Archive for November, 2012

Podcast: Freddie Roach discusses Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez IV, Austin Trout on Miguel Cotto

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Sports Illustrated staff writer Chris Mannix talks with Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach talks about Manny Pacquiao’s upcoming fight with Juan Manuel Marquez, then visits with Austin Trout, who defends his WBA super welterweight title against Miguel Cotto on Dec. 1.

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  • Published On Nov 30, 2012
  • Experts’ predictions for Austin Trout-Miguel Cotto

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    Austin Trout (right) defends his super welterweight title belt Saturday against the favored Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden. (AP)

    The undefeated but unknown Austin Trout (right) defends his super welterweight title belt Saturday against the favored Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden. (AP)

    SI.com’s boxing experts predict Saturday’s super welterweight title fight between Austin Trout and Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden (9 p.m. ET/PT, Showtime). Share your prediction in the comments below.

    CHRIS MANNIX

    When Ricky Hatton chose Vyacheslav Senchenko — a former welterweight champion with one loss on his resume — for a supposed tune-up fight last week, I was surprised. I’m equally surprised Cotto, with a multi-million dollar fight against Saul Alvarez waiting in the spring, elected to fight Trout, a slick, undefeated champion with a size advantage (5-foot-10) and a strong amateur background.

    Trout has not fought the level of competition Cotto has, not even close. But he is young (27) and hungry, and while his win over Delvin Rodriguez last June was a snoozer, Trout did wipe the floor with Rodriguez, a tough customer. Sure, I’m worried that Trout will be overwhelmed by the moment; until you step into the ring surrounded by thousands of fans that are against you, you can’t know how you will respond. But if Trout keeps his cool — and I’m betting he will — he has the skills to beat Cotto, who has admittedly lost a little off his fastball. And, like it was with Hatton, it will be just enough to make him stumble. Trout by split decision.

    RICHARD O’BRIEN

    This is a fight that sort of snuck up on everybody. Trout himself has said he was shocked to learn that Cotto had agreed to fight him, given his relatively nonexistent Q rating, as well as his difficult defensive style, southpaw stance, relative youth and size. But despite his surprise, Trout is unlikely to be caught unprepared for the occasion. He knows he’ll be in hostile territory, facing Cotto in Madison Square Garden, where the Puerto Rican hero is 7-0 in his career and always at his best. But Trout has proved he can thrive in such situations: In 2009 he outpointed Nilson Julio Tapia in Tapia’s home country of Panama and last year he beat Rigoberto Alvarez in Guadalajara, Mexico, for the vacant WBA 154-pound title, then went back to Mexico to make his first defense, against Nogales’s David Lopez.

    To win against Cotto in the Garden, Trout will have to take more chances than he is used to — and that may make him a better fighter. Or it may make him more vulnerable. Trout — along with a lot of observers — believes he’s catching Cotto at just the right time. But Cotto has the kind of toughness and ring smarts that only come from a long career against first-rate opposition. Trout, as quick and slick as he is, may give Cotto fits for several rounds, but he’s unlikely to hurt him and that will allow Cotto to keep the pressure on and slow the younger fighter down just enough to score big down the stretch. Trout has a bright future, but it won’t be as an undefeated champ. Cotto by unanimous decision.

    BRYAN ARMEN GRAHAM

    The oddsmakers list Trout as a 2-to-1 underdog, yet the buzz among insiders suggests a 50/50 fight — an all too rare context for a big-ticket promotion. There will be no confusing the house fighter on Saturday night — the electrified atmosphere the Puerto Rican icon engenders makes Cotto’s fights at the Garden bucket-list-worthy — but Trout is younger, taller, probably slicker and unburdened by expectation. He may be hungrier, too: Trout came up the hard way, without the aegis of a major promoter, and is determined to make the most of an opportunity he feels may only come once; by contrast, Cotto mentioned thoughts of retirement during Showtime’s All-Access docuseries.

    Fact is, Cotto is a fighter with more ring wear than an ennobling defeat to Mayweather revealed, and Trout is the biggest opponent of the Puerto Rican’s career at 154 pounds. The Las Cruces, N.M., native is a tricky southpaw with an excellent jab who can succeed by keeping Cotto on the outside and boxing. Still, it’s a major step up for Trout, who’s never faced a boxer-puncher of Cotto’s caliber. Expect a horse race of a match through the opening two acts, with Cotto’s compact punching and big-fight experience making the razor-thin difference in the championship rounds. Cotto by split decision.


  • Published On Nov 30, 2012
  • Wladimir Klitschko confirms Banks will remain his full-time cornerman

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    Wladimir Klitschko; Jonathan Banks

    Wladimir Klitschko said Jonathan Banks (right) will be his full-time replacement for the late Emanuel Steward. (Imago/ZUMAPRESS.com)

    In a text message to SI.com on Wednesday, unified heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko confirmed that Johnathan Banks — an active heavyweight and disciple of the late Emanuel Steward who assumed Steward’s role as Klitschko’s chief cornerman in a win over Mariusz Wach earlier this month — would continue on in that role.

    “JB is my coach,” Klitschko said.

    It has been a big month for Banks. After preparing Klitschko for his fight with Wach, Banks returned to the U.S. and upset highly touted heavyweight prospect Seth Mitchell on HBO. After years of toiling on Klitschko undercards in Europe, suddenly Banks is a hot property.

    “It’s been a surreal moment,” Banks said in a telephone interview. “When you always believe in something, you have to have patience to get there. I believed that I could beat [Mitchell] and I believe in my abilities to teach different things about boxing.”

    Banks — who has been in Klitschko’s camps since Steward started training him in 2004 — said the chemistry working with Klitschko was instantaneous.

    “The first day we worked together and did hand work, he loved it,” Banks said. “The combinations I chose, they worked. As a trainer, when you tell the fighter what combinations to throw, you tell him what the fighter can throw and what is going to work best for him. My feeling is that sometimes trainers put too much themselves and what they want into it. I keep what was going on with Emanuel. You can’t replace Emanuel. It’s not an option. I wanted to keep up the spirit of the camp.”

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  • Published On Nov 28, 2012
  • Quick Jabs: Ward-Pavlik set, network wars, Berto’s strategy and more

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    Kelly Pavlik

    Despite his struggles, a healthy Kelly Pavlik is still a big threat in the ring. (Harry How/Getty Images)

    Some short jabs…

    • Andre Ward’s super middleweight title defense against Kelly Pavlik is set for Jan. 26 at the Galen Center on the University of Southern California campus, promoter Dan Goossen announced on Tuesday. In addition to Ward-Pavlik, the card will feature a solid heavyweight fight featuring former world title challenger Chris Arreola and Bermane Stiverne, a heavy-handed heavyweight contender. The two fights will be televised on HBO.

    • On Pavlik: Not many are giving him a chance against Ward, and I can understand why. Ward may be the most skilled fighter in boxing. But Pavlik’s power cannot be overlooked. No, Pavlik has not looked as potent in his last four fights, all above his familiar 160-pound weight. But if Pavlik is healthy and in shape, he still has the ability to end a fight with one shot.

    • I’m getting a little tired of Tyson Fury. Fury and his team have been critical of the opponents chosen by heavyweights David Price and Wladimir Klitschko. But Fury’s upcoming opponent, Kevin Johnson, is a joke. Johnson’s claim to fame is playing duck and cover against Vitali Klitschko over twelve lopsided rounds in 2009. Before Fury criticizes the competition, he should take a long look at the guys he is facing.

    • The network war continues: HBO announced that on Saturday the network would show Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez’s second and third fights on HBO Signature, beginning at 10 pm. Not coincidentally, those fights will air while Showtime is on the air broadcasting Miguel Cotto’s fight against Austin Trout live from Madison Square Garden.

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  • Published On Nov 27, 2012
  • Reports: ‘Strikeforce: Champions’ event losing two of its three champions

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    Nate Marquardt (above) is the lone champion still fighting on the “Strikeforce: Champions” card that could represent the promotion’s swan song. (Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

    Nothing is official and no one is commenting, but it’s an open secret that the Jan. 12 fight card in Oklahoma City will be the last for the snakebit folks at Strikeforce. But before they pack up the office, there’s still a little work to be done. Someone needs to find the Wite-Out and cover over an “s,” altering “Strikeforce: Champions” to “Strikeforce: Champion.”

    The former is the name given to the event when it was officially announced a couple of weeks ago. And the label fit, given that there would three championship fights packed onto the card, along with a bout featuring the champ of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix. Still, this seemed a bit like that big burst of colors and sounds and fanfare that comes at the end of a fireworks display.

    Actually, the only aspect of that fireworks analogy that works is the part about the end being near. There have been no bursts of colors lighting up the sky above Strikeforce venues lately. It’s been nothing but darkness, just dud after dud, with the last two events having been canceled and the promotion’s very existence being counted down as a matter of days.

    But Jan. 12 would at least allow the Scott Coker-led promotion to go out with a bang, with the three title fights (thus, “Champions”) and the heavyweight tussle showcasing local hero Daniel Cormier. This is Strikeforce, though, so you just knew something had to go wrong.

    First, lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez reportedly dropped off the card. There’s been no official confirmation, just a Nov. 16 report on the website of the Brazilian magazine Tatame and a vague comment that same day by UFC president Dana White, who said during an online chat with readers of the Montreal Gazette, “From what I’m hearing, and I don’t run Strikeforce, Melendez is hurt again.” Gilbert’s shoulder injury originally had forced him to pull out of a Sept. 22 defense against Pat Healy, and the loss of that main event led to the cancellation of the whole card.

    Then, on Saturday, the website MMA Corner reported that middleweight champ Luke Rockhold had suffered a wrist injury and his defense against Lorenz Lakrkin was off. The two were originally scheduled to go at it Nov. 3, but Luke injured that same wrist and the fight — as well as that entire card, too — was scratched. A disappointed Larkin gave us the closest thing that we’ve had to confirmation of the injury/cancellation report, sarcastically addressing White on Twitter: “Hey Dana, I hurt my right pinky toe, guess I can’t fight. Wish I started two years before I did so I could have skipped this [synonym for cat] era.”

    So now “Strikeforce: Champions” is down to a single champ, Nate Marquardt, who’ll defend his welterweight belt against Tarec Saffiedine. And of course there’s still Cormier, the event’s true draw for Okies. Before starting his ongoing beatdown of Strikeforce heavyweights, Daniel was an All-American and NCAA Division I runnerup wrestler at Oklahoma State. He went on to make two Olympic Games. He’ll face Dion Staring before moving over the UFC.

    But first Marquardt and especially Cormier are being fitted for head-to-toe bubble wrap. It’s in the Strikeforce supply closet, and this is likely the last chance to use it.

    – Jeff Wagenheim


  • Published On Nov 26, 2012
  • Three thoughts from Robert Guerrero’s decisive win over Andre Berto

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    Robert Guerrero (right) knocks down Andre Berto during the second round of their WBC interim welterweight title fight in Ontario, Calif. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

    That was a great fight Coming in, this was truly a pick ‘em fight; Berto was the more experienced, more accomplished welterweight who was fighting for the first time in 14 months while Guerrero was the hotter, more active fighter who was moving up to fight for just the second time at 147-pounds. It was a toe-to-toe battle throughout, with both fighters landing bombs on the inside that created considerable swelling under the eyes of Guerrero and Berto. The difference in the fight was in the first two rounds, when Guerrero dropped a clearly rusty Berto twice, changing the dynamic of the fight. 

     

    Credit Guerrero No fighter in boxing has actively hunted for big fights more than Guerrero, who has issued press release after press release calling out all the top names in the sport. What Guerrero has lacked is a high profile win on his resume; now he has it. Guerrero showed good power in dropping Berto twice and his willingness to stand in and trade on the inside was television friendly, which should only increase his appeal. After the fight Guerrero (31-1-1) did what he has been doing for more than a year: He called out Floyd Mayweather. Given Guerrero’s recent success–and given Mayweather’s history of seeking out marketable but beatable opponents–it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him get a shot. 

     

    Where now, Andre? This was a disappointing loss for Berto (28-2), who hoped to erase the memory of his recent positive drug test and springboard himself into a major fight next year. But Berto was a mess in the ring. For the first two rounds he went with the Floyd Mayweather, shoulder roll defense. That got him knocked down, twice. From then on he was pawing at Guerrero, looking for an opening for one big shot. Berto is young enough (29) and has the right people behind him (Al Haymon) to bounce back. But he needs to make some changes in his corner, because against a smart, savvy opponent like Guerrero, Berto looked lost. 

    -Chris Mannix


  • Published On Nov 25, 2012
  • Three thoughts from Vyacheslav Senchenko’s KO win over Ricky Hatton

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    Ricky Hatton (right) of Great Britain in action with Vyacheslav Senchenko of Ukraine during their welterweight bout at MEN Arena in Manchester, England. (Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)

    Hatton never should have taken this fight Coming off of a 3 1/2 year layoff and moving up to a relatively new weight class, Hatton should have gone for a softer touch. Senchenko is not known as a big puncher but he is a former welterweight titleholder who defended his belt four times before losing it to Paulie Malignaggi last April. And Senchenko showed his savvy early, surviving the early rounds, when Hatton fought like a man with 20,000 fans behind him, and slowly picking Hatton apart as the gas tank in the 34-year old Hatton’s body moved toward empty. Hatton led 77-76 on SI.com’s scorecard going into the ninth round but a picturesque body shot–similar to the one Oscar De La Hoya ate in a 2004 loss to Bernard Hopkins–put him down and out. 

     

    Hatton’s decision to face Senchenko was brave, but shortsighted. He should have chosen an easier opponent that would have helped build his confidence going into a probable title shot against Malignaggi in 2013. The crowd wouldn’t have cared: Most of the 20,000 in Manchester bought tickets before an opponent was announced. 

     

    Hatton does not have to retire Before the fight, Hatton vowed that if he lost, he was finished. But he probably didn’t expect to lose a fight he was leading–Hatton was up on all three judges cards at the time of the stoppage–on a body shot that won’t have the lingering effect Manny Pacquiao’s concussive punch did on him in 2009. At the post-fight press conference Hatton declared that he was done (“I don’t have it anymore,” Hatton said. “That’s the end of Ricky Hatton.”) but we have seen fighters reverse emotional decisions before. Hatton could go back to the drawing board, perhaps try to drop another seven pounds and go back to the 140-pound division he was so good in and cherry pick a middling junior welterweight sometime next year. There is still talent there: His whipping right hands knocked Senchenko back, especially in the early rounds. But he can’t take on too much, too fast. 

     

    Et tu, Paulie? The biggest loser on Saturday may have been Malignaggi, in England working the broadcast for Showtime, who watched a $1 million plus payday disappear before his eyes. A rematch between Hatton and Malignaggi–Hatton stopped Malignaggi in the 11th round of a junior welterweight fight in 2008–would have done big business in either New York or the U.K.. Something tells me Malignaggi-Senchenko II isn’t going to be worth the same kind of cash. 

    -Chris Mannix


  • Published On Nov 24, 2012
  • Manny Pacquiao appears on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, parodies HBO’s 24/7

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    Manny Pacquiao made his seventh appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on Wednesday ahead of his Dec. 8 fight with Juan Manuel Marquez. The highlight was a parody of HBO’s 24/7, which profiled Pacquiao’s three scuttled fights with Kimmel sidekick Guillermo Rodriguez. Look for cameos from Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, trainer Freddie Roach, ESPN personality Bernardo Osuna and longtime advisor Michael Koncz.

    – SI.com staff


  • Published On Nov 22, 2012
  • Vyacheslav Senchenko says 18,000 Ricky Hatton fans won’t matter

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    Vyacheslav Senchenko (right) looks to spoil Ricky Hatton’s first fight in three years Saturday when the two meet at Manchester’s MEN Arena. (AP)

    Senchenko faces Ricky Hatton on Saturday at Manchester’s MEN Arena (5 p.m. ET/PT, Showtime).

    Hatton is coming off a three-and-a-half year layoff. Do you think you’re catching him at the right time?

    “When I made the decision to fight Ricky I did it expecting the best Ricky Hatton. We know Ricky wouldn’t have come back if he wasn’t at his best — that’s just how boxing is. Ricky wouldn’t have taken the risk if he didn’t think he was 100 percent. So we’re expecting a very hard fight. We’re expecting the best Ricky Hatton, a prime Ricky Hatton.

    This is just your third fight outside your native Ukraine. How do you prepare for a fight in front of 18,000 hostile fans?

    “I’m very excited that I’m going to Manchester to fight in front of a huge crowd. I had a great camp and prepared the way I always do. It’s an opportunity to shine and show the British my skills. Sure, there will 18,000 Ricky Hatton fans, but once I’m in the ring it’s just me and Ricky. The fans aren’t in there with him.”

    Hatton beat Malignaggi, and Malignaggi defeated you. Why will you upset Hatton?

    “When I fought Paulie everything went well in the beginning and then I got injured and I couldn’t apply the plan we had scheduled in training. I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. It was a one-time thing because of the injury. I had a good training camp and was able to prepare well, but I got injured. Those things happen in boxing. I thought I fought well but I just couldn’t see anything because the eye was completely closed. Of course, Paul was an odd boxer to fight. Ricky’s fighting style suits me better. I believe it will be a better fight for me. I’ve had a great camp and I’m ready to get back into the limelight with a win.”

    What were the main reasons you accepted the fight against Hatton in England?

    “This is the way to come back in the limelight — to beat one of the most popular boxers in the world. It would bring me back in the top position, worldwide. If I beat Ricky then I can get another shot at a title. Once you’re in the ring it’s just you and the opponent. The challenge is to show the 18,000 that I’m the best boxer in the ring. And the fact that the fight is televised in the U.S. on Showtime makes it even better. The stakes are higher now.”

    Can you tell us the keys to victory?

    “We need a good jab, a good jab when the opponent comes in — and good legs and sharp punching. I’m an old-school, classical boxer so I need to be able to control the fight. I like boxers that come in rather than run away. If I can dictate the pace and not allow Ricky to get into a rhythm, I should be able to execute my strategy and do what I prepared for in camp.”

    Do you think you’ll need to knock him out to win a decision in England?

    “I’ve got to fight my own game plan. I’m not looking for a knockout; I’m looking for a good, technical fight. A good, distance fight. If I can stop the fight early on that would be good, but I’ll take the points. As long as I don’t get injured I should be fine. There’s no problem with the eye, it was a one-time thing with Paulie. I’ve never had another problem since.”

    – Courtesy of Showtime


  • Published On Nov 21, 2012
  • Quick Jabs: Gennady Golovkin’s next move, Seth Mitchell experiment probably over and more

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    Gennady Golovkin (above) will defend his middleweight title against an opponent to be determined on Jan. 19 in New York at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. (AP)

    Some quick jabs …

    • I’m told HBO is now considering two possible opponents for Gennady Golovkin’s Jan. 19 middleweight title defense: Fernando Guerrero, a one-time prospect who is represented by Al Haymon, and Gabriel Rosado, a rising junior middleweight who is currently the IBF’s mandatory challenger for Cornelius “K9″ Bundrage’s title. To me, the decision is an easy one: Guerrero — who beat Rosado in a controversial eight-round middleweight fight in 2009 — has done nothing recently to warrant this kind of opportunity. Rosado, meanwhile, beat three quality opponents in 2012, all on NBC Sports Network, all by knockout. Rosado is the definition of a television-friendly fighter. A matchup with Golovkin would be a war.

    • Super featherweight Teon Kennedy’s injury forced Main Events to find a new opponent for undefeated prospect Jerry Belmontes in the co-feature of the Dec. 8 card on NBC Sports Network. On Monday they announced that Eric Hunter (16-2) would step in. Hunter has been on the shelf for most of the last two years, fighting once (last July) since December of 2010.

    • Kudos to Seth Mitchell for accomplishing a lot in boxing despite not picking up the gloves until he was 24. But this experiment is probably over. You can’t teach a chin and in his last two fights Mitchell has been buzzed by Chazz Witherspoon and knocked out in two rounds by Johnathan Banks. There are things Mitchell can do to improve — he still has no idea how to hold when he gets hurt — but if light hitters like Witherspoon and Banks can wobble him, he’s a sitting duck for one of the Klitschko brothers.

    • Speaking of Banks: I’d like to see him face one more quality opponent before looking for a fight with Wladimir or Vitali Klitschko. A matchup with Tyson Fury, David Price or his preferred choice, Alexander Povetkin, next year could make Banks some money and, if he wins, give him some momentum heading into a major title fight.

    • I’m looking forward to Miguel Cotto-Austin Trout on Dec. 1 at Madison Square Garden, but that undercard is horrendous. Jayson Velez and Danny Jacobs — questionable choices for a televised undercard to begin with — will fight separately on Showtime’s broadcast in fights that do nothing for me. Velez (19-0) will face Salvador Sanchez II (30-4-3), nephew of Mexican legend Salvador Sanchez, while Jacobs (23-1), the former prospect and cancer survivor who will fight for the second time in three months, gets Chris Fitzpatrick (15-2).

    • I don’t know what has gotten into Carl Froch, but after another impressive knockout — this one over handpicked challenger Yusaf Mack — I just don’t know how Lucian Bute can beat him. Froch is just too strong.

    • Bring on Adrien Broner-Ricky Burns.

    • Thank you, Fred Sternburg, for sending out 400 emails letting everyone know that Manny Pacquiao gave away free turkeys last week. My overflowing inbox extends its regards.

    • Hey British promoter Frank Maloney: Your comment that Wladimir Klitschko would be happy not to have to pay Emanuel Steward his 10 percent after a one-sided win over Mariusz Wach last week was disgusting and classless. Steward, a longtime mentor and trainer for Klitschko, lost a battle with cancer last month. Maloney should be ashamed.

    – Chris Mannix


  • Published On Nov 20, 2012


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