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Riverside Ramblings: Chris Arreola and Manhunt

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RIVERSIDE, CALIF-I walked into the boxing gym located in Indian Hills on Thursday morning. It’s an upper scale neighborhood in Riverside that’s built around a golf course of the same name.

Only one car was parked near the location so I was hesitant to travel down the walkway. Usually several cars dot the street near the gym when training is underway. A few minutes later trainer Henry Ramirez shows up in his shiny car. He waves hello and proceeds down the walkway.

Surprisingly, one boxer is already shadowboxing inside the ring when I open the door. It’s Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola who was already breaking a sweat as Ramirez and I enter the gym. One of Arreola’s friends is inside too. But he’s the only boxer there.

As Arreola continues to work out we talk about the rogue police officer Christopher Dorner who gunned down several police officers in the Riverside area earlier in the day. One of the officers died. Already three persons have been killed and a massive manhunt in the Inland Empire has commenced.

Two Riverside Police officers were gunned down while in their vehicle stopped at a signal light. Minutes earlier, in Corona, a city that borders Riverside, two other officers were allegedly in a gun battle with Dorner. Everyone including regular citizens and boxers are on alert.

It’s not safe to be driving in a dark truck as two newspaper deliverers in Torrance discovered when officers fired numerous rounds into their truck. Two women deliverers were injured. In another area a truck was rammed by a police vehicle and that truck was riddled with bullets. Again, police officers shot first and did not ask questions. I’m more wary of trigger happy police officers.

Arreola talks about his friends that resemble the guy. This is not a good time for someone to resemble Dorner. Or to drive a truck similar to the blue Nissan Titan that the former L.A.P.D. officer had been driving until it was reportedly found in Big Bear burned.

After Arreola finishes with his shadowboxing, Ramirez helps put on the boxing gloves to work on the mitts. The Riverside heavyweight looks extremely sharp with one month to go before he meets Haiti’s Bermane Stiverne at the OC Hangar in Costa Mesa, Calif. The number one ranking is at stake.

The heavy-handed Mexican-American heavyweight takes a keen interest in his fellow fighters from the Inland Empire. Just yesterday, Palm Spring’s Tim “Desert Storm” Bradley had a press conference in Los Angeles. Arreola asks how it went and who Bradley is fighting?

Ramirez tells him that Bradley is fighting the same guy that two other fighters from the I.E. already met. Mauricio Herrera beat Ruslan Provodnikov but Jose Reynoso lost. Bradley will be fighting one week after Arreola’s bout.

Arreola also asks about his stable mate Josesito Lopez who is a big topic in the world of welterweights. Lopez has been mentioned as a possible opponent for Amir Khan and for Paul Malignaggi. A couple of new names mentioned for Lopez are Marcos Maidana and Julio Diaz. That would be war.

The workouts are steady and impressive as both Arreola and Ramirez work on combinations and movements. After numerous rounds Arreola moves to the heavy bag and pounds it for several more rounds. The Mexican heavyweight does not lack power in either hand. Left hooks or a right cross can do the job and it shows when he pummels the bag.

He never seems winded after any stage of the workout. With one month to go Arreola should be at optimum strength when he faces Stiverne.

It’s the first workout of the day. He’s going to return later to work on some other things later in the afternoon.

We walk up the short hill to where the cars are parked and meet Willie Shunke, who has his pup bulldog Chumley. The six-month old puppy is named after one of the Pawn Stars characters who appear on the History channel. He really does resemble the guy.

Other Fight Chatter

Adelanto’s Ryan Garcia, 14, won the National Silver Gloves tournament this past weekend in the senior flyweight division. It’s his ninth national title. Garcia’s regional team captured the National team title by winning 16 titles in all.

East L.A.’s Frankie “The Pitbull” Gomez (15-0, 11 Kos) cruised to victory over Las Vegas boxer Lanard Lane (13-3, 8 Kos) after 10 rounds in a welterweight match in Las Vegas. Gomez proved too quick for Lane. Other winners were South El Monte’s Joseph Diaz, Mickey Bey Jr., Badou Jack and Luis Arias, all winning by knockout at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

Former contender Andre “The Matrix” Dirrell (21-1, 14 Kos) defeated Michael Gbenga (14-7, 14 Kos) by unanimous decision after 10 rounds in a super middleweight clash. The bout was held in McAllen, Texas. It was Dirrell’s first fight in more than a year.

Matt Villanueva (9-0-1, 8 Kos) knocked out Manuel Galaviz (7-10, 4 Kos) at 1:56 of round two in a junior bantamweight clash at the Jonathan Club in Los Angeles. Other winners were Terrell Williams, Joshua Clark, Jessie Villanueva and Charles Martin. All won by knockout on Saturday Feb. 2.

Chicago’s Carlos Molina (21-5-2, 6 Kos) defeated former welterweight and junior middleweight world champion Cory Spinks (39-8, 7 Kos) by unanimous decision after 12 rounds. On the same fight card Mexico’s Jose Luis Castillo (64-12-1, 55 Kos) lost by decision to Antwone Smith (23-4-1, 12 Kos) in a junior middleweight clash. Both fights took place in Chicago.

Canada’s Kevin Bizier (19-0, 13 Kos) faces former world champion Nate Campbell (36-9-1, 26 Kos) in defense of the NABA welterweight title. Their match takes place Friday Feb. 8, in Montreal, Canada. Campbell is a former lightweight world champion who trained briefly in Riverside. ESPN2 will televise the battle.

Melissa St. Vil (3-1-2) of New York City meets Canada’s undefeated Natasha Spence (6-0-1, 5 Kos) in a junior lightweight contest scheduled for eight rounds. The female contest takes place Friday Feb. 8, at Wilmington, Delaware.

Daniel Sandoval (30-2, 29 Kos), a knockout specialist meets Panama’s Miguel Callist (27-8-1, 18 Kos) in a welterweight match scheduled for 10 rounds. The battle takes place Saturday Feb. 9, in Mexico City and is promoted by Top Rank and Zanfer Promotions.

Former world champion Humberto Soto (59-8-2, 34 Kos) meets former world champion Silverio Ortiz (26-13, 14 Kos) in a junior welterweight clash on Saturday Feb. 9. The fight will be held in Ciudad Obregon, Mexico.

Middleweight contender Andy Lee (28-2, 22 Kos) meets Anthony Fitzgerald (13-3, 4 Kos) in a middleweight scrap in Belfast, Northern Ireland on Feb. 9. It’s Lee’s first fight since losing to Mexico’s Julio Cesar Chavez. Lee was also trained by the late Emanuel Steward.

Juergen Braehmer (39-2, 30 Kos) defeated fellow German Eduard Gutknecht (24-2, 9 Kos) by unanimous decision after 12 rounds this past Saturday in Berlin, Germany. The light heavyweight EBU title was captured by Braehmer.

Female IBF bantamweight titlist Yazmin Rivas (27-7, 9 Kos) retained the world title by decision against fellow Mexican Maria Elena Villalobos (12-9-1, 5 Kos). Their title match was held this past Saturday in Queretaro, Mexico.

Puerto Rican former world champion Juan Manuel Lopez (32-2, 29 Kos) knocked out Aldimar Santos (18-4, 9 Kos) at 1:04 of round nine. The featherweight battle was held on Saturday in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. It was Lopez’s first fight since losing the title to Mexico’s Orlando Salido.

 

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Charr-Oquendo Scuttled When Charr Tests Positive; the Odious WBA Saves Face

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Manuel Charr

Manuel Charr and Fres Oquendo were scheduled to fight in Cologne, Germany, later this month (Sept. 29). Charr would be defending his WBA world heavyweight title, the “regular” version of it, not the “super” version which rests in the hands of Anthony Joshua.

The bout was quickly cancelled when it was revealed that Charr had tested positive for two banned anabolic steroids. The test was performed by VADA, the anti-doping agency identified with Las Vegas neurologist Dr. Margaret Goodman.

The 33-year-old Charr, born in Lebanon but a resident of Germany since the age of three, won the belt in his last start with a unanimous decision over 281-pound Russian behemoth Alexander Ustinov in Oberhausen, Germany. The title was vacant. Charr won the right to fight for it with a 10-round decision over Albanian slug Sefer Seferi. The victory over Ustinov elevated his record to 31-4. He has been stopped three times, by Vitali Klitschko, Alexander Povetkin, and Mairis Briedis.

If it wasn’t for bad luck, as the old saying goes, Fres Oquendo wouldn’t have any luck at all. For various reasons, his fights keep falling out. Before long he’ll be drawing social security. Well, not exactly, but he turned 45 in April and hasn’t fought in more than four years.

Oquendo has competed for this belt before. In his last ring appearance in July of 2014, he lost a majority decision to Russia’s Ruslan Chagaev in Grozny, Russia. As a concession for taking the fight on short notice, Team Oquendo negotiated a rematch clause in the contract, but a shoulder injury prevented Fres from activating it. When the injury healed, he had to go to court to compel Chagaev to fulfill his obligation. But then the Russian retired, muddling the water.

The WBA was legally bound to find Oquendo a title fight and in desperation turned to ancient Shannon Briggs. But the Oquendo-Briggs fight, scheduled for June 3 of last year in Hollywood, Florida, fell out when Briggs’ urine specimen showed an abnormally high level of testosterone.

Fres Oquendo was dogged by bad luck even before these recent developments. His professional record, 37-8, is somewhat misleading as six of his eight defeats were razor-thin including his 2003 setback to Chris Byrd and his 2006 setback to Evander Holyfield. However, Oquendo, something of a cutie, was never a crowd-pleaser and in none of his narrow defeats was there a public clamor for a rematch.

The cancellation of Charr-Oquendo cuts the World Boxing Association out of a sanctioning fee, but one would think that the WBA honchos are actually rather pleased by this turn of events. The fight, more precisely the WBA’s world title imprimatur, would have brought more unwanted publicity to the Panama-based organization.

ESPN’s Dan Rafael, who has the largest platform of any boxing writer, has been a persistent critic of the organization which once recognized 41 “champions” in 17 weight classes. In 2009, Rafael wrote, “(The WBA) has become such an absolute farce that even somebody like me, who follows boxing closely, sometimes has a hard time keeping track of all the nonsensical so-called world title belts the WBA has been doling out at an alarming rate. It almost reminds me of the ladies at Costco who hand out various samples on a busy Saturday afternoon.”

Rafael took note when WBA president Gilberto Mendoza promised to cull the herd by eliminating “regular” titles, and then became more caustic when Mendoza didn’t follow through. Recently, in one short, punchy diatribe, Rafael blistered the WBA as wretched, vile, and rancid.

Regardless of your opinion, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Fres Oquendo who keeps getting stranded at the altar. No, he’s not fun to watch and a man of his age shouldn’t be taking any more punches, but he has always been an honest workman and by all accounts he’s a very decent man. Born in Puerto Rico but raised in Chicago, Oquendo pitched right in when the island nation of his birth was ravaged by Hurricane Maria. He was personally responsible for relocating Puerto Rican boxing legend Wilfred Benitez and Benitez’s sister, his caregiver, to Chicago where their lives wouldn’t be as hard.

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Bob Arum Hails Terence Crawford (not Lomachenko) as Boxing’s Next Superstar

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Arum says Terence

Top Rank’s Bob Arum says Terence Crawford will become this generation’s Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao–elite boxers who became worldwide celebrity sensations. Arum, who promoted both Mayweather and Pacquiao on the way to their historic crossover statuses expects big things from the undefeated Crawford over the next few years.

“He’s the best fighter in the United States, and he’s so charismatic,” said Arum. “He comes from middle America, and In the next year or so, he will be huge.”

Arum’s assertion is noteworthy for two reasons. First, Arum is also the promoter for Vasyl Lomachenko. Lomachenko is ranked No. 1 pound-for-pound by The Ring, the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. More importantly, Lomachenko seems to have a groundswell of support behind him both in the media and among fight fans.

Lomachenko has also been heavily featured through Top Rank’s television partnership with ESPN. While Crawford has achieved more in his career than Lomachenko (at least in my eyes) and, as noted by Arum, is a homegrown American talent, Lomachenko seems to be considered the more marketable commodity to that network judging by the amount of promotional materials ESPN has pumped out about the fighter over the last year.

The other reason Arum’s claim about Crawford is interesting is the performance of Canelo Alvarez over the weekend in his majority decision rematch win over Gennady Golovkin. Besides Mayweather and Pacquiao, Alvarez is the clear PPV leader among all of boxing’s current commodities, and his status as boxing’s new money fighter should only grow stronger after the best win of his career.

Still, Crawford is one of the few very elite fighters in all of boxing. He’s ranked No. 2 pound-for-pound by The Ring, the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.

While Lomachenko and Alvarez are also candidates to become boxing’s next big thing, there’s no doubt Crawford is also one of the few boxers in the sport right now with the right things in place to become the next Mayweather or Pacquiao.

Omaha’s Crawford is in the midst of an historic run. When he stopped Jeff Horn in round 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in June, Crawford captured a world title in his third different weight class, welterweight. This after Crawford had already captured two lineal boxing championships, as well as multiple alphabet titles, in both the lightweight and junior welterweight divisions.

By any measure, Crawford is truly one of the best boxers in the sport. Not only does he look the part in the ring on fight night (something more and more writers seem to value most when voting for pound-for-pound lists), but the fighter has already accomplished so much in his career that it seems Arum is doing more than the fiduciary duty of promoting his fighter when he ascribes to Crawford such lofty praise.

Crawford, still just 30 years old, is already halfway to matching Mayweather and Pacquiao’s shared record of most lineal championships. Over the course of his career, Mayweather captured lineal championships at junior lightweight, lightweight, welterweight, and junior middleweight. Pacquiao won his as a flyweight, featherweight, junior lightweight, and junior welterweight.

In order for Crawford to grab lineal championship No. 3, most believe he’ll have to go through welterweight phenom Errol Spence. While promotional entanglements might keep this superfight on the shelf for a while, Arum said he had no problem pitting Crawford against Spence in what would be one of the best matchups in recent memory.

“Absolutely,” said Arum when asked about working with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions, who represents Spence, to make the fight. Could any response from him be more exciting? Crawford vs. Spence might be the next superfight in boxing. Both fighters are among the very elite, and unlike what ultimately happened with Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, who fought each other well past their peak years, both would be in the prime of their careers.

Winning that fight would certainly go a long way to making Arum’s vision of Crawford’s future come true. And who knows? Maybe Crawford really is the next Mayweather or Pacquiao. Heck, for all we know, he could even be on his way to doing something more.

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A Kaleidoscope of Boxers Guaranteed to Provide Action: Past and Present

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Marvelous Marvin

To set the tone for this article, one needs only to watch the way in which Thomas Hearns came out in the first round against Marvelous Marvin Hagler. He was ready to rock and roll as was his fearsome looking opponent. The ensuing unmitigated savagery was the quintessential illustration of full-tilt boogie.

For most boxing fans, the anticipation of an all-out action bout gets the chills running down spines faster than anything else. But not all, as some prefer a tactical or clinical fight that someone like Mikey Garcia can orchestrate and others –but not many—enjoy a defensive gem via a Willie Pep, Nicolino Locche, or Pernell Whitaker. A few love a genuine blood fest that a Gabe Rosado-type can provide, and who doesn’t like seeing something special as in Sugar Ray Leonard, Kostya Tszyu, Terence Crawford or Vasiliy Lomachenko?

Chill-or-be-chilled types like Bob Satterfield and Tommy Morrison were super exciting. In this connection—a certain cadre of warriors, past and present, would come out charging and stalking as soon as the bell rang. Many demonstrated a marked disdain for defense and used a non-stop, no let-up pressure that discouraged their opponents, especially in the late rounds. The anticipation from the crowd was palpable because it sensed some form of destruction was on its way. The cheering would start during the instructions and sometimes did not let up until the concussive end.

This cadre included Rocky Marciano, Tony Ayala, Vicious Victor Galindez, Jeff Fenech, Roberto Duran, and Julio Cesar Chavez (who sapped the spirit of his opponents by ripping away at their mid-section). Also, Carl “The Cat”  Thompson , chill-or-be-chilled Ricardo “Pajarito” Moreno (60-12-1 with 59 KOs),  Ron Lyle, the ultra-violent Edwin Valero, the appropriately nicknamed JulianMr KO” Letterlough, James “The Outlaw” Hughes and his mindboggling ability to snatch victory from certain defeat, Thai stalking monster Khaosai Galaxy (47-1),  the first version of George Foreman (pictured with the aforementioned Lyle), Ji-Hoon “Volcano” Kim, Ruslan  Provodnikov, Orlando “Siri” Salido, Marcos Maidana, Lenny Z, Alfredo “Perro” Angulo, Mike Alvarado, Brandon Rios, and Mickey Roman (the later four are still fighting but past their primes).

Others who presently incite the anticipation of something special include (but are not limited to) Naoya “Monster” Inoue (16-0), Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr (24-0), Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (46-4-1), Alex Saucedo (27-0), and, of course, Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (38-1-1) who now has become slightly more tactical like his nemesis, Canelo Alvarez (50-1-1).

These stand out as representative.

Past

A prime Mike Tyson—and the emphasis is on prime– was the epitome of a boxer who guaranteed action. One simply would not leave his or her seat when “Iron Mike” was doing his highlight reel thing, and his blowout of Michael Spinks punctuated his standing at the top of all-action type fighters, even if the action was usually non-mutual.

Joe Frazier came out smokin’ and would not let up until either he or his opponent were done. For the most part, decisions were not in Joe’s DNA and his left hook was as malicious as a hook can be. With Joe, you just sat back and enjoyed the action. Frazier, wrote boxing historian Tracy Callis,  “was a strong, ‘swarmer’ style boxer who applied great pressure on his opponent and dealt out tremendous punishment with a relentless attack of lefts and rights; His left hook was especially stiff and quick when delivered during his bob-and-weave perpetual attack; he fought three minutes per round and never seemed to tire.”

Carlos “Escopeta” (Shotgun) Monzon (87-3-9) was a powerful and rangy Argentinean killing machine, built like an iron rod. Some said he pushed his punches. Well if he did, he pushed 87 opponents to defeat. He also became only the second man to stop former three-time world champion Emile Griffith, turning the trick in the 14th round. Blessed with great and deceptive stamina and a solid chin, he seemingly was an irresistible force. He was unbeaten over the last 81 bouts of his career, a span of 13 years, and defended his title 14 times. “One would need to write a book in order to do justice to comparing a fighter of Carlos Monzon’s calibre to his fellow all-time greats,” wrote Mike Casey.

Arturo Gatti and Irish Micky Ward were the quintessential action fighters. One is gone amidst controversy, and hopefully the other will not pay a price for his many ring wars. With these two, just count up the Fights-of-the-Year and the rest is history. Suffice it to say that Gatti and Ward will be forever linked in boxing lore.

Until his fateful fight with Nigel Benn (another all-action fighter), Gerald McClellan was absolutely, positively, a stalking monster with dynamite in his gloves. It was ferocity and fury at its highest level and it was something to behold. Sadly, his fight with Benn left him permanently disabled; his story remains a dark stain on boxing. As Ian McNeilly notes, “one man’s finest hour was the end of another man’s life as he knew it.”

Michael “The Great” Katsidis’s all-action style made thrilling fights a lock. The Kat” was willing to take three to deliver one. It was blood and guts to the last drop. Whether he too exacted a heavy price for this style remains to be seen.

Lucia Rijker, AKA “The Dutch Destroyer,” lived up to her moniker and destroyed everyone in her path. Again, it wasn’t “if,” it was “when.”

Christy Martin (49-7-3) put female boxing on the map in the ‘90s and she did it by going undefeated in 36 straight encounters, running roughshod over her opponents as evidenced by her 25 wins by stoppage during this run. She also managed to steal the show from a Mike Tyson main event in 1996 during her memorable and bloody battle with Deirdre Gogarty.

Present

Deontay Wilder, aka “The Bronze Bomber,” has a record of 40-0.  With 39 wins coming by KO—many in spectacular fashion, The “Bomber” brings with him that same sense of anticipation that Tyson did. It’s not if; it’s when and “when” can occur at any time. But unlike Tyson, there is a vulnerability that Luis Ortiz exposed that makes the excitement index go even higher.

Dillian Whyte (24-1) has seldom been in a dull affair. His vulnerability combined with his mode of attack ensures thrilling action and the possibility of a stoppage at any time. Unlike Dereck “Del-Boy” Chisora, Whyte is consistently aggressive and dangerous.

Manny Pacquiao (60-7-2) has slowed down considerably but his recent stoppage win over Lucas Matthysse offers hope that he can still conjure up his exciting whirlwind style of fast in-an-out movements that allowed him to win multiple titles over several future Hall of Fame opponents between 2005 and 2011. A rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr., if rumors are true, would allow Pac Man an opportunity to accomplish a number of extraordinary things including avenging a prior defeat and ruining Mayweather’s undefeated record. Time will tell.

Though he appears to have shot his wad, a prime Antonio Margarito was the classic stalk, stun, and kill fighter. Heck, he belonged on the Discovery Channel. His two blowouts of Kermit Cintron showed the “Tijuana Tornado” at his most brutal. His come-from-behind demolition of Miguel Cotto stands out for its drama and bloodletting—and subsequent speculative controversy.

David Lemieux (39-4) always brings the heat. His fights seldom end as scheduled. With KO power in both hands and a propensity to rehydrate by 20 pounds, he is the essence of danger and attendant excitement. “With the sheer power he carries, Lemieux will always have a shot at beating any middleweight, and he is almost always involved in good action fights,” says James Slater.

Amanda Serrano (35-1-1) is the only women’s boxer to win world titles in six divisions. The “Real Deal” is unique in that she has a high KO percentage (74 percent) which is rare for female boxers. Amanda is 120 seconds of guaranteed action for each round.

                                                         **********

While Iron Mike Tyson is THE MAN, Matthew Saad Muhammad also warrants special billing as he embodied what this article is all about. Steve Farhood summed up the essence of Saad Muhammad with an observation that would be appropriate for his tombstone: “Eddie Gregory (Mustafa Muhammad) has a better jab, Marvin Johnson wields more power, James Scott does more sit ups. But, Muhammad’s heart is the size of a turnbuckle, and it anchors his title reign.”

Who did I leave out? Whose name or names would you add to this list?

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