Archive for November, 2012

Roundtable: Is Adrien Broner boxing’s next superstar?

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The sky is the limit for Adrien Broner, the Cincinnati native who became a two-division world champion with Saturday’s knockout win. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Is Adrien Broner boxing’s next superstar?

CHRIS MANNIX: Color me impressed. There has been something about Broner that didn’t sit right with me — maybe it was the connection to Al Haymon, who puffed up Broner’s record by keeping him away from the toughest challenges for most of his young career — but after that pounding of DeMarco, there is no doubt Broner is a bona fide star in the sport. DeMarco is an underrated fighter and an excellent finisher, and Broner picked him apart, savaging him with uppercuts, patiently peppering him with jabs while utilizing that (wait for it) shoulder-roll defense to deflect DeMarco’s power shots.

Broner was already a television star; he has the HBO numbers to prove it. Now he has earned his status in the ring, too. Let’s hope he keeps it going. Ricky Burns, who will defend his version of the lightweight title on Dec. 15, is a logical next opponent, and there are no shortage of guys at 140 pounds to give Broner a fight. Finally, a young American star who seems worthy of the hype.

RICHARD O’BRIEN: After an impressive and, on his part, decidedly relaxed dismantling of DeMarco on Saturday night (it was more like watching an enthusiastic technician entering code on a keyboard than it was like seeing a guy actually fighting), Broner declared himself “the new era of boxing.” That remains to be seen, of course.

Certainly Broner, at 23, and clearly comfortable having stepped up to the 135-pound limit, has the physical gifts (speed, strength, power) and the schooling (he’s technically very sound, with a varied offense and a polished defense) to make him, well, a problem for any fighter in the lightweight or junior welterweight divisions. (A quick assault on Juan Manuel Marquez or Ricky Burns would be a great start.) The question, of course, is how far can he extend his effectiveness. At 5-foot-7, Broner may be a bit too compact to keep moving up, to junior welter, welter and beyond. And multiple titles and challenges to the best across a range of weight classes are what make for the biggest stars in boxing.

At the same time, I also think there’s the danger that Broner could get pegged — or, indeed, could peg himself — as a kind of poor man’s Money, a Mayweather clone, and that such an image could keep him from becoming the star he could be. There’s the physical resemblance, of course, and the shoulder-rolling defense (and the smirking and self-celebratory rhetoric), but Broner has a natural aggressiveness in the ring that Mayweather has seldom shown. He would be wise to play that element up. A boxing public weary of Mayweather’s slick showmanship would welcome a supremely talented champion who actually came to fight. If Broner does that, superstardom should be no problem.

BRYAN ARMEN GRAHAM: Broner is now a two-division world champion at 23. He’s 25-0 with 21 knockouts. He just cracked SI.com’s pound-for-pound list at No. 12. On Saturday, he made his seventh appearance on HBO and his headlining debut on the flagship “World Championship Boxing” franchise: He took a step up, both competitively and commercially, and he dominated.

He is opinionated. He is eccentric. (Quite eccentric.) Call him cocky and call him profane, but Broner gets it. It’s not enough to be Andre Ward, not if you want to be the first boxer to generate a billion dollars, which is Broner’s articulated goal. “I’m not just a professional boxer, I am a professional entertainer too,” he said over lunch in Manhattan last month. “Since the first grade I’ve been a class clown. This is just me.”

Broner is coming along at a time when boxing needs fresh stars, with Floyd Mayweather (35 years old) and Manny Pacquiao (34 next month) nearing the twilights of their careers. He’s managed by Al Haymon, the enigmatic force responsible for making Mayweather the richest athlete in sports. The heavyweight division remains stagnant and domestically irrelevant. HBO has invested millions in building him up and they’re enthused by the return thus far. “He’s making the progression that great fighters make,” HBO’s pay-per-view chief Mark Taffet said last month. “He’s on the path. For a 23-year-old man, he’s exactly where he needs to be.” If he stays hungry, keeps winning and keeps entertaining, there’s no reason why Broner can’t be one of the top names in boxing within the next three years.


  • Published On Nov 19, 2012
  • Anderson Silva eager for superfight with Georges St-Pierre

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    Anderson Silva

    UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva has two bouts left on his existing UFC contract, and both could be superfights. [Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE]

    MONTREAL — So now we all know what it’s like to be in a cage with Anderson Silva. Minus the pain, of course.

    On Saturday night, we did get the confusion, a good dose of it, stemming from the UFC middleweight champion’s uncanny elusiveness. He’s right there in front of you, then in a flash he’s gone without a trace, then he’s back, acting as if he’d never left.

    Silva showed up at the Bell Centre prior to the start of UFC 154 and told an assemblage of media that, despite what’s been reported over the past week, he’s gung-ho to make his next bout a superfight with Georges St-Pierre.

    “I’m very excited for this fight with Georges,” he said. “Maybe here, maybe in a big stadium in Brazil.” He said this around 10 minutes into his questioning by reporters, after beginning the session by addressing a query on the possibility of a GSP superfight with “Maybe, I don’t know.”

    Elusiveness. Confusion.

    Adding to the mystification was the fact that St-Pierre first had to take care of business in his welterweight title defense against Carlos Condit later in the evening in the main event.

    But “The Spider” had that one all figured out. “My opinion, Georges wins tonight,” he said matter of factly.

    So, assuming he was right, when might a Silva vs. St-Pierre superfight take place? Perhaps in May, when UFC president Dana White has suggested? “I need to check my schedule,” said Silva, drawing laughter from the assembled media.

    Read More…


  • Published On Nov 17, 2012
  • For his UFC return, Georges St-Pierre finds inspiration in NFL’s Tom Brady

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    Tom Brady

    Tom Brady attended UFC 118 when it came to the TD Garden in Boston. (Mike Roach/Getty Images)

    MONTREAL — Some fighters prepare for a bout by watching video of an opponent’s past performances. Others prefer to let their trainers do the film work. Georges St-Pierre might well have found his inspiration, in the lead-up to Saturday night’s welterweight title defense against Carlos Condit in the main event of UFC 154 at the Bell Centre, by tuning his TV to NFL football.

    Specifically, games involving the Patriots … especially when the Tom Brady-led offense is on the field.

    You see, St-Pierre and Brady have something in common. Or rather, someone: Neal S. ElAttrache.

    “Dr. ElAttrache did Tom Brady’s ACL, and he had almost the identical injury to me,” St-Pierre said in a statement issued by the UFC. “Brady came back and was better than ever, so I put my trust in Dr. ElAttrache and I am back 100 percent.”

    ElAttrache, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles, performed reconstructive surgery on Brady’s anterior cruciate ligament and also repaired his medial collateral ligament after the quarterback was injured in the opening game of the 2008 season. Since returning the following year, Brady has led New England to the playoffs and made the Pro Bowl each season. Last February he brought the Patriots right back to where they were just prior to his injury: the Super Bowl.

    St-Pierre, who has not fought in 19 months after injuring his right knee during training for his original date with Condit, might find particular solace in watching Brady’s first game back from injury. Brady, whom teammate Chandler Jones (brother of UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones) says is a huge MMA fan, threw for 378 yards and two touchdowns in a comeback win over Buffalo.

    “The knee is like the injury never even happened,” said St-Pierre. “I’ve been out for a year and a half, but I am back. All those who doubted me will have a big reality check, because I’m better than ever.”

    How is Carlos Condit supposed to counteract that? Well, maybe he should watch some Eli Manning videos.

    —Jeff Wagenheim


  • Published On Nov 17, 2012
  • Digging into the Quebec roots of UFC welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre

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    Georges St-Pierre

    Georges St-Pierre returns to his native Canada to fight Carlos Condit at UFC 154. (Josh Hedges/Getty Images)

    ST-REMI, Quebec — Sitting in a restaurant in northern Vermont enjoying a nice lunch and a much-needed break from my hours-long drive to Montreal, it occurred to me that a little further along my route I would be passing through the area where Georges St-Pierre grew up. The UFC welterweight champion is often referred to as a Montreal fighter, and the crowd at the Bell Centre will surely make him feel like one when he’s introduced before his title defense against Carlos Condit in the main event of UFC 154 on Saturday night. But GSP is no city boy. He actually hails from the vast Quebec countryside tucked between the St. Lawrence River and the U.S. border.

    Pulling the smart phone out of my pocket while I waited for dessert to arrive — you’re allowed to have a little something sweet in the middle of the day, unless you’re trying to make weight for a UFC fight or something — I quickly scanned some online articles about St-Pierre’s youth and came upon one about a recent visit he paid to his old high school in Saint-Rémi, Quebec. Hmm, I thought, if it’s not too far out of the way …

    And then, yup, to locate the land of GSP, I used my GPS.

    I’m not sure what I expected to see when I pulled into Saint-Rémi, a tiny city of around 7,000 tucked into a landscape of farmland, small industry and windmills, lots of windmills, in southwestern Quebec. I guess I envisioned “Go GSP” window signs in storefronts, maybe even a banner strung across a downtown street proclaiming “Home of Georges St-Pierre.”

    There was nothing, though, no visible acknowledgement that one of the greatest mixed martial arts of all time — a three-time Sportsnet Canadian Athlete of the Year — spent his formative years here.

    I saw a bunch of guys gathered outside an apartment building down the block from École Pierre-Bédard, where GSP returned not long ago to talk to students about his school chin-ups record, which still stands, and the bullying he went through while in school. I wondered whether any of these men on the apartment building stoop were the ones who’d pushed GSP around back in the day. I decided not to bother them.

    Right across from the school I saw an elementary-grade kid walking with his book bag and, imagining him to be of the age where he might have a GSP poster on his bedroom wall, considered pulling over and talking to him. But then I thought better of being that guy who pulls his car to the side of the road and rolls his window down to talk to a school kid.

    I ended up at a convenience store in the center of town. As I walked up to the cash register with my bottled water, I noticed that among the staff gathered was a young man with a buzz cut, wearing a black T-shirt with some combative-looking logo across the front. He looked like what half of the Bell Centre crowd will look like on Saturday night. He’s my man, I thought.

    “I understand I am in the home of GSP,” I sid to the woman behind the counter as I fumbled through my Canadian coins to pay for my water. She stared at me blankly. It turned out, as I learned when I look it up on my iPhone upon returning to my car, that 96 percent of the Saint-Rémi population speaks only French. The young woman took my money and gestured toward the black T-shirt guy, who it turns out is among the community’s bilinguals.

    Read More…


  • Published On Nov 17, 2012
  • Dana White makes it official: Ronda Rousey is the UFC’s first female fighter

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    Ronda Rousey’s next match will be as a member of UFC. (Robert Beck/SI)

    MONTREAL — Ronda Rousey usually is the one doing the arm twisting. Did someone beat her at her own game to get her to finally comment on her job status?

    “Okay I admit it … I’m officially a UFC fighter,” Rousey wrote on Twitter on Friday afternoon, after more than a week of steering clear of the subject of a TMZ.com report that she had become the first female fighter in the promotion’s history. “So excited! Can’t wait to debut! Let Dana White know who you want my first opponent to be!”

    There’d been no arm twisting involved, actually, but White had beaten Rousey to the punch, so to speak. Earlier in the day he went on Jim Rome’s nationally syndicated radio program and confirmed what he, too, had been uncharacteristically silent about ever since the groundbreaking story broke. “Yes, it’s official,” he said in answer to Rome’s question about the TMZ report, which had been confirmed by other media outlets, but all citing anonymous sources. “Ronda Rousey did sign with the UFC.”

    This official confirmation didn’t create much of a buzz at New Gas City, the cavernous downtown Montreal nightclub that was the venue for Friday’s UFC 154 weigh-ins. The place was packed and noisy, just as the UFC likes it, and what the fans saw was uneventful, with every fighter on the card making weight — also just as the UFC likes it. Georges St-Pierre, who defends his welterweight championship for the first time in 19 months in Saturday night’s main event, got a hero’s welcome in the city where he lives and trains. His opponent, interim champ Carlos Condit, received polite applause. The Rousey news, so widely considered a fait accompli after last week’s report, was not the least bit of a distraction.

    Still, listening to the Rome show, it was cool to hear White make a public endorsement of women’s MMA, something he had said as recently as a year ago would never be a part of the UFC. It’s not too difficult to understand why Dana would have had a change of heart if you’ve ever seen Rousey fight.

    “I tell you, this girl is nasty,” he told Rome. “She might be beautiful on the outside. She’s a Diaz brother on the inside. She’s a real fighter. She’s very talented. She has the credentials, the pedigree, I mean, everything.”

    Everything? Dana was referring to more than Rousey’s Olympic bronze medal in judo, her Strikeforce women’s bantamweight championship and her 6-0 professional record, with every win by that unstoppable armbar, all but one in the very first minute. The UFC president is looking beyond all of that. “I think she has that ‘it’ factor,” he said. “I think she’s going to be a big superstar.”

    Whether that happens falls as much on him and his promotional team, of course, as it does on the fighter. But so far Rousey and the UFC have been a marketable match, with “Rowdy Ronda” appearing everywhere from the cover of the ESPN the Magazine “Body Issue” to the Sports Illustrated TV magazine show on NBC Network.

    The ultimate test, however, will come not on the newsstand, the TV screen or the Madison Avenue boardroom. It’ll come in the cage. No one has yet posed a threat to Rousey, and for the 25-year-old’s star to continue to rise she’s going to need to overcome some viable challenges. Cris “Cyborg” Santos, long the indomitable force in the women’s fight game, will be Rousey’s most treacherous hurdle once the Brazilian finishes her steroid suspension. Then the two fighters’ camps can get past their silly squabble over how to bridge the weight-class gap between the 145-pound Cyborg and Rousey, who began her career at 145 but now is champion among women 10 pounds lighter.

    White offered no hint on when we’ll see a Rousey vs. Cyborg matchup. But he did insist that Rousey’s challenges will not end there. “She’s got four or five good fights,” he said during his radio appearance. “The next two years, we’ve got really good opponents for her, and it’s going to be interesting.”

    It’s already interesting, considering that White’s dismissal of women’s MMA all along was centered on his insistence that there were not enough top-level women to fill a division. Rousey’s “four or five good fights” sounds like a UFC women’s division in the making.

    —Jeff Wagenheim


  • Published On Nov 16, 2012
  • Experts’ predictions for UFC 154

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    Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre (left) is favored to defeat Carlos Condit (right) despite a 19-month layoff that included knee surgery. (Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

    SI.com analysts Dave Doyle, Loretta Hunt, Jeff Wagenheim and Jon Wertheim provide their predictions for UFC 154 on Saturday in Montreal.

    Georges St-Pierre vs. Carlos Condit

    DOYLE: If you go up and down the lists of plusses and minuses with these two fighters, the only thing in Condit’s favor is St-Pierre’s potential ring rust. That doesn’t bode well for your chances against someone like GSP, who has something to prove in his hometown. St-Pierre by TKO.

    HUNT: St-Pierre is such a technician, analyzing opponents the way a statistician pores data. Condit could be the toughest first fight back ever — he’s an unpredictable striker with the killer instinct — but St. Pierre has adjusted his schedule to minimize ring rust and knows his key will be superior wrestling. St-Pierre by decision.

    WAGENHEIM: Has GSP’s fighting spirit been rusted over during his 19-month absence from the octagon, or will it come bursting out of him like dammed river water? I suspect the latter, and that it will be further fueled by an enthousiaste Montreal crowd. Condit is coming off a fight in which he fended off bullying with movement and counterstrikes. But that bully knew only a straight-ahead path to his prey, making him easy to retaliate against. St-Pierre, by contrast, comes at you in innumerable ways, making every Condit counter susceptible to being countered. Sooner or later, the champion will seize control, and when he swarms he won’t stop until he’s pulled away by the man in the black shirt. St-Pierre by TKO.

    WERTHEIM: It’s been a long layoff for St-Pierre and Condit’s a fighter that’s easy to root for. But realistically how do you pick against GSP? It will be interesting to see how his knee holds up, but he’s such a versatile fighter it’s hard to see an upset. St-Pierre by decision.

    Martin Kampmann vs. Johny Hendricks

    DOYLE: The head says to go with Hendricks, who has made steady progression toward the top. Kampmann has shown as much heart as anyone in the UFC with his comeback wins. My gut tells me this will be a thriller. Kampmann by submission.

    HUNT: OSU wrestling ace Hendricks is on a roll and has some stinging hands to boot. Though arguably more well-rounded, Kampmann is just too hit or miss. Hendricks by KO.

    WAGENHEIM: The 13-1 Hendricks has two split decisions among his last three victories, and the other win was a 12-second flash KO. He hasn’t dominated anyone over three rounds for a while, and that is what he’s being asked to do against the slicker-striking Dane. Kampmann by decision.

    WERTHEIM: Kampmann is an admirable veteran with one of the great hearts in UFC history, but Hendricks’ wrestling superiority will be the difference. The former Oklahoma State star scores a ground-based verdict. Hendricks by decision.
    Read More…


  • Published On Nov 15, 2012
  • Quick Jabs: Povetkin posturing, Vitali’s passion, Martinez’s future and more

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    Alexander Povetkin

    Alexander Povetkin is the logical opponent for Wladimir Klitschko to fight next. (Dagmar Kiehlo/Getty Images)

    Some short jabs …

    • In the aftermath of another one-sided destruction, where does Wladimir Klitschko look next? A strong possibility is Alexander Povetkin, the unbeaten former gold medalist who owns a minor piece of the WBA heavyweight title. On Monday, I asked Povetkin’s promoter, Sauerland Event’s Chris Meyer, if he intended to pursue a Klitschko fight.

    “The WBA has informed K2 Promotions that they have to fight Povetkin now,” Meyer said in an email. “[Klitschko manager] Bernd Boente seems to continue to ignore this fact, at least in his public statements.”

    Indeed, Boente told me on Saturday that he does not believe Klitschko is required to defend his title against Povetkin. Regardless, Boente said Klitschko would not be bullied into making a bad deal, intimating that Klitschko would surrender his WBA belt before being forced into a fight.

    Now, Boente and Sauerland are Europe’s version of Top Rank and Golden Boy. They don’t like each other much and don’t make many deals. However, Klitschko-Povetkin is a natural fight. It’s arguably the best one out there and would do big business in Germany. Besides, no matter what Boente says, Klitschko isn’t giving up one of his belts. Once the posturing is finished, look for Klitschko and Povetkin to broker a deal.

    • WBC titleholder Vitali Klitschko told me he would make a decision on his boxing future in December. Last month Klitschko’s political party, Udar, picked up 14 percent of the vote, giving Udar 40 seats in the Ukrainian parliament, the third-most seats of any party in the country.

    “For a young party, we had a good result,” Klitschko said. “Our party has a chance to unite Ukraine. I’m very happy. We can have a much better result but for a young party to be No. 3 in the country is great.

    Despite the successful showing, Klitschko said his heart is still in boxing.

    “I still like boxing very much,” Klitschko said. “I enjoy every minute in training camp. It’s like a vacation.”

    Read More…


  • Published On Nov 13, 2012
  • Anderson Silva: No Georges St-Pierre challenge at UFC 154 on Saturday night, and no fight until the end of next year

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    Anderson Silva easily defeated Stephan Bonnar at UFC 153 last month in Rio. (Zumapress.com)

    Anderson Silva plays with people.

    The UFC middleweight champion has done it for years inside the octagon, most recently a month ago in Rio de Janeiro. He languished against the cage early in the main event that night as if lazing about on a street corner, arms at his side except to rev up the crowd of adoring countrymen by broadly gesturing for his opponent to hit him. No, to try to hit him. Then, after dodging every punch with nothing but a fluid rhythm of head and upper torso movement that would make a matador blush and a contortionist blanch, Silva apparently decided that he’d toyed enough with the musclebound man standing in front of him slinging hopeless leather. And with a single well-placed knee, he knocked the juice out of Stephan Bonnar. Show’s over, folks.

    Outside the cage, Silva plays with all of us.

    You were expecting “The Spider” to walk into the octagon Saturday night in Montreal, if Georges St-Pierre wins the UFC 154 main event, and publicly challenge the welterweight champion to a superfight, right? He’s going to be at the Bell Centre, we know. And UFC president Dana White is on record as saying, “He wants [GSP] to win this fight, and he wants to fight him after.” Asked directly if Silva will challenge St-Pierre in the octagon post-fight, the UFC president answered, “I would say yes.”

    But Silva says no. “Not in my character to stand up and challenge anyone,” he told Tatame in a story posted Monday on the Brazilian magazine’s website. “I think that this will not happen.” He laughed and added, “I think not, I’m sure.” (Translation from Portuguese is from online sources.)

    We might be inclined to chalk up this about-face letdown to the fight promoter with the mostest. During his conference call with MMA media last week, White made it sound like the octagon challenge was a fait accompli. But does he really need to use a phony Silva call-out to help sell the first St-Pierre fight in more than a year and a half? No, he doesn’t. It might well be that Dana simply knew that Silva was going to be in the building and put two and two together.

    Well, here’s another set of numbers for White’s abacus: two zero one three.

    Silva revealed in the same Brazilian interview that he does not intend to fight again until the end of 2013. White had been expecting to be able to put Silva back in the cage much sooner than that — perhaps against GSP in Cowboys Stadium outside Dallas.

    “I think it’s time for me to leave my life in order, because this thing of always being worried and having work, I just leave my personal life aside,” Silva told Tatame. “I have my projects, my personal plans and will keep them moving forward.”

    While grinding the middleweight division to a halt?

    Or maybe just putting Dana White through the grinder. Silva knows what Dana told the media and understands how much a superfight with St-Pierre would mean to the UFC. Perhaps this is simply his dramatic way of letting it be known that he won’t come cheap.

    We know Silva likes to play with people. Maybe he plays them, too.

    —Jeff Wagenheim


  • Published On Nov 12, 2012
  • Klitschko retains titles in overwhelming fashion by stopping Wach

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    Wladimir Klitschko (right) was dominant in nearly every stage of his match with Mariusz Wach. (Getty Images)

    HAMBURG, Germany — Three thoughts from Wladimir Klitschko’s win over Mariusz Wach…

    1. Another one bites the dust. Wach’s surprising chin aside (more on that below), this was another blowout. Klitschko won 120-107 (twice) and 119-109, with the judge who gave Wach a round clearly scoring out of sympathy for the battered Pole. Save for one solid right hand in the fifth round, Wach was a human punching bag, absorbing power shot after power shot from Klitschko, who once again came to the ring in superior shape.

    Wach was the latest undefeated, would-be contender to fall to Klitschko, who retained his titles and is, undisputedly, the best heavyweight of this era. And there are plenty more victims waiting in line: Tyson Fury, David Price, Seth Mitchell, just to name a few. The problem is none of these potential opponents has been tested at anywhere close to Klitschko’s level. The ideal situation is to start matching them up and hope someone emerges as a realistic challenge. Sadly, the payday that comes with a Klitschko fight likely means most will continue to fight inferior competition and take a beating when the time comes.

    2. Wach has a granite chin. About that: Klitschko wasn’t just hitting Wach. He was lining him up and teeing off. Klitschko’s right hand is regarded as the most potent in boxing and he tattooed Wach with it repeatedly throughout the fight … and Wach kept coming. The 6-foot-7 Wach didn’t muster much of an offense, of course. He spent most of the 36 minutes in the ring eating shots. But you have to give him credit: Few have gone the distance with Klitschko and no one has taken as much punishment.

    3. Farewell, Emanuel. Johnathan Banks — a longtime member of Klitschko’s team who was picked to fill the position normally occupied by the late Emanuel Steward — performed well as Klitschko’s chief cornerman, drawing praise for his advice from Klitschko after the fight. Indeed, it was an emotionally charged week for Klitschko, who in interviews declined to get too deep about his feelings over the sudden loss of Steward, his longtime friend and trainer. But those in Klitschko’s camp said the loss weighed on the champ, who will now soldier on without the man who shaped his career.

    Klitschko’s last words to me in the ring: “I love you, Emanuel. I’ll see you again someday.”

    –Chris Mannix


  • Published On Nov 10, 2012
  • Demetrious Johnson will defend UFC flyweight belt against John Dodson on Fox telecast Jan. 26 from Chicago

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    Demetrious Johnson (above), the UFC’s first flyweight champion, will make his maiden defense against John Dodson on Jan. 26. (Al Bello/Zuffa LLC)

    Election Night was a sensory overload of names and numbers, of blue and red and talking heads. Obama vs. Romney. Rove vs. Mathematics. Johnson vs. Dodson.

    That last one was not a race for a seat in Washington. It’s a contest for which the finish line is in Chicago and still far, far away. The starter’s pistol has just sounded, in fact.

    I’m talking about Demetrious Johnson vs. John Dodson, the first defense of the UFC flyweight division belt that “Mighty Mouse” captured back in September by beating Joseph Benavidez in the finale of a four-man tournament. Dodson, winner of the 135-pound tourney in Season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter, earned the first shot at the new 125-pound champion by knocking out Jussier da Silva last month.

    So we knew Johnson and Dodson were destined to clash sometime, and the UFC announced Tuesday night on its Fuel TV show, UFC Tonight, that “sometime” will be in the main event of the UFC on Fox card Jan. 26 at the United Center.

    How fitting that this fight announcement would come on a night when the country was focused on something other than mixed martial arts (and something far more vicious, at that!). Flying under the radar on Election Night is actually a step up for the flyweight division. It’s maddening but true. Johnson vs. Benavidez and Dodson vs. Da Silva were fought at a pace achieved by competitors in the bigger weight classes only when the bouts are viewed on a DVR set at fast-forward. Yet the 125-pounders heard boos from arena crowds presumably more interested in bloodshed than lightning-fast displays of all-around technical mastery.

    Hearing fans in Toronto jeer the Johnson-Benavidez title bout embittered UFC president Dana White, who afterward spat out, “If you didn’t like the flyweight fight, please, I’m begging you, don’t ever buy another UFC pay-per-view again. I don’t want your money. You’re a moron. You don’t like fighting. You don’t appreciate talent.”

    Sure, Dana is one to bluster, but in this instance he was spot on. I mean, c’mon, people.

    Now the UFC is presenting another 125-pound main event. Interestingly, this one is on free TV, not PPV, so maybe name caller Dana is all bark and no bite. Still, watch your step, Windy City.

    Even if you can’t appreciate the little guys, though, you’re still in for big entertainment. The co-main event between Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis — also made official Tuesday night — could determine the next challenger for the lightweight belt. Erik Koch vs. Ricardo Lamas, a bout that MMAjunkie.com has reported is being moved to this event, could produce the next featherweight title contestant. And then there’s Glover Teixeira vs. Quinton Jackson, a clash between a light heavyweight on the way up and one on the way out.

    With a lead-in as potent as all that, the flyweights are really going to have to bring it to justify their place in the spotlight. What else is new?

    – Jeff Wagenheim


  • Published On Nov 08, 2012


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