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Articles of 2010

He Aint Dad, But He Aint Bad: Julio Cesar Chavez Jr Impresses Vs. Duddy

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He isnt exactly a chip off the old block, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, but he showed that hes no mere punchline, looking to trade on his dads legacy. No, his hook isnt as lethal, his footwork isnt anything like dads, his relentlessness pales in comparison to dads. But Junior showed that theres a lot to like as he whacked John Duddy around for 12 rounds in the Latin Fury 15-Top Rank PPV main event at the Alamodome in San Antonio on Saturday Night and made his pop smile proudly as scores of 120-108, 116-112, and 117-111, reached his ears.

Will Junior ever win six titles in three weight divisions? Heck no; he might not win one. But hes no bum, no cynic looking to just trade off his fathers legend. Duddy will tell you that; he ate piles of left hooks to the body, and right hands, from minute one. TSS scored it 10 rounds to 2 for the son of JC.

Junior (age 24; ) weighed 160 pounds, while Duddy (age 31; from Derry, Ireland; 29-1 with 18 KOs coming in) was 159 pounds. Duddy was not accustomed to hearing boos which rained down on him as he strode to the ring. He didnt look too put off as U2 blared on the PA, though. Junior was brought to the ring by his pop, who wore a tux and red Chavez Jr headband.

In the first, the now-Freddie Roach trained Junior looked a tad surprised at Duddys hand speed. He perked up with a counter right, then ate a right himself. But Juniors right hand was on point early. Duddy, trained by Harry Keitt after stints with Keitt, then Don Turner and then Patrick Burns, came forward, straight on, mostly behind a jab.

In the second, Duddy tried to close the gap more. He had a solid round, and acted the aggressor. No, he didnt move his head after throwing, and left himself open to counters, but thats part of his charm.

In the third, we saw more in-fighting. Duddy can and did score with his left hook, but the power on that thing isnt scary. Junior wasnt overawed by this big stage, and he had the power edge in the round.

In the fourth, Junior disobeyed Freddie, and rumbled on the ropes. In center ring, Junior stung Duddy, more flush than before. His mixture of inside and outside work was impressive. Youre giving it away, trainer Keitt said to Duddy after. John, you want this? It felt like a game changer round, and I think Keitt saw that too.

In the fifth, Duddy came out with a bee in his bonnet. But he still had the same defensive skills…Not much he could do, short of dancing more nimbly, about the left hooks clanging off his torso. Duddys eyes were both a bit swollen, we saw post-round. Youve taken his best, John, Keitt said encouragingly. Some blood dripped from Duddys nose.

In the sixth, Duddy landed a solid bomb. The shot was a counter right, and Junior had to shake it off, quick. The round was probably the Irishmans. But Chavez landed a sweet uppercut.

In the seventh, we saw that Junior didnt get enough time with Freddie. He stood in front of Duddy, and traded, instead of using the jab to set things up, and moving smartly and constantly.

In the eighth, Junior stayed chill, waited for the other guy to finish, and then returned fire. This is just his way of fighting…Duddy got wobbled before the bell by left hooks.

In the ninth, Duddy was wobbly again. The man in green tried to answer as best he could, but that body work had worn on him. Junior went in for the kill with 30 seconds left and Duddy flurried off the ropes. But his reflexes were pretty kaput.

In the tenth, Duddy started out with combos. Junior went back to work, however. He hurt Duddy with a left hook at the 20 seconds to go mark. You need a knockout to win, Keitt said after. Hat off to Harry, speaking the total truth. Id given Duddy only two rounds to this point, if that.

In the 11th, the left hook to the body made Duddy flinch. But still he tried to muster the energy to answer and he did. A monster right hurt Duddy in the last minute. Bless that kids heart. Junior looked to stop the Irishman, but Duddys heart wouldnt allow it. We went to the cards.
Roach afterwards gave the kid high marks. Junior gave Duddy a shoutout for his toughness. I hope everyone finally believes in me, I am going to be a world champion, I proved that to everyone tonight, Junior said. Tonight we have a new star, he can fight anybody, any place, promoter Bob Arum said. The old Cesar Chavez wouldve been demolished, he would have run out of gas, Arum said

Marco Antonio Barrera (five-time champ in three weight classes; 141 pounds; 65-7 with 43 KOs, 1 ND; from Mexico) got back on the horse, against Adailton De Jesus (26-4 entering with 21 KOs; from Brazil; won last four by KO; 138 pounds). He had not in fact announced his retirement, unlike Erik Morales, for the record, and had been working as a broadcaster. He admitted coming in that he feels his age, and knows that hes not a pup now. Barrera, who turned 36 on June 17, lost his last outing, to Amir Khan. That ended badly, with a 38 stitch cut on his scalp. He looked like he had his legs under him on this night. He calmly stalked DeJ, but gave himself ample time to get loose. (Bob Arum has said that hed like to match Barrera with Humberto Soto or Miguel Acosta in a title crack. Think itll get that far TSS U? Should it? Not sure what happened to that five-year-contract Barrera signed with Don King in 2008, by the way. Anyone knows, leave a comment….) In the second, a left hook hurt the underdog. Left hooks to the body bothered the heck out of DeJesus, and it looked like Barrera could close the show within the distance. In the third, Barrera still looked crisp, not sluggish, not egregiously pudgy at that weight…all in all, better than most expected, Id venture to say. DeJ picked it up a bit in the fourth. Hed been in catcher mode and tried to get more aggressive. The Brazilian whined repeatedly at blows that didnt look low, but Barrera didnt back off his body work. His no-foul protector was hiked up to his throat, for cripes sake…A sharp 1-1-2 rang De Jesus bell at the end of the sixth. In the eighth, Barrera was able to get off, countered speedily..sorry if I seem surprised…But the Mexican can still get er done against a certain level of hitter, and maybe he could give Soto some trouble. We went to the cards after ten, and no one who drank less than 15 cups of beer thought anyone other than Barrera won it. He did, by scores of 100-90, 98-92, 99-91. Nice guy, the guy who hooked up undeserving DeJesus with two rounds. He tried to cheer up the loser.

Before the main event, Freddie Roach chatted with Rich Marotta, and he admitted that hes going to have to say no to taking on more clients. He said he hopes no one takes it personally, because he lives to help fighters get better, but that its not fair to his current stable.

In the TV opener, Salvador Sanchez (age 25; 125 1/4; 19-3-2 entering; from Mexico) met Tomas Villa (age 26; 22-7-4 entering; 126 1/2; born in Mexico, living in Texas) in a scheduled eight rounder. The nephew of the Mexican legend, who died in a car crash in 1982, has that same untamed fro the ex featherweight champion did. No one thinks hes on par with his uncle, of course, thats a mega-tall order. Analyst Raul Marquez said prior to the opening bell that we could see an upset.

Villa in fact took the first, as he smothered Sal, and didnt allow him to box from the outside as desired. Sal ate a right which buzzed him, considerably, in the first. Villa plunged ahead, as Sal stayed mobile in the second. Not mobile enough in the fourth. Sals lack of pop didnt deter Villa from steaming forward, and winging shots. Villa lost some steam as we went deeper, and Sals training at high altitude in Big Bear paid off somewhat in 5-6-7-8. But…All in all, Sal is what he is. His hand speed is below average, he squares up all the time, etc. He is to be commended for trying to advance the family legacy, however. Its not easy to try and shine on the same stage as an iconic relative. The judges spoke after eight: 77-75, 79-73, 78-74…for Villa.

Eighteen year-old Jose Benavidez (now 7-0 with 7 KOs; from California) took out Rhode Islands Josh Beeman in the first off a left hook to the body after setting it up with a right to the torso. Trainer Freddie Roach looked on with a grin at his sweet prospect of a junior welterweight.

Gabriel Elizondo (22-3-1 with 10 KOs entering; from San Antonio; 114 3/4 pounds) clashed with Raul Martinez, (26-1 with 15 KOs entering; also from San Antonio; No. 3 in IBF; 114 1/2) a texting buddy, in a scheduled junior bantamweight ten rounder. Ellie looked to move and stick, while Martinez looked to cut off the ring, and do some damage with a power shot. Martinez loads up, and looks to scramble synapses when he tosses. Coming in, Ellie had lost big step ups, to Jhonny Gonzalez, Jose Navarro, and Bernabe Concepcio. Same thing for Martinez; when he got a chance against Nonito Donaire April 2009, he got stopped in the fourth. A long lead right hurt Ellie in the third. His legs looked OK, but almost 2:30 remained in the round. He did escape to the fourth. And to the fifth, when a gash opened over the left eye of Ellie. He went to the mat, on a flash knockdown with 20 seconds left in the heat. More pain in the next round…A shot at the bell dropped Ellie; he made it up, but was on queer street to end the sixth, from a left hook. The ref stopped it after another knockdown, from an overhand right, in the seventh. Time of TKO was 2:00 elapsed.

SPEEDBAG Johns uncle, Jack Duddy, shot and killed while protesting unarmed by British soldiers on Jan. 30, 1972, in the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry, Ireland received an honorary ten count. A boxer himself, Jackie was just 17 when he was slain, while fleeing the violence.

-Is it just me, or was the feed not overly crisp for you? My wife said it looked blurry, like it was shot on tape. Anyone else?

—Also, the producers have to mike up the trainers better. A patron has to hear what Roach is saying in between rounds.

Articles of 2010

Judah To Fight Mbuza March 5 In NJ

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Totowa, NJ – Kathy Duva, Main Events CEO, announced their promotional firm won the purse bid held at IBF headquarters in East Orange, NJ, Thursday. The bid was for the right to hold the IBF's junior welterweight title fight between Zab Judah of Brooklyn, NY and Las Vegas, and South Africa's Kaizer Mabuza.

IBF Championships Chairman, Lindsay Tucker explained, “It is a 50-50 split of the earnings between the two fighters. Kaizer is ranked No. 1 by the IBF, and Judah is No. 2. Where the fight will be held is up to the winning bidder.”

Judah (39-6, 26 KOs) is promoted by Main Events and his own firm Super Judah Promotions, and Branco Milenkovic, of South Africa, promotes Mabuza (23-6-3, 14 KOs).

Kathy Duva confirmed the fight will take place at Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, late February or early March this year as part of Main Events' Brick City Boxing Series.  (Saturday Update: the fight is March 5th, in NJ at the Pru Center. The bout will be part of a PPV card.)

“We are very happy that Zab has the opportunity to fight for the IBF Junior Welterweight title right here in New Jersey.  Winning this fight will put Zab right in the mix with the winner of Bradley-Alexander and Amir Khan.” Duva elaborated, ” Zab will work very hard to win this fight so that he will be one step closer to his ultimate goal of unifying all of the Junior Welterweight titles by the end of 2011!”

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Articles of 2010

UFC 125 Preview: Frankie Edgar Vs. Gray Maynard

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UFC_Edgar_and_Maynard_Dec._2010
Few predicted Frankie Edgar would grab the UFC lightweight championship last year but he did. Most felt he would eventually win it but Edgar not only took the title, he beat one of the best mixed martial artists in history to do it.

Edgar (13-1) has emerged from the milieu of nondescript MMA fighters to become one of the more brilliant performers for Ultimate Fighting Championship. Next comes a rematch with Gray “The Bully” Maynard (11-0) tomorrow at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas. UFC 125 will be televised on pay-per-view.

All it took was not one, but two victories over BJ Penn.

If you’re not familiar with Penn, he’s one of the most versatile fighters in MMA history and had been nearly unbeatable in the 155-pound lightweight division. That is until he clashed with Edgar. Until he met New Jersey’s Edgar, the Hawaiian fighter chopped down lightweight opponents with ease. It was only the heavier welterweights he had problems against. Namely: Canada’s Georges St. Pierre.

Edgar showed poise, speed and grit in defeating Penn in back-to-back fights. The world took notice.

“You know, if I keep winning fights, the respect will come eventually,” said Edgar during a conference call.

Now Edgar will find out if he can avenge the only loss on his record.

“I just think I grew as a fighter. You know, mentally, you know, physically I, you know, possess differently skills, increased – you know, I think I boxed and got better, my Jiu-Jitsu got better and, you know, just have much more experience now,” Edgar says.

Maynard seeks to find out if Edgar has added any more fighting tools to his repertoire. Back in April 2008, the artillery shelled out was not enough to beat the Las Vegas fighter.

“It’s a perfect time. He had the chance and, you know, he took it and the time is now for me and I’m prepared,” said Maynard (11-0). “Any time you’re going up against the top in the world, you evolve and change and so I’m prepared for a new fight, so it will be good. I’m pumped for it.”

Though Maynard’s record indicates he is unbeaten that’s not entirely true. He did suffer a defeat to Nate Diaz during The Ultimate Fighter series and subsequently avenged that loss last January.

The UFC lightweight title is in Maynard’s bull’s eye.

“Looking to take the belt for sure,” said Maynard. “We’ll see on January 1.”

Edgar versus Maynard should be a good one.

Other bouts:

Nate Diaz (13-5) faces Dong Hyun Kim (13-0-1) in another welterweight tussle. Diaz is the only fighter with a win over Maynard. Anyone watching TUF remembers Maynard tapping out from a Diaz guillotine choke. The Modesto fighter has a tough fight against South Korea’s Kim.

Chris Leben (21-6) fights Brian Stann (9-3) in a middleweight fight. Leben is a veteran of MMA and if an opponent is not ready for a rough and tumble fight, well, that fighter is not going to win. Stann dropped down from light heavyweight and we’ll see if the cut in weight benefits the Marine.

Brandon Vera (11-5) meets Thiago Silva (14-2) in a light heavyweight match up. Vera is trying to rally back to the promising fighter he was tabbed several years back. Silva is a very tough customer and eager to crash the elite. A victory by either fighter could mean a ticket to the big time.

Clay Guida (27-8) versus Takanori Gomi (32-6) in a lightweight bout. Guida has become one of the most feared fighters without a title. No one has an easy time with the long-haired fighter. Gomi lost to Kenny Florian but knocked out Tyson Griffin. Can he survive Guida?

Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis (22-8) clashes with Jeremy Stephens (18-6) in another lightweight fight. Davis is a go-for-broke kind of fighter and is looking to get back in the win column after a tumultuous battle with Nate Diaz last August. Stephens needs a win too. In his last bout he lost to Melvin Guillard.

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Articles of 2010

Borges Looks Back, And Forward With Hope

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As the end of another year approaches, there’s no need to invoke Charles Dickens to describe what went on in boxing. It was neither the best of times nor the worst of times. It was just too much time spent on The Fight That Never Took Place.

For the second straight year the sport could not deliver The Fight, the only one fans universally wanted and even casual fans craved – the mix between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao.  No one has to be singled out for blame for that failure because this time there’s plenty to go around on both sides. The larger issue is what does it say about a sport when it cannot deliver its top event?

What would the NFL be without the Super Bowl? Where would major league baseball be without the World Series? Golf without the Masters? College basketball without March Madness?

They would all be less than they could be and so it was with boxing this year. Having said that, the sport was not without its signature moments. It was not bereft of nights that left those of us with an abiding (and often unrequited) love for prize fighting with good reason to hope for the future.

Three times promoter Bob Arum took the sport into massive stadium venues just like the good (very) old days and each time boxing drew a far larger crowd than its many critics expected. Twice those fights involved the sport’s leading ambassador, Pacquiao, who brought in crowds of 40,000 to 50,000 fans into Cowboys Stadium against inferior opponents Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito. Imagine what he might have done had Mayweather been in the opposite corner?

While both fights were, as expected, lopsided affairs, they showcased the one boxer who has transcended his sport’s confining walls to become a cultural icon and world celebrity. Pacquiao alone put boxing (or at least one boxer) on the cover of TIME and into the pages of such varied publications as Esquire, GQ, The Wall Street Journal, the American Airlines in-flight magazine and even Atlantic Monthly.

As history has proven time and again, that is what happens when boxing has a compelling personality to sell it and Pacquiao is that. Mayweather is such a person as well,  but for different reasons.

The one night he appeared in a boxing ring, he set the year’s pay-per-view standard against Shane Mosley while also leaving a first hint of dark mystery when he was staggered by two stinging right hands in the second round.

Mayweather was momentarily in trouble for the first time in his career but the moment passed quickly and Mosley never had another. By the end he had been made to look old and futile, a faded athlete who’d had his chance and was unable to do anything with it. So it goes in this harsh sport when the sands are running out of the hour glass.

As always there were some surprising upsets, most notably Jason Litzau’s domination of an uninterested and out of shape Celestino Caballero and Sergio Martinez’s one-punch demolishment of Paul Williams. The latter was not so much an upset as it was a stunning reminder that when someone makes a mistake against a highly skilled opponent in this sport they don’t end up embarrassed. They end up unconscious.

SHOWTIME did all it could to further the future of the sport, offering up a continuation of its interminably long but still bold Super Six super middleweight tournament as well as the launching of a short form bantamweight tournament which already gave fans to two stirring and surprising finishes with Joseph Agbeko decisioning Jhonny Perez and Abner Mares upsetting Victor Darchinyan in a battle of contusions.

While the Super Six has had its problems – including several of the original six pulling out – it also lifted the profile of former Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward from nearly unknown to the cusp of universal recognized as the best super middleweight in the world this side of Lucian Bute. If Ward continues winning he’ll get to Bute soon enough because that’s why SHOWTIME signed a TV deal with the Canadian and America may get its next boxing star if Ward proves to be what I think he is – which is still underrated and underappreciated.

HBO and HBO pay-per-view put on 23 shows, few of them compelling and many of them paying big money to the wrong people while doing little or nothing to grow the sport that has helped make their network rich. But they did have the knockout of the year – Martinez’s second round destruction of Williams – and some fights in the lower weight classes that were left you wanting more.

Two new names popped up who are causing the kind of fan reaction that also gives us hope for 2011 – American Brandon Rios and Mexican Saul Alvarez. They are two of the sport’s brightest young prospects because each comes to the arena the old-fashioned way – carrying nothing but bad intentions.
Aggression and knockouts still sell boxing faster than anything else and each exhibited plenty of both this year and left fans wanting to see more. Alvarez is already a star in Mexico without having yet won a world title and Rios is the definition of “promise.’’ Whether the star will continue to shine and promise will be fulfilled may be answered next year and so we wait anxiously to find out.

Backed by Golden Boy Promotions, there is no reason 2011 shouldn’t be Alvarez’s year and if it is people will notice and remember him because he has a crowd-pleasing style that is all about what sells most.

That is what boxing needs more of – fresh faces and new stars… so as fans we should root for guys like Alvarez, Ward, Rios and young Brit Amir Khan, who is a star in England but still a question mark with a questionable chin but a fighter’s heart here in the U.S.

Those guys and others not yet as well known are the future of boxing, a sport that for too long has been recycling the likes of Mosley (as it will again in May for one last beating against Pacquiao in a fight that's a joke), Bernard Hopkins (who can still fight although it is unclear why he bothers or where it’s all headed), Roy Jones and, sadly, even 48-year-old Evander Holyfield, who continues to delude himself but not many other people into believing he will soon unify the heavyweight title again.
If fighters like Ward, Alvarez, Rios, Khan, WBC welterweight champion Andre Berto and middleweight king Sergio Martinez continue their rise they could be the antidote for the art of the retread that Arum and Golden Boy have been forcing fans to buy the past few years at the expense of what boxing needs most – fresh faces.

The heavyweight division, which many believe determines the relevancy of boxing to the larger world, remains a vast desert of disinterest here in the US. The Klitschko brothers, Vitali and Wladimir, hold 75 per cent of the title belts but few peoples’ imaginations in the US, although to be fair they are European superstars and don’t really need U.S. cable TV money to thrive economically.

Each defended their titles twice this year, Vitali against lame competition (Albert Sosnowski and Shannon Briggs) and Wladimir against better fighters (Sam Peter and Eddie Chambers) but not competitive ones. Sadly, there is no American on the horizon to challenge them, a comment on the division and on our country, where the athletes who used to be Joe Louis or Muhammad Ali now opt for the easier and frankly safer road of the NFL or the NBA. Who can blame them considering all the nonsense a fighter has to go through to just make a living these days?

The one heavyweight match that would be compelling and might lift the sport up for at least a night would be either of the Klitschkos facing lippy WBA champion David Haye. The fast-talking Brit claims to not be ducking them but he’s had more maladies befall him after shouting from the rooftops how much he wants to challenge them that you have to wonder if Haye is simply a case of big hat no cattle syndrome.

For the sake of the sport, we should all be lighting candles each night in hopes our prayers will be answered and Haye will finally agree to meet one of them. It may not prove to be much of a fight but at least it will give us something to talk about for a few months.

Whatever Haye and the Klitschkos decide the fighter with the most upside at the moment however seems to be Sergio Martinez.  He has matinee idol looks, a big enough punch to put Paul Williams to sleep with one shot and a work ethic second to none. The Argentine fighter had a year for himself, starting with a drubbing of Kelly Pavlik followed by his demolishment of Williams. Those kinds of victories, coupled with his Oscar De La Hoya-like looks, are the type of things that if HBO or SHOWTIME would get behind him could allow Martinez to capture the attention of both fight fans and more casual ones.

In general, Hispanics fighters continued to dominate much of the sport’s front pages with Juan Manuel Marquez’s two victories in lightweight title fights leading that storyline. His war with Michael Katsidis is a strong candidate for Fight of the Year and his technical skill and calm demeanor make him the uncrowned challenger to Pacquiao. The two have unfinished business that should be settled this year if Arum stops standing in the way.

Two other fighters who gave us moments to remember in 2010 were Juan Manuel Lopez, who knocked out three solid opponents including highly respected Mexican warrior Rafael Marquez, and Giovani Segura, who won four times (that’s three years work for Mayweather) in 2010, all by knockout. Along the way, Segura defeated one of the great minimum weight fighters in history, slick Ivan Calderon, to win the belt on Aug. 28.

Lastly, boxing gave us another magical cinematic moment as well with the release of “The Fighter,’’ a film based on the life and hard times of junior welterweight scrapper Micky Ward. The film has won rave reviews and many awards and seems likely to have several of its actors nominated for Academy Awards, most notable Christian Bale for his sadly humorous portrayal of Ward’s troubled half brother, former fighter Dickie Ecklund.

Boxing has a long history of providing the framework for memorable movies and it did it again with “The Fighter,’’ a film that did more for boxing than any promoter did all year.

All in all, it wasn’t the best of years for boxing but it was a good year that picked up speed in the final months and, like that great golf shot you finally hit out of the rough on the 18th, left us with reasons to hope for a better year in 2011. If somehow it gives us Mayweather-Pacquiao, the emergence of Alvarez and Rios, the ascension of Martinez and Haye vs. the best available Klitschko in addition to the kind of solid performances that always come along, it could be a year to remember.

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