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WARD, FROCH READY TO TALK…Borges

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At times it looked like it would never happen and quite often it didn’t seem worth the effort, but it is nearly here now and Carl Froch and Andre Ward seemed elated this week that their moment has nearly arrived.

After over two years fraught with injuries, question marks, disappointments, cancellations and adjustments, SHOWTIME’s Super 6 super middleweight tournament is only two months away from crowning its 168-pound champion. Whether it turns out to be England’s Froch or the last U.S. Olympian to win a Olympic gold medal, Ward, is almost secondary (except to them). What is paramount is that Ken Hershman pulled it off.

It was SHOWTIME’s vice-president and general manager of sports who came up with the idea of putting together the top six 168-pounders in the world and matching them in a series of fights that would ultimately lead the final two into the ring with the most important thing in sports on the line – public recognition that the winner is truly the champion of the world.

With the absence of Lucien Bute from the tournament that will remain an issue to debate among 168 pounders perhaps but Froch-Ward will still be widely recognized as a fight that settles most of the issues in the division because few can argue that any super middleweight other than Bute and these two remain in the discussion.

The Danes can talk about Mikkel Kessler all they want but he had his chances in this tournament and was found wanting. Same is true of former middleweight champion Arthur Abraham. WBO champion Robert Stieglitz (40-2) might have something to say about the subject but he’s late to the dance so only after Froch-Ward decide who becomes the unified WBC-WBA champion and the winner faces Bute should he even be in the discussion (maybe by having to fight the loser of the Oct. 29 final?).

If soon after the winner is crowned it is announced he will face the undefeated Bute (29-0), who holds the IBF title as well as an equally valuable contract with SHOWTIME, all matters will have been decided in the ring and so they can all start over again from a higher profile and with a firmer grasp in the public’s mind of who is the man to be beat, which is frankly a good idea that has for too long eluded the men who run the sport.

“What Ken has done has thrown away all the questions and politics in boxing,’’ Eddie Hearn, Froch’s manager, said this week during a three-day promotional tour to London, New York and finally Ward’s hometown of Oakland, Calif.

“We have the best fighting the best to reveal the ultimate champion. This tournament has revolutionized the sport of boxing. It has taken out the politics of the sport that can hinder big fights and has left the best men in the division to square off.’’

That was the point all along and on that level it will have succeeded if the Super 6 final on Oct. 29 goes off without a hitch in Atlantic City. The winner will have fought his way through a gauntlet of difficult fights and Hershman will have survived an equally daunting series of problems.

“This has been an incredible endeavor and an exasperating one for all of us working behind the scenes,’’ Hershman admits. “But it has delivered thrilling fights and that is what we set out to do. As the tournament progressed we could see Andre Ward and Carl Froch were on a collision course. For this reason alone we’re in for a great fight.’’

That will be decided by the fighters and, to a lesser extent, the referee and judges, but there is no reason to expect anything but a highly competitive fight between two guys with just enough stylistic differences to provide fireworks and interesting tactical issues that should intrigue fans of the sport.

“We have a lot of respect for Andre Ward but I have some bad news for you,’’ Hearn told a pro-Ward group of supporters. “Carl Froch is not human. He’s a machine. Andre Ward says he’s been in the trenches but he’s never been in trenches with England’s finest.

“This is a huge fight for Britain. Carl is now Britain’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter. He had nothing given him. He travels and fights away from home on the regular (basis). To defend his (WBC) title, capture the WBA, RING magazine belts and the Super 6 Cup would mean everything to a guy who has had to do everything on his own.’’

Probably so but it’s not exactly like Ward was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. In fact, he barely had a spoon for a time. Even once he began to show promise in the prize ring he was an afterthought, first at the Olympic Games and then when lightly regarded by many as the Super 6 tournament began. At that time the thought was he had simply been included to get a few recognizable American names in the mix to create early interest, yet as the tournament went along Ward emerged as a star in the making and someone who can help revitalize the sport in the U.S. if he continues to win and continues to look at the world the way he does now.

“When I started in this tournament everyone had questions about me,’’ Ward said. “Everyone has doubts. Now there are some people that say I’m the favorite but I don’t feel that way. I still have a chip on my shoulder.

“I don’t know if this tournament and the final would be what it is if it didn’t have the bumps in the road. Difficulties make you appreciate things. There were several times I thought it was over but then I’d get a call saying we’re back on. Don’t get frustrated by the journey; enjoy the ride.

“We (both) know why we’re here. I expected from the beginning to make it to the final and slowly but surely we made believers out of a lot of people that doubted me. But I would not call either of us “great,’’ Carl nor I. That term is thrown around too loosely today.

“You have to earn that and that’s what I want to do, to earn that name “great.’’ This is the kind of fight you have to fight and you have to win in order to be considered “great.’’’

The whole way Ward looks at things is refreshing. He’s not beating his chest, hollering about his greatness. He fight and lets’ you decide.

Equally refreshing is how he and Froch got to this point. They fought their way here. No politics, no purposeful avoidance of a deserving challenger. They faced down strong opposition, accepted who was put in front of them even when rugged Glen Johnson became an unexpected late addition. They didn’t complain nor try to explain.

They fought.

Refreshing idea that hopefully will reward both the fighters and SHOWTIME, which battled as hard to keep the tournament alive after Jermain Taylor and Kessler pulled out as it did to create it in the first place. Now it’s down to the final fight and two guys who got to this point the old fashioned way.

“This has been a fantastic tournament by SHOWTIME Sport,’’ the two-time world champion Froch said. “Some have said it has taken too long or that it’s been drawn out but these fights that were made possible in the Super 6…,with the six best guys out there, would not have happened had we not had the tournament.

“The Final is what a top sport is all about. We have the two best fighters facing off for it all. This is the essence of sport.’’

Indeed it is so when the fight finally happens maybe someone should hand Ken Hershman a trophy, too.

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Michael Dutchover Remains Undefeated in Ontario, Calif.

Transplanted Texan Michael Dutchover needed a little time to figure out Costa Rican Bergman Aguilar but when he did it was over quickly on Friday.

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Michael Dutchover

ONTARIO-Calif.-Transplanted Texan Michael Dutchover needed a little time to figure out Costa Rican Bergman Aguilar but when he did it was over quickly on Friday.

Lightweight prospect Dutchover (11-0, 8 KOs) knocked out southpaw Aguilera (14-4-1, 4 KOs) in the fifth round with a barrage of body blows that left the Costa Rican limp at the Doubletree Hotel.

For two rounds Aguilar used an awkward counter-punching style that had Dutchover a little tentative. But once he figured out that combination punching was the key, he opened up with barrages and floored Aguilar with body shots at the end of round four.

That signaled doom for Aguilar.

The fifth round saw Dutchover target the body with impunity as Aguilar tried holding, running and covering up with no success. Referee Wayne Hedgepeth signaled the fight over at 2:31 of the fifth round giving Dutchover the win by knockout.

In a bantamweight clash Santa Ana’s Mario Hernandez (7-0-1, 3 KOs) and Mexico City’s Ivan Gonzalez (4-1-2, 1 KO) fought to a majority draw after six back and forth rounds.

Hernandez targeted the body against the taller Gonzalez who relied on long range counters. Both found success but neither could prove superiority after six turbulent rounds.

After six rounds one judge saw it 58-56 for Gonzalez but the two other judges saw it 57-57 for a majority draw.

Other bouts

South Central L.A.’s Ruben Torres (7-0, 6 KOs) extended his undefeated streak with a knockout over Mexico’s Eder “El Koreano” Amaro (6-6, 2 KOs) in a lightweight fight. But it wasn’t easy.

Amaro switched from southpaw to orthodox and was matching Torres for two rounds until the taller local fighter began blasting away to the body and head with precision. Many in the crowd cheered “Koreano” in unison but it couldn’t help once Torres zeroed in.

At the end of the fourth round Amaro could not continue and the fight was stopped giving a knockout for Torres.

Richard Brewart Jr. (2-0) mowed through Edward Aceves (0-5) flooring him with body shots in the first round then overwhelming him in the second. After seven unanswered blows referee Eddie Hernandez stopped the fight at 1:32 of round two giving Rancho Cucamonga’s Brewart the win by knockout in the super welterweight bout.

Southpaw David Ortiz (1-0) won his pro debut by unanimous decision after four rounds in a welterweight match against San Diego’s Mario Angeles (2-11-2). Ortiz lives in Bloomington, Calif. and is trained by Henry Ramirez. No knockdowns were scored.

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

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Manuel Charr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Arum says Terence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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