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Quick Jabs: Carl Froch And HBO Ratings; Manny Pacquiao And The Mauled Captain; More

I'm still buzzing about the fact that Floyd Mayweather (right) and Canelo Alvarez (left) signed this week to fight in September. It's been more than a decade since Mayweather has done this: taken on his undisputed most threatening opponent, in Alvarez's case a bigger, stronger, full-fledged junior middleweight who is coming into his own and established himself as the top man at 154. When boxing's best fighter and its most marketable fighter is behaving in a sporting fashion, it's a good week for boxing. And because Mayweather is the #2 ranked Transnational Boxing Rankings Board junior middleweight, he'll eligible to win the lineal junior middleweight crown, which would mean he'd tie a feat only one other fighter has accomplished, his rival Manny Pacquiao — a true championship in a fourth division.

This being boxing, though, of course there are still cynics. And it's not like everything they're saying is wrong, really, because boxing warrants a fair amount of cynicism. Yes, the 152-pound catchweight is a bummer, especially since Mayweather has previously scoffed at catchweights and Canelo could be drained by even those two pounds, but I don't generally hate catchweights as much as some and Canelo's team says he'll be fine, so it's not THAT much of a bummer. Yes, Mayweather is fighting Canelo before he has fully matured as a fighter, and that's a strategic maneuver akin to his usual thinking about choosing his opponents at the wisest moment, but it's better that he's fighting him on this side of the hill rather than the other, and while Canelo is an unfinished product you don't beat a fighter like Austin Trout if you ain't legit. And yes, this is probably a sign that the Mayweather-Robert Guerrero pay-per-view didn't do as well as Showtime and Golden Boy Promotions have proclaimed, and Mayweather-Alvarez is more a necessity to make up for lost ground than some kind of pure fan-pleasing maneuver on everyone's part, but whatever, it could approach 2 milion PPV buys (I think it'll come in at something like 1.7 or 1.8, at this juncture) and it's getting us the best available top-to-bottom match-up in the sport right now, so I'll take it how I can get it.

Before we delve into some overdue Quick Jabs, you may have noticed that Sam Sheppard has been writing a fair amount around these parts. He's joined the staff, officially, so please welcome him aboard.

Quick Jabs

It's going to be a pretty Floyd + Manny-related QJ, so if that doesn't interest you, skip ahead a good deal. Mayweather's stable of fighters keeps coming up positive in drug tests, first Mickey Bey and now J'Leon Love. Obviously, Mayweather can't babysit all of his fighters all of the time. But Mayweather's original drug test demands for a fight with Pacquiao were something Floyd portrayed as his bid to clean up the sport, and maybe it looks bad if he can't get his own promotional team's drug house in order — not just with after-the-fact punishment, as promised, but before-the-fact education and perhaps even advanced testing…

There have been some scattered reports to the contrary, but most indicators still point toward Pacquiao and Brandon Rios using the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association for their upcoming welterweight bout. This is important for at least one big reason: Rios is a client of Angel Heredia, who has admitted to supplying athletes with performance enhancing drugs in the past, and no Heredia boxing clients have undergone advanced drug testing yet. I'm of the mind that Heredia and his rival, convicted drug peddler Victor Conte, are both figures who ought to draw real skepticism in boxing. Since Conte's clients have undergone advanced testing and come up clean (albeit with VADA, an organization Conte once claimed he helped establish), the edge in shadiness has gone to Heredia thus far; if Rios comes up clean via VADA, they're on more level footing on that count. Another argument Conte makes about why he's more trustworthy than Heredia is that Heredia "snitched" on others to avoid jail time, but Conte once offered to do some snitching of his own in exchange for leniency with the courts, which is a distinction without any significant difference. There were some criticisms of us running an interview with Heredia on this site last week, but whether he's a scumbag or not, I'm interested in hearing from everyone in the sport, because at least we then get a better sense of what someone's about. Hell, I've watched interviews with Osama bin Laden and Charles Manson, and Heredia isn't worse than those guys. That said, the criticisms of that piece by Conte himself on Twitter – that we were somehow Heredia's "journalistic buddies" selectively editing Conte's remarks on Heredia's behalf — were asinine. We gave Conte ample space, and I encouraged the author Kelsey McCarson to seek out additional quotes from the original draft; the full thrust of Conte's remarks were captured in that space; everyone else in the story also didn't get every word they spoke to us in print, which is the only way anyone can ever write a reasonably-sized news story or interview; I've just said, explicitly, and have before, that I consider Heredia a figure who should be viewed skeptically; and Conte hasn't seen fit to publish the remarks he made to us on his Twitter feed or elsewhere, which is all the evidence you need that we didn't leave out anything crucial, and that all Conte was probably really upset about was that we ran an article focused on Heredia…

One more drug testing note: In this interview, Richard Ings, a former anti-doping official in Australia, observes that boxing's drug testing woes are only fixed "cosmetically" by voluntary testing, and that stricter measures are needed. I think he's right on the second point, but voluntary testing has already popped a number of fighters for testing postive, which means they're doing more than just "cosmestic" good. Yes, it's haphazard good, fleeting good, but it's good nonetheless. The problem with what Ings is proposing is that it is, at this moment, virtually impossible. There is no government in the world that's going to step up testing regimes to the extent Ings is talking about, and certainly not state goverments that are cutting services, not expanding them. It's why I've liked the idea of promoters and networks taking the lead and paying for advanced testing. Until something dramatic changes, voluntary testing isn't enough, but it's better than nothing…

OK, back to Pacquiao. The congressman has been accused of "mauling" a barangay captain, which isn't as cool as if he had been in a fight with a ship's captain, because then if Pacquiao had bopped him good his corn cob pipe would've gone flying out and his golden buttons would've popped off his coat and all that. In all seriousness, I hope the allegation isn't true; Pacquiao has said that, in fact, it was the captain who was misbehaving — like shooting-a-gun-at-his-supporters misbehavior. Filipino politics has a Wild West element to it, from what I can tell, so who knows when or if we'll ever find out what really happened…

Amir Khan was briefly appointed by the WBC as the #2 welterweight despite having not fought at the weight yet, and now that it looks like Khan won't be facing Mayweather for his 147-pound title, he's back out of the rankings again. This is why the "reform the sanctioning organizations" notion won't work — their model of sanctioning fees for title shots and percentages of purses means they'll always, always, always do absurd things to chase money, and have never shown any shame or indicated any desire to reform themselves…

And in the last bit of news even remotely connectable to Pacquiao or Mayweather, Guerrero is getting off light with the authorities over his gun-in-NYC-airport adventure. I say this purely as a boxing fan, and it reflects not one bit on my views about gun laws: I'm glad Guerrero isn't going to jail…

Predictably, Carl Froch's super middleweight rematch with Mikkel Kessler did so-so ratings on HBO. I say "predictably" because as good as the rematch was on paper and as much as hardcore fans were looking forward to a good action bout, overseas fights often do poor ratings and the afternoon start time didn't help. That said, if you combine the afternoon and evening dates, it gets to respectable, and if you figure it didn't cost them much, it's even more respectable. What it doesn't get to is a higher rating than Andre Ward's last fight on HBO. The boxing scribe who remarked that fans would rather see a bout like Froch-Kessler II than Ward-Chad Dawson can't be talking about the United States, because mathematically that's just not true. I still think Ward needs to go overseas if he wants a shot at Froch again, and his team has softened its rhetoric on that count; on the other hand, they did Ward no favors by calling out retired Joe Calzaghe… 

For a few days on the Internet recently, fans and writers gnashed their teeth or celebrated the alleged un-retirement of Antonio Margarito, based on a story sourced ENTIRELY to "rumors." Sometimes those "rumors" will be right, and sometimes they won't. This time, they weren't. Congrats on wasting your time on specuation based on total falsehoods that you wouldn't have had to waste your time on if you applied a little critical reading to things, Interwebs…

Somehow, cruiserweight Denis Lebedev's eye — swollen to the size of an orbitable planet during his bout with Guillermo Jones — was said to be a-OK after he was released from the hospital…

A few outlets have reported that ESPN2 lost its Friday Night Fights chief in the Worldwide Leader's personnel cuts. Doug Loughrey hasn't always put on consistently quality cards, but he sure has gotten a lot done with comparatively tiny budgets, and his replacement has some big shoes to fill…

I had wondered whether the Lamont Peterson-Lucas Matthysse card in Atlantic City going the same night as Peterson's fellow D.C. star Dusty Harrison was fighting back home would divide the market, and I now have reason to believe it did. Our old friend Gautham Nagesh reported that the Harrison show was nearly full in a 3,000-seat venue, while the D.C. cheering section in A.C. was a bit thin — an unfortunate splitting of a growing market, it would now seem to me. Check out the aforelinked Stiff Jab if you want to see how the D.C. card went in greater detail.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C., where he is a staff writer for CQ Roll Call.

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