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VIRGIL HUNTER Q n A, Pt 1: “Chad Dawson Is The Better Boxer”

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WardBikaPrePC TJ Hogan 3Hunter (right) likes that Dawson is full-on confident, because that will make a win that much sweeter. (Hogan Photos)

“You have to understand that Chad is a great boxer. If you are going by the book, Chad is probably the better boxer. We are more into performance as opposed to one thing that sticks out. If you look at Chad, the first thing that sticks out is that he is great boxer. We prefer to stand out as a person that executes. “

Before important fights like the one Andre Ward and Chad Dawson are about to have on September 8th in Oakland, CA for the Ward’s super middleweight championship, it is hard to tell the difference between pride and trash talk. No matter how much respect the combatants have for each other during the lead up, there are always insults thrown back in forth. And Andre Ward’s trainer Virgil Hunter knows about mental manipulation.

Hunter says Chad Dawson is a better boxer than his fighter Andre Ward but explains why boxing ability is not enough to win. Only a trainer like Hunter can follow compliment with criticism so gracefully. Hunter, the boxing master, uses doubt to infiltrate the mind of an opponent, forcing a foe to question their confidence. It is a beautiful sight watching Hunter work. And with us, as usual, the 2011 BWAA Trainer of the Year held no punches.

Read closely as Virgil Hunter twists the strategy of Chad Dawson into a cocoon of insignificance.

In part one of our two-part interview on Thursday night, Hunter compares Andre Ward to Barry Bonds, touches on the apparent catch-weight issue, and explains the beauty of Chad Dawson’s self-assurance.

RM: Hey Virgil, I notice Dawson’s team talking through the media about Andre. They mention catch weights and their willingness to make this fight by any means necessary. Does it feel like your opponents are always justifying themselves? Why do you think Dawson’s camp is expressing themselves through the media?

VH: You mean how they talk about the catch weight and all that kind of stuff?

RM: Yeah.

VH: Well, it’s the same old story. Everyone thinks they can beat Andre. But they don’t know what they are looking for. Most of the time the trainers and fighters look at what the other guy should have been doing. But they don’t really pay attention to what Andre’s doing. So they try to minimize the opponents we fight. For instance, Carl Froch constantly emphasized his level of competition and Chad is doing the same. Chad is saying that he’d beat the guys we fought. But he lost to a guy that Carl Froch beat (Jean Pascal.) And he had a lot of difficulty with Jean Pascal. If Pascal didn’t get tired, it would have been a convincing unanimous decision victory. You can say Dawson was winning that last round before the fight was stopped, but that was only one round. But I think we are on the right track when our opponents continuously minimize us.

RM: Last week Dawson’s trainer John Scully said that Andre doesn’t make many adjustments in the ring. He thinks Ward’s opponents adjust to him. Do you think Scully’s statement is accurate?

VH: No, it’s not accurate because adjustments to me work both ways. If I make another fighter fight my fight then I made adjustments. Making adjustments doesn’t mean I have to change what I am doing. The ability to make adjustments means I have the ability to make you change up what you are doing. So along those lines, I think he was kind of missing the epitome of the word adjustment.

RM: So, Andre makes adjustments to stay a step ahead?

VH: Well, we make adjustments for each opponent.

RM: So what are Andre’s advantages over his opponent?

VH: I think it’s his ability to process what his opponent wants to do. If you want to talk about advantages, Chad is a great boxer. He has fast hands, and throws good combinations. But his ability to process—which is crucial in the ring– is where he falls short. You know, Andre’s ability to process is really second to none. His overall punch stat numbers proves it. He has an excellent IQ in the ring. See, this is what people miss out on; they tend to look more at the physical part of the fight as opposed to the mental. Andre is just able to process better.

RM: So, Andre’s ability to process will be the difference in the fight?

VH: It’s going to be one of the advantages he has in the fight.

RM: I see.

VH: They did a study on Barry Bonds a while back and concluded that he picks up a pitch maybe two tenths of a second quicker than the average hitter. That means Bonds recognized a pitch 10 or 20 feet faster than everyone else. Andre has that ability in the ring. He has the ability to process and pick up what he needs to do and react to it. That makes him look beatable because it makes it look like the other guy is not doing what he is supposed to do.

RM: I see what you are saying. Do you think that Andre’s instincts in the ring are God given?

VH: First and foremost, it’s got to come from the crib. If you look at any exceptional athlete it comes at a young age. But you still have to work at it. I think it gives him a great advantage.

RM: So, do you think that Chad respects Andre’s boxing ability?

VH: I don’t think he respects his boxing ability much at all. He is saying all the things he is supposed to say. You have to understand that Chad is a great boxer. If you are going by the book, Chad is probably the better boxer. We are more into performance as opposed to one thing that sticks out. If you look at Chad, the first thing that sticks out is that he is great boxer. We prefer to stand out as a person that executes.

RM: I hear you.

VH: I don’t think Andre has one style. You can’t pinpoint boxer on him. You can’t input brawler on him. You can’t put a style on him. He is like a chameleon. He will fight to adjust and pull the right tool out from the toolbox at the right time.

RM: How close are you to being ready for this fight?

VH: We are completely ready now. If the fight took place last week we’d have been ready to go.

RM: On 24/7 you were talking about having an imperfect training camp.

VH: Well, let me clarify that. You hear a lot of people say they had a perfect training camp, the sparring went perfect, and everything was perfect. I can’t say that because each day presents it’s own challenge. What we have to overcome on that particular day we’ll overcome.

RM: OK. Chad Dawson also said he has every advantage in this fight… That’s obviously not true in your opinion, correct?

VH: Well, a lot of the advantages that he thinks he has are really disadvantages. But I don’t blame him for feeling confident going into this fight because he should feel that way. We don’t feel that way. We don’t feel like we have every advantage. The road we are going to take will be the necessary road to victory. Any advantages that he thinks he has will come into play immediately. Whether they exist or don’t exist.

RM: Sounds like he has a lot of confidence.

VH: Well, it’s just something he says and feels; you can’t knock him for it. It’s a beautiful thing that he is built that way.

RM: Why?

VH: Because it feels good to come out victorious against a guy that is 100% confident, 100% sure that he is the better fighter. It puts a little cherry on top of a victory. And there is also the satisfaction of when he finds out during the fight that what he thought was an advantage– is really a disadvantage. The bottom line is that Dawson says we’ve never seen a fighter like him. But you got to put the shoe on the other foot. He has never come across a fighter that can do the things Andre does. And when it comes to physically strength, I don’t care who he works with, you know, he is not stronger than Andre Ward in a boxing ring. He might be stronger throwing a medicine ball around, or pushing a cable cord, or crunches. But in a boxing ring, he is going to find out real quick that he is not stronger than Andre.

RM: Well, that’s what he does right? Chad likes to push people around with the jab and back them up.

VH: I understand. Yeah… well… He is not going to do that.

You can follow Ray on Twitter @raymarkarian

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Erick Ituarte Wins Featherweight Battle in Ontario, Calif.

David A. Avila

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ONTARIO, CALIF.-Looking to make waves as a featherweight, Santa Ana’s Erick Ituarte battled Tijuana’s Jose Estrella evenly before pulling away in the last third of the fight to win by decision on Friday.

Ituarte (21-1-1, 3 KOs) lacks the big punch but has the long arms that enabled him to keep distance and out-point the shorter Estrella (20-16-1, 14 KOs) in their 10-round bout at the Doubletree Hotel. Thompson Boxing Promotions staged the fight card that saw about 500 fans at the event.

Estrella used his guts and guile to keep the fight close in the first four rounds of the fight. Back and forth they went trading momentum, Ituarte was effective attacking the body and Estrella was good at connecting with big blows to the head.

It wasn’t until the seventh round that Ituarte began utilizing his reach and mobility to make Estrella chase and run into pot shots. From that moment on Ituarte was in control of the fight. No knockdowns were scored with one judge scoring it 98-92 and two others 100-89 for Ituarte. Each round was very competitive.

Other bouts

Corona’s Luis Lopez (5-0, 3 KOs) powered his way to victory by unanimous decision over Mexico’s Daniel Perales (10-17-2, 5 KOs) after four rounds in a welterweight match. Though Lopez won every round with sharper punches he was never able to hurt the super tough Mexican fighter from Monterrey. He recognized that early and used crisp combinations to win each round though Perales had his moments too. All three judges scored it 40-36 for Lopez.

A heavyweight fight saw local fighter Oscar Torres (5-0, 2 KOs) run his record to five wins with a fourth round stoppage over Houston’s Thomas Hawkins (4-4) after a barrage of punches. The fight was stopped twice in the fourth round and a final barrage of blows prompted referee Tony Crebs to halt the fight at 1:20 of the round. Torres fights out of Rialto, California and is trained by Henry Ramirez.

Lightweights Davonte McCowen (0-0-1) and Chris Crowley (0-0-1) fought to a majority draw after four torrid rounds. Both were making their pro debuts. McCowen started faster and slowed in the last two rounds that allowed Britain’s Crowley to mount a rally in the last two rounds. It was a spirited fight between the two newcomers.

Photo credit: Alonzo Coston

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Introducing Australia’s Bilal Akkawy who steps in for David Lemieux on May 4

Arne K. Lang

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Akkawy

“Big Announcement Coming – Stay Tuned” wrote Bilal Akkawy late yesterday (April 18) on his twitter page. And then the Nevada Athletic Commission went and stole his thunder.

Later that day, the commission released its agenda for its forthcoming meeting on April 24. Among the items on the docket will be the selection of officials for Akkawy’s fight with England’s John Ryder. The 12-round contest for a “Vacant WBA Interim Super Middleweight Title” is penciled in as the chief undercard bout on the big May 4 show at the T-Mobile Arena topped by the match between Canelo Alvarez and Daniel Jacobs.

John Ryder’s original opponent, David Lemieux, was forced to pull out when he suffered a hand injury in training.

Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, the undefeated Akkawy (20-0-1, 16 KOs) has been Canelo Alvarez’s chief sparring partner. Canelo’s trainer, Eddy Reynoso, hired Akkawy based on a video that Akkary sent him as he was preparing to set up Canelo’s camp for the 2018 Cinco de Mayo rematch with Gennady Golovkin.

Two days before Canelo-Golovkin II, which was pushed back until September, Akkawy made his U.S. debut at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, scoring an 8-round decision over Christian Olivas. He appeared on the Canelo-Fielding card this past December in New York, scoring a 7th round stoppage over Victor Fonseca, and has had one fight since then, a stay-busy fight buried on a small show in Tamazula, Mexico, in which he didn’t stay very busy, dismissing his hopelessly overmatched opponent in the opening round.

Akkawy comes from a fighting family. His father Mahmoud “Mick” Akkawy and two of Mick’s brothers were good amateurs. Mick Akkawy was 2-0 as a pro when his career was cut short by a serious car accident. Mick and his brother Ahmad “Al” Akkawy now run a boxing club.

The elder Akkawy, whose roots are in Tripoli, was tutored by Johnny Lewis. To this day, Lewis, now 75 years old, insists that Mick Akkawy was the hardest puncher that he ever coached. Bilal Akkawy, says Lewis, inherited his old man’s genes. Lewis rates Bilal the hardest puncher, pound-for-pound, in Australia today.

That’s high praise. Inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2017, Johnny Lewis has worked with six world title-holders, most notably Jeff Fenech and Kostya Tsyzu.

Bilal Akkawy’s power was on display on Oct. 30, 2016 when he stopped fellow Aussie Kerry Hope in the seventh round. Akkawy shattered Hope’s jaw – two operations were necessary – and dislodged four of his teeth. His best win since then was a wide 10-round decision over Italian veteran Giovanni De Carolis who had briefly held the WBA world super middleweight title.

Not all of Akkawy’s performances were glowing, however. The draw on his ledger is an ugly smudge, notwithstanding the fact that it came in a 4-round bout. His opponent was Joe Rea, a British slug who is currently 11-37-5 after losing 24 of his last 25 fights. Moreover, although he won every round in his U.S. debut vs. Christian Olivas, we were unimpressed. Akkawy had Olivas down in the second frame but was unable to apply the finisher.

Although Akkawy is a second-generation prizefighter, his father discouraged him from pursuing a career in the ring and he entered the pro ranks without the benefit of a single amateur bout. By contrast, John Ryder had 35 amateur fights before turning pro in September of 2010.

Ryder (27-5-1, 15 KOs) is no slouch. A southpaw, the Londoner has won three straight inside the distance since losing a split decision to Rocky Fielding. At age 30, he’s five years older than Akkawy and has far more experience, answering the bell as a pro for 187 rounds compared to only 84 for the Aussie.

Akkawy vs. Ryder won’t get the juices flowing in the United States where both are obscure. However, it’s an intriguing match. It will be interesting to see how the bookmakers price it.

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The Avila Perspective, Chap. 43: Welterweight Wars Coast to Coast and More

David A. Avila

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Granados

In a twisted development a couple of East Coast guys are headed to Los Angeles to battle while another pair of West Coast guys are headed to New York City.

Makes sense I guess.

Former two-division world champion Danny “Swift” Garcia of Philadelphia faces Adrian Granados of Chicago at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California on Saturday April 20. The PBC card will be televised by FOX.

Dignity Health is the new name attached to the complex formerly known as the StubHub Center and before that it was the Home Depot Center. Ironically, Dignity Health owns most of the cemeteries in Southern California.

Is that an omen?

Garcia (34-2, 20 KOs) is a counter-punching Puerto Rican who needs someone to fight that’s always on attack mode in order for him to shine. When he’s matched with another counter-puncher the crowd goes to sleep.

That’s where Chicago Mexican Granados (20-6-2, 14 KOs) fits in.

Granados (pictured) has never fought in a snoozer in his life. He probably kicked his way out when he was born. In fights against slow developers like Adrien Broner and Felix Diaz he made them fight for their lives. If this were ancient Roman times he would be fighting in the main event armed with a tooth pick against a lion. Blindfolded.

But he’s weary of being labeled as merely an entertaining fighter.

“I’m tired of it,” Granados, 29, said. “I want the title or I’m out of here.”

World titles are something Garcia knows about. He’s held the WBC and WBA super lightweight titles and the WBC welterweight title. In unification clash with Shawn Porter last September he lost by a razor close decision. He feels naked without a strap around his waist.

“I’m going to make a statement,” said Garcia about his pending battle with Granados. “I definitely want a rematch with Shawn Porter or Keith Thurman.”

Granados eyes Garcia with slight envy whenever they’re in the same room.

“I’m trying to cash in baby,” said Granados. “I just got to go in there and do my thing.”

Another interesting bout on the PBC card includes undefeated Brandon Figueroa (18-0, 13 KOs) a southpaw super bantamweight fighting Venezuela’s Yonfrez Parejo (22-3-1) for the interim WBA title. The actual titleholder is Los Angeles fighter Danny Roman who fights next week at the Inglewood Forum.

Other fighters of interest are Andy Ruiz, Alfredo Angulo, Omar Juarez and Carlos Balderas. It’s an extremely long card and begins at 3 p.m.

Friday is Thompson Boxing

Headlining a boxing card at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario, California is featherweight Erick Ituarte (20-1-1) versus Jose Estrella (20-15-1) in a 10-round main event. Ituarte is the stablemate of WBA champion Danny Roman. Estrella hails from Tijuana and has fought some tough customers like Miguel Marriaga and Christopher Diaz.

The Thompson Boxing Promotions event also features a solid looking welterweight Richard Brewart (4-0) against Vincent Morales (2-2-2) in a four round bout. Another interesting fight showcases Uzbekistan’s Murodjon Akhmadaliev (5-0) a southpaw slugger trained by Joel and Antonio Diaz in Indio. The lefty faces former world title contender Carlos Carlson (23-5) in a super bantamweight clash.

Thompson Boxing always delivers solid boxing cards and you never know which new boxing jewel will be discovered by them. They have a 20 year history of finding outstanding talent. You can also watch it streamed on Thompson Boxing’s page on Facebook.com.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. For more information call (714) 935-0900.

New York Card

If you plan on staying home on Saturday night a solid fight card at Madison Square Garden features a welterweight world title fight between WBO titlist Terence Crawford and former two-division champion Amir Khan. It will be shown on ESPN pay-per-view at $59.95.

It’s a loaded card with Top Rank unfurling its best. Of course the best is Crawford who in my opinion is the top fighter pound for pound. And I was a late convert.

Nebraska’s Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs) is based in the Midwest and heads east to fight England’s Khan (33-4, 20 KOs) who trains in California. They’re fighting for the WBO title and it should be a very good fight.

Khan has always been a favorite of mine. He’s blessed with speed and agility and also has a lot of guts. Not just because he fought Saul “Canelo” Alvarez at middleweight, but because he’s a true prizefighter looking for the biggest fights in the world. He’s been criticized by his own countrymen for not fighting some of his fellow Brits, but Khan looks at everything globally, not nationally. He especially wants fights that Americans want to see. They want to see this fight.

“I wanted this fight because I wanted to fight the best. Terence Crawford presented the greatest challenge to me at this point in my career. Listen, the Kell Brook fight was there, but fighting Terence gives me the opportunity to show I am a pound-for-pound fighter,” said Khan.

Of course thousands of Brits will be flying across the Atlantic Ocean for a glimpse of this showdown. First because it’s New York, second because it’s boxing and Brits love boxing. Gotta love them Brits.

Crawford, like Khan, is blessed with speed and agility too. And he also has several ways to attack. He’s not a one-dimensional fighter. He’s like a jazz musician; he can take it wherever it needs to go. Whether its hip hop or improvisational he can easily slip into another tempo. That’s his magic.

“Amir Khan is undefeated as a welterweight and can’t be underestimated. He has great hand speed, movement, and some power as well,” said Crawford. “I want to showcase all of my talents in this fight.”

Keep your eyes open in this fight.

Other bouts on this high quality fight card:

Top Rank has a couple of their prospects jumping up to face contenders. First you have Shakur Stevenson (10-0) meeting former world title challenger Christopher Diaz (24-1) of Puerto Rico in a 10-round featherweight clash. If it were any other prospect I might say the kid is moving too fast. But Shakur has eye-popping talent.

Another prospect going against a contender is Brooklyn’s Teofimo Lopez (12-0) meeting Finland’s Edis Tatli (31-2, 10 KOs) in a lightweight match. Lopez, 21, already has fought in three 10-round fights and has the NABF and USBA lightweight belts. Tatli has the EBU lightweight belt. Whose belt means more in this fight?

Puerto Rico’s highly touted Felix Verdejo (24-1,16 KOs) lost a year ago to Mexico’s Ines Lozada Torres by knockout. Then he returned to win by knockout last November. Now he’s back against a tough customer in Bryan Vasquez. It’s not an easy fight for either fighter.

Verdejo was Top Rank’s golden child a couple of years ago and ran into some personal problems before running into Lozada’s fists. Now he has Vasquez, a slick fighting Costa Rican who arguably could have won a world title had he been given the decision after fighting Raymundo Beltran two years ago. Beltran won by majority decision that night in August 2017, then proceeded to win the WBO lightweight title against Paulus Moses. That could have been Vasquez’s title.

It’s a strong boxing card.

Lights Out

Next Thursday on April 25, former middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight, cruiserweight and heavyweight world champion James “Lights Out” Toney will be the honored guest at the Golden Boy Promotions boxing card at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, Calif.

Toney spent the last 25 years in Southern California where he first trained at the Wild Card Boxing gym in Hollywood. Over the years he became one of the most popular prizefighters by fans who loved his aggressive style and off-the-charts boxing skills. The Michigan native had more than 90 fights as a professional against some of the best to ever put on gloves.

Many boxing writers, including myself, consider Toney one of the best, if not the best prizefighter in the last 60 years. He’s beaten some of the best in the business and performed at a high level for decades in classic fights. Among the gems were his knockout wins against Michael Nunn, Tim Littles, Vassiliy Jirov, and Evander Holyfield.

Toney, 50, will be available to sign autographs and take photos with fans. Be sure to be there and meet the great multi-division champion.

One of the featured fights is Oscar Negrete (18-1-1) in a rematch against Joshua Franco (14-1-1) who fought to a draw last October. It was one of the best fights of the year. The NABF bantamweight title is the prize.

For tickets or information call (800) 827-2946.

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