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Jesse Hart: The Spawn of a Cyclone is Brewing up a Storm in Philly

Bernard Fernandez

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By BERNARD FERNANDEZ

In this pivotal year in American politics, a power struggle of sorts with presidential-primary-type overtones is brewing in Philadelphia boxing. It involves two fighting men of the city, one a beloved older citizen and the other his firebrand son, each of whom has his own vision of how the immediate future will soon play out.

So who gets the final say?

“I do,” insists 26-year-old Jesse Hart (19-0, 16 KOs) who wants to fight for the WBO super middleweight championship before the end of 2016 and likely would be afforded that opportunity should he win his Friday night fight against journeyman Dashon Johnson (19-18-3, 6 KOs), of Escondido, Calif., at the 2300 Arena in South Philly.

“Me,” Jesse’s father-trainer, 1970s middleweight contender Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, 64, said when asked the same question. But Cyclone is of a mind that his son going for a world title this year – or maybe even in the next couple of years – would be a rush to judgment with potentially disappointing consequences.

“I wouldn’t want him fighting for no championship now,” Cylone said when asked if Jesse’s likely elevation to a No. 1 rating from the WBO and mandatory-challenger status for the winner of the April 9 title fight between champion Arthur Abraham (44-4, 29 KOs) and Gilberto Ramirez (33-0, 24 KOs), should result in a showdown for a bejeweled belt. “Jesse is saying now, right now. Me, I would prefer him to wait until he gets about seven more fights and is more comfortable in the ring. A lot of people want him to (be in a title fight soon). Why? I told Bob (Arum, founder of Top Rank, Jesse’s promotional company) I thought he needed six or seven more fights, and then he’d be ready for anybody. Jesse got the tools to get (a world title) now, but he needs to get the tools to hold onto it after he gets it.”

So, if push comes to shove, which Hart gets to make the final decision?

“The son,” said J Russell Peltz, the longtime Philadelphia promoter who co-promotes Jesse’s career.

Or it might be Arum, whom Cyclone said will have a voice in the matter.

“Bob is smart,” Cyclone mused. “Bob will know when Jesse is ready, just like I’ll know.”

Time is always a factor in boxing. How long should a big fight be allowed to simmer until it’s ready to be served at its flavorful best? Or should some matchups be microwaved and hurried to the table?

Jesse Hart’s impatience to fight for a world title is understandable. Another seven bouts worth of seasoning would take him to age 28, possibly 29, and would possibly abbreviate his championship reign, should he be fortunate enough to have one. He believes he is ready to go for the big prize now, so why wait?

But Arum also might not want to delay the process of developing the next Top Rank superstar any longer than necessary. Manny Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38 KOs), Arum’s prime attraction for what seems like forever, has announced his April 9 rubber match against Timothy Bradley Jr. (33-1-1, 13 KOs) at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand, will be his farewell to boxing, so Arum, 84, can be excused for wanting to quickly determine a marquee replacement for “Pac-Man.” That might be Hart, or Ramirez, or possibly WBO super lightweight champion Terence Crawford (28-0, 20 KOs), most recently observed scoring a fifth-round stoppage over Philadelphia’s Hank Lundy (26-6-1, 13 KOs) on Feb. 27 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden.

It is a promoter’s duty to stroke the egos of all of his fighters, to make them feel as if each is his top priority, and Arum has taken care to ensure that Jesse Hart is showered with the requisite compliments.

“There’s boxing stars and there’s superstars,” Jesse said before a recent workout at the Joe Hand Boxing Gym in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia. “You got to know how to talk when you get up in front of that camera. You got to have a great smile. There’s different characteristics that go into it, and Bob said I got ’em all. He said I got the total package, the `it’ factor, to be a superstar.”

It is not anything Jesse hasn’t heard before. Not long after he joined Top Rank’s deep stable, Arum told the then-24-year-old about what could happen when talent meets charisma and the fighter in question is given the benefit of Arum’s special touch.

“When we first sat down, (Arum) said, `I want you. You’re going to be a superstar. You have what (Oscar) De La Hoya had, what Floyd Mayweather has,’” Jesse said in January 2014. “I was, like, wow. Then he asked me, `Who’s the first Mexican-(American) fighter that was on a Wheaties box?’ I said, `I don’t know, who was it?’ He said, `Oscar De La Hoya. That’s how big I want you to be. You have all the qualities to be a megastar in the sport of boxing. I’m going to let you reach those heights.’”

Jesse certainly has the genes to be something special. His dad, Cyclone, began his career with 19 straight victories inside the distance and has been described by Peltz as “the best one-punch knockout artist I ever saw in person.”

Hart had the good fortune – or misfortune, depending on which way one chooses to look at it – of being one of four Philly middleweights who were all world-ranked in the top 10 in the 1970s, the others being Bennie Briscoe, Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts and Willie “The Worm” Monroe. But elite opponents ducked the Philly Four as if they were lepers and, although Watts and Monroe did score decision victories over a young Marvin Hagler at the since-demolished Spectrum, only Briscoe ever was afforded the opportunity to fight for a world championship. He was 0-3 in such bouts, losing twice to Rodrigo Valdez and once to Carlos Monzon.

“We held down the city for, like, 20 years,” Cyclone said of that golden era of middleweights in Philly, when he and the other local kings of the ring were stars as celebrated as much as any member of the Eagles, Phillies, 76ers or Flyers. “Couldn’t nobody come in here and do nothin’ with us. The only way we could make money was to fight each other.”

Thus was the legend embellished of Philly’s down-and-dirty gym wars, where the best of the best took turns cannibalizing one another for neighborhood pride and then did so again in well-attended main events at the Spectrum. It was an era perhaps beyond replication, but Jesse Hart, who has heard all the stories of that magical time from his dad, is eager to do his part to restore at least some of that lost tradition.

Jesse had been scheduled to appear on the non-televised portion of the Crawford-Lundy undercard, but he went directly to Arum and requested that he headline his own show in his hometown. It is high time, Jesse declared, that Philadelphia fighters, the most accomplished of whom have been obliged to take their act on the road, return to America’s best fight town and remind everyone of what once was, and could be again.

“I wish I was back in that (1970s) era,” he sighed. “The mission for me has always to become one of the greatest Philadelphia fighters. I kept hearing about how great my dad was, how great Georgie Benton was, how great Bennie Briscoe was. Gypsy Joe Harris. My dad came up in that era and that’s the mindset I have. In my mind, I’m a 15-round fighter. I’m not a modern-day dude, man.”

Cyclone remembers taking Jesse to the gym for the first time when he was around 10. He has tutored him well, but no trainer can confer the gift of power on a fighter who lacks the natural capability to deliver a shot with the force of a runaway locomotive. Cyclone had that gift, and he said Jesse does, too.

“I realized he had the same qualities I had as a fighter,” Cyclone said. “He can punch with either hand, he can take you out with either hand. Once he gets a little more comfortable, ain’t nobody going to beat Jesse Hart.”

Jesse said he is pretty damn comfortable now, and he has little inclination for taking the long view espoused by Cyclone. He has a wife and child to support, and why shouldn’t he strike when the iron is hot? If he’s a superstar-in-waiting, as Arum had so often told him, why delay the inevitable?

“All I know is I get the winner of the Ramirez-Abraham fight,” Jesse said. “I don’t care who it is. That’s why I’m pushing for a win (against Johnson) in spectacular fashion. This fight is going to prove to the world that I’m one of the best super middleweights in the world, if not the best.

“This is what sets me apart. Nobody else is fighting here. I wanted to bring it home to the Philly fight fans. I’m not knocking nobody else, but what other top Philadelphia fighter is bringing it back here? Bernard Hopkins isn’t. Danny Garcia isn’t.

“That’s why we’re calling this promotion `Hart of the City.’ All our pro teams stink, nobody’s doing nothin’. But you got Jesse Hart standing up for Philly.

“Oh, and make sure to tell everybody that Philly still has the best boxers in the world.”

 

 

 

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600 Days and Counting: The Dillian Whyte ‘Conspiracy’

Matt McGrain

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As the dust settles on a quite extraordinary month in the heavyweight division, as the plans of Matchroom Promotions and the once pre-eminent Anthony Joshua lie in ruins and as the unlikely figure of Andy Ruiz takes Joshua’s place on a podium only big enough for three with the everyman Tyson Fury and the murderous Deontay Wilder already sequestered there, a little-noted but relevant anniversary slips by almost unnoticed. Dillian Whyte will this week spend his six-hundredth day as the WBC’s number one contender.

For the entirety of that period of time, Deontay Wilder (“an idiot” among other more nefarious things, according to Whyte) has worn the WBC’s trinket. Whyte, during that period, has gone from forcefully calling out the strapholder after increasingly more meaningful heavyweight victories, to shrugging his shoulders.

“I don’t know, it’s frustrating,” the British heavyweight recently told IFL. “[The WBC] are like the FBI. They dig up Tweets where I’ve liked something and say I’ve been disrespectful.  Eddie [Hearn] keeps telling me this week, next week. Let’s see.”

We did see, the same week as the broadcast of this interview, as Deontay Wilder announced he would first rematch Luis Ortiz before rematching Tyson Fury, seemingly freezing Whyte out once more. Assuming a Wilder victory and assuming, then, a Wilder-Fury clash for early 2020, further assuming Wilder manages to improve on the first fight where he was soundly outboxed by Fury, summer of 2020 would seem to be the earliest opportunity for Wilder and Whyte to meet.

By that time, close to 1,000 days will have elapsed between Whyte being named the number one contender to Wilder’s heavyweight belt and the fight actually coming off.  Between now and that time lie so many foibles that the WBC’s recent announcement that Whyte will be the mandatory should he prove victorious over Oscar Rivas next month is so fraught with peril as to be almost meaningless.

“Why does [WBC Chariman] Mauricio Sulaiman let Deontay do this?” Whyte quite reasonably asks. “They should call it the Wilder Boxing Council. They allow him to do whatever he wants. He’s fought two mandatorys in four years. I think I’ll [be made to] wait another two years. I don’t know what’s going on. It’s some kind of conspiracy against me.”

It seems unlikely that Whyte is conspired against in the truest sense of the word, but he could be deemed a problem nobody, least of all Wilder, needs. Eddie Hearn has seemed to some reluctant to throw his full promotional weight behind Whyte in the same way he has Joshua, and the enormous price that Hearn paid to obtain a shot at a strap then belonging to Charles Martin should  not be forgotten. Wilder, of course, is a different and more promotionally powerful animal but the static that failed attempts to broker a fight between Joshua and Wilder has inflicted upon Hearn’s more half-hearted attempts to get Whyte into the same ring should not be underestimated. Hearn has made few friends in the Wilder camp and it seems Whyte has been suffering for it – and for Hearn’s preferential treatment of his prized asset, Joshua.

Still, it must be noted that Whyte’s ascension to the number one spot was hardly resounding. In October of 2017, Whyte was coming off a weird, one-sided victory over Robert Helenius, who took the fight with Whyte on short notice and managed to stagger the Brit in the second round. Whyte did what he had to do in closing out a wide decision on the cards, there is no question of that, but that made him, by TBRB rankings, the worlds #7 heavyweight, behind, among others, Wilder, Joshua, Joseph Parker and Luis Ortiz.  Furthermore, although the WBC express a preference that their #1 contender receive a title-shot, #1 is not the same as mandatory and Whyte certainly held no such status at that time. Even today Whyte is almost universally rated behind Andy Ruiz, Fury, Wilder and Joshua, who defeated him in 2015. So the fact that the WBC have been in no rush to anoint him mandatory in some respect makes sense.

Dillian Whyte has fought for a distressing number of WBC baubles in recent times, including the WBC International Silver title and a second “silver” title with a slightly different name. In the industry this is known as “choosing the path” and Whyte chose the WBC. Money in sanctioning fees exchanges hands whenever these titles are on the line.

Here is the single biggest disaster in boxing’s weed-ridden garden: fight fans are not the customers of the alphabet ranking organizations. Fighters are the customers of the alphabet ranking organizations. When Whyte starts paying for the dubious privilege of fighting for these bangles he becomes a customer of the WBC. The WBC then shows a preference to its customer over its non-customers. This is how Whyte comes to be ranked ahead of Joshua and Fury, men who are not WBC customers, when almost every boxing observer would agree that this is unreasonable.

So the WBC place themselves in a position where a questionable #1 contender is named and then ignored. Ignoring that #1 contender in favor of, for example, Tyson Fury who received a shot at the WBC trinket, is objectively justifiable but organizationally untenable.  In naming a number one contender and supporting a champion who publicly declares his determination to ignore that number one contender, the WBC place themselves in an unsubstantiated position and Whyte in an unjustifiable predicament. The WBC have taken Whyte’s money and elevated him accordingly then failed to follow through on their implied promise.

Finally however, after six-hundred days of waiting, Whyte has been offered the status of mandatory contender should he defeat Oscar Rivas. They also seem to be prepared, as a salve for the wounds they have heaped upon him, to generate, out of thin air, an additional championship belt for him to wave about while he waits for Wilder to finish his own business in his own sweet time, should he prove able to do so. A loss for Wilder against either Ortiz or Fury may leave Whyte high and dry once more. Fury, particularly, has been vocal in declaring himself immune to the machinations of alphabet organisations, refreshing and wonderful news for boxing, but potentially disastrous news for Whyte.

Furthermore, Rivas, unbeaten at 26-0 and dangling the legitimate scalp of Bryant Jennings from his belt, is no gimme. It is perhaps an exaggeration to suggest that in Joseph Parker, Dereck Chisora and now Rivas, Whyte is running a heavyweight murderer’s row, but he is certainly risking it all against the Columbian puncher and may yet find his six-hundred day wait is in vain. As the fight moves more sharply into focus behind the dramatically differing fortunes of Fury and Joshua, it is becoming clear that Whyte has a real task upon his hands and everything to lose.

Eddie Hearn has described the WBC as “fair people who will put this right” but the conduct of the WBC demonstrates they are anything but. Hearn, if truth is told, recognizes this fact, admitting that even the mandatory status is likely to land Whyte “a timing [for a fight with Wilder]” rather than a fight with Wilder and if Joshua-Ruiz tells us anything it tells us that a lot can happen between that timing being declared and the bell for round one. At the very least it seems that Whyte will have at least one more fight to negotiate after Rivas should he prevail in that contest.

Whyte perhaps hasn’t helped himself at times. He declined a second fight with Anthony Joshua, ostensibly due to Hearn’s demands on the price split for a mandatory rematch with Joshua should Whyte have been triumphant. He has been quick to launch tirades against potential money opponents on Twitter, most recently Tyson Fury after his victory over Tom Schwarz. Fury now refuses even to discuss Whyte whom he dismisses out of hand as a potential future opponent.

For all that, his abandonment by the WBC is a disgrace. They have named him the man most capable of dethroning their champion and then have done precisely nothing about making that fight happen. Whyte’s guess that he will be made to wait a further two years may prove to be near the mark; he will almost certainly have to wait another one.

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Literary Notes: Gerry Cooney and More

Thomas Hauser

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Gerry Cooney’s life is a cautionary tale that, with a lot of effort on his part, has taken a happy turn.

Beaten physically and emotionally in childhood by an abusive father, Cooney turned to boxing and was one of the hardest punching heavyweights of all time. At age 25, he was on the cover of Time Magazine. On June 11, 1982, he took Larry Holmes into the thirteenth round on a night when Holmes was as good a fighter as he had ever been before or would be again.

If Cooney had beaten Holmes, he would have been the biggest sports superstar in America. But by then, the seeds of self-destruction had been sown. Alcohol and drug abuse were undermining his potential as a fighter and wreaking havoc on his personal life. He’s happy now – a loving husband and father – and has been clean for more than thirty years.

Cooney’s story is told in Gentleman Gerry (Rowman & Littlefield), a book co-authored with John Grady. Before discussing the book, I should make full disclosure. Gerry is a friend. We have lunch together on a regular basis. We sit together at fights. I know him as someone who’s thoughtful, generous, and admirably self-aware with regard to the road he has traveled. That makes reading Gentleman Gerry frustrating because of the manner in which his journey is chronicled.

Famous people often collaborate with a third party to tell their story. But almost always, the story is recounted in the subject’s voice. Gentleman Gerry is told in Grady’s voice. “I” and “me” are used only in places where Grady inserts himself into the narrative. Thus, an intensely personal journey becomes less personal and its emotional impact is dulled. Thoughts that would have been powerful coming directly from Gerry’s mouth are less so when filtered through Grady’s retelling.

Too often, the writing lapses into stilted flowery prose. For example, writing about meeting Gerry for the first time to discuss working together on the book, Grady recounts, “The morning sun gently blanketed the dining establishment’s well-maintained patio, providing a welcomed balance to the cool invigorating breeze that persistently greeted the diners.”

That’s accompanied by unnecessary hyperbole. Jimmy Young is referenced as one of “the greatest talents the [heavyweight] division ever produced.” Sportscaster Len Berman is “legendary” and heavyweight contender Ron Lyle is a “legend.”

Assertions such as the claim that Jack Johnson has been “largely unappreciated by history” lead one to wonder what history Grady has been reading. We’re told that Mike Tyson experienced “a stable nuturing environment” when he lived with Cus D’Amato in Catskill. But we now know that was hardly the case. Grady calls Holmes-Cooney the first “authentic megafight” of the post-Ali era. This shortchanges Ray Leonard’s encounters with Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran. He also tells us that Cooney and Holmes were guaranteed $10 million each for their battle. But Holmes was in the clutches of Don King at the time. His purse was less than one-third of that amount.

We’re never told what it felt like when Gerry was being punched in the face by his father. What could have been a fascinating window into Gerry’s mind – an exchange of blows that resulted when a bullying high school football coach challenged him to a sparring session in the school wrestling room – is reduced to two paragraphs.

There are flashes of good writing. Referencing the euphoria in the moments after Gerry’s 54-second demolition of Ken Norton, Grady writes, “There was no future nor past – just the moment.”

But that night, the good part of Gerry’s career came to an end. He tried cocaine for the first time.

Grady writes at length about the perils of substance abuse in an often clinical style.

Re alcohol: “Given his genetics and the power of his addiction symptoms, Gerry’s addiction was activated upon his first introduction to chemicals. The first drink is a landmark one for an alcoholic. It is a time when experimentation – with the user unaware of the horrific consequences to be paid – unites genetics, social learning behaviors, and the brain-changing processes to manifest the disease of addiction. It is a self-activated illness.”

And cocaine: “As people turn to substances, not only to deal with negative emotions but also to prolong and heighten positive ones, they develop tolerance. This leads to increased use to get the same high which only works for a while. In time, substances are required simply to feel ‘normal’ and, later, to avoid the horrors of physical withdrawal.”

But Grady never tells us how Gerry experienced being high. Don’t just tell me that he was snorting cocaine. Show me!

Gentleman Gerry is most satisfying when Gerry is allowed to speak for himself. “I want to talk about what happened and maybe change some things for today’s fighters, hopefully help some people out along the way,” he’s quoted as saying. “I had a great career, had a lotta fun, a lot of troubles. I look back and it’s tough to think about what could have been. But then I think I’m lucky as hell. There are guys of my generation walking on their heels, not able to enjoy life. If I became champion of the world, who knows, maybe I’d be one of those guys. I’ve had a lot of great times, met a lot of great people. I’m very fortunate. That’s the bottom line. And I’m able to appreciate all of it.”

In sum, Gerry Cooney looks back on his life with understanding. He’s happy and satisfied with where he is today. But there’s a tinge of regret that, with all the assets he had to work with, a good career as a fighter could have been better. That’s how I feel about this book.

*    *    *

Randy Gordon (former chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission who now co-hosts a boxing talk show on SiriusXM with Gerry Cooney) has written a memoir entitled Glove Affair (Rowman & Littlefield).

There’s a detailed account of Don King and WBC president Jose Sulaiman trying to bribe Gordon with a huge stack of hundred-dollar bills in the hope that Gordon would set aside Mike Tyson’s managerial contract with Bill Cayton. Readers will also find an intriguing and extremely unflattering portrait of longtime NYSAC staff member Marvin Kohn.

Then there’s Nat Fleischer, who founded The Ring in 1922 and reigned supreme at the magazine until his death fifty years later.

Gordon holds the legendary Fleischer in high regard. But as boxing historian Craig Hamilton noted recently, “Too often, Fleischer represented his personal opinion as fact. And even when he was just reporting facts, there were too many things he got wrong. Also,” Hamilton added, “as Fleischer advanced through life, he held onto the belief that the fighters he saw and read about when he was young were the best ever. He idolized fighters like Stanley Ketchel and built them up to be more than they were. The magazine was less biased than his books because it had to appeal to contemporary fans. But even there, there were problems.”

In 1969, Gordon, then a student at Long Island University, met Fleischer. “Here are the top ten heavyweights of all time,” Fleischer told him. Then he handed Gordon a list:

  1. Jack Johnson
  2. James J. Jeffries
  3. Bob Fitzsimmons
  4. Jack Dempsey
  5. James J. Corbett
  6. Joe Louis
  7. Sam Langford
  8. Gene Tunney
  9. Max Schmeling
  10. Rocky Marciano

Joe Louis #6? No Muhammad Ali? No Sonny Liston? That’s not a good list.

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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Andrew Cancio Repeats Upset Victory over Puerto Rico’s Alberto Machado

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(By special correspondent Tarrah Zeal) INDIO, Ca.-Andrew Cancio showed the boxing world his first win over Alberto Machado was no fluke. Cancio (21-4-2, 16 KO)s retained his WBA super featherweight title belt by a third-round knockout.

“I feel like the fight is going to end the way the first fight ended,” Cancio said in a conference call several weeks prior to Friday’s rematch at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, CA.

Before a sold-out crowd, the fighter from Blythe, Calif. who goes by the name “Chango” repeated his win of four months ago and delivered Machado (21-2, 17 KOs) to a heavier weight division with the loss.

In the opening three minutes of round one, Machado came out stronger and more focused than he did in their first match back in February. There was back and forth action between the two, but overall Machado landed the cleaner and more effective blows. A nice left uppercut upon the chin of Machado ended the first round, but he was able to take it well.

Machado, looking to get his revenge, caused a cut over Cancio’s left eye at the start of the second round. A quick and powerful flurry of punches created an uproar in the crowd as Cancio attacked Machado.

Despite Machado’s efforts to keep his distance, Cancio walked him down to continue fighting on the inside. After Cancio landed multiple body shots, he staggered Machado in the end of the round, giving him trouble in finding his corner after the attack.

In the early seconds of round three, Cancio landed a vicious left hook and a flurry of combinations, pounding away upon Machado’s body in efforts to keep him on the defense. Then a left hook to the body forced Machado to the take a knee and he could not beat the count. The official time was 1:01 of the third frame.

Cancio’s impressive showing was further affirmation that he is here to stay in the super featherweight division. Possibilities for upcoming battles include unification matches with Rene Alvarado, Gervonta Davis and Tevin Farmer.

Machado claimed, “Look I was ready to get up and the referee decided to stop the fight, I wanted to keep going.” But wobbly legs showed us otherwise.

Soto Takes WBO Title from Acosta

In the co-main event, scheduled for 12-rounds, Angel “Tito” Acosta (19-2, 19 KOs) of San Juan, Puerto Rico made his fifth world title defense against Elwin Soto (14-1. 10 KOs) of Mexicali, Mexico.

In a shocker, Mexicali’s Soto scored a 12th round TKO. It was an intense fight up until the last round and ended in controversy over the question of whether the referee had prematurely stopped the fight.

This light flyweight battle began right away with an action-packed opening round. By round three Soto had Acosta in trouble. A big left hand and right cross combo sent Acosta to the floor. When Acosta made it to his feet, Soto showed no mercy but Acosta survived the round.

In round four, a huge right hand from Soto had Acosta hurt and a double left hook had Acosta evading the power and staying out of range of Soto. But with so much at stake, Acosta stayed into the fight and actually took control in the middle rounds, landing multiple combinations to  Soto’s head and body.

Entering the later rounds, Acosta began to outwork his opponent. It was clear Acosta had regained control of the fight heading into the final round.

As the bell for the last round clanged, Acosta opened up bombs on Soto and the Mexican fighter curled up with his hand covering his face. In an attempt to engage back, Soto countered with a powerful left hook to the chin that stunned Acosta and sent him back against the ropes. Soto rushed Acosta and began to throw body combos but not before referee Thomas Taylor stepped in. The fight, an outright war, was waived off after only 23 seconds had elapsed in round 12.

The controversial stoppage infuriated Acosta.  Soto was jubilant. “This victory means a lot and I dedicate this belt to my family,” said the the new WBO light flyweight champion. “To be honest I thought I was going to lose and thank God I landed that punch and won the fight”.

“Sure he hurt me but it wasn’t enough for the stoppage.” said the downtrodden former champion who said he would welcome a rematch (and I’m sure boxing fans wouldn’t be opposed to that).

In the main preliminary, a 10-round super lightweight contest, Milwaukee’s Luis Feliciano (12-0, 8 KOs) of Milwaukee, Wisconsin remained undefeated with a seventh round stoppage of veteran Fernando Carcamo (23-10, 18 KOs) of Sonora, Mexico. Feliciano trains with boxing star trainer Ben Lira.

Feliciano landed a left hook that stunned the southpaw Carcamo in round one, but Carcamo was able to take the punch. Round by round, Feliciano began to pick apart his opponent, landing great combinations and big left hands but Carcamo, who had been stopped five previous times, was determined to show he deserved to be in the ring with Feliciano and continued to move forward. But Feliciano eventually finished him, unloading a series of rights that folded Carcamo to the canvas.

In the DAZN TV opener, Las Vegas, Nevada’s Blair “The Flair” Cobbs — a flamboyant character inside and outside of the ring — took on Houston’s Robert Redmond Jr. (7-2-2, 6 KOs) in a scheduled 8-round welterweight battle.

In round one, Cobbs (11-0-1, 7 KOs) aggressively showboated, throwing wild but powerful punches, forcing Redmond to adjust to his style. Both fighters came out swinging but a left hook to the chin of Redmond stunned him in the first round.

Within 30 seconds of round 2, a right hand to the chin had Redmond on the canvas. Another wild but big right-hand backed Redmond up against the ropes as he tried to figure out the awkward and wild style of Cobbs.

By round three, Redmond’s right eye started to swell. Before the start of round five, the doctor was called in to examine it and let the fight continue.  Fighting with a sense of urgency, Redmond landed a straight right hand to Cobbs chin, but the more experienced fighter used his stamina to finish Redmond off with powerful blows to the body. At the 1:52 mark of round six, at the request of Redmond’s corner, the referee stopped the bout.

Other Bouts

The first bout of the night was a four-round battle in the middleweight division. The fight, an all-action affair between Clay Collard of Cache Valley, Utah (1-1-2) and Emilio Rodriguez (3-1-1, 2 KO) of Van Nuys, California, ended in a draw. One judge had it 40-36 for Rodriguez but the other two had it 38-38.

In a 4-round super bantamweight match, 19-year-old Anthony Garnica (3-1, 2 KOs) of Oakland, CA took on 30-year-old Gilberto Duran from Yakima, WA (3-2, 3 KOs).

A decorated amateur, trained by Manny Robles (who also trains heavyweight champ Manny Robles), Garnica dominated the contest, winning by scores of 40-35 on all three cards.

Also, undefeated Aaron McKenna (8-0, 5 KO) of Monoghan, Ireland, scored a second round stoppage over Daniel Perales (10-18-2) of Monterrey, Mexico.  The official time was 0:42.

“Once I landed the first hard shot, I knew he wouldn’t be able to take more. I stepped it up, and that’s how I got the second-round victory.” said McKenna after his win.

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