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Oleksandr Usyk Continues to Replicate Evander Holyfield’s Career Blueprint

Bernard Fernandez

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They are, by consensus, the two greatest fighters in the 39-year history of the largely ignored cruiserweight division. Evander Holyfield, who already held the IBF and WBA versions of the title, fully unified the then-190-pound division when he summarily dismissed WBC champion Carlos “Sugar” DeLeon on an eighth-round stoppage at the Caesars Sports Pavilion in Las Vegas on April 9, 1988, savoring the accomplishment for only a moment before confirming his intention to move up to heavyweight and target WBC/WBA/IBF champ Mike Tyson.

Thirty years and change later, Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk, so different from Holyfield in some ways and yet so alike in others, has torn another page from the Holyfield career playbook. Already holder of all four widely recognized cruiserweight championship belts (the WBO did not exist in 1988) as the result of his three-victory run through the first World Boxing Super Series, the stylish southpaw, behind on two of the three official scorecards, defended his collection of 200-pound titles a final time when he knocked out Tony Bellew with a ripping left cross in the eighth round on Nov. 10 in Bellew’s hometown of Manchester, England. He savored the accomplishment for only a moment before confirming his intention to move up to heavyweight and target IBF/WBA/WBO champion Anthony Joshua, or possibly the winner of the Dec. 1 matchup of WBC titlist Deontay Wilder and former unified champ Tyson Fury, should that fellow aspirant get to and take down Joshua beforehand.

“I’m on the way to Anthony Joshua,” Usyk said of his farewell to the cruisers in the hope of attaining bigger and better objectives. “It’ll definitely happen. People just need to wait a little bit.”

Sound familiar? Listen to what Holyfield said after his thrashing of DeLeon, which took place with Tyson, already anticipating what the future might hold for each, sitting at ringside on an ostensible scouting mission. “The heavyweight champion is king of the hill,” Holyfield said, an assertion as true then as it is now. “That’s a motivating factor for me because I want to be king of the hill.”

Although separated by three decades and 10 pounds, Holyfield and Usyk are representative of the sort of tunnel vision that has led so many elite cruiserweights to test the waters at heavyweight. True heavyweight champions – at least those more recognized as such than passing-through holders of splintered alphabet titles – are regal monarchs of their sport, all right. Cruiserweight titlists, fairly or not, might not even qualify as crown princes. Until recently consigned by body size to a weight class that generally has been regarded as a sort of purgatory between light heavyweight and heavyweight, they are more like dukes or earls in the royal pecking order.

Most fight fans are far more likely to recognize and celebrate Holyfield, a 2017 inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, as the only four-time heavyweight champion than for his relatively brief reign as a cruiserweight when he was younger, lighter and less-affluent. The “Real Deal” was paid $300,000 for his unification showdown with DeLeon, and don’t think for a moment that he and his promoter, Dan Duva, weren’t aware of the fact that Tyson was set to receive $17 million and Michael Spinks $13.5 million for their megafight 2½ months later in Atlantic City.

The gulf between cruiserweight and heavyweight, at least financially, has narrowed somewhat, at least in Europe where the division is much more popular than it is in the United States. But Usyk, at 31, no doubt is aware that his window of opportunity for striking it rich in the land of the really big boys is tighter than it was for the then-25-year-old Holyfield. A potential matchup with Joshua, Wilder or Fury, especially were he to win, would yield far more in terms of pay and prestige than any cruiserweight fight could.

It is a gamble Usyk, like Holyfield, believes must be taken, but make no mistake, it is a gamble. Since Marvin Camel became the first cruiserweight champion (in a division only recently created by the WBC) when he scored a 15-round unanimous decision over Mate Parlov on March 31, 1980, there have been 64 men who have held some version of the title. Only two, Holyfield and England’s David Haye, have gone on to enjoy the view from the heavyweight summit.

So who deserves the top spot as the finest cruiserweight of all time? Is it Holyfield, still a work in progress when he established himself as the best of his or any succeeding era until Usyk arrived on the scene? Or is it Usyk, older, more polished and the beneficiary of having come along when the division was deeper and more competitive? It’s a matter of opinion and cause for some debate.

ESPN boxing writer Dan Rafael has weighed in on the subject, and he casts his ballot for Usyk, on the basis of the Ukrainian being in the division longer and having accomplished more while there. Rafael wrote that Usyk, as a cruiser, has “trumped Holyfield time and again” by virtue of his winning his first title in his 10th pro bout to 12 for Holyfield, and having defended or unified six times to four for Evander. He also notes, correctly, that the opposition Usyk has faced in cruiser title bouts – Krzysztof Glowacki, Thabiso Mchunu, Michael Hunter, Marco Huck, Mairis Briedis, Murat Gassiev and Bellew – for the most part is a cut above Holyfield’s lineup of Dwight Muhammad Qawi (twice), Henry Tillman, Ricky Parkey, Ossie Ocasio and DeLeon. Bonus points, however, should be awarded for Holyfield’s 15-round split decision over then-WBA champ and future International Boxing Hall of Famer Qawi in their first meeting on July 12, 1986, which many still consider to be the best cruiserweight scrap ever.

Mere statistics, however, never tell the full story of any fight, or fighter. There is the eye test and individual gut reaction that influence any discussion as to who would or would not fare better in a hypothetical matchup. For the purpose of comparing the cruiserweight credentials of Holyfield vis-à-vis Usyk, I contacted four knowledgeable observers – Showtime’s Steve Farhood, ESPN’s Mark Kriegel, HBO’s Jim Lampley and Holyfield himself – to blend their thoughts into the bubbling cauldron.

Farhood: “They so clearly are the best two cruiserweights ever. Until now, with cruiserweights, it’s always been Holyfield, Holyfield, Holyfield. For the first time, I think there’s a challenger to Evander for that designation. A mythical matchup of Holyfield and Usyk is very interesting to me because of their very different styles. It’s not the kind of fight where most people would say that one guy would win easily. I see a very competitive fight, and a very tough fight for Evander. Usyk would use his height and reach to try to keep the fight on the outside. Evander would have to wear him down. Remember, Evander was fighting 15-round championship fights at cruiserweight for the most part. (The DeLeon fight was scheduled for 12.) A fight at 12 rounds, I think, would favor Usyk. A 15-round fight probably would serve Evander better because he would have been the pressure fighter, and pressure fighters generally have things their way in the later rounds. I think it’d probably be a distance fight and very close at 12 rounds. I’d have trouble picking a winner. My tendency is to lean toward Evander, but I think the reason for that is we all know how great a fighter he was on the basis of his whole career. It’s hard to separate what he did as a heavyweight from what he did as a cruiserweight. He’s one of the greatest fighters of all time. Usyk has a lot of career in front of him and we don’t know yet what he’ll do.”

Kriegel: “To me, Holyfield represents the triumph of the heart. I can’t recall a big guy who fought regularly whose heart was so often on full display. He was a very valiant fighter. Usyk, to me, would represent a triumph of technique. I’ve heard it said that he’s a larger Lomachenko, which is pretty accurate. He’s a southpaw, he’s Ukrainian, he trains with Loma and they have a lot of the same boxing characteristics. Against Holyfield, it’d be a perfect matchup of the violence of one fighter vs. the mathematical precision of the other. So who would win? I wouldn’t bet against Evander, especially against someone who’s about his size. I could see him losing to Bowe and I could see him losing to Lennox Lewis, but against a guy more or less his own size, like Usyk, I can’t see Evander losing.”

Lampley: “That’s a tough one. It’s a pick ’em fight. But if I have to choose between the Evander the night he beat DeLeon and the Usyk who beat Bellew, I’d have to go with Usyk by 51-49, something like that. The sort of parallel equation that I have settled on in my mind as a way of judging it is, assuming for a moment there isn’t a significant size differential, would be Crawford against Lomachenko. I see considerable commonality between Crawford and Lomachenko in terms of their athletic qualities, their competitiveness, their mean streaks and late-fight punching power. All those things were there with Holyfield, and they’re there with Crawford. Usyk clearly has benefited from his exposure to Lomachenko’s father (Anatoly) and therefore fights in a style that we haven’t really seen in that weight class, with the same kind of technical brilliance and creativity that Lomachenko shows you. So would I take Crawford or would I take Lomachenko? It’s an extremely difficult choice, just as it is with Usyk vs. Holyfield. But Usyk is a more finished product at this stage. He has settled into the upper range of what you’d expect him to be.”

Holyfield: “I only seen Usyk fight once (against Bellew). You have to see a guy fight against different styles to get a better feel for what he’s all about. Seeing him one time, I can’t say for sure that’s the way he is. But if he ain’t got a short game, he’d have trouble with me. I have very quick hands, so I could fight inside as well as outside. I tried to take things from the people that came before me. I took some things from Muhammad Ali, but I took more things from what Joe Frazier did because I was the shorter guy a lot of times and I had to get inside. I don’t know how good of a short game Usyk has because he didn’t show one against (Bellew), and I don’t know how he’d do against a guy who fights on the inside because the guy he beat didn’t really try to work inside.”

It should be noted that Holyfield had four heavyweight fights before he fought for the title, winning it on a third-round knockout of Tyson conqueror Buster Douglas on Oct. 25, 1990. Lampley, for one, thinks Usyk might require only two heavyweight bouts for familiarization purposes before he goes for the title, his timetable moved up by the fact he’s six years older than Holyfield was when Evander decided to swim with the sharks instead of the barracudas.

As cruisers, Holyfield and Usyk’s resumes are impeccable. After Holyfield disassembled DeLeon, who would hold versions of the cruiser title on three separate occasions, the impressed Puerto Rican said, “He is so strong. There is no question he will make a great heavyweight.”

Bellew was no less complimentary toward Usyk, saying “Oleksandr Usyk is a great, great champion. He’s fantastic, an amazing fighter and the greatest man I’ve ever shared the ring with. Anyone who faces him is in a lot of trouble. He’s tactically brilliant. Strong. He has everything.”

So what say you, TSS nation? In a dream matchup for cruiserweight supremacy, do you go with the 1988 Holyfield? Or the 2018 Usyk?

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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Abel Sanchez Candidly Shares His Feelings About GGG and Andy Ruiz

Arne K. Lang

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The noted trainer Abel Sanchez has taken his lumps lately, but he was as congenial as ever as he conversed with this reporter during a lull in the action on last Saturday’s show at the MGM Grand Garden. Earlier in the evening, one of Sanchez’s newest proteges, Guido Vianello, had advanced his record to 4-0 with a second round stoppage of sacrificial lamb Keenan Hickmon. A six-foot-six heavyweight from Italy, Vianello was “awarded a scholarship” to Sanchez’s boxing academy by Bob Arum after signing with Arum’s Top Rank organization in November of last year.

Our talk inevitably turned to his fractured relationship with Gennady Golovkin. When we visited “The Summit,” the name of Sanchez’s training facility in Big Bear, California, in March of 2016, the fighter from Kazakhstan and his Mexican-American coach appeared to have an unbreakable bond. When in training, GGG resided in the compound that Sanchez built as a combination dormitory and training facility, a 5,200 square foot complex with a gym in the lower level. Sanchez spoke highly of GGG back then, not just as a boxer but as a person. Despite his growing fame, said Sanchez, GGG was as unspoiled as the day they first met in March of 2010.

In his first fight under Sanchez’s tutelage, Golovkin went to Panama City and won the WBA middleweight title with a 58-second blowout of Milton Nunez. He would go on to unify the title while tying Bernard Hopkins’ record for successful middleweight title defenses (20).

In April, GGG severed the relationship. This came shortly after he signed a three-year, six-fight deal with DAZN worth a reported $100 million. He subsequently hooked up with Johnathon Banks, a protégé of Emanuel Steward. Banks was in GGG’s corner not quite two weeks ago when GGG bombed out overmatched Steve Rolls.

The break-up was over money. When GGG signed his lucrative deal with DAZN, his German advisors decided that henceforth Sanchez would receive a flat rate instead of his customary percentage. “Take it or leave it,” they told Abel. He left it.

“Money (often) corrupts character and values,” said Sanchez, who was deeply wounded when GGG turned his back on him. And although we didn’t delve into it, he likely had flashbacks to 1992 when the very same thing had happened to him with Terry Norris.

Terry Norris was Abel’s first prominent fighter. He trained Terry and his older brother Orlin Norris, a budding word cruiserweight champion, for the late Joe Sayatovich at Sayatovich’s training facility on a 30-acre ranch in the high desert community of Campo, California, five miles from the Mexican border. Sayatovich owned a construction company, as did Sanchez, a second generation California home builder.

In July of 1989, Terry Norris was bombed out in two rounds by Julian Jackson in Atlantic City in a bid for Jackson’s WBA 154-pound title. But Sanchez orchestrated a rebound and Norris went on to carve out a Hall of Fame career, preceding Julian Jackson into the International Boxing Hall of Fame by 14 years.

Norris was a world champion, but yet one of the lesser known champions until winning a lopsided 12-round decision over Sugar Ray Leonard on Feb. 9, 1991, at Madison Square Garden, plunging Sugar Ray into a six-year retirement. That increased Norris’s marketability enormously and spelled the beginning of the end of the Norris-Sanchez partnership. In November of the following year, Sanchez received a letter co-signed by Sayatovich and Norris (whose signature was apparently forged) telling him that he had been dismissed.

A story in the San Diego Union-Tribune quoted Sayatovich as saying that Abel had to go because he had become “too greedy,” balking at taking a smaller percentage of Terry Norris’s purses now that the fighter had punched his way into the upper echelon of wage earners. But the break-up did not disturb Sanchez’s relationship with Orlin Norris, or with the father and official co-trainer of the Norris brothers, both of whom jumped to Abel’s defense, saying he had remained loyal to Sayatovich and that Sayatovich ought to have reciprocated that loyalty.

There’s an old saying in boxing that a trainer or manager should never become too emotionally attached to a fighter as that fighter will break his heart someday. Abel Sanchez knows the feeling.

Terry Norris, detached from Sanchez, lost his WBC diadem in his 11th title defense when he suffered a fourth round stoppage at the hands of Simon Brown in Puebla, Mexico. A win over Brown would have propelled Norris into a match with Pernell Whitaker, and had he succeeded in beating Whitaker, he would have been the runaway pick for the top spot on the pound-for-pound lists.

Abel Sanchez wasn’t surprised that Norris was upended by Simon Brown, a huge underdog. “We watch him in the gym and he’s gotten away from basic fundamentals,” he told LA Times writer Tim Kawakami. “He’s going out there winging and trying to bomb everyone out. And when you do that you’re going to get hit.”

We mean no disrespect to Johnathan Banks, a fine trainer, but we can’t help but wonder if Gennady Golovkin’s career will take the same turn.

ANDY RUIZ

Abel Sanchez first met Andy Ruiz when Ruiz, an aspiring Olympian, was 17 years old. Ruiz’s father brought Andy to Abel’s gym. When they put the boy on the scale, he weighed 307 pounds. Ten years later, Sanchez would train Ruiz for Ruiz’s match with Joseph Parker in Auckland, New Zealand. Several fights later, Ruiz bought out his contract with Top Rank, signed with Premier Boxing Champions, and acquired a new trainer, Manny Robles.

We wondered what went through Abel’s mind as Andy Ruiz was chewing up Anthony Joshua and then rapturously celebrating with his cornermen in an unforgettable scene at Madison Square Garden. Did Abel think to himself, “well, darn, if I had played my cards right, that could have been me.”

To the contrary, Sanchez thought it was wonderful. “It was good for boxing,” he said, “I’m so happy for Andy and Manny.”

Sanchez agreed with our assessment that the quick turnaround after his bout with six-foot-seven, 260-pound behemoth Alexander Dimitrenko was actually a blessing in disguise. “On paper,” said Sanchez, “he had only five weeks to prepare but it was more like 14 weeks. Andy didn’t have time to go out and party.”

“Andy would not be denied,” said Sanchez who hopes that Ruiz brings the same mindset to the rematch. “I hope that his victory over Joshua doesn’t come to be seen as a fluke,” he said, “because Andy can really fight.” He doesn’t pack the biggest punch, noted Sanchez, but he can stop an opponent in his tracks with four- and five-punch combinations, a rare attribute in a heavyweight.

As what to expect in the rematch, Sanchez said, “Andy Ruiz will have to be even better than the first time around.”

Photo credit: Tom Hogan / Hogan photos / Golden Boy Promotions

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The Gypsy King: Enjoy Him While You Can

Ted Sares

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Gypsy King

Tyson Fury —The Gypsy King– possesses a sharp Irish wit. True, he’s putting everybody on half the time, but that’s what blarney is all about. He’s a born showman and is rarely at a loss for words or afraid to throw stuff out there. Heavyweight boxing hasn’t had this type in a long time—maybe not since Ali.

Curiously, the forgoing was written before he went into the deep depths of hell brought about by depression and substance abuse. He was pretty much written off as a one-off phenom. In fact, things got so bad that David Haye once said, in response to Fury’s homophobic tweets,: “It seems @Tyson_Fury needs to ease up on his ‘Medication’ or seek an Exorcist, or he’ll get sectioned at this rate #StraightJacketRequired”

Fast Forward

But lo and behold, that was then and this is now and he has made one of the greatest comebacks in sports history (with a nod to George Foreman and Tiger Woods) showing a will and determination rarely seen anywhere. This should not be downplayed. When combined with his ability to get up from Deontay Wilder’s best shot in the final round of their fight, that determination—that will, borders on the surreal.

And he is an entirely different person. This is not the same person who told reporters they can s**k his balls. No, this Fury donated his entire purse from the Wilder fight to several UK charities that specialize in providing housing for recovering addicts and alcoholics. Said Fury, “I did give away my last purse, but I don’t do charity work for a pat on the back…I do it to help people, but I do not want praise for it, I don’t want to be called a do-gooder.”

This is not a Nikolai Valuev or a Primo Canera. The new Fury is fast, fights backwards, forwards, orthodox, southpaw, and has great upper body movement. He fights in a relaxed and fluid manner, but is a ruthless closer. This Fury enjoys what he does unlike fellow-Brit Anthony Joshua who seemed visibly uncomfortable in New York City recently. Heck, Fury is made for The Big Apple.

Anyone who is 6’9” and can switch stances and slip seven punches in a row much like Pernell Whitaker was able to do and then immediately come back with a deadly volley to initiate the beginning of a ruthless end (with Schwarz bloodied and under brutal attack, the bout was waved off), warrants the attention of every serious boxing fan.

After referee Kenny Bayless finished his count, Fury came across the ring after the poor German like something out of a horror movie as he closed the show. It bears a second and third look.

“I got a big man out of there by switching it up. He caught me with a couple but you can’t go swimming and not get wet.” said Fury (now 28-0-1). As an aside, the Gypsy King went to Schwarz’s locker room to console him after the fight.

“He needed to make a statement tonight. When he walks to that ring, he becomes someone else. All that he has in the back of his head, is Deontay Wilder. He wants that revenge. He showed strength, power, determination and that killer instinct.” — Tyson’s father John Fury.

He made that statement.

The Future

Now attention turns to his next fight with Kubrat Pulev, his IBF mandatory, his most like likely opponent. (Of course, Pulev must refrain from kissing his female interviewers.) Such a matchup would be more competitive and even risky. As Caryn Tate of Boxing.com says, “The sooner Fury and the rest of the heavyweights at the top of the division fight each other, the better. The plethora of tune-ups in this sport have got to stop.”

In a sport/business that overwhelms us with nonstop legal bickering and suspected/real use of PEDs, this affable and candid giant is a breath of badly needed fresh air.

“I was in the car on the way with my wife and I said ‘I think we’ve made it Paris’. She said why and I said ‘We’re headlining in Vegas! This is it!’” — Tyson Fury

Later, he said, I came here to have fun and enjoy myself. I don’t take it too seriously. I thought I put on a good show and the fans got what they paid for.”

Ted Sares is a member of Ring 8, 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). He is an active power lifter and Strongman competitor in the Grand Master class.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank

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Three Punch Combo: Looking Ahead to the 2020 IBHOF Class and More

Matt Andrzejewski

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THREE PUNCH COMBO — Last weekend, the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, NY, held its annual induction ceremony. Julian Jackson, Donald Curry and James “Buddy” McGirt were enshrined in the modern category. With the 2019 induction weekend now complete, it is now time to look forward to the 2020 class in the modern category.

For those not familiar with the process, each year three boxers are elected in the modern category. No more and no less. The modern category is comprised of fighters who had their last bout no earlier than 1989 and have been retired from the sport for five years. So to be considered for the 2020 ballot, the boxer’s last fight would need to be no later than 2014.

Last year’s class was dominated by holdovers who weren’t elected to the IBHOF the first time they were eligible and appeared on the ballot multiple times before finally getting inducted. We also saw something similar in 2016. But for the class of 2020, we have a strong list of first time eligible candidates and given the current voting criteria it is probable that the class of 2020 will be comprised of fighters from this list.

The five notable first time eligible candidates are Juan Manuel Marquez (56-7-1, 40 KO’s), Sergio Martinez (51-3-2, 28 KO’s), Carl Froch (33-2, 24 KO’s), Jorge Arce (64-8-2, 49 KO’s) and Marcos Maidana (35-5, 31 KO’s).

Of the five, I think Arce and Maidana can safely be eliminated from serious consideration for the class of 2020. They don’t have near the resumes of the other three.

Juan Manuel Marquez (pictured) would seem to be a lock. He is a former multi-division champion who fought in some of the most prominent fights of his era and holds wins against some of the best fighters of his generation. This includes wins over Hall of Famer Marco Antonio Barrera and future Hall of Famer Manny Pacquiao.

Sergio Martinez is also a lock. The Argentine may have been a late bloomer but he had a dominant four-year middleweight title reign after defeating Kelly Pavlik in 2010 for the title. During this reign he scored an emphatic second round knockout of Paul Williams which avenged a previous loss and won a decisive 12-round decision over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

I sense there will be some debate regarding Froch but I think he will get the nod his first time around. He is a former 168-pound champion and has an incredibly deep resume that includes wins against many of the best in the division of his era. Of his two losses, one was avenged to Mikkel Kessler and the other was to future first ballot Hall of Famer Andre Ward. The resume just speaks for itself and should be more than enough to earn Froch enshrinement on his first go-around.

Of the holdovers, the two most likely to push Froch for the third and final spot are Rafael Marquez (41-9, 37 KO’s) and Vinny Paz (50-10, 30 KO’s). Marquez garnered a lot of support in his first year of eligibility last year and a lot were surprised when he did not make the final cut. With his brother likely getting inducted this coming year, there could be a push to put the brothers in together. As for Paz, he also picked up some steam last year and seemed to sway more voters to his side.

The Case For Yaqui Lopez

Every year I like to touch upon some fighters who I feel have gone overlooked by IBHOF voters. In past years for example, I have made cases for both Kevin Kelley and Junior Jones. This year, I wanted to go back a little further to a different era and point out a fighter who I think deserves serious consideration in Yaqui Lopez (61-15, 39 KO’s).

Lopez never won a world title and I am quickly reminded of that whenever I bring up his candidacy. He fought in an era that not only did not have an abundance of title belts but also featured some of the all-time greats of the light heavyweight division. Lopez lost two close decisions in world title bids to Hall of Famer Victor Galindez. Lopez also was competitive on two occasions in challenging Matthew Saad Muhammad for his light heavyweight title. Their second fight in 1980 was the Ring Magazine Fight of the Year. And Lopez also gave future Hall of Famer Michael Spinks a test before being stopped in the seventh round.

The losses were competitive to these all-time greats. In any other era Lopez would have been a world champion. But there are yet many good wins on his resume, most notably a sixth round stoppage of Mike Rossman in March of 1978. Six months later, Rossman would knock out the aforementioned Galindez to become the light heavyweight champion.

There is another side to the argument for Lopez. Some people hate when I mention this but entertainment matters when considering candidates qualifications. The floodgates were opened by voters in this regard with the elections of Arturo Gatti and Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and there is no going back. Lopez was not only a very accomplished fighter but one of the most exciting fighters of his era, he was involved in many memorable wars. Add this fact to his resume and Lopez more than meets all the criteria to be inducted into the IBHOF.

Under The Radar Fight

 ShoBox returns on Friday from the WinnaVegas Casino & Resort in Sloan, Iowa with a tripleheader featuring six fighters with a combined record of 91-1. Though I am very interested in all the fights, I am especially interested in the main event, a 154-pound contest between fast rising prospect Sebastian Fundora (12-0, 8 KO’s) and Hector Manuel Zepeda (17-0, 4 KO’s).

Fundora stands 6’7” tall and is appropriately nicknamed “The Towering Inferno.” For a man who stands that tall, he is incredibly athletic and fluid inside the ring. Working from a southpaw stance, Fundora likes to use his height to pepper his opponents from the outside with a sharp right jab. He will work very fluid, heavy handed combinations behind that jab and makes his opposition pay a heavy toll when they attempt to close the distance. And if opponents do manage to get inside, Fundora has shown himself to be a very accomplished fighter at close range.

Defensively, Fundora has some things to clean up. He tends to get involved in exchanges and when he does so will stand straight up with his chin exposed. He’s been clipped clean on a few occasions and that will need to be corrected as he moves up in caliber of competition.

There is not a lot of video available on Zepeda but from what I have seen he is a technically astute fighter. He is a boxer puncher by trade who will use frequent lateral movement working behind the left jab from the orthodox stance. Zepeda likes to be first instead of looking for counters and from the fights I have seen has shown to be a volume puncher. As the record indicates, however, he is not a big puncher.

If Zepeda fights the way that I have seen on video, I think we are going to get a fast paced, good action fight. Fundora is clearly the “A” side here and is supposed to win. But make no mistake, Zepeda can fight and this is a step up in class for Fundora.

This is a classic ShoBox fight in which the “A” side could get pushed and I am very interested to see this one on Friday.

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