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NEW CHAMP TRAINED TO WIN…Borges

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teddy

In the end, as always, the fighter won the fight but in the case of Alexander Povetkin it was the trainer who showed him how.

Not just how to box, which is obviously essential for a prize fighter, but how to be a professional. That’s what won Povetkin the portion of the WBA heavyweight title not owned by Wladimir Klitschko Saturday night in Erfurt, Germany. What won for him was that when he needed to most, he became a Professional.

The former Olympic gold medalist had ample reason not to act like one after he stepped into the ring with former world champion Ruslan Chagaev but Teddy Atlas wouldn’t let him. Until Atlas showed up in Russia three weeks and two days before the fight, Povetkin’s training camp was a shambles. It was also a joke but not a funny one.

He was supposed to have been in northern New Jersey training with Atlas for eight weeks but the people around him didn’t get that done for whatever reason and Atlas had broadcast responsibilities with ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights that made it impossible for him to come to Russia.

This was known by both sides for months but in the end somebody forgot. Or somebody chose to gamble with Povetkin’s future. Whatever they did, they left the fighter and his trainer with 23 days to prepare for a southpaw former champion who, if nothing else, knows who he is.

Povetkin could have used the absence of a full camp, the resultant conditioning issues, Atlas’ late arrival and more than a few other things to provide him with an excuse to lose. He made another choice, which is what life is. Its choices.

Several days before the fight Povetkin was quoted saying, “I could knock him out or he could knock me out.’’ It was not what Atlas wanted to hear – even though anyone who has ever been involved in a heavyweight title fight understood the reality of that statement.

He let Povetkin know it by reminding him as they boarded a plane from Russia to Germany of what he had told him when they first met. Atlas asked Povetkin if he remembered what he’d said was the most important thing he needed to develop if he was going to become a world champion.

“Be a professional,’’ Povetkin said.

“That’s right,’’ Atlas replied. “That’s what you’re going to be Saturday night.’’

The night before the fight Atlas had trouble sleeping, worried about the things trainers worry about but worried about more than that. He too, had ample excuses to give in to defeat. In fact, he had ample excuses not to have even shown up in the first place, having been told one thing by the people around Povetkin while living a far different reality.

For a time it got to him but in the end he did not what a professional does but what a human being does. He was there for his fighter even when the wise choice – the Professional’s choice – would have been to avoid the whole thing. Saturday night Povetkin was the beneficiary of that humanity in a sport where it is in short supply.

Doubt is a common resident of the prize ring. Doubt is there far more often than most fighters will ever admit. It is a natural part of the landscape, a year-round resident of gyms and arenas around the world.

There is an inherent danger in boxing not only of injury and unconsciousness but also of humiliation. To lose a sporting event is one thing. To lose a fight while standing half naked in front of thousands of people is something quite different.

For most fighters it is the potential for embarrassment they fear more than defeat or injury. After all that had gone on in Povetkin’s fractious training camp the door was open for him to give in however and just let that happen.

The morning of the fight Atlas sensed this so when he came down to meet Povetkin in the hotel he said, “You’re ready to be a professional today. Now let’s go become a champion.’’

Alexander Povetkin, who soon would be alone on a stage far bigger than he thought it would be when he was a boy in a small Russian village dreaming of being heavyweight champion, nodded in agreement. He believed he would be a professional because his trainer, who had taught him what that meant, told him he was one.

And unlike a lot of other people in his world, his trainer didn’t lie.

As Atlas sat up all night he came to a decision. He had a well thought out game plan of how to beat Chagaev, who was himself a Professional Atlas respected. But he decided sometime in the middle of the night he would make a slight shift.

“They don’t think Sasha is a boxer,’’ Atlas said to himself. “So tomorrow we box this guy.’’

It was not a total departure from the plan, just a minor alteration. So he told Povetkin instead of starting slowly, as he so often had in the past, he would put something on Chagaev early so that he would be wary of seeing that again later. Then he would box from the outside, slipping punches, pot-shoting Chagaev, “keeping behind him.’’

“I never told one of my fighters to do that before,’’ Atlas recalled later, after Povetkin’s hand had been raised following a unanimous decision that was not particularly close. “I wanted Chagaev to have to chase Sasha.’’

He did with little success. Yet around the sixth round Povetkin, perhaps the doubts about his conditioning whispering in his ear, began to flag a bit. He seemed to slow down and Chagaev sensed it. It was then that the two years spent with Atlas in gyms around New Jersey, often just the two of them working alone on small details, showed.

Even Povetkin’s German promoters, who have been highly critical of Atlas much of the time because he wouldn’t continence what he believed were unwise choices, conceded that during that sixth round they saw something from Povetkin they had never seen before.

He was slipping punches, making Chagaev miss, turning defense into offense and then getting back to a safe distance. He was a boxer but he had become more than that. He was a Professional now, a fighter refusing to give in to doubt or to take the open road of easy escape in excuses for defeat.

In any walk of life there is no higher praise for a man than to hear, “He’s a professional.’’ Saturday night Povetkin was just that. He was what Atlas has long been. Because of it what Atlas promised him that first day was delivered. The Professional became The Champion.

Standing behind him, a smile on his face for the first time in months, stood another professional, a trainer of prize fighters who trains not just the body but the mind.

Whether he’ll ever stand there again who knows? Atlas has been forced to deal with many unnecessarily difficult circumstances in the two years he has worked with Povetkin. They were not of the fighter’s making but they were the kind of difficulties and deceits that caused Atlas to walk away from training and into a broadcast booth, where he is one of boxing’s best and most controversial analysts because he does there what he did with Povetkin, years ago.

Atlas tells you the truth, even when you don’t want to hear it. Because he did he made Povetkin a Professional and The Professional made Atlas the trainer of his second heavyweight champion. Fair trade.

In the end, Alexander Povetkin had to block out the doubts, listen to Atlas’ instructions and execute the plan. No trainer wins without that. But the fighter didn’t win alone either.

Not by a long shot.

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Michael Dutchover Remains Undefeated in Ontario, Calif.

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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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