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A Trio of Beguiling St. Patrick’s Day Shows Augment the Big Shebang in Dallas

Arne K. Lang

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boxing dallas

Errol Spence Jr. and Mikey Garcia clash on Saturday in the big enchilada at AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys. The pay-per-view fight, which falls on Saint Patrick’s Day Eve, is cocooned by shows in Philadelphia and New York that are in tune with the holiday and it overlaps a show in Boston that is likewise scented with shamrocks.

This year, St. Patrick’s Day falls on Sunday, but fight fans in Philadelphia can get into the swing of things on Friday. The main go on Eddie Hearn’s show at the Liacouras Center, streamed live on DAZN, finds Philadelphia’s own Tevin Farmer defending his IBF 130-pound world title against Ireland’s Jono Carroll, but the real sizzle comes in the form of Katie Taylor, Ireland’s most admired athlete according to multiple research polls.

Hailing from the Irish seacoast town of Bray but now living in Vernon, Connecticut, the 32-year-old Taylor is the most decorated amateur boxer in the history of Ireland. As a pro she’s 12-0 (5 KOs) and has built a strong case that it is she – not Cecilia Braekhus or Claressa Shields or Amanda Serrano or Layla McCarter – who is the top pound-for-pound female fighter in the world. In her last two fights against solid opponents – Cindy Serrano and Eva Wahlstrom – she won all 10 rounds on all three scorecards.

Taylor’s opponent Rose Volante, a 36-year-old Brazilian, is 14-0 but a mystery as she has always had the benefit of being the house fighter. Three of the four meaningful belts will be on the line in this 10-round lightweight contest.

The Farmer-Carroll fight is a battle of southpaws. In his last fight, Carroll (16-0-1) fought 12 rounds to a draw with veteran Guillaume Frenois of France who was 46-1 going in. From Dunshaughlin in County Meath, he’s a huge fan of Rocky and says he dreams at night of climbing the famous steps of City Hall while holding aloft his new IBF belt.

Carroll, whose birth name is Jonathan Beresford, may climb up the steps but we doubt he will be holding the IBF belt. With only three knockouts to his credit, it doesn’t appear that he has the power to hold off Tevin Farmer (28-4-1, 1 ND), a late bloomer whose record hasn’t been blemished since September of 2012. Another undefeated Irishman, 11-0 lightweight John Joe Nevin from Mullingar, appears on the undercard.

Boston

On Saturday, promoter Ken Casey heats things up at the House of Blues.

Casey is an interesting character. A Boston area native, he’s best known as the bassist/frontman of the Celtic punk band Dropkick Murphys which he co-founded in 1996. When not performing, Casey, 49, writes songs, looks after the saloon he owns near Fenway Park, and promotes fights. Saturday’s show marks the fourth straight year he has cobbled a boxing event around Saint Patrick’s Day.

The headliner on Saturday’s card is Mark DeLuca. An ex-Marine who served in Afghanistan, DeLuca, 31, is touted as New England’s top boxing prospect. The southpaw from Whitman, Massachusetts, avenged his lone defeat in his previous bout, advancing his record to 22-1 (13 KOs). He is paired against New Haven’s Jimmy Williams (16-1-1) in a junior welterweight contest slated for 10 rounds.

Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan, whose primary home is in Cork, Ireland, returns to the scene of some of his most notable triumphs in an 8-round contest against Worcester’s Khiary Gray.

A year ago, the colorful O’Sullivan was getting a lot of buzz. He was penciled in to fight Daniel Jacobs on April 18, 2018, but that fight fell out, ostensibly because O’Sullivan received a better offer, a chance to fight Canelo Alvarez in Las Vegas on Mexican Independence Day, a bout that would supposedly transpire no matter the outcome of Canelo’s intervening Cinco de Mayo fight with Gennady Golovkin.

As we know, Canelo failed a pre-fight drug test and things got muddled. The Cinco de Mayo date vanished and Canelo’s rematch with GGG was pushed back four months.

The consolation prize for Spike O’Sullivan was a date with David Lemieux. A victory over Lemieux would have likely bumped him into a fight with Canelo, but it was not to be. To the contrary, it could not have turned out any worse for him. He was knocked out cold in the opening round.

And so, a potential seven-figure payday in a bout with Canelo Alvarez went down the drain and Spike now finds himself fighting in an 8-round preliminary on a club show in Boston. But this redounds to the benefit of those that will cram into the House of Blues on Saturday night as O’Sullivan (29-3, 20 KOs) is a proven crowd-pleaser. And it doesn’t figure that his opponent Khiary Gray (16-4, 12 KOs) will go quietly. Formerly known as Khiary Gray-Pitts, Gray is eight years younger than O’Sullivan at age 26 and was considered a very strong prospect until his career went south.

Irish pride will be at stake when Noel Murphy (12-1-1) opposes John Joyce in a welterweight contest. Murphy, like O’Sullivan, hails from Cork (but currently hangs his hat in the New York borough of Queens). Joyce, from Dublin, will be making his U.S. debut. He’s 7-0 but has yet to face a fighter with a winning record.

And then there’s heavyweight Niall Kennedy, a peace officer in the Dublin commuter town of Wicklow who, like O’Sullivan, will be making his 11th appearance in a New England ring. At age 34, Kennedy (12-0-1, 7 KOs) is still rough around the edges, but that description when applied to a heavyweight is tantamount to saying he has a fan-friendly style. At press time, his opponent had yet to be determined.

Ken Casey is a busy man. Dropkick Murphys has a 4-day gig at Boston’s House of Blues this week, the final leg of a 22-day tour. Saturday’s show is a matinee that will serve as the appetizer of sorts for his boxing card that evening.

New York

The Saint Patrick’s Day weekend festivities wrap up in New York on Sunday in the Theater of Madison Square Garden where Bob Arum’s Top Rank organization is staging an event hitched to the holiday for the third straight year. And once again the major attraction is featherweight Michael Conlan (pictured). The two-time Olympian from Belfast, whose double middle finger salute to the judges following his last amateur bout went viral, made his pro debut here in 2017 and returned last March 17 to blow away hapless Hungarian slug David Berna. This will be his fifth visit to the erstwhile Mecca of Boxing.

Conlan, now 10-0 (6 KOs), last fought in Manchester, England, where he stepped up in class and was extended 10 rounds for the first time in his career. His opponent on Sunday, Mexico’s Ruben Garcia Hernandez, is 24-3-2 (10). Hernandez’s first two losses were to undefeated fighters and his third came at the hands of formidable, if fading, Nonito Donaire in a bout that went the full 10 rounds.

It’s widely understood that Conlan is on a collision course with Top Rank signee Shakur Stevenson who was in Conlan’s pod at the Rio games, winning a silver medal. However, there’s been a new wrinkle. Top Rank recently signed Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin, the beneficiary of the awful decision that went against Conlan in Rio. Conlan wouldn’t fight Shakur (who would be a heavy favorite) without first playing the avenger in a second meeting with Nikitin.

Nikitin, 2-0 as a pro, is on Sunday’s undercard, opposing Juan Tapia (8-3) in a contest scheduled for six rounds. This bout, indeed the full card, will be streamed on ESPN+.

The co-features to Conlan-Hernandez are a 10-round welterweight match between veterans Luis Collazo, a former world title holder, and Samuel Vargas, and a 6-round flyweight match pitting Belfast’s Paddy Barnes (5-1) against Oscar Mojica (11-5-1) from Dallas.

Like the aforementioned Katie Taylor, Paddy Barnes, a two-time Olympian, had a storied amateur career. Turning pro at age 29, his backers decided to move him fast and did him no favors. After only five pro fights, he was thrust into a title fight against Nicaragua’s Cristofer Rosales, the WBC champion, and found himself in over his head. Rosales took him out with a wicked body punch in the fourth round. On Sunday he steps back several steps on the ladder as he begins the next phase of his career.

This being a Sunday, Top Rank’s Saint Patrick’s Day show has an early start. The first undercard bout is slated to begin at 3 p.m. ET with the first of the three main fights going off at 6 p.m. ET. The ESPN+ app costs $4.95 per month with a 7-day free trial. Launched 11 months ago, the live-streaming platform reportedly has more than 2 million paid subscribers.

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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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