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Deontay Wilder First Member of Heavyweight Troika to Test the ‘Rule of Three’ 

Bernard Fernandez

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Wilder

There is a commonly accepted notion that “good things always come in threes.” The so-called “Rule of Three” principle suggests things that come in threes somehow are inherently more humorous, satisfying and effective than any other numerical grouping.

For those who dismiss such a blanket proposition out of hand, consider the following: beloved nursery rhymes (Three Little Pigs), classic literature (the Bronte sisters and Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers), the Bible (Ecclesiastes 4:12 holds that “a cord with three strands is not quickly broken”) and entertainment (what little kid did not love three-ring circuses?). In sports, baseball’s three best centerfielders (Willie, Mickey and The Duke) once all played in the same city, New York, and one of them, Mickey Mantle, won the batting Triple Crown in 1956. Golf’s popularity on television skyrocketed in the 1960s with the emergence of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as a “Big Three” whose revered members always seemed to be bunched atop the leader board for the final round of major tournaments.

Boxing’s heavyweight equivalent to Arnie, Jack and Gary arose to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s, with Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and George Foreman held in higher public esteem than others in the big-man division, and demonstrating why they should have been with their dominating performances in the ring. To be fair, Larry Holmes’ eventual emergence as a great champion expanded the Big Three to a Big Four, but his prime did not intersect as neatly with those of his peers to fully validate his delayed inclusion into that particular era’s golden circle.

There is another saying – what goes around, comes around – that would appear to have merged with the Rule of Three as the heavyweight division again has separated itself into tiers, with undefeated champions Deontay Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs), Anthony Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) and Tyson Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs) ensconced at a level well above that of a secondary group scrambling for improved position and possible upgrades. The good news is that the current Big Three all have bouts scheduled within a 29-day period, offering fight fans a chance to observe and compare their relative strengths and weaknesses as to which chest-thumping titlist deserves to be widely recognized as the best of the bunch.

The bad news is that this latest elite group of three will not be going head-to-head in any of the matchups, instead engaging seemingly lesser opponents in contests whose outcomes at first glance would appear to be preordained. Should any of the longshots cash a winning ticket, as was the case in the recent Kentucky Derby, when 65-to-1 outsider Country House was declared the winner after an in-race foul kept the wagering favorite, Maximum Security, from having a blanket of roses placed around his neck, the hoped-for round-robin elimination process  involving Wilder, Joshua and Fury will take a major hit.

Wilder, the WBC titlist, gets things started this Saturday night when he takes on his mandatory challenger, former football player Dominic Breazeale (20-1, 18 KOs), in the Showtime-televised main event at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. But while the outrageous Wilder is hyping that fight by suggesting he will literally and gleefully beat Breazeale to death, the result of some sort of personal animosity stemming from an out-of-the-ring confrontation in an Alabama hotel lobby in 2017, his thoughts never seem to stray far from Joshua and Fury, the principal roadblocks in his path to clear recognition as the No. 1 guy. And as everyone familiar with Buster Douglas’ shocker over an underprepared and unmotivated Mike Tyson understands, peering too far ahead into the future instead of concentrating on the present can have dire consequences.

“Hey, Dominic Breazeale asked for this,” Wilder told reporters after a recent workout at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn. “I didn’t go seek him, he sought me so if (death) comes, it comes. This is a brutal sport, this is not a gentleman’s sport. I keep saying this is not a gentleman’s sport. I’m still trying to get a body on my record. This is the only sport where you can kill a man and get paid for it at the same time. It’s legal, so why not use my right to do so?”

Such intemperate and inflammatory remarks do not cast Wilder in a positive light, just as the then-19-year-old Mike Tyson, following his brutal, fifth-round knockout of Jesse Ferguson, with a ripping right uppercut, eventually came to regret his comment that “I wanted to drive his nose bone up into his brain.” Oh, and Wilder should be aware by now that fighters who actually did fatally pummel opponents, such as the late Emile Griffith and Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, were consumed with remorse for the remainder of their careers.

Wilder’s latest vow of violence might be extreme even for him, but he does have a sledgehammer right hand and his knockout ratio of 97.5 percent is highest among all heavyweight champions. But even should Wilder add Breazeale to his list of victims who were unable to go the distance, this supposed grudge match only matters in terms of how far another KO for the lean Alabaman advances the needle concerning a rematch with Fury or a full unification showdown with Joshua.

It took a 12th-round knockdown of Fury, the lineal champion, for Wilder to salvage a split draw in their classic bout of Dec. 1, 2018, which all but screamed for a second pairing to be made sooner rather than later. But Fury chose to sign a co-promotional deal with Top Rank and its broadcast partner ESPN, putting him on the other side of a fence and raising doubts that the much-anticipated do-over would ever take place. And as far as a clear-the-decks meeting involving Wilder and Joshua, each side contends it is the other gumming up the works with protracted negotiations that never seem to reach a resolution amenable to all parties.

“He didn’t want (a rematch), that’s why he’s fighting another guy,” Wilder said of Fury, who takes on German Tom Schwarz (24-0, 16 KOs), who is a household name mainly in his own household, on June 15 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. “He didn’t want that fight, or it would have been happening. I wouldn’t have had to fight my mandatory. I would have went straight to Fury.

“I hurt Tyson Fury very badly. I gave him a concussion. When you got a man who don’t understand how he got on the ground, or how he got up, his brain has been shook. He don’t need that fight again. Hey, if you need a warmup or a tuneup to see if all your marbles are back in place, go do that. Take as many warmups you need. (Fury) said he’s got three more fights and he’s out of here. If one of those fights is me, I’m gonna finish him. I’m gonna finish the job.”

And Joshua, the super heavyweight gold medalist for the United Kingdom at the 2012 London Olympics? The big Briton makes his American debut on June 1 at Madison Square Garden against pudgy Mexican-American Andy Ruiz Jr. (32-1, 21 KOs), who will be filling in for Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller, who failed three drug tests in quick succession and was obliged to relinquish his slot.

“With Joshua, for four months we tried (to reach a contractual accord),” Wilder said. “But it don’t matter. I’m more exciting than (Fury and Joshua). Those guys don’t bring excitement like I bring. Tyson Fury is the most boring one. I just do what I do best, and it’s to knock guys silly. I’m not in competition with none of them.”

But for any member of the Big Three to claim superiority over the others without competing against them is misleading at best, and fraudulent at worst. These are fights that require no further marinating, and even the party crashers they are likely to dispatch in the immediate future are like appetizers that shouldn’t satisfy fight fans’ hunger, or their own.

Nibbling on the hors d’oeuvres for now will have to do, but the doors to the banquet hall remain closed. Until that changes, the Big Three heavyweights are like solitary occupants of their own little islands, wondering, like the rest of us, who deserves to rule the archipelago.

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.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

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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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