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Big Sports Day: Klitschko beats Haye, Djoker beats Rafa, I exercise July 4, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Boxing, Entertainment, Misc, Sport, Tennis.
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Djokovic eats some grass after winning Wimbledon

Yesterday was a big sports day for me.  The biggest heavyweight boxing match in years, Wladimir Klitschko vs David Haye, took place in Germany, while the biggest tennis match of the year, the men’s Wimbledon final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, took place in England.  I even played some casual basketball (club game cancelled) and went for a walk.  Big sports day for all of us.

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10 Things I Loved About the 2011 NBA Playoffs June 14, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Basketball, Indiana Pacers, NBA, Sport.
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Ahh…it’s finally all over. The Dallas Mavericks just defeated the Miami Heat in 6 games to capture the 2011 NBA Championship in what has been the most enjoyable NBA Playoffs in recent memory. Dirk Nowitzki was named Finals MVP, elevating the big silky German to all-time great status and denying Miami’s much-maligned ‘Big Three’ of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh a chance at a title in their first year together. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

Here are the 10 things that I thought made these Playoffs one of the best ever.

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Mayweather to take on Ortiz; Pacquiao tune-up? June 8, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Boxing, Sport.
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Just when I thought we’d never see him in the boxing ring again, Floyd Mayweather Jr has suddenly announced that he will take on WBC Welterweight title holder Victor Ortiz on 17 September 2011.

Bogged down by various legal dramas, the last thing I expected was for Mayweather to declare that he was ready to step back in the ring.  He hasn’t fought since defeating Shane Mosley in May 2010, meaning it will be a 16 month lay off for him.

Two ways to look at this.  The first is that Mayweather is needs money but doesn’t want to take on the man everyone wants to see him fight: Manny Pacquiao.

(I won’t go into the history of it all, but essentially negotiations between the two fighters have broken down twice already over additional drug testing procedures, and may or may not have broken down a third or fourth time according to Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum when Mayweather allegedly tried to price himself out by asking for $100 million.  Mayweather’s camp denied further negotiations ever took place, though third parties contradict this denial.  There is also the additional issue of Pacquiao suing Mayweather and his family for defamation for suggesting that Pacquiao is on performance enhancing drugs.)

Mayweather’s decision to take on Ortiz is a curious one because Arum has stated all along that if Mayweather comes to the table, he will be Pacquiao’s number one choice.  No one else matters.  This means that if Mayweather really wanted to fight Pacquiao all he had to do was pick up the phone after Pacquiao’s win over Mosley last month, and the fight would have been made already.

Instead, Mayweather waited until Pacquiao signed to fight Juan Manuel Marquez for a third time on 12 November 2011 before announcing a fight of his own.

More interestingly, Mayweather has refused to fight Pacquiao allegedly because of completely unsubstantiated PED accusations, and yet the man he has chosen to fight, Victor Ortiz, was recently implicated in PEDs by the man he had just beaten, Andre Berto.  Of course, Berto’s assertions were also completely unsubstantiated, but if his suspicions of Pacquiao were sufficient to destroy the megafight, then why not Ortiz too?

The second and more optimistic view is that Mayweather is taking on Ortiz as a tune up for Manny Pacquiao in 2012.  Mayweather undoubtedly will want to shake off some rust after the long lay off, and Ortiz just happens to be a young, strong stud AND a southpaw, something which Pacquiao is also.

I sure hope the second view is the right one and the potentially biggest fight of all time will happen next year!

The Matchup

Apart from Pacquiao, everyone just assumes that Mayweather will win no matter who he fights.  But Ortiz is a dangerous opponent, coming off a solid but close decision win against previously undefeated Andre Berto in April.  He has a strong 29-2-2 (22KOs) record and as mentioned above, is a southpaw, and Mayweather has tended to struggle more against southpaws.

Furthermore, Mayweather is now 34 years old and might be slowing down.  We won’t really know for sure until we see him in the ring, given how long it’s been, but it is possible.  On the other hand, Ortiz is just 24 and appears to have hit his prime after the brutal battle against Berto.

I’d still say the risks are low because of the experience and skill factors, but just like Marquez has a chance of unseating Pacquiao, Ortiz could also shock the world against Mayweather.  For the sake of Mayweather-Pacquiao happening next year, I hope both men can win.

PS: I mentioned in an earlier post the Marquez was to take on David Diaz as a tune up before Pacquiao, but this fight has fallen through because of financial considerations.

Pacquiao-Marquez III Locked In For November! May 19, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Boxing, Sport.
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Promo pic taken for Pacquiao-Marquez II back in 2008

That was a surprise.  Just a couple of weeks after Manny Pacquiao thoroughly dismantled a pathetically timid Shane Mosley, Pacquiao’s promoter, Top Rank’s Bob Arum has announced that a deal has been reached with Mexican warrior Juan Manuel Marquez to take on Pacquiao on 12 November 2011, most likely at the MGM in Las Vegas.  All Pacquiao has to do is sign, and it assumed that he will.

With Floyd Mayweather Jr now looking more and more unlikely to never fight again, the Marquez fight was the one that most wanted Pacquiao to take instead of Mosley (Andre Berto, who has since lost, was the third alternative).  It made sense, considering Marquez was the last guy to give Pacquiao any real trouble in the ring.  In their two previous wars (May 2004 and March 2008), Marquez came away with a draw and a split decision loss despite being knocked down four times in the two bouts, though many ringsiders and boxing analysts believe Marquez won both fights.

However, Arum coaxed Pacquiao into accepting the easier and probably more lucrative option in the ageing legend Mosley, and Marquez was left to wait on the sidelines.  That said, even before the Mosley fight, there were rumours that Arum had made an offer to Marquez for Pacquiao’s next fight — rumours that turned out to be true.

Terms of the fight

The bout, scheduled for 12 November 2011 (probably at the MGM), will be for Pacquiao’s welterweight title, but it will be a catch weight bout at 144 pounds.

Marquez, idle since a November 2010 KO of Michael Katsidis, will take an interim fight on 2 July 2011 against David Diaz, the man Pacquiao beat the crap out of just before the De la Hoya fight.  Of course, if Marquez loses, the Pacquiao fight will be off.

Marquez gave Pacquiao all he could handle in their first two fights

Under the terms, Marquez will get a guaranteed $5 million for the bout, a percentage of PPV earnings over a certain amount, and a $10 guarantee for a rematch in the event Marquez wins.

Marquez’s own production company will promote the bout.  His promotional contract with De la Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions expired earlier this year, even though Golden Boy had the right to match any offer given to Marquez.  Golden Boy declined to match Arum’s offer.

Seems to me Arum has planned all of this pretty well in sticking it to Golden Boy.  Arum and Golden Boy have had a horrible history, most of it stemming from the rights to promote Pacquiao, which Arum won and now controls.

Arum has been quite ruthless in keeping Pacquiao money away from Golden Boy since the Ricky Hatton fight.  Cotto and Margarito are both from Top Rank’s stable, and Clottey was not a Golden Boy fighter.  Shane Mosley used to be a part owner of Golden Boy, but gave it up to take on Pacquiao.  Now Marquez, a former Golden Boy man, will also go into the fight with nothing to do with them.

Early pre-fight analysis

Very interesting match up, at least on paper.  There are those out there who think Marquez will win this time because he appears to have ‘figured out’ Pacquiao’s style.

Pacquiao advisor Michael Koncz said: ‘It’s the same old story — styles make fights, and, for some reason, I believe if we fight Marquez 10 times, we will have controversy 10 times because he’s figured something out about Manny that no other fighter can do.  We’ve had him down three times [sic — it was four], but he’s able to adapt and adjust. I think it will be a very close fight again if we decide to pick that fight.’

Pacquiao’s long-time trainer Freddie Roach said: ‘I’m a little bit scared of that fight.  I think Marquez might have our number.  He can do well with certain styles and he seems to do well with our style.  I think we’re bigger and better now, but that’s my good solution, that we’re bigger and better now.’

Having said all of that, Roach finished with: ‘I actually want this fight.  I love this fight.  I would love to shut them up.’

Pacquiao is 1-0-1 against Marquez

To be frank, notwithstanding all the supposed success Marquez has had with Pacquiao in the past (albeit being 0-1-1 on paper), I think this third time around will be a mismatch.  You can’t discount Marquez’s skills and heart, but my early instinct tells me Pacquiao could be the first to knock him out.

For me, the two biggest factors for this fight are: (1) it will be at 144 pounds; and (2) Pacquiao is a different fighter now to the one from 2005 and 2008.

The 144 pound catch weight is significant.  Pacquiao’s weight for his last few bouts have been: 145 (Mosley), 144.6 (Margarito), 145.75 (Clottey), 144 (Cotto).  In each of these fights Pacquiao apparently had to take extra meals to boost up his weight.  The last time Pacquiao fought below 140 was when he came in at 138 against Hatton for a junior welterweight fight.

On the other hand, Marquez’s weight for his last few fights: 134 (Katsidis), 133.5 (Diaz II), 142 (Mayweather), 134.25 (Diaz I), 135 (Casamayor).

What is telling about these weights is that Pacquiao has looked absolutely sensational at around 144, and if the extra meal before weigh-in reports are true, then 144 would be a perfect weight for Pacquiao to fight at.

On the other hand, with the exception of the Mayweather bout, Marquez came in at 135 or below for each of his last five bouts.  In the Mayweather fight, which Marquez lost in convincing fashion, he looked slow and flabby around the middle at just 142 pounds. (Marquez apparently had to drink his own urine just to get up to 142!)

The 144 catch weight is optimal for Pacquiao, and from the only instance we’ve seen, not very good for Marquez.  This is not necessarily fair, but Pacquiao is the big name here and should hold all the cards and the advantages.  That’s just the way it is.

This brings me to my second point: Pacquiao is a different fighter to the one that struggled against Marquez in 2005 and 2008.  Manny Pacquiao didn’t really become the Manny Pacquiao he is known as today until he made the jump to 140+ pounds.

Not only has he maintained his trademark speed from the lower weight classes (and arguably he has been even faster), Pacquiao now punches harder than he has ever punched, including enough power to KO Hatton with one punch, seriously hurt Cotto with another, and break Margarito’s orbital bone with a third.  Pacquiao has also become a more disciplined and more versatile than before, with an apparently steadier chin and a fortified defense.  Whereas before he was more of a reckless brawler (see video below), he is now technically sounder and knows how to follow Freddie Roach’s game plans to perfection.  Whereas before he was more of a one-handed fighter (with the left), he has now developed into a two-fisted punching machine.  Whereas before he was more of a predictable one-two puncher, he is now an unpredictable combo throwing machine that launches power shots from unorthodox angles.

The two fights against Marquez were 3 and 6 years ago, and were at 126 pounds (featherweight) and 130 pounds (super featherweight or junior lightweight).  Pacquiao will be a month shy of his 33rd birthday by the time the fight rolls around, whereas Marquez would have passed his 38th birthday.  Don’t forget Shane Mosley, who clearly slowed down a heap against Pacquiao, was 39 when he stepped into the ring a couple of weeks ago.

Besides, the two fights with Marquez were close fights, not outright robberies as some claim.  They were fights either fighter could have won, which is why they were controversial decisions.  And remember, one judge erroneously scored the first round 10-7 for Pacquiao instead of 10-6 (which is what should have been the score for a triple knockdown round), meaning that on paper, Pacquiao really should be 2-0 instead of 1-0-1 against Marquez.

If the two fights were close at 125 and 130 and when both fighters were 3 and 6 years younger, will they still be close now, at 144 pounds, and at the ages of 33 and 38?

Stylistically, Marquez could still pose problems for Pacquiao, but everything else points to a brutal beating.  If Pacquiao could take heavy blows from the likes of Cotto and Margarito on the chin, will Marquez’s punches still hurt him like they did before?  If Pacquiao’s punches could cause so much damage to De la Hoya, Hatton, Cotto and Margarito, would Marquez be able to take them like he did before?

Time will tell.

Mosley Back-Pedals to UD Loss in Rare Pacquiao Stinker May 8, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Boxing, Sport.
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By Manny Pacquiao’s ordinarily lofty standards as the pound-for-pound king and the most exciting boxer in the world, his 12 round unanimous victory over future Hall-of-Famer Shane Mosley was a complete stinker.  I’d actually probably say it was one of his worst fights ever from an action and excitement perspective.

So what the heck happened?  Even at 39, Shane Mosley was expected to be a good opponent for Pacquiao not because he posed a serious threat, but because he’s been known throughout his career as a skilled, exciting boxer with speed and power, and most importantly, liked to trade shots with the other guy.

Instead, this Mosley essentially back-pedaled all night (worse than Cotto in those last few rounds, and Mosley wasn’t even seriously hurt), all the way out of the ring and straight to the bank to collect his cool $5 million bucks for this sham of a fight (Pacquiao got a guaranteed $20 million).  I’m a little angry and very disappointed, because Mosley talked it up and made it seem like he was going to hunt Manny down like Team 6 on Osama.  He exuded confidence because, as he said, Pacquiao likes to trade, and that’s what’s going to give him an opportunity to knock Pacquiao out.  But when the time came, Mosley did jack all.  I gave him the benefit of the doubt before the fight despite his last two performances (against Mayweather and Mora), but he’s a shot fighter.  No doubt about it.  He just can’t pull the trigger anymore.  This wasn’t an Oscar de la Hoya situation where Pacquiao didn’t give him the opportunity to get his punches off.  Mosley just didn’t want to throw.

How the fight unfolded

After a pretty decent undercard which I missed, Mosley entered the ring first with LL Cool J rapping ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ alongside him (how ironic).  Pacquiao entered next to ‘Eye of the Tiger’, sung live (or lip-synched) by Survivor.  All good up to this point.  Everyone was hyped.  Jamie Foxx sang a song and everyone cheered.

The first round was a ‘feel out’ round where neither guy did much, but Pacquiao clearly won because he at least tried to engage a little.  Mosley just threw a few jabs in the air and kept moving back whenever Pacquiao looked like he might throw a punch.  But at least he was sharp, and I thought perhaps he was sizing Manny up and getting ready to go all out in the next round.

But in round 2 Mosley did more of the same.  Pacquiao turned it up a notch, but not by much.  He did have a couple of brisk moments where the crowd went ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ from his combinations, but by and large it was uneventful.

Round 3 turned out to be probably the best round of the fight because Pacquiao managed to land a couple of big shots (a left and a right) that put Mosley on his backside.  Mosley got up at about the count of 5, but from the stunned expression on his face and the wobbly legs it looked like he was ready to go.  However, Pacquiao didn’t really go after him with full force and Mosley survived.

If Mosley was tentative up to that point in the fight, after the knockdown, it was much much worse.  I couldn’t believe the bigger guy, the supposedly stronger guy, was running so much.  It was embarrassing to watch, and frustrating for the fans who paid good money to see what they thought would be an action-packed bout.

From round 4 onwards, Mosley just back-pedaled and Pacquiao chased.  Apparently in this round Pacquiao cramped his calf, which made mobility an issue for the remainder of the fight, a possible reason why he didn’t go after Mosley harder than he did.  Rounds 4 to 9 were really a complete blur in my memory because they were all the same.  Mosley refusing to engage and Pacquiao bringing brief moments of fake excitement whenever he landed a few blows before Mosley darted away again (it got so bad that the crowd cheered whenever Pacquiao got close to Mosley).

In round 10, the best possible thing that could happen in this fight happened.  Mosley clearly pushed an off-balance Pacquiao to the canvas, but referee Kenny Bayless inexplicably ruled it a knockdown (he apologised later).  Freddie Roach was fuming, and Pacquiao was bewildered, but soon the bewilderment turned to anger and he finally started putting his punches together and sprinted after Mosley instead of just stalking him.  At last, Pacquiao started belting Mosley with powerful combinations, but Mosley turned it up a gear and ran even faster, managing somehow to survive until the final bell.

Not surprisingly, boos rained down throughout the slower parts of the fight, and who could blame them?  Mosley looked like he had zero intention of trying to win the fight, and the only thing he cared about was walking away without a permanent injury (so he can snuggle up to his hot new 21-year-old girlfriend, who received the second loudest ovation after Pacquiao at the venue where I watched the fight).  At least against Joshua Clottey, Clottey covered up most of the night.  Mosley just ran.

The final scorecard: 120-108, 120-107 and 119-108.  This was quite astonishing, considering they used a ’10-point must’ scoring system for the 12 rounds and Pacquiao was ruled as having been knocked down in round 10.  Usually when a boxer is knocked down, the round automatically becomes a 10-8 in favour of the guy who scored the knockdown, but the fact that Pacquiao received perfect scores from 2 judges and only lost a point on the other, showed just how pathetially hopeless Mosley was on this night.

Final thoughts

What a stinker of a Pacquiao fight. Average or slightly above average compared to your run of the mill boxing match, but a stinker by Pacquaio’s standards.

Pacquiao was disappointed afterwards and showed it in the interview, because he knew he didn’t give fans what they wanted to see.  He complained about the lack of willingness to engage on Mosley’s part and his calf injury.  He was almost completely unmarked after the fight, whereas Mosley’s face was puffy and bruised, and was forced to wear sunglasses in the post-fight interview.

I had predicted that Pacquiao would be the first to knock Mosley out (he did pretty well by just being the second person — after Vernon Forrest — to knock Mosley down) because I thought Mosley would try and trade.  I think from what we saw in the fight, if Mosley did decide to trade, he almost certainly would have been carried out on a stretcher.  How he fooled everybody, including even his own trainer, Nazim Richardson, who pleaded all night for Mosley to do something.

I don’t really blame Pacquiao for what transpired here.  His job, first and foremost, is to win the fight, which he was doing with absolute ease.  He didn’t have to do much to dominate this bout.  Why risk anything if you can just coast your way to a victory?  I just wish he wasn’t so friendly to Mosley, allowing him to escape from the corner whenever he had him seemingly trapped, and not going after him until the 10th round knockdown error by the referee.  If the error occurred earlier the fight probably would have been less burdensome to watch.

That reminds me of a couple of things I noticed about the fight that really irked me.  One was that Pacquiao and Mosley would touch gloves at the start and end of every round and after just about every accidental head butt (there were a few) and separation by the referee.  I mean come on, it’s good to be friends after the fight but not in the ring.  They even hugged at the beginning of the 12th and final round.  It made me feel like Shane was just saying: thanks for giving me the chance to steal $5 million; I just fooled the world into thinking I was going to fight, but I was really here just to collect my paycheck and try and get out with my brain in one piece.

The second thing was Shane’s corner always taking an extra 5-10 seconds between rounds to get out of the ring.  I thought it was an obvious ploy to give Shane more time to recover so he can run faster the next round, and the referee should have at least warned them.

What’s next

Pacquiao’s next opponent will probably be Juan Manuel Marquez, who really wants to fight Pacquiao after believing he was robbed in two previous decisions (a draw and a loss).  Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum already sent an offer to Marquez, which he turned down, and they are sending a revised version to him.  Perhaps they were offering too little money, or perhaps he didn’t like the weight (which would almost certainly be welterweight).

Arum says if Marquez backs out then the next best option is Timothy Bradley, a legitimate young stud and title holder.  Not sure if a real danger for Pacquiao, but with Mayweather nowhere to be found, the best that could be hoped for.  Andre Berto might be in the mix, but he’s not as attractive now that he’s got a loss on his record (recently to Victor Ortiz).  And the other guy in the pound-for-pound chatter, Sergio Martinez, is just too big at 154 pounds.

I hope Pacquiao does take on Marquez again, because I think it’ll be a good fight.  Marquez is the only guy that has given Pacquiao real trouble since 2005, though I think it will be a massacre at 147 pounds.  A brutal, bloody massacre that will shut everyone up about Marquez’s earlier success against Pacquiao.

As for Shane Mosley, please retire and ride off into the sunset with your hot young girlfriend.  You’ve had a glorious career but you crapped all over your legacy tonight.  At least you got 5 million bucks out of it.

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