The Mayweather Boxing Club sits 2.7 miles from my house and I drop by often because you never know who you will run into there. On some days it’s a mini-United Nations, a reminder that boxing is a global sport. For some established boxers from overseas, a trip to Las Vegas wouldn’t be complete without a workout at Floyd Mayweather’s gym. It’s a rite of passage.
On Thursday, Jan. 10, I dropped by, not of my own volition but because I was summoned there with other members of the local fight media to interview Badou Jack who will take on unbeaten Marcus Browne in the chief undercard bout on the Pacquaio-Broner card on Jan. 19 at the MGM Grand Garden.
Shawn Porter was there, just killing time (he has his own gym in Las Vegas) as was Layla McCarter to work off the rust (which included sparring with a member of the opposite sex) in preparation for her fight next week with Argentina’s Yamila Reynoso.
Shooting the breeze with Shawn and Layla was a bonus. Both are extremely personable and always insightful.
Porter, who scored a mild upset over Danny Garcia in his last fight, will risk his WBC world welterweight title against Yordenis Ugas at the MGM Grand on March 9. The Cuban defector has won eight straight since returning to the ring after a 27-month hiatus.
Porter, 31, has never seen Ugas fight in the flesh, only on TV, but notes that Ugas’s style differs from that of other fighters who are products of Cuba’s vaunted amateur system. “He’s more of a power puncher,” says Porter. “Cubans like to use the entire ring.” The implication is that Porter, whose style is that of a swarmer, won’t have to hunt him down.
Shawn will be a substantial favorite. If he wins, as expected, he will have a lot of options going forward. A rematch with Keith Thurman seems like a natural. The undefeated Thurman, who has been sidelined for almost two years with assorted injuries, returns to the ring later this month for a bout with Josesito Lopez.
The Thurman-Porter fight, on June 25, 2016, aired on primetime on CBS, the first primetime fight on the “Eye” in 38 years. From an aesthetic standpoint, it was a rousing success. After 12 furious rounds, all three judges had it 115-113 for Thurman. There were scattered boos when the decision was announced.
Porter has called out Thurman in the past and there have been reports over the past three months that negotiations were underway for a rematch. Shawn says those reports were premature: “Thurman has showed that he doesn’t really want to fight me again. You can bet that he will have his fingers crossed that Ugas beats me.”
What about the winner of the forthcoming match between Errol Spence and Mikey Garcia?
Porter would take it, but allows that Mikey Garcia, who will be making his initial venture as a welterweight, has never been on his radar screen.
Most boxing insiders believe that Garcia has bitten off more than he can chew. In Errol Spence, he will be meeting a man who is bigger and stronger and has knocked out 21 of his 24 opponents including the last 11. But Porter believes that Garcia has a legitimate chance of springing the upset. He uses the word “textbook” in his analysis, using the word as an adjective to highlight Mikey Garcia’s high ring IQ.
Porter was in the audience for the Wilder-Fury fight and thought that the decision was fair. They will inevitably meet again and Porter favors Wilder in the sequel (no surprise as they share the same promoter). “But,” he says, “Deontay Wilder will need to make some adjustments. Big adjustments.”
When talking with Shawn Porter, the conversation invariably veers off to other sports. He was an all-conference running back and defensive back at Ohio’s Stow-Munroe Falls High School, the same school that spawned Hall of Fame fullback Larry Csonka, and is a big fan of the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns made great strides in 2018, finishing 7-8-1 after entering the season on a 17-game losing streak. And yet after the season the owner fired interim coach Gregg Williams who was 5-3 during his tenure. But Porter is okay with that. He expects the Browns to make another leap forward next year under the new man Freddie Kitchens, an offensive-minded coach who was promoted from within.
It figured that Porter, whose game is all about offense, would be partial toward an offensive-minded coach.
By and large, female fighters have short careers, in part because it’s a small universe and finding fresh opponents can be challenge. Layla McCarter is the exception. Now in her 21st year as a pro, the 39-year-old McCarter has 60 fights under her belt. “I never thought I would outlive my career,” she says.
McCarter’s 42-13-5 record is misleading. Six fights into her career, she was 1-4-1. She’s won 19 straight since losing to rugged Melissa Hernandez in 2007 during which she avenged that setback twice. TSS West Coast Bureau Chief David Avila, an authority on female boxing, calls her the most feared and most avoided fighter in her sport.
The longtime Las Vegas resident is a road warrior. Recent fights have taken her to New Zealand, South Africa, Mexico twice, and more recently Germany. Several Las Vegas fights fell out when NSAC head Bob Bennett wouldn’t approve her opponent. There’s nothing sketchy, however, about Yamila Reynoso. The Argentine, who is 11-5-3 with eight wins by stoppage, has competed in three bouts sanctioned for world titles and has never been stopped. Plus she’s only 22 years old.
If youth is to be served, McCarter’s winning streak will end. And Layla had some qualms about taking this fight because it fell into her lap on such short notice. She spent time out of town with family during the holidays, pushing aside her daily training regimen.
Turning down the fight — it’s scheduled for eight rounds — wasn’t an option. Throughout her career McCarter has been paid what the late sportswriter Jimmy Cannon would have called “moving around money.”
“Trickle Down Economics doesn’t work,” says McCarter, “and it especially doesn’t work with respect to female boxing.” She alleges that although more money has filtered into female boxing from TV, promoters haven’t increased purses commensurately. She says this matter-of-factly, without rancor.
The biggest money fight out there for McCarter would be a match with Cecilia Braekhus. Ms. Braekhus holds the IBF world female welterweight title, among other belts. Last we checked, Layla McCarter held the women’s IBF world welterweight title. Note the difference in the wording. The IBF has no qualms about splitting semantic hairs to gather in an extra sanctioning fee.
“Cecilia Braekhus has made it plain that she doesn’t want to fight me,” says McCarter. That leaves Katie Taylor among potential opponents against whom McCarter would draw a sizeable paycheck. Layla thinks that fight will happen in 2019.
Taylor, who resides in Connecticut but is a huge star in her native Ireland, turned pro in November of 2016 after a long run on the amateur scene. She’s a great talent, but at age 32, despite only 12 pro fights, she has a lot of mileage.
“I know that I don’t have a long window to get out of this sport with a nice retirement nest egg,” says McCarter. “I’d like to invest in real estate and I’m hoping this is the year I make enough money to do it. I don’t have any concrete plans for when I quit boxing, but I’m sure I’ll always be around the sport.”
Badou Jack is known for having a laid-back attitude. That was on display on Thursday as he talked about his upcoming clash with former U.S. Olympian Marcus Browne, a 12-round bout for a minor WBC title. The likely prize for the winner is a date with newly minted WBC 175-pound champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk.
“I look at it as just another day on the job,” said Jack, who turned 35 in October. “I feel young and like I’m still improving.” (In my mind, “thirty-five is the new twenty-five,” interjected Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe, seated on the ring apron.) “I’m battle-tested,” continued Jack who has held world titles in two weight classes. He noted that his opponent has never fought on such a large stage.
The father of two young children, Badou is not only a professional boxer, but an entrepreneur and philanthropist. This past summer he co-founded Ripper Nutrition, a company whose products are described as pre- and post-workout non-prescription nutritional supplements for fitness addicts. The fledgling company has reportedly signed a lucrative deal to distribute their products in Asia. The Badou Jack Foundation focuses on improving the lot of people in refugee camps in the Middle East and Africa, particularly orphans.
Leonard Ellerbe (pictured) calls the Pacquiao-Broner bout a “must-win” fight for both combatants. The loser will undoubtedly suffer a big dip in marketability. Broner, in Ellerbe’s estimation, is in the best shape of his life.
Another Mayweather Promotions fighter, Gervonta Davis, will be in action on the second Saturday of February. Davis (20-0, 19 KOs) defends his version of the 130-pound title against Abner Mares at the LA-area venue formerly known as the Stub Hub Center.
When Ellerbe raves about Gervonta Davis, one gets the sense that he believes every word of it. “Gervonta has that ‘it’ factor,” he says. “He has a connection with the younger generation. I believe he will be the first little fighter to command ridiculous purses.”
Having spent the last decade riding the Floyd Mayweather rocket ship, Ellerbe is familiar with ridiculous purses.
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