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Mailbag: Chokes, Holt, Holyfield and more

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

It was another busy week at the inbox, as I received a flood of comments on my column on Renato "Babalu" Sobral's failure extended choke of David Heath at UFC 74, as well as plenty of thoughts on boxer Kendall Holt's personal story.

There was a lot of passion in the Sobral comments on both sides of the issue. It was about 65-35 against him and many commended UFC president Dana White for cutting him from the company's roster of fighters.

But those who supported Sobral did so passionately and saw what he did as no big deal.

I'm headed to London Tuesday to cover UFC 75 on Saturday. We'll have extensive coverage of that show.

Next week, my colleague, Dave Doyle, will cover the Elite XC pay-per-view in Hawaii while I come home to Las Vegas to cover the Golden Boy Promotions boxing pay-per-view at Mandalay Bay.

But here's a sample of what you've had to say about the sports of boxing and MMA in the last seven days.

My answers are in italics.

ADMIRES HOLT ("Holt has faced bigger challenges than boxing," Aug. 29)

Thank you for your column on Kendall Holt. Regardless of what he does in the ring, he has great perseverance, which is what I find inspiring.

I've also enjoyed your MMA columns. They've brought the sport to life for me. As a novice, MMA seems very dynamic. There doesn't appear to be a dominant strategy, like the West Coast offense or no huddle offense in football. Is that so? If so, any idea if this would remain the case, given the varied disciplines?

Michael
Danville, Calif.

Holt is a good kid who has worked hard to improve his life after a difficult start. He was stopped in the 11th round of his WBO super lightweight title fight in Barranquilla, Colombia, Saturday, by Ricardo Torres. The bout, which was fought in Torres' hometown, was apparently controversial, though I have not seen a tape of it yet.

As for MMA, it's an exciting sport which will grow on you as you learn more about it. As the fighters improve and become better at mixing the disciplines, you're going to see moves that will blow your mind. Don't forget that this is a relatively young sport which is still evolving.


LIKES PAVLIK, HATTON

Here are my predictions in upcoming boxing matches: Kelly Pavlik will knock out Jermain Taylor in the 10th round of their middleweight title fight Sept. 29 and Ricky Hatton will beat Floyd Mayweather in their welterweight fight on Dec. 8.

I'm surprised Pavlik's victory over Edison Miranda and Taylor's loss to light-hitting Winky Wright aren't adding up in people's minds. I think it's a mismatch.

I'm also surprised you believe Mayweather is so far and away better than everyone else. I saw his fight with Oscar De La Hoya and I believe he may have thrown the fight. When he threw his jab, Mayweather had no answer. In the final round, De La Hoya was moving forward as Mayweather was going backward.

Hatton moves forward every minute of every round, and he won't stop punching. He's too strong for Mayweather. Hopefully they'll both be great events for boxing.

Jerome
Philadelphia

We disagree a lot, Jerome. And to correct things, Taylor didn't lose to Winky Wright (and I don't think I'd describe Winky as light-hitting). Their 2006 bout was a draw.

Taylor-Pavlik is an interesting match which could go either way, but I'm leaning toward Taylor. He hasn't looked good in his last few fights, because he's been fighting southpaws, runners and plain awkward fighters. Pavlik is a conventional fighter who will be there to exchange with him. To me, that favors the champion.

Hatton has about as much chance to beat Mayweather as I do of winning the Boston Marathon.

I'm constantly amazed by the people who think the only way you can win a fight is by plodding forward. Muhammad Ali wasn't a straight-ahead, attacking fighter, was he?

Hatton will struggle to hit Mayweather, he'll take a lot of shots in return as he does and his face is going to wind up looking like a pepperoni pizza for his trouble.


DEFENDING HOLYFIELD

How can you say that Evander Holyfield doesn't come close to being in the top 10 of heavyweights? He beat the men who were put in front of him and he was smaller than most of them.

If you place Mike Tyson in the top 10 heavyweights, I would have to ask why. He beat a lot of bums and over-the-hill fighters and always had a problem with good fighters, who were not afraid of him.

Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano no doubt go before Holyfield, but after them, who truly was better? Maybe Larry Holmes in his prime and Tim Witherspoon, but nobody else.

Linwood Keith

I never said he wasn't among the top 10 heavyweights. In my mailbag last week, someone asked why there was no talk of Holyfield as one of the 10 best fighters ever, regardless of weight. And I said Holyfield doesn't fit in that category.

But I have great respect for Holyfield and would place him among the 10 best heavyweights ever.

I think you're vastly underrating Holmes, who in my opinion is no worse than the fifth best heavyweight ever and perhaps deserves higher.

And you're greatly overrating Witherspoon, a nice guy and a decent fighter in his time but nowhere near being good enough to be considered one of the best heavyweights ever.


DOGGING WINKY

Can you please help me understand why everyone thinks Winky Wright is such a great fighter? I just can't comprehend why he is considered a top pound-for-pound fighter. I look at his fight history and nothing about it impresses me – NOTHING!

The fight that garnered him respect is primarily the win over Felix Trinidad. But when I look at Trinidad at that point in his career, I see a fighter who had one comeback win against a guy who was made to order for him after three years off. What is impressive about that?

A lot of people would probably point to his two wins over Shane Mosley, but if you look at the fights leading up to that contest you could argue that "Sugar" Shane was 0-3-1. Also not impressive.

Then there's the fight with Sam Soliman in which he looked absolutely horrible. The embarrassingly out-of-shape Winky was like a punching bag as Soliman out hustled him en route to getting screwed by the judges.

Chris
San Diego

I think you're vastly underrating Winky and, in some cases, misstating the facts, Chris. For the record, when Winky defeated Soliman, he was very ill and nearly pulled out of the fight. He had a temperature of over 100.

But Winky is a great defensive fighter, he's got one of the best jabs in the business and he's fought pretty much everyone. He got a draw against middleweight champion Jermain Taylor, a fight which most media felt Wright won handily.

I would favor Winky right now to beat any middleweight in the world.


WANTS HOUSTON

How can Keith Jardine be facing Chuck Liddell at UFC 76 on Sept. 22 instead of Houston Alexander? Alexander is facing Alessio Sakara, whose most notable win was against everyone's punching bag Elvis Sinosic, at UFC 75 on Saturday.

Alexander gets a demotion and Jardine gets the biggest fight of his life! Go figure. I think the UFC is maybe protecting Liddell after he lost the title.

What do you think?

Greg
New York

We're split, Greg. I don't like a Liddell-Jardine main event because I simply don't think at this point Jardine has done enough to be considered a main event fighter. But the UFC wanted to have Liddell fighting Wanderlei Silva at UFC 76, but Silva decided he didn't want to fight until the end of the year, so UFC president Dana White had to find a different opponent.

I have been consistent in my disagreement with Jardine as Liddell's opponent, though I do think Jardine is a quality fighter.

Having said that, Alexander isn't getting a demotion. He was fighting in small shows in the Midwest before his impressive stoppage of Jardine. Now, he's getting another crack in the UFC and his is coming on free television at one of the UFC's biggest shows.

To me, that's not a demotion. He's going to get great exposure from that fight, far more than he would have from playing second-fiddle to Liddell at UFC 76.

If Alexander wins on Saturday, expect to see him in the mix against one of the UFC's top-rated light heavyweights in his next bout. And, assuming Liddell defeats Jardine, expect to see him fighting Silva on Dec. 29.


ANTI-BABALU ("There should be no room for Babalu's antics," Aug. 28)

What Sobral did was heinous and if the UFC doesn't drop the hammer on him, I hope the government drops it hard on the UFC. They are in a unique position right now to take MMA to great heights, but they have to do it the right way. Anything less than a very severe ban for Sobral will serve as tacit complicity of his actions.

As tough and sometimes brutal as MMA can be, we have to show the rest of the sports community that we are not animals and the athletes in MMA are not engaged in animalistic savagery. Dana White must do the right thing. Sobral should not receive any purse at all and he should be banned for at least a year, if not more.

Robert
Redondo Beach, Calif.

I'm sure the UFC made you happy, Robert, when it cut Sobral from the roster. I agree that by intentionally holding a choke, it creates an image of the sport that is contrary to reality.

However, I do think a year is excessive. Earlier, I had called for a nine-month suspension, but that was before the UFC dropped him. Now that that's happened, I think a fine and that action is enough.

I'm sure he's learned his lesson, though he's still going to have to explain himself to the Nevada Athletic Commission. He's put out a statement in which he denies holding onto the choke and says his post-fight comments in the cage were misinterpreted.

But he also said the same thing when asked point blank by Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Ed Graney that night in his locker room. His attorney, Richard Wilner, is doing what attorneys do and is spinning in hopes of lessening the punishment.


REMATCH!

I'm not knocking UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture at all. I think the man is amazing. However, I don't get all the hype. Until he stopped Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 74, he hadn't won back-to-back fights since 2003!

Of course, we can all say "what if?" when it comes to MMA fights, so I must do it with this fight. If anyone else saw the same fight I did, they would realize Couture struggled with Gonzaga the whole fight, even as Gonzaga struggled to breathe with a broken nose. I think we would see a different match if these two ever fight again, because Gonzaga was rocking Couture with every punch and kick.

Jamey
Roanoke, Va.

Jamey, you're right about Couture's record, but look at who he's fought: He's faced a who's who of MMA stars and has never taken an easy fight. That's one of the things that separates MMA from boxing. Most nights, the big stars in MMA fight top-level opponents. Too frequently in boxing, the top stars are in fights in which the opponent has little chance.

If we think of the UFC in NFL terms and consider Couture the Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts, I'd say it's fair to consider his opponents like the New England Patriots, San Diego Chargers, Chicago Bears and the like. There are no Detroit Lions on his record.

As for your characterization of the fight, I think you're right that he hurt Couture, but Couture dominated the fight. He had a better strategy and he simply fought better. The broken nose didn't help Gonzaga, but I don't think on that night, he would have won had it not occurred. And don't forget that Couture broke his left forearm in the third round and continued to fight well with it.

No rematch is in order at this stage, though Gonzaga proved he's a top heavyweight.


DANA ANTI-ARLOVSKI?

When are we going to see Andrei Arlovski fight and/or return to his fearsome self? Does Dana White have a personal thing against him?

Adam Weisman
San Francisco

White has nothing personally against Arlovski, but the former UFC heavyweight champion has had duds in at least two of his last three fights (the loss to Tim Sylvia on July 8, 2006, in which both were exceptionally cautious and his last win, over Fabricio Werdum on April 21.)

I expect to see Arlovski fight again by November. He's still a talented heavyweight and is good enough to regain the title, but he needs to fight with more abandon to do so.

Can't get enough of Kevin Iole's mailbag? Then check out last week's edition, in which readers sound off on Randy Couture.