Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez square off in UFC 155 in Las Vegas. Check out below for SI.com’s Loretta Hunt’s blow-by-blow coverage.
Archive for December, 2012
Dana White: With random testing, 400 of the 475 fighters on the UFC’s roster would test positive for marijuana
LAS VEGAS — Dana White hates the idea of a fighter stepping into the octagon under the influence of performance enhancing drugs. “You go in and you face another fighter,” says the UFC president, “you can hurt him.”
So why doesn’t the fight promotion hire a private company that could administer more rigorous random testing than what’s possible within the budget constraints of state athletic commissions? One reason might be that White has concerns over a correlated effect of expanded testing, especially if done at times other than during fight week.
“Everybody thinks that if you did the random testing you’d catch so many guys on PEDs,” White told a group of reporters following Thursday’s UFC 155 pre-fight press conference. “You’d catch more guys on marijuana.”
Well, OK, so Nick Diaz would perpetually be under suspension, or at least double-secret probation. And any fighter who’s ever hung out in Diaz’s living room in Stockton, Calif., might have to worry about the lingering effects of a contact high. But that’s about it, right?
Not according to White. “So, 475 guys under contract,” he said, “and 400 will be out with marijuana.”
Four hundred? As in, 84 percent of the UFC’s roster?
Now, I realize that some fighters live in Colorado and Washington, states where pot is now legal. I know the light heavyweight champion walked out to a reggae classic prior to his last fight. Nonetheless, White’s estimate seems astoundingly high, so to speak, especially considering how vigilant many athletes in this sport are about every last thing they allow into their bodies. There are lots of vegetarians and vegans in the UFC, and many of those who do eat meat will consume only organic. I suppose that doesn’t rule out pot, but still … 400 out of 475? That’d be like all of the major leagues except the AL Central being stoners.
Speaking of which, White’s claim came while he was being questioned about UFC drug policy as it relates to those in other professional sports. And his comment on that topic was not surprising. Calling the recent years’ PED focus on players from the past misplaced, White said, “Go after the guys who are playing now. Those are the ones you want to bust.”
And even when the names of Manny Ramirez and Ryan Braun were brought up, as active players who were suspended for positive steroid tests, White would not concede that Major League Baseball or any other mainstream sport is doing a better job than the UFC of keeping things clean. “If you think baseball and football are really knocking it out of the park, pun intended, you’re crazy,” he said. “If they were really testing all the guys in baseball, do you think there’d be a [expletive] baseball game every day? There wouldn’t be, man. They’d be pulling guys up from the minors every day. It’d be crazy.”
Junior dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez
WAGENHEIM: Can Junior make quick work of Cain, as he did last time? He certainly can. He has the power, the speed and, most important, the confidence. But I’m envisioning something different from Velasquez this time. I think he’ll fight smarter while the tussle is standing, and he’ll use his explosiveness to test Dos Santos’ takedown defense. The bout will go to the ground at some point, as I see it, and Junior’s jiu-jitsu will wither in the face of Cain’s ground-and-pound ferocity. Velasquez by TKO.
HUNT: A rematch I’m really looking forward to, seeing as both were hurt in their first meeting. I think Velasquez will take the champ down, but won’t be able to keep him there long enough to get the job done. Dos Santos by TKO.
DOYLE: Can Velasquez take dos Santos down and keep him there? Sounds simple, but sometimes there’s no need to take it any deeper. This fight will go longer than the first, but will have a similar finish. Dos Santos by TKO.
Joe Lauzon vs. Jim Miller
WAGENHEIM: This is an easy one: My prediction is that one or both men will go home with pockets stuffed with extra cash. I’m talking bonuses. Lauzon wins Fight of the Night or Submission of the Night practically every time he steps into the cage, and Miller is all action, no nonsense. This is an excellent matchup that will be decided, I believe, by the rougher road Miller has taken to get here. This is just another in a long line of tests for him, and I think he’ll work his way to a passing grade… with honors. Miller by decision.
HUNT: The wrestler in Miller won’t be able to help himself taking this one to the ground, where Lauzon will get his chance to shine. Lauzon by submission.
DOYLE: A lot riding on this fight for both lightweights. The veteran Miller is looking to shake off a bad loss to Nate Diaz. For Lauzon, this is make-or-break for his championship aspirations. I’ll go with “make.” Lauzon by submission.
Tim Boetsch vs. Costa Philippou
WAGENHEIM: Stepping in for his injured training partner, Chris Weidman, might be the right opportunity for Philippou. Or maybe he’s biting off more than he can chew. Boetsch has been lurking in the shadows of the top contenders in the middleweight division for a while, and he’s out to put on a performance that gets him noticed. Boetsch by decision.
HUNT: Philippou seems just a little less experienced with top-shelf opposition to handle Boetsch’s trickier stand-up. Boetsch by TKO.
DOYLE: Both guys are capable of exciting fights, both are capable of snoozefests. Which version of either fighter will show up? Bottom line, this is a huge step in competition for Phillipou. Boetsch by decision.
Yushin Okami vs. Alan Belcher
WAGENHEIM: For this rematch of both men’s UFC debuts (won by Okami), Belcher has something bigger than vengeance in his sights. He wants what Okami already has had: a shot at the 185-pound belt. Although Belcher is not at the head of the line at this point, beating Okami would push him forward. Belcher by submission.
HUNT: It pains me to say it, but I’m starting to think Okami’s ship has sailed. He’s been a solid addition to the UFC roster; he is one of the few Japanese fighters to make an impact here, which should be noted. However, Belcher has youth, speed, and, dare I say, power on his side for this one. Belcher by decision.
DOYLE: Conventional wisdom says Belcher should keep this standing and avoid Okami’s wrestling. Conventional wisdom said something similar about Belcher’s May fight with submission artist Rousimar Palhares, and Belcher won that won on the ground. Belcher by decision.
Chris Leben vs. Derek Brunson
WAGENHEIM: There are two predictions to be made here. For one, which man will win this fight, but also which Chris Leben will show up to fight it. The ups and downs of “The Crippler” are well documented, and he’s still part of the UFC picture because he seems to always rise up when we’re ready to write him off. Leben by TKO.
HUNT: Brunson, a last-minute import from the disassembling Strikeforce promotion, is coming off two losses (one of them to the very talented Jacare Souza), but I think he has enough control not to get into a messy shootout with Leben, who’s choppy striking is pretty predictable. Brunson by decision.
DOYLE: Leben’s best bet is for the knockout; Brunson’s is to take Leben down and smother him. Leben’s a well-liked, returning veteran, but sentiment doesn’t get you far in this sport. Brunson by decision.
Some quick jabs …
• All indications are Bernard Hopkins — who will celebrate his 48th birthday next month — will return to the ring in March against IBF light heavyweight titleholder Tavoris Cloud at the Barclays Center. Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer told SI.com that Hopkins, who was wiped out by Chad Dawson last April, called him “out of the blue” a few months ago and told him, “I know I can still fight, I know I can still win.”
“Cloud-Hopkins is an interesting fight,” Schaefer said. “He’s a young, undefeated guy going up against legend like Bernard Hopkins. Bernard feels like it [Cloud] is the perfect style for him. He feels confident he can beat his own record and win another title. Stylistically, it’s an interesting matchup.”
According to Schaefer, the last remaining obstacle in making the fight is the IBF. Cloud has a mandatory title defense due against Karo Murat. Schaefer says he has submitted a request to the IBF, with the blessing of Sauerland Event (which promotes Murat) and Don King (Cloud), that outlines a scenario where the winner of Hopkins-Cloud will defend the title against Murat in the next fight.
• Wondering why Sergio Martinez is fighting Martin Murray in Argentina next month? Money, a truckload of it. According to sources familiar with the situation, the Argentine government is paying Martinez $5 million to hold his next fight in his home country. Martinez’s popularity in Argentina has grown exponentially in recent years, but monetizing a fight there, where a live gate wouldn’t generate much income, has been considered problematic. With the government offering that kind of guarantee, it becomes worth it.
• Schaefer said he hoped to resolve the futures of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Robert Guerrero by the first week in January. Both Alvarez and Guerrero are candidates to face Floyd Mayweather in May. Recently, Alvarez, on his official Facebook page, posted that a Mayweather fight was close to being completed.
“Canelo is very much pushing for a Mayweather fight,” Schaefer said. “I’m working on it. I have to see what i can deliver for Canelo. There is a lot of work still to be done.”
The most appealing option, from Golden Boy’s perspective, is to match Mayweather with Guerrero, Alvarez with Austin Trout or Alfredo Angulo and if both win make Mayweather-Alvarez in September.
• The California State Athletic commission is reaching out to boxers who may be eligible for a $5.1 million pension fund. To qualify, a boxer must be at least 50 years old, have fought at least 10 rounds a year for four years without more than a three-year break, and had a minimum of 75 scheduled professional rounds without a break of three years or more.
“The Athletic Commission wants to locate eligible boxers in order to pay them the benefits they have rightfully accrued,” said State Athletic Commission executive officer Andy Foster. “Any assistance in getting the word out would be greatly appreciated and would be a service to the athletes who gave so much to entertain the people of the State of California.”
• The assault on Getty Images photographer Al Bello by two members of Manny Pacquiao’s team — advisor Michael Koncz and assistant trainer Buboy Fernandez — was despicable. Photographs clearly show Bello, carrying two cameras, being grabbed and kicked by Koncz and Fernandez while in a precarious position outside the ring. Getty Images has requested further action be taken against Koncz and Fernandez, and I agree with them. A fine and/or a suspension is in order. What I don’t agree with is Getty seeking sanctions against Pacquiao, who had just been knocked out when the assault happened and clearly had nothing to do with it.
• Don’t be surprised if Andre Ward’s super middleweight title defense against Kelly Pavlik gets pushed into early or mid-March. Indications I’m getting are that Ward’s shoulder, while not torn, is pretty bad and could require extended time to heal.
• Farewell, Larry Merchant. For 35 years you were a credit to the sport. Here’s hoping you stay in it, in some capacity.
• As long as Nonito Donaire is represented by Top Rank and Abner Mares by Golden Boy, that fight will never, ever happen.
• Schaefer said he spoke to promoter Frank Warren again on Monday and that negotiations continue for a February matchup between lightweights Adrien Broner and Ricky Burns. Schaefer called the talks with Warren “promising.”
• On the undercard of Broner-Burns, Schaefer said, would be the rematch between Seth Mitchell and Johnathan Banks. Last month, Banks knocked out the undefeated Mitchell in the second round. When I asked Schaefer if there had been internal discussions about taking Mitchell easing his way back into the ring, he indicated the decision to take the immediate rematch was Mitchell’s decision.
“Seth and his team pushed for the rematch,” Schaefer said. “It’s obviously not an easy fight. For Seth, it’s do or die. He needs to show he can beat a guy like Banks. if he can’t win against Banks, it tells you a lot.”
• Schaefer confirmed that 41-year old Shane Mosley — who has not won a fight since 2009 and has been retired since taking a lopsided beating from Alvarez last May — is a candidate to face WBA welterweight champion Paulie Malignaggi. If that fight is made, it shouldn’t come anywhere near a television network.
• Boxing’s return to network TV last Saturday was a success. According to Golden Boy, the CBS card headlined by Leo Santa Cruz’s bantamweight title defense against Alberto Guevara did an overnight rating of 1.3, retaining 90 percent of the audience that watched Butler’s overtime win over Indiana before it. Boxing will be back on network TV this week, this time on NBC, with the rematch between Tomasz Adamek and Steve Cunningham.
– Chris Mannix
Sports Illustrated staff writer Chris Mannix looks back at Juan Manuel Marquez’s devastating knockout of Manny Pacquiao last weekend at the MGM Grand, then speaks with Amir Khan and Nonito Donaire ahead of their fights this weekend.
Click here to listen:
Bellator Fighting Championships and Spike TV jointly announced on Tuesday the launch of the promotion’s live debut on the men’s specialty cable channel for Jan. 17 at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT (satellite providers only, 10 p.m. PT delay through cable providers) from the UCI Bren Center on the University of Irvine campus in Southern California.
Bellator’s eighth season will host five simultaneous, eight-man tournaments in the 145-, 155-, 170-, 185- and 205-pound divisions over the next 12 weeks.
The Jan. 17 show will include two championship bouts: featherweight champion Pat Curran will defend against season four winner Patricio “Pitbull” Friere, while 2004 Olympic judo participant and season six winner Rick Hawn will challenge lightweight champion Mike Chandler.
A fan-voted feature bout between War Machine (formerly Jon Koppenhaver) and British striker Paul Daley has been postponed due to a knee injury War Machine sustained in training, said Bellator Chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney.
Bellator’s first live event on Spike will also include the promotional debut of former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Renato “Babalu” Sobral — who meets Russian import Mikhail Zayats in the light heavyweight tournament quarterfinals — and additional southern Californian-based fighters like Mike “Joker” Guymon and Jason Lambert.
The event will be followed by a one-hour special featuring Olympic wrestling veteran and former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, who reached an agreement with Bellator and TNA pro wrestling in mid-2012 to participate in both leagues. (TNA) Impact will serve as the lead-in to Bellator events on Thursdays, with Lawal figuring heavily into both organizations’ futures.
Lawal is expected to make his Bellator debut on Jan. 24 at the WinStar World Casino in Thackersville, Okla., as a participant in Bellator’s season eight 205-pound tournament, said Rebney. The 31-year-old Lawal’s opponent has not been named yet.
The Jan. 24 event will also feature a title bout between welterweight champion Ben Askren and season seven tournament winner Karl Amoussou. Bellator veterans Doug Lima and Ben Saunders will also compete that night, said Rebney.
Media conglomerate Viacom purchased a majority stake of Bellator in late 2011 in anticipation of the UFC’s move to the Fox Sports Media Group. Bellator shows ran on MTV2, a Viacom sister network, in 2012 while the final year of the UFC-Spike exclusive deal ran its course.
Spike TV said it also plans to launch shoulder programming for the live events, including a countdown-type show and another show entitled “Bellator 360.” A Bellator reality show, helmed by veteran reality show producer Bertram Van Munster (“The Amazing Race”), is expected to make its debut as early as mid-year, according to sources.
– Loretta Hunt
Some quick jabs…
• While some have called for Manny Pacquiao to retire following his brutal sixth-round knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez last Saturday — most notably his wife, Jinkee, and mother, Dionisia — don’t expect Pacquiao to walk away. I spoke with several fighters this week, including former stablemate Amir Khan and Filipino-American Nonito Donaire, who don’t believe they saw signs of a fighter in serious decline. No, Pacquiao is no longer the dominant fighter who tore a path through the 140- and 147-divisions for the last four years. But he is still a top-10 pound-for-pound guy who can beat most in his weight class and be competitive against all. So look for Pacquiao-Marquez V sometime next year, and if Pacquiao wins, expect a sixth installment of this historic rivalry, too.
• Any future meetings between Pacquiao and Marquez need random blood and urine testing. Both Pacquiao and Marquez have fought under suspicion of performance-enhancing drug use, with Marquez’s chiseled frame being credited to admitted PED peddler Angel Heredia the latest reason to raise questions. USADA or VADA testing isn’t perfect, but it’s significantly better than Nevada — or any state, really — which only does urine tests.
• Reports persist that the rematch between Seth Mitchell and Johnathan Banks will likely be Feb. 16, likely on HBO. But Banks’s promoter, Tom Loeffler, told SI.com that while Golden Boy had exercised the rematch clause for Mitchell, there was nothing official to report, other than Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer insisting that HBO will buy it.
• Please, Golden Boy: Don’t subject us to Bernard Hopkins-Nathan Cleverly. Hopkins-Tavoris Cloud is a much better fight.
• Here’s hoping Bryant Jennings gets a shot at a bigger fight in 2013. Lost amid the bedlam of Saturday in Marquez’s win over Pacquiao was the performance of Jennings, who knocked out Bowie Tupou on Saturday night on NBC Sports Network. It was Jennings’s fifth win of 2012. Jennings is supremely athletic, and against Tupou showed an ability to get off the deck — a third-round knockdown which, while not officially scored a knockdown, certainly was. He finished strong, dropping Tupou with a vicious uppercut in the fifth round. Jennings has been chasing 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Deontay Wilder; that’s not a bad undercard fight for HBO or Showtime to pick up.
Arturo Gatti has been inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
The two-division champion headlines a class of inductees that includes five-time champion Virgil Hill, two-time light flyweight champion Myung-Woo Yuh, referee Mills Lane, ring announcer Jimmy Lennon, Jr., and journalist Colin Hart, the Hall of Fame announced on Monday.
Gatti’s candidacy had been a subject of vociferous debate among boxing insiders, a question of his limited credentials versus undeniable entertainment value.
“It is the biggest honor that’s ever been bestowed upon me,” said Hill in a statement. “It’s more than winning the five world titles and the Olympic silver medal. It’s the biggest thing — outside of my children and wife — that’s ever happened to me.”
Other inductees from the 2013 include lightweight Wesley Ramey and middleweight Jeff Smith in the Old-Timer Category (posthumous), manager Arturo “Cuyo” Hernandez in the non-participant category (posthumous); cartoonist Ted Carroll in the observer category (posthumous); and Joe Coburn in the pioneer category (posthumous).
This year’s class will be enshrined on June 9 in Canastota, N.Y.
– SI.com staff
Manny Pacquiao’s wife and mother said the Filipino fighter should retire after Saturday’s knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez.
“When you see your husband get hurt, you cannot even sleep,” Jinkee Pacquiao, Manny’s wife, said in an interview on the GMA Network that aired Monday in the Philippines.
Jinkee was highly emotional Saturday following the knockout, weeping inconsolably as she attempted to climb into the ring to reach her fallen husband after a counter right hand from Marquez left him face down and unconscious on the canvas for nearly two minutes.
Does that mean she wants Pacquiao, the first and only eight-division champion in boxing history, to retire?
“You know the answer to that,” she told the interviewer, according to Agence France-Presse. “He knows what I am asking him”.
Pacquiao’s mother Dionisia was more direct in a separate interview on the same network.
“I have long asked you son, it is time to retire because you started boxing at such a young age. I always pray that he will stop. I asked God to tell my son to stop,” she said.
Dionisia had previously blamed Pacquiao’s defeat — his first by way of knockout since 1999 — on the religious recommitment he’s undergone over the past year, attributing his lost sleep to late-night Bible studies with “Protestant pastors.”
“That’s what he gets for changing his religion,” she said, a quote that led a front-page story in Monday’s Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Pacquiao turns 34 on December 17. He’s amassed a record of 54 wins, six losses and two draws with 38 knockouts since turning pro as a 106-pounder in 1995.
– Bryan Armen Graham
Juan Manuel Marquez’s stunning knockout of Manny Pacquiao concluded early enough to make the close of most Sunday newspapers in Marquez’s native Mexico. Here’s a look at how the victory played on the front pages.