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Arguing Over Jack Johnson and White Privilege

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It’s always dangerous getting involved in an online argument on any of the various social networks. No matter how empirically wrong someone might be, obstinance and a healthy dose of internet courage kicks in and there goes an hour of your life having a back and forth that will lead you to nowhere but frustration. Sometimes you can’t help yourself though, and when some Facebook sage claimed that Jack Johnson was not held back by his race, well, I felt compelled to explain a few things.

It all started when a friend of mine posted an article about the misfortunes of African-Americans in the United States and the influence of white privilege in our society. A gentleman chimed in on the post arguing that no one is or has ever been held back by their race, post-slavery. He then used Johnson as an example. Which I found flabbergasting.

Maybe it’s easy to overlook the losses of someone who accomplished so much. Johnson didn’t just have to knock out white guys and face down racial hatred from his fellow citizens, he also had to fight the United States government. As the first black man to ever hold the heavyweight championship (1908-15), Johnson endured under the American form of apartheid known as Jim Crow.

Under Jim Crow, the good ‘ol states of the former confederacy mandated the separation of the races when it came to any and all public facilities, leaving the black members of the population with inferior access to services. The law coined the bilious term “separate but equal,” but conditions were anything but.

Johnson began fighting in 1898 and it took him 59 fights and ten full years to get a title shot even though he had been the World “Colored” heavyweight champion for five years. He defeated Canadian Tommy Burns by 14 round decision in 1908. Johnson went on to hold the title for the 3rd longest stretch of anyone in the history of the fight game.

In 1910,the former heavyweight champion Jim Jeffries ended a six year retirement to take on Johnson and, as he put it, “I am going into this fight for the sole purpose of proving that a white man is better than a Negro.” The media dubbed Jeffries “The Great White Hope” and the contest became known as “The Fight of the Century.” Johnson dominated the fight and in the 15th round, Jeffries’ manager entered the ring and ended the fight after his charge had suffered two knockdowns, one that sent him sprawling through the ropes, resulting in Jeffries needing help from a fan to get back into the ring.

Race riots broke out all across the United States after Johnson’s victory. Ironically, the fight took place on the 4th of July.

Johnson carried his burdens with a surprising level of fearlessness. He had grown up in Galveston, TX and was a stranger to segregation. He even spoke of running with “white boys” and seldom felt the sting of racism as a child. He would learn.

Johnson finally lost his title on April 5, 1915 to challenger Jess Willard. Johnson was dominating the fight, but tired in the later rounds and was knocked out by the Pottawatomie Giant in the 26th(!) round. Many believed that Johnson threw the fight due to his prosecution by the United States government for violating the Mann Act—also known as the White-Slave Traffic Act. The law stated that it was a felony to engage in interstate commerce by transporting “any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery or for any other immoral purpose”. How did Johnson violate this law? By taking his soon to be second wife, Lucille Cameron, across state lines. Sounds ridiculous, right? Except for one thing. Lucille was white (as were all three of Johnson’s wives). The case fell apart largely because Cameron would not testify against him. However, a second woman named Belle Schreiber (also white), whom Johnson had also a had relationship with, did testify at a later hearing and Johnson was convicted in the courtroom of noted racist—and future Major League Baseball Commissioner and enforcer of the color barrier—Judge Kenesaw “Mountain” Landis, by an all-white jury. Perhaps even more astonishing is the fact that Johnson was found guilty of a law that did not exist at the time of his “crimes.” Johnson jumped bail and fled to Europe, living abroad for seven years before surrendering to the feds in July of 1920. Johnson served three months in Leavenworth for his infraction.

So, as you might imagine, I find it fascinating that anyone could state that Johnson was not held back by his race. He had to wait for a decade and wade through nearly 60 fights before he could be found fit to fight a white man for the most prestigious title in all of boxing. He labored under horrendous racism, may have thrown the title in the hopes this would somehow curry favor with judge and jury for violating a federal law that had not even passed at the time of his supposed transgressions–leading to a seven year exile and a prison sentence.

What all of the institutional and quite legal racism of his era cost him was time. Lots of it. How much more could Johnson have done had he not suffered under such conditions? Would he not have fought for more years as the champ? Would he not have made more money? Would he not have had to live on the run and eventually give up his own personal freedom? My goodness, would he not have simply been happier? Johnson’s accomplishments were certainly more extraordinary because of his race. However, on the most personal of levels, he was not able to do all he could because all he was capable of was not available to him. And that is tragic.

Johnson died on June 10, 1946 at the age of 68 after speeding recklessly away in anger from a diner that refused to serve him, for what Ken Burns’ amazing documentary called his “Unforgiveable Blackness.”

I rest my case.

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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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