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FROM BIRMINGHAM TO BROOKLYN, WILDER READY FOR LARGER STAGE AND ANOTHER MYSTERY GUEST

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For someone so intent on making heavyweight history, Deontay Wilder doesn’t appear to have studied up much on the subject.

Introduced to a throng of media members last Saturday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., a few hours prior to WBA “regular” middleweight champion Daniel Jacobs’ first-round stoppage of Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin, Wilder, the WBC heavyweight titlist, cut a dashing figure in designer sunglasses, a black dress shirt, black slacks and a tailored white sport coat with black lapels and polka dots. It was a look that would have been a bit extreme on most men, but worked for him. Then again, what wouldn’t be fashionable on a 6-foot-7, 228-pound, extremely fit athlete?

Wilder (35-0, 34 KOs) had come north from his home in Tuscaloosa, Ala., to announce his third title defense on Jan. 16 at the Barclays Center, his New York City debut, against the ever-intriguing opponent to be named. Negotiations had been underway to match Wilder against Ukraine’s Vyacheslav Glazkov (21-0-1, 13 KOs) on that date, but Glazkov, who had yet to sign a contract, abruptly withdrew his name from consideration when it became apparent that the IBF would strip its newly crowned champion, England’s Tyson Fury, for agreeing to an immediate rematch with the man from whom he had wrested that belt, Wladimir Klitschko, instead of fulfilling his mandatory against Glazkov. Had Klitschko won, Glazkov seemed certain to get the gig against Wilder, but he now appears to focusing on the IBF title that soon could become vacant.

“Mr. Glazkov decided to take an easier shot at a world title. That’s his prerogative,” said Lou DiBella, who has promoted Wilder’s last two defenses against relative mystery men Eric Molina and Johann Duhaupas and will do so against, well, whomever it is that shares the ring with Wilder in the Showtime-televised main event on Jan. 16.

Wilder said it is his job to beat whichever individual his management team puts in front of him, and he will continue doing just that while serving proudly as the first American heavyweight champion since … uh, Lennox Lewis?

“I promise you guys that I will unify the division and be the first American (to do so) since 1999. I think it was Lennox Lewis,” Wilder said.

None of the reporters in attendance bothered to remind Wilder that Brooklyn native Shannon Briggs, who held the WBO belt from November 2006 to June 2007, was, until the Alabamian came along, the most recent American to hold a share of what once was known as the most prestigious title in sports, or that Lewis, the son of Jamaican immigrants, was born in England and represented Canada in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. But why would they? Like John Belushi’s character in “Animal House,” reminding his Delta Tau Chi fraternity brothers that it wasn’t over for them, just like it wasn’t over for the U.S. “when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor,” Wilder was rolling, offering scattershot opinions on any number of heavyweight-related topics. If he ever is paired in a unification showdown with the chatty Fury, the prefight press conferences are likely to be as much or more entertaining than anything that takes place in the ring.

DiBella and Brett Yormack, the chief operating officer of the Barclays Center, made a point of noting that Wilder’s Jan. 16 heavyweight title bout would be the first to be staged in Brooklyn since Bob Fitzsimmons was dethroned on an 11th-round knockout by James J. Jeffries on June 9, 1897, on Coney Island, although someone suggested that maybe a more recent big-boy championship fight had been staged in the borough sometime in the 1930s.

“We think this will be the first heavyweight title fight here in over a hundred years,” DiBella said, leaving himself an out if need be. “We’d like to know. We’re curious. We’re having problems researching it. But obviously, it’s been a long time.”

Until Nov. 28, when Fury, as a 5-to-1 underdog rattled the heavyweight establishment with his shocking — and let’s be honest, slumber-inducing points nod over the listless Klitschko – the division’s hierarchy was firmly established and had been for a long time. Wlad and his now-retired older brother, Vitali, had between them logged four title reigns totaling 22 years, 8 months. And while the younger Klitschko might not have been Mr. Excitement, he still represented, at 39, stability and a sense of order in a sport where there are more turnovers than can be found at your neighborhood Dunkin’ Doughnuts. “Dr. Steelhammer” went into that bout in Dusseldorf, Germany, as the WBA “super,” IBF, WBO, IBO, THE RING and lineal champion, bereft only of the WBC crown once held by Vitali.

Wilder, his WBC championship (won on a unanimous decision over Canadian-based Haitian Bermane Stiverne on Jan. 17 in Las Vegas), near-perfect knockout ratio (97 percent) and American citizenship notwithstanding, was destined to remain an outrider until he, or someone, bumped one Wlad from the throne that most of the boxing world recognized as belonging to the legitimate ruler. Taking a 60-mile ride from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham, where he stopped the semi-anonymous likes of Molina and Duhaupas, did little to suggest that the 30-year-old who had once dreamed of starring in football for the Alabama Crimson Tide was much more than another pretender, albeit one with bejeweled belt. It was reminiscent of the seven-year reign of Larry Holmes, who never held more than one version (the WBC, then IBF) of the heavyweight title but was always accorded a higher place in the division pecking order than such itinerant alphabet champs as John Tate, Mike Weaver, Gerrie Coetzee, Tim Witherspoon, Pinklon Thomas, Greg Page and Tony Tubbs.

Fury’s takedown of King Wlad I has basically taken a wrecking ball to the status quo, and although the native of Manchester, England, has to be regarded as the division’s top guy, by virtue of his multiple titles and distinction of being the first fighter to defeat Klitschko in 11 years, the presumed gap between he and Wilder is much narrower than the one that many believed existed between he and Wilder.

From Wilder’s perspective, though, he is the true shining light among the current crop of heavyweights, with a ceiling higher than anyone else and the resolve and ability to be just as dominant as Wladimir had been. He figures his Jan.16 defense – DiBella said an opponent likely will be announced sometime this week — is just another step in a process that eventually will lead to his name being entered into the conversation of best big men in boxing history. Consider his thoughts on those heavyweights who presently occupy many of the top spots in the rankings:

* “Tyson Fury’s not a puncher. My one-year-old son hits harder than him. But he entertains the crowd and sings and all that. But when it comes to lacing up those gloves and battling it out, I don’t think he got enough. We have seen smaller fighters, even cruiserweights, drop him.”

* “I think Klitschko was fighting two people. Not only was he fighting Fury, he was fighting an old man called Father Time as well. There were times in that fight when his mind wanted to throw punches, but his body wasn’t reacting. As you get older, your body don’t react like it does when you’re younger. I think Father Time is at his door. He said he’s exercising his rematch clause. I feel he’ll lose that one, too. But maybe he just had an off-night.”

* “We wanted (No. 1 rated WBC contender Alexander) Povetkin for this one. He fought Mike Perez for one round. Why is he not ready? Why did he take another fight against Mariusz Wach to prepare for me? (He’s a) slower guy, don’t hit hard. Now, he is durable. Got a good chin.”

* “Don’t be surprised if Anthony Joshua (who won the super heavyweight gold medal representing England at the 2012 London Olympics) loses to Dillian Whyte (they fight Dec. 12 in London). Dillian Whyte will give him a run for his money, if not beat him. Dillian Whyte is a very hungry fighter.”

* “I think (Cuban expatriate) Luis Ortiz (who takes on Bryant Jennings Dec. 19 in Verona, N.Y.) is a cheater. (He tested positive for the anabolic steroid Nandrolone last year.) I don’t respect him. When you got to use chemicals to enhance your performance … anybody who does that should be banned from boxing.”

* “Jennings is a good fighter. I think he’s a good fighter. We’re going to see what he does in that fight, and go from there.”

* “David Haye must win (his Jan. 16 bout with Mark de Mori in London) in great fashion. All the things he’s done, the backing out (of fights) ad stuff like that, we’re ready to write him off. But if he can win in great fashion, maybe then we’ll have something on our hands.”

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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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