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Malignaggi-Judah and the Subway Ride Home

Thomas Hauser

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Paulie Malignaggi would have been more appreciated in an era other than his own. Yeah, I know; he wouldn’t have beaten Henry Armstrong. But in an earlier era, he would have been honored by media and fans alike for the pride he takes in his craft, his willingness to go in tough, and doing the best he can with the tools he has.

I met Paulie several days before his pro debut in 2001. Since then, I’ve written tens of thousands of words about him. I’ve been in his dressing room in the hours before and after some of his biggest fights, wins and losses. We’ve talked and shared meals together away from the spotlight. I’ve always gotten an honest answer from him. There’s no slipping and sliding and avoiding the truth. We don’t agree on everything, but we listen to each other’s opinions with respect.

Several years ago, I wrote an article about Paulie meeting my then-85-year-old mother. The article quoted her as saying, “Paulie is adorable; a little cocky, but as cute as can be.”

The next time I saw Paulie, he told me, “Tell your mother I think she’s cute but a little cocky.”

On December 7th, Paulie fought Zab Judah at Barclays Center in a bout that was marketed as a fight to determine which man deserved to be called “the King of Brooklyn.”

Judah has been fighting professionally for half of his thirty-six years. Like Paulie, he has shown a willingness to go in tough en route to a 42-and-8 record with 29 knockouts. Paulie entered the bout with a 32-and-4 ledger.

Zab’s history suggests that he’s more effective and dangerous in the ring when he feels that his opponent can’t punch. Paulie has two knockouts in the past ten years.

I didn’t want to be at ringside for the fight.

I have no quarrel with Golden Boy Promotions for making the bout. It was a competitive match-up between two world-class boxers. I had no quarrel with either fighter. They treated each other with respect during the build-up to the bout rather than acting like confrontational idiots (which we see too often in boxing these days). I just didn’t want to be there.

In 2006, Paulie fought a prime Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden on the eve of the Puerto Rican Day Parade. He was cut from a head butt in round one, knocked down in round two, suffered a fractured orbital bone, and still won four or five rounds depending on which judges’ scorecard one looked at. Paulie has permanent nerve damage in his face as a consequence of that fight.

I’ve been at ringside when two fighters were beaten to death, I won’t be overly dramatic and say that I had similar concerns for Paulie. I don’t go to fights expecting a tragedy. But I knew that Zab would hit Paulie in the head with the same certainty that I know a person who walks in the rain without an umbrella will get wet.

“Blood is not the scary part of boxing,” Hamilton Nolan has written. “Blood is an annoyance, a split lip, a split eyebrow, lending a vivid bit of color to a fight, but taking little physical toll. Far more scary is the thought of the unseen damage being inflicted inside one’s skull. Blood is cleaned up with a rag and some Vaseline and adrenaline and stitches and a scar. Brain damage is not cleaned up, ever.”

“How old is Paulie?” my mother asked me the day before Malignaggi-Judah.

“Thirty-three.”

“He’s smart; he’s good-looking. Isn’t there something else he can do to support himself?”

“He’s a commentator for Showtime and Fox Sports 1,”

“Then why is he risking his health like this?”

“For the money.”

“And what if he ends up like Muhammad?”

Professional obligation brought me to Barclays Center on December 7th. The annual meeting of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the kick-off press conference for the January 30, 2014, fight between Victor Ortiz and Luis Collazo were scheduled on-site for late that afternoon.

Ortiz’s last fight was a loss to Josesito Lopez that ended with Victor choosing not to continue after nine rounds despite the fact that he was ahead on all three of the judges’ scorecards. That choice seemed eminently sensible since his jaw was dangerously and painfully broken.

At Barclays, several members of the media asked Victor if that made him a quitter. He handled the questions with grace. When the press conference ended, I went over and told him, “Anyone who says you’re a quitter, eff ‘em. You were the only one with enough sense to stop the fight that night.”

Paulie arrived at Barclays Center at 6:45. I wished him well. Then I left the arena and went home.

It’s a half-hour subway ride from Barclays to my apartment on the upper west side of Manhattan. The train was half-empty when I got on. I took a seat and was alone with my thoughts.

I met Paulie at the final pre-fight press conference for a July 7, 2001, HBO doubleheader. Paulie was slated for the non-televised undercard. He sat through the entire press conference and hardly said a word. He seemed shy.

The subway moved through Brooklyn toward Manhattan. A drunk got on at the Borough Hall stop, bottle in hand. When the train reached Clark Street, he started spewing racial epithets. Other passengers moved away from him toward safer areas of the car.

“Very few people in the media challenge you face-to-face,” Paulie told me once. “Most of them do it from behind the protection of their computer screen. It used to bother me when people in the media wrote negative things about me. I’d say to myself, ‘These guys are experts. Some of them have been writing about boxing since before I was born.’ Then I realized that a lot of the writers and even some of the network TV guys don’t know shit about boxing. All they do is criticize and shoot their mouth off.”

The drunk got off the subway at 14th Street.

“A fighter can always talk himself into fighting one more fight,” Paulie told me over pizza several days after his split-decision loss to Adrien Broner this past June. “I’m not stupid. I know that.”

I arrived home at 7:30 PM and turned on the television. Auburn was leading Missouri 59-42 in the closing minutes of the SEC championship game.

At eight o’clock, I switched to Showtime. There would be seven fights on Showtime and HBO over the next five hours. Sakio Bika vs. Anthony Dirrell was up first; then Erislandy Lara vs. Austin Trout. At 9:45, with Lara and Trout in snooze mode, I switched to HBO. Matthew Macklin looked like a fighter who has seen better days in outpointing an overmatched Lamar Russ. James Kirkland vs. Glenn Tapia was a great fight for two rounds and a brutal beatdown for four more. After Kirkland disposed of Tapia, I switched back to Showtime.

Malignaggi and Judah were in the ring.

The fight began.

Paulie controlled round one with his jab. He was the faster, busier fighter. In round two, he tripped over Zab’s leg while spinning away from a punch and his glove touched the canvas. Referee Mike Ortega mistakenly called it a knockdown. That error registered as a three-point swing on the judges’ scorecards (from a 10-9 round in Malignaggi’s favor to 10-8 for Judah).

In round three, an accidental clash of heads opened a small cut above Zab’s left eye and a more serious cut on Paulie’s left eyelid. Now one could envision the fight being stopped because of the cut, going to the judges’ scorecards after an abbreviated number of rounds, and Judah coming out on top because of the incorrectly-called knockdown.

But Paulie controlled the rest of the bout, working behind a stiff jab, straight right hands, and occasional hooks to the body. He put everything on the line and initiated the action throughout, while Zab fought with the purpose of a man in a sparring session.

Paulie was faster than Zab had thought he’d be. And perhaps another factor was at work. Zab has a good “boxing IQ.” It’s an edge that he brings into most of his fights. This was one of the few times that he’d been in the ring with a fighter who could outthink him.

Malignaggi gave Judah a boxing lesson. One could argue that he won every minute of every round. Certainly, he showed that he can still fight competitively at the elite level. The judges rewarded him with a unanimous decision.

I’d prefer it if Paulie stopped boxing and concentrated on his commentating career. But I know that he won’t. Now that he has beaten Judah, another big-money fight awaits him. It will be big-money because the opponent, whoever it is, will be a top-echelon fighter who’s skilled at inflicting pain and physical damage.

I’m glad Paulie won on December 7th. And I’m at peace with myself for choosing to not be at ringside to see it. Television cosmetizes the violence of boxing. And watching at home, one doesn’t feel the blood lust of the crowd.

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book (Straight Writes and Jabs: An Inside Look at Another Year in Boxing) has just been published by the University of Arkansas Press.

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Bohachuk KOs Unlucky Number 13 in Hollywood

David A. Avila

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Bohachuk

HOLLYWOOD, Calif.-Super welterweight prospect Serhii “El Flaco” Bohachuk (13-0, 13 KOs) disposed of local urban legend Cleotis “Mookie” Pendarvis with nary a sweat in less than four rounds on Sunday evening at the Avalon Theater before a sold out crowd.

Bohachuk remained undefeated and continued his knockout streak with Pendarvis (21-5-2, 9 KOs) the victim. Aside from the main event, the 360 Promotions card was stacked with competitive action.

Bohachuk, 23, trained expecting an easy fight especially knowing that Pendarvis lacked firepower. But sometimes firepower is not all that important.

“He only had nine knockouts,” said Bohachuk, who trains with Abel Sanchez and Max Golovkin (Gennady’s twin) in Big Bear, Calif. “It was easy fight.”

The young Ukrainian felt it was easy but Pendarvis still unleashed several Cracker Jack combinations that caught Bohachuk flush. If only Pendarvis had power there might have been a different result.

Bohachuk floored Pendarvis in the first round with a left hook dug into the liver of Pendarvis and down he went. He resumed the fight but was visibly worried.

In the second round Mookie unleashed some of his magic with a sizzling left uppercut left cross combination that stung Bohachuk for a split second. Then he followed that with a sneaky overhand left and a right hook combination that seemed to come out of the dark. But without power behind those blows, Bohachuk remained in control.

Bohachuk regained total control in the third round and floored Pendarvis with a left hook bomb that immediately dropped him to the ground. The round ended seconds later and seemingly allowed Pendarvis to escape, but at seven seconds into the fourth round Pendarvis told the referee he could not continue and the fight was stopped.

“I wanted the fight to go longer,” Bohachuk said.

A super middleweight match saw Ali Akhmedov (13-0, 10 KOs) defeat Sacramento’s Mike Guy (9-4-1) by decision after eight rounds. All three judges scored it for Akhmedov who struggled with Guy’s stop and go style.

Kazakhstan’s Meiirim Nursultanov (11-0, 8 KOs) out-worked Luis Hernandez after eight rounds in a middleweight clash to win by unanimous decision.

Other Bouts

A lightweight clash between Mario Ramos (8-0) and Arnulfo Becerra (7-2) started slowly for two rounds then erupted into a bloody war for the remaining four rounds. Becerra caught Ramos repeatedly with three and four-punch combinations but Ramos always retaliated back. The crowd roared at the action that saw both suffer cuts and bruises to each other’s face that did not discourage more blows. Ramos was deemed the winner by decision.

“He pushed me into a war,” said Ramos of Becerra. “That’s what fans want.”

Other winners on the fight card were Devon Lee (7-0), Adrian Corona (4-0), Christian Robles (3-0), George Navarro (5-0-1) and Timothy Ortiz by knockout in his pro debut.

In attendance were actor Mario Lopez, WBC minimum weight titlist Louisa Hawton, European champion Scott Quigg and others.

“They’ll be appearing on our future shows this year,” said Tom Loeffler of 360 Promotions.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Fast Results from Oxon Hill: The Peterson Brothers Fail to Deliver

Arne K. Lang

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Peterson

The story of boxing’s Peterson brothers, Lamont and Anthony, has been well documented. Growing up in Washington, DC, they were often homeless. Then Barry Hunter came into their life. A carpenter by trade, Hunter coached amateur boxing at a local rec center. He took the brothers in when Lamont, the older by 13 months, was only 10 years old and he’s been with them ever since, a rarity in a sport where some boxers seemingly change trainers more frequently than they change their underwear.

Today the brothers, who turned pro on the same card in 2004, appeared in the featured bouts of a Premier Boxing Champions show at the MGM National Harbor casino resort in Oxon Hill, Maryland, a stone’s throw across the Potomac from their old stomping grounds. And they were well-matched. Both of their fights were near “pick-‘em” affairs with the invaders the slightest of favorites.

Welterweight Lamont Peterson, a former two-division champion coming off a bad loss to Errol Spence Jr, was pitted against Sergey Lipinets, briefly a 140-pound title-holder coming off a loss on points to Mikey Garcia. Peterson was seemingly ahead on the cards through several frames, but one big punch, a straight right hand by Lipinets in round eight, turned the momentum in his favor.

The end came two rounds later when Lipinets hurt Peterson with on overhand right and followed up with an assault that sent the DC man down hard. Peterson arose on spaghetti legs but it was a moot point as his corner tossed in the white flag almost as soon as he hit the canvas. The official time was 2:59 of round 10.

After the fight, in an emotional moment in the ring, Peterson announced his retirement. If he holds tight to this decision, he will leave the sport with a 35-5-1 record. Sergey Lipinets, a kickboxing champion before he took up conventional boxing, improved to 15-1 with his 11th win by stoppage. Overall it was a good action fight with a high volume of punches thrown.

The co-feature, a 10-round junior welterweight contest between Anthony Peterson (37-1-1, 1 ND) and former IBF 130-pound champion Argenis Mendez (25-5-2) ended in a draw. The decision was unpopular with the pro-Peterson crowd but met the approval of the TV commentators and likely most everyone tuning in at home.

Both fought a technical fight. Peterson did most of the leading and seemingly had the fight in hand going into the late rounds where Mendez did his best work. There were no knockdowns or cuts, but Peterson suffered severe swelling over his left eye. The last round was the best with Mendez fighting with more urgency, perhaps out of fear that he would be victimized by a hometown decision.

Anthony Peterson was making his first start since January of last year when he coasted to an easy decision over Eduardo Florez, a decision later changed to a no-contest when Peterson tested positive for a banned substance.

In the swing bout, an entertaining 10-round contest in the 154-pound weight class, Cincinnati’s Jamontay Clark (14-1) overcame a rough patch in the third round to score a unanimous decision over Chicago’s Vernon Brown (10-1-1). The scores were 95-94 and 96-93 twice. At six-foot-two, the rangy Clark had a 7-inch height advantage.

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Pulev Wins Heavyweight Clash and Magdaleno Bests Rico Ramos in Costa Mesa

David A. Avila

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Pulev

COSTA MESA, Calif.-Eastern European heavyweights slugged it out in Orange County with Kubrat Pulev scoring a knockout win over Bogdan Dinu on Saturday evening. The win keeps him in line for a possible showdown with Top Rank’s newly signed Tyson Fury.

After a slow start the Bulgarian heavyweight Pulev (27-1, 14 KOs) scored the knockout win over Romania’s Dinu (18-2, 14 KOs) before a large supportive audience who arrived with Bulgarian flags and hats at the OC Hangar in Costa Mesa.

Until the fifth round the action lacked with both heavyweights not eager to fire. But an angry exchange of blows by Dinu saw Pulev emerge with a cut over his left eye. It also opened up the action between the European heavyweights.

Pulev increased the pressure and caught Dinu in the neutral corner where he unloaded right after right on the ducking Romanian fighter who dropped to a knee and was hit behind the head with a blow. The knockdown was ruled down by an illegal punch and a point was deducted from Pulev.

It didn’t matter. The Bulgarian heavyweight proceeded to unleash some more heavy rights and down went Dinu again. The Romanian fighter beat the count and was met with more right hand bombs and down he went for good this time at 2:40 of the eighth round. Referee Raul Caiz ruled it a knockout win for Pulev.

“Sometimes its good and sometimes it’s bad,” said Pulev about his actions in a heavyweight fight. “Sometimes blood makes me very angry.”

Dinu felt that illegal blows led to his downfall. But the winner Pulev was satisfied.

“It doesn’t matter, I was prepared and really good in this moment. I think I was very good boxing today and showed good punching today,” Pulev said.

Former champions

An expected battle between flashy ex-super bantamweight world champions didn’t deliver the goods as Jessie Magdaleno (26-1, 18 KOs) defeated Rico Ramos (30-6, 14 KOs) by unanimous decision after 10 rounds in a featherweight contest for a vacant WBC regional title.

A tentative Magdaleno was cautious and deliberate against Ramos who seemed to be stuck in slow motion for the first half of the fight. Behind some lefts to the body and snappy combinations Magdaleno mounted up points for six rounds.

Ramos stepped up the action in the seventh round and began stepping into the danger zone while delivering some threatening combos inside. Magdaleno resorted to holding and moving as the action shifted in Ramos’s direction.

But it was never enough as Ramos seemed to lack pep. The last two rounds saw Ramos engage with Magdaleno but neither landed the killing blows. After 10 rounds all three judges saw the fight in favor of Magdaleno 97-93, 98-92, 99-91 who now holds the WBC USNBC featherweight title.

“It was a long layoff and I took a fight against a tough, tough veteran and former world champion,” said Magdaleno, whose last fight was the loss of the WBO super bantamweight title to Isaac Dogboe last May. “Got to go back to the drawing board. I boxed as good as I could, he’s just a tough fighter.”

Other Bouts

Max Dadashev (13-0, 11 KOs) was dropped in the second round by muscular Filipino southpaw Ricky Sismundo (35-13-3, 17 KOs) and had a look of surprise. He turned it up in the third round and caught Sismundo rushing in with a slick counter left-right combination on the button. Sismundo was counted out by referee Tom Taylor at 2:30 of the third round of the super lightweight clash.

Former Olympian Javier Molina (19-2, 8 KOs) had a rough customer in Mexico’s Abdiel Ramirez (24-4-1, 22 KOs) who never allowed him space to maneuver in their super lightweight match. After eight close turbulent rounds Molina was given the decision by scores 78-74 twice and 79-73.

South Africa’s Chris Van Heerden (27-2-1, 12 KOs) thoroughly out-boxed Mexico’s Mahonry Montes (35-9-1, 24 KOs) until a clash of heads erupted a cut over his right eye. The fight was stopped in the sixth round and Van Heerden was given a technical decision by scores 60-54 on all three cards.

Welterweights Bobirzhan Mominov (10-0, 8 KOs) and Jonathan Steele (9-3-1, 6 KOs) slugged it out for six back and forth rounds at high intensity. There were no knockdowns but plenty of high level stuff going on. The bigger Mominov had the advantage and tried to take out Mitchell, but the smaller welter from Texas was just too tough and skilled to be overrun. Judges scored it 59-54 three times. Good stuff.

Detroit’s Erick De Leon (19-0-1, 11 KOs) survived a knockdown in the fifth and rallied to win by technical knockout over Mexico’s Jose Luis Gallegos (16-6, 12 KOs) in the seventh round of a lightweight clash. A barrage of unanswered blows by De Leon forced referee Ray Corona to halt the fight at 1:55 of the seventh round.

L.A.’s David Kaminsky (4-0, 2 KOs) out-pointed rugged Arizona’s Estevan Payan (1-7-1) to win by unanimous decision after four round in a middleweight contest.

Tyler McCreary (15-0-1, 7 KOs) fought to a draw with Mexico’s Roberto Castaneda (23-11-2) after six rounds. He got all he could handle from the Mexicali featherweight as both traded blow for blow throughout the contest. It was good experience for the young McCreary who looked good but tried too hard to take out the hard headed Castaneda.

Eric Puente (2-0) beat Alejandro Lopez (1-4) by decision after four rounds in a lightweight match by 39-37 scores all three cards. It was a very close match with little separation between the two.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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