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The Avila Perspective, Chap. 24: Remembering Marty Denkin plus Upcoming Fights

David A. Avila

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Marty Denkin

Prizefighting in the state of California lost one of its senior members over the weekend as long-time referee and judge Marty Denkin passed away.

It was fitting that Denkin’s departure took place before one of the biggest fights of the last three years. Announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. honored the late official at the heavyweight world championship between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury on Saturday. All paid their respects with a moment of silence and a 10-count.

Denkin, 84, was a former Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputy and though born in New York, spent most of his life in California. Boxing was thoroughly in his blood.

Many who follow the boxing world knew Denkin as one of the long-serving officials of the California State Athletic Commission. He was the senior member and had served in many capacities including assistant executive officer in the Los Angeles office.

Others remember Denkin for his parts in movies like Raging Bull, Rocky III and Rocky IV. Of course he played the part of a boxing referee and is known as the official who counted out Rocky Balboa after getting floored by Clubber Lang the role played by Mr. T.

The last time I saw Denkin was just two weeks ago at a Thompson Boxing Promotions show in Ontario, Calif. He was wheeled to ringside by his daughter at the November 16 show. He had recently judged at a prior Thompson card in Ontario.

Denkin loved boxing.

He was always looking for ways to help the sport that at times can be rife with politics and sabotage. He had his supporters and opponents.

The first time I actually spoke to Marty Denkin was at a CSAC meeting in downtown L.A. around 2000. I had been covering the sport as a boxing writer for about seven years and he walked up to me and told me matter-of-factly “I heard you’re a straight-shooter and want to talk to you about a few things.” He became my introduction into the governing portion of the boxing world. I told Mr. Denkin that I don’t take sides but merely write the facts. From that point on he would let me know about his views on judging and scoring a fight. We would often compare scores right after a fight. He would hand over his scorecard to the referee and then look my way and silently ask what score I had. We usually had the same scores.

Once after a televised James Toney fight he was given a lot of criticism for his scoring. Any time Toney fought, especially in a close struggle, the Michigan prizefighter would display his high boxing IQ and score in ways that most ignore like hitting while being held. Denkin pointed this out after the fight and explained why he scored in favor of Toney. He willingly gave out his boxing wisdom.

Pat Russell, one of the best referees of all time, said years ago he once allowed a brutal fight to continue and one of the participants was taken to the hospital. He visited the hospital to see the fallen boxer who would survive. But the event left him shaken and distraught that evening.

“It was about four in the morning when I got a phone call and it was Marty Denkin,” said Russell, who retired as a referee a couple of years ago but still judges fights. “He told me that I had done everything right and not to worry.”

Russell further explained that Denkin’s call truly helped him through the event and he sincerely appreciated the thoughtfulness by the act.

“I never forgot it,” said Russell.

The boxing community in California will never forget Marty Denkin.

California Tsunami

Three large fight cards are spread out across Southern California this Saturday. This is a sign of the times.

Boxing is exploding.

Golden Boy

In the Coachella desert area Golden Boy Promotions stages a fight card led by Carlos “The Solution” Morales (17-3-3) who faces Nicaragua’s super tough Rene Alvarado (29-8) in the main event Saturday Dec. 8, at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio. For Morales this is a big test. Alvarado has become a genuine gatekeeper for the featherweight and super featherweight divisions. If you don’t have the goods, well, Alvarado will let you know.

Two other rising prospects Joet Gonzalez and Hector Tanajara are also on the card in separate bouts.

Tanajara (15-0, 5 KOs) has a tough lightweight matchup against Robert Manzanarez (36-2, 29 KOs) on the semi-main event. It’s rare when Tanajara, 21, fights someone taller than him and to make things more difficult Manzanarez is a southpaw. It’s a pick’em fight.

The fight card can be seen free on Facebook Watch.

360 Promotions

The StubHub Center in Carson hosts the 360 Promotions card featuring elite three female bouts including the woman considered by many the pound for pound best Cecilia Braekhus.

Braekhus (34-0) defends the WBA, WBC, WBO, IBF and IBO welterweight world titles against Poland’s Aleksandra Lopes-Magdziak (18-4-3) on Saturday Dec. 8. HBO will televise the showdown.

Add undefeated Claressa Shields (7-0) fighting Germany’s Femke Hermans (9-1) and you have a pair of the best female fighters in the world.

Expect to see many other great female fighters in attendance including Layla McCarter, Cyborg, Kali Reis, Christina Hammer, Jelena Mrdjenovich, and Laila Ali among others.

The male portion of the card showcases Juan Francisco Estrada (37-3, 25 KOs) versus Victor Mendez (28-3-2, 20 KOs) in a super flyweight clash. Both fighters hail from Hermosillo, Mexico so they are familiar with each other. Estrada has long been one of the best fighters out of Mexico that many people do not know. He’s an all-around boxer and puncher. Elite stuff.

Another female fight offered is Aussie Louisa “Bang Bang” Lawton (8-2) who always entertains with her go-for-broke style. She’s fighting local pugilist Lorraine Villalobos who despite only three pro bouts is talented.

The StubHub always delivers great fights. Always. It seems to have a magic aura that produces memorable battles. All total there are nine bouts planned.

Tickets are still available at Ticketmaster.com.

Red Boxing

In the city of Industry, Red Boxing International has a nine-bout fight card at Industry Hills Expo Center.

The boxing card is filled with young prospects and features a heavyweight clash pitting Rodney Hernandez (11-7-2) against Nick Jones (7-1) in the main event. Hernandez upset LaRon Mitchell who was undefeated last June.

For tickets and information call (323) 769-9696.

Top Rank show in NYC

WBO and WBA lightweight titlist Vasyl Lomachenko (11-1) meets Puerto Rico’s Jose Pedraza (25-1) in the main event at The Theater in Madison Square Garden on Saturday Dec. 8. ESPN will televise.

Lomachenko is fresh from a broken arm but is ready for his clash against Pedraza who vanquished Ray Beltran to get to this point.

WBO super bantamweight titlist Isaac Dogboe (20-0) defends against Mexico’s Emanuel Navarrete (25-1) who hasn’t fought top tier fighters yet.

Another on the card is lightweight sensation Teofimo Lopez (10-0) fighting Mason Menard (34-3) for the vacant NABF lightweight title. This is Menard’s third shot at a regional title and he doesn’t get a break facing the talented Lopez.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

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Jim Gray, To His Discredit, is Too Often ‘The Story’

Ted Sares

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Showtime’s widely-connected Jim Gray is the ultimate networker, insider, and friend to the stars (from Jack Nicholson to Kobe Bryant to LeBron James to Tom Brady and everyone in between—or almost everyone). He has won more awards than Carter has pills, a list that includes 12 National Emmy Awards, and he even has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was named as one of the 50 Greatest Sports Broadcasters of All-Time by David Halberstam and last year he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

For an interesting read about Jim and his complex but important interconnections, see “The Zelig of Sports,” by Bryan Curtiss, dated June 24, 2016. https://www.theringer.com/2016/6/24/16043100/jim-gray-is-looking-for-his-next-exclusive-fc23ceb544e

However, as noted by “Sports Media Watch” writer and editor Paulsen (no first name) and others, Gray has become The Story on too many occasions and that’s a no-no in his line of work.

In boxing, Gray’s condescending and confrontational style was on display as far back as 2001 when he interviewed Kostya Tszyu in the ring following Tszyu’s defeat of Oktay Urkal at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. As Gray was beginning his routine, the “Thunder From Down Under” grabbed the mic and quickly told Gray “Do not be rude to me.”

Many years later, after Juan Manuel Lopez had just been knocked silly by Orlando “Siri” Salido, a bizarre post-fight interview ensued during which Lopez accused referee Roberto Ramirez and his son Roberto Ramirez Jr (who was the third man for the first Salido-Lopez fight) of having gambling problems.

Lopez was arguably still on Queer Street, but that didn’t stop Gray. Eager to catch someone off guard, as is his wont, Gray managed to get “Juanma” to say more than enough to get himself suspended while Gray went on to induction into the IBHOF

There have been many other incidents including James Toney dominating Gray in an interview after the Holyfield-Toney fight. Jim never had a chance. “Don’t come up here and try to give me no badass questions,” James warned Gray.before knocking the mic out of Gray’s hands..

The fact is Gray had built up a litany of edgy if not downright embarrassing moments. His most infamous came in 1999 during game two of the World Series.

During the game, Pete Rose, barred from baseball but still a fan favorite, was introduced as a member of the Major League All-Century Team as the crowd went wild. Then the ever-opportunistic Gray launched a series of questions regarding allegations that Rose’s had gambled on major league baseball games.

Gray was unrelenting. Finally, Pete cut it off, saying, “This is a prosecutor’s brief, not an interview, and I’m very surprised at you. I am, really.” Later on, New York Yankee outfielder Chad Curtis, who won Game 3 with a walk off homer, refused Gray’s request for an interview as a show of unity with Rose. (Jim Gray’s complete interview with Pete Rose can be found in Gray’s Wikipedia entry. Gray was somewhat vindicated in 2004 when Rose came clean and admitted that he had bet on baseball.)

Fast Forward

After the scintillating Wilder-Breazeale fight this past week in Brooklyn’s Barclay Center, Luis Ortiz bounded into the ring during the post-fight interviews and Gray shoved the mic in his face without so much as a hello and shouted “when do you want to fight Wilder?” Ortiz wanted to focus on what had just occurred in the ring, but he never had a chance. Gary continued to badger him about future fights and thus the fans did not get to hear what Ortiz had to say about the fight.

But what was far worse was when Dominic Breazeale waved Gray away as the commentator walked towards the badly beaten fighter. Gray was stopped by a member of Breazeale’s camp and he quickly got the message that he was persona non grata in the Breazeale corner. Previously, and within Dominic’s earshot, Gray had said to Wilder “the public does not want to see you fight people like Breazeale, the public does not want to see Joshua fight Ruiz, the public does not want to see whoever this guy is fighting Tyson Fury.”

There may be truth in what Jim said, but there was a better way to say it and a better place to say it. The man just got knocked senseless in front of his family and friends, Jim, show him some respect!

Photo credit: Tom Casino / SHOWTIME

Ted Sares is a member of Ring 8, a lifetime member of Ring 10, and a member of Ring 4 and its Boxing Hall of Fame. He also is an Auxiliary Member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA). He is an active power lifter and Strongman competitor in the Grand Master class and is competing in 2019.

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More Heavyweight Boxing On Tap This Weekend (Odds Review)

Miguel Iturrate

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heavyweights

The heavyweights are out there bucking for position as the weight class has more possibilities than we have seen in years. Three heavyweight fights have gotten attention at the sports books for this coming Saturday, May 26.

Manchester hosts the return of Tyson Fury’s cousin Hughie Fury (21-2). Fury (shown displaying his Lonsdale belt) is smaller, less technical and less interesting than his bombastic cousin, but at 24 years old there is still plenty of time for him to become a player.

September of 2017 saw Hughie Fury lure WBO world champion Joseph Parker to Manchester. Fury was coming off a 17 month layoff and lost a majority decision where one judge called the fight a draw. Fury went 1-1 in 2018, losing an October outing to Bulgarian contender Kubrat Pulev in Sofia. Having gone 1-2 in his last three outings puts Fury in the “dire need of a win” category and from the look of the odds for this fight, the matchmakers have not made a mistake in choosing an opponent.

Providing the opposition is Canada’s Chris Norrad who is 17-0 but is stepping up onto a much bigger stage than he is used to. Norrad has never fought outside of regional shows in central Canada, and with just 8 KO’s, he doesn’t seem to pose much of a threat. There are levels to this game and Fury and his training level and partners are enough reason to count Norrad out. The odds are below.

Victoria Warehouse – Manchester, England – Saturday, May 25, 2019

Heavyweight 12 rounds –
Chris Norrad  +2000
Hughie Fury  -5000

DAZN is at the MGM in Oxon Hill, Maryland and two heavyweight 10-rounders on that card are also worth keeping an eye on despite the odds indicating complete crush matches.

Former cruiserweight contender Michael Hunter (16-1) gets his fifth bout in as a heavyweight when he faces 26-2 Brazilian Fabio Maldonado.

Hunter’s name emerged as one of the front runners to replace Jarrell Miller against Anthony Joshua on June 1st, but Joshua and company opted to face Andy Ruiz Jr instead.

Maldonado built his record up to 26-0 before dropping his last two. The Brazilian workhorse also has a 26-13 record in MMA and UFC fans may remember the gritty Maldonado as a guy who always gave his all and wound up bloody. He last fought MMA in December of 2018, so he still qualifies as a two sport athlete, but as he approaches 40 with a lot of wear and tear on his body, he appears to just be grabbing paydays at this point in both sports.

MGM National Harbor – Oxon Hill, Maryland – Saturday, May 25, 2019

Heavyweight 10 rounds –
Fabio Maldonado  +1600
Michael Hunter  -4000

Also scheduled for a 10-round bout is Croatia’s 26-year-old prospect Filip Hrgovic (7-0), who faces 15-1 Gregory Corbin of the USA. Hrgovic won an Olympic Bronze Medal at the 2016 games in Rio and he boasts an amateur background of nearly 100 fights. A good sign that he is trying to fast track his career is the fact that he has never faced a fighter with a losing record as his opponents are a combined 147-34-3.

Corbin’s lone loss came this past March when he was DQ’d for hitting Charles Martin with too many low blows. Prior to that, the Texan had faced largely regional competition and the books have made him a huge underdog against Hrgovic.

Heavyweight 10 rounds. –
Gregory Corbin  +2000
Filip Hrgovic  -5000

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Looking at the Heavyweight Calendar (Odds Review)

Miguel Iturrate

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Joshua vs Ruiz

This past Saturday night saw Deontay Wilder’s WBC world heavyweight title defense against Dominic Breazeale go down on Showtime. The fight lasted just 137 seconds as Wilder floored Breazeale with a cannonball of a right hand to end the night early.

With Wilder out of the way, Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz Jr is up next. They meet June 1st at Madison Square Garden. Two weeks later, on the 15th of June, ESPN+ will deliver Tyson Fury vs Tom Schwarz, so fight fans will get a look at all three members of the “Big Three” all in a month’s time.

Wilder’s erasure of Breazeale this past weekend sent a message to the rest of the division as well as giving him a highlight reel to show during upcoming negotiations. Wilder entered a strong -1000 favorite at the sportsbooks for this fight.

Check out our pre-fight review of the Wilder vs Breazeale odds right here at TSS –

http://tss.ib.tv/boxing/featured-articles/57588-wilder-vs-breazeale-odds-review

Looking forward, the odds posted for Joshua and Fury’s upcoming tussles are even less competitive. Let’s take a look at what the books are giving us as we await the two big Brits fighting in the USA.

Madison Square Garden – New York City – Saturday, June 1, 2019

Heavyweight 12 rounds –

Andy Ruiz Jr +1500 Over 6½ +100

Anthony Joshua -3000 Under 6½ -130

Ruiz Jr is 32-1 overall with his lone loss coming at the hands of Joseph Parker in a failed WBO world title bid. That same WBO belt is now in the hands of Joshua as are the WBA and IBF belts.

Joshua was a big favorite over Jarrell Miller, his original opponent, who was denied a license in New York after testing positive for a buffet of steroids. Ruiz Jr took the fight with less than a full training camp, but you have to believe that he is going to come in highly motivated. Ruiz Jr has been caught at a different type of buffet, the all-you-can-eat kind, but even when in the best of shape his body type isn’t “poster boy material.” Miller was big and bulky as well, but he was a near 300 pounder whereas Ruiz Jr will come in between 250 and 260 pounds, which is right around Joshua’s size. Rather than slaying a 300-pound giant, he is facing a guy who is shorter and fatter than him, making it very hard for Joshua to look great on paper.

At +1500 will people bite on Ruiz Jr? He is more experienced than Miller and he is probably a better fighter overall and though he is facing a formidable champion, Joshua is not a finished product. Perhaps Joshua will be chasing an early finish, feeling the pressure of Wilder’s performance, and if so will he make a mistake that Ruiz can exploit? We are roughly 10 days from finding out.

MGM Grand Garden – Las Vegas, Nevada – Saturday, June 15, 2019

Heavyweight 12 rounds –

Tom Schwarz +1800 Over 9½ -105

Tyson Fury -3600 Under 9½ -125

Tyson Fury closes out the run of top heavyweights with a very deliberately chosen showcase fight against Tom Schwarz. Schwarz is 24 years old and 24-0 but he is a fighter who has come up on the regional German scene and as the old boxing cliche goes, there are levels to this game.

Former contender David Haye mounted a 2016 comeback, booking fights against Mark De Mori (30-1-2) and Arnold Gjergjaj (29-0). It took Haye precisely 6:42 to dispose of both of them, and though Fury is a completely different beast than Haye, the level difference between he and Schwarz may be even as striking.

Wilder has gotten through his “challenge” and if Fury and Joshua also emerge as winners as expected, it will leave several open questions –

– Will Fury vs Wilder 2 happen first, or will Wilder vs Joshua go down first? Could Joshua and Fury meet and freeze Wilder out?

And….

– Will we see any of these fights take place in 2019?

If Joshua or Fury stumble, it will only add to the chaos in the heavyweight division. But if the professional oddsmakers know anything, it isn’t likely to happen.

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