marciano’s decision not to return after retiring coming off the canvas to knockout light heavyweight champion Archie Moore in his last bout in September of 1959 he had no plans to return to the ring. Floyd Patterson would defeat Moore for the vacant title. There was talk of a Marciano Patterson fight but Marciano who would take months prior to a fight away from his family wanted to spend time lost with his wife and children. At retirement he was 49-0 (43) with 6 title defenses the first was a KO1 over “Jersey” Joe Walcott whom he won the title over with a KO13 while behind in the scoring 4-7, 5-7 and 4-8 needing a knockout to win.

Marciano went onto KO11 Roland LaStarza in 1953 who he had won a split decision over in 1950 before becoming champion. He then defeated the former champion Ezzard Charles twice. The first was a decision 8-5, 9-5 and 8-6 and in the rematch Charles split Marciano’s nose so bad a only a knockout would save his title from the referee or ring physician possibly stopping the fight though ahead 5-1 and 6-1 twice. Then after 8 months he knocked out the British Empire champion Don Cockell 66-11-1 in 9 rounds with the Moore fight to follow.

Patterson after defeating Moore for the vacant defended his title 6 times all by knockout until he was knocked out by Sweden’s Ingemar Johansson. This is when Marciano felt he would come back to bring the title back to America. He spent time alone nearby his home trying to get back in shape. He said the desire wasn’t there anymore. Patterson would come back to win the title from Johansson bringing back the title to America.

More Boxing History

Who Was the Best P4P “Sugar” Ray Leonard, Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor, Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker or Floyd “Money” Mayweather, Jr?


Who Was the Best P4P “Sugar” Ray Leonard, Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor, Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker or Floyd “Money” Mayweather, Jr?
By: Ken Hissner

This writer has met “Sugar” Ray Leonard several times, Aaron “The Hawk” once and Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker once. I never met Floyd “Money” Mayweather. All are IBHOF inductees except Mayweather who has to wait five years after retiring before induction. He hasn’t fought since 2015.

Mayweather media day

As far as an amateur Leonard would be in a class of his own compared to the other three though Whitaker also won an Olympic Gold Medal but against lesser opposition.Leonard was from Palmer Park, MD.

Let’s take a look at Leonard first with an amateur record of 145-5 (75) winning the 1976 Olympic Gold Medal before turning professional on possibly the greatest Olympic team in the history of the Games. He won the 1975 Pan American Games the previous year defeating Cubans for both Gold Medals. He was inducted into the Olympic HOF in 1985 and the IBHOF in 1997 fighting from 1977 thru 1997 with a 36-3-1 (25) record.

In talking with Manny Steward who helped this writer judge 1976 vs 1984 Olympic teams we both agreed Leonard was a better amateur than a professional. Steward told me due to hand injuries as a professional. His manager was Mike Trainer and his trainers were Dave Jacobs, Janks Morton, Adrian Davis, Angelo Dundee and Pepe Correa.

Leonard won the WBC & WBA welterweight titles, WBA Junior middleweight, WBC’s middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight titles. Highlights winning world titles by stopping Wildfredo Benitez, winning two of three from Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran, stopping and drawing with Tommy “Hit Man” Hearns, stopping AyubKalule, defeating “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler and stopping Donny Lalondetwice.
Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor, 39-1 (36), was from Cincinnati, OH. He was 204-16 in the amateurs winning AAU and Golden Gloves titles while being a Silver Medalist in the 1975 Pan Am Games and a 1976 Olympic alternate losing to future Gold Medalist and Van Barker winner Howard Davis. In talking to Davis over the phone I told him I thought he lost against Pryor in the Olympic Trials. He didn’t agree. Pryor won the 1976 Golden Gloves defeating Tommy “Hit Man” Hearns.

At the Pan Am Games in 1975 Olympic members Chuck “White Chocolate” Walker and Davey Armstrong agreed Leonard just got the best of Pryor in sparring in unforgettable performances by both.

Pryor was the IBF and WBA light welterweight champion. He was 35-0 and was inactive for 2½ years coming back and tasting his only career defeat to Bobby Joe Young then winning his last three fights. He fought from 1976 thru 1990. His most notable wins were over Antonio “Kid Pambele” Cervantes, Dujuan Johnson and over Alexis Arguello twice.His manager was Buddy LaRosa and trained by Panama Lewis.

Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker as a professional was 40-4-1 (17), and as anamateur 201-14.In 1982 he was the Silver Medalist in the World Amateur championships reversing the loss by defeating the same Cuban for the Pan Am Games 1983 Gold Medal. The Russians and Cubans didn’t compete in the 1984 Olympics where Whitaker won the 1984 Olympic Gold Medal in the lightweight division.

Whitaker held the WBA, WBC and IBF titles as a lightweight and a light welterweight. His first attempt for the WBC lightweight title was his first career loss to Jose Luis Ramirez but defeated Ramirez the following year for his first world title. He defeated Azuma Nelson, Jorge Paez, BuddyMcGirt twice and drew with Julio Cesar Chavez. He lost to Oscar “Golden Boy” De la Hoya and Felix “Tito” Trinidad. He fought from 1984 thru 2001.

Whitaker was managed by Shelly Finkel while trained by George Benton and Lou Duva as a professional. He was inducted into the IBHOF in 2007. He would become a trainer after retiring.

Floyd “Money” Mayweather, Jr.,was 49-0 (26), as a professional winning the WBC super featherweight, lightweight and light welterweight titles. He won the IBF, WBC, WBA and WBO titles as a welterweight and the WBA & WBC light middleweight titles.

He was managed by Floyd Mayweather, Sr., James Prince and Al Haymon. He was trained by Roger Mayweather, and Mayweather, Sr. He was promoted by Top Rank, Goossen Tutor Promotions, Golden Boy Promotions and Mayweather Promotions.

Mayweather was 84-8 as an amateur winning the 1996 Golden Gloves and the Bronze Medal in the 1996 Olympic Games. As a professional he fought from 1996 thru 2015.

In this writers opinion “Sugar” Ray Leonard was the better P4P boxer than the other three. What do you think?

More Columns

Already A Legend, Roman Gonzalez Still Wants To Challenge Himself


Already A Legend, Roman Gonzalez Still Wants To Challenge Himself
By: Sean Crose

“I have already accomplished a lot,” undefeated multi-division champion Roman Gonzalez said on a recent conference call. Without doubt, the Nicaraguan slugger known as Chocolatito has earned some well deserved accolades. Last November the man won a world title in his fourth weight class by grinding out a grueling win against Carlos Cuadras for the WBC world super flyweight title. His legacy assured, Gonzalez is turning his attention towards other matters. “Now,” he claimed on the call, “my goal is to hold onto my fourth world title in order to gain higher purses and more money.” Fighting at 115 pounds isn’t exactly easy for Gonzalez, however.

Chocolatito-Gonzalez-Pic-590x600

“Never did I think it was going to be easy campaigning in this division at 115,” Gonzalez said. “It takes time to get used to and I think that’s what is happening at the moment but I think I will be fine.” His battle against Cuadras certainly was no walk in the park. Defending champ Cuadras wasn’t in it to lose. Indeed, the undefeated Mexican made it clear that he saw Gonzalez was his ticket to the big time. And even though Cuadras lost the fight, he gained an enormous amount of respect from the fight world.

And now people, including, it seems, Gonzalez, are looking forward to a rematch. “As I look at a fight coming up against Carlos Cuadras again,” Gonzalez claimed, “I realize I have to train harder. Every opponent presents different challenges. I do believe that the second fight, the rematch, will be better.” First, however, Gonzalez has business to attend to in Madison Square Garden this Saturday. For, Gonzalez will be featured in the co main event of the Gennady Golovkin-Daniel Jacobs card. His opponent? The hard hitting former champ Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, the man who Cuadras won the super flyweight title from.

In other words, it’s not necessarily easy going for Chocolatito this weekend. Sor Rungvisai may not have faced a murderer’s row throughout his career, but he goes to the body like it’s no one’s business. What’s more, Sun Rungvisai, like Cuadras, undoubtedly sees a great future ahead of him should he beat the Nicaraguan legend. Then there’s the matter that Gonzalez’ last fight was an absolutely brutal affair. Such things can have an impact. Add all this to the fact that the man has already reached Olympian heights and it’s worth wondering if an upset might be in the air.

Still, this is Gonzalez fighting here, the fighter widely regarded as the best pound for pound boxer on earth. Whether that’s really true or not, Gonzalez is a force to be reckoned with. What’s more, he knows what it’s like to be on a big stage. “On any other show,” promoter Tom Loeffler said of Gonzalez-Sor Rungvisai, “it would clearly be the main event.”

More Columns

ShoBox Results: Baranchyk and Ramos Deliver a Ten Round Thriller, Fernandez and Williams Victorious


ShoBox Results: Baranchyk and Ramos Deliver a Ten Round Thriller, Fernandez and Williams Victorious
By: William Holmes

The Buffalo Run Casino and Resort in Miami, Oklahoma was the host site for tonight’s ShoBox card live on Showtime and featured a main event between Ivan Baranchyk and Abel Ramos.

IMG_2703

Jon Fernandez (10-0) and Ernesto Garza (7-1) opened up the telecast with a bout in the super featherweight division.

Fernandez and Garza are both young professionals with a good amateur background that fought like they knew this fight was a good opportunity for exposure for them.

Garza was a southpaw, but was a good head shorter than Fernandez. Fernandez landed his overhand rights early on, and had Garza stunned with a hard right uppercut. He connected with another combination that dropped Garza. Garza was able to beat the count and put up a good fight for the remainder of the round and landed some heavy body blows, but Fernandez was more accurate puncher.

Garza opened up the second round aggressively and attacked to the body, but Fernandez remained calm and connected with clean shots of his own to the head of Garza. Garza appeared to tire as the round progressed and Fernandez was more easily avoiding the rushes of Garza.

Fernandez turned up the pressure in the third round and hammered Garza by the ropes and landed several hard unanswered shots. Garza looked dazed and confused while hanging on the ropes and the referee stopped the fight.

Jon Fernandez wins by TKO at 1:39 of the third round.

The next bout of the night was between Lenin Castillo (15-0-1) and Joe Williams (10-0) in the light heavyweight division.

Castillo was the more decorated amateur boxer as he competed for Puerto Rico in the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Castillo was the taller boxer and his jab was causing Williams problems in the first round. Williams was a little wild early and had to deal with Castillo holding on when he got in close.

Castillo’s jab was on point in the second round and was able to block most of Williams’ punches. Castillo’s range was firmly established by the third round and was landing the cleaner, sharper combinations, though Williams was not making it easy for Castillo.

The action remained consistent in the fourth and fifth rounds, with Castillo being the more effective fighter on the outside and Williams doing some damage on the inside, but Castillo was landing the more noticeable punches.

Castillo was the more active boxer in the sixth round but never had Williams in any real trouble. Williams pressed the action in the seventh round and may have won it due to Castillo constantly tying up and not throwing enough punches.

The fight could have been scored for either boxer going into the final round, and even though Castillo started the fight off strong, Williams ended the fight the busier boxer and who was pressing the pace.

The judges scored the bout 76-76, 78-74, 77-75 for Joseph Mack Williams Jr. by majority decision.

The main event of the night was between Ivan Baranchyk (13-0) and Abel Ramos (17-1-2) in the Super Lightweight Division.

Baranchyk entered with a very elaborate entrance, especially by ShoBox standards.

Baranchyk was aggressive early and throwing wild left hooks and very wide punches. Ramos was connecting with his jab and took a hard right uppercut by Baranchyk well, but it was a close round and could have been scored either way.

Baranchyk was able to briefly trap Ramos by the corner early in the second round and land some hard body shots, but was missing when he threw his wild shots to the head. Ramos’ jabs were landing at a high rate in the second round.

Ramos has control early in the third round and was controlling the action until Baranchyk landed a thudding right hand that sent Ramos down. Ramos was able to beat the count and get back to his feet and score a stunning knockdown with a counter left hand.

Ramos went back to his jab in the fourth round and was connecting with good straight right hands. He had Baranchyk hurt in the fourth, but Baranchyk landed another hard left hook that sent Ramos down to the mat. Ramos got back to his feet and looked fully recovered by the end of the fight.

Ramos had a very strong fifth round and was landing hard shots at will from the outside. It was an action packed round, but a clear round for Ramos.

The sixth round was an incredible round that featured both boxers throwing and landing the hardest punches that they could throw, and somehow, amazingly, neither boxer scored a knockdown.

Ramos, inexplicably, decided to stay in fierce exchanges with Baranchyk in the seventh round even though he did better when boxing from the outside and boxing smartly. Baranchyk’s punches were doing more head snapping damage than the shots of Ramos.

Amazingly, both boxers were still standing and throwing a high volume of power shots in the eighth round. Ramos, however, had some bad swelling around both of his eyes and looked like he was wearing down and slowing down. Ramos took some very heavy shots at the end of the round and his face was badly swollen.

Ramos’ faced looked badly disfigured at the start of the ninth round but he was still throwing a large number of punches and fighting back in extended spurts, but Baranchyk was landing the far more brutal punches.

Baranchyk and Ramos both looked exhausted in the final round and spent most of the final round doing something we didn’t see most of the fight, exchange mainly jabs. Baranchyk was able to buckle the knees of Ramos in the final seconds of the final round, but Ramos was able to survive the fight.

This was an incredibly exciting fight.

The judges scored the bout 97-92, 99-91, and 97-93 for Ivan Baranchyk.

More Headlines

2016 Fighter of the Year Anyone But Andre Ward!


2016 Fighter of the Year Anyone But Andre Ward!
By: Ken Hissner

In looking over the new and defending world champions WBC/WBO super lightweight champion Terence Crawford, 30-0 (21), out of Omaha, NEB, was 3-0 with a pair of ko’s in 2016.

ward

The only other “champion” with 3 fights was Andre Ward who won a disputed decision over Sergey Kovalev who also had 3 fights. A fair decision and Kovalev would be a shoo-in for Fighter of the Year. This should never get “Fight of the Year” for Kovalev got hugged more (46x) by Ward then he does by his wife.

IBF super welterweight champion Jermall Charlo, 25-0 (19), out of Houston was 2-0 winning a close decision over former champion Austin Trout and stopping previously unbeaten Julian “J-Roc” Williams.

New WBC Super flyweight champion Roman Gonzalez, 46-0 (38), of NIC, had his toughest fight of his career stepping up a division winning a hard fought decision. He was 2-0.

Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, 36-0 (33), holding the WBA, WBC and IBF middleweight titles stopped a pair of unbeaten boxers with records of 36-0 and 18-0 to expend his knockout streak to 23.

In the cruiserweight division there were 3 new champions. Tony “Bomber” Bellew, 28-2-1 (18), won the vacant WBC title and was 2-0.

Murat “Iron” Gassiev, 24-0 (17), of Russia, won the IBF title over Denis Lebedev who didn’t have his WBA title on the line.

Oleksandr Usyk, 11-0 (10), of UKR, won the WBO title and went 2-0.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, 48-1-1 (34), the WBC/WBO Super welterweight champion went 2-0 but pushed back his bout with GGG a year.

So who do you think should be awarded “Fighter of the Year?”

More Columns

Why Carl Frampton Is Not My Fighter Of The Year


Why Carl Frampton Is Not My Fighter Of The Year
By: Sean Crose

Okay, first things first – there’s something a bit misleading about the title of this article. The truth is that I don’t have a FIGHTER OF THE YEAR, per se. Indeed, you won’t find me listing the greatest fights, fighters, knockouts, and whatever else here at Boxing Insider. Not that I mind writers bestowing such honors. To the contrary, I often find the whole exercise fascinating. Again, though, you won’t see me engaging in it here – at least not this year. Still, I don’t feel Carl Frampton is worthy of the honor anywhere – even though I like the guy.

Photo Credit: Andy Samuelson/Premier Boxing Champions

There’s no doubt the Irishman has had a hell of a year for himself. First, he defeated Scott Quigg for various superbantmweight titles last winter. Then , in a terrific display, the 22-0 slugger went on to defeat fellow undefeated pugilist – and WBA super world featherweight champion – Leo Santa Cruz under the bright lights of Brooklyn. Furthermore, Frampton is now set to face off against Santa Cruz again, this time in Vegas, next month. And, as a cherry to place atop the sundae, Frampton also comes across as a polite and likeable guy. To be sure, there isn’t much not to like.

Still, I can’t think of Frampton without the name of one Guillermo Rigondeaux popping into my head. To be sure, Frampton and superbantamweight Rigondeaux now operate at different weight classes. That wasn’t always the case, though. Indeed, there has been interest in having the two men meet over the years. Sadly, however, team Frampton clearly wants nothing to do with the Cuban stylist. Indeed, Sky Sports quoted Frampton’s manager, Barry McGuigan, last March referring to Guillermo as “negative.” Uh-huh. “What do we gain by fighting him?” McGuigan asked.

Perhaps not much more than a loss, Barry. Rigondeaux is exceedingly skilled, after all. Still, ducking one of the world’s top talents shouldn’t be taken lightly. Yes, Rigondeaux can be boring and no he hasn’t endeared himself to a strong fan base. What’s more, Rigondeaux may cause Frampton to lose out on future pay days, should he make Frampton look bad. Make no mistake about it, avoiding Rigondeaux is understandable, especially when one is repeatedly willing to face the likes of Santa Cruz, as Frampton is. Yet there are consequences for such actions, as well. At least there should be.

There’s no doubt that Frampton is an impressive talent. It should not be forgotten, however, that he has avoided a perhaps even greater talent on his way to earning accolades.

More Columns

Pacquiao Remains Dominant In 2016


Pacquiao Remains Dominant In 2016
By: Sean Crose

An interesting article appeared in this publication the other day wherein Matthew N. Becher ran through a list of top candidates for 2016s Fighter of the Year. All candidates were worthy, but I won’t focus here on which one I felt was the years’ very best. I simply want to focus on one of the fighters mentioned – Manny Pacquiao. For, believe it or not, Pacquiao remained dominant in 2016. Just how dominant? Well, he bested potential Hall of Famer Tim Bradley – for the second or third time in a row, depending on how you look at things – then made easy work of rising star Jessie Vargas later in the year.

img_1885

This, frankly, requires a degree of reflection. For, let’s face it, many if not most fight fans want the Mayweather-Pacquiao era to be over. Sure, they’d pay a ton to see Manny and Floyd go at it again, or even Floyd and white mainstream media fave, Conor McGregor of the UFC (I disdain political correctness, but let’s face it, if McGregor weren’t Caucasian there would be collective head shaking at his behavior rather than winks and smiles). Still and all, people are tired of Floyd and Manny being the faces of the sport.

Here’s the thing, though – Manny doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Here’s something else – the man is still dominant. I can’t say with any certainty that there’s a welterweight or junior welterweight out there who can beat the guy. His pay per view numbers may be down, he may not be what he was, but man, Pacquiao is still something else. To be sure, he still seems to puzzle his opposition, just has he has for ages now. This ability to confuse has been evident with every major opponent he’s faced in the past eight years or so with the exception of Floyd. Furthermore, the Filipino icon remains in great shape, even for his advancing age.

Make no mistake about it, boxing is in a transition period. Old names like Bernard Hopkins are leaving and new names like Vasyl Lomachenko and Bud Crawford are stepping up to the plate. A fighter who is still in top competitive form, however, can’t simply be rushed off the stage. Up and comers like Crawford and perhaps Errol Spence Jr may indeed be able to best Pacquiao, but that’s no guarantee – not even at this late stage of Pacquiao’s career. Like many others, I want to move on from the Manny-Floyd era. If this year convinced me of anything, though, it’s that Pacquiao is going to stick around for a bit longer.

And at the moment at least, there’s no guarantee anyone can do anything about it.

More Columns

2016’s Fighter of the Year is?


2016’s Fighter of the Year is?
By: Matthew N. Becher

​Another boxing calendar is coming to an end and that means year end award conversations are taking place. In a year that has seen a lot of craziness, from PED use at an all-time high, to the Heavyweight champion being stripped of his belts, a year with 0 Floyd Mayweather Jr. fights and sharp decline in the Pay per view format, 2016 did still have a number of great boxers deserving of the title “Fighter of the year”. Here are a few who may have had what it took.

img_1867

​Manny Pacquiao: Pacquiao started the year off in April by taking on pound for pound lister and all around top welterweight challenger Timothy Bradley Jr. in what would be their rubber match. Pacquiao announced it would be his final fight in his hall of fame caliber career and that he would retire after the fight, win or lose. Pacquiao entered the fight as an underdog, since he would be coming off nearly a year layoff after his loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and a shoulder surgery that followed. Pacquiao not only beat father time in this fight, but he beat Timothy Bradley as sure handedly as he ever has. He was able to knock Bradley down twice in the fight, and won by Unanimous Decision. After deciding rather quickly that he couldn’t stay away from the sport he loved for very long, Pacquiao then targeted the WBO Welterweight champion Jessie Vargas. Vargas who only has one loss in his career to Tim Bradley Jr. had the age advantage but nothing else. Again Pacquiao became a world champion and with 59 wins in his career, it seems that he is ready to attempt to get number 60 early next year against, hopefully a high quality opponent.

​Andrew Ward: Ward is on the list mainly because of the win against Sergey Kovalev last month. He fought 3 times in 2016, which is the most active he has been since 2009. The opponents he defeated, Sullivan Barrera, Alexander Brand and Sergey Kovalev rank from unknown to contender to one of the very best fighters in the sport. Ward is on the list, again, solely for the fact that he had a win over Sergey Kovalev and became the Unified Light Heavyweight champion. Regardless of controversy on the scorecards, he beat an undefeated, top 5 pound for pound champion. He will receive votes, but may be a longshot to actually win the award.

​Joe Smith Jr.: Smith is a late addition after last weekend’s win over Bernard Hopkins. Sure, he beat a 51 year old Hopkins, but he is still the first person to ever knock Hopkins out and the way he did so was impressive to say the least. This was Smith’s third win of the year, with an April TKO of Fabiano Pena and a follow up first round KO over Andrzej Fonfara, which is a very heavy favorite for upset of the year. Smith fought two marquee fights in which he was the underdog and winning both of them by show stopping Knock outs.

​Terrence Crawford: Crawford will try to follow up his 2014 FOTY award with another ceremony this year. Crawford fought three times in 2016. He knocked out Hank Lundy at the Theater in Madison Square Garden and then unified the division against the top Jr. Welterweight, Viktor Postol. Though the fight did not do great pay per view wise, and was deemed a boring fight, Crawford displayed talent that showed why he is one of the best fighters in the world, completely unarming the very tough and until then, undefeated, Postol. Crawford ended the year back home in Omaha, against a C-level opposition in John Molina Jr., who did not put up much of a fight and Crawford outmatched in every single category. Terrence Crawford will be a Fighter of the Year finalist for many years to come.

​Carl Frampton: Carl Frampton is a very big favorite to win the BWAA Fighter of the year award for 2016. Frampton fought twice, both against undefeated fighters, Scott Quigg in Manchester and Leo Santa Cruz in Brooklyn. Frampton beat Quigg by Split Decision to unify the Jr. Featherweight division and ended up breaking Quigg’s jaw in the process. Five months later, Frampton decided to move up in weight to take on the WBA Featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz, and in what many may say was a “Fight of the Year” candidate, was able to defeat the hard nose Santa Cruz. Frampton became a two division champ in 2016, already has scheduled a rematch with Santa Cruz for January 28th in Las Vegas and looks like a man who is ready to take on the toughest guys he can.

​Vasyl Lomachenko: Lomo fought twice this year, the 7th and 8th fights of his career. The first fight was against the very tough Rocky Martinez at the Theatre in Madison Square Garden. Lomachenko made easy work of Martinez with a “Knockout of the Year” candidate performance. Martinez had only been knocked out 1 time in his career and that was to a young, prime Mikey Garcia, some good company for Vasyl to be a part of. This win would make Lomachenko a 2 division world champion in only 7 professional fights, which is extremely impressive. He followed that win up with the highly anticipated showdown against undefeated former champion Nicholas Walters. Not only did Lomachenko put on a display of overall boxing brilliance, he made Nicholas Walters, one of the top fighters, if not the top in the division say “No Mas”. Going into the ring and completely beating a man is one thing, but to make a top level fighter quit is something else. Lomachenko is taking the boxing world by storm, and who knows what is next for the 2x Olympic Gold Champion.

More Columns

When Ali Fought Foreman


When Ali Fought Foreman
By: Jordan Seward

42 years ago to the day Muhammad Ali fought George Foreman in the rumble in the jungle in what turned out to be one of the most significant boxing events in history, arguably, turned out to be the most significant victory of Muhammad ‘The Greatest’ Ali’s glittering career.

On October 30 1974, Muhammad Ali produced an 8th round knockout of the favoured George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo) in what is now regarded as one of the greatest sporting events of the 20th century.

With the odds stacked against him, with a fearsome opponent in front of him, and, with plenty of miles on the clock – Ali didn’t just win the WBC and WBA world heavyweight titles that night, he cemented his place among the greats. And it easily could have been oh so different.

img_1099

Born as Cassisus Marcellus Clay, Jr, in Louisville, Kentucky on January 14, 1942, he went on to achieve gold at the Olympic games in Rome 1960. At the age of 22 after beating Sonny Liston and claiming the WBC and WBA world heavyweight titles for the first time he converted to Islam and changed his name from Cassius Clay, which he regarded as his ‘slave name’ to Muhammad Ali.

With the United States at war with Vietnam, Ali refused to be inducted into the U.S. Army on April 28, 1967, famously saying “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong”. He was convicted of draft evasion, fined $10,000 as well as being stripped of his belts and received a three-and-a-half-year suspension from boxing and a five-year prison sentence, though the latter was appealed and overturned.

img_1100

He regained his boxing licence in 1970 and began his reinvention and climb back to the top with comeback fights against Jerry Quarry and Oscar Bonavena. But while Ali was out of contention Joe ‘Smokin’ Frazier, an emerging talent took full advantage and claimed the world titles against Jimmy Ellis in February 1970. Ali didn’t have to wait long for his shot to claim those prized belts back though, but it was Frazier, who came out on top, dishing out Ali’s first defeat with a unanimous decision victory in 1971 to retain the belts.

Frazier would have a taste of his own medicine two years later when gold medallist from the 1968 Olympics George Foreman, knocked him down six times on route to a second round TKO. When Foreman took on Ken Norton on 26 March 1974, Norton and Frazier, bearing in mind the latter who had just been demolished by Foreman, were the only men to have defeated Ali. Norton received the same treatment as Frazier and was stopped inside two rounds.

At the age of just 25 the freakish power and sheer size of Foreman was why he was deemed as an overwhelming favourite when he and the then 32-year-old Muhammad Ali shared a ring. He was 40-0 with 37 KO’s and Ali had just avenged his two defeats by beating Norton and then Frazier in Madison Square Garden. It was all set for the rumble in the jungle.

Funny enough it was one of Don King’s first ventures as a boxing promoter and he was joined by music businessman Jerry Masucci to arrange the fight. A three-night-long music festival dedicated to the fight took place as scheduled on September 22–24 1974. It included performances from James Brown, Celia Cruz and the Fania All-Stars, B.B. King, Miriam Makeba, The Spinners, Bill Withers, The Crusaders, and Manu Dibango.

With 60,000 fans packed inside of the 20th May Stadium, surprisingly, Ali started the fight in aggressive fashion – something that seemed to favour Foreman’s style. In the build up to the fight Ali wasn’t shy of admitting he had a secret plan for Foreman and in the second round he administered it. He began to frequently lean on the ropes and cover up as his opponent began to unload, the majority of the punches landing on the arms and body. Foreman was throwing regularly but his punches were not scoring and all the while he was exerting valuable energy.

img_1101

Ali later dubbed this tactic as the ‘rope-a-dope’. Ali ensured he wasn’t wasteful and every opportunity he got he landed shots to the head as ‘Big George’ Foreman’s face visibly began to puff. He began to taunt his opponent as he out-wrestled and maneuvered him in clinches. Foreman’s frustration was an agent of his own demise as he began to throw more
powerful punches but to little effect.

Fast hard jabs and crosses from Ali began to pay dividends as he wobbled his opponent in the fourth. Foreman remained on the front foot and kept coming forward but started to look weary after the end of the fifth round. As the fight progressed it was the former world champion and underdog who was in control and in the eight he landed a solid 5-punch combination sent Foreman crashing to the canvas. He got up at the nine count but referee Zach Clayton waved it off and at 32-years-old Muhammad Ali had regained the world heavyweight titles.

The fight was awarded the 1974 Ring Magazine Fight of the Year. The against all the odds story of Ali conquering a young and stronger champion, the diverse cultural influence and the major hype of this fight are some of the reasons why this fight will always be remembered. Both Foreman and Ali achieved so much in their careers but this victory in this fight meant ‘The Greatest’ could shout out to the world with full conviction he is the greatest and that’s what he’s remembered as.

More Columns