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A Bevy of Tarnished Heavyweights Vie to Become the Next Bermane Stiverne

Arne K. Lang

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Stiverne

In the murky shadows of heavyweight boxing, several fighters with recognizable names are jockeying to become the next Bermane Stiverne, by which we mean the next pawn in the career of a well-connected up-and-comer, someone such as Filip Hrgovic who recently linked up with powerful promoter Eddie Hearn. Hrgovic and other talented fighters at his stage of development are in search of opponents, more specifically sacrificial lambs, the most alluring of whom are those with recognizable names. And the chosen few get a nice paycheck to assuage their hurt and keep their creditors at bay.

Leading candidates to be the next pawn include former titlist Charles Martin and two-time world title challenger Chris Arreola (pictured), who will both be in action on the Spence-Garcia pay-per-view card. Martin (25-2-1) opposes Gregory Corbin (15-0) and Arreola (37-5-1) meets Jean Pierre Augustin (17-0-1). And then there’s Samuel Peter who appeared on a show this past weekend in Tijuana, thereby sending a message that if the money is right he would welcome an opportunity to go overseas and serve as a building block for someone like Hrgovic, a role for which Sam Peter is well-practiced.

Arreola

Chris Arreola, who turns 38 in a few days, is a three-time world title challenger, succumbing inside the distance to Vitali Klitschko, Bermane Stiverne, and Deontay Wilder. His best win was a first round stoppage of Eric Molina, but that was long ago. In his most recent bout against a noted opponent, he out-pointed Travis Kaufman by split decision, a verdict that was changed to “ND” when his post-fight urine exam showed traces of marijuana.

This was the second time that Arreola was exposed as a consumer of the “evil weed.” Back in 2011, his victory over Friday Ahunanya, a wide 10-round decision, was also voided. Take away those two no-decisions and Arreola’s ledger improves to 39-5-1.

Arreola’s opponent on March 16, Jean Pierre Augustin, is a 31-year-old Haitian currently residing in Louisville. A part-time actor with a few movie credits to his name, Augustin’s last fight was in the Mexican/Arizona border town of Agua Prieta where he defeated a no-name fighter who reportedly carried 334 ½ pounds on a six-foot-two frame.

Arreola says that he will retire if he loses this fight. In an interview with a writer from East Side Boxing, Chris acknowledged that he felt soreness in the mornings after a session in the gym, soreness that he did not feel in his younger days. We have no clue what Augustin will bring to the table, but Arreola will be favored and if he wins, as expected, a substantially richer payday likely awaits him around the next corner.

Arreola has a lot of mileage on his odometer, however, and is a strong candidate for pugilistic dementia if he keeps fighting.

Martin

Charles Martin won the vacant IBF title in January of 2016 with a third round stoppage of Vyacheslav Glazkov and gave it up in his first defense when he was demolished by Anthony Joshua who stopped him in the second round. His tenure as a heavyweight title-holder lasted 85 days, the shortest on record.

Martin’s win over Glazkov was tainted. Glazkov slipped as his feet got tangled with Martin’s and he suffered a torn ACL in his right knee as he fell to the canvas. To that point, the fight was shaping up as a dreary affair.

In his last start, Martin and undefeated Adam Kownacki engaged in an entertaining slugfest. Martin came out on the short end of a close decision, but regained some of his lost stature.

Gregory Corbin, his next opponent, is 38 years old. We have never seen Corbin fight but we suspect he will be competitive. Before he went off to prison for seven-and-a-half years on a cocaine trafficking conviction, Corbin was a national Golden Gloves champion.

Partly because his tenure as a title-holder was so short, Charles Martin is widely considered the worst heavyweight champion of the four-belt era. Bermane Stiverne also warrants consideration for that dubious honor and perhaps also Oliver McCall.

We mention McCall, now 53 years old, only because, sad but true, he’s still active. The erstwhile Atomic Bull has a fight scheduled on the last Saturday of March against a tub of lard named Ronald Baca in Robstown, Texas.

Samuel Peter

Peter brought a record of 36-6 (29 KOs) into his match this past Friday with Gerardo Escobar at Cheer’s Bar in Tijuana. We don’t know the result of that fight — it’s not up on BoxRec and a google search came up empty — but we’ll take it on faith that Peter prevailed and likely without working up much of a sweat. In documented fights, Escobar was 2-21 and had been stopped 15 times.

Peter had previously used Tijuana as a steppingstone. In October of 2016, he defeated a boxer from Mexicali named Juan Carlos Salas in this hardscrabble city. Salas, who was mired in a 7-fight losing streak, quit after three rounds. That triumph propelled Samuel Peter into a match with Kubrat Pulev in Bulgaria where it was he who quit on his stool after three rounds. He was undoubtedly well compensated.

There was a day when Peter was being touted as the next big thing in the heavyweight division. His vicious one-punch knockout of Jeremy Williams stamped him as the division’s hardest hitter since Mike Tyson. There was a lot of smart money on the Nigerian Nightmare when he opposed Wladimir Klitschko in 2005 in Atlantic City in Peter’s first stab at a heavyweight title. He knocked Klitschko down three times but lost most of the rounds and lost by three points on all three scorecards.

Six fights later, Peter won the WBC title with a sixth round stoppage of Oleg Maskaev, but he lost the belt in his first defense, falling to Vitali Klitschko. This was Vitali’s first start after sitting out almost four years while rehabbing an assortment of injuries, but Peter was the one that looked rusty. He retired on his stool after eight lopsided rounds.

Peter went on to secure a rematch with Wladimir Klitschko. In 2010, Wladimir stopped him in the 10th round at Frankfurt. Peter then became an opponent for rising contenders like Finland’s 14-0 Robert Helenius, who stopped him in nine frames, and the aforementioned Pulev. He came in at 271 pounds for Pulev, 20 pounds less than in a 2014 bout with a no-name opponent in Oklahoma City, but 28 pounds more than he carried in his first meeting with Wladimir Klitschko when he was at his peak.

Samuel Peter has seemingly been around forever, but he’s “only” 38 years old, younger than Luis Ortiz or Alexander Povetkin, or several others in his pod, soiled fighters with marketable names chasing one last stab at fistic glory or at least one more big paycheck to cushion their transition into the next phase of their lives.

We’re quite certain we haven’t seen the last of Samuel Peter. He just may be the next Bermane Stiverne.

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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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