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25 Years Gone, This Old Welterweight is Still a Champion in My Eyes

Bernard Fernandez




I never saw my favorite fighter in action. His last professional fight took place before I was born. There are no videotapes of him boring in, springing from a crouch and landing his trademark left hook. All that remains of his boxing legacy are a few yellowed newspaper clippings, the memories of a diminishing number of elderly friends and family members and, oh, yes, a framed poster from Aug. 18, 1944, that lists his name as an undercard performer for a show headlined by the great Archie Moore. The Mongoose fought Jimmie Hayden; my favorite fighter fought Jimmy Hatmaker.

By all accounts, Bernard “Jack” Fernandez Sr. – whose nickname was conferred by someone long, long ago because his boxing style supposedly was reminiscent of Jack Dempsey’s – was no one’s idea of a great fighter. Boxing did not bring him wealth and fame, only a few trophies from his amateur days in New Orleans and a love of the sport he passed on to his only son. But the old clippings, and the enthusiastic recollections of those who saw him fight, are enough to make me think that he must have been entertaining to watch. The word – confirmed by the somewhat unnatural configuration of his nose and ears – is that my favorite fighter, a scrappy welterweight, always gave as good as he got. Those who knew him then enthusiastically told me of his willingness to take one – or two, or three – to connect with one of his own.

One clipping, previewing Archie Moore’s 10-round main event with Amado Rodriguez in San Diego, described my favorite fighter thusly: “The opener matches Jack Fernandez, a wild-hooking slugger, against a good shock absorber, Mike Pacheco.”

Another, in the New Orleans States-Item, was a personal note from Art Burke, a fellow New Orleanian who later served as the newspaper’s executive sports editor, to then-sports editor Harry Martinez, who reprinted the letter in his column.

“We had a monthly `smoker’ here at the gymnasium Wednesday night (which opened with the returns of the Joe Louis-Billy Conn fight) and one of our New Orleans Reservists, Jack Fernandez, fought on the eight-bout boxing program and scored the only clear-cut knockout of the night,” Burke, a member of the U.S. Naval Reserves then serving in San Diego as was my father, wrote to Martinez. “You may remember this boy since he reached the semifinals of the Sugar Bowl boxing tournament in 1940. His victory was all the more thrilling by the fact that the boy he kayoed in the second round was Utah state 145-pound boxing champion for three straight years and had not been knocked out in 75 fights.”

It was my dad who taught me how to defend myself – and was called to the principal’s office at St. Stephen School when, as a second-grader, I dispatched a would-be bully with, you guessed it, a left hook. Obviously, the nuns there had not seen Ingrid Bergman’s reel-life portrayal of Sister Benedict in The Bells of St. Mary’s. The real-life Sister Marie’s preferred remedy for left-hooking second-graders: detention for life, and lots of knuckle-rapping with rulers.

It was my dad who, when he wasn’t pulling a night shift, sat with me and explained what was going on during telecasts of the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports. The only fifth-grader at St. Stephen who idolized Carmen Basilio as my classmates did, say, Mickey Mantle, there were many nights when I went to sleep with Don Dunphy’s voice in my head.

It was my dad who took me to amateur cards at St. Mary’s Italian gym, where world champions Ralph Dupas and Willie Pastrano (later trained by Angelo Dundee) first learned boxing from the venerable Whitey Esneault.

It was my dad who took me to pro shows at Municipal Auditorium to see the likes of New Orleans-born lightweight champion Joe “Old Bones” Brown and “Hammerin’” Henry Hank, a middleweight from Detroit who fought so often for promoter Louie Messina I believed he, too, was local.

It was my dad who was buttons-popping proud when I succeeded Elmer Smith on the Daily News boxing beat in October 1987.

For nearly seven years, my dad was my primary sounding board. He saw on TV most of the fights I covered and, those few he didn’t, I sent tapes for his review. He’d make observations, again giving me the benefit of his wisdom and insight. We’d speak at least once a week, and the conversation often turned to boxing. It was not nearly our only common bond, but it was a shared passion.

Once, when my dad was in town for a visit, I took him to the Blue Horizon, where he was introduced to America’s most knowledgable boxing crowd by ring announcer Ed Derian. I also took him to Las Vegas, for the rematch between Mike Tyson and Razor Ruddock, and to London, where his most lasting memory was not of the fight he had come to see, in which Lennox Lewis knocked out Ruddock, but of a one-hour coffee-shop sitdown with Dundee, with whom he spent more time discussing Dupas and Pastrano than Angelo’s more famous pupils, Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard.

Dad always thanked me for providing him a re-entry of sorts into a long-closed chapter of his life, but no trips I arranged to glitzy arenas could ever repay the debt I owed. It wasn’t just boxing he taught me; it is said that that an honest man’s pillow is his peace of mind, and my father, who retired as a much-decorated New Orleans police captain in 1972, never spent a conflicted night.

My dad passed away on March 4, 1994, after suffering a heart attack. He was 74. I flew to New Orleans and made it in time to be with him in what proved to be the final hour of his life. The fighter in him, I’m convinced, wouldn’t allow him to take the 10-count until I arrived.

When I came onto this beat, I hoped that someday I would be fortunate enough to win the Nat Fleischer Memorial Award, a lifetime achievement award conferred by the Boxing Writers Association of America. I could envision my dad sitting at my table, smiling, living a championship of sorts through me.

On Friday night, I will receive the Fleischer in New York. My wife, mother and three of my four children will be there for the high point of my newspaper career.  So, too, will several of my friends.

My favorite fighter also will be there. Oh, it’s not quite in the manner in which I had envisioned, but he’ll be there. The empty seat at our table won’t really be empty. Those who love you never really leave, and the old left hooker has never left me. Not then, not now, not ever.

Yo, Dad, we did it.

Postscript: There have been other moments in my life, and in the lives of those who were fortunate enough to know my father, for which I wish he could have been there. Although all my adult children are old enough to have known and loved him, the same can’t be said of his six great-grandchildren who can’t truly relate to the verbal history of our family as it pertains to a patriarch who left this world before they arrived in it. But it is not only the lives of the rich, famous or much-accomplished that deserve to be remembered and commemorated. A recent obituary in my former newspaper, the Philadelphia Daily News, paid tribute to an unsung hero who had just passed away at 76, Jim Nicholson, who for many years wrote touching, informative and surprisingly personal obituaries about regular people who at first glance might seem to have led ordinary, mundane existences. But everyone has a story to tell, Jim reasoned, and everyone has something about them that is special and worthy of recognition. Jim made an art form of obituary writing. I wish he could have authored a piece about the old left-hooker which would have allowed readers to know him as I did. Jack Fernandez might not have been a world champion boxer, but he was a world champion human being and role model. I thank TSS readers for allowing me this opportunity to let you know a little about who and what he was, and the legacy he created that I strive every day, not always successfully, to live up to.

Editor’s Note: The original version of this story appeared 20 years ago this week in the April 6, 1999, editions of the Philadelphia Daily News.

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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Chris Arreola is Back!

Ted Sares



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 “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



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




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 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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