Dougie’s Friday mailbag (Ryan Garcia, Wilfred Benitez, Deontay Wilder, Gerry Cooney)
BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE
I hope you and yours are well? I just wanted your thoughts on some potential matchups at Lightweight.
I’ve read that negotiations are underway for Luke Campbell v Ryan Garcia, to become Devin Haney’s mandatory. Following this news, it seems a few fans are now accusing Ryan of ducking Loma because he didn’t accept the WBO eliminator against Tagoe. I think Ryan is stuck between a rock and a hard place because, if he’d took the Tagoe fight, other fans would accuse him of taking the easier (on paper at least) option to become a mandatory, and thus ducking Campbell and a possible future fight with Haney. Personally, I just want to see him face a legit top contender, which Campbell is.
I would like to see the Loma-Garcia fight further down the road because, I think Garcia needs a couple of acid tests to prepare for a fight of that magnitude. Campbell and Haney would be that acid test. If he were to come through those, he would be a worthy opponent for Loma, assuming Loma was still a champion at this point.
Haney is still a bit of an unknown as, like Garcia, his resume is lacking top 10 names. For that reason, although I’d like to see Garcia-Loma in the future, I favour Luke over Ryan and Devin at this point. Some would say that is just being an, “insufferable tribal nationalist,” but hear my logic. As you know, Campbell has failed in both attempts at a title but, both attempts were against Ring champs who were the consensus number 1 at the time. Luke was competitive in both fights and was very close to against Jorge. So for me, he proved he belongs at the top level. Those experiences will have benefited Luke tremendously, and are experiences Ryan and Devin are yet to have. For that reason, Luke has to be seen as the favourite, in my opinion.
Keep up the good work. – Chris M., UK
Thanks, Chris. Viewing Campbell as the favorite against Haney and Garcia is a fair opinion. The English veteran is an Olympic gold medalist with a disciplined technical southpaw style and world-class pro experience to back it up. He’s also a tough cookie. Campbell has proven more in his losses to Lomachenko and Linares than the young guns have in all of their pro bouts combined. And one has to figure that if Campbell can win rounds against Linares and Lomachenko, he can win A LOT of rounds against Ryan and Devin. However, you can also look at how he was bothered by the sheer athleticism of the Venezuelan and Ukrainian stars, and figure that the natural talents of Garcia and Haney give them a good shot at beating him.
Hey, I don’t really care to come up with odds, I just want to see these types of fights because it’s high time that Haney, The Ring’s No. 2-rated lightweight, and Garcia, The Ring’s No. 5-rated 135 pounder, fought a fellow Ring-ranked contender. They both need the challenge to know how good they really are (and Garcia needs it to know how much money to demand from his promoter/platform).
I’m hoping we get more clarity in the 135-pound division with the help of the WBC (and WBO) mandated fights and with the Vasiliy Lomachenko-Teofimo Lopez showdown looking like it’s FINALLY got a date and location (Oct. 3 in Las Vegas). I love it! We’ve got a Ring champion vs. The Ring’s No. 1-rated lightweight with Loma-Lopez (along with the WBA, WBO and IBF titles on the line). We’ve got The Ring’s Nos. 7 and 8 lightweight clashing with the Jorge Linares (8)-Javier Fortuna (7) fight on Aug. 22 in Indio, California. And, hopefully, we’ll get Nos. 4 and 5 in the ring together with Campbell (4)-Garcia at some point this year. Haney vs. the winners of either WBC eliminator would be must-see TV.
I’ve read that negotiations are underway for Luke Campbell v Ryan Garcia, to become Devin Haney’s mandatory. Let’s hope that’s the case. Garcia hasn’t been a happy camper in regard to his relationship with Golden Boy Promotions in recent months. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for cooler heads prevail and we see Garcia back in the ring (vs. Campbell or another top-rated lightweight) as soon as possible.
Following this news, it seems a few fans are now accusing Ryan of ducking Loma because he didn’t accept the WBO eliminator against Tagoe. OK, for starters, Loma’s dance card is filled at the moment and he’ll have his wizardly hands full with Lopez. Those fans claiming Garcia is ducking are getting ahead of themselves. Even if Garcia fought and beat Tagoe to assume mandatory challenger status with the WBO, it doesn’t mean he’d be ready for Lomachenko. He’s developing at a rapid rate under Eddy Reynoso’s guidance, but he’s still a work in progress. Like you, I don’t think that particular matchup should be rushed.
I think Ryan is stuck between a rock and a hard place because, if he’d took the Tagoe fight, other fans would accuse him of taking the easier (on paper at least) option to become a mandatory, and thus ducking Campbell and a possible future fight with Haney. Some fans are nuts. (#Salty nuts to be specific.) A fighter isn’t always “ducking” when he choses one opponent over another. If Garcia fought Emmanuel Tagoe (The Ring’s No. 9-rated lightweight, WBC No. 8 and WBO No. 3) the Ghanaian veteran would still be a significant step up in competition. Tagoe is as strong and tough as we’ve come to expect from fighters out of Accra, plus he’s kind of cagey. He’s got his own version of the shoulder roll and a slightly off-beat rhythm. Tagoe has been fighting 12-round bouts since 2009 (and he’s gone that distance eight times) so if he can take Garcia into deep water he could seriously test the young man. The only thing that concerns me about Tagoe is his inactivity. He hasn’t fought since last July.
Personally, I just want to see him face a legit top contender, which Campbell is. Campbell is the top choice to be sure. Garcia could make a HUGE statement if he can beat the Englishman, especially if he could do so inside the distance.
I would like to see the Loma-Garcia fight further down the road because, I think Garcia needs a couple of acid tests to prepare for a fight of that magnitude. Campbell and Haney would be that acid test. I’d be totally cool with Garcia going straight to Haney (although I admit that wouldn’t be fair to Campbell).
If he were to come through those, he would be a worthy opponent for Loma, assuming Loma was still a champion at this point. Team Lopez would tell you not to count your eggs before they’ve hatched.
THE FIFTH KING
Hope you and your family are well. Props for providing the mailbags for all these years, I really do look forward to them.
I wanted to ask your view as to why Wilfred Benitez isn’t mentioned in the same breath as Duran, Leonard, Hearns and Hagler? To me he seems equally as talented as they are, owns a clear victory over Duran and is the youngest champion ever (a record that is never likely to be broken). Is it true he only used to train 2-3 weeks for a fight?
A few mythical matchups:
Pacquiao vs Paul Williams
Duran vs Gerald McClellan @ 160
James Toney vs Jack Johnson with unlimited rounds
Benitez vs Margarito
Mayweather vs Edwin Valero
Kind regards. – Barno, London
Your mythical matchups:
Pacquiao vs Paul Williams – this is such a weird style matchup due to the absurd height/reach disparities. PacMonster at his best at 147 is a more elite fighter than the welterweight version of P-Will, but the Punisher was no slouch – almost as tough as Antonio Margarito, but faster and somehow even busier. I’m going to go with the slight upset and say Williams narrowly outpoints the Philippines hero.
Duran vs Gerald McClellan @ 160 – I think the middleweight versions of Duran that took Marvin Hagler 15 rounds and outpointed Iran Barkley would outclass McClellan over 12. Duran by close UD in a hotly contested fight (apologies to all the diehard G-Man fans).
James Toney vs Jack Johnson with unlimited rounds – Johnson by TKO. Toney would give the Galveston Giant a hell of a fight with brilliant boxing for about 20 rounds; he’d get bored after 30 rounds (even with all the trash talk that would be exchanged between the two mavericks), and he’d finally say “F__k it” and stay on his stool at some point between Rounds 40 and 45. (Johnson would also beat Toney in the amount of alcohol and fast women he could handle. However, Toney would edge Lil’ Arthur in food and cigar consumption.)
Benitez vs Margarito – El Radar by close but unanimous decision in a very good fight.
Mayweather vs Edwin Valero – Mayweather by decision at 130 and 147; The V-nom by mid-to-late stoppage at 135 and 140. All are excellent fights except at welterweight.
I wanted to ask your view as to why Wilfred Benitez isn’t mentioned in the same breath as Duran, Leonard, Hearns and Hagler? To me he seems equally as talented as they are, owns a clear victory over Duran and is the youngest champion ever (a record that is never likely to be broken). Good question. I agree that Benitez was equally talented to the Four Kings. In fact, I think he was the most natural talent of the five. However, he peaked early. The Puerto Rican star was a three-division champ by age 22, but he began to slide by 23 or 24.
Here’s a couple of things to consider: Benitez never faced Hagler (as Duran, Hearns and Leonard did); he was not effective above 154 pounds as they were. Also, The Four Kings defined the 1980s and two of Benitez’s greatest victories took place in the 1970s (his 140- and 147-pound title-winning decisions over Antonio Cervantes in 1976 and Carlos Palomino in 1979). He was devastating vs. Maurice Hope (who he starched in 12 rounds to annex the WBC 154-pound belt in 1981) and he was brilliant in defending it vs. Duran, but he lost it to Hearns right after the triumph over Hands of Stone, and he never regained his mojo and career momentum after being outpointed by the Hitman. Those two bouts were in 1982. From that point on he lost to every Ring-rated fighter he faced (a one-sided decision to Mustafa Hamsho, a freak injury TKO to Davey Moore, and a ninth-round stoppage to Matthew Hilton).
Benitez was arguably no longer world class after 1984 or 1985. As erratic as Duran was during the 1980s, he still had high points throughout the decade – the beatdown of Moore, the bold stand vs. Hagler, and the eventual WBC middleweight title winning effort (and Ring Fight of the Year) vs. Iran Barkley in ’89. (It certainly didn’t hurt Duran’s legacy and reputation that he was able to beat guys – Moore and Barkley – that beat Benitez and Hearns.)
Is it true he only used to train 2-3 weeks for a fight? That’s what I’ve heard, and I believe it. He was super talented but not very dedicated. However, short camps were not unusual during this time. Hearns was known to have 3-4 week camps even for big fights. His camps for Benitez, Duran and Hagler were only four weeks long. Some insiders thought he had “overtrained” for Leonard because his camp was six weeks for that super fight.
FURY-WILDER GLOVE ISSUE
Been a very long time fan, first time I emailed you. Thanks for all the great work you’ve done over the years.
I keep seeing more and more youtube channels that try to show that Fury cheated with his gloves and are demanding an investigation. My perception is that those are biased channels to PBC fighters. What is your opinion on that subject? Should an investigation be done or is this much ado about nothing?
Anyways, take care and thanks again. – Armando
I think it’s just bulls__t and just plain silly, but if these YouTubers truly believe that Fury improperly wrapped his hands or loaded his gloves or has some weird illegal technique where his hand doesn’t even fill the glove (and they’re not just taking advantage of delusional Wilder fanatics to earn a few extra bucks) I think they should A) get Wilder to speak on it, B) they should boycott Fury-Wilder 3, C) they should take their claims/case(s) – along with evidence, witnesses and experts – to the Nevada and California commissions (if they believe Fury cheated in both fights) and try have the official verdicts changed to No Decisions.
IS THERE A FUTURE FOR WILDER?
I’ve been noticing a lot of hate on Deontay Wilder still. I like the man. He may not be a very pure boxer, but of course he has the power. If he could just get back to the basic fundamentals of boxing of working off the jab. Everything is set up by the jab. He has the height and reach, and if he could get a Holmes or Hearns piston like jab going he can still go with the best heavyweights out there.
Obviously, his last fight with Fury was embarrassing for him and his fight before that with Ortiz he was handily outboxed by the smaller man. Wilder needs to reinvent himself, take a tune up fight and go for the rubber match with Fury or at 34 needs to take his money plus his faculties and retire. But if he goes for Fury again I can’t see him winning. Fury just has that size and style to give problems to heavyweights of any era.
Stay safe during this crazy virus 🦠. – Jeff, Australia
I think Fury is more of a psychological nightmare for Wilder than a stylistic dilemma for the American puncher. He just gets under Wilder’s skin. (And now it seems that The Gypsy King is the heads of Wilder’s most diehard fans, who will likely add more anxiety, angst and obsession to the rivalry, which is not a good thing for the former WBC titleholder.)
Anyway, you don’t have to channel Eddie Futch to know that Wilder could be WAY more effective if he utilized a sharp, busy jab. His problem with Fury is that The Ring/WBC/lineal champ has a damn good jab of his own (and he’s one of the few heavyweights with a longer reach than Wilder), and the Englishman is very good at fighting at range, even when he is the come-forward aggressor.
Obviously, his last fight with Fury was embarrassing for him and his fight before that with Ortiz he was handily outboxed by the smaller man. Ortiz outweighed Wilder by about 17 pounds.
Wilder needs to reinvent himself, take a tune up fight and go for the rubber match with Fury or at 34 needs to take his money plus his faculties and retire. I hope Wilder stays in the game – tune up or no tune up, win or lose vs. Fury – for at least a couple more years. Fury may indeed have his number, but you can never count a puncher like Wilder completely out, and he makes for very good matchups with Andy Ruiz Jr., Dillian Whyte, Joseph Parker, and, of course, Anthony Joshua. As I stated in Monday’s mailbag, I’m fascinated by the idea of Aleksandr Usyk challenging Wilder.
But if he goes for Fury again I can’t see him winning. Fury just has that size and style to give problems to heavyweights of any era. I agree.
THE PHENOMENON OF GERRY COONEY
One of the most exciting, popular, and enigmatic heavyweight contenders of the 1980s was Gentleman Gerry Cooney. Cooney’s popularity was a result of several factors. He possessed crushing punching power – particularly with his left hook to the body. His HBO highlight reel was absolutely eye catching. From a matchmaking perspective, Cooney was carefully matched against well known heavyweights from the Ali/Frazier/Foreman/Norton era of the 1970s. Three names that come to mind are Ron Lyle, Jimmy Young, and Ken Norton, who Cooney starched in 54 seconds.
Another reason for Cooney’s immense popularity was, like it or not, his pigmentation. Cooney was a white heavyweight contender during an era in which the heavyweight division was largely dominated by blacks. Many believe that his race was used as a marketing tool during the promotion of his multi-million dollar battle with then universally recognized heavyweight champion Larry Holmes. Holmes dominated en route to an 11th round TKO victory and Cooney fought very sparingly over the next 8 years. 2 of his 5 fights between 1982 and 1990 were closed circuit or pay-per-view events. He was brutally knocked out in a title challenge against Michael Spinks and in a crossroads bout against George Foreman. Cooney never fought after that.
When Spinks defeated Holmes to win the Heavyweight championship, Cooney’s name was the first to be mentioned as a challenger – even though he was unranked, inactive, and semi-retired. He also hadn’t fought for 3 years before his pay-per-view bout against Foreman.
Your thoughts Doug on Cooney’s immense popularity throughout the eighties. How do think he would have fared against the legitimate contenders of his era such as Tim Witherspoon, Michael Dokes, Mike Weaver, Gerrie Coetzee, Pinklon Thomas, Trevor Berbick, etc? How much success do you think Cooney would have had during the 90s, 2000s, and in today’s heavyweight landscape? – Todd Elliot, Brooklyn, NY
I think Cooney would be, at the least, a top-five contender, if not a world titleholder if he were fighting today. He possessed more than legit one-punch KO power, he also had very good technique, and he was a busy big man when he was in shape and dialed in. The man’s combinations were scary.
The 1990s would have challenged him, though. That was a second Golden Age for the glamor division. It was very deep, but Cooney would have mixed well with the top dogs and would have made for some explosive shootouts with Riddick Bowe, Tommy Morrison, Razor Rudduck and Ray Mercer. He’d be live against anyone who didn’t have world-class skills, chin and stamina.
Had he fought the contenders of his era, I think Tim Witherspoon and Pinklon Thomas beat him, maybe stop him late, if they’re at their best. It’s a toss up with Michael Dokes, Mike Weaver and Gerrie Coetzee, but I slightly favor Cooney. I think he outpoints Trevor Berbick.
My thoughts on Cooney’s popularity is that he was not only a modern-sized heavyweight with frightening power and an exciting style, he was VERY good on camera. He had personality, seemed humble, affable, approachable. Holmes did not seem very friendly to the casual fans, and I’m not talking about prejudiced white people. If you idolized Muhammad Ali, as I and so many others did, you viewed Holmes as a sadistic a__hole. (I know that wasn’t fair to Larry but that’s how we felt at the time.) Cooney seemed harmless when he was outside of the ring.
Still, I didn’t believe he could beat Holmes and I can’t say that I was a Cooney fan. It was nothing against Cooney, I was just kind of sour on boxing by 1982, with Ali gone and Sugar Ray Leonard soon to join him in retirement. However, even though I really wasn’t paying attention to the sport around the time of the Holmes-Cooney fight, I knew it was happening. It was in the newspapers, general sport and entertainment magazines and covered extensively by the TV news sports anchors. You couldn’t escape the hype for that fight, which was touted as the $20 million fight. And you knew that Cooney was a popular figure and sentimental favorite when you learned that he’d get close to parity with the champion (and you know that had to piss Holmes off to no end). As far as I know, the only fighter to take home a $10 million payday to that point was Leonard. Holmes and Cooney would do so with their fight because the heavyweight championship was still a very big deal in 1982. (Ring Magazine published a special Fight Program issue for Holmes-cooney.)
Another reason for Cooney’s immense popularity was, like it or not, his pigmentation. To paraphrase Ali: “He had the connection, the complexion, and the protection.”
Cooney was a white heavyweight contender during an era in which the heavyweight division was largely dominated by blacks. True.
Many believe that his race was used as a marketing tool during the promotion of his multi-million dollar battle with then universally recognized heavyweight champion Larry Holmes. They’re not wrong, and it benefitted Holmes and Cooney both in terms of the payout. Ali would have relished it all. But it only made Holmes more bitter.
Holmes dominated en route to an 11th round TKO victory and Cooney fought very sparingly over the next 8 years. Actually, Cooney lasted into the 13th round, when his trainer Victor Valle saved him from further punishment, and the challenger had his moments. It was close on two official scorecards at the time of the stoppage despite Cooney being docked three points for low blows during the contest.
2 of his 5 fights between 1982 and 1990 were closed circuit or pay-per-view events. And only his last two bouts, vs. Michael Spinks and George Foreman, were against world-class heavyweights.
He was brutally knocked out in a title challenge against Michael Spinks and in a crossroads bout against George Foreman. Cooney never fought after that. The Spinks bout is memorable to me because it’s the first time I ever bet on a fight (other than with my dad). It was a decent sum ($50), and it sticks out in my head because I made the wager with two adult comic book collectors at a comic shop and I won the bet. I also recall that they referenced The Ring magazine as support for their pick (Cooney) and confidently told me that he possessed “the most devastating punch in the heavyweight division – his left hook.” I wasn’t sold on Spinks but I didn’t like Cooney’s inactivity. I thought it meant that Cooney lacked self-belief and I knew Spinks believed in himself. I was a bit surprised when I heard that Spinks knocked him out, though. The Foreman fight stands out to me because that’s when Big George’s comeback began to seem real.
When Spinks defeated Holmes to win the Heavyweight championship, Cooney’s name was the first to be mentioned as a challenger – even though he was unranked, inactive, and semi-retired. That was a smart move by Team Spinks.
He also hadn’t fought for 3 years before his pay-per-view bout against Foreman. Yep, before Mike Tyson won the WBC title and quickly unified the major belts, Cooney was seen as a possible threat to “Kid Dynamite.” There was even a 1986 issue of Ring with Cooney and Tyson on the cover. But Cooney’s management must have known better. They steered clear of Iron Mike, and when they saw, fat, bald, 40-year-old Foreman coming back they must have thought “This has-been with a name is the perfect foil for a comeback.” After Big George took care of an in-shape and dialed-in Cooney, Tyson-Foreman became the dream fight for the early ’90s.
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