Tuesday, March 28, 2023  |


Dougie’s Friday mailbag (Cotto’s last fight, The Dark Destroyer, trilogies, mythical matchups)

Nigel Benn (left) and Gerald McClellan exchange punches during their fierce and tragic 1995 super middleweight title bout. Photo / THE RING
Fighters Network


Sadam Ali. Yeah. Uh huh. Austin Trout wasn’t available, huh? – Ceylon

Well, not to be a smart ass in the face of your smart assery, but no, he wasn’t. He’s challenging Jarrett Hurd for the IBF 154-pound title tomorrow night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn (on Showtime – don’t tell me the PBC’s quality tripleheader has flown under your radar). The same card that hosts Hurd-Trout also includes the other two major junior middleweight beltholders – Erislandy Lara (who defends his WBA title against Terrell Gausha) and Jermell Charlo (who defends his WBC strap against Erickson Lubin), so, obviously, they weren’t available either.

You know who else was unavailable (or just declined the offer), according to RingTV’s senior writer Mike Coppinger? Errol Spence Jr., Mikey Garcia, Danny Garcia and Lamont Peterson. According to Steve Kim, who sourced Golden Boy president Eric Gomez, James Kirkland and Lucas Matthysse were also offered the fight with the four-division titleholder from Puerto Rico and declined. (Cotto vs. Spence or Matthysse would have been badass matchups.)

There was also serious discussion (as you’re probably aware) of Cotto taking on the Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin winner or middleweight contender David Lemieux. However, the controversial draw on Sept. 16 has pretty much guaranteed that the two 160-pound champs will engage in an immediate rematch next May, and Lemieux, though a bit raw technically speaking, is still too big and dangerous (without making for a mega-event and bringing in the amount of money that a Canelo or GGG matchup would). In other words, the reward was not worth the risk for Lemieux, who made it clear that he’s not going to agree to any catchweights for Cotto.

I’m fine with Cotto not facing a middleweight standout. It’s perfectly clear to me that he’s not a real 160 pounder (despite his RING/WBC title victory over the aging, inactive and half-crippled Sergio Martinez in 2014). His one-sided 12-round drubbing of gatekeeper Yoshihiro Kamegai let us know that while he still has his legs, reflexes and skillset, he lacks the power and physical strength of a modern middleweight. I didn’t want to see him share the ring with GGG, the 160-pound version of Canelo, or Lemieux. I can only envision one outcome to those middleweight contests – brutal stoppage.

F__k that. I don’t care if hardcore fans view Cotto as a “diva.” He doesn’t deserve to go out like that. He’s spilled enough blood for our entertainment during his 17-year career. He didn’t play it safe during his prime. He had more than his share of shootouts and grueling battles of attrition.

Is Ali – who can be a handful if he gets into his stick-and-move rhythm – a bit of a “gimme”? Yeah, he is. But Cotto’s earned it.



Dear Doug,

It’s hard for me to understand how someone could vote for Nigel Benn for the IBHOF after the way he destroyed Gerald McClellan’s brain with his repeated rabbit punching (one of his usual weapons anyway). He belongs in the Hall of Shame IMHO. – Leslie Gerber, Woodstock, NY

I would agree with keeping Benn out of the International Boxing Hall of Fame if I thought he fouled McClellan (and other fighters) with the intent to do permanent physical damage, but I don’t believe that he did. I know Benn was a wild, live-and-die-by-the-sword-type puncher. I know he could appear to be a ruthless killer in the ring at times, but my gut always told me that he was just a fierce, hyper-emotional, all-or-nothing competitor. I know it sounds like I’m trying to make excuses for Benn, but I really believe that he wasn’t fully conscious when he was prize fighting; it’s was almost as though there was “temporary insanity” during those three-minute rounds. It was like he was possessed. (The raw honesty he shared with Alex Wallau following his one-round stoppage of Iran Barkley, who he nailed more than once after the Bronx bomber was down on all fours, made this very clear to me and that post-fight interview is still one of the most fascinating I’ve ever seen.)

Benn-Barkley was a brief-but-crazy confrontation. That’s what happens when two hard-slugging warriors – one out of the British military, the other spawned from the NYC gang culture – share the ring. Same deal with Benn-McClellan. When violent men occupy the ring, violent things happen.

Benn was a born-fighter gifted with world-class power who trained like a demon and fought like a bat out of hell. McClellan was cut from the same cloth and probably the more surly of the two punchers outside of the ring. I’ve been told by former pro boxers who used to train along side McClellan that the Michigan native had a dark and sadistic side to his personality. When a fearless power-hitter like Benn shares the ring with a fearsome puncher like McClellan fans are often treated to an amazing clash, but tragic things can also happen with this type of matchup.

I’m not saying Benn wasn’t wrong for hitting the back of McClellan’s head during the clinches. The referee (Alfred Asaro) should have warned and penalized Benn for the foul (and disqualify the British fighter if need be). I’m just saying Benn wasn’t in there trying to permanently damage McClellan any more than McClellan was trying to permanently damage Benn. They were just trying to knock each other the f__k out. McClellan almost had Benn out in the opening round. In fact, MClellan knocked Benn out of the ring in Round 1 and he landed a few big right hands to the back of Benn’s head and behind his ear (while the defending WBC 168-pound titleholder was trying to duck under some of G-Man’s bombs) before he got the Brit against the ropes. McClellan landed a few more shots to the back of Benn’s head while the Londoner was prone along the ropes before sending him out of the ring and he landed few more once Benn climbed back into the ring and tried to survive the round.

McClellan landed some hard shots to the back of Julian Jackson’s head during the early rounds of their first fight. I don’t think the G-Man was intentionally trying to lands punches to the back of Benn’s or Jackson’s heads. He was just trying to land a KO punch while they were trying to duck away or were twisting or reeling away after taking a previous shot. Had Benn suffered a serious head injury from falling out of the ring or if Jackson fell into a coma after his head crashed against the canvas at the conclusion of their shootout, I wouldn’t have blamed McClellan for the tragedy.



Hi Doug,

Both my wife and I are huge fans of boxing and consider The Ring to be the Bible of Boxing and you the prophet (we catch your mailbag every Monday and Friday). We are looking forward to the Gabriel Rosado vs. Glen Tapia fight on the 19th but have one major issue: ESPN!!!! Every time a fight is shown on this network, no matter what the schedule says, the time posted is always wrong and we can’t find which channel it is on (ESPN 1, 2, 3, etc.)! Is there any recourse that you know of to help us with this problem? – Jesse from UT

Thank you for the reverence, Jesse. I feel your pain with ESPN’s recent boxing broadcasts. They are indeed hard to keep up with. The only solution to this programming dilemma that I can think of is to get one of the ESPN Apps that enables you to watch the network’s shows live.

The WatchESPN App allows you to view live feeds from ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNews and ESPN Deportes (along with several other sports networks owned by or affiliated with the Wide World Leader in Sports – but the four channels I mentioned are the ones that showcase boxing). The live-streaming service is available at no cost to you if you already subscribe to one of the major cable/satellite providers (such as Comcast Xfinity, Time Warner Cable, AT&T U-verse, DISH, DirecTV, Verizon FiOs TV, etc.) and once you have the App you can watch ESPN networks on your computer, smart phone, tablet, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV and Roku.

Sorry for the ESPN App commercial (I’m gonna have to get them to sponsor the mailbag if I keep getting complaint emails from frustrated fans), but the only other way to make sure you catch the network’s boxing programming is to DVR the time slot after the show (in case the start time is pushed back by the previous program running long, which happens often) and also additional ESPN channels during the same time slot (in case the network plays hop scotch with boxing as it has with Top Rank’s recent shows).



Hi Dougie,

Being British it is great to see you are leaning towards Benn and Chris Eubank, as 2 of your 5 pics for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. I also liked how you mentioned it would be good to see them inducted together, which leads me to ask, how much does having an adversary add to a legacy.

Joe Calzaghe and Floyd Mayweather both finished careers with an 0, but neither of them had a proper ding-dong with an adversary and in my honest opinion it puts a dent in their legacy.

While I wanted GGG to win against Canelo, I’m hoping for another close fight with a Canelo win so we get a trilogy, us fans love it.

What are your best rematch/trilogies? All the best. – Chris, London

The Marco Antonio Barrera-Erik Morales three-bout series, which was contested at 122, 126 and 130 pounds from 2000 to 2004, is the best trilogy that I’ve witnessed live/covered as a member of the boxing media. The Barrera-Morales trilogy is closely followed by Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez’s three bouts, which all took place at 122 pounds in back-to-back-to-back fights over a 12-month span (2007-2008). (And, no, I do not count that fourth bout at featherweight.)

The Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward trilogy – which I did not cover, but certainly enjoyed watching on TV – is right behind those two all-Mexican showdowns. One of the trilogies I loved as a hardcore fan (prior to getting involved with covering the sport) is the three-fight series between American heavyweight champs Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield.

Best rematches that I covered? Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez II (one of the rare cases when the return bout outdoes the first fight) and Lennox Lewis-Hasim Rahman II (which produced one of the nastiest two-punch-combo-KOs I’ve ever witnessed) come to mind. As a fan, I loved the two bouts between Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns (and wasn’t pissed at all that the rematch took place eight years after the first bout because it happened when I got back into boxing). The IBF welterweight title bouts between Simon Brown and Tyrone Trice (in 1988 and 1990) are forgotten battles that younger fans should check out if they haven’t seen them (or heard of either fighter). And, of course, Benn-Eubank I and II are among my all-time favorite two-bout rivalries.

How much does having an “adversary” (or rival) add to a fighter’s legacy? I think it adds a lot. Muhammad Ali’s legacy was definitely enhanced by his rivalry (and trilogy) with Joe Frazier. Joe Louis’ legend was strengthened by his two bouts against Max Schmeling, Billy Conn, Jersey Joe Walcott and even Buddy Baer. The return bouts against those opponents proved that Louis could bounce back from his first loss, controversial victories or a harder-than-expected win. I think the Michael Carbajal-Humberto “Chiquita” Gonzalez trilogy helped get both junior flyweight champs voted into the IBHOF. I think Gatti’s three-bout series with Ward helped get him enshrined. Manny Pacquiao’s rivalries with Barrera, Morales and Marquez are just as important to his legacy as winning world titles (and championship recognition) in eight weight classes (if not more important).

And I think there’s a good chance that Canelo-Golovkin becomes a trilogy.



Big Doug!

It’s been awhile. Loyal reader of your mailbags since MAXBOXING (which is the last time I wrote to you). One of my favorite moments from the MAXBOXING days was you and Steve Kim answering one of my questions on your webshow (lol my question was who was more annoying at their prime – Roy Jones Jr.’s fans or Floyd Mayweather’s fans). Glad everything is well, and I have some random questions for ya plus some mythicals:

  • All these years covering boxing, have you ever grown so close to a fighter that you’ve, to their face, personally urged them to retire if they are fighting well beyond their prime and taking too much punishment?
  • As fans/media often do in baseball, do you put an asterisk by the career of elite fighters who have been highly suspected (but not proven) to have used PEDs – there are several names that fit this bill in the current/previous era, I’m sure you know who I am referring to.
  • Which great, or even all-time great, do you wish would have trained harder and been more dedicated to the sport? First name that comes to mind for me is one of my personal faves, James Toney. Amazing career as is but without all of his between-fight vices, you can only imagine how much better he could have been.

Mythical Matchups:

  • Julian Jackson vs. David Lemieux
  • Salvador Sanchez vs. Erik Morales
  • Joe Calzaghe vs. Sergio Martinez
  • Aaron Pryor vs. Manny Pacquiao
  • Kostya Tszyu vs. Oscar DLH

Thanks Doug! Hope all is well. – Big Will

Hey Big Will! I remember you. Good to hear from you again. I guess I’ll start by answering your mythical matchups:

Julian Jackson vs. David Lemieux – The Hawk by mid-round KO in a very entertaining shootout.

Salvador Sanchez vs. Erik Morales – Sanchez by competitive, close unanimous decision in a very good featherweight contest.

Joe Calzaghe vs. Sergio Martinez – Calzaghe by competitive but clear unanimous decision.

Aaron Pryor vs. Manny Pacquiao – The Hawk by close perhaps majority decision in a great fight.

Kostya Tszyu vs. Oscar DLH – I almost always go with King Kostya when asked how he’d fare against a classic stand-up boxer, but the 140-pound (Jesus Rivero-trained) version of The Golden Boy was so fast (with good pop), nimble and mobile, and so disciplined with that stiff left jab (which worked between feints and hooks), that I think he might have been able to outpoint the Russian-Aussie badass. The junior welterweight De La Hoya only existed for one-year (February 1996-January ’97), three-bout period (vs. Darryl Tyson, Julio Cesar Chavez and Miguel Angel Gonzalez) but I think that “float-like-a-butterfly-sting-like-bee” version would have been able to score a close, maybe majority decision over Tszyu, who would’ve likely closed the fight well (as Gonzalez did). He’d have to move more against Tszyu than he did against Gonzalez, but I think Rivero (AKA “The Professor”) would have him do just that. (If he tried to take the fight to Tszyu, he’d probably stress himself out and burn himself out by the late rounds where Kostya could take him out or take over.)

All these years covering boxing, have you ever grown so close to a fighter that you’ve, to their face, personally urged them to retire if they are fighting well beyond their prime and taking too much punishment? No, I’ve never told a boxer what to do with his career or life no matter how close we were or how concerned I was for his health/well being. I have, on occasion, expressed my concerns in columns or post-fight reports. I recall penning a “Southern California Notebook” on Vince Phillips, who I liked a lot, prior to his fight against Nick Acevedo in 2002 (early MaxBoxing.com years). I didn’t demand that he retire or anything like that, but I wrote that I wish I had the guts to tell him to his face that he’s past his prime and was jeopardizing his future health by continuing to fight. I also predicted that Acevedo, a former NYC amateur standout who only had 15 fights at the time, would beat “Cool Vince” in their ESPN2-televised bout. Of course, Phillips outworked Acevedo over 10 rounds and when he saw me in Las Vegas (at the MGM Grand’s lobby, the afternoon of the first Floyd Mayweather-Jose Luis Castillo fight, a month later) the former 140-pound titleholder, who was flanked by a loud and obnoxious entourage, got in my face (and I’m talking forehead-to-forehead) to express his displeasure with my article. I love this sport.

As fans/media often do in baseball, do you put an asterisk by the career of elite fighters who have been highly suspected (but not proven) to have used PEDs – there are several names that fit this bill in the current/previous era, I’m sure you know who I am referring to. Sure. I’ve got an mental asterisk by Evander Holyfield’s name, and though I’ll likely vote for Shane Mosley, one of my all-time favorites, I’ll also put one by his name. I know a lot members of the boxing media that are eligible to vote on IBHOF candidates will do the same thing when they see Manny Pacquiao’s and Juan Manuel Marquez’s names on the ballot. I will do that when I see Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s name on the ballot (and for the record, his fans suck WAY harder than RJJ’s ever did).

Which great, or even all-time great, do you wish would have trained harder and been more dedicated to the sport? First name that comes to mind for me is one of my personal faves, James Toney. It would definitely be Lights Out. I was just talking about how amazing he was in the ring and in the gym over lunch today (with publicist Rachel Charles – who did some PR for Toney while working for the late, great Dan Goossen – and middleweight prospect Jason Quigley). To be honest, I can’t imagine how excellent a disciplined James Toney would have performed, I just know that he would have been an all-time great.



Hi Dougie,

Hope all is well over the pond, and you’re enjoying this super sweet sugar-coated year of boxing we seem to be ploughing quickly through. I certainly am, but one thing does leave a sour taste in my mouth.

These dodgy judges’ scores we seem to be having recently has really given fight fans in the UK the hump. Namely GGG and the younger Fury not getting the results most fight fans here thought they deserved.

Something needs to be done to keep judges on their toes, and give fans a better understanding about the people judging the fighters who put their lives on the line for our pleasure. I don’t want to see GGG chase down a man for 12 rounds, while taking the occasional punch that would probably knock a hole through a wall, for a draw on the score cards. Or Joe Parker seemingly punch air for 12 rounds and win 10 of them.

What I propose is a database of all the judges that currently have a licence, listing every fight they officiated, with the scores they and their fellow judges gave on the night. This would make it easier for the average fight fan to spot any anomalies, and lobby against any judge they feel shouldn’t be scoring a particular fight. Sort of like boxrec for judges. Does anything like this exist? If so, why isn’t it publicised more? I think it would help keep judges honest.

At the moment it seems like the bigger promoter on fight night pulls whatever judge they like out of their arse, and no one questions it. I’m sure you recognise a lot of the judges, and know what reputations they have, but most fight fans don’t. Us fight fans need to start giving more of a s__t about the officials. We just want to watch fights without worrying about any controversies. Having a judges’ database will empower us with knowledge. More knowledgeable fight fans can only be a good thing for the sport.

Mythical match-up:

The Dark Destroyer vs Canelo (my mouths watering just thinking about it)

All the best Dougie, it’s always a great pleasure to read your work. Mondays and Friday mornings wouldn’t be the same without you! – Rafiq Haq., Wembley, England

Thanks for the very kind words, Rafiq. That’s a good mythical matchup. I think the version of Canelo that we saw against GGG is savvy enough to take the 160-pound version of Benn into deep water and drown him. I would favor Benn at super middleweight, but I think it would be a good fight.

I agree that fans (and media) need to keep a closer eye on the judges (who are not appointed by the promoters but rather the boxing commissions). I think a database of all the active judges is good way for fans to educate themselves on who’s who and their track records. And lucky for us, a “boxrec for judges” exists – it’s called boxrec.com! You may have noticed that the officials of every modern bout in the boxing record database are listed. Well, if you click on the name of a judge, such as our good friend Adalaide Byrd, you will be taken to a list of all of the fights she’s officiated (and veteran judges often have several pages).

And boxrec.com posts the names of the referee and three judges as soon as they are publicly announced, usually a week or two prior to the bout taking place, so concerned fans have time to research the appointed officials. Of course, what needs to happen is that the promoters/managers involved need to research the suggested officials BEFORE they are appointed and request that anyone who might not do a good job be removed from the fight.



Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer