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Tevin Farmer, Katie Taylor Win and Entertain in Showcase Bouts in Philadelphia

Bernard Fernandez

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Tevin Farmer vs. Jono Carroll

PHILADELPHIA – Once upon a time, a major manufacturer of athletic shoes and apparel orchestrated a national television advertising campaign with the message that “Chicks dig the long ball,” a reference to baseball that holds that home runs are sexier than mere singles.

That still is so in baseball, and is even more the case in boxing, where fighters with the ability to turn out the lights on an opponent with a single shot – Mike Tyson being a prime example – almost always command a higher level of public interest than tacticians with lesser voltage in their punches. But there are some boxing maestros who seldom go deep, in baseball vernacular, but nonetheless have demonstrated an ability to entertain with a wide array of ring skills.

Cases in point: Pernell Whitaker and Floyd Mayweather Jr., who bewitched, bothered and bewildered opponents through the use of superior footwork, hand speed, defense and precision punching. They became rich and famous despite relatively low KO percentages, presenting the counter argument that chicks – guys, too – can appreciate pugilistic artistry as well as annihilation.

It remains to be seen whether IBF super featherweight champion Tevin Farmer (29-4-1, 6 KOs) can ever match “Sweetpea” or “Money” in terms of accomplishment or crowd appeal, but the 28-year-old southpaw from North Philadelphia strengthened the case for himself as a headliner with an entertaining unanimous decision over gritty Irish challenger Jono Carroll (16-1-1, 3 KOs) in the DAZN-streamed main event here Friday night at the Liacouras Center on the Temple University campus.

“Tevin has worked himself into a position where he’s a valuable commodity in the American fight game,” said Matchroom Sports’ Eddie Hearn, who, along with Lou DiBella, co-promote the prolific singles hitter who extended his winning streak to 22 bouts, albeit with a hotly disputed points loss to Japan’s Kenichi Ogawa that was changed to a no-contest when Ogawa failed a post-fight drug test. Only five of Farmer’s victories have come inside the distance during his six-year ascent from a nondescript 7-4-1 start to his pro career.

An enthusiastic, international turnout of approximately 4,600 spectators – exact attendance figures were not announced – voiced its approval not only of Farmer-Carroll, but of the two other fights streamed by DAZN, in which Ireland’s Katie Taylor (13-0, 6 KOs), arguably the world’s finest female fighter, retained her WBA and IBF lightweight championships while adding the WBO title held by Brazil’s Rose Volante on a ninth-round stoppage, and Poland’s Maciej Sulecki (28-1, 11 KOs) survived a late-round assault from Philadelphia veteran Gabe Rosado (24-12-1, 14 KOs) to capture the vacant WBO Intercontinental middleweight belt on a unanimous decision.

It was an overall good night for boxing, with several non-televised bouts on the nine-fight card – which featured participants from eight countries – also engaging in scraps that stirred the passions of the in-house audience.

“I want to thank Philadelphia because that was a f—— hell of a show,” Hearn said. “The Philly guys came out, the Irish came out, the Polish came out. It was just a great feeling all night, from top to bottom.”

Not too shabby, considering that the very good DAZN card will be overshadowed by Saturday night’s megafight in which IBF welterweight champ Errol Spence Jr. will defend against future Hall of Famer Mikey Garcia in Arlington, Texas, and maybe even by Sunday afternoon’s St. Patrick’s Day card in Madison Square Garden topped by popular Irish featherweight Michael Conlan against Ruben Garcia Hernandez.

If there was anything to be disappointed about in Philly, it was the lack of coverage by the city’s two major newspapers and web site, which did not send any reporters from its offices located just a few miles away from the Liacouras Center. Maybe the fight card got lost on an extremely busy local sports day that included the Eagles’ latest moves in free agency, the Phillies in spring training with newly signed superstar Bryce Harper, the 76ers winning at home against the Sacramento Kings, the Flyers losing a high-scoring contest on the road against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and defending NCAA basketball champion Villanova and Temple playing in their respective conference tournaments.  Still, for a town that has long prided itself as being America’s hottest of boxing hotbeds, the snub might not portend well for more such shows finding their way back here.

Carroll, who had at the insistence of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission trimmed a jet-black beard that would have done Rip Van Winkle proud, promised to give a spirited effort, and he did just that. Punch statistics revealed that he landed 294 of 1,227, the latter number third highest all-time for super featherweights since such statistics have been tallied. He elected to make the fight at close range from the opening bell, with a furious body assault designed to wear Farmer down.

But Carroll – who landed exactly 10 more punches than Farmer, despite throwing an astounding 404 more – wound up wearing himself down more than the champion, who had enough gas left in the tank to clearly hurt and nearly finish off the Irishman in the 11th round. After another big round for Farmer in the 12th, the scores were read: 117-111 (twice) and 117-110, a just decision but by wider margins than some veteran observers at ringside had it.

Asked if he thought he might have taken Carroll out with his 11th-round barrage, which included more doubles than singles, Farmer said, “When I seen him hurt, I thought I could. But I messed my hand up in, like, the fourth round. It’s swollen.

“But I had to push through it. I knew a guy at this level was not going to be easy. You got to keep pushing, and you got to be in shape to go 12. I’m a tough guy. It’s going to take a lot to stop me.”

Carroll, whose puffy face was indicative of his hard night on the job, confirmed that he had to dig deep to make it through the 11th round in which Farmer landed 36 of 67 power shots. “Obviously, I was hurt,” he said. “Me balance was off. Mentally, I was all right. Mentally I was with it. But I had never experienced that before, so me legs were all over the place, you know what I mean?

“But it’s good to overcome those things so you can come back stronger. Next time when it happens I’ll know how to deal with it. Boxing is all about pushing yourself to the limit every single time. If you’re not pushing yourself in the boxing world, what’s the point of being in this sport? I don’t want to fight average people. I want to fight the best in the world.”

DiBella credited Carroll with providing Farmer, who had said beforehand that he was winning fights too easily, with a much-needed trial by combat. “I know what kind of fighter I have in Tevin Farmer, but this guy gave a blueprint of what you do when you get a chance to fight for a world title,” DiBella said, nodding toward Carroll. “You give 110 percent of what you have.”

Next up for Farmer, if he has anything to say about it, will be a unification showdown with WBA super featherweight titlist Gervonta Davis (21-0, 20 KOs). But if that fight can’t be made quickly, Hearn and DiBella won’t hesitate to put Farmer in with whoever’s available and willing.

“That’s the fight that will secure Tevin’s legacy in this sport, not just his financial legacy,” Hearn said of the prospect of the most attractive 130-pound title bout that can be made at this time. “Tevin’s had three world championships defenses in four months. Tank’s (Davis) had three world championship fights in five years.”

Women’s boxing in the United States is still attempting to break that figurative glass ceiling, but it is much more popular in Europe and Taylor, a 2012 London Olympics gold medalist, is a really big deal in her home country, and apt to be even bigger after the way she systematically dismantled the previously unbeaten Volante. Taylor’s Irish fans, many draped in Ireland’s green, white and orange flags, cheered her rapid-fire combinations as if they were at a U2 concert.

“I think she brought the best out of me tonight,” Taylor said of the valiant but outclassed Volante. “It was definitely a great showcase for women’s boxing.”

Taylor has big plans for the remainder of 2019. She hopes to add the fourth and final slice of the women’s 135-pound title pie by enticing WBC champion Delfine Persoon (43-1, 18 KOs) of Belgium into a June 1 bout, on the undercard of IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua’s defense against Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller in Madison Square Garden. Further down the road might be high-visibility, catchweight clashes with undisputed welterweight champ Cecilia Braekhus (35-0, 9 KOs) and Amanda Serrano (36-1-1, 27 KOs).

The first of the three DAZN-streamed fights also was action-packed. Sulecki floored the 33-year-old Rosado in the first and eighth rounds to build a sizable points lead, but Rosado, a two-time challenger for world titles, roared back to register two knockdowns himself in the ninth round and was still firing desperation bombs in the 10th and final round, narrowing the gap on the scorecards.

In other bouts:

*Welterweight Daniyar Yeleussinov (6-0, 3 KOs), a gold medalist for Kazakhstan at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, fought for the first time with new trainer Cory Spinks in his corner and won his first scheduled eight-rounder on a unanimous decision over Mexico’s Silverio Ortiz (37-24, 18 KOs).

*”Cool Hand” Luke Campbell (20-2, 16 KOs), a lean southpaw from Hull, England, and the WBC’s No. 1-rated lightweight, had the hot hand in stopping Adrian Young (26-6-2, 20 KOs) of Mexico in five rounds.

*In an all-Philly lightweight matchup, Avery Sparrow (10-1, 3 KOs) scored an entertaining 10-round draw over “Hammerin’” Hank Lundy (29-8-1, 14 KOs), who came out in a green-and-white ensemble decorated with his hometown Eagles’ logo.

*Super middleweight D’Mitrius Ballard (20-0, 13 KOs), of Temple Hills, Md., looked sharp in stopping Mexico’s Victor Fonseca (17-10-1, 14 KOs) in five rounds.

*Raymond Ford, a 2018 National Golden Gloves titlist from Camden, N.J., just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, turned pro with a four-round unanimous decision over Weusi Johnson (3-11), of Wilmington, Del.

*Irish-born John Joe Nevin (12-0, 4 KOs), a lightweight now based in Philly, took a six-round unanimous decision over Andres Figueroa (9-4, 5 KOs) of Colombia in a walk-out bout after the main event.

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

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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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