The legendary Hall of Fame career of Manny Pacquiao continues Saturday and it could very well be the passing of the torch as he steps in with unbeaten Keith “One Time” Thurman, who seemingly has been groomed for such an occasion. Thurman’s career was on a roll but inactivity due to hand injuries the last two years has had his career in the dark when it comes to excitement from the mainstream fans.
Thurman is still the strong, hungry lion in this matchup and I predict he wins a close decision to become a talked about commodity in the sport once again. I look for a performance from Pacquiao that is solid enough that he will continue with a few more bouts down the road. Father Time ultimately wins in boxing and those waiting for the day may very well see it Saturday night.
R.I.P. PERNELL “SWEET PEA” WHITAKER
I will never forget April 27, 2001. I was about three months into training for my long-awaited pro debut when I got the call on a Sunday night from my trainer Juan Torres to ask if I could make myself available to spar Pernell Whitaker the next day.
He had arrived in Tahoe for his bout at Caesars Tahoe but his stable mates were coming in later in the week and he wanted one more day of sparring. Luckily, no strings needed to be pulled, I happened to have the day off from my job at Caesars and jumped on the opportunity to spar the legend at the location where he had unified the lightweight title in 1990 and where it would eventually be the final fight of his Hall of Fame career.
After the three-round sparring session, it made for quite an interesting time in my life as Whitaker said nice words about me and his legendary manager called me a “helluva prospect.” That suddenly put the spotlight on me. I had people calling me for about a week to request interviews, as I was an unknown suddenly pushed into the realm of faces to watch.
Whitaker died this week when hit by a car in Norfolk, Virginia. His funeral is Saturday and I wish I could write more, but it will be for another day down the road as I gather my thoughts and put his career into perspective. He wasn’t perfect and several news stories did dent the 1984 Olympic gold medalist. But nothing will take away from his accomplishments in the ring, or from my memories of being with the champ that week of what turned out to be his final bout.
The longer we go in life, the more we lose, among those from that magical week of my life that were around but that have since passed are Whitaker, Duva, Cutman Joe Souza and a dear friend from my amateur days, Oscar Diaz. As people have posted many pictures of Whitaker in the last few days, I look into my scrapbook, and the pictures with him are arm-and-arm in a boxing ring from when we finished a few rounds of work. I guess it’s equivalent to getting to spar a Muhammad Ali or being a musician getting to jam with a legendary artist. It was a surreal moment and the fact that Pernell has died is even more surreal to me.
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY OF LOCAL TALENT
South Tahoe pro MMA fighter Cameron Church of Escobar’s Training Grounds had his second pro bout scheduled for June 22 in Oroville, California, but was a last-minute scratch when the original opponent was a no-show and a replacement opponent could not be found. Church now fights Aug. 10 at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.
Homegrown talent JJ “The Sacred Warrior” Torres will be turning pro in his hometown and continue the Torres combat legacy Aug. 23 on the Combate Americas MMA card at the Harvey’s Outdoor Arena. JJ completed his amateur career with a 15-5 record which included a King of the Cage Amateur title.
Reno featherweight boxer Ricardo Lucio-Galvan declined an Aug. 5 Las Vegas bout and now his future looks uncertain. No dates have been announced for the next bouts of Carson City’s Diego Elizondo or Reno’s JJ Mariano. It is the effect of local promotions, both the lack of and the excitement of when there is a local show. Local fighters get a good amount of press for their bouts, but in recent years have struggled to find opportunities outside of Reno and we end up seeing them fight only once or twice a year when shows come to the area. I could go on for reasons of why that is, but bottom line to me is the amateur area mindset that they will just wait for a call instead of having an active manager guiding the career of a young fighter.
JUNE RECAP: HEAVYWEIGHT SHUFFLE
The big story in June was from the division that historically rules boxing. On June 1, a major upset kicked things off when 22-1 underdog Any Ruiz knocked out previously unbeaten champion Anthony Joshua who was making his U.S. debut. The defeat ruined the glamour of a would be megafight between Joshua and American Deontay Wilder. Although the bout may still happen, it will be without the luster of two unbeaten Champions.
All kinds of rumors swirled over Joshua’s condition for the bout, as he reportedly suffered an anxiety attack in the locker room prior to the bout. Since the upset, Ruiz has glared in the spotlight of major networks and won the ESPY for Upset of the Year. Joshua does have a rematch. I look for this to be another Lennox Lewis-Hasim Rahman situation where Joshua gets it together and pulls out the rematch. Rahman upset Lewis in South Africa in 2001 but later that year Lewis regained the title with a highlight reel knockout of Rahman in the rematch.
Later in June, it was boxing’s uncrowned heavyweight champion the timeline Champion Tyson Fury who ascended as the top heavyweight after his second-round victory over previously unbeaten German Tom Schwarz. Now the boxing world awaits the outcome of Deontay Wilder vs. Luis Ortiz for some type of clarity as to the future match ups of the division.
— Simon Ruvalcaba