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Five Years Later – Ring Magazine All-Star Report Card Revisited (Part One)

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photoSorting through one of my old dresser drawers, I found an old Ring Magazine from 2007. Before tossing it in the trash (I try not to be a packrat), I noticed it happened to be the issue from exactly five years about this month, September 2007.

Moreover, I noticed it included the 2007 All Star Report Card, an article intended to grade the very elite of the sport and forecast where their careers might be headed. I thought it’d be interesting to have a look at who those folks were then versus whom they turned out to be. The report card for 2007 was written by Gavin Evans.

He notes the list was “compiled according to talent, achievement, marketability, support system and growth potential” of the boxers. A total of twenty fighters made the list. Notable absences are two historically excellent fighters who were ranked in the magazine’s top ten pound-for-pound list at the time, Marco Antonio Barrera and Winky Wright.

Part one of this TSS special will focus on the first ten fighters listed in piece, starting at the top with the heavyweights and moving on down. Interestingly enough, there were three heavyweights listed in the report (and only one of them was a Klitschko).

Despite being dropped a total of eleven times in his three losses, Wladimir Klitschko is noted as rating “several levels above his rival titleholders.” Evans goes on to note a likely bright future for the then 31-year-old IBF titleholder, calling him a “clean liver” who should “press hard for a unification bout” so that he can consolidate his status as the best heavyweight in the world. Of course, Klitschko did just that and still holds all major title belts in the division, save the WBC belt his elder brother, Vitali, wears around his waist. Overall, the younger Klitschko has established himself as one of the most dominant heavyweight champions of all-time. He’s won sixteen bouts in a row since his 2004 loss to Lamon Brewster, which he avenged, and he has defended some version of the heavyweight crown in his last twelve of them.

Former heavyweight titleholder Sam Peter was apparently at his peak in 2007. Not only is he actually listed in article as an elite, but he’s praised as a “fitter and faster” fighter who had become a “far more rounded boxer” in his rematch win against James Toney. Evans notes Peters brief amateur career being offset by his tremendous power, and that “there could be a good deal more to come, provided he doesn’t revert to the lackadaisical training approach of his past.” The highlight of Peter’s career came soon after the article was published when he defeated Oleg Maskaev in 2008 to win the WBC heavyweight title. Later that year, Vitali Klitschko came back from a four year hiatus to dominate Peter for the belt in just eight rounds. He was never the same fighter after, whether it was from a lackadaisical training regimen or overall talent issue.

Ruslan Chagaev made the cut as well. Evans notes Chagaev as a “hard-hitting, well-schooled box-fighter of considerable potential”. The WBA titleholder at the time, Chagaev was undefeated, his one blemish being a disputed technical draw early in his career to Rob Calloway. Chagaev was struggling to make a name for himself with U.S. fight fans in 2007 and never really seemed to do be successful with it after either. He remained an unknown quantity stateside as his career progressed, but he did secure a heavyweight title unification bout with Wladimir Klitschko in 2009 to re-establish the perhaps-then-more-important Ring Magazine heavyweight champion, which hadn’t been crowned since big brother Vitali had momentarily paused his career in 2004. The bout was streamed online via ESPN during the day and probably should have been a bigger draw than it turned out to be, but Chagaev proved no match for Klitschko anyway. He was knocked out in round number nine in a largely one-sided affair. To his credit, Chagaev is still active and successful, his only other loss coming against undefeated slugger Alexander Povetkin via decision. He is perhaps most notable for his nickname, “The White Tyson” as well as his burly chest hair, a rarity in the sport these modern days.

Light heavyweight Bernard Hopkins was an old fighter then, too. Hopkins was 42 at the time, and readers were warned to not be surprised “if he presses on.” He has, of course, done just that, likely far longer than anyone at Ring Magazine foresaw at the time. In 2007, Hopkins had just moved up to light heavyweight to defeat Antonio Tarver in what was then his most shocking victory to date. Fans were looking forward to his pending showdown with fellow pound-for-pound elite Winky Wright, who Hopkins would go on to defeat later in the year. Evans notes “The Executioner was once a rugged, dirty brawler, but gradually transformed himself into a safety-first, dirty, boxer who paces himself carefully and boxes defensively.” Hopkins used that style, along with his “phenomenal conditioning” to solidify his status as one of the best fighters of the era. He upset Kelly Pavlik, bested rival Roy Jones, Jr. in a long awaited rematch, and in 2011, at age 46, scored an impressive victory over Jean Pascal to earn the distinction of being the oldest boxer to ever win a world title. Amazingly enough, Hopkins is still active and looking for another big fight after his most recent setback, a decision loss to light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson.

People were wondering what to do with super middleweight champ Joe Calzaghe in 2007. The Welshman was “unbeaten but untested at the truly elite level”. Sure, he had thrashed up-and-comer Jeff Lacy, but fight fans and boxing media wanted to see him tangle with the very best. Calzaghe would only fight three more times in his career, but they were just the fights he needed to cap his undefeated career as a true elite. Calzaghe used his cache of “blistering speed, dazzling combination punching, along with superior timing” to best fellow notables Mikkel Kessler, Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones, Jr. Calzaghe retired in 2008 without a blemish on his pristine record and a legitimate claim to being one of the best 168lbers ever.

Fellow European Mikkel Kessler was considered by some at the time to be “the number one boxer in continental Europe” in 2007. In fact, many thought Kessler was on his way to superstardom. After all, he was “strong, hard-hitting with both hands” and possessed “an extremely solid jab.” Kessler was given credit for taking the toughest challenges he could find. He defeated Anthony Mundine, Librado Andrade and Julio Cesar Green, and he was a huge draw in both his home country of Denmark as well as Germany. Evans called for Kessler to “secure a fight with Calzaghe then win it” to unleash his full potential as a boxing mega-draw. Kessler did half that, securing the fight that very same year but losing a unanimous decision. Still, Kessler has only lost to the very best fighters he’s faced thus far (Calzaghe and Andre Ward), and he is still an active and important fighter in the sport. In his last fight, Kessler moved up to light heavyweight (where some believe his future lies) to dominate Allan Green in just four rounds.

The middleweight champion of the world at the time, Jermain Taylor, was identified as “one of those rare fighters whose reputation actually seemed to diminish after winning the world title”. He had defended the title he won by close decision over Bernard Hopkins four times up to that point, but was noted for really needing “an exciting win over Kelly Pavlik to make the leap” to superstardom. He did engage in an exciting bout with Pavlik, but lost by TKO 7 and again by decision in the rematch. Since then, he’s lost to just about every notable fighter he’s faced, including knockout losses to Arthur Abraham and Carl Froch, the exception being a decision win against Jeff Lacy, who’s never quite regained form as a legit threat since his own fall from grace at the hands of Calzaghe. Taylor has suffered severe concussions over the past couple years, but still seems intent on making a career out of it, much to the chagrin of many in the sport.

Perhaps no fighter was on the rise more at the time than middleweight Kelly Pavlik. He was “suddenly” one of the best and brightest stars in boxing. His workmanlike approach and heavy hands made him an almost overnight star in the sport, and he needed only a signature title win to solidify it. Evans notes Pavlik was “reasonably elusive when he wants and has sound boxing skills.” Fight fans were ready to see a fight against champion Jermain Taylor, and they’d get their wish soon. Pavlik won the middleweight crown against Taylor in 2007, defended it in a rematch in 2008 then took a showcase win against Gary Lockett to prepare for his superfight versus Bernard Hopkins. He was the prohibitive favorite in the catchweight bout, but he was soundly outclassed by Hopkins. He went on to defend his middleweight crown twice before falling to Sergio Martinez in 2010 by hard-fought decision. Pavlik has struggled with alcohol addiction since and ended up checking himself into the Betty Ford clinic, not once, but twice. He fired long-time trainer Jack Loew and was in and out of the news for his erratic behavior. He’s rebounded nicely since he reportedly sobered up and now campaigns at 168lbs.

Oscar De La Hoya was a fighter, not a promoter, in 2007. “The Golden Boy” had just come off a shockingly close split decision loss to Floyd Mayweather, Jr. in what was a fabulous effort in hindsight. Even at age 35, Evans notes De La Hoya possessed “one of the best jabs and left hooks in the business” and that Oscar was a figure who “transcends boxing.” De La Hoya had a bounce back win over Steve Forbes before he was brutalized by Manny Pacquiao over eight rounds a year later in what turned out to be his final fight. He was quite the popular fighter while he was active, and he’s done a good job of parlaying his financial success into one of the top promotional units in the sport today. Unfortunately, his beef with one-time promoter Bob Arum has left fight fans yearning for fights that never seem to materialize, the chief among them being Mayweather vs. Pacquiao. Still, Oscar has left an indelible mark on the sport, and he continues to do so. No impact is perhaps more interestingly applicable to this TSS special, though, than his purchase and subsequent housecleaning of the beloved Ring Magazine, an issue that divides fight fans and boxing media members to this day.

Finally, welterweight Floyd Mayweather, Jr. is listed as the “world’s number one pound-for-pound” boxer in 2007, a distinction he is still afforded by many. Evans notes Mayweather’s “multi-layered defensive skills, impeccable timing, the ability to fight as well on the inside, at middle range and long range, plus wonderfully accurate counterpunching skills.” Mayweather’s popularity skyrocketed after his 2007 defeat of De La Hoya, and he has remained undefeated ever since, over an impressive group of competitors which includes elite fighters Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley and Miguel Cotto. For some, Mayweather’s legacy remains incomplete unless he faces fellow all-time great Manny Pacquiao before he retires. Both fighters seem reluctant to take the risk, though, and the cold war between Golden Boy and Top Rank isn’t doing anything to help matters. Nonetheless, Mayweather will go down in history as one of the most impressive fighters of his era. Next week, we’ll have a look at the other ten fighters who made the list, including Shane Mosley, Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manual Marquez.

You can email Kelsey McCarson at theboxingstop@yahoo.com, or follow him on twitter @TheRealKelseyMc.

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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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