Boxing 101 continues its 30-year anniversary series with former top heavyweight contender Gerry Cooney with a conversation about boxing today, including his views on certain fighters and current issues within the sport.
When analyzing the current heavyweight division, it is unclear who the next US heavyweight champion is going to be. However, Cooney was quick to respond that no one in the division today reminds him of himself. He believes there is a fundamental lack of desire within today's group of heavyweights to truly fight.
"You’ve got to want to fight. You’ve got to fight. Like in recovery, you’ve got to fight for life. I see these guys and it’s like they’re sparring or somethin’," proclaims the former powerful slugger. "You have to take the fight out of the guy. That’s the game, that’s my job. I've got to take the fight out of you. That’s what I do [as a fighter]. They don't do that anymore, not many of them anyway."
Cooney finds the Klitschko's, who have essentially owned the heavyweight division over the last decade, to be talented but fight scared. His criticisms of them include their failure to get inside to bang the body, fighting cruiserweights rather than naturally powerful heavyweights and possession of an awkward European, stand-off style. They can sell out arenas in Germany, but are unable to generate much interest in the US.
"If Emanuel Steward could 'Americanize' Vitali, he would be a great fighter, but he is scared of getting knocked out. He doesn't commit himself," Cooney said. "American fight fans don't want to see that."
In discussing the likelihood of a mega fight between pound-for-pound kings Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, Cooney expressed disinterest and believes it would be a lackluster fight. Of each man, Cooney points out:
"Mayweather is a very talented guy but could he stand up with a Ray Leonard? No. Tommy Hearns? No.
"There are lots of flaws with Pacquiao. He is wide open for the jab so can get hit."
Turning attention to the upcoming fight between Mayweather and Miguel Cotto on May 5, Cooney predicts a late round stoppage by Pretty Boy Floyd even though he holds the Puerto Rican star in very high regard.
"I love Cotto. He is a great ambassador for boxing and has had a great career, but Mayweather has another gear," admits Cooney. "In watching 24/7, Cotto has been working hard with his new trainer and putting in good work, but Mayweather has a whole other speed and a whole other level to draw from. I think he will stop him [Cotto] at some point in the later rounds."
In discussing some of the current issues within boxing today, including poor judging and open scoring, the common theme that emerged from Cooney involved the need for a heightened level of consistency, expertise and oversight within the sport.
The increasing number of bouts that are poorly judged is taking its toll on the sport. Cooney believes greater expertise is required to address this issue rather than utilizing layman who can easily be influenced by a particular style of fighter and judge on that basis.
"[Boxing] must bring in more fight guys to officiate. We can see the fight differently than a lawyer or doctor… We have experience from being in there so we know what is going on. That is killing boxing." claims the former slugger.
Style influence may have been the cause of the most recent scoring travesty of the Brandon Rios vs Richard Abril fight two weeks ago. The old school slugger Rios was exposed by the crafty boxer in Abril, yet he won a controversial split decision victory. Of the outcome, an exasperated Cooney said:
"How did Rios win that fight? I don't know. If he won two rounds, he was lucky." Cooney went on to say, "Someone comes home from working two jobs, spends $49 to watch a fight, expects a fighter to win and instead lose like that? It is a sin."
Open scoring in and of itself would not solve this issue without a level of oversight to ensure the scores are sensible and legitimate. Cooney pointed to the March 10 Orlando Salido vs. Juan Manuel Lopez II fight where Lopez was winning by majority decision at the time the dominating Salido knocked him out.
"I don't know what they were watching!" declared Cooney of the ringside judges. "Thank God Salido knocked him out! That has to go away."
Certain aspects of boxing today have to go away, but Cooney believes the sport overall is making a comeback. He discusses the future of boxing with Boxing 101 in tomorrow’s final installment of our anniversary series.
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