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Berto/Soto Karass Ringsider Notebook

Kelsey McCarson

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DSC 0627Jesus Soto Karass was as happy as any fighter I’d ever seen at the post fight press conference last Saturday night after he defeated former titlist Andre Berto. He told those in attendance he was ready for whatever fight Golden Boy Promotions had for him next, and we should probably believe him. Why? Because the hard puncher from Los Mochis, Mexico has now won two bouts in a row against men he was a clear underdog against. First, he outpointed Selcuck Aydin in January. Next, he put a sheer beat- down on a talented fighter in Andre Berto who absolutely had to win in order to stay in the title hunt.

The scores were way closer than they should have been, but Soto Karass (pictured above, in photo courtesy of Rachel McCarson) didn’t leave it up to the three blind mice at ringside so it did not matter. (At the time of the stoppage, Cathy Leonard had it 105-103 for Berto, Hubert Minn scored it at 104-104, and Michael Mitchell had Soto Karass just two points ahead at 105-103.) In the final round, after his corner told him to box from the outside and play it safe, the angry warrior told them to take a hike. He went right after Berto because he felt he had been hit with a low blow that put him to the canvas in the previous round.

Soto Karass clocked Berto with a left hook straight to the mug, and though the brave hitter got to his feet, his starry eyes and wobbly legs told the truth of the matter to referee Jon Schorle: he was out on his feet. The fight was stopped.

Soto Karass grabbed the career defining win by TKO in the final round in impressive fashion. In fact, to these eyes it deserved the ten thousand dollar knockout bonus of night Golden Boy instead gave to Keith Thurman, but Karass didn’t seem to mind too much. He laughed it off at the podium when Golden Boy V.P. Eric Gomez told him he didn’t win it, likely knowing he had much bigger things in store for him after his tremendously exciting win over Berto.

And he absolutely deserves it.

The Demise of Andre Berto?

Former welterweight titleholder Andre Berto came into the fight Saturday looking to get back on track after a tough loss to Robert Guerrero in his previous bout. After all, Soto Karass was generally thought of as tough but otherwise unremarkable and ultimately beatable contender.

But Soto Karass was brilliant against Berto, who simply was beat down by a more aggressively-minded offensive fighter who just plain decided he’d take the fight right to the wannabe slickster.

Andre Berto is as tremendous athlete. He’s gritty, tough and fights with real determination. His performance, which essentially boiled down to him fighting with the full use of just one of his arms for over half the night, was admirable. The man has courage.

But his approach to the sweet science is just plain wrong. Berto wants to be a slick counterpuncher. He wants to use his athletic prowess to be hard to hit. The only problem, of course, is that Andre Berto is not hard to hit at all. In fact, his face seems a virtual magnet for almost any fist that comes near it. Ask Victor Ortiz. Ask Robert Guerrero. Ask Jesus Soto Karass.

Berto is at his best when he’s aggressive. When he lays back and tries to play defense, he ends up getting pummeled to the point of needing to respond. It’s true; he always does respond to his pummeling, and that’s good. To that end, he’s virtually incapable of being in a bad fight it seems. But by that time he’s taken far too many punches without inflicting any real damage of his own. That just won’t work in the long haul.

If Andre Berto wants to compete for an alphabet title again, he needs to accept what he is: a hard punching, athletic offensive fighter with grit and determination. His career might be shorter fighting this way, but its apex will be much higher and his earnings, too.

Let Them Fight!

Fight fans were treated to a brutally devout display of boxing by lightweights Omar Figueroa and Nihito Arakawa on Saturday night. It was the sweetest form of savagery the sport of boxing has to offer. Neither man relented, no matter how many punches were thrown and landed.

And there were many, many punches.

After the torrid, bloody affair had ended, one giddy ringsider from Showtime (who shall not be named) peered back to us on press row with an eerie sort of bloodlust in his eyes.

“They threw over 2100 punches combined,” he half-yelled at us.

Like our nameless ringsider, the rest of us in attendance that night were honored to be ringside to see such a display of courage and determination. Honored.

The undefeated Figueroa looked to be on his way to a quick win early. He punished Arakawa with hard hooks and uppercuts right down to the canvas in the second round. The Japanese fighter was clearly overmatched.

Or was he?

Soon, it was Arakawa standing toe-to-toe with Figueroa again right in the center of the ring. And that’s where he stayed. They were whirling dervishes trapped inside of a phone booth, except that they were bloody and mean to each other. It was a fight for the ages.

Figueroa landed the harder shots at a much higher percentage on the night. He was clearly winning the fight as it progressed. But Arakawa is as tough as they come, maybe even tougher. He would not relent, would not give in. There were times when even Figueroa seemed impressed with how gritty his opponent was.

“The first round was busy as hell,” Michael Woods aptly penned here for TSS.

And so was the second. And the third, the fourth, the fifth…the entire fight was busy as hell.

It was truly an amazing spectacle to witness firsthand. When the bell finally rang to end the madness in the twelfth, the entire row of press I was seated with stood up an applauded. As you know, it is uncouth for press members to do such a thing, especially if it is for one fighter or another. But this was not that. This was applause for two gallant warriors doing what they are supposed to do: fight brilliantly and without fear.

To that end, there are always those among us who seem to have a background in medicine or something. Or maybe they’re just experts at all things boxing? I don’t know, but I do know they come out of the woodworks on social media when men fight each other in this way. And they always beg for the fight to be stopped. They are sometimes right, these people. I’ll give them that.

But they were wrong on this night.

Look, I am all for protecting the fighters from themselves. That’s a very important part of boxing that should never, ever be overlooked. But here was a case of two men giving there all in a very competitive fight. Sure, Arakawa wasn’t winning on the scorecards, but he hurt Figueroa multiple times in the fight right up until the very end of the bout. This was no snuff film. The men were matched well together, and both had their chances to win.

The point of all this? Let them fight. It’s what they want to do, so let them. That’s what oft-maligned referee Laurence Cole did on Saturday night and it was the right call. At no time was Arakawa stumbling around the ring after the bell not knowing where to go. Was he bruised? Yes. Bloodied? Yes. Was his life in any more danger than any other prizefighter on fight night? No.

But if you believe you have the authority to tell the fighter, his corner, the referee and the ringside doctor to stop the fight because you just can’t stand seeing the guts and the gore, then maybe boxing just isn’t for you.

Because boxing is about hurting people.

Rise of the Thurman-ator

Perhaps lost in the shuffle Saturday night in San Antonio was the standout performance by undefeated welterweight prospect Keith Thurman. He was cool, calm and confident in his battle with the previously undefeated Diego Chaves.

Better yet, he displayed poise, power and the ability to adjust to what was in front of him on fight night, something all fighters must do if they are to become world champions. Through the first three rounds of the fracas, Chaves was taking it to Thurman with an aggressive approach that featured powerful combinations.

The Argentine had never lost before and it showed, and it was easy to see why he had knocked out 18 of his 22 opponents. But Thurman started looking to counter Chaves as he came inside, and he kept a jab in the Argentinean’s face while he figured out how to do it best. Soon, it was Thurman landing the meaningful blows. Soon, it was Thurman throwing powerful combinations.

He put Chaves down in the ninth round and cold cocked him in the tenth after he bent the brave challenger over with a devastating body blow. It was brutally effective, and it made a believer out of anyone on press row who had previously doubted Thurman as a serious contender.

The kid can fight.

Anthony Dirrell Wins Again

Undefeated light heavyweight Anthony Dirrell was back in action for the second time this year Saturday night. It was the fighter’s second bout since breaking his leg in a 2012 motorcycle accident. The 28-year-old prospect and younger brother of former Olympian Andre Dirrell has been resilient in his short but beleaguered career.

In early 2007, Dirrell was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and forced to undergo chemotherapy. Dirrell was out of the ring for almost two years then, but returned in October of 2008 before being sidelined again by the accident.

Dirrell made quick work of former prospect Anthony Hanshaw, whose soft body couldn’t have been helpful against the hard punching Dirrell. After Dirrell delivered the knockout blow in the third, he literally did a standing back flip in the center of the ring in celebration.

So it seems the leg is fine.

Speaking of the untelevised portion of the evening, those bouts began at 4:30 PM local time. The timing was a bit askew, though, and there was more than an hour lull between the untelevised undercard and the start of the Showtime broadcast. Of course, fans and media members who were miffed by the hour of nothingness quickly forgave the promoters when one of the finest fight cards of the year took place right before their very eyes.

How good was it? Showtime’s Al Bernstein (who had the best seat in the house) said it was one of the best cards he’d ever announced.

“All six fighters did the sport proud,” he said.

Follow @KelseyMcCarson on Twitter.

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Ralph `Tiger’ Jones, Conqueror of Sugar Ray Robinson, was the Ultimate Gatekeeper

Bernard Fernandez

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Ralph "Tiger" Jones

Being a gatekeeper, especially in boxing, can be a lonely and underappreciated function. And in the 1950s, a golden age for the sport, that might have been especially true for a highly competent but not-quite-elite middleweight named Ralph “Tiger” Jones, who fought so often on the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports’ Friday Night Fights that he came to be known as “Mr. Television,” a sobriquet he shared with another frequent face of the relatively new medium, comedian Milton Berle.

Jones, who was 66 when he passed away on July 17, 1994, is not enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. The Brooklyn-born, Yonkers, N.Y.-based scrapper has never even appeared on the IBHOF ballot. Then again, why should he have been? His career record of 52-32-5, with only 13 victories inside the distance, isn’t particularly impressive, unless you take a closer look at the who’s who list of guys with whom he shared the ring. He holds victories over, among others, IBHOF Hall of Famers Sugar Ray Robinson, Joey Giardello and Kid Gavilan (Giardello and Gavilan each defeated him twice), and he gave such capable and even world-class fighters as Gene Fullmer (twice), Laszlo Papp, Bobo Olson, Johnny Saxton (twice), Joey Giambra (twice), Rocky Castellani (twice), Paul Pender, Johnny Bratton, Rory Calhoun (twice), Joe DeNucci (thrice), Bobby Dykes, Chico Vejar, Charlie Humez (twice), Victor Salazar, Ernie Durando and Del Flanagan all they could handle.

Given the high level of competition he so routinely faced, it is remarkable that the Tiger was stopped only once, and even that was a bit of an outlier, a one-round TKO against someone named Henry Burroughs on Jan. 13, 1951. Burroughs, who went 3-4 in an abbreviated professional career, quickly vanished from the fight scene, but for Jones, who had come in 9-0, the shocking defeat might have had the effect of instantly downgrading him from hot prospect to “opponent” and, ultimately, gatekeeper of a loaded 160-pound weight class. Interestingly, Jones had virtually toyed with Burroughs in winning a four-round unanimous decision only two months earlier.

There are those who insist that Jones’ most shining moment inside the ropes came when he stopped Dykes (career record: 120-23-8, with 57 KOs) on March 8, 1954, in Brooklyn when, well behind on points, he rallied to register two emphatic, outcome-shifting knockdowns in the 10th and final round. But even that keepsake triumph pales in comparison to what took place in Chicago Stadium on Jan. 19, 1955, when he presumably was served up as a sacrificial offering to the incomparable Sugar Ray Robinson. Sugar Ray, then 33, was in the early stages of a comeback after he failed to make it big as a tap dancer on a tour of Europe. Fighting for the first time in 2½ years, Robinson had stopped journeyman Joe Rindone in six rounds on Jan. 5, 1955, in Detroit, and the bout against Jones, an 8-1 underdog, was widely viewed as merely another step forward in the former welterweight and middleweight champion’s graduated path back to the superstar status he once held and almost everyone believed he would soon reclaim.

But the outcome that was anticipated by the in-house turnout of 7,282 and a national TV audience underwent a quick rewrite when Jones, who had lost his previous five bouts, was the aggressor in the opening stanza of the scheduled 10-rounder, which ended with the great Sugar Ray — who had come in with an incredible 132-3-2 record — bleeding from a cut to his nose. It was more of the same in round two, Jones adding to Robinson’s seepage when the living legend went back to his corner with another cut, to his right eyelid.

It should have been apparent to everyone, even then, that this was not going to be Sugar Ray’s night, and it wasn’t. Referee Frank Sikora submitted a scorecard favoring Jones by a 99-94 margin, with judges Ed Hintz and Howard Walsh seeing it as an even bigger rout for Jones, at 100-88 and 98-89. Years later, the punch-counters for CompuBox reviewed tape of the fight and determined that Tiger had connected on 322 of 407 (57 percent) to just 176 of 514 (34 percent) for Robinson.

But as is often the case when a legendary fighter is made to look something less than superhuman, the big story was not that Ralph “Tiger” Jones had won, but that a humbled Sugar Ray Robinson was now on his last legs, his nimble feet and fast hands left behind somewhere on nightclub stages in a far-away continent.

New York Journal American columnist Jimmy Cannon for all intents and purposes authored Sugar Ray’s boxing obituary in his paper’s Jan. 20 editions, opining that “There is no language spoken on the face of the earth in which you can be kind when you tell a man he is old and should stop pretending he is young … Old fighters, who go beyond the limits of their age, resent it when you tell them they’re through … what he had is gone. The pride isn’t. The gameness isn’t. The insolent faith in himself is still there … but the pride and the gameness and that insolent faith get in his way … He was marvelous, but he isn’t anymore.”

And this, from The Associated Press report of the fight: “The former welterweight and middleweight titleholder … who started his comeback after 30 months as a song-and-dance entertainer by kayoing Joe Rindone two weeks ago, was handed the worst beating of his career by Jones … Time and again Tiger drove Robinson into the ropes and mauled him pitifully.”

But as was the case with the false rumor in 1897 that novelist/humorist Samuel Clemens – better known by his pen name, Mark Twain — had passed away, any suggestion that Sugar Ray Robinson was finished as a top-tier fighter proved to be premature. The Sugar man held the middleweight championship five times in all, three of his title reigns coming after Cannon advised him in print that he was washed up.

“I never figure to win them all,” the battered Robinson said after taking his licking from Jones. “You’ve got to figure you’ll get beat somewhere along the line. I don’t want to quit. This was a test. Like my manager said, it was just too tough for a second fight on a comeback.”

And Jones?

He continued to get regular TV gigs because he was more skilled than many, doggedly determined to put on a good show and no day at the beach for any of the six world champions he fought on 10 different occasions. But he never got a shot at a world title, a cruel twist of fate for someone who not only had paid his membership dues in the school of hard knocks, but continued to pay them right up to the end, a 10-round, unanimous-decision loss to IBHOF Hall of Famer and three-time Olympic gold medalist Laszlo Papp of Hungary on March 21, 1962. Tiger was floored in three separate rounds, but true to his unyielding code of honor, he gutted it out to the final bell. His pride would not allow him to do otherwise.

As a child growing up in New Orleans and the son of police captain Jack Fernandez (career record: 4-1-1, 1 KO), a former welterweight of scant pro accomplishment whom I idolized as if he had been a world champion, it seemed to me that, if Tiger Jones didn’t appear every week on the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports, he was in the featured bout at least every month or so. The best of the gatekeepers from that glorious era deserve at least some reflected glory for hanging in with their betters, and Jones holds a special place in my recollections along with, among others, Florentino Fernandez (I liked to pretend we were somehow related), Holly Mims and “Hammerin’” Henry Hank, the Detroit middleweight and light heavyweight who fought so often in New Orleans (18 times) that I chose to believe he was almost as local as Willie Pastrano, Ralph Dupas, Percy Pugh and Jerry Pellegrini. Hank, who was 62-30-4 with 40 KOs in a career that spanned from 1953 to ’72, was a virtual replica of the never-say-die Jones, never fighting for a widely recognized world title (he did drop a 15-round decision to Eddie Cotton for the Michigan version of the light heavyweight championship) and losing just once inside the distance, on a ninth-round stoppage by Bob Foster on Dec. 11, 1964, in Norfolk, Va.

Yeah, that would be the same Bob Foster who would go on to become one of the most accomplished 175-pound champions ever and was inducted into the IBHOF in 1990.

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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The Avila Perspective Chap. 30: A Day in L.A., Plant, Pacquiao, and More

David A. Avila

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L.A.

Every time it rains in L.A. I think about the Doors song “Riders in the Storm.”

On Sunday a brief window of dryness blanketed as I drove to downtown L.A. on freeways that were slightly emptier than normal with the L.A. Chargers playing the New England Patriots. I guess some people stayed home to watch it.

Freeway traffic plays a big part in any Californian’s life. But it’s rare that a boxing event is held on a Sunday. My destination that day was LA Live across the street from the Staples Center.

LA Live has a skating rink in the middle of the courtyard and people were milling around an hour before the boxing card was to begin at Microsoft Theater. The theater is a swanky building across the skating rink from the ESPN structure.

A guy resembling my nephew Giovanni is talking to a few people next to the Starbucks. As I walk closer the person is gone. Later, I would see that the same kid resembling my nephew is actually fighting on the large boxing card. About a dozen fights are listed on the boxing bout sheet.

The Microsoft Theater has gone through a name change since it was first opened in 2007. It used to be called the Nokia Theater. The large theater hosts the ESPYs, EMMYs, Grammys and American Music Awards. But it’s no stranger to boxing events. A few fight cards have been held in its confine.

Crowds gathered early for the Premier Boxing Champions boxing card and by 5 p.m. it filled up pretty good.

One of the earliest boxing champions to arrive as a viewer was Mikey Garcia with several other young boxers and their entourages. The four division world champ has a date with Errol Spence Jr. in a couple of months. Spence arrived to watch the LA fight card a little later.

Title Fight

The main event featured Caleb Plant challenging the dangerous IBF super middleweight titlist Jose Uzcategui.

Plant has always shown he had skills and athleticism inside the boxing ring. But you can have all the tools in the world and it doesn’t mean a thing. What it really comes down to is can you take a punch from a puncher? Uzcategui can punch.

The Tennessee native has a pretty hefty following and they were loud in support of the slick fighting Plant. During the first six rounds it was like watching a concert with girls standing and cheering. But when the tide turned and Uzcategui began finding the antidote for Plant’s slickness, the same crowd was deadly quiet.

Plant is an entertainer. He can’t help himself. But he’s a classy kind of guy and fans genuinely like him. He can also fight.

Despite an undefeated record Plant had never truly established he belonged on the A list. He has A list skills but had never beaten an elite fighter until Sunday. He beat a good one and fans were thoroughly engrossed.

After their entertaining bloody clash you would have thought the two warriors would be red hot with anger. But instead, the two were like old chums and gracious after their 12-round battle. It kind of reminded me of long ago when two late greats Aaron Pryor and Alexis Arguello battled twice in the early 1980s. Those two great warriors became great friends and propelled the sport of boxing to greater heights and awareness. Later, Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward did the same in the early 2000s. It’s the beauty of boxing.

In the locker room Plant told Uzcategui they ought to share some Modelos soon. That got a big laugh and hug from the Venezuelan fighter who trains in Mexico. There were no hard feelings, just a lot of bruises and cuts.

Super middleweights may be the new showcase division.

A few possible opponents were in the crowd including David Benavidez, the current WBC titlist. A match with Plant or even a rematch with Uzcategui would bring an even bigger crowd. The super middleweights are heating up. There’s a lot of talent now in the 168-pound division including James DeGale, Callum Smith and George Groves in the United Kingdom and Gilberto Ramirez of Mexico. Hey, it’s even possible to see Gennady “GGG” Golovkin in the super middleweight division if the money is right.

I can’t wait to see the next super middleweight world title matchup.

El Cholos

When the fight card was over we walked across Figueroa Avenue to the Mexican restaurant famous for its margaritas. El Cholos has been around since the 1920s and has expanded to almost a dozen eateries in Southern California. I wish they had one in Las Vegas which does not have a good sit down Mexican restaurant.

El Cholos has become a favorite destination for me following boxing cards in L.A. After the fights several boxing reporters joined me for dinner including Muhammad Mubarak, Anthony Saldana and his wife Cynthia Saldana, Nancy Rodriguez from Supreme Boxing and Daniel who works with them and others. Usually my good friends from the Japanese press join us and long-time photographer Al Applerose, but not on this occasion. Still, we spent a couple of hours there and even ran into an old friend, Liz Quevedo Parr. As an amateur fighter she dominated two divisions for Team USA and now owns a gym in Long Beach called Guv’Nors Boxing Club. She recently had a cover page write up in OC Weekly.

At El Cholos we talked about Plant, Spence, Garcia and Benavidez. We also talked about women’s boxing especially Maricela Cornejo who is managed by Nancy Rodriguez. Both have movie star looks. Cornejo will be fighting in about 12 days in Hollywood at the Avalon Theater. Another female we discussed is Kenia Enriquez who fights out of Tijuana, Mexico. She’s very good.

The Lakers were playing across the street and I expected a rush of fans following the game. But the Lakers lost that night so fans must have been disgruntled and left quickly to their respective homes. Rain was threatening too. We can’t drive in the rain.

Eating and drinking with other journalists is one of the joys of being a fight reporter. Who better to talk about boxing than people that actually know the sport? Only in L.A., New York or Philadelphia can you find plenty of fans that actually know boxing and its politics. Over the years I’ve met some truly knowledgeable fight fans throughout Southern California.

Pacman and Broner

We’re heading to Las Vegas on Thursday, first to see Layla McCarter headline a Mayweather Promotions card that night at the MGM Grand. Tickets are free and it’s a hefty boxing card featuring many fighters from Floyd Mayweather’s stable.

McCarter is the best female fighter in the world pound for pound. Nobody has beaten her in 11 years and she’s fought in numerous countries around the world. Do you know how hard that is to accomplish? Ask any fighter.

Friday is a weigh-in for the Showtime pay-per-view card and I’m curious to see how many fans show up.

It’s been a while since Manny Pacquiao last fought in Las Vegas. Back on November 2016 he battled Jessie Vargas at the Thomas & Mack Center. On Saturday, Pacquiao will face Adrien Broner for the WBA welterweight world title at the MGM Grand. Showtime will have it on pay-per-view.

Every time I see Pacquiao I remember first watching him at the Wild Card gym almost 20 years ago. Freddie Roach kept telling a few of us to watch out for the lefty Filipino kid. Right from the start he proved to be deadly accurate. Pacquiao, now 40, has exceeded all my expectations and out-lasted everyone from that era.

I remember years ago in 2003 talking outside on the parking lot of the Olympic Auditorium. It was still light outside on a summer night and Freddie saw me and a couple of reporters and walked up to talk about his first experience in the Philippines training Pacquiao. He was still overwhelmed by the experience. Later that night Pacquiao would obliterate Emmanuel Lucero in the third round with a vicious uppercut. Even though I knew Pacman was very good I would have never predicted his longevity in a sport that usually spits out good fighters in 10 years.

On Saturday we will see how much the Filipino super star still has left in his legs. Hopefully on the drive to Las Vegas it won’t rain or snow.

Photo credit: Luis Mejia / TCB Promotions

Fights to watch

Fri. 5 p.m. PT DAZN – Jorge Linares vs Pablo Cano; Amanda Serrano vs Eva Voraberger; Demetrius Andrade vs Artur Akavov.

Fri. 6:30 p.m. PT/9:30 PM ET ESPN* Bryant Jennings (24-2) vs Oscar Rivas (25-0).

Sat. 6 p.m. PT Showtime pay-per-view – Manny Pacquiao vs Adrien Broner; Badou Jack vs. Marcus Browne; Rau’shee Warren vs Nordine Oubaali; Jhack Tepora vs Hugo Ruiz.

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Terence Crawford vs. Amir Khan on April 20th…Let the Hype Begin

Arne K. Lang

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Crawford vs Khan

Co-promoters Bob Arum and Eddie Hearn staged a press conference today (Tuesday, Jan. 15) at London’s elegant Landmark Hotel to announce that Terence Crawford will defend his WBO welterweight title on April 20 against Amir Khan. The timing was rather odd as the venue is unsettled — Madison Square Garden and the MGM Grand are the frontrunners – but as Arum would likely tell you, it’s never too early to marinate the hype. The bout will mark ESPN’s initial foray into the world of solo event pay-per-view.

Amir Khan first came to the fore at the 2004 Beijing Olympics where at the tender age of 17 he advanced to the gold medal round in the lightweight division. In the finals he met Mario Kindelan, a 33-year-old Cuban who was described by the British coach Terry Edwards as “the best pound for pound fighter in the world, maybe amateur and professional.”

Khan was outpointed but that didn’t diminish his stature. “Britain has lost its tether over him,” wrote Mark Whicker in the Orange County Register who noted that the Khan-Kindelan match was shown on the big screen at Trafalgar Square under a sign that read Amir-zing.

Khan went on to defeat Kindelan twice in amateur bouts before turning pro amidst great fanfare in July of 2005. Two years later, almost to the day, he climbed off the deck to wrest the British Empire lightweight title from Scotland’s Willie Limond.

Needless to say, Khan, who is of Pakistani descent, has had his ups and downs since that moment. The first thud came in September of 2008 in Manchester when Columbia’s unheralded Breidis Prescott (who by the way has lost seven of his last eight) knocked him out in the first round. Khan was knocked down hard 30 seconds into the fight and it was all over in 54 seconds.

The fight, wrote Tom Cary in the London Telegraph, “confirmed the suspicion that the most hyped boxer in Britain since Prince Naseem Hamed cannot take a punch….This defeat was an accident waiting to happen.”

Khan rebounded nicely. He won the WBA 140-pound title with a 76-second blowout of Dmitriy Salita and defended it four times before losing the belt on a controversial decision to Lamont Peterson. But since the Peterson fight he has been stopped twice, first by Danny Garcia and then Canelo Alvarez.

The Kahn-Canelo fight, contested at the catchweight of 155 pounds, was the first boxing event at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena. And it played out as many expected with Khan having his moments before he was betrayed by a soft beard. Canelo, the bigger man although both came in at the same weight, lowered the boom in round six with a devastating right hand, a classic one-punch knockout that left Khan on the canvas for several minutes before he was removed to a hospital as a precaution.

Khan took 23 months off after this setback and during this hiatus he became even more famous in England. He hired a publicist who booked him on the TV show “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me out of Here,” a British version of the TV show “Survivor,” and fed the tabloids and gossip magazines a steady stream of folderol regarding Amir’s supposedly tempestuous relationship with his attractive Brooklyn-born wife, the former Faryal Makhdoom. Khan’s conservative Muslim parents were horrified by Faryal’s westernized ways and both accused the other of infidelity. They toned it down when Faryal became pregnant with their second child, a daughter born in April of last year.

That same month, Khan returned to the ring with a 33-second knockout of Toronto’s overmatched Phil Lo Greco. In September he took on another Toronto-based fighter, Samuel Vargas, against whom he won a wide 12-round decision. Those wins pumped up his record to 33-4 (20).

Unlike Amir Khan, it’s doubtful that Terence Crawford will ever transcend his sport, but you don’t have to sell Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs) to knowledgeable boxing fans who recognize that he is something special, arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport today.

This fight will be a nice payday for Khan who lives lavishly and we suspect it will be an interesting fight for as long as it lasts. Against Canelo Alvarez, Khan was ahead in the eyes of most ringsiders and in the eyes of one of the judges through the five completed rounds. But the operative phrase here is “as long as it lasts.”

Let the hype begin.

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