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Three Sons of Pro Fighters Poised to Pursue Their NFL Dreams

Bernard Fernandez

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NFL

Maybe, if former heavyweight David Long Sr. and former middleweight Sanderline Williams had become highly paid and celebrated world champions, their sons would have chosen to follow in their fighting fathers’ footsteps. Then again, perhaps not. Look at what the great Evander Holyfield accomplished in boxing, but still his athletically gifted son preferred to make his mark in another sport that also requires its participants to hit and be hit.

The NFL draft is a frenzied, three-day meat market in which 32 league-member teams, after analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of hundreds of draft-eligible college players, make their selections in rounds one through seven, hoping that at least a couple of their rookie additions improve their rosters and thus their chances at going to the Super Bowl. And if the 254 drafted players aren’t enough to provide just the right youthful infusion of talent, there’s also a glut of undrafted free agents to be signed, with the same goal in mind.

No less impressive than the painstakingly thorough work of NFL scouts and front offices is that of ESPN and the NFL Network, which every year somehow manage to put together video highlights of every drafted player, even those who played at small colleges and whose games never make it onto anyone’s television screen. In showing those clips, the TV talking heads at the draft, which this year was staged in Nashville, Tenn., also have anecdotes and informational tidbits to pass along to viewers.

Thus were NFL draft junkies – of which I confess to be one – alerted to the sizes, statistics and stories of Dre’Mont Jones and David Long Jr., draftees who might or might not go on to pro football stardom with their new teams. And you can bet a lot more attention would have been devoted to Elijah Holyfield, a potential draftee who wasn’t one of the chosen 254 but shortly thereafter signed a free-agent contract. Elijah’s lineage is certain to be a hot topic when he reports to training camp with the Carolina Panthers this summer.

Given his higher draft position and the elite status of the college program for which he played – the Ohio State defensive end was taken in the third round, No. 71 overall, by the Denver Broncos – Jones likely will get a longer look in camp than either Long, a linebacker for the West Virginia Mountaineers who went to the Tennessee Titans in the sixth round, No. 188 overall, or Holyfield, the former Georgia running back whose legendary father won’t be of much assistance if his kid doesn’t show enough in camp to convince his coaches he’s NFL material.

Stats? Here they are for Jones, a 6-foot-3, 281-pounder who put together some commendable numbers during his junior season with the Buckeyes: in 14 games, he totaled 8½ sacks, 13 tackles for loss, three fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, one defensive touchdown scored and one interception. His pre-draft analysis describes him as “an undersized defensive tackle with above-average length and a quick first step. He’s a disruptive one-gap run-defender. He has heavy hands and flashes some violence with his initial punch rushing the passer.”

That “violence with his initial punch” bit might come from his father, Sanderline Williams, who was a pretty good middleweight from Cleveland until he began mixing it up with the division’s top performers. Williams, now 61, posted a 24-15-1 record with 14 knockouts, but at one point he was 22-4 with those 14 wins inside the distance. It’s hard to fault someone, though, for failing to maintain career momentum when you consider that he twice fought James Toney (earning a draw in their first matchup) as well as single bouts with Gerald McClellan, Reggie Johnson, Nigel Benn and Iran Barkley, all of whom at one point were, like Toney, world champions. Oh, one more thing to be considered: despite sharing the ring with a Murderer’s Row of opponents, Williams was stopped just once, by Lindell Holmes, in the ninth round of a scheduled 10-rounder on June 29, 1985.

It stands to reason that his pop taught Dre’Mont some boxing moves, if only to better protect himself on the street as the occasion warranted. But even if pro football doesn’t work out for the first-team All-Big Ten player and he eventually tries his hand at boxing, it almost certainly won’t be at Williams’ old weight class. Jones would have to shed 121 pounds to get down to middleweight, a slimming-down which, if nothing else, might net him a commercial for Nutrisystem.

David Long Jr., at 5-11¼ and 227 pounds, is already a virtual clone of his heavyweight father, but a bit on the smallish side for an NFL linebacker. His pre-draft analysis lists him as “an undersized linebacker with below-average length and top-end speed. He’s an instinctive run defender who fills gaps and sifts through traffic between the tackles. He masks below-average speed by reading the play quickly and chasing with great effort.”

The elder Long, now 47, never went as far in the fight game as did Sanderline Williams, but he did post a 12-5-2 record with eight KOs as a pro. The Cincinnati native also has the distinction of sharing the ring with future WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, who starched him in one round on Nov. 26, 2011. But at first glance that bout did not appear to be the total mismatch that the outcome suggested. Although Wilder came in at 19-0, all of the wins in abbreviated fashion, Long Sr., who weighed 228 pounds to Wilder’s 215½, was a respectable 11-1-2 (7) at the time.

It was a given that Elijah Holyfield would be picked in the later rounds of the draft, if at all, after he ran the 40-yard dash in an abysmal (for a running back) 4.78 seconds at the NFL combine. But the 5-10, 217-pounder had a very productive junior season in the ultracompetitive Southeastern Conference, rushing for 1,018 yards and scoring seven touchdowns for Georgia despite splitting time with second-team All-SEC choice D’Andre Swift, a sophomore who rushed for 1,049 yards and scored 10 TDs. The pre-draft analysis on Elijah Holyfield notes that he “possesses good size and strength, but did not perform well at the combine except for the bench press (26 reps of 225 pounds). He’s a patient runner with strong leg drive, runs behind his pads and almost always falls forward at the end of runs. He lacks elite, make-you-miss suddenness, but shows good stop-start ability and has enough lateral ability to weave in and out of creases. He is more quick than fast and lacks a second gear when he hits daylight.”

Given the fact that Elijah Holyfield boxed until he was 13 and showed some promise, it wouldn’t be a shocker if he ever got around to trying his hand at the sport that made his dad rich and famous. But, ironically, it is the son who lived the dream that his father first had as a young boy growing up in Atlanta as a huge fan of the Georgia Bulldogs and the NFL Atlanta Falcons.

“Wasn’t nothing I wanted more than to play for that team (Georgia),” Evander hold me in August 2015, for a story I did on the highly recruited Elijah, the eighth of Evander’s 11 children by several women. “Herschel Walker had won the Heisman Trophy for Georgia (in 1982). It was my dream to be another Herschel Walker, and then to play for the Falcons and be another Dave Hampton.”

But while it isn’t easy to be successful in pro football, there is at least one voice from beyond the grave that says that making it at the highest levels of boxing is even more difficult.

“Athletically, boxing is the toughest profession in the world,” the late, great trainer Angelo Dundee once told me. “Just because you’re big and strong and great in football has nothing to do with it. I’ve seen it many times over the years, football players walking into gyms, asking me to train them into boxers. It never works. The qualities that a boxer has to have to be really good are different than in any other sport.”

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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Looking at the Heavyweight Calendar (Odds Review)

Miguel Iturrate

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Joshua vs Ruiz

This past Saturday night saw Deontay Wilder’s WBC world heavyweight title defense against Dominic Breazeale go down on Showtime. The fight lasted just 137 seconds as Wilder floored Breazeale with a cannonball of a right hand to end the night early.

With Wilder out of the way, Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz Jr is up next. They meet June 1st at Madison Square Garden. Two weeks later, on the 15th of June, ESPN+ will deliver Tyson Fury vs Tom Schwarz, so fight fans will get a look at all three members of the “Big Three” all in a month’s time.

Wilder’s erasure of Breazeale this past weekend sent a message to the rest of the division as well as giving him a highlight reel to show during upcoming negotiations. Wilder entered a strong -1000 favorite at the sportsbooks for this fight.

Check out our pre-fight review of the Wilder vs Breazeale odds right here at TSS –

http://tss.ib.tv/boxing/featured-articles/57588-wilder-vs-breazeale-odds-review

Looking forward, the odds posted for Joshua and Fury’s upcoming tussles are even less competitive. Let’s take a look at what the books are giving us as we await the two big Brits fighting in the USA.

Madison Square Garden – New York City – Saturday, June 1, 2019

Heavyweight 12 rounds –

Andy Ruiz Jr +1500 Over 6½ +100

Anthony Joshua -3000 Under 6½ -130

Ruiz Jr is 32-1 overall with his lone loss coming at the hands of Joseph Parker in a failed WBO world title bid. That same WBO belt is now in the hands of Joshua as are the WBA and IBF belts.

Joshua was a big favorite over Jarrell Miller, his original opponent, who was denied a license in New York after testing positive for a buffet of steroids. Ruiz Jr took the fight with less than a full training camp, but you have to believe that he is going to come in highly motivated. Ruiz Jr has been caught at a different type of buffet, the all-you-can-eat kind, but even when in the best of shape his body type isn’t “poster boy material.” Miller was big and bulky as well, but he was a near 300 pounder whereas Ruiz Jr will come in between 250 and 260 pounds, which is right around Joshua’s size. Rather than slaying a 300-pound giant, he is facing a guy who is shorter and fatter than him, making it very hard for Joshua to look great on paper.

At +1500 will people bite on Ruiz Jr? He is more experienced than Miller and he is probably a better fighter overall and though he is facing a formidable champion, Joshua is not a finished product. Perhaps Joshua will be chasing an early finish, feeling the pressure of Wilder’s performance, and if so will he make a mistake that Ruiz can exploit? We are roughly 10 days from finding out.

MGM Grand Garden – Las Vegas, Nevada – Saturday, June 15, 2019

Heavyweight 12 rounds –

Tom Schwarz +1800 Over 9½ -105

Tyson Fury -3600 Under 9½ -125

Tyson Fury closes out the run of top heavyweights with a very deliberately chosen showcase fight against Tom Schwarz. Schwarz is 24 years old and 24-0 but he is a fighter who has come up on the regional German scene and as the old boxing cliche goes, there are levels to this game.

Former contender David Haye mounted a 2016 comeback, booking fights against Mark De Mori (30-1-2) and Arnold Gjergjaj (29-0). It took Haye precisely 6:42 to dispose of both of them, and though Fury is a completely different beast than Haye, the level difference between he and Schwarz may be even as striking.

Wilder has gotten through his “challenge” and if Fury and Joshua also emerge as winners as expected, it will leave several open questions –

– Will Fury vs Wilder 2 happen first, or will Wilder vs Joshua go down first? Could Joshua and Fury meet and freeze Wilder out?

And….

– Will we see any of these fights take place in 2019?

If Joshua or Fury stumble, it will only add to the chaos in the heavyweight division. But if the professional oddsmakers know anything, it isn’t likely to happen.

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Three Punch Combo: An Early Look at Inoue-Donaire and Under the Radar Fights

Matt Andrzejewski

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Inoue vs Donaire

THREE PUNCH COMBO — This past Saturday, Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16 KO’s) punched his ticket to the bantamweight final in the World Boxing Super Series when he impressively knocked out Emmanuel Rodriguez in the second round of their scheduled 12-round fight. The win sets up a showdown with veteran Nonito Donaire (40-5, 26 KO’s) who punched his ticket to the final with an impressive knockout of Stephon Young last month.

As expected, Inoue has opened as a monstrous favorite in the betting markets. While this suggests a one-sided wipeout, I have some other thoughts.

Inoue is pound for pound one of, if not the, hardest puncher in the sport today and put that power on full display in his destruction of Rodriguez in the semi-finals. But having enormous power does not make him indestructible.

In watching that fight against Rodriguez, there were clearly flaws on display on the defensive side of Inoue’s game. For one, Inoue does not move his head at all and as such can be hit. Rodriguez landed several clean punches on Inoue in the first round. And Inoue frequently keeps his hands low looking to bait opponents into throwing to set up counter opportunities. It has worked so far but could be something he pays for down the road.

Donaire is a smart and skilled fighter and though he is 36, his last few fights have shown that he still has plenty left in the tank. Moreover, he possesses one thunderous left hook and has always been at his best when fighting below 122. He has all the capabilities to expose Inoue’s flaws and a left hook that can alter the course of a fight as we have seen him doing plenty of times in the past.

Unlike a lot of people, I do not consider Donaire to be another layup for Inoue. There is real danger in this fight for Inoue if he does not make changes to his game. Donaire has starched big punching rising stars before and I would not discount his chances to expose the significant defensive flaws in Inoue’s game.

 Under The Radar Fight

Boxing returns to ESPN on Saturday with a card from Kissimmee, FL headlined by 130- pound champion Masayuki Ito (25-1-1, 13 KO’s) who is making the second defense of his title against former US Olympian Jamel Herring (19-2, 10 KO’s). While I think this should be an excellent fight, the co-feature, which is flying deep under the radar, should be even better.

In this fight, former two division world champion Jose Pedraza (25-2, 12 KO’s) makes his return to the ring after losing his lightweight title to Vasiliy Lomachenko in December to face Antonio Lozada (40-2-1, 34 KO’s). Given their respective styles, this fight at the very least will provide plenty of sustained action.

Appropriately nicknamed “The Sniper,” Pedraza at his best is a precision puncher. A boxer-puncher by trade, he uses subtle movement inside the ring to create angles that are used to land sharp power shots on his opposition. He is also a very good inside fighter and will shift around on the inside to once again set up just the right angle to land his power shots with maximum efficiency. But despite being a good inside fighter, Pedraza has a tendency to stay in the pocket a bit too long which leaves him open to getting hit.

Lozada is best known for his upset TKO win against one-time blue-chip prospect Felix Verdejo in March of 2018. However, he failed to build momentum off that win and is coming off a lackluster split draw his last time out to 12-7-1 journeyman Hector Ruben Ambriz Suarez.

Lozada certainly does not have the technical proficiency of Pedraza. He is slow and plodding. But what he does bring to the table is relentless pressure combined with a high volume of punches. He will press forward, recklessly at times, winging punches consistently hoping to wear down his opposition through attrition.  As such, he tends to get hit a lot and can be involved in shootouts.

Cleary, Pedraza is the more skilled fighter, but given Lozada’s all-offensive mindset as well as Pedraza’s willingness to stay in the pocket, the leather is all but guaranteed to be flying from the opening bell. Neither are big punchers either so I suspect we see a fight that goes rounds providing many exciting exchanges and one that could certainly steal the show on Saturday.

Another Under The Radar Fight

Also on Saturday, Fox Sports 1 will televise a card from Biloxi, MS featuring a crossroads fight between former 154-pound champion Austin Trout (31-5, 17 KO’s) and former US Olympian Terrell Gausha (21-1, 10 KO’s). But it is another 154-pound fight on the undercard that is receiving almost no coverage that I want to highlight. It pits Chordale Booker (14-0, 7 KO’s) against Wale Omotoso (27-3, 21 KO’s).

Booker turned pro in 2016 after a successful amateur career and has kept up a fairly busy schedule. He is coming off a dominating 8-round unanimous decision over veteran Juan De Angel in January and now is taking a big jump up in his caliber of opposition in facing Omotoso.

Booker, a southpaw, likes to press forward behind a stinging right jab. He possesses elite level hand speed and likes to use that jab to set up quick power punching combinations. Booker is also an excellent counter puncher and possesses a very potent right hook coming from that southpaw stance. He will often hold his left low to bait his opponents into opening up to set up counter opportunities. However, he has also been clipped by his share of left hooks fighting in this manner and this is something he will need to tighten up against Omotoso. So just how will Booker respond to Omotoso’s pressure and heavy handed body attack? Depending on the answer, we will either see Booker step up to the next level or get exposed. And that’s what makes this fight so intriguing to me

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Serhii Bohachuk KOs Mexico’s Freddy Hernandez in Hollywood

David A. Avila

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in Hollywood

HOLLYWOOD, Calif.-Super welterweight prospect Serhii Bohachuk got his first taste of upper tier boxing from Mexico’s Freddy Hernandez and gave him his best Sunday punch to win by knockout.

Bohachuk (14-0, 14 KOs) showed the excited Hollywood crowd he’s more than ready for former world title challengers like Hernandez (34-11, 22 KOs) or maybe even the current contenders with an exuberant display of pressure fighting at the Avalon Theater.

The smiling Ukrainian fighter has been steadily attracting fans to the 360 Promotions fight cards.

Trained by Abel Sanchez, the lanky and pale Bohachuk – whose nickname “El Flaco” fits perfectly – always moved forward against Mexico City’s Hernandez who has made a reputation of being crafty despite the strength of competition. With Bohachuk constantly applying pressure the Mexican fighter used the first round to touch and feel his way around the Ukrainian bomber.

In the second round a sharp counter right floored Hernandez who quickly got up and resumed the contest. It looked like the end was near until Hernandez caught Bohachuk with a solid right cross. It was a warning shot well heeded by Bohachuk.

Both fighters exchanged vigorously in the third round with the Ukrainian fighter’s youth a definite advantage. Hernandez was able to display his fighting tools more effectively in the third round but could it be enough?

Bohachuk was clearly the heavier-handed fighter but was finding it difficult to connect solidly against the Mexican veteran. But in the fifth round Bohachuk lowered his gun sights and targeted the body with a left hook that dropped Hernandez.  The fight was stopped by referee Wayne Hedgepeth at 1:40 of the fifth round.

Other Bouts

A battle of super featherweights saw Rialto, California’s Adrian Corona (5-0) rally from behind to defeat Florida’s Canton Miller (3-3-1) by split decision after six rounds.

Corona had problems with Miller’s speed in the first two rounds and was unable to track the moving fighter’s direction. But in the third round Corona began to apply more aggressive measures against Miller and was especially effective with lead rights. The momentum changed quickly.

Miller switched from orthodox to southpaw and it served to pause Corona’s momentum, but he seldom scored with solid blows. Though Miller landed quick soft blows, Corona was landing with strong shots and convinced two of the three judges that he was the winner by 58-56 twice. A third judge saw Miller the victor by the same score 58-56.

“It’s not my job to judge the judges,” said Miller. “It’s my job to just fight.”

Corona was happy with the victory.

“I could have put the pressure on him a little more,” said Corona. “It was a very technical fight and he put on a great fight.”

Other Bouts

George Navarro (6-0-1, 2 KOs) knocked out Cesar Sustaita (3-5) with a perfect overhand right that disabled the senses and forced referee Raul Caiz Jr. to halt the fight at 1:37 of the first round.

“I worked hard to prepare for this fight,” said Navarro.

A super bantamweight clash saw Humberto Rubalcava (10-1, 7 KOs) knock out Daniel Constantino (3-3-2) and win by knockout after a flurry of a dozen blows went unanswered. Referee Angel Mendez stopped the battering at 1:39 of the first round.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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