- Kevin Iole at Yahoo Sports8 hrs ago
The UFC has such a strong public relations and marketing team that very few of its fighters are ever underrated, or not given their just due.
But flyweight Joseph Benavidez is one of the rare elite UFC fighters who isn't given nearly enough credit for how talented of a fighter he is and how much he has accomplished in the sport.
Benavidez is 19-3 heading into a flyweight title bout on Saturday at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, Calif., against champion Demetrious Johnson in the main event of a Fox-televised card.
His losses came to two men – two to bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and one to Johnson, the reigning flyweight champion – and two of those three were close.
The loss to Johnson was an agonizingly close decision that could have gone either way.
Benavidez, though, isn't the type to spend much time talking about his accomplishments or about his stature in the game. Those who watch him regularly and know him the best know how talented he is and how highly regarded he should be.
"Joseph is a fantastic fighter," Johnson said.
- Kevin Iole at Yahoo Sports10 hrs ago
Marcos Maidana is one of the few remaining obstacles on Adrien Broner's road toward boxing stardom.
There are plenty of questions about Broner's ability to be a top-level boxer, as he has yet to beat an elite opponent in his prime. At this stage, he's vastly more sizzle than steak.
Though it is not discussed much, there are plenty of questions surrounding Maidana's ability to be a regular winner at boxing's highest level.
Just like Broner, Maidana has much to prove on Saturday when they fight for the WBA welterweight title in a Showtime-televised bout at Alamodome in San Antonio.
Maidana's issues are overlooked, however, because of his obvious punching power.
Maidana is 34-3 with 31 knockouts and is coming off three consecutive finishes in eight rounds or less.
In his last three matches, Maidana stopped Jesus Soto Karass in eight, knocked out Angel Martinez in three and stopped Josesito Lopez in six.
While there is little dispute that Maidana punches hard, it may not be fair to characterize him as boxing's best pound-for-pound puncher.
- Kevin Iole at Yahoo Sports1 day ago
For years, HBO Sports executives chafed at the notion that Al Haymon was, in essence, running their boxing program.
It was hard to dispute, though, as Haymon managed and advised fighters who appeared regularly on the network, frequently in one-sided bouts. The Haymon-led Andre Berto made a career of fighting lesser talent for big money on HBO.
But in 2013, things changed dramatically. Most of Haymon's clients now fight on Showtime. Of the 16 boxers who appeared on the network Dec. 7 or will compete on Saturday's four-bout card in San Antonio, 11 of them are Haymon fighters.
But there are far fewer complaints about it now, because Haymon fighters are regularly taking on legitimate and frequently high-level opposition.
Much of that is thanks to the work of Stephen Espinoza, the general manager and executive vice president of Showtime Sports, who almost single-handedly overhauled the perception of the network.
T – according to Nielsen Media Research, 18 of the top 19 most-viewed bouts on cable television through Nov. 30 aired on HBO – Espinoza has made Showtime the go-to network for great fights.
- Yahoo Sports4 days ago
By many standards, 2013 was a disastrous year for the boxing program on HBO Sports. In February, boxing's biggest star, Floyd Mayweather Jr., bolted HBO to sign a massive, six-fight, 30-month contract with rival Showtime.
After HBO subsequently announced it would no longer do business with Golden Boy Promotions, HBO lost both Bernard Hopkins and Adrien Broner. In 2012 while fighting on HBO, Hopkins attracted the second-largest audience to a bout on cable and Broner drew the fourth-largest.
Both men finished the year fighting on Showtime, with Broner headlining a card on the network in San Antonio next week against Marcos Maidana.
Because of Mayweather, Showtime took over as the sport's leading pay-per-view distributor, selling more than three million units spanning Mayweather's two fights in 2013. HBO offered two pay-per-view bouts, featuring Timothy Bradley over Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao over Brandon Rios, which combined didn't reach 900,000.
- Kevin Iole at Yahoo Sports5 days ago
Shawn Porter was at home minding his own business when the telephone rang. It was a call that would change his life.
Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer was scrambling to find an opponent to fight Devon Alexander for the IBF welterweight title after Amir Khan took a pass.
The Alexander-Khan fight had long been anticipated, but Khan opted not to sign when he sensed he was a leading contender for a match against Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Porter was Schaefer's choice. And while Porter, an elite amateur who has compiled a 22-0-1 pro record, was hardly overwhelmed, he was plenty excited.
- Kevin Iole at Yahoo Sports5 days ago
It doesn't have a name. It doesn't have a price. It's not going to be widely available at launch.
Still, the UFC's new digital television service is a major step forward for the company and is an example of ownership's forward-looking view.
The service is designed to be similar to Netflix or Hulu, and ultimately will be able to be found on smart televisions, set-top boxes such as Roku and Apple TV, gaming systems such as Xbox, and iOS and Android devices.
It's a monthly subscription service that will include live fights and library fights that will feature every match ever held in the UFC, Pride, Strikeforce, World Extreme Cagefighting, Bushido and World Fighting Alliance.
In addition, it will have enhanced all-access coverage of UFC events. The UFC has hired reporter Megan Olivi, who will provide backstage access at news conferences, workouts and the like.
- Kevin Iole at Yahoo Sports6 days ago
Since he was hired in January as the first full-time head coach for the Sacramento, Calif.,-based Team Alpha Male, Duane Ludwig has gotten plenty of credit for the team's success.
The former UFC welterweight contender, whose career ended in 2012 when he couldn't remain healthy, finds a lot of humor in that.
"People seem to want to point to me and my hiring and give me all this credit [for the team's success]," he said. "It's nice, and I'll take it, and I deserve some of the credit, but it's fighters who win fights."
It's true that Ludwig inherited one of the sport's deepest and most talented teams. But consider the 2012 versus 2013 records for Chad Mendes, Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez and Danny Castillo, four of its biggest stars, when assessing Ludwig's impact.
Each of them will fight on Dec. 14 at SleepTrain Arena in UFC on Fox in Sacramento and all will be trying to finish off a more success 2013 than they had in 2013.
In 2012, Faber was 0-1. In 2013, he's 3-0. In 2012, Mendes was 2-1, but he's 2-0 in 2013. Benavidez was 1-1 in 2012 and 3-0 in 2013 and Castillo was 1-1 in 2012 and 2-0 in 2013.
- Yahoo Sports6 days ago
Boxing changed forever on Sept. 18, 1999.
It was on that night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas that Felix Trinidad defeated Oscar De La Hoya in what was billed as "The Fight of the Millennium."
The bout was a mega-hit at the box office, selling more than 1.4 million pay-per-views, a record for a non-heavyweight bout at the time.
It was that fight that ended the heavyweight division's longtime stranglehold over the sport's audience.
The De La Hoya-Trinidad welterweight bout showed that lighter weight fighters could be stars the equal of the heavyweights, and it changed the focus of the sport.
For much of the 1990s, for example, Ricardo Lopez was one of the greatest fighters in the sport, but he was largely ignored by the American media and unknown by the American fans because he was a minimumweight.
Television executives never gave Lopez a thought, despite his brilliance in the ring.
But after De La Hoya-Trinidad's stunning box-office success in 1999, that all changed.
- Kevin Iole at Yahoo Sports7 days ago
Glen Tapia has become one of boxing's bright young stars because many years ago, he was afraid to say no.
Tapia is following the path that Arturo Gatti, the late Hall of Famer, blazed a generation earlier: He's making a name for himself in the New York Metropolitan area with an aggressive, fan friendly style.
On Saturday at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., the room that Gatti made famous, Tapia will face the fight of his life when he meets heavy handed James Kirkland in a 10-round super welterweight bout.
[Related: Nine must-see fights in December]
In Kirkland, Tapia will face one of the sport's bigger names in the co-feature of a nationally televised card, fulfilling the vow he made when he was a young professional.
"When I first turned pro, I'd tell people I'd be fighting in Atlantic City and they'd look at me like I was crazy," he said.
No one looks at him that way any more. He's a rare combination of speed, power, fearlessness and boxing ability, with the opportunity to become a star.
- Kevin Iole at Yahoo Sports9 days ago
LAS VEGAS – Gray Maynard looked like he'd have rather been anywhere than sharing a cage in a fight with Nate Diaz on Saturday.
Diaz felt the same way, but he turned in one of the great performances of his career and stopped Maynard after a series of strikes in the first round of their bout at The Ultimate Fighter Finale at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
Diaz had wanted to attend his high school reunion, but skipped it to take on Maynard, a former lightweight-title challenger, in a rubber match. It turned out to be no contest, as Diaz overwhelmed Maynard and forced referee Yves Lavigne to stop the bout.
As good as he looked, though, Diaz wasn't keen on fighting. He wanted to attend his reunion.
"It would have been cool to go there [to my reunion], but I was broke, so I had to show up [to fight]," Diaz said.
And he fought as well as he has in his long career. He caught Maynard with a nice judo throw early in the fight before then using his punching accuracy to set up the finish.
Typical of Diaz, though, he didn't want to hang around much to celebrate. He was being interviewed by Jon Anik in the cage on Fox Sports 1 shortly after the match ended, but cut it short.