By Chris Robinson
During a recent visit to the H.I.T. Factory Gym in Las Vegas, trainer Eddie Mustafa Muhammad could be found working with budding amateur and soon-to-be professional Taylor Larson. A former light heavyweight champion in his own right, Muhammad is always a busy man and outside of working with former heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman, lightweight contender Jorge Teron, undefeated super middleweight prospect Badou Jack, and proven veteran Ishe Smith, he claims to get calls on a daily basis inquiring if he is open to working with new talent.
Muhammad was thrown a bit of a curveball last year when he found out that former light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson would no longer be working with him after the pair’s technical-decision loss to Jean Pascal up in Montreal last August. Dawson ended up jumping ship with renown coach Emanuel Steward and last saw action in May as he won a clear decision over tough Romanian Adrian Diaconu.
Asked for an assessment of his former charge’s performance, Muhammad cautiously showed some criticisms.
“I don’t want to say anything bad about him because, first of all, I don’t wish nothing bad on Chad Dawson first and foremost,” said Muhammad. “There are some things that he could have done better. But I just felt like he wasn’t comfortable enough in there. Emanuel wants Chad to be a little Tommy Hearns; that will never happen. Chad doesn’t have the power like Tommy Hearns, so right then and there that leads him down the wrong path. Chad is a pure boxer, he has pop in his punches when he puts them in combination, but you can’t make a guy what he’s not.”
Dawson is scheduled to be facing light heavyweight king Bernard Hopkins next, who himself fought Pascal to a debated draw in December while rightfully turning the tables and coming away with a decision on May 21st. At 46 years old, Hopkins has little plans of slowing down and Muhammad felt that he had Pascal’s number all along.
“I picked Bernard to beat Pascal,” continued Muhammad. “I talked to Bernard in the airport during the first Pascal fight. We talked and I told him ‘You can beat this guy but you gotta go right to him’ and that’s what he did. He went right to him and he let his hands go and it was no problem.”
Wanting to get Muhammad’s take on some other fights on the horizon, I asked him about the July 23rd Amir Khan-Zab Judah junior welterweight title unification at the Mandalay Bay. Judah trains out of the H.I.T. Factory gym himself and Muhammad knows him well, having worked his corner leading into his blowout over Jose Armando Santa Cruz blowout last July.
But Khan is not Santa Cruz, obviously, and Muhammad feels that a different plan of attack would benefit the 33-year old Judah this time around.
“I think it’s going to be a great fight. Zab is a puncher, so he’s going to have to be the puncher. He can’t try to outbox Amir because he has long arms, so Zab has to go right to him with his hands up and let his hands go,” he continued.
Two months later one of the biggest events of 2011 will go down when Floyd Mayweather Jr. makes his return inside of the MGM Grand as he attempts to derail WBC welterweight champion Victor Ortiz. For Muhammad, it’s not just another fight, it’s the return of boxing’s knight in shining armor.
“The savior of boxing is back,” Muhammad laughed while chuckling slightly. “No doubt, Floyd is the best fighter out there, bar none. Say what you want to say about Pacquiao, I give Pacquiao all his props, because he carried boxing, but as far as pound-for-pound, Floyd is the pound-for-pound best boxer. If I’m not mistaken there are 41 guys who tried to beat Floyd and 41 guys who failed. To me he’s still the best out there.”
I asked Muhammad for his thoughts on Ortiz’s gutsy victory over Andre Berto last April, a fight in which the two both tasted the canvas twice while trading bombs throughout, and he was immensely impressed. But as for Ortiz’s chances against Floyd? Forget about it, says Muhammad.
“He has two chances; slim and none.”
If Pacquiao isn’t boxing’s savior, as Muhammad states, what exactly does he think of the eight-division Filipino champion? For starters, he expects his third fight with Juan Manuel Marquez this November to be a good one despite the uphill battle facing the Mexico City star.
“It’s going to be another barnburner,” Muhammad stated. “It may be a little in Pacquiao’s favor because they are going up in weight. Every time Marquez goes up in weight, he loses. He’s not a 140-pounder and they are fighting at 144 pounds; that’s a lot of weight and he may be a little sluggish. But I’m looking forward to that fight.”
And you can probably already guess what Muhammad has to say about a possible Pacquiao-Mayweather duel.
“All said and done it would be a terrific fight, I just see Floyd picking him apart. Pacquiao’s going to have his moments, it won’t be a runaway, but I see Floyd picking him apart.”