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Mailbag: Keep an eye on Linares

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

It's been nearly two years since Yahoo! Sports has done a monthly pound-for-pound poll of the 10 best boxers in the world.

And not once in that time span did anyone give so much as a 10th-place vote to Jorge Linares. Linares is the WBA super featherweight champion and one of the most gifted fighters in the world.

He's also a charming and charismatic guy who would be a major hit in the U.S. if he ever fought in North America regularly. But the 23-year-old Venezuelan, who stopped Josafat Perez on Saturday in Mexico, is promoted by Teiken Promotions of Japan and is rarely seen in the U.S.

Linares, who is 27-0 with 18 knockouts, is the full package. He's nicknamed "El Nino de Oro," or, the Golden Boy. And Linares is a lot like Oscar De La Hoya, the most recent Golden Boy (the late, great Art Aragon is the original) in that he can box, he can punch and he's a ferocious competitor.

Hopefully, Akihiko Honda, his promoter, will see fit to fight him regularly in the U.S. If he does, Linares will quickly get plenty of votes for the top 10.

Before I get on to your questions and comments in the mailbag, let me ask that you please follow me on Twitter. Feel free to write and ask questions for mailbag use there, as well.

I disagree with your column on Rocky Juarez for three reasons. First, he fought Juan Manuel Marquez with a bad cut and went the distance. If he were not a warrior, he would have quit when he was getting nailed with clean power shots. Secondly, the Humberto Soto fight was no walk in the park. And thirdly, he fought John with a bad cut and went the distance. I disagree with your comment about earning the right to pick his opponents. Juarez needs to make money, and Mario Santiago is the epitome of high risk/low reward. Juarez lost the last time an opponent pulled out of a fight. No need to make the same mistake twice.
Jaime Trejo
South City, Calif.

I concede he would have been taking a risk, but I still contend he made an incredibly shortsighted decision that will have negative long-term career ramifications. This all goes back to what we discussed so much at the beginning of the year, putting the best against the best and fighters taking risks. A Juarez-Santiago fight would have been interesting to the fans in the Staples Center and those watching on HBO, because they would have known that Juarez could blow a title shot with a loss. That ebb-and-flow, what ABC Sports famously called "The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat," in its "Wide World of Sports," is what makes sports great. You get emotionally involved when there is much riding on the outcome. In Juarez's case, he would have proven to the many who questioned the fairness of deserving yet another title shot after coming up short in five previous attempts. What has this guy done in any way to deserve six championship fights in 34 bouts? Consider this: If Juarez had fought Chris John on Saturday, it would have been his sixth championship bout in a 34-fight career. Marco Antonio Barrera, who is infinitely more accomplished than Juarez, didn't get his FIRST title shot until his 35th bout. So why wouldn't Juarez take a risk and give something back to the fans who have supported him in his career? I still say he blew it big time.

Wow! How did you get a job as a "boxing expert?" You obviously do not know too much. Training for a particular opponent is 80 percent or more of the training a fighter does. Ducking a fighter and saying that you haven't trained for one so you choose not to fight him (at that time) are two totally different things. Juarez has a lot of heart and fighting a southpaw is hard enough, not to mention if you aren't training for one. This would almost ensure a loss, and also the possibility of him getting seriously hurt. You should go to your local Wal-Mart and apply as a greeter since you don't know a thing about boxing!
Scott Tucker

I think you must have forgotten, Scott. I took your advice and got the job at Wal-Mart. Don't you remember when you came in asking me if you could use food stamps? OK, now we're even. But I'll say this: No risk, no reward. He didn't want to take the risk of fighting a bout he was afraid he would lose. He shouldn't get the reward of a world title shot for that. There are a lot of featherweights who would have gladly taken that chance on Saturday, a week's notice or not.

Great article on Rocky Juarez. For too long, I have waited to see Rocky wrap a belt around his waist. Wearing the silver medal in the Olympics made me believe that Houston had found its newest warrior. Losing against great fighters like Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez did nothing to hurt his career. In fact, it actually showed the world that he, too, could tough it out with the best of them. But refusing to fight is just unacceptable. Juarez should be forgotten by the Houstonians, and every boxing fan for that matter.

The smart thing for him to do would have been to have taken the fight, won, then looked into the camera and said, "I did this for you, Houston fans. You guys have given me terrific support through the years and I did this for you." What he did instead was let down the fans, like yourself, who have backed him so arduously for so long.

Ortiz's shocking comments

What do you make of Victor Ortiz's post-fight comments after he was stopped Saturday in the sixth round by Marcos Maidana? As the heir apparent to the Golden Boy's throne, he seemed to take the loss much too graciously. I felt HBO analyst Max Kellerman's thoughts were dead on regarding boxing fans' expectations for the top-tier fighters. If Ortiz wants to avoid punishment in order to still "speak well" when he's old, hey, that's fine. But just don't expect us boxing fans to fill arenas and buy PPVs to watch you quit when you're getting beat up.
Birmingham, Ala.

I agree 100 percent, Wes. There were four fight cards on TV on Saturday: Ortiz-Maidana on HBO, Arthur Abraham on Showtime, a Top Rank pay-per-view and a mixed martial arts pay-per-view. I watched all four of them on Saturday. So, as soon as the Ortiz fight was over, I moved on to another broadcast. I didn't hear his interview until today. It was completely stunning. I never want to see a guy get hurt, and discretion is the better part of valor, but he seemed far too accepting of the defeat. And his comments about speaking well are outrageous. He makes big money and has the potential to make even bigger money. It's more than 98 percent of the public will ever have a chance to make. There's a risk involved, and if he doesn't want to take it, fine. But in boxing, you're either in or you're out. I honestly don't know how he comes back from this.

How do you feel about Ortiz's unwillingness to risk being hurt and knocked out against Maidana? He looked like a quitter to me. Do you question his heart and commitment to boxing after his admission that he doesn't "deserve a beating"?
Rich Gubitosi
Union City, N.J.

It seemed to me that he wasn't so much quitting because he was fearful of suffering long-term brain injury. I think he was bothered by the cut and didn't really know how to handle that kind of adversity. I would have forgiven that, because it was a highly entertaining bout and Ortiz is a young guy still learning. But to say you didn't "deserve" a beating? That's insulting to the fans who paid his purse. I suspect the public won't let him forget this.

Wladimir Klitschko is a great fighter and a future Hall of Famer. But the reason he will never be compared to Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson or any of the other greats is because you will never see him in a fight or round like the 15th round of Larry Holmes-Ken Norton. He is not that kind of fighter. However, his brother, Vitali, is. He proved it when he fought Lennox Lewis. I think the only fighter who can beat the younger Klitschko is David Tua. He can take a shot, has power in the later rounds and will again be in title contention once he beats Shane Cameron in October.
Shane Gilbert
Adrian, Mich.

I think much of Klitschko's skill as a fighter, but you're right, he'll never be in a round like the 15th of Holmes-Norton, which is one of the greatest rounds I've ever seen. But that's because, other than his brother, there are no heavyweights nearly good enough to come close to making him work that hard. David Tua has long been a friend, but if you're serious about him being a contender, I think you're delusional, Shane. Tua is a real good guy, but he has no shot against either Klitschko and he knows it. There is, sadly, no one who can compete with the Klitschkos now. That said, Wladimir Klitschko needs to do more than just jab and throw the occasional right hand. How about going for a knockout for a change, Wlad?

Great article on Top Rank's Bob Arum. He is the only promoter who could compete with Don King all these years and seems to have outclassed him in terms of quality and consistency. His Roberto Duran/Sugar Ray Leonard stands out most of all; he used to smile much bigger, especially with his eyes. I hope Bob Arum stays healthy for a long time. He's a huge part of this resurgence in boxing and maybe his "class" will rub off on the rest.
Jose L. Munoz
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Arum is the rare promoter who actually promotes. Too many promoters look for a TV date, grab a site deal and then look to make sure they're positioned perfectly in the stands during the fight and in the ring afterward so they get their mugs on TV. Arum actually gets out and pitches his fights. He's hardly perfect, but if I were handling a gifted young fighter, I'd want Arum to promote him. Nobody does it better.