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Dougie’s Monday Mailbag (Mike Tyson, sanctioning organizations, Ortiz-Vargas, El Terrible)

Art by Gabe Perillo
20
Jul

MIKE TYSON, BOXING ORGANIZATIONS

Hi Dougie,

Hope all is well with you and yours. I just finished my first read of the Mike Tyson issue and following Ward-Gatti special you’ve put out two really great magazines. Thank you.

I truly hope that Mike is on the right path and has come to grips with his demons. Like many fans, I have the boxers I like and dislike, but I had a real visceral disdain for Mike Tyson. It was more than boxing – how he handled himself in and out of the ring troubled me, and as a teacher it was hard to talk to kids about him. His rape conviction and post-prison fights, especially the “bite-fight” with Evander Holyfield just substantiated my feelings. But I also believe in redemption. Has Mike Tyson really changed? What are your thoughts? I wish him only the best and hope his comeback wherever it leads keeps him physically and emotionally healthy.



I’ve also been thinking about the alphabet organizations that dominate the sport. Growing up there was the WBA and the WBC. Even as a kid, I never understood why they existed or what the difference was. Then in the 1980’s along came the IBF and the WBO. I googled Boxing Organizations and there are an amazing number, too many to list here. What do they do? They seem to get in the way of some good fights, and from my perspective don’t do much about doping, or protecting fighters, or establishing rules for trainers, or much else that is positive for the sport. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t see it. My guess is that people in the alphabet orgs make a lot of money and I wonder what they do to earn it. Thanks again for all you do. – Ken Kozberg, Oakham, MA

The boxing organizations don’t make a lot of money. They make enough (and receive enough support from the industry) to continue their existence. They get percentages of the bouts they sanction as “title” fights – world, super, regular, diamond, silver, gold, interim, intercontinental, national, North American, Latino, European, Asian, African, youth, in-recess, emeritus, franchise, etc. – which is why they have such a wide variety of belts to award, but it only nets them some money, enough to stay in business. They’re more business than organization or association/council/federation, but that doesn’t mean they’re all bad. I’ve seen each major organization raise funds for sick or fallen fighters and donate boxing equipment to amateur gyms and programs. Also, in this era of exclusive allegiances between promotional entities and broadcast platforms, sometimes the only way significant fights between fighters on “opposite sides of the street” are made is when the sanctioning bodies’ mandatory challenges go to purse bids.

WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman has done a lot to improve fighter safety, but more is needed.

And the WBC has enacted measure to address “doping” (WBC Clean Boxing Program with VADA), “protecting fighters,” (dropping championship distance from 15 to 12 rounds, weight-check rules and management programs) “establishing rules for trainers,” (Safe Boxing education program for trainers and boxers) among other positive rules over the years and decades. The IBF has second-day weigh-ins to control how much weight fighters put on following the previous day weigh-ins. The four major organizations (WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO) all have some rules that are good for the sport. It would be wonderful if they each adopted the best programs that the others offer, such as the Clean Boxing Program and support/cooperation with VADA.

It would also be nice if they encouraged major title unifications as much as possible. When that happens, we get Ring Magazine champions. (And if you want to know who the real champions are, just visit this section of RingTV.) 

I just finished my first read of the Mike Tyson issue and following Ward-Gatti special you’ve put out two really great magazines. Thank you. I appreciate your praise and enjoyment, but don’t just thank me. A lot of people put in a lot of work to bring those special issues to life, so please thank Associate Editor Tom Gray, who spearheaded the Four Kings and Tyson specials, Managing Editor Brian Harty, Art Directors Lamar Clark and Michael Kronenberg, our Controller and Circulation Director Deborah Harrison and Kenneth Gudaitis, and all of our excellent contributors. The Ring is truly a group effort.

I truly hope that Mike is on the right path and has come to grips with his demons. I think it’s an everyday struggle with Tyson (as it is for all of us), but it seems like he’s matured and mellowed out with age (and a lot of marijuana), and has found a degree of peace, as well as his niche in show business.

Like many fans, I have the boxers I like and dislike, but I had a real visceral disdain for Mike Tyson. I always had mixed feelings about him, especially during the second half of the 1990s and early 2000s. There was compassion because I could tell that he was burnt out on the sport but couldn’t escape it, but there was also disgust aimed at some of his behavior and some of the boorish members of his team/entourage.

It was more than boxing – how he handled himself in and out of the ring troubled me, and as a teacher it was hard to talk to kids about him. That’s fair. I hope you kept it real with the kids. I can’t stand celebrity worship.

But I also believe in redemption. Has Mike Tyson really changed? What are your thoughts? I think he has, because he wants to and he’s put in the work to become a better human being. People can evolve, especially intelligent and (more importantly) honest people. And although Tyson didn’t have much of a formal education, it is obvious that he’s extremely smart and honest. He’s honest with himself, too, which has helped with his recovery from various addictions as well as his own abusive/disfunctional upbringing. But, like I stated earlier, I’m sure it’s an everyday battle, like with addiction recovery. His emotional interview with Sugar Ray Leonard for his Hot Boxin’ with Mike Tyson podcast illustrates the ego vs. humility inner-struggle.

I wish him only the best and hope his comeback wherever it leads keeps him physically and emotionally healthy. I think the healthier diet, the exercise routine (whether or not it leads to sanctioned or exhibition bouts), and his various business and entertainment ventures have put him in a good place for now, and there’s no reason for me to think that he won’t maintain this momentum and get even better.

 

THE RETURN OF VERGIL ORTIZ JR., WOMEN’S BOXING

Hi Doug,

I hope you and your family stay safe and healthy.

Good to see that boxing is slowly coming back, on Friday my favorite boxing talent Vergil Ortiz returns to the ring.

What can I expect from the fight because I don’t know Samuel Vargas too much and I am not sure if I have seen him before.

I also look forward for the rest of the card because I trust Roberto Diaz to ensure a good event even under these difficult times.

Some of the Top Rank events have been tough to watch so I am looking forward to August where a lot of good fights are announced.

And curious to see that the most exciting fights are woman fights. On August 22 we have a real highlight with Taylor vs Persoon 2.

This fight would be worth enough for a main event, but before that we have another cracker with the best female boxer on earth, Cecilia Braekhus.

Jessica McCaskill is a tough nut and I see a good fight coming up but it should be a unanimous decision for the First Lady.

Exciting times for women’s boxing.

Lately I didn’t hear anything out of Asia, do you know anything when the Monster or Kosei Tanaka return?

Thanks for your time and let`s hope for an exciting month in August. – Andy

This month should go out with a bang, starting with Tuesday’s Top Rank offering headlined by the Oscar Valdez-Jayson Velez fight, and the momentum will hopefully continue in August. I’m most looking forward to the Dillian Whyte-Alexander Povetkin showdown but the women’s title bouts are quality matchups, which are supposed to lead to the winners of each bout clashing at some point.

No official word on when Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka will get back in the ring, but boxing returned in Japan in mid-July. If the stars (mainly The Monster) aren’t able to travel to the U.S. for big fights, I have to assume they’ll defend their world titles at home before the end of the year. The WBO ordered Tanaka vs. Kazuto Ioka (for Ioka’s WBO 115-pound title) earlier this year. There’s talk that it could happen in December.

Vergil Ortiz Jr.

Good to see that boxing is slowly coming back, on Friday my favorite boxing talent Vergil Ortiz returns to the ring. The Ring’s 2019 Prospect of the Year should shine. I know he’s been putting the work in at Robert Garcia’s Boxing Academy in Riverside, California all year. Ortiz is the first one in the gym and the last one to leave. And let me tell you, the young man’s power does not wane after a few rounds, he keeps it, along with his form/technique.

What can I expect from the fight because I don’t know Samuel Vargas too much and I am not sure if I have seen him before. Vargas is solid. He’s not a top 10 (or even a top 15-20) contender, but the Canada-based Colombian is tough, cagey and experienced. He gets up when he’s knocked down and he always gives an honest effort. Vargas never enters the ring to lie down or to make the other guy look good. He’s got pride and the will to win (which has resulted in 31 victories win 38 pro bouts, which ain’t too shabby).

Collazo battles it out in the trenches with Sammy Vargas. Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Only Errol Spence and Danny Garcia have been able to stop him (and he got up from early knockdowns in both fights). The referee stopped those fights with Vargas on his feet. He was dropped twice during the early rounds of his 12-rounder with Amir Khan, but he scored a knockdown of his own (late in the second round, courtesy of a big overhand right) and also stunned the chinny speed demon at the end of the 10th. Vargas also gave former welterweight titleholder Luis Collazo a good fight in a 10-round split-decision loss. If Ortiz can blow the veteran out, he’ll let Golden Boy know that he’s ready for legit contenders.  

I also look forward for the rest of the card because I trust Roberto Diaz to ensure a good event even under these difficult times. Diaz delivers. Make that a hashtag.

On August 22 we have a real highlight with Taylor vs Persoon 2. Indeed. Their first showdown (which was for all four major world titles, plus the inaugural Ring Magazine women’s lightweight championship belt) was a fight of the year candidate – for women’s and men’s boxing. The rematch will be world-class and competitive, but I don’t think it will be quiet as thrilling because I expect Taylor to stick and move more than she did last June.

In just her eighth pro fight, McCaskill (left) seized a world title with unanimous decision over veteran Erica Anabella Farias.

This fight would be worth enough for a main event, but before that we have another cracker with the best female boxer on earth, Cecilia Braekhus. Yeah, that’s on August 15 (live on DAZN from Tulsa, Oklahoma), and I’m looking forward to watching the only undisputed champ in boxing (and The Ring’s Pound-for-Pound Queen) do her thing against a unified 140-pound titleholder.

Jessica McCaskill is a tough nut and I see a good fight coming up but it should be a unanimous decision for the First Lady. McCaskill, who doesn’t have the wear and tear of 13 years in the pro game and 36 bouts like Braekhus, will definitely bring it. If the 38-year-old defending welterweight champ starts feeling her age, she could be in for a long night. But from what I’ve been told Braekhus is in tremendous physical condition (she’s spent all year training with Abel Sanchez at The Summit gym in Big Bear, California) and mentally dialed into this fight.

 

RESPECT FOR EL TERRIBLE

Hope you’re safe and healthy, Dougie.
Growing up I was no fan of Erik Morales. Maybe because I saw him as the villain to Marco Antonio Barrera’s gentlemanly character. Or maybe because the way he thrashed my favorite fighter Manny Pacquiao in their first encounter.

But lately I’ve been rewatching his fights and man oh man do I have a newfound respect for him. He was really a professor in there who could fight going backwards or would get up in your grill and take it to you. He had a great sense of distance and timing and his footwork was underrated. Him and Barrera had such a rhythmic ebb and flow to their battles that was truly beautiful to watch.

I recently saw an interview with Danny Garcia where he said that Morales was the best fighter he fought in terms of skill and that he ‘went to school’ the night of their first fight which Danny admitted made him a better fighter. This made me realize that just a year prior to that he had a similar experience with Marcos Maidana. What the hell was Morales doing picking on these younger, bigger guys? He made Maidana a better fighter that night too (and this all AFTER getting stopped by Manny twice). Come to think of it: Pacquiao and Barrera both owe a debt of gratitude to Morales for improving their games as well.

Just look at some of the skulls on his resume: Barrera, Pacquiao, Kevin Kelley, Wayne Mcullough, Junior Jones, Paulia Ayala, Jesus Chaves (who gave Mayweather a tough fight in San Francisco which I attended), David Diaz, and Pablo Cesar Cano etc. What a legend. He was no villain. He was an intelligent badass who liked to throw down.

I ask you Dougie: what made Morales so good? What were his strengths? Also: what were some of his best performances besides the obvious ones (the Manny and Barrera wins and the Maidana and Garcia losses)?

Mythical Matchups:
Morales vs Donaire (122)
Morales vs Rigo (122)
Morales vs Loma (126 or 130)
Morales vs Salvador Sanchez (126)

Morales vs. Marquez (any weight) I have no doubt this would’ve been another trilogy.

(PS – Awesome to see Dan Rafael penning some articles the Ring. Anyway, you can give him a platform to bring the chats back?)

Thanks for your time. – Jason Nava

That’s a good idea, Jason. If RingTV, which is due for redesign next month, has the technical capability to host a chat as ESPN.com used to – and if Dan is interested – it’s something we’d welcome. I’ll look into it.

Your Mythical Machups:

Morales vs Donaire (122)El Terrible by close, maybe majority decision
Morales vs Rigo (122)El Terrible by close but unanimous decision
Morales vs Loma (126 or 130)Lomachenko by close unanimous decision at 126 and by majority or split nod at 130.

Morales vs Salvador Sanchez (126)Sanchez by close unanimous decision

Morales vs. MarquezMarquez by close unanimous decision at 126, Morales by close or maybe split decision at 130, Marquez by close unanimous decision at 135 (in a war), Morales by close maybe majority decision at 140, and Marquez by unanimous decision at 147.

Morales holds the IBF and WBC 130-pound titles after winning a unification bout over Carlos Hernandez via unanimous decision in 2004. (AP Photo/Amy Beth Bennett, File)

What made Morales so good? What were his strengths? Attitude, heart and pride backed up by natural talent, good schooling/foundation (from his father who was a successful former pro), heavy hands and an iron chin. He was more than good, El Terrible is arguably GREAT.

Also: what were some of his best performances besides the obvious ones (the Manny and Barrera wins and the Maidana and Garcia losses)? His first title-winning effort against hall of famer Daniel Zaragoza, the four-round stoppage of Junior Jones (who Morales once told me was the best boxer AND puncher he ever faced), and the 12-round battle with the inhumanly tough and stubborn Wayne McCullough are the best victories of his prime at 122 pounds (apart from the split nod over Barrera, which should have gone to his arch rival). The 130-pound title-unifying wins over Jesus Chavez and Famoso Hernandez were also impressive. These were the fights that made me realize what skilled ring general Morales was.

Growing up I was no fan of Erik Morales. I didn’t care much for his surly/salty personality during my early days as an internet boxing scribe. I was also a huge Barrera fan, so that didn’t improve my view of Morales, but he was such a warrior and he gave so much of himself every times he stopped between those ropes it was inevitable that he would grow on me. It was the same deal with Roberto Duran and James Toney. I didn’t like their image at first (plus I was partial to their rivals) but in time their grit, skills and no-f__ks-given personalities won me over. I appreciated and rooted for them during the twilights of their long, decorated careers.

But lately I’ve been rewatching his fights and man oh man do I have a newfound respect for him. Well it’s about time, Jason!

He was really a professor in there who could fight going backwards or would get up in your grill and take it to you. Morales was an intelligent and versatile badass. And, like Duran and Toney, he was very cool and comfortable during the heat of battle.

Morales had moments vs. Garcia.

He had a great sense of distance and timing and his footwork was underrated. Him and Barrera had such a rhythmic ebb and flow to their battles that was truly beautiful to watch. It was an honor to be on press row for all three fights.

I recently saw an interview with Danny Garcia where he said that Morales was the best fighter he fought in terms of skill and that he ‘went to school’ the night of their first fight which Danny admitted made him a better fighter. I covered their first bout in Texas, and I believe that had he not struggled so much to make 140 (which he failed to do), he could have won that bout. He had forgotten more about boxing than Garcia knew at that point in his career, but credit to the Philly fighter, because he did indeed learn and grow from that experience.

Morales after tangling with Marcos Maidana in 2011. (Photo: Isaac Brekken – AP)

This made me realize that just a year prior to that he had a similar experience with Marcos Maidana. I was honored to do the international broadcast to that fight, which was mind blowing. I was truly awed by his performance that night. That was some Carmen Basilio-level grit and ring savvy the way he fought chino on even terms with one eye.

What the hell was Morales doing picking on these younger, bigger guys? Being a real fighter. If every world-class boxer today had Morales’ mentality boxing would be as popular as it was in the 1980s.

He made Maidana a better fighter that night too (and this all AFTER getting stopped by Manny twice). Come to think of it: Pacquiao and Barrera both owe a debt of gratitude to Morales for improving their games as well. He definitely inspired Pacquiao to improve by humbling the Filipino star enough to listen more to Freddie Roach. I don’t think Barrera learned anything technical from Morales, but he definitely upped his game when he faced his Tijuana counterpart. They had an Ali-Frazier-level rivalry.

 

 

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer, and join him, Tom Loeffler, Coach Schwartz and friends via Tom’s Instagram Live every Sunday.

 

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