CANELO ALVAREZ is preparing for his fight in New York and his first up at super-middleweight when he fights Rocky Fielding at Madison Square Garden on December 15.
He said, “It fills me with pride to be able to fight at Madison Square Garden. I’ve been wanting to fight there for years. To be in such a place where important people such as Muhammad Ali have fought is another landmark in my career. It is an honour to be at an arena like that.”
Fielding holding a ‘regular’ WBA super-middleweight title prompted his selection as Canelo’s opponent and the Mexican’s move up to 168lbs. “It would be a big landmark in my career to be one of fewer than 10 Mexicans to win a world title in three divisions. It’s a big challenge for us and an important landmark that I want in my career. I feel really happy for us [my team],” Alvarez said.
Coming off his victory in a rematch with Gennady Golovkin earlier this year and his confidence is rightly soaring. “Like I’ve always said, I’ve always considered myself to be the best and now more so than ever. I’m here because of that and because of that motivation to be the best. To be on the pound for pound list or not – that’s something that neither excites me nor upsets me. I’m just happy with what I’ve done and satisfied with what I am doing,” Canelo said.
He continued, “I’ve always said that words aren’t always necessary. I’m a serious person who doesn’t like to be talking or sending out messages to my opponents. I’ve always defined myself as being very serious in what I’m doing. I focus on getting in the ring and giving everything I have.
“Everything that was said about me and the attacks made against me as a person – well, I demonstrated what I’m really made of in my last fight. That’s the nicest feeling – to be able to shut mouths with facts.”
“SOMETIMES the setbacks make us stronger,” says Yuri Foreman, reminiscing about, not only the difficulties during his boxing career, but the struggles throughout his early days in life across Israel and America. But it’s this poverty-stricken past that fuels him and helps maintain his positive outlook, adding, “Sometimes we look at our past to find the strength to keep going in future.”
Foreman, an Orthodox Jew born in former Soviet Republic nation of Belarus, grew up during genuine hardship in Israel. Here, after emigrating at 10 years of age, he helped both his parents in cleaning jobs, while beatings at the hands of bullies had earlier forced his mother to oversee him stepping into an Arabic boxing gym in Haifa.
“My part was just like any immigrant kid,” Foreman explains of his family’s initial problems in Israel. “New school. No language. Fights at school. After school I took a bus to the office building where my parents were working and I was helping them. One thing that I found difficult was that I was aware that my parents were always broke and barely making their ends meet. I always tried to help as much as I could.”
Life is much better for the now 38-year-old, with the move from Israel to the United States, more specifically New York, during his teenage years having proved to be a blessing for him and those around him. He remembers fondly, “Gleason’s Gym is my second home.”
“The first day when I was arriving to New York City from Israel, that’s the gym I went to. Bruce Silverglade [the owner] is almost a father figure to me and one of the most generous people I have ever encountered with a true kindness.”
Swapping the harshness of life in Israel for the prospects of ‘the American dream’ ultimately resulted in ring success. Foreman reached the pinnacle of his career in 2009. At the MGM Grand Garden Arena he outpointed Puerto Rican Daniel Santos over 12 rounds to see the WBA light-middleweight belt wrapped around his waist.
Foreman became the first ever Israeli fighter to achieve world champion status in any division. But what happens next after finally grasping an achievement he often dreamed of during the bleak days back in his homeland?
“And after winning the title, I did experience joy and I was happy. It was really a culmination of years of training and dreaming and at the same time feeling huge honour in representing my country in the squared-circle. But it wasn’t the joy of realisation that felt like ‘wow, I have arrived’ and I completed my boxing mission.”
It was here that Foreman sought more from life, with boxing now at the forefront alongside his religious beliefs, asking himself “what now?” and “where do I go from here?”
“I realised after that, boxing for me is more than just a sport or a profession that I like. Boxing very often is a kind of a vehicle through which I express myself. So at that point I realised that winning a title is not the end.”
Enlightenment for this former world champion came in the form of rabbinical studies, eventually becoming a fully ordained rabbi in 2014. Such a dedicated religious background doesn’t exactly go hand-in-hand with the more dangerous and aggressive nature of prize-fighting. But after a decisive Brooklyn synagogue meeting with rabbi DovBer Pinson upon arriving on American soil, Foreman was instantly intrigued in exploring his Jewish heritage and is now making both interests work in tandem.
“I got very interested in Judaism and wanted to learn in depth,” outlined the fighter now known as ‘The Boxing Rabbi’. “Personally I think sports unite people and being a rabbi perhaps will give me an opportunity to reach out to more people and influence some folks.”
Foreman’s roots are now deeply embedded in America, happily describing it as his “second home” where he has since got married and had three children. Although, Israel is still within his constant thoughts, despite the tough and testing upbringing there, and he “definitely” plans on returning to help spread his message and instil a sense of peace during turbulent times.
“We are metaphysical beings. We are comprised with physicality in body and spirituality in soul. Judaism teaches that humans can attain spiritual heights only through involvement with the physical world. The path of perfecting yourself lies through perfecting the world we live in.”
Unfortunately, there has been no shortage of violence back in his home nation and its surrounding areas, but another senseless act of aggression fell worryingly closer to his adopted doorstep earlier this year.
“Look what happened previously in Pittsburgh,” Foreman states painfully, recalling the tragic synagogue shooting, believed to be the worst anti-Semitic attack in recent US history.
“We mourn the 11 holy souls who were so cruelly torn from our midst, and pray to God to provide strength and comfort to their shocked and grieving families. Their unfathomable pain is shared by the entire Jewish people and all people worldwide.
“It’s shocking and devastating and every Jew feels this sorrow. Our history shows that we Jewish people have been knocked down countless times. We have been rising up each time, again and again and continue to fight.”
Boxing, like any other sport, takes a backseat in the grand scheme of things when such paramount issues come to the fore. But, as the topic of conversation reverts back to the profession in which has given him a better life, Foreman is optimistic yet realistic about what lies ahead.
“Currently I’m in the gym and training. Just like any other sport, but specially so in boxing, mental preparation is a crucial part and it sometimes takes a bit longer than preparing your body. I do plan on fighting. Currently I’m promoter-less so I’ll need to take care of this as well.”
Foreman went into the first defence of his former 154lbs crown in June 2010 against the legendary Miguel Cotto already hampered by an injury and his then braced right knee awkwardly buckled ruing the seventh round of proceedings, signalling at the beginning of the end to the bout.
In a courageous final stand, literally on one leg, Foreman managed to hold off Cotto for another two rounds before the referee was forced to intervene. In light of his efforts the dethroned champion declared: “I’m a world champion, now a former world champion, and you don’t just quit. A world champion needs to keep on fighting.”
That’s the same admirable attitude that saw him return to the ring just nine months after doctors warned him to take at least a year out after undergoing surgery for a torn UCL and meniscus in his right knee, in which torn cartilage around the joint was also removed.
Nearing 40 years of age and following such damaging injury setbacks, Foreman still shrugs off any worries regarding carrying on fighting, claiming, “My knee and all previous injuries are healed and not bothering me at all.”
Looking back fondly on that Yankee Stadium outing against the now retired future Hall of Famer Cotto, despite ultimately relinquishing his world title during a maiden defence, Foreman admits, “It was definitely a learning experience and a lesson.
“It taught me that you need two good knees to fight someone like Cotto,” he jokes. “But memories of Ha’Tikva [the Israeli national anthem] blasting in the Yankee Stadium make me very proud too.”
He should be, no matter how and when his boxing story comes to an end.
THE only thing worse than the November 24 mixed martial arts trilogy fight between Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz is the possibility it encourages other former fighters to come out of retirement and do something similar.
Rather than viewing the fight as an example of all that is wrong with modern day combat sports – basically, money trumps everything, including logic and health – Oscar De La Hoya, the promoter behind it, considers Liddell vs. Ortiz III an unlikely source of inspiration.
“The message I want to send here is Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz are going to make the most money they’ve ever made in their entire careers,” De La Hoya told MMA Fighting. “It’s incredible. I’m actually mind-blown by that, because I would have thought Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell — with two names like that — would have made a lot more money in their careers.
“Tito Ortiz looks in phenomenal shape and Chuck Liddell, I call him ‘Chucky’ because he just keeps on coming. This guy is just in incredible, incredible shape.
“I think that price point (for pay-per-view) is perfect. People are responding very well. The indications are that it’s going to do some great, great numbers.”
Forty-eight-year-old Liddell has been inactive since he was begged by Dana White, the UFC president and long-time friend, to retire in 2010 after losing five of his last six fights, three of which ended in violent knockout.
Ortiz, meanwhile, is five years Liddell’s junior at 43, no doubt the fresher of the two, but has competed just twice since November 2014. (He has also twice been knocked out by Liddell – once in 2004, and again in 2006.)
Worse than this, and worse even than the videos of Liddell hitting pads, is the idea that De La Hoya, a brilliant former six-weight world champion, is now teasing a comeback of his own.
“Right now, if I train a couple months, three months, I can go 10 rounds,” De La Hoya, 45, said. “I can go in there with the best. That would be no problem. But I would have to be disciplined and dedicated and focused on it 1000 percent. Why limit yourself to age?”
Retired for a decade now, we have good reason to believe De La Hoya is only dealing in hypotheticals when mentioning training and 10-rounders and going in against the best.
It’s just a shame Liddell vs. Ortiz III couldn’t have also remained a hypothetical.
Manchester lightweight Anthony Crolla is content to play the waiting game ahead of a proposed fight against Ukrainian star Vasyl Lomachenko next year.
The former WBA champion, last seen defeating Daud Yordan in Manchester, is next in line to face Lomachenko but must first wait on the outcome of the December 8 fight between the current WBA champion and WBO champion Jose Pedraza. Only then will he have a better idea of how his 2019 is going to shape up.
“He’s mandatory now,” Joe Gallagher, Crolla’s trainer, told Sky Sports. “Obviously Lomachenko now defends against Pedraza in December.
“I’m sure the governing body will be putting the mandatory status on the champion, and it will have to go out to purse bids.
“Anthony Crolla is in a great position now. We just have to sit back and, like Eddie Hearn says, see the purse bids take their toll.”
As well as it being a great position, some critics will say it’s a slightly fortunate one.
Crolla, after all, lost twice against Jorge Linares (first in 2016 and then in 2017), a man Lomachenko stopped in 10 rounds in May of this year, and has won just three fights since. Included among those victories are good ones against Ricky Burns, the former world champion from Scotland, and Yordan, yet there remains a sense the gulf between Crolla and Lomachenko is considerable.
“Lomachenko, whether the fight would happen here in the UK at the Manchester Arena, or whether we may have to go to Madison Square Garden, I think it’s a great opportunity for Anthony Crolla to challenge himself against one of the best in the world,” said Gallagher.
“Somebody has to fight Lomachenko, Lomachenko has to defend against somebody, and Anthony Crolla has done a fantastic job since losing to Linares to come back and put himself in the driving seat.
“He beat Ricky Burns, a three-weight world champion, he just beat the Mexican (Edson Ramirez), and then he had a great win against the number two in the WBA rankings (Yordan), so no-one can say Anthony Crolla has been given this opportunity.
“He’s worked hard for it, and no-one should be able to deny him that opportunity of testing himself against the best in the world.”
Whether the Mancunian is ultimately competitive with Lomachenko or not, Gallagher’s right. It’s hard to begrudge Anthony Crolla, one of the nicest guys in the sport, any break that comes his way.
HUGELY popular Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao will take on notorious American Adrien Broner at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on January 19 on Showtime pay-per-view.
It will be Pacquiao’s first contest in the United States in more than two years. “Please come and see the best Manny Pacquiao again. I just want to prove I’m still in boxing. Manny Pacquiao is still in boxing and my journey in boxing is still continuing. I just want to give a good show on January 19,” Pacquiao said. “Don’t miss this great and prestigious fight.
“We have to work hard and train hard for this fight so that the people will be happy and on January 19 we give a good fight for the fans.”
“I chose Adrien Broner because I believe we can have a good fight and we can entertain the fans,” he continued. “He’s a good boxer and we cannot underestimate him.”
Ultimately he still wants a rematch with old rival Floyd Mayweather. “Floyd, when we met in Japan we talked and he said he wanted to come out from retirement to fight me, to challenge me,” Manny said. “All I know is to fight in the ring and to give excitement and entertain people. That’s my job. If Floyd comes out of retirement after this fight we’ll see. But I cannot underestimate Adrien Broner.
“I want to the fight the greatest opponent, the greatest fighters in the world, one of them is Adrien Broner. I can fight anybody.”
Broner was adamant, “They keep on talking about rematches, they got to get past me.”
“The things he’s done in this game is unbelievable,” the American added. “I know come January 19 I’ve got to be on top of my s***… I’m here to f*** him up though.
“It’s going to be a hell of a fight, all bulls*** aside I’m not coming to just pick up a cheque.”
He concluded, “It means a lot to me honestly. A win, I turn into a legend overnight.”