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Likely No Landslides in IBHOF Class of 2019, But Honorees Happy to Make the Cut

Bernard Fernandez

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Halls of Fame ostensibly exist to honor exceptionally high achievers, but some would say their secondary purpose is to at least occasionally generate debate. And the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y., is no different.

Given the IBHOF’s requirement that three new inductees be enshrined every year, there is no guarantee that there are three annual slam-dunks in the most prestigious Modern category for fighters. Sometimes the field of candidates in a given year appears to offer no sure things. When someone who has been on the ballot for several years finally makes the cut, and even if a certain candidate’s election – the voting pool consists of full members of the Boxing Writers Association of America and an international panel of boxing historians — comes in his first year of eligibility (fighters must not have fought for five years to be considered for induction), there is apt to be some grumbling from naysayers who say a hall of fame should be the exclusive preserve of the indisputably great, not merely the very good. Among the Hall of Famers whose election met with some resistance are Ingemar Johansson, Arturo Gatti and Ray Mancini.

But as is the case with politics and, really, boxing matches that go to the scorecards as well, it really doesn’t matter if a winner is swept into office by landslide or the thinnest of margins. The difference with halls of fame is that once you’re in, you’re in forever; you can’t ever be voted out of office. How close, or not, the latest tabulations were in a crowded field of 32 Modern candidates was not revealed as the IBHOF, as is its policy, does not announce vote totals.

So all hail to the Class of 2019, the headliners, announced on Dec. 5, being Donald Curry, Julian Jackson and James “Buddy” McGirt. All of the former world champions had been bypassed in previous elections, snubs that didn’t seem to matter to any of them once they received word of their call to the hall from the IBHOF’s executive director, Ed Brophy. Sometimes all good things really do come to those who wait.

In addition to the Big Three, other members of the nine-member induction class include Old-Timer Tony DeMarco, Non-Participants Don Elbaum, Lee Samuels and Guy Jutras, and Observers Teddy Atlas and the late Mario Rivera Martino.

The 57-year-old Curry (34-6, 25 KOs), a native of Fort Worth, Texas, known as “The Lone Star Cobra,” arguably is the most talented of the Modern inductees. At his peak, he was a classic boxer-puncher who did not so much defeat his opponents as to overwhelm them with a compendium of ring skills that seemingly preordained him for all-time great status. The puzzle pieces fit perfectly for Curry on Dec. 6, 1985, in a welterweight unification showdown with Milton McCrory at the Las Vegas Hilton. Before Curry, who went in as the WBA and IBF champion, snatched McCrory’s WBC title in two one-sided rounds, HBO analyst Larry Merchant foresaw the outcome. “McCrory is regarded as a good fighter,” Merchant opined. “Curry is regarded as possibly a great fighter.”

Curry was then 24, and there were those who were ready to proclaim him as the finest pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. He was 26-0-1 with 21 KOs at the time, and while he did not know it then, his prime would soon be shortened by the kind of arrogance that comes when a fighter – really, any inordinately gifted athlete – begins to believe in the myth of his own invincibility and thus takes shortcuts. The first crack in that glittering veneer appeared on Sept. 27, 1986, when the heavily favored Curry did not come out for the seventh round for his title defense against England’s Lloyd Honeyghan.

“All I know is that he was named Honey something,” Curry – who was so dismissive of the challenger that he had to lose 11 pounds in three days just to make weight — told me for a TSS story that appeared in February of this year. “I didn’t really know who he was. I wasn’t mentally prepared that night. If I had been, beating that Honey guy would have been no problem.”

Although Curry regrouped enough to take the WBC super welterweight belt from Italy’s Gianfranco Rosi, he relinquished that title on an even bigger upset than had come against Honeyghan when he traveled to France and dropped a listless unanimous decision to Rene Jacquot.

But memories of the Curry that once had been compared to the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns and Aaron Pryor apparently were enough to convince enough IBHOF voters to finally reward him for his abbreviated prime, which was clearly Hall of Fame-worthy if lacking the sort of longevity that would have made him a no-brainer.

“All right! Now we’re talking!” an ecstatic Curry said upon getting the call he had begun to think he might never receive from Brophy. “What an honor. This is the greatest day of my life. I’m overwhelmed to get the call from the Hall of Fame. It’s a dream come true.”

Jackson (55-6, 49 KOs) was known as “The Hawk,” and the former junior middleweight and middleweight champion from the U.S. Virgin Islands, now 58, was certainly a bird of prey inside the ropes. He was a consummate knockout artist, capable of getting his man out of there with a single shot. In 2003 The Ring magazine had him at No. 25 on its list of the “100 Greatest Punchers of All time,” but that formidable power came with a caveat. He was nearly as susceptible of being the starchee as the starcher, as evidenced by the fact that all six of his losses also came inside the distance.

“He’s got to be one of the top 10 punchers ever, at least in his weight class,” said former IBF super welterweight champ Buster Drayton, who didn’t make it out of the second round against Jackson in their July 30, 1988, title bout in Atlantic City, adding that Jackson’s fragile chin was no secret to those bold enough to stand in there and trade haymakers with him. “I knew (he could be knocked out). He knew it, too.”

“I tell you, I’m speechless,” Jackson said upon being informed of that he would enshrined by the IBHOF. “This is a tremendous honor. Thank God for His grace and mercy. Wow! It’s amazing! I really don’t have words for this, but eventually they will come.”

McGirt (73-6-1, 48), from Brentwood, N.Y., is the youngster of the group at 54, a former junior welterweight and welterweight titlist who fashioned a long and distinguished career despite being hampered by chronic shoulder injuries. After stepping away from the ring as an active fighter in 1997, he fashioned an exemplary second career as a trainer, and was the winner of the 2002 Eddie Futch Trainer of the Year Award from the Boxing Writers Association of America, primarily for his work in transforming Arturo Gatti from a one-dimensional brawler into a somewhat more well-rounded version of his former self. He also worked the corner for, among others, Vernon Forrest, Antonio Tarver and Laila Ali, and has recently taken on the assignment of preparing two-time former light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev for his rematch against Eleider Alvarez.

“To be honest, I can’t even talk right now,” McGirt said when informed of his selection by the IBHOF electorate. “This shows you’re appreciated by the boxing world and that all the hard work and dedication pay off.”

DeMarco (58-12-1, 33 KOs) is 86 and the former welterweight champ, a Boston resident, can be excused for believing that call from the hall would never come. Maybe that’s because DeMarco, for all his successes, is best known for his two classic but losing wars with Carmen Basilio, the second of which, a 12th-round knockout in 1955, was named Fight of the Year by The Ring.

With no mortal locks slated to make first appearances on the IBHOF ballot for the Class of 2020, several holdovers whose credentials for ring immortality, or what passes for it, were vying for the three available slots that were just filled by Curry, Jackson and McGirt. Presumably at or near that magic threshold are Michael Moorer, Nigel Benn, Ivan Calderon, Vinny Pazienza, Ricky Hatton, Meldrick Taylor, Fernando Vargas, Darius Michalczewski, Sven Ottke and the late Genaro Hernandez, among others. Taylor, another special fighter who did not enjoy the benefit of longevity, might be move up in the pecking order in light of the consideration given to Curry for being truly exceptional for even a relatively short period.

But whoever does not get the nod in 2020 will face even stiffer competition in succeeding years, with gimmes like Bernard Hopkins (2021), Wladimir Klitschko, Shane Mosley, James Toney, Miguel Cotto and Juan Manuel Marquez (2022) and Roy Jones Jr., Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Andre Ward (2023) all edging closer to their first appearances on the ballot.

While the Moderns always command the most attention during the four-day induction festivities, other honorees will be celebrated for their long and meritorious service to the sport. It immensely pleases me to be a friend of three of them.

Atlas, 62, will be inducted in the Observer category, a nod toward his long tenure as an analyst for ESPN and for NBC, for whom he worked four Olympiads . But Atlas, whose distinctive Staten Island inflections are as familiar to viewers as the late Howard Cosell’s nasal pomposity, always thought he would be recognized for his work as a trainer, which he considers his first calling. He added another world champion to the list of upper-tier fighters he has worked with when, on Dec. 1 in Quebec City, he was the chief second for Ukraine’s Oleksandr Gvozdyk, who dethroned WBC titlist Adonis Stevenson on an 11th-round knockout.

“I thought I’d go in as a trainer, to be honest,” Atlas said. “But that wasn’t my decision. I’m grateful and appreciative to be considered either way by the Hall of Fame. It’s definitely a privilege.”

As a trainer, Atlas has always been a my-way-or-the-highway kind of guy and he has walked away from more than a few successful fighters who did not hew to his dictums. One was Michael Moorer, whom an exasperated Atlas did not feel was giving his all in what proved to be his majority-decision victory over WBA/IBF heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield on April 22, 1994, in Las Vegas. After the eighth round, Atlas told Moorer, “If you don’t want to do what it takes to become champion, let me go out there. We could trade places.” I made him answer me. I said, `Do you want to do that?’ And he said, `No, I don’t.’

“The thing that bothered me is that there were times when it seemed like he was letting Evander back into the fight. That’s why I stayed on him and I didn’t want him to be satisfied that he was doing well.” A reinvigorated Moorer won the 12th round to become the first southpaw to win a heavyweight title; had he lost that round he would have also lost a split decision.

Of Gvozdyk, with whom he was working for the first time, Atlas said, “It feels good to have another world champion. You feel like you’re still able to accomplish your goals and to help somebody get to the next level. I feel like I lived up to his trust and took care of my responsibility.”

Elbaum, whose age is a carefully guarded secret, is affectionately known as “The Bum” to those who know and like him. He jokes that he was the matchmaker for Cain vs. Abel, which might be a slight exaggeration. He also notes that he is the person who introduced another Don, last name King, to the fight game, something for which he is uncertain whether he should take credit or blame.

But Elbaum, who has worked the sport’s trenches in nearly every capacity, including as a fill-in fighter a couple of times in his younger days, takes only credit for being involved in a fight card he promoted that took place on Oct. 1, 1965, in Johnstown, Pa., and featured aging all-time greats Sugar Ray Robinson and Willie Pep in separate bouts.

“Ray Robinson was my idol,” Elbaum said. “He was the greatest fighter that ever lived, in my opinion. And he fought his last three fights for me, which is something no one can ever take away from me. I was operating out of Pittsburgh when Ray called me to come to New York. He asked me, `Don, who can you get me who you think I can beat to get another crack at a world title?’ I immediately said, `Joey Archer.’ He asked me if I could make that fight. I said, `Absolutely.’

I made the fight for Pittsburgh. I told him I really wanted to build it up by first putting him in Johnstown, two months before the fight in Pittsburgh and then in Steubenville, Ohio, one month before. I was promoting the Johnstown fight as the biggest event in that town since the flood, and I was getting great press. About 10 days before the fight I got a call from Willie Pep. Willie said, `Don, I need a fight. I need money desperately.’ I said, `Willie, why?’ And – this is one of the great lines of all time – Willie said, `Don I got five ex-wives.’

“So now I got Ray Robinson (then 45) and Willie Pep (42), two of the greatest fighters ever, on the same card. That always stuck with me.”

Alas, the grand scheme hatched by Elbaum came a cropper when Robinson lost a 10-round unanimous decision to Archer on Nov. 10, 1965, and immediately retired.

Samuels, 71, came to boxing first as a sports writer, covering a couple of Muhammad Ali fights for the now-defunct Philadelphia Bulletin, which shut down in 1983. It was a relatively easy transition into the next phase of his journey, as a publicist for Bob Arum’s Top Rank, a three-decade association that is ongoing. Samuels is known for his unflappability and inexhaustible patience under pressurized conditions that would drive many sane individuals bonkers. He insists that he has never met anyone in the sport he hasn’t liked, which for most people would be a stretch but fits the personable nature of someone widely considered to be the nicest person not only in boxing, but maybe anywhere.

“It’s great to be reunited with Irving Rudd,” Samuels said of his becoming a Hall of Famer alongside his legendary mentor at Top Rank, who was 82 when he passed away on June 2, 2000. And it was Rudd, Samuels said, who taught him the value of getting writers what they need, which is a little one-on-one face time with fighters whenever possible instead of group scrums where  harried reporters shout questions in the hope of getting a usable quote or two.

“When you work for a newspaper, you have to get a story that day,” Samuels said. “I remember getting off a plane (when he was at The Bulletin) and telling Irving, “I have to speak to Ali. I’m on deadline.’ He said, `He wants to speak to you, too. He knows you’re here. Oh, and Angelo (Dundee) is with him.’”

Jutras is a Canadian judge and referee who has been involved in boxing for 30 years, and the late Rivera Martino, a Puerto Rican journalist who covered boxing for a number of publications, including The Ring, for nearly 60 years, beginning in the 1940s.

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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Chris Arreola is Back!

Ted Sares

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Chris Arreola

Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola is an emotional and very likable guy. Over the course of his career, there have been ups and downs providing the grist for a compelling story if one were inclined to write it. He’ll kiss a beaten opponent (Joey Abell) or cry if beaten (Vitali Klitschko) and his language during a post-fight interview is, well it’s special.

After his corner stopped the fight following the 10th round with Klitschko, and with tears streaming down his cheeks, he thanked the fans (as is his wont) and later, while being interviewed in the ring, said  “F–k that, I’m coming back.”

It was his first loss after 26 straight wins out of the professional gate. For that “terrible” indiscretion, he was punished by the selectively politically correct World Boxing Council. WBC president José Sulaimán proposed a six months ban for vulgar language and the ban was approved by the WBC Board of Governors.

Arreola, who rarely uses filters, was brutally candid again after his first round KO over Erik Molina in 2012. The Nightmare cut loose on Don King, Molina’s promoter, calling him a “f—ing a–hole and a racist,” causing Showtime’s Jim Gray to  terminate the post-fight interview forthwith. “Honestly Don King called me a wetback, and other Mexicans,” Arreola told Fightnews.com. “That’s a strong word. It’s like me dropping N bombs. You don’t say things like that.”

No ban this time.

Arreola’s weight varies but when he is fit and ready (and under 250), he is a very dangerous heavyweight, especially in the early rounds. Once he has his opponent hurt, there are few boxers who can close as well as this Southern California Mexican American tough guy who was an accomplished amateur fighter and knows his way around the ring.

His level of opposition has been stiff. In fact, his five losses have been to fighters who have held world titles at one time or another. Bermane Stiverne had Chris’s number and beat him twice—the second time by way of a nasty knockout. However, he has a number of solid wins over the likes of Malcom Tann, Chazz Witherspoon, Travis Walker, Jameel McCline, Brian Minto, Curtis Harper –yes, that Curtis Harper who gave Chris all he could handle — and many others who came in with fine records. His first round blowout of once promising Seth Mitchell was quintessential Arreola. Mitchell retired after the fight.

In July 2016, The Nightmare was stopped by Deontay Wilder in yet another title bid but he did not disgrace himself. He then took off for over two years to assess whether he wanted to continue. Boxing fans pretty much forgot about him. Few took notice when he came back to stop the very stoppable Maurenzo Smith on the Wilder-Fury undercard on Dec. 1 of last year.

Fast Forward

Last weekend, on the undercard of the huge Errol Spence Jr. vs. Mikey Garcia PPV fight in Dallas, “The Nightmare” was matched against unbeaten but unheralded Jean Pierre Augustin (17-0-1).

Chris, now 38, came in at a svelte 237 pounds and looked fit and ready to go. The weary look on Augustin’s face during the announcement said it all. True to form, Arreola was in blowout mode and stopped the Haitian who simply was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Arreola wobbled Augustin with a brutally hard jab that connected flush to his face in the third round. After more heavy shots, a bloodied Augustin went down and upon getting up, was battered until the referee halted matters. Chris closed things like he had done on so many other occasions and in front of millions of fans tuning in around the world.

With a female interviewer, the elated “Nightmare” was polite during the post-fight ceremonies and, holding his daughter, signaled that he is BACK! That’s good news for boxing fans because when Chris Arreola is fit and focused, he is entertaining and very competitive.

With a current record of 38-5-1 with 2 ND (the “no-contests” resulting from Chris‘s apparent affinity for non-medicinal marijuana), a fight with someone like Adam Kownacki would be a boxing fan’s dream.

Ted Sares is one of the world’s oldest active power lifters and Strongman competitors and plans to compete in at least three events in 2019. He is 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).

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Nobody Wants to Fight Dillian Whyte

Kelsey McCarson

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Dillian Whyte

Dillian Whyte is one of the most dangerous fighters in the world. The 30-year-old is a former British heavyweight titleholder, a former kickboxing prodigy and an undefeated mixed martial artist. Overall, Whyte’s professional fighting record is a sterling 46-2. He’s 25-1 as a boxer, 20-1 as a K1 kickboxer and 1-0 as an MMA fighter.

So while the battle rages on between various television networks and streaming platforms over securing the top talent in the heavyweight division, one that includes Tyson Fury signing a multi-fight deal with ESPN and Deontay Wilder reportedly mulling over his future with PBC, perhaps something just as important right now is that the single most dangerous and deserved heavyweight contender in the world remains without a dance partner for his next fight.

Never mind Whyte being the No. 1 ranked contender by the World Boxing Council. That sanctioning body instead deemed Dominic Breazeale the mandatory challenger to Wilder’s WBC title after the potential rematch between Wilder and Fury fell by the wayside.

Here’s all that needs to be said about that grift. Breazeale only had to defeat Eric Molina to get his mandatory title shot while the WBC wanted Whyte to face Cuban southpaw Luis Ortiz, one of the top heavyweights in the sport.

And nobody seems to care that Whyte gave unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua the toughest test of his career (this side of Wladimir Klitschko anyway), when the two squared off in 2015 for the British and Commonwealth titles. Despite the obvious talent gap between the two fighters, Whyte gave the young Joshua just about all the former Olympic champion could handle in a seven-round war.

To hear Whyte tell the story, promoter Eddie Hearn must have intentionally lowballed Whyte for the proposed 2019 rematch in order to ensure Joshua could invade America on June 1 against the likely less dangerous Jarrell Miller. That makes sense for Joshua from a monetary perspective, but it doesn’t do the same in terms of true competitiveness.

According to various reports, Whyte is currently considering a multi-fight deal to appear on ESPN, a move that would give the British battler a path to facing Fury who some consider the lineal heavyweight champion. Fury recently signed a multi-fight deal to be co-promoted by Bob Arum for appearances on the U.S.-based television network ESPN. It’s the move that shelved a potential Wilder rematch and also opened up a huge can of worms in regards to what kinds of fights Fury might actually be able to secure. Currently, the Top Rank-promoted stable of heavyweights is best characterized by fighters who don’t really move the needle in regards to title challenges, fighters like Oscar Rivas, Bryant Jennings and Kubrat Pulev.

Overall, though, the main problem about the heavyweight landscape is that there are three heavyweights who all have a claim to being heavyweight champion. IBF, WBA and WBO champion Joshua is promoted by Hearn and exclusive to DAZN. WBC champ Wilder is attached to the PBC whose television partnerships include Showtime and Fox. Fury is set to embark on his own ESPN crusade. Long story short, these guys probably aren’t fighting each other anytime soon.

Worse is that while all three men are in desperate need of viable opponents, none have seemed all that interested in tussling with Whyte.

It’s no wonder. As good as Whyte has been over the course of his 7-year professional boxing career, the scariest thing about the fighter is that he always seems to be getting better. In his last two fights, Whyte outfought talented former titleholder Joseph Parker and knocked out gritty UK heavyweight Dereck Chisora. In defeating Parker, Whyte was facing someone absolutely in need of a win to maintain his status among heavyweight contenders. In beating Chisora, Whyte was in tough against an opponent he had only defeated by split-decision two years prior. Both wins illustrate just how far Whyte has come as a professional prizefighter.

As it stands, Whyte is the clear top contender among all heavyweights, especially among those who have not yet been granted a shot at a world title. He’s ranked No. 4 behind Joshua, Fury and Wilder by The Ring magazine and the same by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.

The only question that remains is which title claimant will prove the toughest holdout. Whyte’s ultimate choice, in whether to stick with promoter Hearn on DAZN, link up with Arum and ESPN or continue playing the WBC shell game, will probably end up being tied to which path gets him the title shot that he so desperately craves first.

And it absolutely should happen. It’s one thing to crave title opportunities and another to have earned them. Whyte’s done both now, and it’s time for boxing fans and the media to take notice. Better yet, it’s time for Joshua, Fury and Wilder to pit themselves against their most dangerous competition. Since they’re not facing each other, Whyte become the next logical choice for any or all of them.

Because Dillian Whyte is one of the best heavyweight boxers in the world, and he’s done enough by now to warrant the chance to prove it.

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The Hauser Report: St. Patrick’s Day at Madison Square Garden

Thomas Hauser

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Conlan

Boxing’s three “major leagues” showed their respective wares this past weekend. On Friday night, DAZN presented a nine-bout card in conjunction with Matchroom USA. On Saturday, Fox and Premier Boxing champions teamed up for the Errol Spence vs. Mikey Garcia pay-per-view event. Then, on Sunday, ESPN and Top Rank had their turn in the form of a St. Patrick’s Day card at Madison Square Garden headed by Belfast native and former Olympian Michael Conlan.

The star of the show was St. Patrick, the fifth-century saint widely credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland. In his honor, there were three Irishmen on the card: Conlan, flyweight Paddy Barnes, and welterweight Lee Reeves. That said; there was a Hispanic flavor to the proceedings. The sixteen combatants included Eduardo Torres, Victor Rosas, Juan Tapia, Ricardo Maldonado, Adriano Ramirez, Oscar Mojica, Joseph Adorno, John Bauza, Luis Collazo, Ruben Garcia Hernandez, and two Vargases (Josue and Samuel).

Irish-Americans have a record of supporting Irish fighters, particularly on St. Patrick’s Day. This was no exception. The announced crowd of 3,712 arrived early. During the final pre-fight press conference, Top Rank president Todd duBoef had paid homage to the fans, although he did voice the view that, on St. Patrick’s Day, “Their cognitive behavior is manipulated by the beer.”

On fight night, the in-arena music was chosen accordingly. What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor? was played twice over the Hulu Theater sound system.

There was also green lighting.

Lee Reeves (2-0, 2 KOs) of Limerick, Ireland, opened the show with a four-round decision over Edward Torres.

In the third bout of the evening, Vladimir Nikitin (2-0, 0 KOs) won a majority decision over Juan Tapia. Nikitin defeated Conlan in the quarter-finals at the 2016 Olympics. Presumably, they’ll fight again at a time of maximum opportunity for Conlan.

Flyweight Paddy Barnes (5-1, 1 KO) of Belfast was a teammate of Conlan’s at the 2016 Olympics but lost in the first round to Spain’s Samuel Carmona. On St. Patrick’s Day, Barnes was matched against Oscar Mojica (11-5-1), who had one career knockout and had gone 3-5-1 in his previous nine outings.

Mojica broke Barnes’s nose in round one and knocked him down with a body shot in the second stanza (although to the mystification of those in the press section, referee Danny Schiavone waved off the knockdown). It was a spirited outing in which both men were too easy to hit for their own good. Barnes rallied nicely in the second half of the bout and arguably did enough to win the decision. But two of the three judges thought otherwise, leading to a 58-56, 58-56, 56-58 verdict in Mojica’s favor.

In the next-to-last fight of the evening, Luis Collazo (38-7, 20 KOs) took on Samuel Vargas (30-4-2, 14 KOs).

Collazo now 37 years old, reigned briefly as WBA welterweight champion twelve years ago. Since then, he had cobbled together twelve victories (an average of one per year) against six losses in eighteen fights. Vargas had one win in his previous three outings and has never been able to get the “W” against a name opponent.

It was a phone booth fight, which worked to Collazo’s advantage because Luis’s legs aren’t what they once were. The decision could have gone either way. Two judges scored the bout 96-94; one for Collazo and the other for Vargas. Frank Lombardi turned in a wide-of-the-mark 98-92 scorecard in Collazo’s favor.

Then it was time for the main event.

Conlan (10-0, 6 KOs) is best known to boxing fans for having given the finger (two middle fingers, actually) to the judges after coming out on the short end of a decision in the second round of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. His skill set is better suited to the amateur than professional ranks. But his Irish heritage is a significant marketing plus. And Top Rank specializes in both savvy matchmaking and building narratives.

This was the third consecutive year that Conlan, now a featherweight, celebrated St. Patrick’s Day weekend by fighting at Madison Square Garden. His ringwalk was marked by Irish-themed pageantry. And Ruben Garcia Hernandez, his opponent, was tailor-made for him.

Conlon controlled the fight with his jab. Nothing much else happened. “Mick” emerged victorious 100-90 on all three judges’ scorecards. And the fans went home happy because their man won.

*     *     *

The sad news that New York Mets pitching great Tom Seaver is suffering from dementia and will retire from public life is a reminder that all people from all walks of life are susceptible to the condition, not just fighters.

Seaver was on the list of A+ athletes who rose to prominence in the 1960s when advances in television were redefining the sports experience. Muhammad Ali was at the top of that list. Years ago, sportswriter Dick Schaap told me about an evening he spent with Ali and Seaver.

“In 1969, the year the Mets won their first World Series,”Schaap reminisced, “I spent the last few days of the regular season with the team in Chicago. Ali was living there at the time. I was writing a book with Tom Seaver, and the three of us went out to dinner together. We met at a restaurant called The Red Carpet. I made the introductions. And of course, this was the year that Tom Seaver was Mr. Baseball, maybe even Mr. America. Ali and Tom got along fine. They really hit it off together. And after about half an hour, Ali in all seriousness turned to Seaver and said, ‘You know, you’re a nice fellow. Which paper do you write for?’”

Thomas Hauser’s 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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