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The Fifty Greatest Bantamweights of All Time: Part Three, 30-21

From the dusty streets of Algeria to old school British cobbles, to the heartland of the American dream and back again, Part 3 of the Fifty Greatest Bantamweights of all time continues

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Fifty Greatest Bantamweights

From the dusty streets of Algeria to old school British cobbles, to the heartland of the American dream and back again, Part 3 of the Fifty Greatest Bantamweights of all time continues the international flavor of this list, but always, always, we return to those familiar back allies in Mexico.

If Mexican fighters remain the beating heart of boxing then bantamweight is the blood that pumps it.  What it is that makes Mexican men weighing in at the magical 118lbs so dangerous to the rest of humanity? I cannot tell, but let me just say this:

Viva Mexico.

#30 – Alphonse Halimi (1955-1964)

Alphonse Halimi found his way from the most disgusting poverty imaginable, homeless on the streets of war-torn Algeria, to a world championship boxing ring, the adornments sewn upon his trunks as he fought for the title those same adornments he had sewn to his training trunks as a boy, bent to the light of some cheap candle. He was born for the ring.

It is probable that when top contender Billy Peacock was tempted out to Paris for a payday against a twenty-something with a 10-0 record he was looking forwards to picking up some easy money and seeing the sights. But Halimi was a veteran of a perhaps as many as a hundred amateur contests before he even arrived in France and of numerous more nefarious unrecorded affairs from the years before that. Halimi did not even allow his youth to crowd his work; he out-thought, out-boxed and out-maneuvered his supposedly more experienced opponent for a clear decision, oblivious to the booing that greeted the slow pace.

He defeated a second top ten contender, Tony Campo, later that year, and then, apparently, he was ready for world champion Mario D’Agata. Those curious as to D’Agata’s qualities can review Part 1; Halimi ripped the title from him over fifteen rounds, dominating him throughout and dropping as few as two rounds by some accounts.

Halimi’s title reign was short, but it is always impressive to me when the new champion, having deposed the old, immediately travels to take on the division’s number one contender. This is what Halimi did, arriving on American shores for the first time. Still inexperienced by championship standards, he shifted to boxing on his toes in the championship rounds to out-point the respected Mexican Raul Macias.

After stopping the ranked Al Asuncion, Halimi ran into a Mexican he couldn’t better, the superb Jose Becerra, but he would go on to add quality to his resume while chasing what was a then hotly contested European title, swapping a pair with Piero Rollo and defeating Freddie Gilroy.

#29 – Jose Becerra (1953-1962)

One of the less championed Mexican bantamweight kings (and to be fair, it’s a crowded bar), Jose Becerra did something neither Ruben Olivares nor Carlos Zarate could manage, retiring the undefeated bantamweight champion of the world, albeit after suffering a knockout loss up at featherweight.

He took the title from the wonderful Alphonse Halimi in 1959, dropping him twice in the eighth and forcing an end to the fight by technical knockout. Halimi had never been stopped by punches and there was doubt enough that a rematch was made in which Becerra turned the trick once more, this time in nine.

In the first fight, Halimi had dominated cleanly and clearly early, combining sapping pressure with a withering and varied body attack, marginally behind at the time of the stoppage. In the second, perhaps Becerra’s masterpiece, the Mexican got his sweeping offense going early, finding rough lodgings for all three punches in his mixed combinations, meanwhile popping off that stiff but glancing jab, upsetting Halimi’s rhythm. Climbing from the canvas in the second, Becerra seized control and did not relent until a patented right hook from a square stance – patented, I think, in order to counter Halimi’s body attack – marked the beginning of the end in the ninth: a triple left-hook, double uppercut and an absolute peach of a right hand finished it moments later. It was probably the finest minute of Becerra’s career.

Becerra staged only one defense of his title, harvesting a narrow decision from the inexperienced Kenji Yonekura and then he hung ‘em up. Becerra’s early career had been storied and difficult, as apprenticeships served in Mexico almost always were. He had dominated that landscape, even winning all three fights of a trilogy with a young version of another future monster, Jose Medel; the wear, perhaps, was beginning to tell upon him by the end.

All that said, he was capable of losing some strange fights, including a fourth round knockout to a journeyman called Dwight Hawkins in 1957 or to the inexperienced Cachorro Martinez in 1956.

Overall though, his career was one of excellence, punctuated by excellent wins.

#28 – Jose Medel (1955-1974)

Winning only six of his last twenty contests certainly but an ugly dent in Jose Medel’s paper record, but in truth he was always inconsistent.

Partly, this is down to his phenomenal longevity. When he turned professional, the heavyweight champion of the world was Rocky Marciano; by the time of his retirement, Muhammad Ali was enjoying his second stint as the king. Few careers span three decades without subsuming such scars.

It is for the greatest wins he achieved in that enormous career that he is lauded here, however:

Legendary puncher Jesus Pimentel, world’s #2 contender, with whom he exchanged knockdowns before taking the narrowest of decisions; ranked contender Ray Asis who he stopped in three; number four contender Manuel Barrios, outpointed over twelve; world number three contender Edmundo Esparza stopped in short order; deadly veteran Toluco Lopez, stopped in seven; number seven contender Eloy Sanchez out-pointed over twelve in defense of his Mexican bantamweight title; world number five contender Danny Kid outpointed in ten; Walter McGowan, the former flyweight champion, crushed in six.

Last, and by no means least, is his astonishing knockout victory over the incredible Fighting Harada. The two met in Japan in 1963 as Harada continued his assault on the bantamweight division and it was business as usual for the first two rounds, the Japanese dominating with pressure and violence. Medel, bred in the desperate training ground that was the Mexican bantamweight scene, had lived it all before.  Slowly, steadily, he sapped Harada’s legs with a countering body attack, and despite having won not a round on the official scorecards, dropped his man three times in the sixth with a wide variety of punches to secure a TKO. It was his finest moment.

For Medel never held the title. He was turned away once by the primed Harada, over three years after their first contest, and once by Eder Jofre, in 1962. Two harder assignments to win a world title cannot be imagined and while the cliché “champion in any other era” is a well-worn one, with Medel it fits.

Despite that, we can rank him no higher than he is seen here. Medel lost a lot; he lost to Ray Asis, he lost to Manuel Barrios, he lost to Harada, he lost to Eloy Sanchez, he lost to Danny Kid – he lost to many of the contenders of whom his win resume is comprised. This makes for a complex situation from the perspective of rankings, compounded by his losses to numerous lesser fighters.

In fact, Medel could be argued lower – lower than Becerra for example, who defeated him three times.  Thirty-one losses is a few too many for him to rank with the true elite.

#27 – Pedlar Palmer (1891-1919)

Pedlar Palmer has a problem, and the problem is Jimmy Barry.

The wonderful old “paperweight” champion made a claim for the newly founded bantamweight title in 1894 which is generally held by most sources, and for most of the 1890s. This is despite the fact that fights staged in defense of that title were almost non-existent. What this resulted in was the emergence of regional champions making a claim to the world title which were sometimes acknowledged by the press of that time but who are historically relegated to “belt holders” rather than genuine champions.

Palmer was such a man.

He was also a third generation fighter who cut his teeth on the cobbles, a man whose BoxRec record represents just a sliver of his actual combat experience. The Marquis of Queensbury rules suited him, however, as indicated by his nickname “Box o’ Tricks”, a man who “never fought the same way twice”, who developed strategy across the canvas even as he felt his hapless opponents out.

His fighting history traces the bantamweight limit from 112lbs through to 116lbs where he made his bones. By 1898 his claim to the title was being taken seriously and on the British side of the Atlantic was read as truth. Billy Plimmer was his chief dance partner in the UK and he was a worthy one; having out-boxed a creaking George Dixon over the short distance in 1893 he was first jabbed to a standstill by Palmer in 1895 before being brutally stopped in the rematch in 1898. When Palmer sailed for America in 1899 he was 5-0 in “world” title fights and supposedly unbeaten under Marques of Queensbury rules.

In America he ran into a human tornado, a butcher, a blood-soaked brute so in excess of even his ability to control that he was crushed in a single round: Terry McGovern, the archetype for every destroyer ever to have followed him, had landed.

Even after this, for all that he was no longer a man invincible, Palmer did good work, not least against the fine European champion Digger Stanley. But, like so many who tangled with McGovern, Palmer was never truly the same.

#26 – Orlando Canizales (1984-1999)

Orlando Canizales was one of the most brilliant and complete bantamweights in history. He had a gorgeous short lateral movement that he could engage right in front of an opponent, stepping left or right to open up new angles and giving him control over his planes of attack against the limited opposition he met in his 118lb career. An enhancement to this was his developed technical acumen that allowed him to develop one of the most complete body attacks of the late 80s and 90s; but he was also a sharpshooter who was capable of landing short punches with both fists to the head of all but the most elusive fighters. A withering left uppercut completed an arsenal as exhaustive as any at the poundage.  Throw in elite stamina, workrate and an iron chin (Canizales was never stopped) and you have a lethal fighter who very nearly lived up to comparisons with Roberto Duran, made, not least, by Gil Clancy.

So why is he ranked here, barely inside the top thirty?

Canizales is the ultimate legacy victim of the alphabet era. In 1988 he took the IBF strap from Kelvin Seabrooks, a teak-tough but limited champion who ended his career with a record of 27-22. It was a crackling strap-winning performance, one of the last to be contested over fifteen rounds, Canizales scoring a stoppage in that final frame. He took just eleven in the rematch and in both fights he showcased a level of excellence that hinted at an all-time great career in the making.

Alas, Canizales elected to fight IBF mandatory contenders, as sorry a collection of fighters as has ever been assembled for a significant title reign. That reign was significant; he went 17-0 in defense of his strap.

But at no time did he match the world’s best. During Orlando’s time at the top, the most significant bantamweights in the world were Raul Perez, Israel Contreras, Jorge Julio, Yasuei Yakushiji and Junior Jones. Canizales didn’t bother to match any of them; in fact, he never matched anybody ranked in The Ring top five bantamweights for the entirety of his reign and almost certainly never met a fighter better than Seabrooks. Second among his opponents was likely Billy Hardy, ranked #10, who gave him a torrid time with an accurate jab in England in 1990. Canizales took a narrow decision in a fight that could have gone either way, before knocking out the Englishman in a rematch staged in the US.

His third most challenging opponent is hard to identify. It may have been prospect Sergio Reyes, who he out-pointed in 1994 but against an opponent with a record of just 10-0 it was probable that a knockout was the minimum expectation. Maybe it was Clarence “Bones” Adams, at least that is a name some might recognize, but Adams was little more than a prospect then and his four most recent opponents had an astonishing fifty-nine losses between them. It may have been Ray Minus, the solid former Commonwealth champion who he stopped in eleven in 1991, but Contreras, a man he should have been fighting, had stopped Minus in nine the year before.

Canizales was a wonderful fighter who sabotaged his own legacy in his slavish devotion to the IBF. Too brilliant to suffer a lower ranking, he ranks here above fighters who achieved more due to his apparent excellence in the ring. I leave the reader to determine whether or not this is just.

#25 – Rafael Marquez (1995-2013)

Like Canizales, Rafael Marquez (pictured) was the best bantamweight in the world for four calendar years, 2003 through 2006. Like Canizales, he was a victim of the IBF matchmaking policy which denied him legacy defining fights against Veeraphol Sahaprom and Hozumi Hasegawa. Like Canizales these fights likely would have elevated him to the top fifteen on this list had they been made – unlike Canizales he did do some excellent work against some of the better bantamweights in the division.

Former two-time world champion Mark Johnson finished Marquez’s education in 2001 when the two fought one of the more bizarre fights I have ever seen. A dull, tactical affair was brewing through three rounds, with Johnson out-prodding a reticent Marquez for a points lead that stretched into the second half of the fight. By that time a crude war had broken out, defined by fouling, missing, and hard power punches. Johnson lost by virtue of two point deductions he suffered in the closing spell of the fight – but was first announced the winner due to a mix up with the scorecards, then announced a winner again by different scores before Marquez was named the winner at the third time of asking. In the inevitable rematch, Marquez stopped Johnson in eight rounds, embracing for the first time what he was: a box-puncher who would generally only win tough fights when he was ultra-aggressive. It’s a thrilling concept.

It was a concept that nearly eluded him when he got the shot at Tim Austin and the IBF strap; once more, Marquez was out-prodded early, but he had learned to neutralize a much faster fighter with timing and aggression against Johnson, and sure enough he came surging through to victory with booming right hands, once again in the eighth round.

Austin, like Canizales, had failed to fight the best while wearing the IBF strap and Marquez continued the sad tradition. He did venture into the top five, at least, for two defenses against the same man, Silence Mabuza, the South African puncher, who he twice stopped, but his next best defenses were Ricardo Vargas and Pete Frissina. His title reign was approximately equal to Canizales’ for quality if not quantity – those pre-title victories over Mark Johnson (also among the five best bantamweights in the world at that time) just edge him ahead here.

Both men exited the division without losing their trinkets; whether or not it was worth their failures to match the best of their generation, only they can say.

#24 – Alfonso Zamora (1973-1980)

Five successful defenses of the lineal title and some of the most battlement-crumbling power in the bantamweight division’s history sneaks Alfonso Zamora in ahead of his compatriot Becerra and of alphabet boys Canizales and Marquez.

Zamora took the title from Soo-Hwan Hong, a man who had never before been stopped. Zamora stopped him in the fourth and remained the only bantamweight to ever stop him. Notably the smaller man in the ring, Zamora turned this trick not so much with one big punch as with a dozen tenderizing shots, a real wheelhouse attack born of a curious habit of coming square, making him vulnerable defensively, but as likely to land something menacing with the left as with the right. Hong did considerably better the following year, 1976, but succumbed again in the twelfth

In between, Zamora sealed his legacy with victories over Thanomchit Sukhothai, another big puncher at bantamweight, and the immortal Eusebio Pedroza. Pedroza towered over Zamora in a manner almost comical, but he was too far removed from his sensational featherweight prime to trouble the monster hitter from Mexico; Zamora knocked him senseless early for what was one of his easier title-defenses.

Zamora picked a gunfight with an even more terrifying bantamweight in 1977, lain low by the devastating Carlos Zarate before another knockout loss followed against underdog Jorge Lujan, and this, really, would have finished most undersized fighters as top contenders.

Not “El Toro”.  Unquestionably unmanned by his horrific loss to Zarate, he rallied in 1978 to land one more blistering left-hook at the highest level, becoming the first man to knock out Alberto Sandoval, then ranked among the five best bantamweights in the world.

He packed a lot of action into a short career and even more power into that slender frame.

#23 – Lupe Pintor (1974-1995)

How you feel about Lupe Pintor’s placement here in the mid-twenties will probably depend most upon how you see his 1979 confrontation with the bantamweight giant Carlos Zarate. If you are one of the tiny minority that saw it for Pintor, then he should certainly be higher; if you are alongside the majority which includes reporters from Boxing Illustrated and International Boxing, all of whom scored it for Zarate, his ranking is more easily explained.

I had it to Zarate more narrowly, by a single point, a winner by virtue of the single knockdown of the contest perpetrated against Pintor in the fourth. That the wrong man won that night seems likely to me, but not beyond argument, and the near unanimity of the pressmen scoring ringside is valuable in directing our treatment of that result: Pintor was the beneficiary of a bad decision.

At the least, however, Pintor proved he belonged in the ring with Zarate that night and in my opinion fought him on even terms for great stretches. The resultant alphabet title reign was a respectable one, and was comprised of eight title defenses which included victories over Alberto Davila, Alberto Sandoval and the wonderfully named Japanese “Hurricane” Teru.

Always in shape, always dangerous, armed with a great chin and a very fine jab, Pintor dropped the title without defeat, departing for super-bantamweight where he added another alphabet strap.

#22 – Vic Toweel (1949-1954)

Vic Toweel boxed a truncated career that included one of the greatest wins in the history of bantamweight, his 1950 victory over world champion Manuel Ortiz. Ortiz is the greatest champion in the history of the division, and boxed one of the greatest championship reigns of any weight.  Toweel was the man who ended it.

Already the reigning Commonwealth champion, Toweel, who was from South Africa, had already forged for himself a reputation as a ceaseless worker, a fighter of only middling power who threw ceaseless barrages of punches and yet never tired. They called him “the white Henry Armstrong”.

He needed all that and more to overcome Ortiz, as skilled a bantamweight as has ever lived. Probably Toweel’s timing was good in that Ortiz was ready to be taken but the many men had tried and failed to get the nail in the coffin; Toweel eased into the contest, all while getting hit by the Ortiz right hand, and parked his head on the older man’s shoulder. From there he outworked, out-hustled and out-fought one of the true greats of the prize-ring.

Toweel only staged three successful defenses of the crown before being out-hustled in turn by Jimmy Carruthers, but he showed no fear of the division’s best. The legendary ringman out of Morocco, Luis Romero, was bested in 1951 over fifteen rounds bookended by lashing punches that dropped the more experienced man in the first and last rounds; Peter Keenan, the wonderful Scottish bantamweight, then undefeated, was shorn of his “0” over the distance the following year.

In Ortiz, Keenan and Romero, Toweel arguably defeated the three best bantamweights in the world barring Carruthers. When he began to slip, struggling with the weight and therefore the terrible workrate he demanded of himself, he was suddenly vulnerable, but in his short-lived prime he was untouchable, and against an arraignment of opposition fit to test any fighter.

#21 – Frankie Burns (1908-1921)

Frankie Burns lost a lot of newspaper decisions coming up, appearing in and around New York’s small halls; you can almost see him trying to decide whether or not boxing was for him as the months passed by and he was drawn inexorably into her bloody arms.

His luck was never really in. He was turned away once apiece by the Attell brothers in 1911 but a series of wins against lesser lights bought him a title shot against Johnny Coulon in 1912. Fighting the champion on even terms up until the twentieth and final round, he slipped and upon rising shipped four hard punches to the champion – these bought Coulon a desperately narrow decision. The two fought a rematch in 1913, Burns “the more eager and for the better part of the bout the aggressor” by the wire report, but once again squeezed out of victory, this time by way of a draw.

Burns continued to campaign, to grind out results, to prove himself worthy, and in 1915 chance came knocking again, this time in the form of another lethal champion, Kid Williams. “For the first half of the bout,” wrote The Washington Times, “Burns looked to be a certain winner.” In the eighth, he even had the Kid in something approaching serious trouble. Williams rallied and hurtled down the homestretch, rescuing his title with a draw.

Burns campaigned desperately for a rematch but would never receive one. In fact, it took the summiting of a new and legitimately fearless champion to give Burns another swing at title honors, Pete Herman, one of the greatest bantamweight kings of all.  “Too young, too speedy, too strong” was the take of the wire report on Herman’s twenty round victory over Burns in what was Burns’ fourth and final title shot.  A tale of gritty and determined failure then; but here’s the rub.

Burns beat Herman.

Twice.

The first time was 1914 as he campaigned for another shot in the wake of his ten round draw with Coulon. Burns handed Herman the first and only stoppage loss of his incredible career via a body-attack that was so vicious Herman’s corner threw in the towel. “His manager’s actions,” went the wire report, “saved him from a knockout.”

The second time was in 1918, after Herman had defeated Burns for title honors in an over-the-weight match with the championship firmly protected from any exchange of hands. Burns took the better of an eight round decision and some small modicum of comfort.

In addition he defeated Memphis Pal Moore on no fewer than three occasions, and on two occasions bested another immortal bantamweight champion, Joe Lynch.

As nearly men go at bantamweight, Burns is the best.

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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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Canada & Usa

In Boxing, the Last Weekend of July was Chock Full of Surprises

The first upset of last weekend occurred in an undercard bout on the big show at London’s O2 Arena. David Allen, a journeyman with a 13-4-2 record, knocked out previously undefeated

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The first upset of last weekend occurred in an undercard bout on the big show at London’s O2 Arena. David Allen, a journeyman with a 13-4-2 record, knocked out previously undefeated

The first upset of last weekend occurred in an undercard bout on the big show at London’s O2 Arena. David Allen, a journeyman with a 13-4-2 record, knocked out previously undefeated Nick Webb (12-0, 10 KOs) in the fourth round. Allen said that he intended this to be his final fight, but will now hang around awhile.

In hindsight, this was an omen. Before the show was over, upsets – albeit mild upsets – were registered in both featured bouts. Dereck Chisora, trailing on the scorecards, stopped Carlos Takam in the eighth. Dillian Whyte outpointed Joseph Parker. And later that same day, in Kissimmee, Florida, Japanese import Masayuki Ito made a big splash in his U.S. debut, beating up highly touted Christopher Diaz.

– – – –

Joseph Parker is quite the gentleman. Following his loss to Dillian Whyte, Parker was gracious in defeat: “I say congratulations to Dillian. I gave it my best. The better man won.”

In case you missed it, Whyte survived a hoary moment in the final round to win a unanimous decision. Most everyone agreed that the decision was fair but there were a few dissenters. Well known U.K. boxing pundit Steve Bunce said, “I thought Parker deserved a draw.” Bunce noted that the scribes sitting near him were in complete accord that the most lopsided score (115-110) was far too wide.

We’ve seen fighters grouse that they were robbed after fights that were far less competitive. Parker’s post-fight amiability was all the more puzzling considering that he had a legitimate beef that referee Ian John Lewis was too lax, enabling Whyte to turn the contest into a street fight.

Parker’s trainer Kevin Barry was all on board with the selection of Lewis. “He’s a very highly qualified guy who I think is the best British referee,” he said. But Barry changed his tune after the fight, saying that there were at least two occasions when Lewis should have deducted a point from Whyte.

Veteran Australian boxing writer Anthony Cocks said that going forward, Parker, a soft spoken, mild mannered man, needs to have more of a mongrel in him. Cocks noted that when Whyte transgressed, Parker’s response was to look at the ref with a bemused expression. The first time that Whyte bent the rules, opined Cocks, Parker should have hit him in the balls.

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Top Rank hasn’t had much luck with their Puerto Rican fighters lately. First there was Felix Verdejo. Hyped as the next Felix Trinidad, the 2012 Olympian was 22-0 when his career was interrupted by a motorcycle accident. He won his first fight back in Puerto Rico, but was then exposed by Tijuana’s unheralded Antonio Lozada Jr. who stopped him in the 10th round at the Theater of Madison Square Garden on St. Patrick’s Day, 2018.

More recently, Top Rank gave a big build-up to Christopher Diaz, but Diaz, the 2016 ESPN Deportes Prospect of The Year, also hit the skids after starting his pro career 23-0. Diaz was upset on Saturday by Masayuki Ito in a match sanctioned for the vacant WBO 130-pound title.

Unlike Verdejo, Diaz was still standing at the final bell, but he was taken to the cleaners by his Japanese opponent who won comfortably on the scorecards.

– – – –

Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin made his pro debut on the Diaz-Ito undercard. Nikitin won every round of a 6-round contest.

If the name sounds vaguely familiar, this is the guy who defeated top seed Michael Conlan in a quarterfinal bantamweight match at the Rio Olympics. The decision, which Conlan greeted with a middle finger salute to the judges, was widely seen as a heist.

In signing new prospects, Top Rank honcho Bob Arum likes to gather up fighters who compete in the same weight class as fighters that he already controls. This sets up a scenario where he can double dip, extracting a commission from the purse of both principals.

The cluster is most pronounced in the lower weight classes. These fighters, listed alphabetically, are currently promoted or co-promoted by Top Rank: junior bantamweight Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-1), junior featherweight Michael Conlan (8-0), featherweight Christopher Diaz (23-1), super bantamweight Isaac Dogboe (19-0), super bantamweight Jessie Magdaleno (25-1), super bantamweight Jean Rivera (14-0), featherweight Genesis Servania (31-1), bantamweight Shakur Stevenson (7-0), bantamweight Antonio Vargas (7-0), featherweight Nicholas Walters (26-1-1).

The aforementioned Nikitin launched his pro career as a featherweight.

– – – –

In July of 2004, Danny Williams knocked out Mike Tyson in the fourth round at Louisville. Iron Mike had one more fight and then wisely called it quits. Williams had 48 more fights, the most recent coming last weekend in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Williams was stopped in the 10th round by a local man, 35-year-old Lee McAllister, whose last documented fight had come in 2013. In that bout, McAllister, carrying 140 pounds, outpointed a Slovakian slug in a 6-round fight. During his hiatus from boxing, McAllister (that’s him in the red and white trunks), served a 9-month prison sentence for assaulting a patron while working in an Aberdeen kebab shop.

Danny Williams’ weight wasn’t announced, but in his three fights prior to fighting McAllister he came in a tad north of 270 pounds. He reportedly out-weighed McAllister by 4 stone (56 pounds), likely a loose approximation.

Williams is a product of Brixton, the hardscrabble Afro-Caribbean neighborhood in South London that also spawned Dillian Whyte. But he has no intention of going back there. After the McAllister fight, in which he was knocked down three times, he said he was retiring to Nigeria where he had a job waiting for him as a bodyguard.

– – – –

The ink was barely dry on the weekend’s events when news arrived that Tyson Fury was close to signing for a December bout with WBC heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder. On social media, Fury said the deal was almost done and Fury’s promoter Frank Warren confirmed it while saying that it was conditional on Fury looking good when he opposes Francesco Pianeta on Aug. 18 at the Windsor Park soccer stadium in Belfast. Fury vs. Pianeta underpins Carl Frampton’s WBO featherweight title defense against Luke Jackson.

As to whether he would be ready to defeat Wilder after only two comeback fights, Fury, who turns 30 this month, said he was ready to beat Wilder on the day he was born.

Deontay Wilder is disappointed that his dream match with Anthony Joshua won’t happen until next spring at the earliest, but there are plenty of options out there for him and more of them for him to ponder after this past weekend’s events.

Cuban southpaw Luis Ortiz looked good against Razvan Cojanu, dismissing his hapless Romanian adversary in the second round on the Garcia-Easter card in Los Angeles.

After the bout, WBC prexy Mauricio Suliaman gave Wilder his blessing to skirt his mandatory against Dominic Breazeale for a rematch with Ortiz.

Presumably that also applies if Wilder accepts promoter Eddie Hearn’s offer for a match with Dillian Whyte. The WBC now lists Whyte as their “silver” champion and has bumped him ahead of Breazeale into the #1 slot in their rankings. And then there’s Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller who has an Eddie Hearn connection and is a more interesting opponent than Breazeale.

If Wilder vs. Fury is a go, say Fury and Warren, it will be held in December in New York or Las Vegas. We make New York the favorite. The only good date in Las Vegas in December for an event of this magnitude is Dec. 1 and that’s only because Thanksgiving arrives early this year. The National Finals Rodeo, a 10-day event which fills up the town, arrives on Dec. 6, eliminating the next two weekends. And when the rodeo leaves, Christmas is right around the corner. Historically, boxing promoters shy away from putting on a big show right before Christmas on the theory that fight fans have the “shorts,” having exhausted their discretionary income on Christmas gifts.

There are some interesting fighters competing in the upper tier of the heavyweight division and a slew of intriguing prospects coming up the ladder. The division hasn’t been this exciting since the Golden Age of Ali, Frazier, Foreman, et al. Enjoy.

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Les Moonves, Hero of Mayweather-Pacquiao Deal, Now Cast as a Villain

“He refused to take ‘no’ for an answer.”
That comment, offered in praise of Les Moonves for the pivotal role the chairman and CEO of CBS Corporation played in helping make the May 2, 2015, megafight pairing

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Moonves

“He refused to take ‘no’ for an answer.”

That comment, offered in praise of Les Moonves for the pivotal role the chairman and CEO of CBS Corporation played in helping make the May 2, 2015, megafight pairing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, has taken on a more sordid connotation in light of the avalanche of accusations of sexual impropriety that have thrust the 68-year-old Moonves into the unwelcome company of such accused high-visibility miscreants as Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Bill O’Reilly and Matt Lauer.

But while the other aforementioned power players have been fired or indicted, their reputations in tatters, Moonves remains on the job as one of the most influential and highest paid (a reported $70 million in 2017) media executives in the United States. Despite a damning article authored by Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker that details numerous instances of bad behavior ranging from merely dubious to criminally actionable, and to which Moonves himself has admitted to some extent, CBS on Monday issued a statement of support that seemed to catch the editors of Variety somewhat off-guard. The entertainment publication’s opening paragraph reads thusly: “In a surprise move, CBS’ board of directors is keeping Leslie Moonves as chairman-CEO even as it launches a probe of sexual assault allegations leveled against him by six women in a New Yorker expose.”

Why should still another story of alleged sexual misconduct by an older man seeking to exert improper control over younger women be of any significance to a fight audience? Well, normally it wouldn’t, except for Moonves’ position, which includes a say in the direction of Showtime’s increasingly important boxing operation if he so chooses. When negotiations for Mayweather-Pacquiao, a pay-per-view event which was to be co-produced by Showtime and HBO, hit a snag, Moonves insinuated himself into the discussion because it made financial and logistic sense for him to do so. CBS/Showtime had entered into a six-bout, $250 million deal with Mayweather, and three of the four fights held to that point had underperformed. Subsequently, the prevailing belief in CBS/Showtime’s executive offices was that Mayweather’s long-delayed showdown with Pacquiao was not only advisable, but absolutely necessary to stanch the flow of red ink.

“Without Les Moonves, this fight wouldn’t have had a prayer of happening,” Top Rank chairman and CEO Bob Arum, a longtime friend of Moonves, said after the last “i” had been dotted and the last “t” crossed. “The real hero in getting this done is Les Moonves.”

And this from Stephen Espinoza, Showtime Sports’ executive vice president and general manager, tossing another verbal bouquet to his boss: “One of the main reasons this deal got done, when maybe other ones didn’t, was having Les Moonves as part of the process. He was deeply committed to making this deal. He is someone that all parties in this negotiation respected. He was really the catalyst for seeing this through. He refused to take `no’ for an answer from any side. He was there making sure that the parties came together in a successful and cooperative manner.”

But while the high-level wheeling and dealing to finalize Mayweather-Pacquiao was done behind closed doors, so too were those instances when Moonves was attempting to arrange a private deal with a female subordinate whose career he could either advance or stymie. One such occasion allegedly involved writer-actress Ileana Douglas, who was summoned to Moonves’ office to discuss matters involving a television project in which she was to have starred. The New Yorker story quotes Douglas’ heightening discomfort as Moonves made coarse and physical advances toward her.

“At that point, you’re a trapped animal,” Douglas said of the incident. “Your life is flashing before your eyes. It has stayed with me the rest of my life, that terror.”

After The New Yorker story came out, Moonves apologized, sort of, to the six women who told Farrow that the CBS bigwig had sexually harassed them. All claimed he became cold and hostile after they rejected his advances, and that they believed their careers suffered as a result.

In a statement, Moonves said, “Throughout my time at CBS, we have promoted a culture of respect and opportunity for all employees, and have consistently found success elevating women to top executive positions across our company. I recognize that there were times decades ago when I may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances. Those were mistakes and I regret them immensely. But I always understood and respected – and abided by the principle – that `no’ means `no,’ and I have never misused my position to harm or hinder anyone’s career … We at CBS are committed to being part of the solution.”

What makes the furor that has suddenly swirled up around Moonves all the more curious is his prominent support for the #MeToo movement and other feminist causes. In December, he helped found the Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace. A month prior to that, at a conference in November, he said, “I think it’s important that a company’s culture will not allow for (sexual harassment). And that’s the thing that’s far-reaching. There’s a lot we’re learning. There’s a lot we didn’t know.”

There’s a lot we didn’t know? Oh, for sure. We didn’t know for a very long time that TV’s favorite father figure, now-81-year-old Bill Cosby, would be classified as a sexually violent predator by a Pennsylvania court. Cosby is due to be sentenced Sept. 24 on three counts of aggravated indecent assault, and his alma mater, Temple University, rescinded the honorary Ph.D. it conferred upon him in 1991. The Cos resigned his spot on Temple’s  Board of Trustees in 2014, after 32 years, amid accusations that he sexually assaulted dozens of women over decades.

We also didn’t know that Harvey Weinstein, 66, the co-founder of Miramax, would be dismissed from the company and be expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences after the New York Times ran a story on Oct, 5, 2017, detailing decades of allegations against him by over 80 women. It would seem that the most important piece of furniture in Weinstein’s office was not his desk, but the proverbial casting couch.

One of the more intriguing developments in the widening scandal involved TV newsmen Bill O’Reilly and Matt Lauer. In September 2017, O’Reilly, fired by Fox News for a series of alleged sexual improprieties, appeared as a guest on NBC’s Today show, where he told host Matt Lauer that his dismissal was “a hit job – a political and financial hit job.” Two months later, Lauer was canned by NBCUniversal after it was found he had an inappropriate sexual relationship with another much more junior NBC employee. Three additional women subsequently made complaints against Lauer.

Boxing is a physical sport, maybe the most physical there is, and in most cases the transgressions committed were by fighters who resorted to brute force, the fastest way to bring cops and attorneys into the equation. Think Tony Ayala Jr. spending 17 years behind bars for rape, a conviction that came on the heels of a previous incident in which he broke a teenage girl’s jaw after he made unwanted advances toward her in the restroom of a drive-in theater. But it might be argued that those who seek to have their way with women by exercising a different kind of power are just as much or even more reprehensible, an affront not only to the females they view as disposable objects but to any man who would not want to see his mother, wife or daughter treated so shabbily.

According to CBS, there have been no misconduct claims and no settlements against Moonves during his 24 years at the network. He deserves, as everyone does under the American system of jurisprudence, the presumption of innocence. But given the current landscape befouled by others who apparently felt that they could do whatever they wanted because they always had gotten away with it, sticking with the status quo might send the wrong message.

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