Robert Guerrero puts cap on electrifying night with all-out war against Andre Berto

by Kevin Iole

A day in boxing that began with a spine-tingling reception in England for Ricky Hatton ended in a Los Angeles suburb with a spine-tingling 12-round welterweight battle between Robert Guerrero and Andre Berto.

Robert Guerrero knocks down Andre Berto in the second round. (AP)

Buoyed by one of the great chins in boxing and a fearlessness that defies description, Guerrero out-toughed Berto for a unanimous decision Saturday at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif.

 Guerrero knocked Berto down once in each of the first two rounds and pulled out a gnarly, nasty, gritty victory. All three judges had it 116-110, or eight rounds to four, in favor of Guerrero.

It wasn’t so much that Guerrero beat Berto that was the shocker, though. Rather, it was the manner of the win. For most of the bout, it was like a street fight as they took turns teeing off on each other while standing inches apart.

Berto made himself look bad when he whined about referee Lou Moret, who had an extremely bad night but whose mistakes definitely did not cost Berto the win.

Regardless, Berto is a hard puncher and once he gathered his composure after he was blitzed the first two rounds, he raked Guerrero with some hard shots.

But Guerrero, a one-time super bantamweight who was fighting for just the third time above lightweight, kept coming for more.

“I did tell Andre I was going to beat him down, so I had to be a man of my word,” Guerrero said, grinning.

Both of Berto’s eyes were closed, as was Guerrero’s right in a fight that was a throwback to the kind of battle the late Hall of Famer Carmen Basilio used to wage regularly a half decade earlier.

Neither man shied from the battle, though it was stunning that Guerrero could take such hard blows from a legitimate welterweight. He showed perhaps the best chin in boxing since Wayne McCullough, the Irish Olympian and former super bantamweight champion.

With only a slightly above average chin, Guerrero could not have won this fight.

“He didn’t hurt me at all and I took some good shots from him,” Guerrero said. “Halfway through the fight, he caught me with a shot on the eye and I couldn’t really see. That’s why I had to fight on the inside a lot more, too. He’s a strong guy and he punched hard, but I’ve got a good chin and I was able to take the shots.”

Moret let both men get away with questionable tactics. On the first knockdown, Guerrero had his right hand wrapped around the back of Berto’s head as he hit him with a left. Berto, by contrast, was repeatedly winging hard shots at the back of Guerrero’s legs.

Guerrero sloughed the fouls off and kept fighting, while Berto seemed to lose his composure and began to moan to Moret.

After the fight, he was pretty much sour grapes while whining about Guerrero and Moret. He won a lot of fans by the way he fought, but he promptly lost a lot of them back after he failed to give Guerrero even a smidgen of credit.

Robert Guerrero takes a punch from Andre Berto in the 10th round. (AP)

“It was ridiculous,” Berto said of Moret’s work. “The referee kept calling me for a lot of different things. It made me timid to do a lot of things, throwing punches that I wanted to throw. He kept warning me for things that I didn’t have no control over.”

For the second year in a row, Berto participated in a Fight of the Year-type of bout. But he lost each of them and, at this point, is a spoiler in the division, a few clear steps behind the elite guys.

Guerrero, the guy who has been derided for calling out the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao and others, showed Saturday he has a lot more going for him than perhaps many believe.

He’s now squarely in the mix with the world’s best welterweights.

And best thing of all, he just wants to fight.
It was a satisfying end to a roller coaster fight day. Hatton returned to the sport after more than 3 1/2 years in retirement. He sold 24,000 tickets in just 48 hours before the opponent was known, as fans in his native Manchester, England, welcomed him back to the sport like a conquering hero.

He fought well and was ahead of Vyacheslav Senchenko on all three cards when he was knocked out in the ninth by a hook to the ribs.

That was a downer that totally deflated the enormous, pro-Hatton crowd.

Keith Thurman showed in the opener of HBO’s doubleheader that he is going to be in the mix for a lot of entertaining battles at super welterweight when he simply overran Carlos Quintana.

And then Guerrero and Berto capped the night with a barnburner.

It was clearly Guerrero’s fight, but this was one of those bouts where there were no losers.

In boxing, the fans often take it in the shorts, but on this night, even the fans came out ahead.

Boxer ‘Macho’ Camacho dies in Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Former championship boxer Hector ”Macho” Camacho died Saturday at the hospital in Puerto Rico where he has been unconscious since he was shot in the face in an attack in his hometown.

Camacho went into cardiac arrest in the pre-dawn hours and he was then taken off life support and died shortly thereafter, said Dr. Ernesto Torres, the director of the Centro Medico trauma center in San Juan.

Camacho’s mother, Maria Matias, said Friday night that she had supported removing him from life support after his three sons had arrived from the U.S. mainland and had a chance to see their father for the last time. They managed to visit him before he died, said former pro boxer Victor ”Luvi” Callejas, a longtime friend.

”The family is destroyed,” Callejas said outside the hospital.

Doctors had declared Camacho brain dead on Thursday. Matias had said she decided it was time for doctors to disconnect life support over the objections of the boxer’s eldest son, Hector Jr., because there was no chance of recovery.

”I lost my son three days ago. He’s alive only because of a machine,” she said Friday night. ”My son is not alive. My son is only alive for the people who love him,” she added.

Torres said that none of the boxer’s organs could be donated because of the time between when he was declared brain dead and his death after going into cardiac arrest for the second time since the shooting.

Callejas lamented the inability to donate the organs. ”It’s unfortunate that five more lives could not have been saved,” he said. ”This could have been avoided.”

Camacho was shot as he sat in a car with a friend, 49-year-old Adrian Mojica Moreno, who was killed in the attack. Police spokesman Alex Diaz said officers found nine small bags of cocaine in the friend’s pocket and a 10th bag open inside the car.

Police reported no arrests and said investigators continued to look for potential witnesses. Capt. Rafael Rosa told reporters they were following several leads, but declined to say whether police had identified any suspects. He said very few witnesses were cooperating.

Hector Camacho Jr. decried the violence that grips Puerto Rico, a U.S. island territory of nearly 4 million people that reported a record 1,117 homicides last year.

”Death, jail, drugs, killings,” he said. ”That’s what the streets are now.”

Camacho’s sisters have said they would like to fly Camacho’s body to New York and bury him there. Camacho grew up mostly in Harlem, earning the nickname the ”Harlem Heckler.”

He won super lightweight, lightweight and junior welterweight world titles in the 1980s and fought high-profile bouts against Felix Trinidad, Julio Cesar Chavez and Sugar Ray Leonard while compiling a career record of 79-6-3. He knocked out Leonard in 1997, ending the former champ’s final comeback attempt.

Camacho battled drug, alcohol and other problems throughout his life. He was sentenced in 2007 to seven years in prison on burglary charges, but a judge eventually suspended all but one year of the sentence and gave Camacho probation. He wound up serving two weeks in jail after violating that probation. A wife also filed domestic abuse complaints against him twice before their divorce.

Hector ‘Macho’ Camacho ushered boxing into new era with big personality, fearless approach

by Kevin Iole

Hector “Macho” Camacho, the three-division former world champion who lays in a Puerto Rico hospital Wednesday in a battle for his life, was a bridge between boxing’s past and its future.

Camacho, 50, was shot in the face late Tuesday in Bayamon, P.R., and was fighting for his life, even as his family considered removing him from life support.

In this 2006 file photo, Hector “Macho” Camacho arrives at an event in Miami. (AP)

During his career, which spanned 30 years, he represented the sport’s modern era with his over-the-top personality. He was colorful, he was braggadocious, he was outlandish and, at the height of his game, he was a must-watch attraction.

He debuted more than a decade before the pay-per-view era kicked off, but if ever there were a fighter who was made for pay-per-view, it was Camacho. He could sell a fight as well as anyone who ever lived.

“He understood the importance of marketing a fight and selling the fight,” said Oscar De La Hoya, who scored a unanimous decision over Camacho in 1997. “He had his fans and they would be behind him so strong, but he also knew how to get under the skin of the opponent’s fans and they would watch his fights hoping to see him get beaten.

“When I fought him, that was the first fight I was involved in where the opponent was really selling the fight hard. He was definitely advanced when it came to the marketing side of boxing and selling himself.”

But Camacho was also a bridge to boxing’s past, because unlike so many of the sport’s current stars, he eagerly sought out and fought the best of his era. Camacho didn’t worry so much about purse-split percentages, pay-per-view shares (because he didn’t have to) or billing. He was a throwback to an earlier time in that he possessed an anytime, anywhere mentality.

He demanded attention with his flamboyance, but because of the length of his career, and the high-profile nature of many of his opponents, he hasn’t been accorded the kind of respect his 79-6-3 record would suggest he deserves.

There will be a battle, but Camacho clearly deserves induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. At his peak, he was a lithe, quick boxer who was virtually impossible to hit with clean punches. And though he didn’t have a reputation as a puncher, De La Hoya said he could hit.

“He actually did have quite a bit of pop,” De La Hoya said. “He wasn’t feather-fisted, definitely not. I can tell you from experience, it’s not like he had pillows on the ends of his hands.”

Camacho’s Hall of Fame credentials are bolstered by wins over the likes of Rafael “Bazooka” Limon, Jose Luis Ramirez, Edwin Rosario, Howard Davis, Tony Baltazar, Ray Mancini, Vinny Pazienza (now Paz) and Greg Haugen. He also defeated well-past-their-prime versions of Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard.

But in his biggest fights – against Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., Felix Trinidad and De La Hoya – he came up short. Still, he fought the best of his era at their best weights and, usually, at the peak of their careers.

“This guy was a throwback,” promoter Don King said. “When I had a fight, he would just say where and when. He was totally fearless, and he loved to fight. The bigger the fight, the more he loved the challenge.”

Chavez was never bigger than when he defeated Camacho in 1992, the year that De La Hoya turned pro. Chavez was 81-0 and sat at the top of the pound-for-pound rankings.

Trinidad was 21 when they met in 1994 and blossoming into the most dangerous welterweight in the world. And De La Hoya was 24 and coming off a win over the great Pernell Whitaker when he met Camacho.

In this 1997 file photo, Hector Camacho and Oscar De La Hoya exchange blows. (AP)

“He was definitely difficult to hit because he had great legs, great movement and he was very fast,” De La Hoya said. “I learned a lot from fighting him. He taught me patience. The knockout is not always going to come. He taught me the importance of setting up my punches and to take a little off of them from time to time. I grew a lot as a fighter from fighting him.”

Perhaps the most under-appreciated element of Camacho’s game was his chin. He was never stopped, a remarkable note considered the punchers he faced and the sheer volume of times he competed.

His first fight came on Sept. 12, 1980, while Jimmy Carter was still president. His final bout was on May 14, 2010, against Saul Duran.

He was around so long that Floyd Mayweather Jr., now the world’s best fighter, was just 3 when Camacho made his pro debut in the Felt Forum in New York.

To not be knocked out during that time was a remarkable feat. He was past his prime in 1994 when he met Trinidad, a murderous puncher who at that time had 19 knockouts in 22 fights. Still, Trinidad was unable to get the finish.

“Camacho was a great athlete and, without a doubt, he is fighting now his toughest battle yet,” Trinidad told Primera Hora, a Puerto Rican newspaper. “I wish God can work a miracle for him. The ‘Macho Man’ is one of the greatest boxing champions this country has ever had and has made a lot of people proud.”

After UFC 154 win, St-Pierre’s ‘fire’ looks dim again

by Eric Fontanez

Georges St-Pierre is back. That’s for sure.

What isn’t certain is exactly how long he’ll stay back.

Georges St-Pierre fights against Carlos Condit at UFC 154. (Getty)

The undisputed welterweight champion put in 25 minutes of work Saturday and looked as good, if not better, than he did prior to injuring the knee that kept him out of action for the past year. Now that he put Condit away and can claim the UFC welterweight gold for himself without the nonsense of interim belts, the focus shifts to a super-fight with middleweight champion Anderson Silva.

But after learning that in recent months GSP was close to walking away from the sport altogether, it’s hard to hold onto the idea that the fight with Silva will happen. Given the tone of the battered champion at the post-fight news conference, it seemed like that fire he said he rediscovered prior to the Condit fight is flickering out.

“I just came back and I was fighting Carlos Condit and everybody was asking me about Anderson Silva,” St-Pierre said at the presser. “I just finished my fight and … I need to recompose and think about it. I got hit a lot on the head. I need a break.”

Break? He just had a 19-month break. And during that break, GSP almost handed his notice in to Dana White, nearly walking away from all potential fights.

With quotes and events like these, it’s understandable that one would question where GSP’s heart is at.

Without a doubt, St-Pierre’s performance last night was indicative of his dominance at 170 pounds. It’s hard to believe someone of the same weight class will remove him from the top of the pack at any point soon. But no matter the industry, once you get to the top, the wear and tear shows. And staying at the top proves that more battle scars are on their way and things don’t get any easier.

After 10 straight wins and seven consecutive defenses of his title, has GSP finally had enough? Is the grind, much like it was before, too much for him to carry on?

If so, that’s fine. From the outside looking in, GSP has done more than enough to prove he’s arguably the greatest 170-pound champion the UFC has ever seen. As far as welterweights are concerned, he’s done his fair share of work (sorry, Johny Hendricks).

Georges St-Pierre eats a punch from Carlos Condit at UFC 154. (Courtesy Tracy Lee for Y! Sports)

For the fans’ sake, though, a catch-weight contest with Silva needs to happen before he cashes in.

For the sake of argument, let’s just say St-Pierre is ready to call it a career and hang up the gloves. As awesome as it was, the best way to go out isn’t the five-round war he had with Condit (taking away nothing from Condit and his gutsy performance). No, the best way to celebrate a career of pounding the sense out of the competition is by taking on another fighter that’s done the same thing in his weight class.

There is no GSP fight the majority of fans would want to see more than a fight against Silva.

A super-fight with Silva not only puts a cap on St-Pierre’s brilliant career, but it also gives fans the rare opportunity of watching a king fight a king.

Apart from the obvious pain (both physical and mental) that stems from getting in a fight, there isn’t much downside to this for GSP and Silva. At a catchweight, neither title is up for grabs, so ranking and position in either division is thrown out the window. If St-Pierre loses, his stance as the greatest welterweight of all time is kept intact. A loss to the middleweight champ doesn’t taint what GSP’s done up to this point.

The only loser in this fight is Hendricks. Sorry, but for the sake of big-money fights that people want to see, “Bigg Rigg” needs to stay parked at the truck stop for a bit while we figure this GSP-Silva stuff out.

A fight with Silva will make history. Cowboys Stadium, a venue that will hold more than 80,000 people, will likely play the stage to what will be the biggest gate in company history. The card, assuming the fact that it holds other big-money fights, can easily top UFC 100 as having the biggest pay-per-view buy rate the promotion has ever seen.

Still, picking up the nuance from the post-fight presser, St-Pierre isn’t keen on fighting someone bigger than him. “He’s a big guy,” GSP said of Silva.

Georges St-Pierre looks on after his win over Carlos Condit. (UFC)

But if you’re beating up everyone in your division anyway, isn’t it about time you tested the waters somewhere else? Too many times in the past, fighters stepped up to GSP with different attributes that before the fight appeared to stand out as advantages, only to end up as characteristics that didn’t matter because he beat them.

Silva said recently that he doesn’t want to fight until late 2013. But somewhere between when he said that and yesterday, he changed his tune. Silva is open to the GSP fight now, and UFC president Dana White is hoping to make it around May of next year.

Now it’s up to St-Pierre to figure out what he really wants to do going forward. If the fire is truly out, then everyone loses and the collective soul of UFC fandom is gutted, leaving everyone wondering what could have been. Fans have seen it before: super-fights that everyone wants to see, but never come to fruition.

GSP, this is what you have in front of you. The fans want it, the boss wants it, and a guy that rivals you as the greatest ever wants to prove he’s better than you.

The ball is in your court, champ.

Georges St-Pierre endures test, grinds out tough win over Carlos Condit in return

by Kevin Iole

MONTREAL – With the world’s best fighter looking on, Georges St-Pierre didn’t show any ring rust in his return after more than 18 months away from the Octagon.

He was slightly more aggressive, but otherwise the same old Georges St-Pierre in taking apart Carlos Condit before an unbelievably loud crowd at the Bell Centre to retain his welterweight title in the main event of UFC 154.

Georges St-Pierre lands a punch on Carlos Condit during the second round. (US Presswire)

St-Pierre, who hadn’t fought since April 30, 2011, because of a major knee injury, looked superb. He repeatedly took Condit down and was aggressive from the top, throwing punches and elbows.

He won a unanimous decision by scores of 50-45 twice and 49-46. Afterward, he wouldn’t commit to the fight with middleweight champion Anderson Silva.

“I need to take some vacation and think about it,” St-Pierre said.

Silva traveled to Montreal from Brazil to challenge St-Pierre and hype a potential fight. His reaction in the cage was a letdown, as the crowd was incredibly amped and hoping for him to challenge Silva.

He did not, but that was probably the only mistake he made. Condit was tough and knocked St-Pierre down with a kick to the head in the third, but ultimately couldn’t stop St-Pierre’s takedowns.

After the bout, St-Pierre walked to Condit and said, “You’re the best fighter I ever fought.”

But St-Pierre proved why he’s one of the best two or three fighters in the world, pummeling Condit with punches and elbows and defusing his great offense.

If St-Pierre decides to forgo a fight against Anderson Silva, he’ll have at least one man with legitimate claim to a title shot waiting for him.

Johny Hendricks used to get beaten up regularly by Martin Kampmann when they trained together at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas. But when it counted, Hendricks got revenge in a massive way.

He landed a right hand and followed it with a crushing left that knocked Kampmann down and out. Referee Dan Miragliotta stopped it at 46 seconds of the first.

Johny Hendricks knocked out Martin Kampmann in co-main event. (Courtesy Tracy Lee)

Johny Hendricks knocked out Martin Kampmann in co-main event. (Courtesy Tracy Lee)The win should cement Hendricks as the No. 1 contender at welterweight. He had a similar knockout against Jon Fitch in 2011.

“Kampmann is a tough dude and I knew he had a chance to beat me,” Hendricks said. “But I am the No. 1 contender now. Please, please give me a [title] shot!”

Tom Lawlor seemed to get the short end of a bad decision in a three-round middleweight fight, dropping a split card to Francis Carmont.

It was a slow fight highlighted by battling for position against the cage. It prompted the crowd to boo frequently, but most of the offense that occurred seemed to be initiated by Lawlor.

Lawlor finished both the first and second rounds by catching Carmont in guillotine chokes. The choke at the end of the first seemed particularly tight, but Carmont wiggled out as the bell sounded.

Rafael dos Anjos outgrappled Mark Bocek, taking a clear unanimous decision victory in their lightweight bout. Dos Anjos had an advantage on both the feet and the ground en route to winning a 30-27 decision on all three cards.

Bocek was unable to mount much offense, as dos Anjos repeatedly controlled the positioning. Bocek’s left eye was mangled from punches and elbows by dos Anjos.

“I watched Mark’s previous fights and he always comes with the same combination,” dos Anjos said. “I could tell he got frustrated, but I was prepared for him. This has been a good year for me. I got three wins and I’m ready to keep going and improving.”

In the pay-per-view opener, the UFC career of Mark Hominick may have come to an ignominious end on Saturday when he lost a unanimous decision to Pablo Garza.

Garza controlled the fight throughout and didn’t allow Hominick to get his hands untracked. Garza ripped him several times with good knees and cut him over and under the left eye.

Hominick has now lost four in a row over the last 18 months, putting himself in jeopardy of being cut.

Can Ronda Rousey Establish Women’s MMA in the UFC? If So, It Will Likely Be Without Cyborg

by MMA Weekly

Now that the cat is out of the bag and Ronda Rousey has been publicly confirmed as signing with the UFC, the questions begin to swirl around who and when she will make her Octagon debut.

At this point in time, there is no answer to either of those questions.

At this point in time, Ronda Rousey is the sole female fighter in the UFC.

One thing UFC president Dana White – who confirmed Rousey’s signing on Friday – is fairly sure of is who Rousey is not likely to fight in her Octagon debut… Cris Cyborg.

“It’s become abundantly clear to me that Cyborg does not want to fight her,” said White in an interview with Fuel TV following Friday’s UFC 154 weigh-ins in Montreal.

That he isn’t likely able to put that fight together hasn’t deterred White from taking a chance on women’s MMA, something that just a couple years ago, he didn’t think was ever likely to happen.

White always believed that the women’s divisions just weren’t deep enough with top talent to forge individual weight classes in the UFC. He’s changed his mind, to a degree, but it appears that this is still very much a work in progress.

He seems to think there is enough talent in Rousey’s 135-pound class to see if it is sustainable, but White isn’t sure beyond the next couple of years.

“I think the 135-pound division that Ronda is in and is the champion of, there’s four or five good fights for her over the next year, year and a half,” remarked White.

“I think you’ll see a lot more women coming up through that 135-pound division… or they won’t. It’s deep enough to get through a couple years and then we’ll see what happens.

“I’m gonna give this thing a shot. We’re gonna try it.”

White is obviously seizing the moment to capitalize on Rousey’s star power, which currently appears to be boundless, as she’s made inroads into the mainstream that has eluded other women fighters. But he’s also using Rousey’s time in the spotlight to give women’s MMA the opportunity to show that there is enough talent to establish itself as a staple in the Octagon.

“I think Ronda Rousey is gonna be a huge star,” White continued. “I think she’s incredibly talented. She’s mean and nasty. She’s a real fighter. So we’ll see how this thing plays out and see how strong women’s MMA really is.”

Georges St-Pierre, Carlos Condit both deferring to rival before UFC 154 welterweight showdown

by Kevin Iole

When Georges St-Pierre starts rolling, there is no stopping him.

The UFC welterweight champion has been out for 18 months and he insists that Carlos Condit, the man who won the interim belt in his absence, is the division’s “real” champion.

“Look at the guy, what he’s done,” St-Pierre said. “He’s been fighting and winning against all the great fighters. That’s what the champion does.”

Condit, though, who fights St-Pierre in the main event of UFC 154 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, doesn’t feel much like a champion.  The UFC pitted Condit against Nick Diaz for the interim title at UFC 143 back in February, when it was clear St-Pierre’s injured knee wouldn’t be ready. Condit executed a perfect gameplan in the fight, dissecting Diaz for a unanimous decision win to earn the interim belt.

So, in a way, Saturday’s bout will be a unification bout, though the interim title will disappear regardless of who wins.

Condit, though, pleads with almost as much urgency as St-Pierre that his opponent is most definitely the champion.

Carlos Condit overwhelmed Nick Diaz with his striking to win the interim UFC welterweight title. (UFC)

“This is Georges’ title,” Condit said. “He’s the undisputed champion, no doubt about it. Georges has been so dominant for so long. To be the champion, you have to do one thing: You have to beat Georges St-Pierre. I haven’t done that yet.”

Condit has a brilliant record – he’s 28-5 overall and 14-1 in the last 6½ years, with only a highly controversial split-decision loss marring his record in that time – but he ascribes to the theory that to be the man, you must beat the man.

Still, not long after he upset Diaz to win the interim title, other fighters began to call him out. Ever the competitor, Condit was eager to jump into the cage and prove who was boss. It took manager Malki Kawa to talk some sense into him.

 

“At the level these guys are at, you’re not supposed to turn down fights,” Kawa said. “But I wouldn’t have been doing my job if I just put Carlos in there against someone other than Georges St-Pierre. You fight Georges St-Pierre and you make life-changing money. A guy like Johny Hendricks, and I am not disrespecting him at all, but it’s a fight where the money isn’t even close to the same.

“Fighters were calling him out and Carlos wanted to do it. I had to tell him, ‘Carlos, look, this is a business and the best move business-wise is to wait for GSP to come back.’ He finally did, but the guy is such a competitor, and he loves to fight so much, he was willing to risk a GSP fight to take some other one in between.”

St-Pierre is better than a 3-1 favorite to beat Condit, despite the lengthy layoff. All the attention is on St-Pierre’s return from a devastating right knee injury.

Condit, as seems often the case, is getting lost in the shuffle. It happened when he fought Dan Hardy in England, at least until he knocked Hardy out. It happened prior to his fight with Dong-Hyun Kim, whom Condit knocked out with a flying knee in the first. And, of course, it happened when he fought Diaz for the interim title and was virtually ignored in the pre-fight buildup.

It’s GSP this and GSP that as Fight Night approaches, but even UFC president Dana White acknowledges that’s not fair to Condit.

Georges St-Pierre smiles for the crowd. (AP)

“I really believe a lot of people aren’t giving this kid enough credit,” White said. “He’s tough, man. This kid can fight. He’s got great ground skills, he’s got knockout power and formally, if you look at the way fights are done in boxing, when a champion of GSP’s caliber comes back [from injury], you usually give him an easy fight. This is far from an easy fight for Georges St-Pierre. This is a very tough fight.”

Condit, though, isn’t concerned with credit or fame or attention. He’s a fierce competitor, and thus, just wants to win. But at the end of the day, to Condit, he’s just like a guy wearing a suit and tie who goes to an office every day.

This is just his way of making a living and supporting his family. If that means acclaim and hoopla, he’s fine with it. But he’s more than happy if he doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

And, in a way, he embraces the role of underdog.

“Georges is the favorite, as well he should be considering everything he has done in this sport,” Condit said. “But I’ve been through this before. It’s not new to me. Just because someone else thinks I’m going to lose, or even if everyone else thinks I’m going to lose, it doesn’t matter as long as I don’t believe that.

“I believe I’m going to go in there and fight my fight and beat Georges St-Pierre and walk out of there as the UFC welterweight champion of the world. To be honest with you, that’s how I feel. And none of the other stuff, the talk and the hype and all of that, none of it really matters once they close the door and we start to fight.”

Return of the (PPV) king: Healthy Georges St-Pierre a boon for Dana White, UFC

by Kevin Iole

Dana White’s job is to convince a public that has a myriad of attractive, and often cheaper, sources of entertainment on a Saturday night to buy a ticket or a pay-per-view for one of his fights.

The UFC president is as good at it as anyone who has ever lived, Tex Rickard, Don King and Bob Arum included.

Yet, no matter how good of a salesman White is, he’s not going to be nearly as successful without his best product.

Imagine the bottom line at Coca-Cola if it weren’t able to sell Coke for the next 18 ½ months. Apple’s stock has dropped more than $150 in the last two months or so, but think of how much further it would plummet if it couldn’t sell the iPhone next year.

That’s the kind of position White has been in for the better part of the last year-and-a-half. Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, arguably his best fighter and unquestionably his biggest star, has been unable to compete. Two different knee injuries have kept St-Pierre on the sidelines since April 30, 2011, when he drew a North American record crowd of 55,724 that paid a UFC record gate of $12.1 million to UFC 129 in Toronto.

Carlos Condit says he’s more ready than ever to take on Georges St-Pierre on Saturday. (UFC)

St-Pierre, who meets interim champ Carlos Condit on Saturday in the main event of UFC 154 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, is the one must-see, can’t-miss fighter on the roster. When he fights, ticket sales are more robust. Merchandise flies off the shelves. Pay-per-view numbers spike upward. The passion in the audience is palpable when he fights.

There are major bouts that bring the fight world together. And then there are those involving guys like St-Pierre and boxers Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao that bring the sports world together.

Getting its star back is so important for the UFC that it’s devoted an entire week’s of programming this week on Fuel TV to it.

Having St-Pierre back against anybody would be significant, but having him in against an elite fighter like Condit pushes it up a few notches. And with mega-bouts looming like one against middleweight champion Anderson Silva and another down the line against Nick Diaz, the UFC will grab the attention of the world a few more times over the next year.

“For him to be gone, I mean it sucks,” White said. “The guy fights three times a year and he’s the biggest pay-per-view draw in the company. Yes, when he’s gone for over a year, it’s definitely not a good thing.”

St-Pierre is one of those rare fighters where it doesn’t matter if he wins or loses. If Condit beats him on Saturday – and it is hardly out of the question – a rematch would do enormous business.

If St-Pierre were to beat Condit, he almost certainly would fight Silva next. That bout would likely be held at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and would unquestionably smash all existing UFC pay-per-view records.

The UFC hasn’t released pay-per-view numbers in nearly 12 years under White’s leadership. There have been reports of figures, though they’re either laughably incorrect or just someone’s best guess.

But it doesn’t take a long and extensive knowledge of the UFC’s history to understand a St-Pierre-Silva fight would almost be a license to print money for White.

White invited a small group of reporters to his office in September to promote UFC 152. Asked how big a St-Pierre-Silva fight would be, White chuckled, rolled his eyes and gave the one-word answer that says everything about St-Pierre:

Massive.

Condit understands that. In the ring, Condit’s record is comparable to St-Pierre’s. Condit has lost once in the last six-plus years, going 14-1. He’s beaten the likes of Diaz, Rory MacDonald, Dong-Hyun Kim and Jake Ellenberger and is clearly one of the sport’s elite fighters. St-Pierre has lost once in the last eight-plus years, going 15-1 in that span.

A potential superfight between St-Pierre and Silva has dominated the build-up to UFC 154. (Getty)

They’re very close to equals in terms of fighting resume, but Condit understands how much more significant St-Pierre is as an attraction.

“It’s great for our sport to have him back, because, first of all, he’s a great fighter, but also because he’s so popular and people love to see him,” Condit said. “That kind of guy is good for the sport and everyone in it.”

St-Pierre has had the bull’s-eye on his back for years, because opponents know that fighting him means not only a dramatic increase in recognition, but also because it’s usually a guarantee of their biggest payday.

Everything rises from a financial standpoint when St-Pierre fights. That benefits those at all levels of the business.

That creates somewhat of a burden on St-Pierre to continue to sell, however, and it has taken a toll on the usually ebullient French-Canadian star. He was uncharacteristically negative at a Las Vegas news conference in 2011 that was designed to promote a fight with Diaz. That day, Diaz was yanked from the card because he had missed several news conferences.

St-Pierre expressed dissatisfaction with what he had to do to promote fights, but noted that it is part of his job.

He ultimately never fought on that show, because he got injured himself. The two knee injuries that forced his 18-month exile have changed his outlook a bit.

“I changed a lot of stuff in my life, in my personal life, of course, a lot of things to make this easier and more efficient,” he said. “One thing I can say is, I’m not burned out. People said to me I lost my smile. I used to smile all the time when I’m doing press conferences and things like that. I used to be more happy and in the last two fights, [they said they thought] I lost that fire. It’s true, I did, but it [happened] slowly so I didn’t see it really happen.

“But now that I haven’t done this for a long time, I found it back. I can tell you I spend time in the gym and [in the past when I was] at the end of my training camp, most of the time I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t wait to be on vacation. I can’t wait to be done with this.’ But now I don’t want to go on vacation. I want to enjoy every second of it.”

A lot of times, one fails to understand how special something is until it’s lost. St-Pierre has recovered his passion for fighting and being around the fight game.

Bank on this, though: Given the kind of draw that St-Pierre is, no one, including St-Pierre himself, is happier he’s back than Dana White.

Cung Le delivers dramatic knockout in first UFC card on Chinese soil

by Kevin Iole

UFC middleweight Cung Le is an action-film star who has a featured role alongside Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu in a movie released earlier this month called, “The Man with the Iron Fists.”

Cung Le celebrates after knocking out Rich Franklin in the main event of the UFC card. (Getty Images)And on Saturday in the main event of the UFC’s first card on Chinese soil, Le fought like a guy with an iron fist.

The former Strikeforce champion countered a kick from Rich Franklin, landing an overhand right to the cheek that sent Franklin tumbling face first to the canvas and knocked him out cold.

Le didn’t have to do another thing as referee Marc Godard dove in to stop it at 2:17 of the first round.

“I’m just grateful,” Le said in the cage at the Cotai Arena in Macao, China, after one of the most dramatic knockouts of the year. “I don’t know what to say. Lucky punch.”

Franklin was an overwhelming favorite, in part because there was plenty of questions about the health of Le’s right foot. He suffered a significant bone bruise during a win over Patrick Cote at UFC 148 in July and suggested that he would be at only 70 percent of full health when he faced Franklin.

He endured the unusual procedure of bloodletting for weeks prior to the fight, having about 50 holes poked into his foot. Blood was then withdrawn from the area in an effort to promote healing.

Le depends on his kicks, and without the ability to kick hard and often against a high-level opponent such as Franklin, he seemed outmatched.

Franklin was kicking at Le, a frequent tactic fighters use when facing an opponent known for kicks.

The ex-UFC middleweight champion tried one too many, though, and it cost him in a big way.

Franklin whipped a kick with his left leg that hit Le above the knee. Franklin drew back his right hand as if he were going to fire it at Le, but Le came with his own right. Le’s was quicker and landed on the button.

Franklin was out as soon as he was hit and did a face-first fall to the canvas.

“He was loading up and looking for me to kick [so he could] attack me with punches,” Le said. “I came in, I waited for him to punch and I came in with the overhand right and caught him. Thank you, Lord.”

Thiago Silva was nearly knocked out in similar fashion by Stanislav Nedkov when he took a Nedkov right to the head in the second round. Silva collapsed in a heap, but managed to survive.

That was the bad news for the previously unbeaten Nedkov, who seemed to lose his conditioning in the third round. Silva took advantage and submitted him with an arm triangle at 1:45.

Dong Hyun Kim might have been the most impressive fighter of the night. He out-grappled Paulo Thiago for all five minutes of all three rounds and won a unanimous decision by scores of 30-27 twice and 30-26.

Le floored Franklin with an overhead right at 2:17 of the first round. (Getty Images)Takanori Gomi won a split decision over Mac Danzig in a back-and-forth lightweight fight. Judges had it 29-28 twice for Gomi and 29-28 for Danzig.

In an impressive overall effort from both men, Jon Tuck was a little better than Tiequan Zhang in all areas and pulled out a unanimous decision. Judges had it 29-28 twice and 30-27.

The first round was back-and-forth with each trading submission attempts. But Tuck nearly forced Zhang to tap late in the first with a rear naked. They traded blows in the second, but Tuck again was close to landing a rear naked choke.

In the opener of the show, broadcast in the U.S. on Fuel TV, Takeya Mizugaki was dominant, out-striking Jeff Hougland on the feet and on the ground en route to a wide unanimous decision. Scores were 30-27 twice and 30-25.

Winners on the preliminary card were Alex Caceres by split decision over Motonobu Tezuka (30-27 twice, 28-29); John Lineker by unanimous decision over Yasuhiro Urushitani (29-28 twice and 30-27), and Riki Fukuda by unanimous decision over Tom DeBlass (29-28 twice and 30-27).

Wladimir Klitschko retains world heavyweight belts

Associated Press

HAMBURG, Germany (AP) — Wladimir Klitschko retained his WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight titles, unanimously outpointing Poland‘s Mariusz Wach on Saturday night.

The 6-foot-7 1/2 Wach was the tallest opponent Klitschko has faced in his 16-year professional career, but offered little threat against the faster Ukrainian.

The judges scored it 120-107, 120-107 and 119-109 for Klitschko, who was troubled only at the end of the fifth round, when Wach surprised him with a right hook before a flurry of punches.

”He caught me in the fifth, but then I slipped,” said Klitschko, who was left with a small cut under his left eye.

Klitschko left the 32-year-old Wach wobbling in the seventh with a devastating right followed by a series of combinations. Wach displayed incredible stamina to continue.

”That was the hardest fight of my career,” Wach said after his first loss. ”I want to apologize to everyone for not living up to expectations. I really wanted to win. Thank you so much to my family.”

The 36-year-old Klitschko improved to 59-3 (51 KOs), and Wach dropped to 27-1 (15 KOs).

Klitschko said Wach ”boxed brilliantly.”

Klitschko was fighting for the first time since the death of his longtime trainer and friend Emanuel Steward.

”I want to remember one man, who can’t be here today unfortunately. Emanuel Steward, we miss you, we’re thinking of you,” Klitschko said.

Fans also paid tribute to the late American before the bout when the bell was rung 10 times in his memory. Steward, who was in Klitschko’s corner for nine years, died at the age of 68 on Oct. 25.

”It was hard for (Wladimir), very hard,” said Vitali Klitschko, referring to his younger brother’s preparations following Steward’s death.

The older Klitschko, who holds the WBC belt, said the fight ”was unbelievably brutal. (Wach) just didn’t want to fall. He somehow kept standing.”