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Boxing Obituaries 2018 PART ONE: (A-G)

Arne K. Lang

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boxing obituaries

An otherwise up year for boxing was unfortunately mottled by many somber notes as the “10 count” was tolled for an inordinately high number of notable boxing personalities. This year, our annual obits compilation is running in two parts with the decedents listed alphabetically.

Ramon Pina Acevedo – A prominent lawyer and political figure in the Dominican Republic, Pina was the first President of the World Boxing Organization (WBO). On Feb. 7 in Santo Domingo at age 96.

Steve Acunto – Honored by the BWAA in 1998 for “long and meritorious service,” Acunto dedicated his life to the betterment of boxing. A man who wore many hats – e.g. judge, commissioner, YMCA boxing coach – he campaigned successfully to get his friend Rocky Marciano on a U.S. postage stamp. On Feb. 1 at age 101 in Mount Vernon, NY, his home for 86 years.

Phil Alessi – The founding owner of a bakery/deli that is a local institution in Tampa, Alessi promoted or co-promoted more than 300 boxing shows, many of which aired on the USA Cable network. On May 6 at age 74 from complications of diabetes.

Dave Anderson – One of only three sportswriters to win the Pulitzer Prize (Red Smith and Jim Murray are the others), Anderson, a 2008 IBHOF inductee, spent more than three decades at the New York Times. He collaborated with Sugar Ray Robinson on his memoir and authored “In This Corner” (subtitled “Great Boxing Trainers Talk About Their Art”). In Cresskill, New Jersey, on Oct. 4 at age 89.

Vic Andreetti – A stablemate of Henry Cooper, Andreetti was 51-13-3 in a career that began in 1961. Late in his career he won the British 130-pound title from three-time rival Des Rea. In retirement he ran a pub in London’s East End and for a time was the trainer of Nigel Benn. In London on March 16 at age 76 of cancer.

Marijan Benes – He represented Yugoslavia in the 1976 Olympics and as a pro fought for the WBA 154-pound title, losing a 15-round decision to Ayub Kalule in Denmark. He was 32-6-1 when he had to quit boxing because of an eye injury. He was suffering from Alzheimer’s and wheelchair-bound when he died in Banja Luka, Bosnia, on Sept 4 at age 67.

Markus Beyer – A two-time Olympian and three-time WBC super middleweight world title holder, Beyer compiled a 35-3-1 record while defeating such notables as Richie Woodhall, Eric Lucas, and Danny Green (twice). In retirement he worked as a TV boxing analyst in his native Germany. In Berlin on Dec. 3 at age 47 of an undisclosed illness.

Bert Blewett – A man synonymous with boxing in his native South Africa, Blewett quit his job as an accountant in 1978 to focus exclusively on the sweet science which he served as a journalist, referee, judge, and magazine publisher. On Jan. 23 in Durban, S.A. at age 84.

Aureliano Bolognesi – Reportedly 140-1 as an amateur, Bolognesi won the gold medal as a lightweight at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. As a professional he was 17-2-2. In Genoa, Italy, on March 30 at age 87.

Monroe Brooks – Brooks (50-8-3, 34 KOs) fought extensively at the Olympic Auditorium where he made his pro debut and in Sacramento where he developed a loyal following. He fought Saensak Muangsurin in Thailand for the WBC 130-pound title and fought Roberto Duran in Madison Square Garden, but in LA is best remembered for his 1978 war with Bruce Curry at the Olympic. At age 65 in Los Angeles.

Charlie “White Lightning” Brown – Brown was barely 19 years old when he knocked Alfredo Escalera into retirement, outpointing the former long-reigning 130-pound champion at Madison Square Garden. With his boyish good looks the world was his oyster, but after opening his career 24-0 he faded fast. Brown lost the use of his legs two years ago when he was hit by a car. He was 53 years old and suffering from dementia when he died at age 53 on August 13 in an East Moline, Illinois nursing home.

Enzo Calzaghe – An Italian-born Welsh boxing trainer, Enzo steered his Hall of Fame son Joe Calzaghe into a world champion in two weight divisions. He also tutored future world title holders Enzo Maccarinelli, Gavin Rees, and Nathan Cleverly. On Sept. 17 at age 69 in Newcastle, Wales. No cause of death was listed.

Leopoldo Cantancio – He represented the Philippines as a lightweight in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics. Cantancio never turned pro but stayed involved in the sport including a stint as the head coach of the Philippines national team. On April 20 at age 54 in a motorcycle crash while returning from a boxing tournament.

Franco Cavicchi – A small heavyweight by today’s standards, Cavicchi compiled a 71-14-4 record with 45 knockouts in an 11-year career that began in 1952. In 1956, he defeated Heinz Neuhaus to win the European heavyweight title but lost it in his first defense to Ingemar Johansson. In Bologna on Aug. 23 at age 90.

Al Certo – A tailor by trade who had 10 pro fights (winning nine) under his birth name Al Certisimo, Certo was a larger-than-life character who at various times was a manager, promoter, matchmaker, trainer, and booking agent. Under his management, 2019 IBHOF inductee James “Buddy” McGirt won world titles in two weight classes. On Dec. 26 in Secaucus, NJ, at age 90.

Don Chargin – A licensed boxing promoter in California for an incredible 69 years, Chargin is best remembered as the matchmaker at LA’s fabled Olympic Auditorium, a post he held for 21 years beginning in 1964. A great ambassador for boxing, he was inducted into the IBHOF in 2001 and lived to see his late wife Lorraine inducted this year. On Sept. 28 in San Luis Obispo, CA at age 90.

Chartchoi Chionoi – Active from 1959 to 1975, Thailand’s Chionoi, dubbed “Little Marciano,” was a two-time world flyweight champion. Parkinson’s disease hastened his death on Jan. 21 at age 75 in Bangkok.

Billy Collins – Active from 1958 to 1965, Collins quit the sport with a 38-17-1 record after losing a 12-round decision to future welterweight champion Curtis Cokes. On Jan. 9 at age 81 in his hometown of Memphis.

Christian Daghio – Born in Italy, Daghio operated a gym in Thailand devoted to Muay Thai and other combat sports. On Oct. 26, he was knocked out cold in the 12th round of a WBC sanctioned match in Rangsit, Thailand, and never regained consciousness. It was his 11th documented fight as a conventional boxer. He was 49 years old.

David Defiagbon – A native Nigerian who moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Defiagbon was Canada’s heavyweight representative in the 1996 Olympics, winning a silver medal. 21-2 as a pro, he died in Las Vegas on Nov. 24 at age 48 of heart complications.

Piero Del Papa – Active from 1960 to 1972, Del Papa compiled a 45-11-4 record and had two reigns as the European light heavyweight champion. In 1971 he challenged Vicente Rondon for the WBA 175-pound world title and was stopped in the opening round. On Oct. 27 in Pisa, Tuscany, his birthplace, at age 80.

Marty Denkin – He refereed hundreds and judged thousands of fights during his 40-plus years on the Southern California boxing scene. For a time he ran the LA office for the State Athletic Commission. Denkin played himself in several movies and owns the distinction of being the only man to count out Rocky Balboa. On Nov. 29 at his home in West Covina, California at age 84.

Leo DiFiore – Coming up the ladder, DiFiore, a junior lightweight, developed an avid following in his hometown of Portland, Maine, which in the 1960s and 1970s was one of America’s busiest boxing towns. He devolved into a journeyman, finishing with a record of 69-33-2. At age 69 in Portland after a decade-long battle with dementia.

Chris Edwards – He lost six of his first seven fights but went on to become a three-time British flyweight champion. A great spoiler, he won a Lonsdale belt outright before retiring in 2012. At age 41 in his hometown of Stoke-on-Trent of an apparent heart attack.

Royce Feour – A retired sportswriter, he spent 37 years at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, covering the boxing beat for 25 of those years. In 1996, the BWAA honored Feour with the Nat Fleischer Award for excellence in boxing journalism. He died on or about Dec. 23 in Las Vegas at age 79 after a lingering illness.

Jorge Fernandez – A welterweight, Fernandez was 117-10-3 with 84 knockouts in a career that began in 1953 and spanned three decades. He was stopped in the ninth round by three-time rival Emile Griffith in one of the first title fights held in Las Vegas and subsequently lost a narrow 12-round decision to Carlos Monzon in a bout billed for the Argentina middleweight title. In Buenos Aires at age 82.

Dean Francis – A Bristol man who last fought in 2014 and finished his career with a record of 34-5-1, Francis won European and British titles at 168 and then returned from a career-threatening shoulder injury to win domestic titles as a light heavyweight and cruiserweight. On May 25 at age 44 from cancer.

Joey Giambra – The “Buffalo Adonis,” Giambra, a middleweight, compiled a 65-10-2 record and was never stopped in a career that began in 1949. He won two of three against future Hall of Famer Joey Giardello and participated in the first recognized title fight in the 154-pound division, losing a 15-round decision to Denny Moyer in Portland, Oregon, Moyer’s hometown. On March 2 in Las Vegas at age 86.

Chuck Giampa – A Las Vegas insurance broker, Giampa judged more than 2,500 fights from 1985 to 2008. He was also a boxing consultant for Showtime and wrote a column for The Ring magazine. At age 75 in Las Vegas after a lengthy illness.

George “Bunny” Grant – From Kingston, Jamaica, Grant was 52-15-5 in a career that consumed 681 rounds. In his fourth year as a pro in 1962, he outpointed Dave Charnley to win the British Empire lightweight title and went on to fight Eddie Perkins for the WBA/WBC lightweight title, losing a 15-round decision. In Kingston on Nov. 1 at age 78 after a series of strokes.

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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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