Andre Ward says focus in training always the same, regardless of opponent

Andre Ward/Photo courtesy of Roc Nation


If you have followed the career of Andre Ward, it’s easy to tell how well prepared he has been for all of his fights. That, he says, is because even though the fighters are different, his level of concentrations is the same.

“Regardless of who I’m fighting — (Sullivan) Barrera, (Alexander) Brand, (Sergey) Kovalev, whoever — there’s always different game plans and nuances when it comes to preparation and training,” said Ward, who Nov. 19 will challenge Kovalev for his light heavyweight belts at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas (on HBO pay-per-view). “The reality of it is, every fight is a must-win for me. I prepare for each fight as if I’m facing the most difficult opponent of my career. That’s always been my approach, and I think you’re playing with fire if you don’t adopt that mentality in this sport.

“I know this is a big fight, the biggest of my career. But my mindset and my focus have been consistent no matter the opponent, and that’s an invaluable asset.”

Ward, 32, is from Oakland. He’s 30-0 with 15 knockouts. Kovalev, 33, is from Russia. He’s 30-0-1 with 26 knockouts.


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John Molina Jr. of Covina to challenge Terence Crawford for titles on Dec. 10

John Molina Jr.

John Molina Jr./Photo courtesy of Premier Boxing Champions


John Molina Jr. of Covina will get his second chance to win a major world title when he challenges Terence Crawford for his two junior welterweight belts Dec. 10 at CenturyLink Center in Crawford’s native Omaha, Neb. (on HBO).

Molina (29-6, 23 KOs), a gradaute of Charter Oak High, challenged Antonio DeMarco of Tijuana for his lightweight title in September 2012, but was stopped in the first round at Oracle Arena in Oakland.

Crawford (29-0, 20 KOs) is coming off a wide decision over Viktor Postol in a title-unification bout in July at MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

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Jessie Vargas knows a victory over Manny Pacquiao will change his career

Jessie Vargas/Photo courtesy of Top Rank Inc.


Jessie Vargas knows one thing – a victory over Manny Pacquiao on Nov. 5 would change his career and his life. He wants that.

“It would definitely put me on the worldwide stage, make me that boxing star that I have been looking forward to being,” said Vargas, who will defend his welterweight title against Pacquiao at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. “I have been waiting for this for a long time and I’m glad it’s here and I am going to take advantage of it. The only fighters to beat Manny Pacquiao have become legends themselves. So I plan to become one of the few to beat Manny Pacquiao and also become one of the legends.”

Vargas, 27, is 27-1 with 10 knockouts. Pacquiao, 37, is 58-6-2 with 38 knockouts.

The card will be available on Top Rank pay-per-view for $59.95.

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Abner Mares would love to fight winner of the Santa Cruz-Frampton rematch

Abner Mares/Photo courtesy of Dave Mandel, Showtime


Abner Mares has always said he likes taking on the best fighters. Even after he lost his featherweight world title when he was knocked out in the first round by Jhonny Gonzalez in August 2013, that credo did not change as in his most recent fight – August 2015 – Mares tangled with featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz won a decision, but Mares distinguished himself well enough.

Mares will be back Dec. 10 when he challenges another featherweight champion – Jesus Cuellar – for his belt at USC’s Galen Center (on Showtime). If Mares manages to emerge victorious, he knows what he’ll then want.

“I want the winner of the (Carl) Frampton vs. Santa Cruz rematch,” Mares said Thursday at a Los Angeles news conference. “I want to continue to fight the best.”

Santa Cruz lost his featherweight championship to Frampton via decision July 30 in Brooklyn. They will fight a rematch Jan. 28 at MGM Grand in Las Vegas (on Showtime).

Mares parted ways with his trainer – Clemente Medina – this past January and hired well-known Robert Garcia, who trains boxers out of his gym in Oxnard.

“I’ve been working with Abner almost this whole year,” Garcia said. “… We’ve been working side-by-side and we’ve had a lot of time to learn about each other.”

Mares has won world titles in three weight classes. But he hasn’t held a title in over three years. Garcia is just the trainer to help Mares get back in the championship saddle.

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Jessie Vargas’ trainer Dewey Cooper says he’s improving his fighter’s power

Jessie Vargas/Photo courtesy of Top Rank Inc.


Dewey Cooper isn’t the most well-known trainer in the world. But his passionate way of answering questions could help grow his popularity.

Cooper on Thursday was part of a conference call promoting the Nov. 5 welterweight title fight between champion Jessie Vargas and Manny Pacquiao (58-6-2, 38 KOs) at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas (on Top Rank pay-per-view, $59.95). Cooper trains Vargas, who has only 10 knockouts in 28 pro bouts. That’s a low knockout ratio of 36 percent.

But Cooper has been telling reporters that he is improving Vargas’ punching power through various techniques and exercises. He scoffs at the notion that a fighter either has power or he doesn’t, and that one can’t improve upon that power.

By the time Cooper was finished explaining to an inquiring reporter, he had left a lasting impression.

“He feels it,” Cooper said of Vargas’ newfound heavier punch. “He feels it in his knuckles, he feels it in his forearm when he hits, he feels it in his hip when he hits and it’s a natural thing, guys. For anyone in the world to say someone cannot improve on something is just ignorant. We can improve our reading speed, we can improve our running speed, we can improve our strength on a bench press, so why wouldn’t we be able to improve our punching power?

“Everything’s about technique and exercise on the right sports specific move that should make you improve. And that’s all we’ve done. It’s not rocket scientist. We’re just smart enough to know not to limit ourselves and our possibilities. We can do the improbable, we could do the impossible, and that’s exactly what’s going to happen on Nov. 5, guys.”

Vargas (27-1) has had one fight under Cooper. That was March 5 when Vargas stopped Sadam Ali in the ninth round to win the vacant title. Vargas decked Ali twice.


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Bob Arum can envision Manny Pacquiao and Vasyl Lomachenko tangling

Manny Pacquiao/Photo courtesy of Top Rank Inc.


Manny Pacquiao is a small welterweight. Heck, he wouldn’t even be a big junior welterweight if he were still fighting in that division. It therefore wasn’t shocking to
hear his promoter – Bob Arum – talk about the possibility of Pacquiao at some point taking on super featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko.

Pacquiao (58-6-2, 38 KOs) on Nov. 5 will challenge Jessie Vargas for his welterweight belt at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas (on Top Rank pay-per-view, $59.95). Three weeks later – on Nov. 26 – Lomachenko will defend his title against tough Nicholas Walters at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas (on HBO).

At the moment, Pacquiao and Lomachenko (6-1, 4 KOs) are fighting at 147 and 130 pounds, respectively. But Lomachenko told yours truly prior to his most recent bout this past June that he could see himself moving up another weight class or two, meaning lightweight (135 pounds) and as high as junior welterweight (140).

“Yeah, 135 to 140,” Arum said. “Manny, he can fight at 135.”

He can still make that weight?

“That’s what he says, sure,” Arum said Wednesday afternoon at Pacquiao’s camp in Hollywood. “I saw him sparring with Ray Beltran yesterday and Beltran’s a lightweight
and Beltran towered over him. He was so much bigger.”

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Leo Santa Cruz will get opportunity to avenge his loss to Carl Frampton

Leo Santa Cruz

Leo Santa Cruz/Photo courtesy of Premier Boxing Champions


Leo Santa Cruz of Lincoln Heights is going to get a chance to avenge the only loss of his career when he takes on Carl Frampton in a featherweight world title fight Jan. 28 at MGM Grand in Las Vegas. It was one of several fights announced Tuesday that will be televised by Showtime.

Santa Cruz (32-1-1, 18 KOs) lost his championship belt to Frampton when Frampton beat him via majority decision July 30 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Frampton (23-0, 14), of Northern Ireland, won by scores of 114-114, 116-112 and 117-111.

Also on this card, Mikey Garcia (35-0, 29 KOs) of Oxnard will challenge Dejan Zlaticanin (22-0, 15 KOs) of Montenegro for his lightweight world title.

Among the other fights announced was the March 4 welterweight title-unification bout between Keith “One Time” Thurman and Danny Garcia. There is not yet a venue for this one, and it apparently is contingent upon Garcia (32-0, 18 KOs) beating Samuel Vargas in a Nov. 12 tuneup bout in Garcia’s native Philadelphia.

Thurman, of Clearwater, Fla., is 27-0 with 22 knockouts.

Also, Abner Mares (29-2-1, 15 KOs) of Hawaiian Gardens will challenge Jesus Cuellar (28-1, 21 KOs) of Argentina for his featherweight world title Dec. 10 at USC’s Galen Center.


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Sergey Kovalev’s goal is to become top pound-for-pound fighter in the world

Sergey Kovalev Is the Rare, Refreshing Boxing Star Who Doesn't Duck a Challenge

Sergey Kovalev lands a right hand to the head of Bernard Hopkins during their November 2014 fight won by Kovalev/Photo by Associated Press


Sergey Kovalev, the vicious light heavyweight champion from Russia, is unquestionably a top pound-for-pound fighter. He’s No. 2 or No. 3, with Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez No. 1 and Gennady Golovkin either No. 2 or No. 3.

Kovalev on Nov. 19 will be defending his belts against Andre Ward at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas (on HBO pay-per-view). Since Ward is a top 5 pound-for-pound fighter, suffice to say that a victory for Kovalev would make his case stronger for being anointed No. 1. He wouldn’t mind that a bit.

“When I was growing up in Russia, I did not hear these words ‘pound- for-pound,’ ” Kovalev said. “Once I learned what this was I knew this was important. I am honored that people think I am the fighter that could get this title. It’s important for me, for my career. I am champion in my division now, but I want to get all the belts and also I would like to be best pound-for-pound boxer in the world.”

Kovalev, 33, is 30-0-1 with 26 knockouts. Ward, 32, is 30-0 with 15 knockouts.

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Bernard Hopkins never considered taking on a weak opponent in final fight

Kovalev dominates Hoplrins

In his most recent fight, Bernard Hopkins (right) was dominated by light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev in November 2014/Photo by Associated Press


Bernard Hopkins is 51. He’s a living legend and will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

Not one person would have blamed Hopkins if he decided to fight a tomato can for his farewell fight. Hopkins doesn’t roll like that, though. Instead, he’s taking on highly ranked light heavyweight Joe Smith Jr. in his final bout Dec. 17 at the Fabulous Forum (on HBO).

Hopkins and the rest of the interested parties played host to a news conference Monday to formally announce the bout. Hopkins was asked about taking on a guy who in his most recent bout stunned everyone by stopping Andrzej Fonfara in the first round this past June in Chicago, instead of an easy mark.

“That’s not me,” Hopkins said. “And you would look at it as, ‘Bernard wants the easy way out.’ I never want anything easy. And just give me an opportunity and I want to figure it out myself. And I think that is more of the credibility that’s in me even at this age, to understand that’s just me.

“I don’t want nobody to think anything different. Win, lose or draw, this is the final one. I will win and I will win impressively. And I’m in it with a guy that’s going to push me, that’s going to make me fight a young man’s fight in this sport.”

Hopkins, of Philadelphia, is 55-7-2 with 32 knockouts. Smith, 27, of Long Island, N.Y., is 22-1 with 18 knockouts. That’s a knockout ratio of 78 percent. He is ranked as high as No. 2 in the world.

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Manny Pacquiao to arrive at LAX on Saturday night, will finish his training camp for Jessie Vargas at Wild Card

Manny Pacquiao/Photo courtesy of Top Rank Inc.


Manny Pacquiao is scheduled to arrive at LAX at 7:30 p.m. Saturday from the Philippines to conclude his training for his Nov. 5 fight against Jessie Vargas. Pacquiao will train the last two weeks at Wild Card Boxing in Hollywood under the watchful eye of his longtime trainer Freddie Roach, who has been in the Philippines with Pacquiao.

Pacquiao (58-6-2, 38 KOs) will challenge Las Vegas’ Vargas (27-1, 10 KOs) for his welterweight title at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas (on Top Rank pay-per-view, $59.95).

Pacquiao has been training in the Philippines until now because of his senatorial duties there.

Pacquiao will be flying in on Philippine Airlines on flight 102. To check the status, go to this link:


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