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Mayorga: The Best Bad Guy in Boxing

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Ricardo Mayorga will not go down in history as a great fighter. He will not go down as a legendary champion. What Ricardo Mayorga is going to be remembered for are the three following things: Getting seriously overwhelmed by Oscar de la Hoya, destroying Vernon Forrest, and being one of the most abrasive, foul, outrageous shit-talkers the sport of boxing has ever seen.

And Ricardo Mayorga is my favorite fighter. Because I would pay to see Ricardo Mayorga fight anyone in the world.

I don't think Mayorga is particularly good, let alone great. But Mayorga is a serious personality, and there is always the chance that you're going to see something special in a Mayorga fight. If you watched Mayorga/Forrest I, how could you forget Jim Lampley shouting, "And they're gonna have a war!" If you saw it, you'll never forget the stunned, glassed-over look in Vernon Forrest's eyes after Mayorga dropped him in the third round. Mayorga wasn't supposed to even be very competitive, let alone win that fight.

And you know what? Mayorga has never beaten anyone but Forrest. His second-biggest win is probably over Andrew Lewis, who when last he fought, quit because he had to use the john, or maybe it was an old Michele Piccirillo in Chicago last August.

So, look, I'm not going to argue that Mayorga doesn't get the respect he deserves. What I will argue is that Mayorga makes any fight he's in worth tuning in for.

Did anyone really have a doubt that Oscar would beat Mayorga? Even with the layoff, the Golden Boy was clearly the superior boxer, and Mayorga had merely a puncher's chance. And that was really the initial reaction to the fight being announced, but Mayorga, through being himself, made that a fight that you almost had to pay to see. And I honestly have all the respect in the world for Oscar de la Hoya, so it's not about me being pro-Mayorga and anti-Oscar. Oscar's another guy who every time he fights, it's worth seeing, just for hugely different reasons. Oscar is a bona fide legend and a Hall of Famer. Mayorga's a time bomb.

As Bert Sugar put it in HBO's outstanding pre-fight hype piece for Mayorga/Oscar, "He's not a matador, he's a bull." Mayorga is the ultimate exciting, shitty fighter. There is nothing technically good about the way Ricardo Mayorga fights -- he's off-balance, he's throwing punches that have almost no chance of connecting, and what he's doing is trying to goad what is almost always a technically superior boxer into a brawl. With Forrest the first time, that worked to perfection. Forrest got played like a fiddle from the opening bell. Mayorga pounded his chest and told Forrest to come and get it, and Vernon very stupidly obliged. Mayorga made Vernon Forrest fight him, and became a millionaire in the process. A guy that grew up in the middle of gang wars in extreme poverty in Nicaragua threw bombs all the way to money fights with Forrest in the rematch, Cory Spinks at the time, Felix Trinidad and de la Hoya. It didn't even matter that Mayorga lost to Spinks and badly lost to Trinidad -- he still got that fight with Oscar. And why? Because it would be interesting. Oscar and his camp knew it, and Mayorga knew what he had to do.

I don't think Ricardo Mayorga is a genuinely bad guy. For a professional boxer, he's a lunatic inside the squared circle, as reckless as they come. The cigarettes and beer are largely image, say his trainers, and the oft-absurd press conference antics are part of it, too. But really, it's all just another piece of Ricardo Mayorga working his magic: He wants his opposition to hate him so much that they'll make a mistake. If you sat down with Ricardo Mayorga and you asked him if he thought he was a superior technical boxer, I don't think he'd say he is. He knows what he has to do to win, and to keep making money. He's 32 years old and will maybe be able to pack in two or three more decent sized fights in his career, if I were to take a guess. For instance, if Forrest beats Ike Quartey in August, would you want to see Mayorga/Forrest III, just for kicks? Mayorga made his name all over again in his loss to Oscar, and Forrest beating Quartey puts Vernon right back in the mix, but still not quite there as that is basically a career eliminator fight.

Simply put, I like Mayorga because he has the gall to play the genuine villain in a time where the sport is almost flooded with good people. And there's nothing wrong with that, either -- I like Oscar, I like Jermain Taylor, I like Barrera, so on and so forth. They're great for boxing because they are leaders of the side of things that might get people to rethink their sometimes silly stance on boxing as a thug-filled sport that isn't on the level anymore.

But who else sells tickets? Guys like Mayorga. Guys who seem like uncontrollable, walking land mines. When you put a guy like Mayorga against a guy like Oscar, it's a license to print money, even though on paper, it's not much of a contest.

Mayorga was humbled by Oscar. And I don't care. I can't wait to see him fight again. For that, I salute Ricardo Mayorga. You can love him or hate him, and I love him.