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Cecilia Braekhus Leads Heavy Duty Card at StubHub

David A. Avila

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Braekhus

LOS ANGELES-After days of a dark and cold storm the sun is out.

The sun will be shining when Cecilia Braekhus the undisputed welterweight world champion leads the best female fight card in more than a decade at the StubHub Center on Saturday, Dec. 8. HBO will televise its last boxing event ever.

You could say female prizefighting was hidden behind a cloud of darkness for many decades as it struggled to find a place. Television ignored it and now, HBO in its last boxing telecast, finally opens its camera lenses to the sport.

Tom Loeffler, the head of 360 Promotions that is sponsoring the event, recalled back in 2003 trying to put two female bouts on HBO. The two female prize fights were Lucia Rijker versus Jane Couch and Laila Ali against Valerie Mahfood at the Staples Center. The main event was Lennox Lewis and Vitali Klitschko.

Loeffler tried in vain to put either or both of the female bouts on television that day in 2003.

“I was begging HBO,” said Loeffler during the media day at the Sheraton Gateway on Thursday afternoon. “Laila (Ali) because she could really fight.”

The world never got to see Ali or Rijker on HBO, though both were televised by other networks.

Braekhus

Braekhus’ arrival in the sport has driven attention all over the world.

The Colombian-born and Norwegian raised prizefighter singlehandedly crashed the 30-year ban on boxing in her home country. It’s because of her fame and leadership that Norway now allows boxing. She sells out stadiums.

Braekhus signed with 360 Promotions and trained for this upcoming fight in Los Angeles under much warmer conditions than accustomed.

Opposing Braekhus (34-0) will be Aleksandra Magdziak-Lopes (18-4-3) who fights out of Massachusetts and has beaten Kali Reis who has the claim of being the only one to knock down the welterweight world champion.

When you see Braekhus in that slight tilting boxing stance and the right hand cocked like she’s about to fire a rocket it’s not a mirage. She has one of the quickest rights I’ve seen from a male or female prizefighter. It’s a burst of power that keeps the opposition leery of attacking.

But fighting American fighters presents a different challenge for Braekhus. Most American fighters do not have the European style with hands high while jabbing and moving. Fighters in the U.S. prefer to move in with power.

Lopes-Magdziak has fought for a world title in Poland but fell short. While not in the boxing ring she’s an attorney at law. She quickly accepted the fight against Braekhus when it was offered.

Women prizefighters are unafraid when it comes to world titles. They will accept.

“I’m sure there are a lot of women that would love this opportunity,” said Lopes during the press conference.

Shields

Dynamic seems to fall short when describing Claressa Shields the WBA, WBC and IBF middleweight titlist.

Ever since arriving from the amateur boxing world with two Olympic gold medals Shields has charged into the female boxing world with a fighting style that’s best described as a tornado of fury.

After whipping every super middleweight put in front of her and taking their world title straps, the Michigan native found more competition in the lower weights. She also changed trainers and slowly subscribed to the more professional style.

“I want knockouts,” said Shields whose speed and skills have put her on another fighting level. “I’m learning to be more patient and set up my shots.”

Belgium’s Femke Hermans (9-1) accepted the world title challenge against Shields without hesitation. Despite the internationally known fighting skills of Shields, the Belgian fighter signed within weeks of the fight.

“It’s very great to fight for three world titles against a great fighter like Claressa Shields,” said Hermans.

Very few male fighters would accept a world title fight weeks before a fight. Female prizefighters are extremely professional and always ready. It’s another reason to check into the female prizefighting world.

Gallo Estrada

Former light flyweight and flyweight world champion Juan Francisco Estrada of Mexico quickly accepted a fight on HBO when it was learned Nicaragua’s Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez was forced to pull out of the boxing card due to a leg injury.

Estrada (37-3, 25 KOs) accepted a fight and his first scheduled foe had to pull out due to injury. Now he’s facing another fighter from his hometown in Victor Mendez (28-3-2, 20 KOs) in a 10 round super flyweight clash. Both fight out of Hermosillo, Mexico.

“I’m happy for this fight in the United States,” said Estrada whose nickname is Gallo. “Victor Mendez is a very good fighter.”

Mendez was set to face Chocolatito and now meets a Mexican rival.

“I was thinking I was going to face Chocolatito so I was getting ready,” said Mendez. “This Saturday is going to be a great opportunity. I believe it’s going to be a war.”

Mexican versus Mexican in the U.S. is usually a war. Perhaps the greatest of all in the StubHub was when Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez fought there twice. Both were magnificent if not brutal.

Bang Bang

Though not on the televised portion, Louisa or Lulu “Bang Bang” Lawton (8-2) is set to face Southern California’s Lorraine Villalobos (2-1) in an atomweight fight.

“I had never heard of atomweight before,” said promoter Loeffler adding that it was through Lawton he discovered the 102-pound division.

Lawton was scheduled to fight Mexico’s Brenda Flores in a rematch for the WBC atomweight title but illness forced the Tijuana-based fighter to pull out. Now Lawton meets Villalobos a talented local fighter.

“I’m super hyped to be part of this card,” said Lawton who has more enthusiasm than anyone in the sport of boxing.

The last time the Aussie native fought Flores the two tiny atomweights lit up the arena and stole the show with their vicious exchanges. They completely outshined the two male world title fights that night at the Inglewood Forum on September 8. Though Hawton lost by split decision, she won the hearts and cheers from the fans there who clapped loudly for the two tiny warriors.

It’s definitely a Fight of the Year candidate.

Bohachuk

Another fighter under the 360 Promotions umbrella is Serhii Bohachuk of the Ukraine. So far he’s blown out the competition.

Bohachuk (11-0, 11 KOs) meets Puerto Rico’s Carlos Garcia Hernandez (15-19-1) in a middleweight match set for six rounds. We’ll see if he attains any kind of competition.

The Ukrainian fighter trains in Big Bear with Abel Sanchez and is very heavy handed. He does have boxing skills as most Ukrainians.

A total of 10 pro bouts are scheduled. Tickets for Saturday’s show start at $25 dollars and go up to $125. It’s well worth the value. Go to this link to purchase tickets:

https://www.axs.com/events/365141/braekhus-vs-lopes-tickets

HBO will televise three fights.

Photo credit: Tom Hogan / Hogan photos

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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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