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2018 Awards Rush: Some Worthy Candidates Too Late to Join Party

Bernard Fernandez

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There was a commercial for a particular brand of coffee that once advised the public that its brewed product was “good to the last drop.”

And so it is with the overseers of many boxing publications and web sites, who, best intentions aside, might now seem oblivious to the fact that the Chicago Tribune, in its haste to be first at the possible expense of being right, infamously printed the front-page headline that “Dewey Defeats Truman” in its Nov. 3, 1948, editions. Oops, Harry S Truman, not Thomas Dewey, actually won that presidential election when all of the nation’s votes were counted.

The Tribune’s legendary rush to judgment, alas, has been repeated or at least hinted at in years since, reinforcing the late Spanish philosopher and essayist George Santayana’s sage observation that those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it. On July 6, 2004, the New York Post, based on supposedly unimpeachable sources, “beat” all other news outlets when it ran a front-page headline advising readers that Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry had chosen Missouri Congressman Richard Gephardt to be his running mate. But as is the case in Aesop’s Fables, in which the slow and steady tortoise finds a way to beat the hare to the finish line, some races do not go to the swift; the following day the Post sheepishly joined all those smug stragglers in revealing that Kerry’s actual pick was North Carolina Senator John Edwards.

The far-flung events of Dec. 22, in boxing rings in America and the United Kingdom, again demonstrated that a calendar year consists of 365 days, not 355, and it might be best not to make any announcements until all the precincts have reported and the New Year is ushered in by that big ball dropping in Times Square at the stroke of midnight.

In keeping with tradition that might now need to be reconsidered, the Boxing Writers Association of America, which I once served as president and continue to serve as awards chairman, held separate business meetings in Los Angeles and New York in December in which nominations for the BWAA’s annual awards were submitted by members in attendance. The votes from both meetings are the basis for formulating final ballots in each of the categories. For what it’s worth, there is a time imperative to start the ball rolling some weeks before the end of the year, the better to begin the process of collecting the votes of eligible electors, announcing the winners and, in the BWAA’s case, arranging for said winners to attend the BWAA Awards Dinner, the date and site of which usually have not been determined that far in advance. Some awards require significant lead time to prepare.

The Sweet Science also has its “Best of” awards in any given year, as do ESPN, The Ring and any number of other media outlets that don’t want somebody else, or several somebodies, to jump to the front of the line. It’s understandable, and it explains why, on election night, major news networks project certain candidates to be winners even if small percentages of the votes have been tabulated. Usain Bolt might not have won all those Olympic gold medals if other sprinters were allowed to get away with false starts. And, far more often than not, getting there first often is still the correct call.

But Dec. 22 proved that the current system employed by many media outlets is not infallible. TSS’ choice for Knockout of the Year, 21-year-old lightweight Teofimo Lopez’s first-round knockout of Mason Menard on Dec. 8, was posted on this site on Dec. 20 and under normal circumstances might be considered a no-brainer. Lopez’s overhand right landed with such concussive force that Menard was out cold before he plunged on the canvas in the first round, a kayo so emphatic that it reinforced Lopez’s burgeoning reputation as a big hitter and star-in-the-making. Only two weeks later, however, highly regarded heavyweight contender Dillian Whyte, who had traded bombs with Dereck Chisora from the opening bell, delivered a turn-out-the-lights left hook in the 11th round in London that sent Chisora sprawling onto his back, every bit as knocked out as Menard had been.

As exclamation-point finishes go, there might not be much to choose between Lopez’s crushing of Menard and Whyte’s wipeout of a very game Chisora. But consider this: Whyte trailed, 95-94, on two of the three official scorecards at the time he landed that haymaker of a hook (Chisora was ahead by the same margin on the other card), and with the victory he might have vaulted ahead of Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller as the next opponent to be faced by IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua on April 13 in London’s Wembley Stadium. Given the possible implications of a Joshua-Whyte rematch – Joshua stopped Whyte in a dandy fight for the vacant British heavyweight title on Dec. 12, 2015 – would that have been enough to have slid Whyte-Chisora II (another rematch of an exciting original)  in ahead of Lopez-Menard? It’s a moot point now, but worth considering.

Nor is Whyte-Chisora II a candidate for BWAA Fight of the Year, which most might assume would have been the case if that ballot had not been finalized beforehand. TSS’ pick for Fight of the Year, the Gennady Golovkin-Canelo Alvarez rematch, is a reasonable enough choice, and that hugely consequential clash for middleweight supremacy  likely will go head-to-head for the designation from the BWAA with the epic Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury draw and Jarrett Hurd’s rousing, split decision over Erislandy Lara  in their super welterweight unification showdown.

At least Wilder-Fury has a chance at being voted BWAA Fight of the Year. For the fighters themselves, mere participation in such a classic apparently doesn’t count for much, as is often the case when draws are involved. Although attendees at both BWAA business meetings, which took place prior to Wilder-Fury, nominated the winner for a place on the Fighter of the Year ballot, there was no winner, although backers of each man have their own thoughts about that. If nothing else, Wilder-Fury I – there has to be a do-over soon, right? – proved that it is possible to not only have an individual or a team lose on a tie, but for both parties to do so.

At least TSS’ Upset of the Year – Eleider Alvarez’s seventh-round knockout of favored WBO light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev – left no doubt as to whom the winner was, or deserved to be. Were it not for the way that fight ended, Tony Harrison’s disputed unanimous- decision dethronement of WBC super welterweight champion Jermell Charlo, also on Dec. 22, and in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, might have entered into the discussion.

No system for determining, well, anything is flawless. There isn’t always enough time to do a job perfectly, no matter how much we might wish to, not with budget restrictions and deadline pressure complicating the process. On Dec. 22, a day that might have altered at least some people’s perception of a couple of End-of-Year awards, 96.98 percent of the year’s boxing business already had been concluded. It might not seem like there was much time to squeeze in a very late surprise here or there, but it left a heck of a lot more room for revision than is given to anyone who purchases a Powerball Lottery ticket.

But someone occasionally wins the big Powerball prize, and maybe even will do so when the numbered ping pong balls come up again on Dec. 26. A hopeful ticket holder could learn that his longest of long shot dreams have come true the day after Christmas, but so what? Like they say, better late than never.

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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Will a Canelo Alvarez Trilogy Turn ‘Triple G’ into a Mexican Style Piñata?

Jeffrey Freeman

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We’ve all seen the birthday video of some poor kid swingin’ for a strung-up stuffed toy but getting back in the face something other than the expected bounty of candies and treats. Dizzy from being spun around in circles and blindfolded against a moving target, a child is beaten by paper mache. Score one for the much-abused piñata. It can only take so much punishment.

Before it opens up—explodes!

Perhaps that’s 37-year-old Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin now in his single-minded desire to fight world middleweight champion Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez, 28, for a third time following a successful comeback KO of Steve Rolls at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Maybe he’ll bust Canelo’s belly open. Or maybe this time he’ll get busted up? Three strikes in this game; sorry Buster.

“I’m ready. Bring on Canelo,” Golovkin told DAZN’s Chris Mannix after improving to 39-1-1 with 35 big knockouts. “A third fight is more interesting because we both have experience against each other. I come to open up, he comes to open up…the next fight will be amazing for us.”

Their first two title bouts were amazing for fans but they lacked a sense of finality. Neither boxer was ever visibly hurt and there were no knockdowns registered. In two fights, only six points divided the combatants and that includes the despicable 118-110 score from Adalaide Byrd in favor of Canelo in the first meeting. In the rematch, Alvarez was superior—but not by much.

The piñata is still in play.

In his many swings in two HBO-PPV tries against Alvarez, Golovkin came up short of bursting the economic bubble that surrounds Canelo and appears to protect him at all times. Their 2017 contest was ruled a split draw and their 2018 rematch was won by Canelo via majority decision. If Golovkin was cloaked in an aura of invincibility, it was Alvarez who stripped him naked but helped fund a brand-new wardrobe by providing Golovkin with his two biggest paydays by far.

Golovkin’s ability to knock out ordinary fighters and second-tier contenders like Vanes Martirosyan remains intact. The offense looks good. Punches still fly like hatchets. However, GGG’s defense looked third-rate against Rolls and he’s back to taking punches in the face in order to connect with harder punches of his own to end matters early as a “gift” for fans.

New trainer Johnathon Banks wasn’t impressed.

As a student of the late trainer Emanuel Steward and caretaker of his KRONK legacy, ‘Mister Banks’ is a fine human being and an honest man in an industry full of lies told to sell fights.

“It was very uncomfortable for me,” said Banks at the post-fight press conference of having to watch Golovkin, now without Abel Sanchez, take shots he shouldn’t be taking. On the other hand, Canelo’s Golden Boy Promotions promoter Oscar De La Hoya had to like what he saw.

The TSS Truth: The Golovkin who beat Rolls didn’t look ready at all for the Canelo who beat Jacobs. And if you listened carefully to the post-fight breakdown by Banks, the trainer knows it’s true. What’s also true is that as Canelo approaches his peak, Golovkin is approaching age 40.

Can Banks teach Golovkin to correct his mistakes and be better than Alvarez in September—in three months? “If we can grow day to day as trainer and fighter, that can change the outcome.”

I’m not so sure.

THE BANK STATEMENT

After getting his head bobbled around by Rolls before dropping the boom in the fourth, GGG didn’t sound too interested in a New York rematch with Danny Jacobs or a shot at Providence, Rhode Island’s Demetrius Andrade for Boo-Boo’s new WBO trinket—and who can blame him at this point? The only big money fight out there for GGG is still against Canelo Alvarez.

It’s all about his legacy now. Uno mas en Las Vegas. Third times a charm?

As Golovkin gets another year older, his red-headed target grows another year wiser. Canelo’s 24 rounds of experience in the ring with GGG have taught him how to do what nobody else before him could do which was beat Golovkin back and take his unified middleweight titles.

Ask Canelo, as DAZN’s Mannix did, and he’ll say a third fight with Golovkin is unnecessary. “For me, we are done, but if the people want to see it, we can do it again. And I’ll beat him again.”

But can Alvarez finish the job and be the first to finish off Golovkin inside the distance? If he wants to get the critics off his back who insist he received two gifts against Golovkin, he’ll want to. It worked for Andre Ward against Sergey Kovalev but even then fans cried foul over the TKO.

Can Alvarez make GGG quit?

The way Golovkin got hit by Steve Rolls has me wondering if the counterpunching Canelo has been setting him up all along for a trilogy winning knockout of some sort. Is the rock-solid chin of Golovkin finally ready to burst after years of getting whacked at by eager-fisted title challengers?

Canelo is by no means a knockout puncher against fully fleshed out middleweights but he has grown into the 160-pound division very well over time. His recent unanimous decision victory over Danny Jacobs didn’t feature any knockdowns but his win over the ‘Miracle Man’ was more conclusive than was Golovkin’s in 2017. Nobody was claiming afterwards that Jacobs deserved the decision while some still insist that Danny actually beat GGG. If Golovkin is right and both of them open up more in a third fight, Canelo-Golovkin III could exceed expectations.

We’ve all heard the saying: Be careful what you wish for. Because you just might get it!

There wouldn’t be a bigger Big Drama Show in all of boxing than to see the once seemingly invincible Gennady Golovkin dropped and/or stopped by the Mexican Style of Canelo Alvarez.

Boxing Writer Jeffrey Freeman grew up in the City of Champions, Brockton, Massachusetts from 1973 to 1987, during the Marvelous career of Marvin Hagler. JFree then lived in Lowell, Mass during the best years of Irish Micky Ward’s illustrious career. A new member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a Bernie Award Winner in the Category of Feature Under 1500 Words, Freeman covers boxing for The Sweet Science in New England.

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Tyson Fury Blasts Out Germany’s Tom Schwarz in Las Vegas

David A. Avila

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Tyson Fury vs Tom Schwarz

LAS VEGAS-In his first Las Vegas show Great Britain’s Tyson Fury showcased a neon light kind of performance with a second round knockout over Germany’s Tom Schwarz to retain the lineal heavyweight world championship on Saturday.

“I came to put on a show for Las Vegas and I hoped everyone enjoyed it,” Fury said.

Though facing an undefeated fighter like himself, Fury (28-0-1, 20 KOs) proved to Schwarz (24-1, 16 KOs) and the more than 9,000 fans at the MGM Grand there are elite levels in the prizefighting world with a quick, decisive knockout victory.

The heavyweight known as the “Gypsy King” had recently signed with Top Rank after giving a riveting and inspiring performance last December against WBC heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder. Both electrified the crowd in Los Angeles and around the world proving the heavyweight division is alive and well.

It had been decades since heavyweights had sparked interest outside of Europe. But Fury and Wilder’s performance proved exciting despite ending in a majority draw after 12 rounds.

On Saturday, Fury met Schwarz and in his first fight in Las Vegas and easily out-classed Schwarz with his ability to use distance, slip punches and basically hit the German fighter with ease, even as a southpaw.

“Key tonight was telling myself to use the jab, and slip to the side,” said Fury.

After a rather tepid first round Fury changed to a southpaw stance and invited Schwarz to try and hit him. In one flurry the German fired a six-punch combination and every blow was slipped by the smiling Fury. He then smoothly slipped around Schwarz and fired his own six punch combination and capped it with a right to the chin that dropped the German to his knees. Schwarz got up and was met with another dozen blows that forced referee Kenny Bayless to end the bludgeoning at 2:54 of the second round. Fury was declared the winner by technical knockout.

“I put on an extra 12 pounds. This time it was only a few months out of the ring and I’m back,” said Fury. “I came here a southpaw and I hoped everybody enjoyed it.”

When asked if a Wilder rematch was on tap Fury was effusive and declared that promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank assured it would be in September or October.

“I’ve never seen promoting like this,” said Fury. “God bless America.”

Once again the heavyweights seem to be the darling division with Fury, Wilder, Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua the leading heavyweights.

Mikaela

Mikaela Mayer (11-0, 4 KOs) started slowly but once she figured out the awkward aggressiveness of Lizbeth Crespo (13-4, 3 KOs) she slipped into overdrive with the right cross and right uppercuts and rolled to victory by unanimous decision after 10 rounds. The former American Olympian retains the NABF super featherweight title.

For the first two rounds Crespo scored well with overhand rights and constant punching. Though Mayer scored with solid left jabs, she was countered by looping rights and lefts that caught the taller American fighter pulling out.

Adjustments were made and by the third round Mayer was staying close and using lethal right hands that boomed off Crespo’s head and body. After charging hard for two rounds those blows suddenly slowed down the Argentine’s attack.

Mayer took over after the third round and kept the momentum going with that lethal right and check left hook. Crespo tried but couldn’t solve the right of Mayer.

After 10 rounds the judges scored it 100-90, 99-91, and 98-92 for Mayer.

“Crespo was a tough challenge, but I got through it and I’m ready to move on to bigger things,” said Mayer. “I am ready for a world title fight next. It’s time for the champions to step up and get in the ring with me.”

Other Bouts

Albert Bell (15-0, 5 KOs) proved a little too slick for Northern California’s Andy Vences (22-1-1, 12 KOs) and won the WBC Continental America’s super featherweight title by unanimous decision after 10 rounds. The scores were all 97-93 for Bell.

WBC International featherweight titlist Isaac Lowe (17-1-3, 6 KOs) won a boring unanimous decision over Wisconsin’s Duarn Vue (14-2-2, 4 KOs) after 10 rounds. Lowe ran and ran some more with occasional pot shots but there were long stretches where it was more a track meet than a prize fight. It was like amateur boxing for 10 rounds. The scores were 98-92, 97-93 and 99-91 for Lowe.

Italian heavyweight Guido “The Gladiator” Vianello (4-0, 4 KOs) showed off agility and power before knocking out Louisiana’s Keenan Hickman (6-4-1, 2 KOs). Vianello, who is trained by Abel Sanchez in Big Bear, floored Hickman three times before the fight was stopped at 2:22 of the second round.

Germany’s Peter Kadiriv (4-0) had no problems with Houston’s southpaw heavyweight Juan Torres (3-2-1) and won every round with a steady lead right and occasional combinations. All three judges scored it 40-36 for Kadiriv.

Philadelphia’s Sonny Conto (3-0, 3 KOs) knocked out Youngstown, Ohio’s Daniel Infante (1-2) with an overhand right at 2:08 of the second round of their heavyweight confrontation. Conto had floored Infante earlier in the round with a seven-punch flurry.

Fight of the Night

In the final fight of the night super middleweights Cem Kelic (14-0, 9 KOs) and Martez McGregor (8-2, 6 KOs) electrified the small audience remaining in the crowd with a memorable slugfest.

Chicago’s McGregor started quick and floored Los Angeles-based Kelic in the first round with a right cross. That was only the beginning.

For the next seven rounds the two 168-pounders blasted each other with blows that would have taken out normal human beings. Both gave super human performances until Kelic connected with a left hook that staggered McGregor forcing referee Tony Weeks to halt the fight at 1:45 of the eighth and final round.

It was truly the best fight of the night.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank

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Fast Results From Latvia: Mairis Briedis and the KO Doctor advance in the WBSS

Arne K. Lang

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Briedis vs Glowacki

The semifinal round of the Wold Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament played out today in Riga, Latvia, the hometown of Mairis Briedis who was matched against Poland’s Krzysztof Glowacki. Both fighters had only one blemish on their ledger and in both cases their lone defeat came at the hands of Oleksandr Usyk.

The fans left happily after Briedis (26-1, 19 KOs) knocked out Glowacki (34-2) in the third frame. But it was messy fight that invites a lot of second-guessing and likely a challenge from the Glowacki camp.

After a feeling-out first round, Briedis cranked up the juice. An errant elbow landed behind Glowacki’s head, putting him on the canvas. For this discretion, Briedis was docked a point. A legitimate knockdown followed — Glowacki was hurt — and then another knockdown after the bell had sounded. The referee could not hear the bell in the din. It was a wild scene.

The fight was allowed to continue, but didn’t last much longer. Coming out for round three, Glowacki wasn’t right and Briedis pounced on him, scoring another knockdown, leading referee Robert Byrd to waive the fight off at the 27 second mark. It wasn’t Byrd’s finest hour.

The tournament organizers anticipated the complication of a draw and assigned extra judges to eliminate this possibility. They did not anticipate the complication of a “no-contest.” If the outcome isn’t overturned, Briedis, a former WBC cruiserweight champ, is the new WBO title-holder.

Dorticos-Tabiti

In the co-feature, Miami-based Cuban defector Yunier Dorticos, nicknamed the KO Doctor, lived up to his nickname with a smashing one punch knockout of previously undefeated Andrew Tabiti. The end for Tabiti came with no warning in round 10. An overhand right left him flat on his back, unconscious. Referee Eddie Claudio didn’t bother to count. The official time was 2:33.

It was easy to build case for Dorticos (24-1, 22 KOs). He was three inches taller than Tabiti, packed a harder punch, and had fought stronger opposition. But it was understood that Tabiti, now 17-1, had a more well-rounded game. Moreover, there were concerns about Dorticos’ defense and stamina.

Dorticos was ahead on the scorecards after nine frames. He rarely took a backward step and let his hands go more freely. And it didn’t help Tabiti’s cause that he was docked a point for holding in the sixth frame. Earlier in that round, an accidental clash of heads left Dorticos with a cut over his right eye. The ringside physician was called into the ring to examine it and let the bout continue.

With the victory, Dorticos became the IBF world cruiserweight champion and moved one step closer to acquiring the coveted Muhammad Ali trophy in what will be, win or lose, the most lucrative fight of his career.

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