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Avila's Best of Women and Men’s Boxing in 2011

David A. Avila



Mariana Juarez golf course (small)Mariana “Barbie” Juarez and Andre Ward are my pick for this year’s Fighters of the Year.

A number of prizefighters, especially in the female professional ranks, deserve consideration but canceled each other out when they clashed. Ana Maria Torres, Jackie Nava, Kaliesha West and Ava Knight were those who fought each other to a draw.

Among the male boxers Manny Pacquiao had a stranglehold until he met Juan Manuel Marquez. Though Pacman was deemed the winner many saw it otherwise.

Other categories below were relatively easy to decide.

Fighter of the year

Mexico’s Mariana “Barbie” Juarez (32-5-3, 15 KOs) spent six years in pursuit of a world title opportunity after getting robbed of the junior bantamweight title in North Korea back in 2005. Finally, last March, Juarez was granted a shot at Italy’s Simona Galassi for the WBC flyweight world title and was triumphant. Instead of sitting around she defended the title four times including last week’s victory in Mexico. Second was France’s Anne Sophie Mathis, who is the winner of another category below.

Oakland’s Andre “S.O.G.” Ward (25-0, 13 KOs) showed the rest of the world what most Californians already knew, he’s one of the best prizefighters in the world at any weight division. Not only did he defeat Carl Froch, he steamrolled Germany’s Arthur Abraham this year to prove that he stands alone among super middleweights and has a place alongside the elite fighters of the world. In second for this category was Nonito Donaire.

Best Fight of the Year

The first of two encounters between junior bantamweight world champion Ana Maria Torres of Mexico City and junior featherweight champion Jackie Nava of Tijuana proved to match the lofty expectations held by the boxing world. In a ferocious 10 round affair both Torres and Nava showed just how good female boxing has become. In a back and forth struggle Nava and Torres battled to a draw in their first match and it was the best female fight in 2012. In second place was Ava Knight and Kaliesha Wests’ second meeting last June in Southern California. It was West’s speed versus Knight’s strength and it ended in a draw.

Last April, in Atlantic City, Victor Ortiz and welterweight champion Andre Berto put on one of the most amazing, jaw-dropping fights seen in a while. Both were knocked down in a scintillating back and forth fistic drama that had the audience standing on their feet. Ortiz eventually won the fight by unanimous decision and took the welterweight title. A rematch has been signed for this coming February in Las Vegas. In second place was Mauricio Herrera’s brutal 12-round junior welterweight slugfest against Ruslan Provodnikov in Las Vegas last January.

KO of the Year

Ava Knight’s wicked left hook knockout of IBF flyweight titleholder Arely Mucino in round two of their title match was electrifying. Knowing she had to demolish Mucino to win the title in Mexico, Knight proceeded to walk down the champion and drop her several times though only two were counted.  The knockout left Mucino unconscious for more than a minute and gave San Francisco’s Knight the world title and the most impressive knockout win of the year, hands down. In second was Anne Sophie Mathis knockout of Holly Holm in New Mexico.

In the men’s side it was another Northern Californian, Nonito Donaire, who left Mexico’s Fernando Montiel momentarily paralyzed after a single left hook in their much anticipated bantamweight collision. Donaire proved his power and speed was too much for Montiel, who couldn’t have imagined such a shocking ending. In second was Adrien Broner’s knockout of Jason Litzau that took place in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Upset of the Year  

When France’s Anne Sophie Mathis accepted the fight with New Mexico’s Holly Holm in Albuquerque, boxing observers expected another easy night for the hometown girl. Boy, were they wrong. Mathis battered Holm and stopped her in seven rounds. Few expected such a traumatic ending. Holm had not lost a fight in more than seven years. One added note to the referee Rocky Burke, who should have stopped the bout earlier: you almost got Holm seriously injured. In second was Australia’s Diana Prazak winning by technical knockout over Lindsay Garbatt in round nine for the world title. Not an easy feat.

Mexico’s Orlando Salido traveled to Puerto Rico to meet then world champion Juan Manuel Lopez in his native country. He thoroughly beat the Puerto Rican strongman and grabbed his title with both hands by knockout. Most experts thought it would be an easy victory for Lopez, instead it was Salido who won easily and thoroughly. In second was Mexico’s Jorge “El Travieso” Arce stopping junior bantamweight champion Wilfredo Vazquez of Puerto Rico in the final round to win the title in Las Vegas.

Round of the Year

Round nine of the Jackie Nava and Ana Maria Torres first fight showed that both women were unwilling to accept defeat. After nine rounds of intense fighting few expected the pair could push it any further but Torres and Nava increased the salvos with punishing results. Even in their rematch several months later that Torres won could they match the fury of the ninth round of their first encounter.

Round six between Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto was one of those three minute action-packed frames that you couldn’t imagine. It was like watching a Rocky movie as first Ortiz was floored midway through the round and looked like he was going to be stopped. Suddenly he erupted with a punch that sent Berto to the floor with moments to go in the round. The crowd went crazy.

Comeback Fighter of the Year  

A year ago Christy “The Coalminer’s Daughter” was shot and stabbed by her former husband. She not only survived the assault she was back in the ring seven months later fighting for the junior middleweight world title against Dakota Stone. Martin was winning the fight but suffered a broken right hand midway through the match. The referee stopped the fight against Martin’s pleas but she won over the fans for her gritty determination. It was quite a year for the 43-year-old Martin.

Mexico’s Jorge Arce, 32, moved up in weight class to challenge Puerto Rico’s young junior bantamweight world champion Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. Few expected much of a fight and everyone was surprised when Arce knocked out Vazquez in the last round to win the junior bantamweight title. Then he moved up a weight division and won the bantamweight world title too. It was quite a year for Arce who many thought was rapidly declining.

Trainer of the Year

Virgil Hunter did one heck of a job preparing Andre Ward for the super middleweight tournament that finally ended after more than two years. The Northern California boxing trainer always seemed on point when giving instructions. His strategies were sound and Ward evolved from a pure boxer into an all around force especially fighting inside.

Best Referees

Pat Russell, Big John McCarthy, Steve Smoger, Tony Weeks, Jack Reiss, Lou Moret, Kenny Bayless, and Dennis DeBon proved to be the best referees of the year. Most of them are familiar to boxing fans who recognize them as the most consistent and fair officials today. A referee is the single most powerful ring official and all of these men above never abused the privilege.  

Best Ringside Judges

Max DeLuca, Jerry Roth, Pat Russell Jack Reiss, Adelaide Byrd, Patricia Jarman, Lisa Giampa, Marty Denkin, Julie Lederman, Steve Morrow, Fritz Werner, James Jen Kin, Guido Cavalleri, Steve Weisfeld, Anek Hongtongkam, and Duane Ford. When you have a mega fight it’s extremely important that one of the above is ringside judging the fight. These judges mentioned proved all year-long that they’re the best of the best. Ask Amir Khan how important referees and judges are.

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Chris Arreola is Back!

Ted Sares



Chris Arreola

Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola is an emotional and very likable guy. Over the course of his career, there have been ups and downs providing the grist for a compelling story if one were inclined to write it. He’ll kiss a beaten opponent (Joey Abell) or cry if beaten (Vitali Klitschko) and his language during a post-fight interview is, well it’s special.

After his corner stopped the fight following the 10th round with Klitschko, and with tears streaming down his cheeks, he thanked the fans (as is his wont) and later, while being interviewed in the ring, said  “F–k that, I’m coming back.”

It was his first loss after 26 straight wins out of the professional gate. For that “terrible” indiscretion, he was punished by the selectively politically correct World Boxing Council. WBC president José Sulaimán proposed a six months ban for vulgar language and the ban was approved by the WBC Board of Governors.

Arreola, who rarely uses filters, was brutally candid again after his first round KO over Erik Molina in 2012. The Nightmare cut loose on Don King, Molina’s promoter, calling him a “f—ing a–hole and a racist,” causing Showtime’s Jim Gray to  terminate the post-fight interview forthwith. “Honestly Don King called me a wetback, and other Mexicans,” Arreola told “That’s a strong word. It’s like me dropping N bombs. You don’t say things like that.”

No ban this time.

Arreola’s weight varies but when he is fit and ready (and under 250), he is a very dangerous heavyweight, especially in the early rounds. Once he has his opponent hurt, there are few boxers who can close as well as this Southern California Mexican American tough guy who was an accomplished amateur fighter and knows his way around the ring.

His level of opposition has been stiff. In fact, his five losses have been to fighters who have held world titles at one time or another. Bermane Stiverne had Chris’s number and beat him twice—the second time by way of a nasty knockout. However, he has a number of solid wins over the likes of Malcom Tann, Chazz Witherspoon, Travis Walker, Jameel McCline, Brian Minto, Curtis Harper –yes, that Curtis Harper who gave Chris all he could handle — and many others who came in with fine records. His first round blowout of once promising Seth Mitchell was quintessential Arreola. Mitchell retired after the fight.

In July 2016, The Nightmare was stopped by Deontay Wilder in yet another title bid but he did not disgrace himself. He then took off for over two years to assess whether he wanted to continue. Boxing fans pretty much forgot about him. Few took notice when he came back to stop the very stoppable Maurenzo Smith on the Wilder-Fury undercard on Dec. 1 of last year.

Fast Forward

Last weekend, on the undercard of the huge Errol Spence Jr. vs. Mikey Garcia PPV fight in Dallas, “The Nightmare” was matched against unbeaten but unheralded Jean Pierre Augustin (17-0-1).

Chris, now 38, came in at a svelte 237 pounds and looked fit and ready to go. The weary look on Augustin’s face during the announcement said it all. True to form, Arreola was in blowout mode and stopped the Haitian who simply was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Arreola wobbled Augustin with a brutally hard jab that connected flush to his face in the third round. After more heavy shots, a bloodied Augustin went down and upon getting up, was battered until the referee halted matters. Chris closed things like he had done on so many other occasions and in front of millions of fans tuning in around the world.

With a female interviewer, the elated “Nightmare” was polite during the post-fight ceremonies and, holding his daughter, signaled that he is BACK! That’s good news for boxing fans because when Chris Arreola is fit and focused, he is entertaining and very competitive.

With a current record of 38-5-1 with 2 ND (the “no-contests” resulting from Chris‘s apparent affinity for non-medicinal marijuana), a fight with someone like Adam Kownacki would be a boxing fan’s dream.

Ted Sares is one of the world’s oldest active power lifters and Strongman competitors and plans to compete in at least three events in 2019. He is a lifetime member of Ring 10, and a member of Ring 4 and its Boxing Hall of Fame. He also is an Auxiliary Member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA).

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Nobody Wants to Fight Dillian Whyte

Kelsey McCarson



Dillian Whyte

Dillian Whyte is one of the most dangerous fighters in the world. The 30-year-old is a former British heavyweight titleholder, a former kickboxing prodigy and an undefeated mixed martial artist. Overall, Whyte’s professional fighting record is a sterling 46-2. He’s 25-1 as a boxer, 20-1 as a K1 kickboxer and 1-0 as an MMA fighter.

So while the battle rages on between various television networks and streaming platforms over securing the top talent in the heavyweight division, one that includes Tyson Fury signing a multi-fight deal with ESPN and Deontay Wilder reportedly mulling over his future with PBC, perhaps something just as important right now is that the single most dangerous and deserved heavyweight contender in the world remains without a dance partner for his next fight.

Never mind Whyte being the No. 1 ranked contender by the World Boxing Council. That sanctioning body instead deemed Dominic Breazeale the mandatory challenger to Wilder’s WBC title after the potential rematch between Wilder and Fury fell by the wayside.

Here’s all that needs to be said about that grift. Breazeale only had to defeat Eric Molina to get his mandatory title shot while the WBC wanted Whyte to face Cuban southpaw Luis Ortiz, one of the top heavyweights in the sport.

And nobody seems to care that Whyte gave unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua the toughest test of his career (this side of Wladimir Klitschko anyway), when the two squared off in 2015 for the British and Commonwealth titles. Despite the obvious talent gap between the two fighters, Whyte gave the young Joshua just about all the former Olympic champion could handle in a seven-round war.

To hear Whyte tell the story, promoter Eddie Hearn must have intentionally lowballed Whyte for the proposed 2019 rematch in order to ensure Joshua could invade America on June 1 against the likely less dangerous Jarrell Miller. That makes sense for Joshua from a monetary perspective, but it doesn’t do the same in terms of true competitiveness.

According to various reports, Whyte is currently considering a multi-fight deal to appear on ESPN, a move that would give the British battler a path to facing Fury who some consider the lineal heavyweight champion. Fury recently signed a multi-fight deal to be co-promoted by Bob Arum for appearances on the U.S.-based television network ESPN. It’s the move that shelved a potential Wilder rematch and also opened up a huge can of worms in regards to what kinds of fights Fury might actually be able to secure. Currently, the Top Rank-promoted stable of heavyweights is best characterized by fighters who don’t really move the needle in regards to title challenges, fighters like Oscar Rivas, Bryant Jennings and Kubrat Pulev.

Overall, though, the main problem about the heavyweight landscape is that there are three heavyweights who all have a claim to being heavyweight champion. IBF, WBA and WBO champion Joshua is promoted by Hearn and exclusive to DAZN. WBC champ Wilder is attached to the PBC whose television partnerships include Showtime and Fox. Fury is set to embark on his own ESPN crusade. Long story short, these guys probably aren’t fighting each other anytime soon.

Worse is that while all three men are in desperate need of viable opponents, none have seemed all that interested in tussling with Whyte.

It’s no wonder. As good as Whyte has been over the course of his 7-year professional boxing career, the scariest thing about the fighter is that he always seems to be getting better. In his last two fights, Whyte outfought talented former titleholder Joseph Parker and knocked out gritty UK heavyweight Dereck Chisora. In defeating Parker, Whyte was facing someone absolutely in need of a win to maintain his status among heavyweight contenders. In beating Chisora, Whyte was in tough against an opponent he had only defeated by split-decision two years prior. Both wins illustrate just how far Whyte has come as a professional prizefighter.

As it stands, Whyte is the clear top contender among all heavyweights, especially among those who have not yet been granted a shot at a world title. He’s ranked No. 4 behind Joshua, Fury and Wilder by The Ring magazine and the same by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.

The only question that remains is which title claimant will prove the toughest holdout. Whyte’s ultimate choice, in whether to stick with promoter Hearn on DAZN, link up with Arum and ESPN or continue playing the WBC shell game, will probably end up being tied to which path gets him the title shot that he so desperately craves first.

And it absolutely should happen. It’s one thing to crave title opportunities and another to have earned them. Whyte’s done both now, and it’s time for boxing fans and the media to take notice. Better yet, it’s time for Joshua, Fury and Wilder to pit themselves against their most dangerous competition. Since they’re not facing each other, Whyte become the next logical choice for any or all of them.

Because Dillian Whyte is one of the best heavyweight boxers in the world, and he’s done enough by now to warrant the chance to prove it.

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The Hauser Report: St. Patrick’s Day at Madison Square Garden

Thomas Hauser




Boxing’s three “major leagues” showed their respective wares this past weekend. On Friday night, DAZN presented a nine-bout card in conjunction with Matchroom USA. On Saturday, Fox and Premier Boxing champions teamed up for the Errol Spence vs. Mikey Garcia pay-per-view event. Then, on Sunday, ESPN and Top Rank had their turn in the form of a St. Patrick’s Day card at Madison Square Garden headed by Belfast native and former Olympian Michael Conlan.

The star of the show was St. Patrick, the fifth-century saint widely credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland. In his honor, there were three Irishmen on the card: Conlan, flyweight Paddy Barnes, and welterweight Lee Reeves. That said; there was a Hispanic flavor to the proceedings. The sixteen combatants included Eduardo Torres, Victor Rosas, Juan Tapia, Ricardo Maldonado, Adriano Ramirez, Oscar Mojica, Joseph Adorno, John Bauza, Luis Collazo, Ruben Garcia Hernandez, and two Vargases (Josue and Samuel).

Irish-Americans have a record of supporting Irish fighters, particularly on St. Patrick’s Day. This was no exception. The announced crowd of 3,712 arrived early. During the final pre-fight press conference, Top Rank president Todd duBoef had paid homage to the fans, although he did voice the view that, on St. Patrick’s Day, “Their cognitive behavior is manipulated by the beer.”

On fight night, the in-arena music was chosen accordingly. What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor? was played twice over the Hulu Theater sound system.

There was also green lighting.

Lee Reeves (2-0, 2 KOs) of Limerick, Ireland, opened the show with a four-round decision over Edward Torres.

In the third bout of the evening, Vladimir Nikitin (2-0, 0 KOs) won a majority decision over Juan Tapia. Nikitin defeated Conlan in the quarter-finals at the 2016 Olympics. Presumably, they’ll fight again at a time of maximum opportunity for Conlan.

Flyweight Paddy Barnes (5-1, 1 KO) of Belfast was a teammate of Conlan’s at the 2016 Olympics but lost in the first round to Spain’s Samuel Carmona. On St. Patrick’s Day, Barnes was matched against Oscar Mojica (11-5-1), who had one career knockout and had gone 3-5-1 in his previous nine outings.

Mojica broke Barnes’s nose in round one and knocked him down with a body shot in the second stanza (although to the mystification of those in the press section, referee Danny Schiavone waved off the knockdown). It was a spirited outing in which both men were too easy to hit for their own good. Barnes rallied nicely in the second half of the bout and arguably did enough to win the decision. But two of the three judges thought otherwise, leading to a 58-56, 58-56, 56-58 verdict in Mojica’s favor.

In the next-to-last fight of the evening, Luis Collazo (38-7, 20 KOs) took on Samuel Vargas (30-4-2, 14 KOs).

Collazo now 37 years old, reigned briefly as WBA welterweight champion twelve years ago. Since then, he had cobbled together twelve victories (an average of one per year) against six losses in eighteen fights. Vargas had one win in his previous three outings and has never been able to get the “W” against a name opponent.

It was a phone booth fight, which worked to Collazo’s advantage because Luis’s legs aren’t what they once were. The decision could have gone either way. Two judges scored the bout 96-94; one for Collazo and the other for Vargas. Frank Lombardi turned in a wide-of-the-mark 98-92 scorecard in Collazo’s favor.

Then it was time for the main event.

Conlan (10-0, 6 KOs) is best known to boxing fans for having given the finger (two middle fingers, actually) to the judges after coming out on the short end of a decision in the second round of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. His skill set is better suited to the amateur than professional ranks. But his Irish heritage is a significant marketing plus. And Top Rank specializes in both savvy matchmaking and building narratives.

This was the third consecutive year that Conlan, now a featherweight, celebrated St. Patrick’s Day weekend by fighting at Madison Square Garden. His ringwalk was marked by Irish-themed pageantry. And Ruben Garcia Hernandez, his opponent, was tailor-made for him.

Conlon controlled the fight with his jab. Nothing much else happened. “Mick” emerged victorious 100-90 on all three judges’ scorecards. And the fans went home happy because their man won.

*     *     *

The sad news that New York Mets pitching great Tom Seaver is suffering from dementia and will retire from public life is a reminder that all people from all walks of life are susceptible to the condition, not just fighters.

Seaver was on the list of A+ athletes who rose to prominence in the 1960s when advances in television were redefining the sports experience. Muhammad Ali was at the top of that list. Years ago, sportswriter Dick Schaap told me about an evening he spent with Ali and Seaver.

“In 1969, the year the Mets won their first World Series,”Schaap reminisced, “I spent the last few days of the regular season with the team in Chicago. Ali was living there at the time. I was writing a book with Tom Seaver, and the three of us went out to dinner together. We met at a restaurant called The Red Carpet. I made the introductions. And of course, this was the year that Tom Seaver was Mr. Baseball, maybe even Mr. America. Ali and Tom got along fine. They really hit it off together. And after about half an hour, Ali in all seriousness turned to Seaver and said, ‘You know, you’re a nice fellow. Which paper do you write for?’”

Thomas Hauser’s email address is His most recent book – Protect Yourself at All Times – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism.

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