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DeGale vs. Eubank Marks PBC’s Inaugural Promotion on British Soil

Arne K. Lang

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DeGale vs Eubank

At a London news conference on Dec. 11, 2018, representatives of Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) and UK broadcaster ITV announced that they had consummated a three-year deal whereby PBC would create a minimum of 15 events per year for airing on the network’s various platforms. It was speculated at that time that the first PBC event staged in England would pit James DeGale against Chris Eubank Jr, a match that had been bandied about for a long time.

Today (Jan. 3) that rumor was confirmed. The super middleweights will meet at the O2 Arena in London on Feb. 23. Sources say that this will be a pay-per-view event, much to the obvious dissatisfaction of British boxing fans who were anticipating that it would air on free terrestrial television.

James “Chunky” DeGale (25-2-1, 15 KOs) won the gold medal as a middleweight at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He subsequently became the first British boxer to win both an Olympic gold medal and a professional world title, a feat later matched by Billy Joe Saunders and Anthony Joshua.

DeGale won the British super middleweight title in his ninth pro fight but lost it in his first defense, succumbing to George Groves by the narrowest of margins. In 2015 he won the vacant IBF 168-pound world title with a unanimous decision over Andre Dirrrell. In his third title defense, he retained the belt when his bout with Badou Jack in Brooklyn was scored a draw. DeGale faded late in that entertaining skirmish and many thought that Jack had pulled it out with his late surge.

DeGale then took 11 months off to rehab a chronic shoulder injury. He returned on Dec. 9, 2017, in London for a match with Caleb Truax.

A Minnesota man, Truax had a nice record but was thought to be little more than a journeyman. It figured to be an easy test for DeGale, but he fought as if he had grown old overnight. Truax, the aggressor throughout, wrested away DeGale’s title with a majority decision that should have been unanimous. It was a massive upset, an easy call as the TSS 2017 Upset of the Year.

DeGale exercised the rematch clause in the contract and won the sequel, outpointing Truax in Las Vegas. However, his performance left much to be desired (albeit it isn’t easy to look good against Truax because of his awkward style).

Three months after regaining the title, DeGale relinquished it, spurning a match with mandatory challenger Jose Uzcategui. This was seen as a savvy business move. More lucrative matches awaited him in England with fellow Brits such as Groves, Eubank, and Callum Smith. Moreover, DeGale has never been one to attach himself too strongly to one promoter. He signed with Queensberry (Frank Warren) coming out of the amateurs, later linked up with Matchroom (Eddie Hearn) and is now associated with Haymon whose role, for legal purposes, is defined as that of an advisor.

DeGale had one more fight after the Truax rematch to close out 2018, a stay-busy affair against a hapless opponent buried on the undercard of a small show in Ontario, California. DeGale knocked out his foil in the third round with an uppercut.

Chris Eubank Jr. (27-2, 21 KOs) is the son of a British boxing legend. The elder Eubank, a 13-year pro, won world titles in two weight classes.

Chris Eubank Jr. won his first 18 pro fights before meeting fellow unbeaten Billy Joe Saunders in a 12-round contest with three regional title belts on the line. Eubank started slow and it cost him. He lost a split decision.

He rebounded with six wins as a middleweight before moving up to compete at 168 and stretched that winning streak to nine before locking horns with the aforementioned Groves. Their fight in February of 2018 at Manchester, a WBSS semifinal with Groves’ WBA belt at stake, was a big event in England. It reportedly sold out in seven minutes.

Groves was a small underdog, notwithstanding the fact that he had fought much stiffer competition and he upset the odds, winning a unanimous decision. Working the jab effectively, “Saint George” proved to have the higher ring IQ. As in the Saunders fight, Eubank had his best moments late but to no avail.

Eubank has had one more fight since that mishap. Last September, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Eubank stopped overmatched JJ McDonagh who quit on his stool after three frames claiming a shoulder injury. McDonagh was picked to be the sacrificial lamb because he is a southpaw, as is James DeGale.

With no title at stake (unless one is contrived), the promoters are casting this event as a grudge fight to goose the gate. This is no stretch. In the past, long before this fight was sealed, both fighters used social media to denigrate the skills of the other.

ITV, which operates along the lines of a franchiser, is not an all-sports network like ESPN. The London-based broadcaster, the oldest commercial network in Great Britain, has diverse programming in common with America’s Big Four. But sports are a key component of their menu. They cover soccer, cricket, rugby, horseracing, and motor sports, and felt a need to catch the wave and add boxing to the mix.

Before DeGale-Eubank is a go, ITV will pick up the feed of two PBC promotions, the Uzcategui-Plant fight (on Sunday, Jan. 13 from Los Angeles) and Pacquiao-Broner plus the attractive co-feature between Badou Jack and Marcus Browne (on Saturday, Jan. 19 from Las Vegas). Those telecasts will be free for ITV viewers.

What we have now in boxing is a full-blown war between various broadcasting outlets. There are some serious downsides (fodder for future columns) but boxing on a global scale has never been as widely exposed and for that fight fans can be thankful.

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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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Angel Ruiz Scores 93 Second KO in Ontario, CA

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Angel Ruiz

(Ringside Report by Special Correspondent Tarrah Zeal) ONTARIO, CA – “Path to Glory” featured some of Southern California’s hottest prospects carving their image into the boxing world through the Thompson Boxing Promotions platform at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario, CA Friday night.

Undefeated welterweight prospect Angel Ruiz (14-0, 11 KO) of Maywood, CA finished veteran Miguel Zamudio (43-13-1, 27 KO) from Los Mochis, Mexico with an impressive stoppage at 1:33 in the first round scheduled for eight.

At 21 years young, Ruiz (pictured) came into the night with four KO wins in his last four bouts and looking to continue his streak. A second-round body shot win over Gerald Avila (8-17-3) on May 10th and first round KO win against Roberto Almazan (8-9) just this year.

Ruiz was just getting started in the ring using his long distance and power punches to punish Zamudio.

Twenty seconds into the opening round, Ruiz’ mouthpiece went flying out and a timeout was called. Once the mouthpiece was placed back in, Ruiz administered a quick flurry of punches but with no exchange from Zamudio, referee Raul Caiz stepped in and stopped the main event fight.

After the fight interview Ruiz was asked about what he saw in the fight, “I see this guy. He wants to fight. He was trying to fight but I’m too hard. I got you.” Ruiz said. “I feel ready. I want to fight with the best.”

With 89 amateur bouts under his belt, although not signed with any promoters, Ruiz is verbally challenging Vergil Ortiz, “Vergil if you see this video, remember me”.

Brewart

In he co-main event, a six round junior middleweight bout, Richard “Cool Breeze” Brewart (6-0, 2 KO) of Rancho Cucamonga, CA won a unanimous decision over Antonio “El Tigre” Duarte (2-1) of Tijuana, Mexico.

Brewart was coming into the fight looking like the faster, more technical fighter of the two. Duarte over-telegraphed all of his punches, allowing Brewart to use his overhand right and awesome agility to angle out of reach.

Even after Duarte checked Brewart on the chin with a strong punch, Brewart’s power punches always ended the rounds. The judges scored the bout 60-54 twice and 59-55 for Brewart.

Other Bouts

A victorious unanimous decision at the end of a six-round toe-to- toe bantamweight fight was given to Mario “Mighty” Hernandez, (8-1-1, 3 KO) of Santa Cruz, CA over lefty Victor “Lobo” Trejo Garcia (16-11-1, 8 KO) from Mexico City, Mexico.

Continuous hard punches were exchanged from both brawlers starting at the bell of round one. Fans were excited after a flurry of punches and then a clear push from Hernandez sent Trejo to the floor at the end of round three, giving the crowd excitement for the coming rounds.

It deemed to be a bit of a challenge for both, as orthodox Hernandez managed to match southpaw Trejo’s overhand right punches with his own in response. After six rounds of continuous action two judges scored the bout 57-56 and one 59-54 for Hernandez.

In what would be an exciting and entertaining four-round heavyweight bout, Oscar Torrez (6-0, 3 KO) from Riverside, CA took on Allen Ruiz (0-2) of Ensenada, Mexico.

A surprising uppercut from Ruiz, in the beginning of round one, put Torrez on the canvas and every eye in the room were all fixated on both brawlers. The look in Torrez’ eyes were more calculated, as he was careful from then on.

Wild punches were being thrown from Ruiz without fear of repercussion, but then a quick liver shot from Torrez sent him to his knees. After a couple of seconds to adjust back into the bout, Ruiz was then checked again by left hook to the chin knocking out his mouthpiece. There were 20 seconds left in round two and the round ended with no mouthpiece.

Torrez showed he was stronger and the more technical fighter and finally ended the bout by KO with a right hook to Ruiz’s body at 1:08 in the third round.

Jose “Tito” Sanchez, a rising featherweight prospect with two knockouts in his first two fights and training under star trainer Joel Diaz, out of Indio, CA, took on veteran Pedro “Pedroito” Melo (17-20-2, 8 KO). Even with his low experience in the professional boxing world, Sanchez showed his maturity in the ring by controlling the fight when following Melo around the ring and landing clean left hooks and powerful body shots. After four rounds Sanchez won by 40-36 on all three cards.

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Is the UFC Purchasing Premier Boxing Champions?

Miguel Iturrate

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UFC Purchasing PBC?

Several news outlets are reporting that the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s parent company Endeavor is in talks with Al Haymon to purchase the Premier Boxing Champions. The deal is far from happening and will be complicated if it is completed. Let’s look at some of the details.

Dana White has been the face of the UFC since the brand was purchased by Zuffa in 2001 and over the years he has repeatedly hinted about invading the world of boxing. In his early days as the UFC’s head honcho, White even challenged his biggest star, Tito Ortiz, to a boxing match. The match never happened but to this day White will tell you he would have beaten Ortiz in a fight under Queensberry rules.

In more recent years the UFC co-promoted the Conor McGregor versus Floyd Mayweather Jr match and White, although he would vehemently deny it, also had to have at least tacitly approved of Oscar De LaHoya’s promotion of the third bout between Ortiz and his rival Chuck Liddell. That match-up was likely assessed by White this way: “If Oscar wants to promote MMA let him lose his money,” but he didn’t stand in the way of De La Hoya and his Golden Boy Promotions.

White’s name has also come up in connection with Anthony Joshua. White is said to have had a huge offer ready for the then heavyweight champion, but he backed off when the realization hit that he could not make matches for Joshua in the way he is accustomed because he had no roster of potential opponents. However, White has been insistent that the UFC will “100 percent get into boxing.”

Under new owners Endeavor, White cannot operate like he did under old owners Zuffa, but if the deal goes down it is likely because White crafted some type of long term vision that he sold to Endeavor co-founder and CEO Ari Emanuel (pictured).

When Endeavor purchased the UFC in July of 2016 for a reported $4.05 billion, White agreed to guide the company for at least five more years, of which roughly two are up.

On the flipside, it is difficult to see Al Haymon relinquishing control of PBC. More than likely Haymon would stay in charge of the PBC wing and Endeavor would serve as a cash cow to keep what he has built going.

Haymon must stay aboard for another reason, though few will say it. The reason is ethnicity. If Haymon is left out, that would basically leave Leonard Ellerbe and his boss Floyd Mayweather Jr as the only prominent African-American promoters in boxing and that would not be a healthy situation.

Premier Boxing Champions has a diverse group of fighters among the over 200 pugilists under contract. Some are African-American as are many of Haymon’s key employees and associates. Frankly, at least a portion of those fighters and employees would not feel the same comfort level they have with Haymon if Emanuel, a member of an influential Jewish family (his brother is former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel) and Vegas power broker White were abruptly substituted.

Another effect on the PBC model is on the promotional end. Haymon has cobbled together a group of promoters that operate regionally under his PBC umbrella. The model that Endeavor brings with the UFC will have a more centralized approach to promotion. How will the new owners deal with Lou DiBella in NY, James Leija and Mike Battah in Texas, and Tom Brown in California? Throw in the aforementioned Ellerbe and Mayweather, who operate primarily in Vegas but also in the Washington DC and Baltimore area. How will the promoters who work with the PBC see their relationship change if Haymon left and Dana White was in charge?

Haymon has built the PBC over the years into a big business. He has the PBC on FOX and Showtime whereas the UFC, which previously partnered with FOX, now has a long-term deal with ESPN. This suggests that if a deal is made, PBC and the UFC will have to operate as completely separate entities under the same umbrella, at least for the foreseeable future. And even that might be further away from happening than most people realize.

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