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Woody's Winners, NFL Week 3

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NFL WEEK THREE: By my count, seven teams are expected to start a different QB this week than they did just half a month ago on Kickoff Weekend. Some replacements are due to injury, but others are due to poor performance, and Woody thinks it’s a bit early in the season for any NFL team to pull that kind of trigger. As a result, I’ve chosen more upsets than usual this week. Just call me “Wild Woody.”

Woody went 10-6 last week, bringing my season total to 18-14. Here are my predictions for Week 3. Enjoy!

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Buffalo (0-2) @ New England (1-1)

This Sunday in Foxboro, some painted nut will be holding up a sign reading “14!” That’s because the Patriots have dealt the Bills a defeat in 13 consecutive match-ups dating back to 2000. After consulting the Smart Pill Machine, I see no reason why this New England fan should be disappointed.  Muskets in hand, the Minutemen will do their duty in short order, and when it’s all over, the field will be littered with the proverbial stack of paid Bills.

Woody’s Winner: New England

FACT: The Patriots have converted only one of 4 field goal attempts this season.

Click "more" to see my picks for the other 15 NFL games in Week 3.

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Atlanta (1-1) @ New Orleans (2-0)

The last three meetings between these NFC South rivals have been decided by 4, 8, and 3 points, all in favor of the Fleur-de-Lis. The Saints may be tuckered out after close back-to-back wins against the Vikings and 49ers, but they’ll have just enough left to swat away two-and-twenty Blackbirds. Woody’s heart is with the Falcons, but his money is on the defending Super Bowl Champions.

Woody’s Winner (in a close one): New Orleans

FACT: The Falcons defense has held opposing QBs to a league-low 52.9 rating, with no touchdowns, 4 interceptions, and 5 sacks.

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Detroit (0-2) @ Minnesota (0-2)

The Vikes have struggled to an 0-2 start, but there’s no better tonic than playing at home against Detroit. Granted, the Lions have looked better on offense (4 rushing TDs) and defense (10 sacks), but they still have a zero where it counts: in the “win” column. And MGM isn’t hiring. One of these two teams will get their first win of the season on Sunday afternoon, and unless WR Calvin Johnson wakes up, it’ll be the one clad in purple.

Woody’s Winner: Minnesota

FACT: In Week 2 against Philadelphia, Lions RB Jahvid Best hauled in 9 catches for 154 yards.

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Cleveland (0-2) @ Baltimore (1-1)

The success of the Ravens’ franchise has helped many a Baltimorean to forget that those nasty old Colts moved away and left them without a team back in 1984. That success has also caused the “new” Cleveland Browns to turn downright green with envy. This year in northeast Ohio, the Indians had a fire sale, and the Cavaliers lost their marquee player. Now, the Brownies are dealing with an injured QB, an ailing RB, and a seemingly absent set of WRs. They’ll be fortunate to see the far side of the 50-yard-line in Ravenville this Sunday.

Woody’s Winner: Baltimore

FACT: The Ravens defense has held its two 2010 opponents to a combined 4-of-29 on third down.

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Dallas (0-2) @ Houston (2-0)

The Cowboys enjoy a Week 4 bye after this Sunday’s game, and it couldn’t come at a better time. Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the hype about Dallas becoming the first team to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium. The hole they’ve dug for themselves is big, too; the Starred Ones are the only winless team in the NFC East. Meanwhile, things are rosy over in Houston, where the franchise won its first overtime game in 8 tries. The Texans won their debut NFL game against America’s Team in 2002, and there’s nothing they’d love more than to repeat that feat in front of their home fans.

Woody’s Winner: Houston

FACT: Through 2 games, Houston is the only NFL team that has yet to fumble the ball.

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San Francisco (0-2) @ Kansas City (2-0)

Frisco was the only undefeated team in the 2010 preseason, but are winless in the regular season thanks to the Saints’ last-second prayer of a FG last week. Coach Mike Singletary not only remained cool and calm in the locker room following the loss, he actually praised his team’s effort. A loss this week would cause his head to explode, which would seriously derail the 49ers chances for a playoff berth… though not all fans would agree with me about that. I’ve incorrectly picked the Chiefs for losses in their first two games. Have I learned my lesson?

Woody’s Winner: San Francisco

FACT: 49er opponents have completed 46 of 61 passes this season, for a 75.4 percent completion rate.

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Tennessee (1-1) @ N.Y. Giants (1-1)

Titans and Giants? The gods must be angry. The Titans’ step back last week had more to do with Pittsburgh’s D than their own O. Coach Jeff Fisher’s decision to bench QB Vince Young threw his players for a loop. By the time they recover, the Big Men from Gotham will be well on their way to a 2-1 record. Too bad the G-Men can no longer dance on Jimmy Hoffa, but no matter. When the final whistle blows, Volunteers may be required to clean up all the Tennessee players left sprawled on the field.

Woody’s Winner: New York

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Pittsburgh (2-0) @ Tampa Bay (2-0)

When my junior high school football coach told me that “defense wins games,” I presumed he said that because I played on the offense. Now I get it; how else could the Bucs be 2-0? Tampa’s cannon should be quiet this Sunday as these undefeated teams struggle to score points. Pittsburgh’s just biding its time until Big Ben’s clock chimes, and a Buccaneer cutlass, well, just won’t cut it in Florida in Week 3.

Woody’s Winner: Pittsburgh

FACT: Despite scoring only 2 TDs in 2 games, the Steelers are undefeated thanks to a defense that is +6 in takeaways/giveaways.

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Cincinnati (1-1) @ Carolina (0-2)

Terrell Owens (sore back) and Chad Ochocinco (cracked rib) further the Batman-and-Robin shtick by nursing injuries at the same time, but both are probable for Sunday’s trip south. Considering Carolina’s QB troubles and injuries to Steve Smith above and below, common sense dictates that the Battle of the Big Cats should end with a Bengals victory over Panthers. A little voice tells me that Carolina might pull an upset, but it might be those White Castles backing up on me. Besides, felines look better in stripes.

Woody’s Winner (in a close one): Cincinnati

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Philadelphia (1-1) @ Jacksonville (1-1)

The Philly brass pulled a flea-flicker on everyone by announcing the “Kolb Era” when their plans apparently centered on Michael Vick all along. Announcing Vick as starter in the preseason would have brought out all his haters, but a minor Week 1 injury to Kevin Kolb gave the Eagles all the excuse they needed. Meanwhile, in Florida, David Garrard (who had an impressive 1-to-49 career interception-to-attempt ratio) was benched last week after throwing 4 INTs in 23 passes. But he’s back in teal, the game is sold out, and the Jaguars will play tough for their faithful. Still…

Woody’s Winner: Philadelphia

FACT: The Eagles have allowed 11 sacks this season, 3 more than any other NFL team.

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Washington (1-1) @ St. Louis (0-2)

The Redskins have played well thus far this season, and are 4-1 in their last five road games against the battered Rams. This week, Washington plays “Meet Me in St. Louis” and should find the blues to be to their liking. DC Power will light up the Gateway Arch, and while Sam Bradford has a few victories ahead of him this season, he’ll have to earn them by suffering through games like this one.

Woody’s Winner: Washington

FACT: The Rams defense leads the NFL with 7 forced fumbles this season.

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Oakland (1-1) @ Arizona (1-1)

The Raiders and Cardinals have even records; both teams earned a victory by beating St. Louis, but both were also blown out against better teams. This week’s matchup promises to be the Darren McFadden/Tim Hightower show, since both defenses are weak against the run. The Redbirds are still smarting after being humiliated in Atlanta, while the Mighty Oaks are looking forward to the possibility of a winning record for the first time since Week 3 of the 2004 season. Good thing footballs are vaguely acorn-shaped.

Woody’s Winner (in an upset): Oakland

FACT: The Raiders are 5-2 all-time against the Cardinals. Since 1973, the teams have met in St. Louis, Oakland, Los Angeles, and Arizona.

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San Diego (1-1) @ Seattle (1-1)

RB Ryan Mathews and WR Malcom Floyd are expected to be out when the Chargers head up the Pacific Coast this weekend. For the Seahawks coaching staff that means extra focus on San Diego’s key remaining weapon, TE Antonio Gates. If the Home of Grunge can hold him in check, it’ll be tough for the visitors to get an approval on their MasterCard. Seattle will eke out a win at home, but luckily for the Bolts, their plane tickets home have already been arranged.

Woody’s Winner (in an upset): Seattle

FACT: The last five match-ups between the Chargers and Seahawks have each been decided by a field goal or less.

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Indianapolis (1-1) @ Denver (1-1)

Most of Denver's injury problems are on the defensive side of the line, notably CBs Champ Bailey and Andre’ Goodman. As a result, the elder Manning should be able to pass at will against the decimated Bronco secondary. And considering how rude he was to his little brother last week on the gridiron, he’ll have no qualms about airing the football out in the thin Mile-High atmosphere. Don’t be surprised if rookie Denver QB Tim Tebow makes an appearance once the Colts lap the Broncos on the racetrack.

Woody’s Winner: Indianapolis

FACT: Last week vs. the Giants, Colts defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis combined for 4 sacks and 3 forced fumbles.

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N.Y. Jets (1-1) @ Miami (2-0)

This Sunday night, the Jets go on the road for the first time this season, facing Miami in the Dolphins’ first home game of 2010. Both teams focus on the rushing game, and both have a pair of capable running backs. Both also have great success against the run, so the victor of this AFC East game may come down to the home field advantage. With this week’s game being in South Florida…

Woody’s Winner: Miami

FACT: The Jets lead the league with 20 penalties for 183 yards in only two games.

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Green Bay (2-0) @ Chicago (2-0)

This Monday Night Football game celebrates the league’s oldest rivalry. It also features the highest-rated QB in the NFL, only it’s not the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers, but Chicago’s Jay Cutler. His 121.2 rating though two games is sheer dynamite, and Chicago’s defense will plant TNT all over to try to blow the Pack back to Wisconsin. Green Bay is favored by most, but Woody’s going out on a limb with this one. I like grated cheese on my Chicago Deep Dish.

Woody’s Winner: Chicago

FACT: This season, Chicago’s defense has allowed only 41 yards on 34 carries for a paltry 1.4 yards per rush.

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Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below, but please be cordial to others; this is all in good fun. Thanks!

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Pop Culture
Evel Knievel, Insurance Salesman
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To his coworkers at the Combined Insurance Company of America in Chicago, he was just Bob. A few months shy of his 24th birthday and newly married, Bob was ambitious, charming, and sincere—all qualities company president W. Clement Stone valued in his salesmen. To push high-volume, short-term disability insurance, customers needed to trust their words. Bob Knievel could look a man in the eyes and tell him that $3 worth of insurance was money well spent, and they'd believe him.

Years later, when Bob adopted the Evel Knievel persona and made breaking his bones a spectator sport, his former colleagues would stare at their televisions in amazement. There went Bob, clearing 10 or 14 or 20 cars on a motorcycle. There lies Bob, a heap of fractured limbs that needed to be scraped off the pavement like chewing gum.

In the span of just a few short years, the best insurance salesman in his assigned district had become the most famous daredevil in the world.

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Born in Butte, Montana, in 1938, Robert Knievel stole his first motorcycle at the age of 13. Prone to delinquency and petty crime, he failed to get a high school diploma and instead entered the U.S. Army Reserves. By the time he was 19 years old, he was out of uniform and starting up a semi-pro hockey team, drawing crowds at local arenas and even playing Olympic hopefuls from the Czech Republic. (Knievel’s team lost 22-3.)

By 1960, any discernible skills beyond mediocre athleticism and amoral behavior weren’t quite ready to reveal themselves. Knievel struck upon the idea of becoming a merchant policeman in Butte, which was a fancy term for being a private security specialist. Knievel would approach businesses and promise he’d act as a kind of sentry, checking their locations for suspicious activity and thwarting any robbery or vandalism attempts.

What Knievel wouldn’t admit until much later was that he was frequently the perpetrator of that activity, breaking windows and robbing the registers of businesses that didn’t sign up for his services. It was his version of property insurance.

A few things conspired to redirect Knievel’s ambitions. He married Linda Bork in 1959, and the couple started a family. He also grew concerned that Butte authorities were close to catching up with his security monitoring scam. In the summer of 1962, Knievel decided to go straight and become a salesman for Combined Insurance.

The company’s district manager in Montana dispatched Knievel to Chicago, where he underwent a two-week training course in sales tactics endorsed by president W. Clement Stone. Stone had co-authored a book, Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude, and considered it his business gospel. The lessons were at the level of fortune cookies and free of cynicism (“Big doors swing on little hinges,” “Thinking will not overcome fear, but action will”) but Knievel never once rolled his eyes. He absorbed the strategies and hit the road back in his home state, prepared to sell the $3 policies and collect his 60 cents per signature.

Earning an honest living at that rate would require volume. So Knievel traveled to working-class towns and paid bars to allow him to set up an “office” in a booth, where he could catch the steady stream of farmers coming in for a drink. He stopped workers at a train repair station during lunch breaks, and preached the virtues of the payments Combined would offer in the event the insured had an accident. Sometimes he’d pass up the $3 and do barter trades, like when a rancher once offered to give him a lame horse.

If Knievel had a crowning moment in his gone-straight, suit-and-tie life, it was when he set a district record for the most policies sold in a single week. He had talked his way into a state mental hospital in Warm Springs, Montana, and sold coverage to the staff—and if company legend is to be believed, to many of the hospital's patients as well. Knievel logged 271 sign-ups that week.

For this, Knievel got an award and recognition; he was feted by company executives as an example of the can-do spirit their president endorsed. While he enjoyed the attention, what Bob really wanted was to occupy the office of the vice president. When Combined refused to promote him, he quit. Without advancement in sight, making a living out of a suitcase ceased to be appealing. Knievel wanted to do something else.

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After leaving Combined, Knievel returned to his rudderless lifestyle. He found work at a motorcycle shop in Wyoming and thought a good way to drum up business would be to hop on a bike and try to jump over a pit infested with rattlesnakes.

It was.

That then gave him the idea to jump greater distances, which eventually led to him convincing the operators of Caesars Palace that he could make the 150-foot jump over the fountains near the front entrance of their Las Vegas resort and casino. He didn’t make it, but footage of the 1967 wipeout was absolutely mesmerizing: Airborne one minute and tumbling on the ground the next, Knievel looked like a crash test dummy. Convalescing in the hospital with multiple broken bones, Knievel’s popularity soared. He became one of the most famous men in America in the 1970s, rivaled only by Elvis Presley and Muhammad Ali.

Matt Tonning, one of Knievel’s former coworkers at Combined, was one of the millions of people who saw the footage. He was alarmed, but not because of the gruesome outcome. Over the years, Knievel had phoned Tonning to catch up and buy policies—10 in all, which was nine more than a salesperson was technically allowed to sell to any one person. Tonning liked Knievel so much that he usually just entered another salesman’s name to complete the transaction. The policies could not be canceled and covered any accident.

At no point did Knievel ever list his current occupation: daredevil.

Tonning was fired. When Knievel heard of his friend’s dismissal, he agreed to drop claims on nine of the policies.

If there were any hard feelings, Knievel never voiced them. He would later credit the unflinching optimism of Stone and his book as one of the key reasons he became a professional cheater of death. Staring up at the ramps that would launch him into the air, those sales lessons led him to believe he could make it—even when past experience proved otherwise.

Additional Sources: Evel: The High-Flying Life of Evel Knievel.

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Lists
20 People You Didn't Know Were Southpaws
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Pernell Whitaker
Simon Bruty / Getty Images

The "southpaw advantage" is more than just a boxing superstition. Fighting with a dominant left hand has helped some of the sport’s fiercest competitors rise to the top of their class. Here are 20 boxers who assumed the southpaw stance.

1. PERNELL WHITAKER

Pernell Whitaker launched his career at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics when he defeated Cuban fighter Luis Ortiz (a fellow southpaw) to take home the gold. As a professional he claimed the world champion title in four weight classes: lightweight, light welterweight, welterweight, and light middleweight. Popular boxing magazine The Ring declared him the best boxer in the world pound-for-pound for a period in the 1990s.

2. MANNY PACQUIAO

Manny Pacquiao in the boxing ring.
Sunil Grover, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

One of the best boxers of the 21st century also may be the most famous southpaw of all time. The Filipino athlete has racked up numerous distinctions over his career: He’s the first and only eight-division world champion, the first boxer to earn the lineal title across four weight divisions, and the first to win 10 world championships in eight classes. After achieving all that, he took a break from boxing to become a senator in the Philippines.

3. MARVIN JOHNSON

Marvin Johnson made a name for himself at the 1972 Munich Olympics, where he won a bronze medal boxing for the U.S. team. After returning to the States, he broke into the professional circuit and gained a 43-6 record during his 15-year career. He told his local Indianapolis news station in a 2008 interview, "Not trying to sound boastful, but I would describe myself as one of the best in the ring during my time."

4. TIGER FLOWERS

Portrait of Tiger Flowers.
Topical Press Agency / Stringer / Getty Images

Theodore "Tiger" Flowers entered the professional boxing ring at a time when the sport was still segregated in America. He broke racial barriers in 1926 when he became the first black man to earn the world middleweight title. Flowers is also credited for helping make integrated audiences a more common sight at boxing matches.

5. RAFAEL LIMÓN

Born in Mexico in 1954, Rafael Limón won world titles in the super featherweight division. His performance in the ring earned him the volatile nickname “Bazooka.”

6. ADA VÉLEZ

Boxer Ada Velez in the ring.
Yuri Cortez / Getty Images

Ada Vélez became the first Puerto Rican boxer to secure a women's world boxing title in 2001. In this case, it wasn’t her southpaw that gave her the winning advantage—the champion she unseated, Kathy Williams, is also a leftie.

7. LEW TENDLER

He may have never won a world title, but that didn’t stop Lew Tendler from becoming a boxing legend. The athlete ascended to prominence in the 1920s, a golden age for boxing in the United States. Today he’s immortalized in the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

8. YOUNG CORBETT III

Two boxers in the ring.

Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Born Ralph Giordano in Italy, Young Corbett III was most famous for holding the world welterweight title for a short stint in 1933. Of the 151 professional matches he fought in the 1930s and '40s, he came out victorious in 123.

9. CARMEN BASILIO

Portrait of Carmen Basilio.
Al Bello / Getty Images

Italian-American athlete Carmen Basilio is best known for his matches against boxing legend Sugar Ray Robinson. He won the first of the storied fights in 1957. He was challenged to a rematch in 1958, and the second time, Robinson came out on top. After relinquishing his middleweight champion title to the victor, Basilio boxed only occasionally before retiring for good.

10. MARVELOUS MARVIN HAGLER

In 1987, Marvelous Marvin Hagler (his legal name) was the most formidable name in boxing. The American boxer was riding high on a seven-year reign as middleweight world champion, one of the longest streaks the class has ever seen. After defending his title 12 consecutive times, he made headlines for a different reason: losing to Sugar Ray Leonard in one of the most anticipated fights of the decade.

11. JACK PETERSEN

Boxers pose for photo in the ring.
Topical Press Agency / Stringer / Getty Images

Jack Peterson was 18 years old when he reached the finals of the Welsh Amateur Boxing Association in the late 1920s. He returned the next year to win two titles (he also claimed a title from the British Amateur Boxing Association that same year). After going professional, Jack Petersen earned his place in history as the first Welshman to be crowned British heavyweight champion.

12. OSCAR DE LA HOYA

Portrait of Oscar De La Hoya in the boxing ring.
Alexis Cuarezma / Stringer / Getty Images

Mexican-American boxer Oscar De La Hoya represented the U.S. at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics when he was still a teenager. Earning gold in the featherweight division was just the start of his decorated career. From there he earned world titles in six different weight classes and became the top-earning pay-per-view athlete of his day.

13. CHRIS BYRD

Boxer Chris Byrd hits Andrew Golota.
Al Bello / Getty Images

There was a second southpaw competing for the U.S. at the Barcelona Olympics. During the 1992 games Chris Byrd took home the silver medal in the middleweight division. In the years to follow he rose to the ranks of two-time heavyweight world champion.

14. HECTOR CAMACHO

Hector
Tom Pidgeon / Stringer / Getty Images

Hector "Macho" Camacho’s quick punches and fancy footwork helped him bag world titles across multiple weight classes in the 1980s and early '90s. He was known for his flashy brand of showmanship: Some of the outfits he wore in the ring included a Roman gladiator costume and a monogrammed fur robe.

15. HOLLY HOLM

Holly Holm celebrates victory over Ronda Rousey.
Quinn Rooney / Getty Images

As a boxer, Holly Holm has earned and defended world champion titles many times over. She’s also known for being one of the few fighters to defeat superstar Ronda Rousey in the mixed martial arts ring.

16. GUILLERMO RIGONDEAUX

Guillermo Rigondeaux throws a right to the face of Drian Francisco during their junior featherweight bout.
Al Bello / Getty Images

Cuban boxer Guillermo Rigondeaux is the current holder of the super bantamweight world title. He's also the owner of two Olympic gold medals—one he received in 2000 and the other in 2004.

17. SERGIO MARTINEZ

Sergio Martinez in boxing gear.
Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images

From 2010 to 2014, Argentine boxer Sergio Martinez dominated as champion in the lineal middleweight division. He officially retired one year after losing the honor to Miguel Cotto.

18. REGGIE JOHNSON

James Toney throws a punch at Reggie Johnson during a fight.
Ken Levine / Getty Images

One of only eight men to win a world light heavyweight title after earning a title in middleweight, Reggie Johnson was one of boxing’s brightest stars in the late 1990s. He lost his light heavyweight title to Roy Jones Jr. in 1999, but even his rival had nothing but respect for the native Texan. Jones spoke of him to The Ring: “You won’t find a better person than Reggie Johnson in boxing.”

19. VICENTE SALDIVAR

Vicente "Southpaw" Saldivar is famous for more than his left-sided fighting stance. The Mexico City native competed in the 1960 Olympics, held world featherweight titles, and fought before massive crowds. He was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1999.

20. ERISLANDY LARA

Erislandy Lara in the boxing ring.
Rob Foldy / Stringer / Getty Images

The junior middleweight world title currently belongs to Erislandy Lara. He adopted the nickname "The American Dream" after defecting from Cuba, and in early 2017 the boxer became an American citizen.

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