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Articles of 2010

Alexander's Good, Then Turns It Up To Great Against Urango



UNCASVILLE, Conn. — He had followed three rounds as Alexander the Okay with four more as Alexander the Barely Adequate, and Juan Urango had slipped ahead on the card of one ringside judge and was hot on his heels on another’s, so if he was even going to live up to his nickname, the eighth round seemed a pretty good time to do it.

His Alexander the Great mode was on display for no more than half a minute all night, but that turned out to be the final twenty seconds of the fight, when the hunted abruptly turned hunter and delivered the right uppercut that lifted Urango straight up off the canvas and sent him crashing to the floor.

The dazed soon-to-be-former IBF champ did somehow struggle to his feet, but on legs so wobbly that a few heartbeats later he tried to remain erect by throwing his arms around Devon Alexander, and when the latter squirmed out of the embrace, Urango went down anyway.  Benjy Esteves began to administer a count, but the next embrace came from the referee as he declared the fight at an end at 1:12 of the round.

Alexander, who had staked his claim to the vacant WBC crown last August when Junior Witter quit on his stool at the same juncture of their fight, added Urango’s IBF version to his collection in the main event of Don King’s eight-bout card at the Mohegan Sun Saturday night. In doing so he became the only man on earth to have stopped the rugged Colombian.  Neither Ricky Hatton nor Andre Berto, the only previous opponents to defeat Urango, could put him away.  Randall Bailey, as solid a puncher as exists in the 140-pound universe, had Urango down, but on that occasion Urango got back up and beat him.

“We’d been working on that punch all through camp,” said trainer Kevin Cunningham. “I knew it was time to use it and I even yelled ‘Throw the uppercut!’ A split second later he did and Urango was on the floor. It happened so fast I couldn’t believe it myself, so as soon as it was over I said ‘Hey, Devon, did you hear me yell for you to throw that uppercut?’ He just grinned and said ‘Hell, yeah!’”
By the time Urango had been helped back to his corner, Alexander, Cunningham, and the rest of the corner had broken out the red Cardinals’ baseball caps.

“Speed kills,” Alexander said after it was over, but speed alone isn’t usually enough to beat Juan Urango. (You could ask Herman Ngoudjo about that.) As constant as the north star, the Colombian knows only one way to fight: He walks down his opponent by coming straight at him, and since he generally doesn’t mind getting hit while he does it, you’d better have more than a pea-shooter to keep him away. The closest Alexander came to a big punch prior to the ultimate smackdown came in the third, when he caught Urango coming in and landed an uppercut that caught him squarely on the nose. The punch immediately produced a torrent of blood, but Urango barely blinked.

The early rounds of this all-southpaw confrontation had unfolded the way most expected, with a dazzling display of wizardry on Alexander’s part, but while while this flashiness pleased the crowd (and won points with the judges), Urango seemed singularly unimpressed. He might have looked a bit like a 140-pound version of Frankenstein’s monster doing it, but he just kept marching ahead, and by the fourth he started to get there. From then through the seventh Urango grew increasingly comfortable with the notion of walking in to catch Alexander with right hooks. He doesn’t even get embarrassed when he misses them entirely and catches nothing but air — which is often, even on a good night.

“He didn’t really do anything we didn’t expect him to,” said Alexander, who claimed that at no stage had he been troubled by Urango’s punches. “We knew he would come straight ahead and throw hooks.”

What he he may not have expected, and in fact may not even have noticed, was that in this fight Urango threw almost nothing else. That Alexander landed 96 jabs to his opponent’s 12 was hardly startling, since Urango all but disdains the jab, anyway. Urango’s only big edge came in power punches thrown (301-172) and connected  (115-77), but CompuBox doesn’t break that stat down by hand, and if Urango threw 301 non-jabs in this fight, 300 of them must have been right hooks, because he never took the other weapon out of its scabbard. (A Urango cornerman later confirmed that his fighter had injured his left elbow, making the left all but useless.)
Alexander remained undefeated at 20-0, and while King made the expected noise about Alexander the Great having confirmed himself as a “superstar” worthy of fighting the Pacquiaos and Mayweathers of this world, it seems more likely that Devon’s first defense of his newly unified titles may come against ex-champ Zab Judah, who at 32 would seem to possess the necessary qualifications for that role: he retains enough name recognition to sell the fight to television, and his probably too shot to seriously imperil Alexander’s chances of retaining his belts. Moreover, Zab could probably draw a crowd in St. Louis, where the locals still remember what he did to Cory Spinks there five years ago.

Although former Boston College defensive end Derric Rossy floored Zack Page in the sixth round of their co-featured bout, the Ohio veteran hung on for twelve rounds. The shock would have been if he had done anything else. Rossy (25-2) was an easy winner on all three scorecards in retaining the coveted USNBC title, but going the route — as he always does — was a victory of sorts for Page (20-28-2) as well.

Midway through the sixth, Rossy, with his back to the ropes, caught Page with a left book followed by a right uppercut that all but picked him off the floor. The New England crowd, smelling blood, encouraged him to finish Page off, but once the opponent wriggled his way out of that jam it was clear he would be there for the long haul. Although Peter Hary’s 120-107 card may have been a bit generous, Don Ballas’ (118-109) and Carlos Ortiz’ (117-110) totals weren’t far behind, and the win will probably push Rossy up another notch or two with the WBC.

Rossy (25-2).who is handled by Sal Musimeci, seemed to have pretty much established his limitations when he was knocked out by Alexander Dimitrenko and Fast Eddie Chambers, but those little bumps in the road came before he signed with King last year. The most immediate dividend of that alliance is evident in the latest WBC ratings, which now list Rossy as the No. 9 heavyweight in the world.

The loser makes for an even more fascinating case study. At just over 200 pounds, Page is about as small as a heavyweight can be these days, and at 36 is in the twilight of a career that never was going anywhere, but there is such a constant demand for his services all around the world that he keeps racking up the frequent flyer miles.  Six of his previous nine fights came against undefeated “prospects” whose promoters wanted to make sure they stayed that way, and while Page usually accommodated them, he remains capable of the odd upset — as happened earlier this year when he traveled to Germany and came back with the scalp of 19-0 Sebastian Koeber.  The principal threat to an Opponent earning his living at this level is the 30-day suspension, and Zack has become adept at avoiding those:  Four years ago at Foxwoods he was TKO’d in five by then-unbeaten Alonzo Butler. He has now fought 34 times since, and while he only won ten of those, he’s managed to finish on his feet in every one of them.

In last night’s rematch (of a 2007 fight at Monticello Raceway in which Rossy won a unanimous decision) Page may have had an even greater interest in self-preservation, since he was already on the books to fight hometown favorite Hector Ferryro for the root beer title down in Laredo later this month. When those two fought last October, Zack scored another of his upsets. The IBC has sanctioned the rematch between the 19-8-1 Ferryro and the *20-27-2 page as a “world” title bout.

Former WBC cruiserweight champ Wayne Braithwaite had an easy night of it, stopping Adam Harris of Worcester in the first round when Dick Flaherty stopped their contest a second before the bell. Braithwaite, now 24-4, was undefeated when lost to Jean-Marc Mormeck in Worcester four years ago, and had lost four of his last six,  albeit against quality opposition. (Mormeck, Guillermo Jones, Enzo Maccarinelli, and Steve Cunningham.) Harris, the brother of onetime heavyweight prospect Bobby Harris, is now 10-3.  

In another cruiserweight contest, Ryan (The Irish Outlaw) Coyne of St. Louis had to win the last three rounds to preserve his unbeaten record. Five rounds into his bout against North Carolinian Paul Jenette, Coyne (14-0) trailed on the cards of Mike Hary and Steve Weisfeld, while leading by one on Glenn Feldman’s, but rallied down the stretch to sweep the sixth, seventh, and eighth on all three cards. The 41 year-old Jenette, who didn’t make his pro debut until he was 27, is now 11-3.  

Steve Forbes’ boxing career sometimes seems to have been conducted in reverse order. Nearly a decade has passed since his brief reign as a world champion (IBF 130), four years since his reinvention as a junior middle after he went back to Contender school.  A loss (to Grady Brewer) in the Staples Center final earned him the opponent’s role against then-unbeaten Demetrius Hopkins in his next outing, and losing a unanimous decision in that one stamped him a safe opponent for Oscar De La Hoya, which in turn qualified him for yet another title shot (vs. Andre Berto), which he also lost.

On Saturday’s Mohegan bill, Forbes, in keeping with this his bass-ackward career trajectory, wound up a participant in the walk-out bout where before a paucity of eyewitnesses, he dropped a majority decision Harrison Cuello, a Bronx-based Dominican whose win was his first in his last six outings. Cuello improved to 19-12-2 with the win, while Forbes is now 34-8.

Angelo Santana, described as an “undefeated freedom-fighting prospect,” scored a fourth-round TKO over Darien Ford of New Orleans when Arthur Mercante Jr. halted their bout at 2:59 of the round. Mercante had earlier penalized Ford a point for holding in the third. Santana is now 8-0 since making his pro debut on the Jones-Trinidad card in New York two years ago. Ford, 11-19, had just two wins in his last 19, both, oddly, against the two biggest names on his resume in their respective hometowns — Ivan Robinson in Philadelphia and Charles Murray in Rochester.

Calvin Pritchard of Toledo was described as a “midwestern prospect” on the same bout sheet, despite an 0-1-1 record. Pritchard still hasn’t won, but he did manage to hold unbeaten Puerto Rican Antonio Sanchez to a draw in their 4-rounder when the judges split three ways. Clark Sammartino 39-37 for Sanchez, Omar Mintun by the same margin for Pritchard, and Feldman 38-38. Sanchez is now 2-0-1.

South Carolina welter James Hope boosted his record above the .500 mark by posting a unanimous decision over Puerto Rican Andres Navarro (4-3-1) in another early bout. Hope (5-4) won every round on all three cards (Flaherty, Ballas, Carlos Ortiz).
* * *
Uncasville, Conn.
March 6, 2010
JUNIOR WELTERWEIGHTS: Devon Alexander, 139 1/4, St. Louis, Mo TKO’d Juan Urango, 139 1/2, Moneria, Colombia (8) (Retains WBC title, wins IBF title)
      HEAVYWEIGHTS: Derric Rossy, 236 1/4, Medford, NY dec. Zack Page, 208, Warren, Ohio (12)
CRUISERWEIGHTS: Wayne Braithwaite, 200, Guyana TKO’d Adam Harris, 194, Worcester, Mass. (1)
      Ryan Coyne, 191, St. Louis, Mo. dec.  Paul Jennette, 194, Greensboro, NC (8)
WELTERWEIGHTS: Harrison Cuello, 142, Santo Domingo, D.R. dec. Steve Forbes, 142, Portland, Ore. (8)
      Antonio Sanchez, 142, Matamoros, Mexico drew with Calvin Pritchard, 139 1/4, Toledo, Ohio (4)
      Angelo Santana, 144, Pinar del Rio, Cuba TKO’d  Darien Ford, 147 1/4, New Orleans, La. (3)
      James Hope, 142, Rock Hill, SC dec Andres Navarro, 136 1/4, Toa Baja, Puerto Rico (4)

Articles of 2010

Judah To Fight Mbuza March 5 In NJ




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



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




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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