Dougie’s Friday Mailbag (PED suspicions, Sam Langford, Nico Hernandez, Wilfredo Gomez)
I hope you and your family are well and staying safe.
On Teddy Atlas’ podcast I heard him mention a fighter I hadn’t heard of before named Sam Langford. Teddy stated that he was one of the ATG’s and amazingly fought from lightweight to heavyweight. So below I have some proposed mythical matchups for him:
Vs Mike Tyson
The number of divisions Langford fought in made me think of Paulie Malignaggi’s steaming hard-on for Manny Pacquiao and his PED allegations. The amount of weight gain Pac-Man has gone through is uncommon but not unprecedented. Roy Jones, James Toney, Evander Holyfield, Langford, Roberto Duran and many others have put on 30+ pounds without suspicion.
So my question to you is Malignaggi’s huge boner warranted and has there ever been any suspicious testing results surrounding Pacquiao? Kind regards. – Barno, London
Not that I am aware of, Barno, but unlike the great fighters you mentioned, Pacquiao emerged (at the heavier weights and to a crossover audience) during the known-PED era of boxing (in fact, Floyd Mayweather Sr. and Jr.’s allegations and assertions against the Filipino icon at the start of the 2010s helped usher in more stringent anti-doping testing for major fights), so an amazing run over several weight classes like his is going to elicit some suspicion in certain corners of the boxing world and fandom.
I should also point out that, of the great fighters you noted, Toney has tested positive for the steroid nandrolone (for his 2005 challenge to then-WBA heavyweight beltholder John Ruiz), and Jones and Holyfield both had “suspicious” red flags suggesting PED use during their boxing careers. (Jones and his opponent Richard Hall both tested positive for androstenedione prior to their light heavyweight title bout in Indianapolis, Indiana in 2000 – when androstenedione was still an over-the-counter supplement. It is now a banned substance for amateur and pro athletes. Holyfield allegedly ordered and picked up a number of banned PEDs and related supplies – including testosterone and HGH – under the alias “Evan Fields” in 2004.)
Holyfield denies the allegations/investigations. Jones says he ingested the androstenedione as part of a “Ripped Fuel” energy drink. Toney claims the steroids in his system were the residue of doctor-prescribed meds he took to recover from arm injuries suffered in his previous bout vs. Rydell Booker in September 2004.
But you can understand why someone – especially a fellow prize fighter – would be suspicious of Pacquiao’s awe-inspiring climb up the weight classes.
For the record, I disagree with Malignaggi. I’ve comprehensively detailed my reasons in previous Mailbag posts and in the version of this column that used to appear in The Ring Magazine (which elicited a “well done” phone call from none other than Larry Merchant a few years back). But I’ll just put it you like this today: I accept Pacquiao for what he is, a once-in-a-lifetime talent. They exist in boxing. I also factor in Pacquiao’s age when he turned pro. He was 16 (and likely malnourished) when he turned pro at junior flyweight. That age brings to mind two other great boxing talents who turned pro at 16 and miraculously climbed weight classes to compete at the highest levels of the sport – Tony Canzoneri, who fought from bantamweight to welterweight during his 14-year 175-bout career, which saw win titles at featherweight, lightweight and junior welterweight; and Billy Conn, who turned pro at lightweight, was a top welterweight prospect, a Ring-ranked middleweight contender, the light heavyweight champion, and a rated heavyweight who challenged Joe Louis for the biggest prize in sports.
On Teddy Atlas’ podcast I heard him mention a fighter I hadn’t heard of before named Sam Langford. Teddy stated that he was one of the ATG’s and amazingly fought from lightweight to heavyweight. Mr. Atlas is correct. Some boxing historians consider the Nova Scotia native, who fought 314 times during his 24-year pro career, to be the GOAT. I believe the argument can be made.
So below I have some proposed mythical matchups for him:
Vs Duran – Hands of Stone by close decision at lightweight and welterweight; Langford by competitive decision at junior middleweight and middleweight
Vs Pacman – Langford by mid-to-late rounds KO (lightweight-welterweight)
Vs Ali – The Greatest by clear UD
Vs Mike Tyson – Iron Mike by mid-rounds stoppage
Vs Canelo – Langford by competitive UD
wish you guys would do a piece on nico hernandez. bronze medal, high profile cards, massive visibility, attention from matchroom…did they pick him up? then nothing…nothing…signs to BKF just in time for covid to cancel it. whats the deal here? hes the 2016 medalist who’s trajectory was the same as the others then…the brake hit hard on that career. gotta be a story there. – Ceylon
Yeah, I agree. We thought Hernandez was worthy of a story when things were looking bright for him a couple years back. Michael Montero pitched me on an article the home-grown amateur star who had hoped to put Kansas on the boxing map, and I assigned him that story, which ran in the September 2018 issue of The Ring.
Now that things aren’t looking so bright, I guess that’s still worthy of a story, maybe for the website this time. I’ll ask Montero, who got to know Nico and his father-trainer Lewis Hernandez a little bit, if he’s interested in penning it.
As far as “what’s the deal” with Hernandez’s career, hey man, it’s hard for well-connected fighters in glamor divisions to stay active these days (especially this year with the pandemic). Nico is an American junior flyweight who did not sign with a major promoter and had a strong desire to train and fight in his home state, which isn’t exactly the center of boxing activity in the U.S.
According to Montero’s Ring article, Top Rank was interested in signing Hernandez but his dad wanted to go with KO Night Promotions, a small company that was willing to do a “year-by-year” deal. Lewis Hernandez told Montero that he wanted more attention for his son.
“You look at the Golden Boys and the Top Ranks and they’re great companies,” Lewis told Montero for the article entitled There’s No Place Like Home, “but are they going to give you the personal attention? They got a lot of top dogs coming up; they’re not going to make Nico their top dog. With KO Night Boxing, right now they make us their priority.”
I don’t think it worked out like Nico’s dad had hoped, but the truth is that no boxer is guaranteed pro success, not even elite-level amateurs, and that includes Olympic medalists – especially sub-bantamweights.
The only light flyweight medalists (out of the 52-year history of the Olympic division) who became successful pros that come immediately to my mind are Michael Carbajal (a 1988 silver medalist) and Zou Shiming (2004 bronze medalist, 2008/2012 gold medalist). (I bet you forgot all about ‘THE ZOU,’ Ceylon. Shame on you!) Pro competition at 108 and 112 pounds is steep, and for the most part, there isn’t a lot of money to be made at flyweight.
Zou is an exception because he was a national hero in his native China (and he had the good sense to sign with Top Rank, which did wonders with Carbajal, and relocate to Southern California where he trained with Freddie Roach). But he lost his first shot at a world title (to Amnat Ruenroeng), and though he earned the WBO strap (vs. Prasitsak Phaprom) three bouts later, he lost it (to Sho Kimura) in his first defense. He retired soon after. Paul Gonzalez won the gold medal at light flyweight, as well as the Val Barker award, at the celebrated 1984 Olympic Games in L.A., but couldn’t make it as pro. Hall of Famer Orlando Canizales (who “Super Fly” beat early in their pro careers) obliterated him in his lone title shot.
Brahim Asloum, who won gold at the 2000 Summer Games, made good money in his native France, more from endorsements than fights. He won the European flyweight title and the WBA 108-pound belt (vs. Juan Carlos Reveco) after failed title attempts against excellent beltholders Lorenzo Parra and Omar Narvaez. Paddy Barnes, who won bronze medals at the 2008 and 2012 Games, did OK in the UK but was crushed when he challenged Cristofer Rosales for the WBC flyweight title (and he’s since lost to a journeyman, Oscar Mojica, and gutsy contender Jay Harris). “The Leprechaun” could be a spent bullet after just nine pro bouts.
Boxing is tough and the little guys have it the hardest.
Hope all’s well with you, amidst the pandemic and fires blazing the west coast. Great mailbag, as always.
Would you consider my man W. Gomez an ATG? I’m not alone in the island in recognizing him as the best Puerto Rican boxer. Bazooka fought everyone of his era, 44-3-1, with 42 KO’s (87.5%) and he’s record at 122 of 17 title defenses, all by KO, is unlikely to be broken, especially with the division hoping of fighters that only fight twice a year. And two of his three losses were to an ATG Salvador Sanchez and Azumah Nelson, another arguably ATG. Lastly: his record includes victories over the likes of Kobayashi (in Japan), Zarate, Pintor, Laporte, Lockridge, Yum.
Thanks in advance! – B. Brecht
I thought Gomez got a gift decision vs. Lockridge, but he beat a great Mexican warrior in Carlos Zarate and a legit hall of famer in Lupe Pintor, which was an EPIC fight. Just those two 122-pound title defenses, along with his awesome junior featherweight/super bantamweight title defense record, are more than enough to merit his hall of fame induction. But when you factor in his featherweight title win against LaPorte, his gutsy stands against Sanchez and Nelson, and the MANY legit top-10 contenders he beat, including Juan “Kid” Meza, Royal Kobayashi, Alberto Davila (in his 11th pro bout) and let’s not leave out the man he won his first world title from, Dong Kyun Yum, who was a SENSATIONAL boxing talent (in his 15th pro bout), yeah, I think one can EASILY make an argument for Gomez’s greatness.
I put Gomez second, behind Carlos Ortiz, in the pantheon of Puerto Rican greats.
BEST FIGHTER WITH WORST RECORD
I hope everything is going well with you. Since you did best fighter with worse loss I thought who do you think is the best fighter with the worst record. Ezzard Charles had 25 losses, although 95 wins. Who is your pick? – Bill from Canada
It certainly wouldn’t be Charles. Yeah, he had 25 losses, but 17 of those losses took place during the 1950s (specifically the final seven years of his career – 1952-1959 – when he was well past his prime). Charles turned pro in 1940 and his prime played out during that decade. The wins he racked up during the ’40s far outweighs his losses, especially those late-career losses, which were to hall of famers Jersey Joe Walcott, Harold Johnson and Rocky Marciano (twice – and the rematch was Ring’s 1954 Fight of the Year). Another seven losses were to Ring-rated contenders.
If you’re just looking at the number of losses, you could single out hall of famer Fritzie Zivic, who finished his 18-year 233-bout career with a 158-65-9 record. And I’m sure most of today’s fans would piss, s__t and puke on a record with 60+ losses, but I see it differently. Zivic, a former welterweight champions who fought EVERYBODY worth fighting of his era (1930s and ’40s), lost 20 bouts in 1945 and ’46, near the end of his career when I’m sure he was totally burnt out. He lost seven consecutive decisions at the end of ’35 and at the start of ’36, as well as seven out of 13 in ’43 but that same year he beat Jake LaMotta in a 15-rounder (two losses were to LaMotta, two were to hall of famer Beau Jack and one to hall of famer Bob Montgomery, both lightweight titleholders at the time).
I also factor in that when boxers fought as often as they did in Charles’ and Zivic’s era, losses didn’t matter as much. Zivic fought 19 times in ’36 (and lost to a young Billy Conn but also won 13 times). He fought 22 times in ’38 (splitting two bouts with the great Charley Burley that year – the 10-round decision to Burley was his only loss that year). He fought 18 times in ’39, 17 times in ’40 (including victories over hall of famer Sammy Angott and the great Henry Armstrong for the welterweight title), 14 times in ’41 (including a rematch victory over Armstrong and loss to a young Sugar Ray Robinson) and 19 times in ’42 (which included another loss to Robinson and a loss to Armstrong). No shame there.
My choice for best boxer with the worst record would be former lightweight titleholder Freddie Pendleton, who finished his career with a 47-26-5 record. He didn’t beat any hall of famers but he shared the ring with a couple and he competed with the great Pernell Whitaker. From 1990 to 1994, he was one of the best lightweights in the world. He only lost to two 135 pounders during that time span, then-IBF/WBC champ Whitaker (winning four rounds on two scorecards, which was legit) and Rafael Ruelas (in a 12-round thriller). Between those losses Pendleton was unbeaten in 12 bouts, including an IBF title winning decision over Tracy Spann and a title defense against Jorge Paez.
He was a 140-147-pound gatekeeper late in his career and a spoiler early on, first turning heads with stoppages against Roger Mayweather, Livingstone Bramble, Sammy Fuentes and Tyrone Trice (remember him?). But he lost 13 of his first 30 bouts, six of his first 12. Some of those losses in his first 12 bouts were to prospects like Bobby Johnson and Jerome Coffee; but some were to journeymen and club fighters, and he struggled to outpoint a few ham-and-eggers, too.
Pendleton’s wins don’t completely outweigh all of his losses (although many were to solid fighters, including some future world titleholders) but overall, even though his record looks bad on paper, it’s still a ledger to be proud of.
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