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A Short History of Boxing at the Turning Stone Resort Casino

On Saturday, boxing returns to the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, NY, when WBO 154-pound champion Sadam Ali defends his belt against undefeated

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Turning Stone

On Saturday, boxing returns to the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, NY, when WBO 154-pound champion Sadam Ali defends his belt against undefeated challenger Jaime Munguia. This will mark the 58th live boxing event at the Upstate New York venue which is located about 30 miles east of Syracuse. As we approach the 20th anniversary of the first boxing show, it seems appropriate to look back on the history of boxing at Turning Stone.

Turning Stone Resort Casino in the little town of Verona (population about 6,000) is owned and operated by the Oneida Indian Nation. It first opened as a casino in 1993 and since has undergone several major expansions to become one of the area’s premier attractions. With the International Boxing Hall of Fame located a short distance away in Canastota, NY, and a passionate local fan base, it was natural for the growing venue to embrace the sport of boxing.

Early Years

The first boxing event took place on Friday June 12th, 1998, in conjunction with Boxing Hall of Fame Weekend. The card was headlined by Hector Camacho who was returning to the ring for the first time since losing to Oscar De La Hoya that past September. Camacho would be victorious in this inaugural card at Turning Stone, stopping veteran journeyman Tommy Small in round six of their scheduled 10-round contest. This would be the first of three appearances for Camacho at Turning Stone.

One month later, Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson headlined a card defending his flyweight world title against Luis Rolon. It was not only the first world title fight at Turning Stone, but the first nationally televised event as ABC showed the main event. Johnson outclassed a very tough Rolon in cruising to a wide unanimous decision win.

On October 8th, 1999, Turning Stone hosted a card that made national headlines. The main event featured Donovan “Razor” Ruddock against Jose Ribalta in a heavyweight contest but that was not the bout that everyone was talking about. Laila Ali, the daughter of Muhammad Ali, would make her professional debut on the undercard. With her legendary father sitting ringside, Ali dispatched her opponent April Fowler in 31 seconds in a bout that generated headlines around the world.

ESPN2 would bring its Friday Night Fights series to Turning Stone on March 3rd, 2000, with a card headlined by lightweight title belt holder Paul Spadafora making a defense of his title against Victoriano Sosa. It was supposed to be a showcase for Spadafora but turned into quite a fight. Sosa dropped Spadafora twice in round three and nearly had the champion knocked out. But Spadafora survived the round and put on a strong rally in the second half of the fight to win by unanimous decision.

Ali-Frazier IV

Turning Stone found itself making boxing history on June 8th, 2001, as it hosted the first ever pay-per-view card headlined by women. The aforementioned Laila Ali took on the daughter of Joe Frazier, Jacqui Frazier-Lyde, in an event billed as Ali-Frazier IV.

The match was somewhat controversial. Many saw it as a publicity stunt. But it was not a farce, as many feared, and did not set women’s boxing backwards, as some suggested. Ali and Frazier, both undefeated at this young stage in their respective careers, turned out to be evenly matched and put on a good show. Though they certainly lacked some technique, they were not afraid to slug it out in spots and the bout was entertaining. In the end the bout would go the full scheduled eight with Ali being awarded a majority decision victory.

Post Ali-Frazier IV

In the years following the historic fight between Ali and Frazier-Lyde, there was a lull in the action. Yes there was still boxing, but it was more of the club show variety. During this time, some name fighters appeared at Turning Stone looking to revive what was left in their careers including Angel Manfredy, Andrew Golota and Shannon Briggs. On February 24th, 2006, ESPN2’s Friday Night Fight Series would make a return to Turning Stone. However, following this nationally televised event, boxing at Turning Stone would go dark for a period of four years.

Boxing Returns To Turning Stone

On February 26th, 2010, boxing finally returned to Turning Stone with a club level type show. Although this wasn’t a major card, it was yet significant in that Turning Stone was still showing itself to be a player in the sport. And incidentally, one of the undercard bouts on this show featured future women’s star Amanda Serrano who improved to 5-0-1 with a six round unanimous decision over Lucia Larcinese.

There would be two more club level type shows at Turning Stone in 2010. That was followed by another similar type show in 2011 and another in January of 2012. Turning Stone was clearly showing an interest in the sport again but had not yet gotten that big card to come its way. But things would soon change.

Triple G Invades Upstate New York

Entering 2012, middleweight belt holder Gennady Golovkin wanted to fight in the U.S. on U.S. television. HBO expressed an interest after his team informed HBO that he would fight anyone the network wanted. HBO pitched a fight with Dmitry Pirog and Team Golovkin willingly accepted, but Pirog ruptured a disk in his back in training, forcing him out of the fight.

Golovkin vs. Pirog would take place in August, presumably in Nevada. With Pirog out, it was unclear if HBO would keep the card together. But HBO found a replacement for Pirog in European middleweight champion Grzegorz Proksa, pushed the date back to early September, and succeeded in placing it at Turning Stone which was able to accommodate the date.

The U.S. debut for Golovkin was of course a smashing success as he tore apart Proksa in five rounds. Not only did Golovkin announce his formal presence on the big stage this night, but so did Turning Stone. The Golovkin fight was the first HBO card at the Verona casino resort.

More Televised Boxing

It wouldn’t take long for HBO to return to Turning Stone. Later that year, on October 27th, the network televised a tripleheader. The event was headlined by fast rising prospect welterweight prospect Thomas Dulorme against rugged veteran Luis Carlos Abregu. In an exciting fight, Abregu upset Dulorme, stopping him in the seventh round of their scheduled 10-round contest.

ESPN2’s Friday Night Fight Series would return to Turning Stone with a pair of televised shows in January and March of 2013. Showtime would make its debut at Turning Stone in June of 2013 with a broadcast of their ever popular ShoBox series. ESPN2 was back in August and then in November NBC broadcast a card. 2013 was a big year for boxing at Turning Stone and things were just getting started.

In 2014, five nationally televised boxing cards were staged here and there were two more in the first two months of 2015. Though they were good fight cards, none were of the major event variety. But Turning Stone was making it clear to those in the sport that they were interested in big time fights. And as luck would have it, one was about to fall right into their lap.

Matthysse-Provodnikov

A fight between brawlers Lucas Matthysse and Ruslan Provodnikov was a dream matchup for boxing fans. With all parties on board to make it happen, the only item to settle upon was the venue. The promoters preferred to have the fight in the Los Angeles area with the StubHub Center being eyed as the venue. But there were issues getting StubHub booked for the dates that were available for the fight. Other venues were also sought but they also turned out to be unavailable. With the promoters scrambling, Turning Stone stepped up and brought the much anticipated showdown to Upstate New York.

The fight, staged on April 18th, 2015, was contested before a packed house and lived up to all expectations. It was a shootout from the opening bell with both giving and taking a lot of punishment. The bout would go the distance with Matthysse getting the nod by majority decision. To this point, Matthysse-Provodnikov undoubtedly ranks as the biggest fight in the 20 years of boxing at Turning Stone.

Wrap Up

Turning Stone has continued to stay very active in the boxing business. There have been nine more cards since Matthysse-Provodnikov, some of which were very significant events. This included a major heavyweight fight between Luis Ortiz and Bryant Jennings televised by HBO in which Ortiz scored a break out knockout victory. Another significant contest, also televised by HBO, was the March 11th, 2017, bout between David Lemieux and Curtis Stevens. Lemieux scored a devastating one-punch knockout that was an early contender for Knockout of the Year.

In the fall of 2017, Turning Stone announced a partnership with the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Among other things, the new partnership will aim to make Boxing Hall of Fame Weekend in June even bigger with Turning Stone now using their facility to host some events in conjunction with it. This will include a Friday boxing card.

Boxing events at Turning Stone have appeared on a multitude of networks ESPN, ABC, NBC, HBO and Showtime, and the resort is seemingly more committed to boxing today than it has ever been. We should continue to see major cards here for the foreseeable future.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

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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.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

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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.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

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