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Knight Shift: An Interview with “The Gatman”

(And a very late post-fight report on Manny Pacquiao-Keith Thurman)

January 1, 2020

San Leandro, California

By now, as the tradition usually goes, the Waterford Crystal Ball at One Times Square in New York City has dropped to welcome the New Year. Prior to the radiant globe’s famous descent, you’ve already hummed along to Imagine by John Lennon.

After the countdown, as my younger NY’er brother Tony describes the event, the lighted sphere shines brighter, fireworks shoot from the rooftop, and confetti shower Broadway and 4th Avenue (and 43rd to 59th Streets).

The whole city seems to be in unison as sentimental faves fill the air---Auld Lang Syne (Guy Lombardo), New York, New York (Frank Sinatra), America the Beautiful (Ray Charles), What a Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong).

For those of you in the Philippines and the rest of the world, I hope you’ve written your resolutions (if you’re into that), lit your last firecracker and viewed the dazzling display of fireworks befitting the celebration.

So, wherever you are, HAPPY NEW DECADE!

Now, let’s talk boxing and look back at a historic time in prizefighting that can help build the case for Manny Pacquiao as the leading candidate for Fighter of the Decade.

It was a sweltering 105 degrees Fahrenheit that one summer night, July 20th, at the packed MGM Hotel (Las Vegas) press room teeming with media representatives dressed-to-kill, armed with boxing paraphernalia.

It was fight night and boxing fans were in town for a boxing extravaganza between boxing’s biggest stars Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao and Keith “One Time” Thurman for the WBA “Super” Welterweight Championship promoted by Premier Boxing Champions.,,, Fox Sports, FOX DEPORTES, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Las Vegas Sun, and from the Philippines ABS-CBN, Manila Bulletin, Philippine Star, Philippine Daily Inquirer,, Philippine News just to name a few, were in full force.

We we’re all here to see if Manny Pacquiao can still deliver against a hungry lion like Keith Thurman.

As I took my seat at the MGM Grand Arena press row, the gent on my left extended his hand.

“My name’s John,” he says.

I’m Emmanuel from PhilBoxing,” I proudly replied.

Excellent site. My best to Mr. Dong Secuya,” he stated.

The man knows the editor-in-chief of, the #1 sports and boxing website emanating from the Philippines.

He really must know his boxing, I thought.

How right I was.

Turned out, he was (or is) John Gatling---Senior correspondent for NY Fights and author of the upcoming book, “The Fist Club.”

He is one writer and reporter I enjoy following.

Do you have any thoughts on the main event or forever hold your peace, John,” I asked.

Manny Pacquiao will turn back the clock tonight. I like him via wide unanimous decision considering his recent performances against Adrien Broner, and Keith Thurman’s close call with Josesito Lopez,” said Mr. Gatling.

I see Manny Pacquiao via TKO or KO by the ninth round. Freddie Roach and Restituto “Buboy” Fernandez agreed,“ I countered. (see video below)

Happy to report that all four of us were right on the outcome (a win though split in decision). We kind of missed on how the win would happen, though.

July 20th, 2019 at the sold-out MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The fight billed as Welterweight Supremacy, was a boxing match for the WBA (Super) welterweight championship. Legendary 8-division champion Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao, the WBA (regular) champion defeated the WBA (super) welterweight titlist Keith “One Time” Thurman in 12 competitive rounds. Reports of about 500,000 pay-per-view buys broke expectations.

Here, please find my late and humble report.

After the months of negotiations and hype, mainly from Thurman capped by an outrageous crucifixion metaphor that fired up Pacman, the fight was just as advertised.

In the first round, Pacquiao caught Thurman with a flurry capped by an overhand right and scored a flash knock down, just as Thurman was retreating.

The first five rounds showcased the Pacquiao of old as he bloodied Thurman's nose, pressuring him the first half of the fight.

Thurman looked to have rebounded in the middle rounds, adjusted to Pacquiao's offensive juggernaut in the second half of the fight and was able to counter.

Pacquiao would again catch Thurman in the tenth round with a tremendous left hook to the liver that had Thurman short of breath, reeling and trying to last the round.

Thurman was obviously hurt and later confirmed, "The body shot was a terrific body shot. I even took my mouthpiece out of my mouth just so I could breathe a little deeper".

The mouthpiece, it seemed to me, was forced out with a Pacquiao right cross.

Two ringside judges ruled in favor of Pacquiao with a score of 115–112 (Judges Dave Moretti and Tim Cheatham) and one in favor of Thurman with a score of 114–113 (Judge Glen Feldman).

Most observers felt that the first-round knockdown and the tenth-round body shot spelled the difference and tipped Manny Pacquiao the victory.

CompuBox punch stats showed Thurman was the more accurate boxer. Pacquiao only connected 113 out of 340 of his power punches (33%) against Thurman's 192 out of 443 power punches (43%).

Pacquiao was more industrious firing 100 more punches compared to Thurman.

Total punch statistics were 195 out of 686 (28%) for Pacquiao and 210 out of 571 (37%) for Thurman.

For the record, Pacquiao not only became the oldest fighter to win a bona fide world crown (against a prime fighter 10 years his junior), but also the first four-time welterweight champion, breaking his tie with Emile Griffith and Jack Britton.

POST-FIGHT PRESS CONFERENCE VIDEO (WBA Welterweight Championship between Manny Pacquiao and Keith Thurman) Courtesy of


Knight Shift: Interview with the “Gatman”.
Mr. John Gatling is one of those rare gents you meet during fight night and one who makes the evening more interesting what with his impeccable timing and analysis. It was a treat meeting him and hearing his viewpoints about boxing, and later on reading his take on politics, culture and life on and Twitter @johngatling _

On the best Filipino fighter (not named Manny Pacquiao):
Honestly, that would have to be Nonito Donaire, Jr. I think I told him that in Las Vegas over the summer. He had lightning in a bottle there for a minute.”

On Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr.:

I think they're the two most compelling figures in boxing history. If you think about it, in a time where attention spans grew shorter and shorter since the late 90's when they appeared on the scene, how they were able to captivate the world through different personality cults remains amazing. I mean, 10 years after the world demanded a super fight from them, there's still demand for a super fight. That's like Ali Vs Frazier II being talked about in 1981. I think it speaks to a unique aspect of perceived good vs. evil, from two guys on the opposite side of the same track. We actually had such a scenario in Plainfield, with the old projects versus the new projects, separated only by a bridge merely 25 feet apart.”

I think Manny beats him now; stops him actually in what would be a fairly one-sided fight.

I can't even count the first fight because there was just too much scandal and backdoor machinations involved. Cultural ideology and appropriation got in the way of history. It’s a shame. That fight takes place on March 13, 2010 its better than Ali Vs Frazier I. Tough to place blame, but I'll always feel that boxing knocked itself on its A-side for Greed and got B-Side itself for Pride.”



Canelo Alvarez is a pretty boy, Gene Fullmer with red hair and freckles. He’s a throwback fighter of social media dimension and boxing’s subdued Thunder lips with a Mexican accent and a business casual corporate haircut. He’s Juan Manuel Marquez, just not as daring. He’s Julio Cesar Chavez, just not as compelling. He’s theater, but he’s not Broadway. He’s more than OK, he’s just NOT that good.”


I was born at Muhlenberg Hospital in Plainfield, New Jersey. I think it’s now called The JFK Medical Center.Well, I also grew up in Plainfield, though I kind of resented it. There was something so generic about "Plainfield" in comparison to such adventure and New York City, which I could see off in the distance from a bridge. It seemed too small for big ideas.”


My childhood was an amazing sort of difficult. I was raised by my mom's grandmother and her aunt, after her mother/ my grandmother told her that she couldn't bring me home after 23 hours of labor. She was a teenage mom and my dad was a street drag racer and a quiet gangster in Plainfield -- neither of them wanted to relinquish youth to parent me, so my mom asked my "superwomen" to care for me, and they made me feel like a superhero. The first 5 years of my life were with them, then my mom and dad -- who I barely knew, decided to get married. I was the ringbearer and happy about it. The only reason I could tolerate leaving my great grandma and my great aunt, is because I knew I was leaving for structure. I was very happy about that. We left Plainfield for Tampa, Florida which I understood to be a big city; my baby brother was born there... I felt normal. Then they divorced after a year, which I know now to be my first experience with death. I was devastated. My dad stayed in Tampa and we moved back to Plainfield. But instead of moving back in with my great grandma and my great aunt… my mom, my baby brother and I moved in with her new girlfriend who looked like a modern transgender; she had nearly a full beard and hair all over her chest and acted like a man. I was not only devastated, I was ANGRY. This is the late 70's, I'm 40 years away from society explaining this arrangement to me. It hurt me. Still does. I think she at least produced the hateful qualities of a supervillain I seem to evoke. I've never been envy, but I definitely understand hate. She was forcefully in my life really all the way up through High School. I hated her/him. I couldn't trust her/him; didn't like him/her's son -- I beat him up often; was uneven in school; resisted authority and hung out with gang members... BUT, I found a connection with arts that year in Tampa at age 6 and it carried me.


I was a very daring child, precocious. My parents actually allowed me to watch after my infant brother so they could party at night. I fell in love with boxing and Muhammad Ali while they were gone. His triumph over George Foreman just resonated and I admired his spirit. I knew nothing about his militant affiliation with the Nation of Islam or about his war stance against Vietnam, but he's the first person I recall admiring. I came to love Monday Night Football and my parents' collection of 70's soul music on vinyl. Namely the 45's. I knew how to work the eight track player and the record player. This is all because my mom could never stop singing around the house at all. Music seemed to play in everything she'd do, so I interpreted things through music. Everything seemed a symphony. Music became a very natural passion and I discovered I could sing well. My mother was very challenging and demanding about detail, but never when it came to art. That let me know right away that art was freedom.”


Jersey was tough. Growing up on the East Coast means you better have balls or discover them. One of the aspects of moving around and being divided from love so much as a child, was feeling I could conquer through hate. I'd fight your ass -- and not give a fuck about losing because that really didn't cross my mind. My dad was reticent. Always stoic and emotionally dishonest. He was never himself with me so I didn't want to be friends with him. Fuck it. I thought his sister was amazing. My aunt, Adoree, she was heavily into the Black Panthers and I remember very vividly all of this chaos surrounding a friend of hers, Joanne Chesimard, who'd escaped to Cuba or somewhere like that. I remember believing there was a creed attached to it all. The emotion. The assertiveness of conviction. My mom was just a beautiful drama queen and like the movie aspect of it all. But it was so real. My dad's brother, Jerome, didn't give a shit about any of it and kept jamming on the guitar. He played all the time with Funkadelic and George Clinton. Vividly remember being around him too. And he really was funky, plus he had a heroin problem. Right around that time the Sugar Hill Gang came out with "Rapper's Delight" and I'd already won a few street fights over some neighborhood badasses, who mostly teased me over my mom's "girlfriend" or my light singing voice. You couldn't tell me shit.”


I was very inspired by hometown heroes Harold "The Shadow" Knight and Glenwood Brown. Both of them lived in the same projects I did on the rough West End of Plainfield, and Glenwood's brother Charlie and I would run with Glenwood. I would go to the SSYC and hang around the fighters all the time, though I wasn't interested in the discipline of training at all. But I was a natural south paw, and took what I knew out on the streets to just be a bully. I was terrible at times, regrettably. He probably doesn't remember all of the things he said to make an impression on me, but Harold Knight gave me a great deal of practical guidance. His mentor, Coach Davenport, did as well. Then there was the tough love of Albert "Steel" Mills and my grandfather, a very proud and hardcore man of the US Navy. This, along with a Masters from The School of Hard Knocks, pretty much shaped my life.”

On the fighters he admires:

“Muhammad Ali, Marvin Hagler, Mike Tyson. In that order. Especially, Tyson.”

On being a conscious indie recording artist known as “T@Z” (pronounced TATZ) and humanist advocate for the Green Party:

I saw Tupac and Nas as more like peers. I'd never even bothered to listen to a Jay-Z album until sitting in my mom's Toyota Camry in 1998 and playing Vol.II to kill time. That was it. That dude became everything to me.”

Yeah, singing was also therapeutic. My mom was responsible for that. That's our permanent connection of joy and a remedy through any pain. To share that -- our living room or family gatherings. etc. -- with strangers on name the platform, seemed natural to me. It’s not long before those same people realize we're all supposed to be friends. Music does that.

I loved the challenge of exploring my own range and starred in huge musical productions as the star of "Pinocchio" in the 5th grade, and then the "Wizard of Oz" in the 6th grade. Everyone really thought I was going to star on Broadway. I was the lead singer in a boys group called "Fresh Force". We went all over New Jersey and New York. We even performed for Larry Holmes at his house in Easton, PA in 1984. I covered Michael Jackson's voice in "We are the World" in 1985 in a huge school production during Middle School. I've always been sympathetic to the plight of others, and the Ethiopia crisis of starvation really bothered me. Rap didn't really catch my attention until Slick Rick and LL Cool J came along. I found "Self-Destruction" inspiring and "Gangsta’ Rap" dividing.”

That is, until Tupac Shakur emerged. Now, I had someone I could identify with.”

On writing:

It’s the only place where I knew someone would be forced to listen to me. If I wrote things down and handed it to someone, you have to stop what you’re doing. Sometimes that person was just myself. It was soul therapy. No one had ever described or defined the importance of a diary, but I found that I could sort of track myself by capturing moments. Things can never matter more than moments.”

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Emmanuel Rivera, RRT.

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