Archive for September, 2011

Experts’ predictions for UFC 135

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Jon Jones (above) is favored in his first defense of the UFC light heavyweight championship against Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. (Greg Nelson/SI)

SI.com analysts Ben Fowlkes, Steven Marrocco, Jeff Wagenheim and Jon Wertheim provide their predictions for UFC 135 on Saturday in Denver.

Jon Jones vs. Quinton Jackson

FOWLKES: Jackson won’t even get within hooking distance of the faster, lankier Jones. If he lasts as long as Rua did before getting rolled up, I’ll be slightly amazed. Jones by TKO.

MARROCCO: Jones has three dimensions to Jackson’s two. Jackson fancies a knockout, but it’s doubtful he’ll ever get close enough to land. Jones by TKO. 

WAGENHEIM: “Rampage” trash talks a good game, but when the jawing stops and the jostling starts, “Bones” will have his say … and have his way. Jones by TKO.

WERTHEIM: Feels a bit like Evans-Tito (and Jones-Shogun): a versatile contender versus a thirtysomething name far from his prime. Jones is too young, versatile and athletic. Jones by TKO.

Matt Hughes vs. Josh Koscheck

FOWLKES: I just don’t see what tools Hughes has to threaten Koscheck with at this point. He’ll get out-Hughes’d in what could very well be his final UFC fight. Koscheck by TKO.

MARROCCO: The urgency isn’t there for Hughes, and his speed and power are on the decline. Could be curtains on Saturday. Koscheck by TKO.

WAGENHEIM: Five years ago, fighting Hughes would have meant a long night for Kos. But at this point he should make short work of the past champ. Koscheck by TKO.

WERTHEIM: Long layoff for two veterans and wrestling-based fighters. Though coming on short notice, Koscheck is younger and faster. Koscheck by decision.

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  • Published On Sep 22, 2011
  • Hughes preps for last stand at UFC 135

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    Two-time UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes, who turns 38 in October, fights Josh Koscheck on Saturday night. (Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire)

    DENVER — Matt Hughes won’t say whether his bout with Josh Koscheck at UFC 135 will be his last. He’ll hint at it. He’ll tell you his wife thinks he should hang it up. He’ll claim that he’s not looking for another long-term contract with the UFC once this one is fulfilled on Saturday night. But he won’t come out and say it.

    Maybe that’s because, somewhere deep in that obstinate fighter’s heart of his, he still dreams of glory. If Hughes gets a taste of it this weekend, UFC president Dana White predicted, don’t expect him to go anywhere just yet.

    “There is no way in hell he will retire if he beats Koscheck on Saturday night,” White said following Wednesday’s pre-fight press conference inside the Pepsi Center.

    Of course, that’s a big if.

    On paper, Koscheck is a lot like the Hughes of five or six years ago, and not just because of their shared penchant for needling opponents through sly, smirking lips. Koscheck, like Hughes, is a work horse in the gym who believes in being tough first and everything else second. He’s a powerful, accomplished wrestler (probably a better wrestler than Hughes even in his prime, if we’re being totally honest) who can do everything else well enough to keep opponents guessing.

    Koscheck first aimed for a fight with the former UFC welterweight champ about two years ago, and he wasn’t exactly delicate about it. The fight never materialized, but Hughes insisted that was because the UFC hadn’t offered it to him. Then a broken hand scratched Diego Sanchez from the UFC 135 fight card and Koscheck stepped in on three weeks’ notice for the fight with Hughes that he had long since stopped asking for.

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  • Published On Sep 22, 2011
  • Stock Watch: UFC Fight Night 25

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    Jake Ellenberger (right) proved he's a contender with a convincing victory Saturday against Jake Shields. (Josh Hedges/Zuffa/Getty Images)

    UFC Fight Night 25 won’t be remembered for much else than the fall of Jake Shields and the emergence of Jake Ellenberger.

    Two Ultimate Fighter champs (TUF 11 champ Court McGee and TUF 12 champ Jonathan Brookins) fought forgettable fights that nearly sucked the wind out of the crowd inNew Orleans. Two fallen stars (Evan Dunham and Alan Belcher) got back on their feet. A few guys saved their jobs. It was another day at the office. For the last UFC Fight Night to air on Spike TV, a low-wattage card (though that’s not entirely out of the ordinary).

    Ellenberger ran away with the show. Literally. By the time everyone figured out what happened, including his opponent Jake Shields, he was bounding around the octagon in celebration of a TKO victory as referee Kevin Mulhall contemplated pulling guard on the woozy onetime welterweight challenger.

    The quick finish is a long overdue break for Ellenberger, who’s résumé doesn’t necessarily reflect his talent or the turnaround he’s undergone since relocating his training from native Nebraska to Orange County, Calif. Wrestling out wins against a few dangerous foes didn’t help him much with the fans, and a promising debut in which he nearly knocked out current contender Carlos Condit was spoiled when he eased off the gas and lost a decision. But now, he’s clearly hit his stride.

    There’s already an asterisk beside Ellenberger’s victory, and by no fault of his own. Shields suffered an immense personal tragedy before the fight, and there will always be questions about whether he was truly up to the task. But make no mistake about it — Ellenberger is the real deal and deserves a shot at a top-five opponent. He was scheduled in February to fight Jon Fitch, a match he campaigned for along with one against Shields. If Fitch can put away Johny Hendricks at UFC 141, that’s a fight he should get, or perhaps the winner of Anthony Johnson vs. Charlie Brenneman. From there, his trainers have it right: the sky’s the limit.

    Buy

    Jake Ellenberger (25-5): Ellenberger sure gets to the point. After waiting a year to fight Jake Shields — or three years if you buy his claim that Shields then dodged a booking — it took him 53 seconds to earn the TKO and vault up the welterweight ladder. A lot’s been said about the difficult circumstances under which Shields took the fight, but it was his choice to do so, and whether it was the right or wrong one decision it is ultimately secondary to what Ellenberger did. With a quick knee in the clinch, Ellenberger exploited the takedown artist’s long-standing striking vulnerabilities and finished before the tides could turn. That’s five in a row now. Explosive is the only way to describe “The Juggernaut” when he’s sharp.

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  • Published On Sep 19, 2011
  • HOF trainer George Benton passes away

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    A highly regarded middleweight in the 1950s and '60s, George Benton was best known as the trainer who helped mold such modern-day greats as Evander Holyfield and Pernell Whitaker. (V.J. Lovero/SI)

    Longtime Philadelphia boxing icon George Benton died early Monday morning following a battle with pneumonia. He was 78.

    A slick and skilled boxer, Benton was stopped just twice and never knocked down in 76 professional fights. He defeated future world champions  Joey Giardello, Freddie Little and Jimmy Ellis, climbing to No. 1 in the middleweight rankings in the early 1960s, but never got a world title shot due to politics and his difficult technical style.

    After a 1970 shooting ended his fighting career, Benton studied under the legendary Eddie Futch and re-entered boxing as a trainer. He worked Joe Frazier’s corner for the Thrilla in Manila and helped Leon Spinks shock Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight championship. Among Benton’s most notable students were Evander Holyfield, Pernell Whitaker, Meldrick Taylor and Mike McCallum.

    Known as “The Professor” and “The Master,” Benton was twice named Trainer of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America (in 1989 and ’90). While training Holyfield for the first of his three meetings with Riddick Bowe in 1992, Benton was the subject of a Sports Illustrated profile.

    In 2001, Benton was inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

    – Bryan Armen Graham


  • Published On Sep 19, 2011
  • Roundtable: Legacy of Mayweather-Ortiz?

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    Floyd Mayweather (left) appeared to be cruising to victory Saturday against Victor Ortiz before his controversial fourth-round knockout. (AP)

    What is the legacy of Floyd Mayweather’s controversial victory over Victor Ortiz?

    CHRIS MANNIX: This will stick to Mayweather for a while, as the taken-out-of-context video of him dropping Ortiz with that sickening, undefended combination will soon go viral. But let’s look at the full breadth of the exchange, shall we? Ortiz had hugged him. He kissed him. He tapped gloves with him. Then he hugged him again, the final act of affection coming after referee Joe Cortez had said “let’s go.” At what point does the conversation shift from what Mayweather did to what Ortiz didn’t do? It’s no coincidence that when great fighters offer an apology, it comes in the form of one arm extended with the other coiled and prepared to parry an incoming shot. Mayweather’s actions make a good highlight and his polarizing personality makes him easy to criticize. But this incident was more about Ortiz than Mayweather, about what happens when an inexperienced fighter looking to be friends meets a world class fighter looking to win.

    RICHARD O’BRIEN: Stanley Ketchel, the great middleweight champion of the early 1900s, whose nickname was The Michigan Assassin, was hardly known as a strict observer of the ring niceties. But on Sept. 7, 1908 in Vernon, Calif., when he squared off against Billy Papke, whom he’d beaten just three months before, Ketchel stepped to the middle of the ring and extended his gloves to shake hands. That’s when Papke punched him right in the throat. Ketchel never recovered, going down five times in the first round and several more times before the fight was stopped in the 14th. Since then, Ketchel’s name has been indelibly linked to boxing’s fundamental edict: “Protect yourself at all times.”

    Now that phrase will also forever evoke the smiling, and decidedly unprotected, face of Victor Ortiz, a far more amiable soul than Ketchel. Seemingly more intent on apologizing for his head butt of Mayweather than with getting on with the fight, Ortiz got his response from Floyd in the form of a quick left hook and a batting-practice home run of a straight right that put Victor down and out.

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  • Published On Sep 19, 2011
  • Early odds for Mayweather-Pacquiao posted

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    British oddsmaker William Hill opened action on a Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao megafight on Sunday morning, even though the highly anticipated showdown between the world’s two best pound-for-pound boxers hasn’t been made — and may never be.

    Hills installed Mayweather as an 8/11 favorite and Manny Pacquiao as a slight 11/10 underdog just hours after Mayweather’s knockout of Victor Ortiz at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

    “Mayweather proved he is still ruthless in pursuit of victory and the public demand for a showdown with Manny will only increase as a result,” William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe said.

    Mayweather-Pacquaio would be the richest prizefight in history, but a history of bad blood between Mayweather and Top Rank CEO Bob Arum — Floyd’s former and Pacquiao’s current promoter — have left both sides at an impasse.

    Pacquiao is scheduled to fight Juan Manuel Marquez on Nov. 12 in Las Vegas. If he wins and a fight with Mayweather can’t be made for May, Pacquiao could fight undefeated light welterweight champion Timothy Bradley instead.

    While on a worldwide press tour to promote the Marquez fight, Pacquiao has hinted he may retire in 2013 when he plans to run for governor, with an eye on the vice presidential seat in the 2016 elections.

    – Bryan Armen Graham



  • Published On Sep 18, 2011
  • Mayweather, Merchant blow up after fight

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    Longtime HBO boxing analyst Larry Merchant (right) dared to ask tough questions of Floyd Mayweather and suffered the welterweight champ's ire. (Youtube)

    Tempers boiled over Saturday during HBO analyst Larry Merchant’s in-ring interview with Floyd Mayweather after Mayweather’s sneak knockout of Victor Ortiz. In a clip that went viral almost immediately, Merchant peppers Mayweather with a string of tough questions about the controversial ending until Mayweather snaps:

    Mayweather: You never give me a fair shake. You know that? So I’m gonna let you talk to Victor Ortiz, alright? I’m through! Put somebody else up here to give me an interview.

    Merchant: What are you talking about?

    Mayweather: You never give me a fair shake! HBO needs to fire you! You don’t know s— about boxing! You ain’t s—! You’re not s—!

    Merchant: I wish I was 50 years younger and I’d kick your a–!

    Mayweather: You won’t do s—!

    Merchant is 80.

    – Bryan Armen Graham


  • Published On Sep 18, 2011
  • Mayweather-Ortiz press conference quotes

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    Fresh off his knockout victory, Floyd Mayweather was in high spirits Saturday night during the post-fight press conference. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    With an assist from Swanson Communications, here’s a sampling of quotes from Saturday’s post-fight press conference.

    FLOYD MAYWEATHER, New WBC Welterweight World Champion

    “This was another unbelievable performance. A lot of people want to know what happened. There were a couple head butts. S— happens in the sport of boxing.

    “Protect yourself at all times.

    “You wanted to see a knockout and that is what I gave you.

    “When Victor Ortiz was nine years old, I was dominating the sport of boxing.

    “This was an unbelievable training camp. This camp was blood sweat and tears. Being up all night. Running seven or eight miles. I deserved it.

    “I was always told to protect yourself at all times. My mouth was split open. I said keep it clean. Once you touch gloves, it is go time.

    “We came together to fight. It is fight time. You want to do me dirty and then two minutes later you want to be my friend? This is the hurting business.

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  • Published On Sep 18, 2011
  • Mayweather-Ortiz undercard results

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    Jessie Vargas (left) and Josesito Lopez exchange blows during their junior welterweight fight on the Mayweather-Ortiz undercard. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

    WBC super welterweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (38-0-1, 28 KOs) showed an impressive finishing kick against challenger Alfonso Gomez (23-5-2, 12 KOs), roaring to a sixth-round knockout victory after a series of uncharacteristically sluggish rounds. The referee’s stoppage seemed premature, but Gomez was concilatory if resigned. (“It is what it is,” he said.) The last of eight undercard bouts was simulcast from Staples Center in Los Angeles. Here at the MGM Grand, four HD screens descended from the rafters to give ticketholders an excellent view. (Here’s are close and wide views of the setup.)

    Mexican legend Erik Morales (51-7, 35 KOs) stopped Pablo Cesar Cano, Jr. (22-1-1, 17 KOs) for the vacant WBC super lightweight title when referee Kenny Bayless halted the action between the 10th and 11th rounds. Morales, 35, overcame a slow start to find range with his jab — he landed 100 of 292 jabs (34 percent) compared to 82 of 368 for Cano (22 percent) — and later worked a large gash under the 22-year-old’s left eye that bloodied his face badly. With the victory, Morales became the first-ever Mexican fighter to capture titles in four different weight classes, though more than a few questioned the validity of the title — the WBC stripped Timothy Bradley of the belt a mere six months after he won it from Devon Alexander in the first major fight of 2011.

    In the first televised bout, Jessie Vargas (17-0, 9 KOs) of Las Vegas escaped with a controversial split decision over Josesito Lopez (29-4, 17 KOs) of Riverside, Calif., in a 10-round welterweight fight. Lopez applied pressure early and seemed in control even before Vargas, a Floyd Mayweather protege, had a point deducted for a low blow in the sixth. Duane Ford (95-94) and Patricia Morse Jarman (96-93) scored it to Vargas, while Dick Houck had it 95-94 to Lopez. “He was a hell of a fighter and I give him nothing but respect,” said Vargas, who landed 167 of 851 punches compared to 122 of 509 for Lopez. “I think I fell into his game plan a little bit, but my corner straightened that out by the end of the fight.”

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  • Published On Sep 17, 2011
  • Youth likely to work against Ortiz

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    WBC welterweight champion Victor Ortiz is a heavy underdog Saturday against the far more experienced Floyd Mayweather at the MGM Grand. (AP)

    LAS VEGAS — When Victor Ortiz visited the Sports Illustrated offices in June, shortly after word of his Sept. 17 fight with Floyd Mayweather had spread but before the official press conference announcing the bout, the 24-year-old was at the outset of a three-month promotional journey unlike anything he’d ever been involved with.

    “They give me limo service now,” Ortiz remarked when asked about the biggest change in his life since becoming a world champion in April. “It’s kind of weird. It’s kind of disturbing actually, because I’m not like that. I’m a small-town kid.”

    The evidence of Ortiz’s youth was manifest throughout his hour-long visit. Until then, I’d never heard a fighter compare himself to a Pixar character. (“I’m like Dory from Finding Nemo,” he said when asked whether Mayweather’s trash talk affected him. “I forget things in like two seconds.”) He was prone to extemporaneous and rambling answers, an area he’s improved greatly on since June. Where most seasoned pro athletes guard their emotions like Fort Knox — particularly in the hyper-masculine realm of prizefighting – Ortiz fought tears unsuccessfully in a room full of SI staffers when recalling leaving his brother Temo behind in Kansas when the opportunity to train in Oxnard, Calif., presented itself.

    The promoters and the media (guilty!) have focused on the positive side of Ortiz’s youth, saying it’s been nearly a decade since Mayweather fought a young lion.

    Yes, Floyd is going to see something he hasn’t seen in a while — but that’s a far more preferable obstacle than something you’ve never seen before.

    Ortiz has never been in with a fighter of Mayweather’s caliber. Not even close. There’s young and there’s green, and the prevailing suspicion among the press as the stark reality of fight night approaches is Ortiz falls dangerously close toward the latter.

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  • Published On Sep 17, 2011


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