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3 Punch Combo: Scoping Out Tewa Kiram, Remembering Gatti-Manfredy and More

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Tewa

THREE PUNCH COMBO — HBO’s Boxing After Dark returns next week from The Forum in Inglewood, CA with a card that is co-headlined by popular action fighter Lucas Matthysse (38-4, 35 KO’s). Ranked number three by the WBA at 147 pounds, Matthysse will face off against the number one ranked fighter in the WBA in Tewa Kiram (38-0, 28 KO’s) of Thailand for that organization’s vacant title belt. While Matthysse is very well known to fight fans, the same cannot be said of Kiram. So just who is Kiram and can he present a challenge to Matthysse?

The first thing about Kiram that jumps out is his record. It is glossy, to say the least, Kiram having won all 38 of his professional fights with 28 of those wins coming inside the distance. But looking closer at his resume, there are no recognizable names on the ledger. To say the competition is suspect is an understatement. In his 37th professional fight, Kiram knocked out Vijender Kumar in the ninth round in what was Kumar’s professional debut. Moreover, all but one of his fights has taken place in his native Thailand with the one exception being a bout that took place in neighboring Vietnam. So Kiram has essentially not hit the road as a pro and this trip to California will be a new experience for him.

In preparation for this piece, I watched some YouTube clips of Kiram and here are my observations: He fights from the orthodox stance as an aggressive boxer-puncher and likes to work behind the left jab. Kiram will work the jab heavy and from what I have seen this is probably his best weapon. It is not a probing jab and one that he often throws with serious conviction behind the punch. Though he can counter, he prefers to lead throwing combinations behind the jab when openings are present.

Kiram is not fleet footed and his hand speed is below average. So though he works behind the jab, he will do so coming forward in a slow, plodding-like manner. And although the record indicates he is a puncher, the clips I have watched do not show a fighter who has one punch fight-changing power. Instead, Kiram possesses decently heavy hands with many of the knockouts saying more about the competition he faced than anything else.

Defensively, Kiram does move his head well and usually has his hands held relatively high. But he has some serious flaws that a polished fighter can easily expose. For one, when Kiram throws the left jab he often brings his left back to his hip which leaves him wide open for counter rights. I viewed several fighters with much lesser pop behind their punches than Matthysse clip Kiram clean with solid rights. Also, Kiram has a bad tendency when pressed to pull straight back with his hands down.

In my opinion, Kiram possesses no serious threat to Matthysse. He does some things well and may land some telling jabs, but he is just too slow both with his hands and feet to ultimately trouble Matthysse. Plus, the power of Kiram is not what the record indicates and I doubt he can get Matthysse’s respect. I expect at some point — probably sooner rather than later — Matthysse will make Kiram pay for one of his defensive flaws and that will bring this bout to a sudden, emphatic end.

Errol Spence Jr. Needs to Take a Page From Oscar De La Hoya’s 1997

Errol Spence Jr. (23-0, 20 KO’s) put on another tremendous showcase in dismantling former two-division belt holder Lamont Peterson (35-4-1, 17 KO’s) this past weekend at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. There is no questioning that Spence is a special talent. But in order to get to the next level in his career, he should revisit what helped propel Oscar De La Hoya into the next stratosphere of his respective career.

Entering 1997, Oscar De La Hoya was already a star in boxing. In June of 1996, he scored the biggest win of his career in battering the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez in what was a super fight in the sport. To get to the next level in 1997, De La Hoya did something very simple. And that is he fought often. De La Hoya fought five times in 1997 beginning with his 12-round decision victory against Miguel Angel Gonzalez in January of that year. There was a super fight against Pernell Whitaker in April and three other fights that helped to further boost De La Hoya’s growing superstardom.

Spence has the talent to be a star like De La Hoya but needs to be more active. Since his demolition of Leonard Bundu in August of 2016 before a massive audience on NBC, Spence has only fought twice. He needs to fight often in 2018, much like De La Hoya did in 1997. Yes, one of these fights should be a big one (Keith Thurman?) but the others do not necessarily need to be against the elite. Spence just needs to be active. By doing so, Spence’s star will grow and he can begin to reach that next stratosphere of superstardom in this sport.

Remembering Gatti-Manfredy

Arturo Gatti was involved in many memorable slugfests…so many, in fact, that some great shootouts that he was involved in have been somewhat forgotten. One tremendous fight that that doesn’t get the attention of others took place 20 years ago this past week on January 17th, 1998 in Atlantic City, NJ, when Gatti faced Angel Manfredy in a 135-pound contest.

Three months prior to facing Manfredy, Gatti was involved in a classic slugfest with Gabriel Ruelas. In that bout, Gatti rallied back after being nearly out on his feet in round four to knock Ruelas out in round five to defend his 130-pound belt. Following the bout, Gatti’s team wanted him to test the waters at 135 after he reportedly struggled mightily to make the 130- pound weight to face Ruelas.

Manfredy was an up-and-coming action fighter in 1997 in whom HBO had taken an interest. He appeared twice on the network that year including a card headlined by Gatti. Clearly Manfredy was being groomed as a future Gatti opponent. Though Manfredy also campaigned and held a minor title belt at 130, he agreed to face Gatti in a non-title fight at 135 in what would be boxing’s first big fight in 1998.

Considered a can’t-miss, all action fight, the match between Gatti (29-1, 24 KO’s) and Manfredy (22-2-1, 18 KO’s) was highly anticipated. And it certainly did not disappoint. The two met and exchanged big punches in round one with both having their moments. Toward the end of that opening stanza, a sharp right hand from Manfredy  opened a bad cut over Gatti’s left eye.

After more give and take action in round two, Manfredy would drop Gatti with a perfectly timed left hook in the third. Gatti was hurt but would rise and survive the ensuing onslaught before storming back in typical Gatti fashion, landing big shots of his own.

After being nearly knocked out in the third, Gatti roared back in the fourth, seemingly doing some serious damage to Manfredy with a prolonged attack on the ribcage. Rounds five and six were fought in a phone booth with both fighters landing a high volume and high percentage of power punches with defense being almost entirely abandoned. At the end of the sixth, the cut over the left eye of Gatti that he sustained in round one began to worsen.

Manfredy had a big round seven, teeing off on Gatti who could clearly not see the right hand coming due to the blood flowing in his eye from the cut. Manfredy continued to do damage to that cut in the eighth and toward the end of the round the ringside physician was brought in to examine it. But prior to Gatti getting looked at by the doctor, his corner pulled the plug and stopped the contest.

This fight was a brutal, bloody war from the opening bell. But with Gatti in so many of these types of bouts, this has kind of gone forgotten over the years. It is well worth the watch though and deserves to be remembered this month on the 20th anniversary for the great fight it was.

Photo credit: Lina Baker

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The BWAA Shames Veteran Referee Laurence Cole and Two Nebraska Judges

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In an unprecedented development, the Boxing Writers Association of America has started a “watch list” to lift the curtain on ring officials who have “screwed up.” Veteran Texas referee Laurence Cole and Nebraska judges Mike Contreras and Jeff Sinnett have the unwelcome distinction of being the first “honorees.”

“Boxing is a sport where judges and referees are rarely held accountable for poor performances that unfairly change the course of a fighter’s career and, in some instances, endanger lives,” says the BWAA in a preamble to the new feature. Hence the watch list, which is designed to “call attention to ‘egregious’ errors in scoring by judges and unacceptable conduct by referees.”

Contreras and Sinnett, residents of Omaha, were singled out for their scorecards in the match between lightweights Thomas Mattice and Zhora Hamazaryan, an eight round contest staged at the WinnaVegas Casino in Sloan, Iowa on July 20. They both scored the fight 76-75 for Mattice, enabling the Ohio fighter to keep his undefeated record intact via a split decision.

Although Mattice vs. Hamazaryan was a supporting bout, it aired live on ShoBox. Analyst Steve Farhood, who was been with ShoBox since the inception of the series in 2001, called it one of the worst decisions he had ever seen. Lead announcer Barry Tompkins went further, calling it the worst decision he has seen in his 40 years of covering the sport.

Laurence Cole (pictured alongside his father) was singled out for his behavior as the third man in the ring for the fight between Regis Prograis and Juan Jose Velasco at the Lakefront Arena in New Orleans on July 14. The bout was televised live on ESPN.

In his rationale for calling out Cole, BWAA prexy Joseph Santoliquito leaned heavily on Thomas Hauser’s critique of Cole’s performance in The Sweet Science. “Velasco fought courageously and as well as he could,” noted Hauser. “But at the end of round seven he was a thoroughly beaten fighter.”

His chief second bullied him into coming out for another round. Forty-five seconds into round eight, after being knocked down for a third time, Velasco spit out his mouthpiece and indicated to Cole that he was finished. But Cole insisted that the match continue and then, after another knockdown that he ruled a slip, let it continue for another 35 seconds before Velasco’s corner mercifully threw in the towel.

Controversy has dogged Laurence Cole for well over a decade.

Cole was the third man in the ring for the Nov. 25, 2006 bout in Hildalgo, Texas, between Juan Manuel Marquez and Jimrex Jaca. In the fifth round, Marquez sustained a cut on his forehead from an accidental head butt. In round eight, another accidental head butt widened and deepened the gash. As Marquez was being examined by the ring doctor, Cole informed Marquez that he was ahead on the scorecards, volunteering this information while holding his hand over his HBO wireless mike. The inference was that Marquez was free to quit right then without tarnishing his record. (Marquez elected to continue and stopped Jaca in the next round.)

This was improper. For this indiscretion, Cole was prohibited from working a significant fight in Texas for the next six months.

More recently, Cole worked the 2014 fight between Vasyl Lomachenko and Orlando Salido at the San Antonio Alamodome. During the fight, Salido made a mockery of the Queensberry rules for which he received no point deductions and only one warning. Cole’s performance, said Matt McGrain, was “astonishingly bad,” an opinion echoed by many other boxing writers. And one could site numerous other incidents where Cole’s performance came under scrutiny.

Laurence Cole is the son of Richard “Dickie” Cole. The elder Cole, now 87 years old, served 21 years as head of the Texas Department of Combat Sports Regulation before stepping down on April 30, 2014. At various times during his tenure, Dickie Cole held high executive posts with the World Boxing Council and North American Boxing Federation. He was the first and only inductee into the inaugural class of the Texas Boxing Hall of Fame, an organization founded by El Paso promoter Lester Bedford in 2015.

From an administrative standpoint, boxing in Texas during the reign of Dickie Cole was frequently described in terms befitting a banana republic. Whenever there was a big fight in the Lone Star State, his son was the favorite to draw the coveted refereeing assignment.

Boxing is a sideline for Laurence Cole who runs an independent insurance agency in Dallas. By law in Texas (and in most other states), a boxing promoter must purchase insurance to cover medical costs in the event that one or more of the fighters on his show is seriously injured. Cole’s agency is purportedly in the top two nationally in writing these policies. Make of that what you will.

Complaints of ineptitude, says the WBAA, will be evaluated by a “rotating committee of select BWAA members and respected boxing experts.” In subsequent years, says the press release, the watch list will be published quarterly in the months of April, August, and December (must be the new math).

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Popo vs. “La Hiena”: Blast From the Past – Episode Two

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Freitas

When WBA/WBO super featherweight champion Acelino “Popo” Freitas met Jorge Rodrigo “Il Hiena” Barrios in Miami on August 8, 2003, there was more on the line than just the titles. This was a roughhousing 39-1-1 Argentinian fighting an equally tough 33-0 Brazilian. The crowd was divided between Brazilian fans and those from Argentina. To them this was a Mega-Fight; this was BIG.

When Acelino Freitas turned professional in 1995, he streaked from the gate with 29 straight KOs, one of the longest knockout win streaks in boxing history. He was fan-friendly and idolized in Brazil. Barrios turned professional in 1996 and went 14-0 before a DQ loss after which he went 25-0-1 with 1 no decision.

The Fight

The wild swinging “Hyena” literally turned into one as he attacked from the beginning and did not let up until the last second of the eleventh round. Barrios wanted to turn the fight into a street fight and was reasonably successful with that strategy. It became a case of brawler vs. boxer/puncher and when the brawler caught the more athletic Popo—who could slip and duck skillfully—and decked him with a straight left in the eighth, the title suddenly was up for grabs.

The Brazilian fans urged their hero on but to no avail as Barrios rendered a pure beat down on Popo during virtually the entirety of the 11th round—one of the most exciting in boxing history. Freitas went down early from a straight right. He was hurt, and at this point it looked like it might be over. Barrios was like a madman pounding Popo with a variety of wild shots, but with exactly one half of one second to go before the bell ending the round, Freitas caught La Hiena with a monster right hand that caused the Hyena to do the South American version of the chicken dance before he went down with his face horribly bloodied. When he got up, he had no idea where he was but his corner worked furiously to get him ready for the final round. All he had to do was hang in there and the title would change hands on points.

The anonymous architect of “In Boxing We Trust,” a web site that went dormant in 2010, wrote this description:

“Near the end of round 11, about a milli-second before the bell rang, Freitas landed a ROCK HARD right hand shot flush on Barrios’ chin. Barrios stood dazed for a moment, frozen in time, and then down he went, WOW WOW WOW!!!! Barrios got up at the count of 4, he didn’t know where he was as he looked around towards the crowd like a kid separated from his family at a theme park, but Barrios turned to the ref at the count of 8 and signaled that he was okay, SAVED BY THE BELL. It was panic time in the Barrios corner, as the blood continued to flow like lava, and he was bleeding from his ear (due to a ruptured ear drum). In the beginning of round 12, Freitas was able to score an early knockdown, and as Barrios stood up on wobbly legs and Freitas went straight at him and with a couple more shots, Barrios was clearly in bad shape and badly discombobulated and the fight was stopped. Freitas had won a TKO victory in round 12, amazing!!!!”

Later, Freitas tarnished his image with a “No Mas” against Diego Corrales, but he had gone down three times and knew there was no way out. He went on to claim the WBO world lightweight title with a split decision over Zahir Raheem, but that fight was a snoozefest and he lost the title in his first defense against Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz.

Freitas looked out of shape coming in to the Diaz fight and that proved to be the case as he was so gassed at the end of the eighth round that he quit on his stool. This was yet another shocker, but others (including Kostya Tszyu, Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya and even Ali) had done so and the criticism this time seemed disproportionate.

Popo had grown old. It happens. Yet, against Barrios, he had proven without a doubt that he possessed the heart of a warrior.

The Brazilian boxing hero retired in 2007, but came back in 2012 and schooled and KOd the cocky Michael “The Brazilian Rocky” Oliveira. He won another fight in 2015 and though by now he was visibly paunchy, he still managed to go 10 rounds to beat Gabriel Martinez in 2017 with occasional flashes of his old explosive volleys. These later wins, though against lower level opposition, somewhat softened the memories of the Corrales and Diaz fights, both of which this writer attended at the Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut. They would be his only defeats in 43 pro bouts.

Like Manny Pacquiao, Freitas had a difficult childhood but was determined to make a better life for himself and his family. And, like Manny, he did and he also pursued a career in politics. Whether he makes it into the Hall will depend on how much a ‘No Mas’ can count against one, but he warrants serious consideration when he becomes eligible.

As for the Hyena, on April 8, 2005, he won the WBO junior lightweight title with a fourth round stoppage of undefeated but overweight Mike Anchondo. In January 2010 he was involved in a hit and run accident in which a 20-year-old pregnant woman was killed. On April 4, 2012 Barrios was declared guilty of culpable homicide and sentenced to four years in prison. He served 27 months and never fought again, retiring with a record of 50-4-1.

Ted Sares is one of the oldest active full power lifters in the world. A member of Ring 10, and Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame, he was recently cited by Hannibal Boxing as one of three “Must-Read” boxing writers.

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The Avila Perspective Chapter 6: Munguia, Cruiserweights and Pacman

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Adjoining states

Adjoining states in the west host a number of boxing cards including a world title contest that features a newcomer who, before knocking out a world champion, was erroneously categorized by a Nevada official as unworthy of a title challenge.

Welcome to the world of Mexico’s Jaime Munguia (29-0, 25 KOs) the WBO super welterweight world titlist who meets England’s Liam Smith (26-1-1, 14 KOs) at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Saturday, July 21. HBO will televise

Back in April when middleweight titan Gennady “GGG” Golovkin was seeking an opponent to replace Saul “Canelo” Alvarez who was facing suspension for performance enhancement drug use, it was the 21-year-old from Tijuana who volunteered his services for a May 5th date in Las Vegas.

Bob Bennett, the Executive Director for Nevada State Athletic Commission, denied allowing Munguia an opportunity to fight Golovkin for the middleweight titles. Bennett claimed that the slender Mexican fighter had not proven worthy of contesting for the championship though the tall Mexican wielded an undefeated record of 28 wins with 24 coming by knockout.

To be fair, Bennett has seen many fighters in the past with undefeated records who were not up to challenges, especially against the likes of Golovkin. But on the other hand, how can an official involved in prizefighting deny any fighter the right to make a million dollar payday if both parties are willing?

That is the bigger question.

Munguia stopped by Los Angeles to meet with the media last week and spoke about Bennett and his upcoming first world title defense. He admitted to being in the middle of a whirlwind that is spinning beyond his expectations. But he likes it.

“I’ve never won any kind of award before in my life,” said Munguia at the Westside Boxing Club in the western portion of Los Angeles. “I’ve always wanted to be a world champion since I was old enough to fight.”

When asked how he felt about Nevada’s denying him an attempt to fight Golovkin, a wide grin appeared on the Mexican youngster.

“I would like to thank him,” said Munguia about Bennett’s refusal to allow him to fight Golovkin. “Everything happens for a reason.”

That reason is clear now.

Two months ago Munguia put on a frightening display of raw power in knocking down then WBO super welterweight titlist Sadam Ali numerous times in front of New York fans. It reminded me of George Foreman’s obliteration of Joe Frazier back in the 1970s. World champions are not supposed get battered like that but when someone packs that kind of power those can be the terrifying results.

Still beaming over his newfound recognition, Munguia has grand plans for his future including challenging all of the other champions in his weight category and the next weight division.

“I want to be a great champion,” said Munguia. “I want to make history.”

The first step toward history begins on Saturday when he faces former world champion Smith who was dethroned by another Mexican named Canelo.

Cruiserweight championship

It’s not getting a large amount of attention in my neighborhood but this unification clash between WBA and IBF cruiserweight titlist Murat Gassiev (26-0, 19 KOs) and WBC and WBO cruiserweight titlist Oleksandr Usyk (14-0, 11 KOs) has historic ramifications tagged all over it.

The first time I ever saw Russia’s 24-year-old Gassiev was three years ago when he made his American debut at the Quiet Cannon in Montebello. It’s a small venue near East L.A. and the fight was attended by numerous boxing celebrities such as James “Lights Out” Toney, Mauricio “El Maestro” Herrera and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. One entire section was filled by Russian supporters and Gassiev did not disappoint in winning by stoppage that night. His opponent hung on for dear life.

Ukraine’s Usyk, 31, made his American debut in late 2016 on a Golden Boy Promotions card that staged boxing great Bernard Hopkins’ final prizefight. That night the cruiserweight southpaw Usyk bored audiences with his slap happy style until lowering the boom on South Africa’s Thabiso Mchunu in round nine at the Inglewood Forum. The sudden result stunned the audience.

Now it’s Gassiev versus Usyk and four world titles are at stake. The unification fight takes place in Moscow, Russia and will be streamed via Klowd TV at 12 p.m. PT/ 3 p.m. ET.

Seldom are cruiserweight matchups as enticing to watch as this one.

Another Look

A couple of significant fights took place last weekend, but Manny Pacquiao’s knockout win over Lucas Matthysse for the WBO welterweight world title heads the list.

Neither fighter looked good in their fight in Malaysia but when Pacquiao floored Matthysse several times during the fight, it raised some red flags.

The last time Pacquiao knocked out a welterweight was in 2009 against Miguel Cotto in Las Vegas. Since then he had not stopped an opponent. What changed?

In this age of PEDs there was no mention of testing for the Pacquiao/Matthysse fight. For the curiosity of the media and the fans, someone should come forward with proof of testing. Otherwise any future fights for the Philippine great will not be forthcoming.

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