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Emanuel Augustus Is and Was No Andrew Golota, Or Vice-Versa

Bernard Fernandez

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The near-fatal shooting of former fighter Emanuel Augustus – by all accounts, he remains in critical condition – recalled one of the more curious weekends a lot of boxing writers, myself included, ever were a part of. The contrast between what happened in The Palace at Auburn Hills, in a tony suburb of Detroit, on Oct. 20, 2000, was in stark contrast to what happened one night later, in Motown’s gritty, old Cobo Hall. Those two very different bouts should have reminded everyone in attendance at both events that success in boxing owes as much to intangibles – heart, determination, a refusal to succumb to adversity – as to physical talent. True greatness in the ring can only be achieved when a fighter is blessed with heaping measures of skill and of will, qualities that are not mutually inclusive.

The headliner for the high-visibility, big-bucks extravaganza at The Palace – prime ringside seats had a then-record face value of $2,500 (attendance was 16,228), and the subscription price for the much-anticipated Showtime pay-per-view telecast was $49.95 – was two-time former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, still the biggest draw in the sport despite, or maybe because of, his burgeoning reputation as something of an unhinged wild man. That sinister image owed in large part to “Iron Mike’s” chomping of Evander Holyfield’s ears in their rematch three years earlier, but, not surprisingly, in his first post-chew outing, against Frans Botha, Tyson had blatantly tried to break the South African’s arm during a clinch, a transgression of civility that was overlooked by referee Richard Steele en route to Tyson’s fifth-round knockout victory.

In Cobo Hall, the main attraction was a not-quite-yet-at-the-top-of-his-game Floyd Mayweather Jr., the then-23-year-old WBC super featherweight champion whose purse for the non-title 12-rounder, $250,000, was mere tip money compared to the megamillions he pulls down today.

But, in retrospect, the real stories of those companion bouts belonged to neither Tyson nor to Mayweather. The real drama was furnished by the superstars’ opponents. Tyson was paired against the “Foul Pole,” Poland’s Andrew Golota, a big man blessed with power and boxing ability as well as being saddled with an inner fear that frequently overcame him during inopportune moments. Mayweather was to swap punches with Augustus, then known as Emanuel Burton, a competent tradesman who lacked elite abilities, but who compensated for that shortcoming with an inexhaustible supply of gumption and want-to.

In Golota, the world again saw a fighter who might have become a champion, or at least a major force in the heavyweight division for a long time, again implode in a cloud of shame and recrimination. In Augustus, we saw a presumed no-hoper give one of the most gifted fighters in the planet all he could handle, simply because the designated victim didn’t realize he wasn’t in there to, you know, actually win.

Golota flat-out quit at the end of the second round, confirming what many had already believed about him, his act of surrender punctuated by his shoving of his new trainer, 72-year-old Al Certo, as well as of referee Frank Garza, each of whom were trying to get him to get back to doing what he was being paid handsomely (a reported $2.2 million) to do, which was to fight.

“I’m sorry for all my fans who count on me,” Golota, nearly in tears, said afterward as the full implication of his career suicide must have been setting in. “It was not my day. But he head-butt me, you know? And nobody took care of this, you know? Nobody gave (Tyson) a warning.”

By attempting to blame Garza, and Tyson, Golota dishonored only himself. It hardly seemed to matter that the announced result – a third-round TKO win for Tyson – later was changed to a no-decision by the Michigan boxing commission after Tyson tested positive for marijuana.

The 6-4, 240-pound Golota, of course, had already established himself as the loosest of cannons with myriad demonstrations of mindless sabotage. He was twice beating up Riddick Bowe before a spate of low blows resulted in disqualification defeats in fights he appeared to be winning handily. A bronze medalist at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and the winner of an unprecedented seven Polish national amateur titles, Golota also bit Samson Po’uha on the neck in their May 16, 1995, bout in Atlantic City, but the referee didn’t penalize him and he went on to win on a fifth-round stoppage. It was more or less the same story on March 15, 1996, when Golota blatantly head-butted Danell Nicholson, also in Atlantic City. Again Golota avoided disqualification, and he took out Nicholson in eight rounds. And Golota was far ahead on points in his Nov. 20, 1999, meeting with Michael Grant when, after being knocked down in the 10th round, he rose and indicated to referee Randy Neumann that he’d had enough.

“I don’t think Andrew is a coward,” Tyson’s perplexed trainer for the fight at The Palace, Tommy Brooks, assessed after Golota again had run up the white flag. “He has anxiety attacks. Mainly, he’s a front-runner. Once the tide turns in a fight, he folds the tent.”

Folding the tent, regardless of the circumstances, was not Augustus’ style, and he again showed that with his gutty performance against the vastly more talented Mayweather the night after Golota had given up in a fight he probably wouldn’t have won in any case, but in which he at least had a chance to redeem himself to some degree.

Against Mayweather –still known as “Pretty Boy” then, not “Money” – Augustus proved that there was much more to him than his nondescript record (22-16-4, with 10 wins inside the distance) might have indicated. The end came as expected when Augustus, his face swollen and bleeding from the nose and left ear, had taken three consecutive left hooks to the body in the ninth round of the scheduled 10-round. With their fighter well behind on points, Augustus’ cornermen began waving white towels, prompting referee Dan Grable to step in and wave a halt to the surprisingly competitive contest.

Not surprising, though was Augustus’ angry reaction to the stoppage. He figured he still had more than a round to land that tide-turning shot and possibly shock the world, and even if it didn’t happen, hell, he wasn’t the kind to ever give up.

“But I’m not hurt,” Augustus told Grable in animated but futile protest. “Come on, don’t stop it.”

Augustus’ manager, Luis DeCubas, said his guy had fought too hard and too well to be exposed to continued punishment in a fight he couldn’t win.

“Emanuel’s left hand was screwed up, his right hand was gone,” DeCubas said. “He had nothing left to hurt Floyd with. Why would I leave the kid in there to get killed. That’s not right. But I tell you, Emanuel has the biggest heart in boxing, and he proved that today.”

Despite the apparent ease with which he was winning, Mayweather didn’t come out of the scrap unscathed. When Grable stepped in and wrapped his arms around Augustus, Mayweather’s nose was dripping blood and his face was uncharacteristically blotchy.

Before Mayweather took on Miguel Cotto in 2012, he said, “If I was rating certain fighters out of every guy that I fought, I’m going to rate Emanuel Augustus first compared to all the guys that I’ve faced. He didn’t have the best record in the sport of boxing, he has never won a world title, but he came to fight and, of course, at that particular time, I had took a long layoff (seven months).”

Augustus is perhaps best-known for his putting Mayweather to one of his sternest tests, but that was hardly his only career highlight. Known as the “Drunken Master” for his penchant for fake-staggering around the ring, likely a ploy to draw opponents into his hitting zone, Augustus dropped a 10-round decision to the rugged Micky Ward on July 13, 2001. The ESPN2-televised brawl as so action-packed that it was named Fight of the Year by, among others, The Ring magazine and USA Today.

Losing with courage is still losing, however, and Augustus concluded his professional career on Jan. 29, 2011, the eight-round unanimous-decision defeat at the hands of Vernon Paris – on the undercard of the Timothy Bradley Jr.-Devon Alexander junior welterweight unification bout at the Silverdome, in Pontiac, Mich. – left him with a final mark of 38-34-6, with 20 wins as well as five losses inside the distance. Never a champion, or even a serious contender (he never got a shot at a widely recognized world title), it was Augustus’ destiny to simply fade away, a mostly unremembered footnote to boxing history.

Even the particulars of his near-death – the Chicago native was shot in the head (Christopher Sills was arrested several days later) in his adopted home of Baton Rouge, La., close to a gym where the 39-year-old Augustus sometimes sparred – was hardly headline news. In Louisiana’s capital city, the citizenry was far more interested in the LSU football team’s last-second, 30-27 victory at Florida three days earlier than in the shooting of a retired boxer who never really attained star status there or anywhere else.

But the fact that Emanuel Augustus is hanging on, fighting for his life with the tenacity he always exhibited inside the ropes, stands as incontrovertible proof of two things:

One, the man always could take one hell of a shot.

And two, he can never be likened to Andrew Golota.

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Lomachenko – Pedraza and More

Thomas Hauser

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Lomachenko - Pedraza

Boxing returned to the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on December 1. Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Jose Pedraza in the main event drew a sellout crowd of 5,312. The non-televised undercard was respectable. And the three-fight telecast that followed the Heisman Trophy presentation on ESPN had moments of drama.

The first televised bout of the evening showcased Teofimo Lopez (10-0, 8 KOs), a 21-year-old lightweight who’s rapidly moving from prospect to contender status. Mason Menard (34-3, 24 KOs) was Lopez’s designated victim. All three of Menard’s losses had been by knockout and this was expected to be the fourth “KO by” on his record.

Lopez has all the confidence and arrogance of a young fighter with a big punch who’s on the rise. It took him all of 44 seconds to blast Menard into oblivion.

Next up, 24-year-old Isaac Dogboe (20-0, 14 KOs) sought to defend his WBO 122-pound title against Emanuel Navarrete (25-1, 22 KOs) of Mexico. Dogboe was born in Ghana but grew up in England. He claimed his belt with an eleventh-round stoppage of Jessie Magdaleno in April of this year and was considered a fighter who doesn’t need protecting.

Navarrete was fighting outside of Mexico for the first time, which is often a sign of a padded record.

Dogboe entered the bout as a 7-to-1 betting favorite and mounted a two-fisted assault to the head and body in the first stanza. But Navarrete had come to fight and began landing shots of his own in round two, at which point Issaac’s chin seemed a bit suspect. As the bout wore on, Dogboe did his best work on the inside. When he gave Navarrete room to punch, Emanuel obliged him.

It was a spirited, back-and forth, action encounter that was even after eight rounds. Then Navarrete picked up the pace and won the final four frames going away. By the end, Dogboe’s face was badly swollen; his left eye was almost shut; and he was trying simply to survive. He made it to the final bell but was dethroned by a 116-112, 116-112, 115-113 margin.

Good fight, good decision.

Lomachenko (11, 9 KOs) vs. Pedraza (25-1, 12 KOs) was promoted on the basis of both men having titles, which is a little like promoting a title-unification football game between the Big Ten and Ivy League champions.

Lomachenko’s ring prowess has been amply catalogued. Twelve of his professional bouts have been contested for world titles. He’s an elite fighter while Pedraza is a good one. In match ups like that, the elite fighter almost always wins.

Top Rank had planned to match Lomachenko (the WBO 135-pound champion) against Raymundo Beltran (the WBA beltholder) as part of an “immigrant-from-Mexico-gets-citizenship” feel-good story. But Pedraza upset the apple cart in August of this year by winning a unanimous-decision over Beltran.

Lomachenko was returning to the ring after surgery to repair a torn labrum suffered in his right shoulder during a May 12 victory over Jorge Linares. Still, Vasyl was an early 12-to-1 favorite over Pedraza and the odds moved as high as 20-to-1 reflecting the fighters’ respective ring skills.

The crowd was highly-partisan in favor of Lomachenko. Fighters from Puerto Rico are rarely booed in New York during pre-fight introductions, but it happened here.

It was an interesting exercise for boxing purists. The early rounds were tactically fought. Then Lomachenko figured out what he had to do to beat Pedraza down and did it. Many of the early rounds were close enough that the judges could have given them to whichever fighter they wanted to. But Lomachenko pulled away late, putting an exclamation mark on his performance with two eleventh-round knockdowns that came close to ending matters short of the 119-107, 117-112, 117-112 judges’ verdict in his favor.

Lomachenko looked a bit less “high tech” against Pedraza than he has in the past. He didn’t exploit angles as effectively and control the range as well as in some of his earlier fights. Part of that was because Pedraza is fast on his feet and spent long portions of the evening jabbing and moving away. Another reason might be that Lomachenko’s best fighting weight by his own evaluation is 130 pounds. There were times when he had trouble with Jorge Linares’s height and reach when he fought Linares seven months ago. And that was true for stretches of time against the taller Pedraza. Mikey Garcia might be a bit too big for Lomachenko.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank

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

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Cecilia Braekhus, Claressa Shields Win at the StubHub plus Undercard Results

David A. Avila

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Braekhus

LOS ANGELES-A farewell show by boxing network HBO showcased two dominant women in the boxing world as Cecilia Braekhus and Claressa Shields mowed through their respective opponents with little resistance on Saturday.

Braekhus (35-0, 9 KOs) tried hard to put another knockout on her ledger but Aleksandra Magdziak-Lopes showed enough resistance to go the distance in front of a sparse and cold crowd numbering less than 1,000 at the StubHub Center.

The Norwegian fighter Braekhus won by unanimous decision after 10 rounds and retains her hold on the undisputed welterweight championship that includes the WBA, WBC, WBO, IBF and IBO world titles.

Braekhus started slowly and patiently in the first two rounds but was able to rifle right hands and left hooks through the slower Lopes guard. But she never could put that finishing touch.

In the fifth round a counter right cross staggered Lopes but she remained upright though visibly hurt. A follow up attack proved unsuccessful by the welterweight champion.

“I wanted to knock out the girl who also beat Kali Reis,” said Braekhus “I might have pushed it too much. I got a little bit eager. That normally shouldn’t happen but this is a historical night.”

It was the final show of HBO’s 45 year reign as one of boxing’s premier networks.

“I’m just so honored to be on HBO,” said Braekhus

El Gallo

Mexico’s Juan “El Gallo” Francisco Estrada (38-3, 26 KOs) won by stoppage at the end of round seven against fellow hometown fighter Victor Mendez (28-4-2, 20 KOs) at the end of the seventh round in their super flyweight clash.

Both fighters hail from Hermosillo, Mexico but there was no hometown comradery as Estrada broke down Mendez more and more each round. Each round seemed to incite more blows from Estrada who fired five and six-punch combinations with ease to the body and head.

Mendez tried to fight his way out of the onslaught but his blows did not seem to have the effect desired. Instead, Estrada would open up even more with left hook to the body and left uppercut to the chin.

Finally, after one particularly rough one-sided round, Mendez’s corner stopped the fight.

Claressa

In less than a month Claressa Shields (8-0, 2 KOs) wiped out another middleweight contender, this time Belgium’s Femke Hermans (9-2, 3 KOs) by unanimous decision after 10 one-side rounds.

Three weeks ago Shields had dominated Scotland’s Hannah Rankin in similar fashion and had few problems with either European fighter. But sitting front row in the audience was Christina Hammer who holds the WBO version. She will be next.

Shields powered through Hermans with her amped up aggressive style and was especially effective with the check left hook. She also rocked the Belgian fighter with over hand rights but could not drop the European fighter who holds a super middleweight world title.

Hermans learned in the first two rounds she couldn’t match the two-time Olympic gold medalist’s speed, so she settled into a defensive counter punching style. It did not work.

Though Shields tried luring the European fighter into some traps, the Belgian boxer refused to lead. The fight was Shields to take. She began pummeling the body especially in the fourth and fifth rounds. In one volley she unloaded seven consecutive body shots and easily slipped a counter right.

Shields wobbled Hermans in the ninth round with a left hook and staggered her with a pair of shots in the 10th round. But the Belgian fighter stayed on her feet. All three judges scored the fight 100-90 for Shields who retains the WBA, WBC and IBF world titles.

Now Shields is set to face Hammer who has the WBO middleweight title in the early spring. Showtime will televise.

Hammer spoke to the media before the Shields-Hermans fight.

“I move around very well, I have better movement,” said Hammer whose fight with Shields was postponed in November due to a stomach illness suffered by the tall German boxer. “I want to be the undisputed world champion.”

Bang Bang

Australia’s Louisa “Bang Bang” Hawton (9-2, 3 KOs) stopped Lorraine Villalobos (2-2-1) of Los Angeles at the end of fifth round in an atomweight fight set for 10 rounds.

Hawton and Villalobos exchanged furiously for three rounds with each connecting with big blows. But by the fourth round Villalobos slowed considerably and Hawton took over the fight.

The Aussie fighter was supposed to meet interim WBC atomweight titlist Brenda Flores who won a split decision last September. But Flores was forced to pull out.

Other Bouts

Serhii Bohachuk (12-0, 12 KOs) won by KO in the fifth round of a middleweight bout over Puerto Rico’s Carlos Garcia Hernandez (15-19-1)

Mario Ramos (7-0, 7 KOs) knocked out Elliott Brown in the fifth round of a 6-round lightweight fight.

Light flyweight Shukichi Iwata won his pro debut with a fourth round KO of Joel Bermudez (0-2)

Lightweight Reno Moreno floored David Courtney with a body shot to win by KO in round four of a lightweight match.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Fast Results From Madison Square Garden: Lomachenko UD 12; Dogboe Upset

Arne K. Lang

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Lomachenko vs Pedraza

Vasiliy Lomachenko successfully defended his WBA lightweight title and added Jose Pedraza’s WBO 135-pound belt with a unanimous decision. The scores were 119-107 and 117-109 twice.

Through the first 10 rounds, the bout was somewhat monotonous. Lomachenko landed the cleaner punches and was clearly ahead on the scorecards. The fight was redounding well to Gervonta Davis who handled Pedraza more handily than what Loma was doing. But then in the 11th, the Ukrainian solidified his reputation as an elite fighter, perhaps worthy of being considered #1 P4P. He strafed Pedraza with combinations to the head and body, landing 42 power punches according to CompuBox, and twice knocked Pedraza to his knees.

Pedraza weathered the storm and made it through the 12th, but when the final bell sounded there wasn’t a shred of doubt that Lomachenko had won his 11th consecutive fight, improving to 12-1. Pedraza fell to 25-2.

DOGBOE-NAVARRETE

In a big upset, Mexico’s unheralded Emanuel Navarrete, in his U.S. debut, wrested the WBO 122-pound title from previously undefeated Isaac Dogboe with a unanimous decision. The scores (116-112, 115-113 twice) did not reflect Navarrete’s dominance. At the end of the fight, both of Dogboe’s eyes were swollen and he was bleeding from his nose. In the late stages, the fight became so one-sided that referee Benjy Estevez would have been justified in stopping it. However, Estevez will be faulted in some quarters for missing a knockdown. In round nine, Navarrete went down hard from a punch that glanced off his shoulder and hit him in the face. Estevez ruled it a slip.

Navarrete was somewhat awkward, but he was bigger and stronger, four inches taller with an eight inch longer reach. With the victory, his twenty-first straight, he improved his ledger to 26-1. Dogboe lost for the first time in 25 starts.

LOPEZ-MENARD

In the first TV bout, Teofimo Lopez (11-0, 9 KOs) scored a spectacular one-punch knockout of Mason Menard (34-4). It was all over in 44 seconds.

Lopez, born in Brooklyn and raised in south Florida, tagged Menard on the jaw with a looping overhand right. The fighter from Cajunland fell face first to the canvas and was unconscious before he hit the floor. He was still woozy as he was helped from the ring.

OFF TV

Welterweight Alexander Besputin stepped up in class and made a very strong showing. Besputin (12-0, 9 KOs) took tough Juan Carlos Abreu of the Dominican Republic to school, knocking him down twice en route to winning a lopsided decision. Besputin won every round on all three cards. His showing was far better than that of the more ballyhooed Egidijus Kavaliauskas, the Lithuanian knockout artist who won a hard-fought 10-round decision over Abreu in Abreu’s previous bout.

Italian heavyweight Guido Vianello, a policeman in Rome, won his pro debut with a second round stoppage of Luke Lyons. A 2016 Olympian who was 7-5 as a pro-am in the World Series of Boxing, Vianello has been training at Abel Sanchez’s compound in Big Bear where he sparred with Tyson Fury. Lyons brought a 5-1-1 record but it was compiled on the disreputable West Virginia circuit.

Twenty-year-old Bronx junior welterweight Josue Vargas, in his first appearance at Madison Square Garden, stopped Panama’s John Renteria (16-6-1) at the 32 second mark of round five. It was no contest as Vargas, who improved to 12-1 (8), knocked Renteria to the canvas three times before the bout was halted.

In the opening bout, slated for eight rounds in the junior welterweight class, Mexico’s Abdiel Ramirez (24-3-1, 22 KOs) scored a mild upset with a 7th round stoppage of Newark’s Michael Perez. There were three knockdowns in all with Perez hitting the deck in rounds one and seven. Ramirez was ahead on the cards at the time of the stoppage.

Check back tomorrow for Thomas Hauser’s ringside report.

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