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Erickson Lubin: Now a `Different Beast’ as a Result of the Charlo Smash-up

Bernard Fernandez

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Lubin

The next step up from a swelling sense of confidence for a young, undefeated fighter is, well, overconfidence. Arrogance, even. When you are accustomed to nothing but success, why even entertain the possibility of a disappointing outcome? Being beaten up and losing is something that is only supposed to happen to the poor schnook in the other corner, right?

The first step down from utter confidence for a young, formerly undefeated fighter can be panic and self-doubt. The introduction of defeat into a first-time loser’s belief system is even harsher if it comes in the form of a knockout, and especially so if the shocking end comes before the completion of the very first round.

The journey from the way Erickson Lubin had viewed his life and boxing career to a decidedly harsher reality required only 2 minutes, 41 seconds when the 22-year-old southpaw from Orlando, Fla., took on WBC super welterweight champion Jermell Charlo on Oct. 14, 2017, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Actually, the decisive sequence was much more condensed than that; there were only 28 seconds remaining in the opening stanza when Charlo fired a short right that landed flush to Lubin’s forehead, sending the challenger crumpling to the canvas and onto his right side where he briefly flailed like a reeled-in fish on the bottom of a bass boat. Referee Harvey Dock started to initiate a count, but as he knelt over the stricken Lubin, who clearly was not about to rise in time, he waved his arms at six, signaling the bout’s conclusion.

Only nine seconds had elapsed from the moment Charlo connected with the shot that, at least momentarily, demonstrated what some had believed all along: that Erickson Lubin, the fight game’s most recent flavor of the month, was the false creation of a relentless hype machine.

But perhaps that instantly revised, less laudatory assessment of Lubin (19-1, 14 KOs) is no more accurate than the fawning praise and inflated expectations that had preceded it. The supposed wunderkind who had been at the center of a firestorm of controversy nearly six years ago is still around, still ranked No. 6 at super welterweight by the WBC, and eager to make the kind of statement with a dominant performance against former IBF 154-pound champion Ishe Smith (29-10, 12 KOs) in a scheduled 10-rounder Saturday night at the Dignity Health Sports Park (formerly the StubHub Center) in Carson, Calif., that he once anticipated making against Charlo.

“I’ve had hardships in my life,” Lubin said, refuting the notion that he somehow and undeservedly had been fast-tracked for the boxing superstardom that has to date remained beyond his grasp. “I overcame them all. But that (Charlo) fight … I woke up a different beast. I had to re-assess. I decided it was time to take this sport to a whole different level.

“What happened to me was something that had never happened to me before. I’d never been stopped or even dropped. Well, maybe when I was six or seven, by my older brother, just teaching me. I guess I was on my high horse a little bit. I was immature. I admit it.”

Lubin didn’t exactly disappear after his comeuppance from Charlo, but it was his choice not to rush back into action until he had given himself enough of a break to undertake the necessary physical and mental makeovers. He has fought just once post-Charlo, a fourth-round stoppage of Mexican journeyman Silverio Ortiz on April 28 of last year in El Paso, Texas, and his matchup with the 40-year-old Smith, as intriguing as it might be on some level, still was not regarded as significant enough to be included among the three bouts to be televised on the Showtime Championship Boxing portion of the card, a lineup topped by the IBF junior lightweight defense by champion Gervonta Davis (20-0, 19 KOs) against former WBC super bantamweight titlist Hugo Ruiz (39-4, 33 KOs). Other TV fights include 10-rounders pitting super lightweights Mario Barrios (22-0, 14 KOs) and Richard Zamora (19-2, 12 KOs) and lightweights Sharif Bogere (32-1, 20 KOs) and Javier Fortuna (33-2-1, 23 KOs).

Lubin-Smith can still be seen, however, via Showtime’s social media platforms and Lubin is adamant that he still is capable of emerging as the star of the night.

“I feel like I’m really at my best now,” Lubin opined. “My skills have improved, my power’s improved, my ring IQ has improved. I went into the Charlo fight with not too much of a game plan. I just was looking for the knockout. I wanted to make a big statement. But I can make that kind of statement against Ishe Smith. I’m not predicting I’ll knock him out, but if I can knock out a guy who’s never been knocked out, that’d be a big statement, right? And I’m capable of it. Even if I don’t knock him out, I want to show the world how much talent I have, in case anyone has forgotten.”

Toward that end, Lubin has brought in veteran trainer Kevin Cunningham as his chief second, while retaining the services of his longtime trainer Jason Galarza as a cornerman. But it is Lubin’s rededicated approach to his craft that is the biggest change of all.

“I needed to get away from home a little bit and into a place where I’m not really too comfortable,” Lubin said of his shift, for boxing purposes, from Orlando to Miami. “With a no-tolerance trainer like Kevin, it’s not just a change in training, it’s a change in lifestyle. Boxing is a year-round sport. You always have to be ready, you always have to be in shape. Football players have seasons, basketball players have seasons. Fights don’t have seasons.

“I took the Charlo fight serious. I trained very hard with Jason. But I had let myself blow up (a weight gain of 40 pounds) and so I had to take all that off, which, looking back, might have taken something out of me. I also had a fracture in my lead (right) hand during training so I didn’t spar much until the last two weeks of camp. And I got to admit, I went into the Charlo fight with not too much of a game plan. If I could just go back in time, I’d have game-planned more and not let the hype get to me. There was a lot of talking back and forth between our entourages. All that was on my mind. I realize I was too focused on trying to knock him out. I should have taken my time, used that first round to feel him out. But I wanted to be right there up in his face instead of boxing him.”

It is a common error among those to whom things come too easily, to expect that corners can be cut and all the puzzle pieces will fit neatly into place because, well, hadn’t they always? So convinced was Dr. Charles Butler, then the president of USA Boxing, that Lubin was the United States’ best hope for a gold medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics that he took out print ads urging Lubin, the son of Haitian immigrants, to remain an amateur until he had the chance to represent his country in Rio. Lubin instead opted to turn pro with the fledgling and now-defunct Mike Tyson Productions – he’s since signed on with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions — on the condition that he would be paired immediately against higher-quality opponents than are most newly minted pros. After blowing through his first 18 bouts with little trouble, Lubin figured he was as ready as he ever needed to be to add Charlo to his list of victims.

It now appears that was a miscalculation, but, at 24, Lubin figures he has ample time to make amends. He has a baby son, Malachai, to support and a sense of destiny that requires fulfillment. A step back is a step back only if you refuse to keep moving forward.

“I don’t regret anything, actually,” Lubin said of where he’s been, where he is and where he is bound. “I’m very competitive. I don’t like to lose, at anything. I got that Kobe Bryant `Black Mama’ mentality. If you want to see who can spit the farthest, I’m going to try to spit the farthest. That’s how I came up.”

Photo credit: Mario Serrano / Team Lubin

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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Allen (KO 3) and Chisora (UD 10) Victorious in Heavyweight Action in London

Arne K. Lang

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Heavyweights Allen & Chisora win

A pair of heavyweight battles topped the card at London’s 02 Arena. Both favorites won, but neither bout played out as expected.

Fan favorite David Allen, a 27-year-old Yorkshireman, continued his ascent from the lower depths of the boxing firmament with a one-punch knockout of Australia’s  heavily-tattooed Lucas Browne. Allen caved in Browne with a body punch in the third round that brought a sudden end to a bout that the Aussie appeared to be winning.

Browne, who turned 40 this month, made history when he became the first Australian to win a world heavyweight title (WBA version) when he scored a 10th round stoppage of Ruslan Chagaev in Russia. But, in hindsight, that win was a fluke. A gassed-out Chagaev was widely ahead on the cards when his roof fell in. Browne’s tenure was brief. He was stripped of the belt after testing positive for clenbuterol.

Allen, nicknamed the White Rhino, has now won four straight beginning with an upset of previously undefeated Nick Webb. His reputation is that of a common brawler, a fighter willing to take two punches to land one, but, regardless, he positioned himself for a nice payday or two going forward. Browne lost his second straight after opening his career 28-0.

The maddeningly inconsistent Dereck Chisora, who engaged in two barnburners with Dillian Whyte, snoozed his way to a 10-round unanimous decision over milquetoast Senad Gashi. The 35-year-old Chisora, a Zinbabwe-born Londoner, improved to 30-9 but did nothing to improve his stock. The well-traveled Gashi, born in Kosovo and now residing in Spain, declined to 17-3 while acquiring the patina of a trial horse.

Other Bouts

Welterweight Josh Kelly, a 2016 Olympian, won a lopsided 10-round decision over stubborn Przemysla Runowski. Kelly (9-0, 6 KOs) had Runowski on the canvas in rounds two, nine, and 10, but the previously undefeated Pole (now 17-1, 3 KOs) stayed the course. Kelly appeared to hurt his hand early in the fight. That may knock him off the Joshua-TBA card on June 1 at Madison Square Garden.

Joe Cordina, a Welshman, now holds the British and Commonwealth lightweight titles after scoring a 6th round stoppage of Yorkshireman Andy Townend (22-5). Cordina started slowly but gradually picked up the pace and scored three knockdowns before the referee waived it off. A 2016 Olympian, Cordina (9-0, 7 KOs) was a heavy favorite despite a dearth of pro experience.

Conor Benn the 22-year-old son of Nigel Benn, was extended the distance for the third time in his last four fights but had little difficulty advancing his record to 14-0 (9) at the expense of Josef Zahradnik (10-3) of the Czech Republic. The referee awarded Benn every round in this 8-round welterweight affair.

Middleweight Nikita Ababiy, a hot prospect with a big upside, was extended into the second round for the first time in his young pro career but eliminated Dmitri Faltin after only 26 seconds of round two. A 20-year-old Brooklynite of Russian extraction, nicknamed White Chocolate, Ababiy (4-0) excelled in all manner of combat sports as teenager. In the ring he doesn’t pussyfoot around. He won his pro debut in 28 seconds. Faltin, a 37-year-old Finn, fell to 2-4-1.

John Harding Jr., a 34-year-old middleweight, improved to 7-0-1 with a one-sided 6-round decision over Miroslav Juna (1-2). A protégé of Dillian Whyte, Harding started his pro career late after serving several stints in prison.

Cruiserweight Sam Hyde (14-1-1, 7 KOs) rebounded from his first defeat in fine fashion, blowing out Slovakia’s Josef Jurko (5-2) in the opening round.

Super bantamweight Sam Cox (4-0) won a 4-round decision over Bulgaria’s Georgi Georgiev.

In a woman’s fight, British bantamweight Shannon Courtenay (2-0) outpointed Bulgaria’s Roz Mari Silyanova (1-5-1). The ref gave Courtenay all four rounds.

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BWAA Writing Awards Announced: The Sweet Science Earns Multiple Citations

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BWAA Awards

The Boxing Writers Association of America has announced their annual Bernie Awards which recognize excellence in boxing journalism. Five stories that ran on this web site earned commendations.

TSS editor-in-chief Arne K. Lang copped first place in the category “Boxing Feature Under 1,500 Words.” Springs Toledo and Thomas Hauser earned third place ribbons, Toledo in the category “Best Column” and Hauser in “Boxing Investigative Reporting,” a category in which he has excelled. In addition, TSS New England correspondent Jeffrey Freeman and Sean Nam earned Honorable Mentions, Freeman in “Boxing Feature Under 1,500 Words” and Nam for an investigative reporting piece.

Four TSS correspondents – Toledo, Hauser, Kelsey McCarson, and Nam – were honored for stories that appeared on other web sites.

Springs Toledo, who has had the most abundant haul of BWAA writing awards since 2010 was omnipresent once again, earning five citations overall including a first place finish for “Boxing Feature Over 1,500 Words.” The multi-decorated Thomas Hauser also achieved a first place finish, this in the category “Boxing News Story.” Kelsey McCarson tied for first in “Boxing Column” and Sean Nam came in third in “Boxing Feature Under 1500 Words.”

What follows is the full press release authored by Awards Chairman BERNARD FERNANDEZ. A TSS mainstay, Fernandez is a former five-term president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

PRESS RELEASE: Toledo, Kriegel, Boxing News Top BWAA Writing Contest

Springs Toledo and Mark Kriegel scored highest among individual entrants, while Boxing News/BoxingNewsOnline.com topped the overall sweepstakes in the 18th annual Boxing Writers Association of America writing contest. Those who placed in the contest, which drew a record 147 submissions from a record 49 media representatives who cover the sport, will be recognized at the 94th annual BWAA Awards Ceremony, to be held May 31 at the Copacabana in New York City.

 Toledo, a Boston native and frequent honoree in the BWAA writing contest, led all entrants with 14 points on a scoring system of five points for a first place, three for second, two for third and one for an honorable mention. In the blind judging, in which all bylines and other identifying marks were removed beforehand before being forwarded to a distinguished panel of sports journalists and academics, Toledo took a first in Feature (Over 1,500 words), seconds in Investigative Reporting and a tie for Feature (Under 1,500 Words), a tie for third in Event Coverage and an honorable mention in Column. He spread the wealth around, too, with submissions for Boxing News, thesweetscience.com and City Journal.

 Kriegel, who took first places in both Feature categories in the 2017 contest, was again a major factor in multiple categories, totaling 12 points. He took first place in Investigative Reporting, seconds in Feature (Under 1,500 Words) and Feature (Over 1,500 Words) and an HM in Column, all for ESPN.com.

Other first places went to Arne K. Lang, editor of thesweetscience.com in Feature (Under 1,500 Words); Paul Wheeler of Boxing News in Event Coverage and Kelsey McCarson of NYFights.com (tie) in Column.

Boxing News and BoxingNewsOnline.com, based in the United Kingdom, stormed the BWAA contest like the Beatles coming to America in 1964, totaling 27 points on two firsts, three seconds, a third and five HMs. ESPN.com was next with 16 points, followed by thesweetscience.com and BoxingScene.com with 11 apiece.

 The entire list of placing entrants:

2018 BERNIE WINNERS

BOXING EVENT COVERAGE

First Place

PAUL WHEELER, “Win-Win for Usyk and Bellew,” Boxing News, November 11, 2018

Second Place

MATTHEW AGUILAR, “Vargas, Dulorme Draw is WBC Silver Welterweight,” The Associated Press, October 7, 2018

Third Place (Tie)

LANCE PUGMIRE, “Wilder – Fury Embodied the Greatness of Heavyweight Boxing of Yesteryear,” Los Angeles Times, December 2, 2018,

SPRINGS TOLEDO, “Art and Heroism in a Corrupted Sport,” thesweetscience.com, December 3, 2018

Honorable Mention: Tris Dixon, BoxingScene.com; Lee Groves,CompuBoxTV.com; Gordon Marino, TheDailyBeast.com; Kieran Mulvaney, InsideHBOBoxing.com; Cliff Rold, BoxingScene.com; Don Stradley, Ringside Seat; Chris Walker, BoxingNewsOnline.net.

BOXING COLUMN

First Place (Tie)

THOMAS GERBASI, “Beyond the Ring, The Next Fight,” BoxingScene.com, December 26, 2018

KELSEY McCARSON, “Tyson Fury, Mental Health and Vunerability,” NYFights.com, June 8, 2018

Second Place (Tie)

DON STRADLEY, “Goodbye to All That,” donstradley.blogspot.com, December 29, 2018

ELLIOT WORSELL, “Joe Fournier is the 11th Best Light-Heavyweight in the World – Apparently,” Boxing News, March 29, 2018

Third  Place

GREG BISHOP, “In Search of a Happy Ending to Boxing Career, Manny Pacquiao is Following a Familiar, Sad Trajectory Instead,” Sports Illustrated, January 12, 2018

Honorable Mention: Tris Dixon, Boxingscene.com; Mark Kriegel, ESPN.com; Kieran Mulvaney, Boxing News; Springs Toledo, Boxing News

BOXING NEWS STORY

First Place

THOMAS HAUSER, “Curtis Harper Goes Viral,” The Sporting News, August 29, 2018

Second Place

NORM FRAUENHEIM, “Bob Arum on the Passing of ‘The Boxing Senator’ John McCain: ‘He Was a Great American,’” RingTV.net, August 25, 2018

Third Place (Tie)

DON STRADLEY, “DeMarco is In!,” donstradley.blogspot.com; December 31, 2018

LEE GROVES, “Farewell to a Boxing Lifer, Don Chargin, the Last Gentleman Promoter,” CompuBoxTV.com, September 29, 2018

Honorable Mention: Lance Pugmire, Los Angeles Times; Dan Rafael, ESPN.com.

BOXING FEATURE (Under 1,500 words)

First Place

ARNE K. LANG, “Christmas Day in Germany with Sugar Ray Robinson,” thesweetscience.com, December 24, 2018

Second Place (Tie)

JOHN DENNEN, “Thank God I’m Not a World Champion,” Boxing News, September 16, 20128

MARK KRIEGEL, “The Old Man and the Kid: Alex Saucedo Fighting for a Title and His Mentor’s Legacy,” ESPN.com, November 13, 2018

CLIFF ROLD, “Golovkin, Hopkins, Monzon: The Record at Middleweight,” BoxingScene.com, May 2, 2018

SPRINGS TOLEDO, “The Quiet Man,” Boxing News, October 25, 2018

Third Place

SEAN NAM, “Eleider Alvarez Stuns Sergey Kovalev,” UCNLive.com, August 10, 2018

Honorable Mention: Ron Borges, Boxing Monthly; Thomas Gerbasi, The Ring; David Weinberg, Press of Atlantic City; Jeffrey Freeman, thesweetscience.com; Lance Pugmire, Los Angeles Times

BOXING FEATURE (Over 1,500 words)

First Place

SPRINGS TOLEDO, “The Historian: Mike Tyson and the Ghost of Boxing’s Past,” Boxing News, March 22, 2018

Second Place

MARK KRIEGEL, “The Education of Terence Crawford,” ESPN.com, June 9, 2018

Third Place

TRIS DIXON, “A Warrior’s Brain,” Boxing News, August 2, 2018

Honorable Mention: Matthew Aguilar, El Paso Times; Thomas Gerbasi, Boxing News; Lance Pugmire, Los Angeles Times; Dan Rafael, ESPN.com; Don Stradley, The Ring

BOXING INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

First Place

MARK KRIEGEL, “A Unique Family Dynamic and the Shooting Nobody Wants to Talk About: The Jose Benavidez Jr. Story,” ESPN.com, October 13, 2018

Second Place

SPRINGS TOLEDO, “191 Edgecombe,” City Journal, Summer 2018

Third Place

THOMAS HAUSER, “1,501 Tests, One Reported Positive? What’s Going on with the USADA and Boxing?,” thesweetscience.com, September 7, 2018 and December 7, 2018

Honorable Mention: Ron Borges, Boxing Monthly; Matt Christie, Boxing News; Jack Hirsch, Boxing News; Sean Nam, thesweetscience.com; Adam Pollack,Boxinginsider.com; Lance Pugmire, Los Angeles Times; Joseph Santoliquito, PremierBoxingChampions.com

 News Outlets

  1. Boxing News/BoxingNewsOnline.net (27 points) 
  2. ESPN.com (16)
  3. THESWEETSCIENCE.COM(11); BoxingScene.com (11)
  4. NYFights.com (7)
  5. Los Angeles Times (6)
  6. The Ring/RingTV.com (5)
  7. The Sporting News (5)
  8. The Associated Press (3); CompuBox.com (3); City Journal (3); DonStradley.blogspot.com (3)
  9. Sports Illustrated (2); Boxing Monthly (2); UCNLLive.com (2)
  10. El Paso Times (1); PremierBoxingChampions.com (1); Ringside Seat (1); The Press of Atlantic City (1); Boxinginsider.com (1); The Daily Beast (1); InsideHBOBoxing.com (1); BoxingNews (1)

2018 BERNIES JUDGES:

MICHAEL HIRSLEY, Chicago Tribune (Retired)

FRANZ LIDZ, Sports Illustrated (Retired)

THOMAS MACDONALD, Novelist and Boston College Writing Instructor

JOHN SCHULIAN, Chicago Sun-Times (Retired)

JOHN WHISLER, San Antonio Express News (Retired)

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Erick Ituarte Wins Featherweight Battle in Ontario, CA

David A. Avila

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Ituarte

ONTARIO, CA.-Looking to make waves as a featherweight, Santa Ana’s Erick Ituarte battled Tijuana’s Jose Estrella evenly before pulling away in the last third of the fight to win by decision on Friday.

Ituarte (21-1-1, 3 KOs) lacks the big punch but has the long arms that enabled him to keep distance and out-point the shorter Estrella (20-16-1, 14 KOs) in their 10-round bout at the Doubletree Hotel. Thompson Boxing Promotions staged the fight card that saw about 500 fans at the event.

Estrella used his guts and guile to keep the fight close in the first four rounds of the fight. Back and forth they went trading momentum, Ituarte was effective attacking the body and Estrella was good at connecting with big blows to the head.

It wasn’t until the seventh round that Ituarte began utilizing his reach and mobility to make Estrella chase and run into pot shots. From that moment on Ituarte was in control of the fight. No knockdowns were scored with one judge scoring it 98-92 and two others 100-89 for Ituarte. Each round was very competitive.

Other bouts

Corona’s Luis Lopez (5-0, 3 KOs) powered his way to victory by unanimous decision over Mexico’s Daniel Perales (10-17-2, 5 KOs) after four rounds in a welterweight match. Though Lopez won every round with sharper punches he was never able to hurt the super tough Mexican fighter from Monterrey. He recognized that early and used crisp combinations to win each round though Perales had his moments too. All three judges scored it 40-36 for Lopez.

A heavyweight fight saw local fighter Oscar Torres (5-0, 2 KOs) run his record to five wins with a fourth round stoppage over Houston’s Thomas Hawkins (4-4) after a barrage of punches. The fight was stopped twice in the fourth round and a final barrage of blows prompted referee Tony Crebs to halt the fight at 1:20 of the round. Torres fights out of Rialto, California and is trained by Henry Ramirez.

Lightweights Davonte McCowen (0-0-1) and Chris Crowley (0-0-1) fought to a majority draw after four torrid rounds. Both were making their pro debuts. McCowen started faster and slowed in the last two rounds that allowed Britain’s Crowley to mount a rally in the last two rounds. It was a spirited fight between the two newcomers.

Photo credit: Alonzo Coston

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