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RASKIN’S RANTS: Stormy Weather Gives Way To Stormy Mayweathers

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Everyone on the east coast has a story about where they were and what they felt when the earthquake hit last Tuesday. Everyone on the west coast just wants them to shut the hell up. Everyone on the east coast has a story about what Hurricane Irene did or didn’t do to disrupt their lives. Everyone who lives in the southeastern corner of the U.S. just wants them to shut the hell up.

Was Irene an inconvenience? Sure. My family was in the middle of a vacation at the Jersey shore (the steroid-free, Snooki-free section, thank you very much) and we had to evacuate, and then on Saturday, due to tornado warnings, we had to carry the kids to the basement in the middle of the night. That’s about it. All these natural disasters combined weren’t even enough to make Andre Berto cancel a fight. So, to my fellow east coasters: Pick up your toppled lawn chairs and get over yourselves.

After all, there’s boxing to talk about. We start this week’s column with a one-email mailbag, and as you’ll see, the email was sent prior to last weekend’s fights, in response to my TSS piece on the pressure Teddy Atlas was facing in the Alexander Povetkin-Ruslan Chagaev fight:

Eric,

In your opinion, do you think Teddy Atlas is a Hall of Famer as a trainer? To me, I don’t think so. He’s great at self-promotion, positioning himself as the noble teacher and fountain of fistic ethics and high standards. But I see him as doing more to tear down fighters he’s trained than build them up. I see his work with Povetkin as a disaster in the making: taking a young fighter who could have been a great masterpiece (a la Freddie and Manny), and tearing him down so much that he’s lost any concept of what his ring identity is or should be, and thus Povetkin losing a career direction when that’s the very thing Teddy was supposed to be providing.

I expect Povetkin to win, but look unclear of who he is as a fighter.

—Bakari??P.S. Loved the Chekhov’s gun analogy. I say the gun backfires.

Bakari,

Your prediction wasn’t far off: Povetkin won, and finished strongly, but didn’t look like an improved fighter under Teddy’s tutelage—at least not yet. But there’s still time. This was a good learning experience, and maybe he’ll get in one or two more of them before challenging a Klitschko. Povetkin is a perfectly competent heavyweight, and in this era of incompetency, that might just make him the third best heavyweight in the world. Still, if he wants to beat a Klitschko, he ought to stall as long as possible, for two reasons: (1) Povetkin will gain experience and perhaps improve as a fighter; (2) the only way he beats a Klitschko is if they start to age and slow down.

But back to Teddy Atlas: Dare I say his unique brand of motivation (which led my four-year-old daughter, who watched the last three rounds with me, to ask, “Why is he always yelling?”) helped Povetkin in this fight? It was looking bleak for the Russian in round six, when he couldn’t get out of the way of Chagaev’s left hand, but he showed resolve and found the energy he needed to win most of the late rounds. So, good on Teddy. His methods don’t work for every fighter. But Povetkin seems to really believe in everything Atlas has to say, he seems to want to maximize his potential and learn and train hard, and this might just prove to be a productive partnership. By Povetkin winning this fight with Chagaev, he and Atlas took a huge stride toward making their decision to pass on a fight with Wlad Klitschko look prudent.

As for Atlas’ Hall of Fame potential, his career isn’t over, and if Povetkin becomes world heavyweight champion eventually, that helps his case. Still, the only major accomplishment on Teddy’s training resume is Michael Moorer’s win over Evander Holyfield. Other than Moorer, he hasn’t taken anyone to the top. So, no, I don’t think Atlas is a Hall of Fame trainer at this point.

However, I do 100 percent expect him to make the Hall of Fame because of the exposure he’s gained as a broadcaster (he’s been in our homes, on basic cable, every week for 13 years and counting) and as an ambassador for the sport. Whether you love or hate Atlas’ commentating style, it’s definitely padded his “fame” resume. The question is, under what category would he be inducted? Broadcasters are “Observers.” Trainers are “Non-Participants.” Technically, “Non-Participant” should cover both (and it used to before “Observer” was created several years back). I suppose this creates a slight complication for Atlas’ Hall of Fame case. But one way or another, he will get in—regardless of where Povetkin’s career goes from here.

And now, some more Povetkin-Chagaev thoughts and the rest of the Rants:

• Is there really a chance that Povetkin will fight Evander Holyfield next? Just when you thought the heavyweight division couldn’t sink any lower …

• This coming weekend, 47-year-old Al Cole faces Danny Williams. Just when you thought the heavyweight division couldn’t sink any lower …

• I don’t mind that Epix tape-delayed the broadcast of Saturday’s heavyweight fights by about 15 minutes (presumably because the fighters entered the ring in Erfurt, Germany ahead of schedule and Epix couldn’t start their telecast early), but I do mind the word “LIVE” on the corner of my screen when the fight isn’t, you know, live.

• Things I like about Robert Helenius: He’s an excellent finisher, he’s a fluid puncher, he has a quality nickname (“The Nordic Nightmare”), and he looks like Karl Hungus. Things I don’t like about Helenius: He’s a slow starter, and I’ve seen better physiques on bowlers. I know that boxing isn’t bodybuilding and there have been a lot of great heavyweights over the years who lacked muscle tone. But I still like my fighters to look like they’ve trained. In any case, Helenius is a heavyweight to keep an eye on, and there aren’t many of those.

• While both heavyweight fights on the Epix show were a little better than I expected them to be, the best fight of the weekend was a strawweight bout on Fox Deportes late Saturday night between Moises Fuentes and Raul Garcia. A knockdown apiece, a mild upset, gutsy efforts from both guys—what more can you ask for? (Besides to find a few men twice their size who can duplicate that drama.)

• Actually, on second thought, the best fight of the weekend was the one between Floyd “Not No Junior” Mayweather and Floyd Mayweather Sr. on HBO’s 24/7. It escalated quickly from “this feels like a performance for HBO’s cameras” to “so thaaaaat’s the way it is in their family.” When Big Floyd started dropping MF-bombs, you knew it was no act. And then came the best line, Little Floyd telling him “You couldn’t fight worth s—!” It was fascinating to watch Little Floyd’s bodyguards trying not to get too involved. You could almost see them thinking, “Normally, I’d beat this old man to a pulp and leave him on the curb, then let Floyd deal with a lawsuit later … but I’m not sure what the protocol is when it’s my boss’ dad.”

• By the way, the MF-bombs were intense but, to the viewing audience, harmless. I’m not sure the same can be said about the barely audible homophobic slur that “Money” slipped in there.

• I’ve heard some people claim that Victor Ortiz’s backstory is a complete fabrication, but even if that’s the case, it’s great for generating interest. You can’t watch Ortiz and his brother talk about their childhood and not be drawn in.

• In case you couldn’t infer it: I thought that was the most promising opening episode of a 24/7 series in a long time. Maybe even going all the way back to the original De La Hoya-Mayweather edition.

• Congratulations to Brian Kenny on his new gig with MLB Network and on 13 tremendous years driving the ESPN Friday Night Fights bus. What I’m about to write is based purely on personal conjecture, not on any inside information whatsoever, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see BK providing blow-by-blow on HBO’s new prospect-based boxing series next year. It just seems an obvious match now that he’s left ESPN.

• I’m already bored by the Bob Arum-Dana White feud. But I am curious to see how the upcoming MMA film “Warrior” does at the box office. If it’s a bigger hit than “The Fighter,” that will tell me that MMA has gained a meaningful mainstream foothold.

• Lost amid the discussion of how baseless Zab Judah’s formal complaint over the refereeing in the Amir Khan fight was: Why in the hell would Judah want a rematch with Khan? Damn, Zab. Take a hint.

• As he revealed last week in hopes of easing some of his legal difficulties, Floyd Mayweather’s partying lifestyle is only an act. In related news, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. has revealed that his pursuit of a professional boxing career is only an act.

• There will be no new episode of Ring Theory (http://ringtheory.podbean.com) this week, as we take one of our occasional three-week breaks. We’ll return with a new episode either immediately after Labor Day, or the next time J-Woww’s face moves, whichever happens first.

Eric Raskin can be contacted at RaskinBoxing@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter @EricRaskin and listen to new episodes of his podcast, Ring Theory, at http://ringtheory.podbean.com.

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Fast Results From London: Joshua Takes Out Povetkin in the 7th

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UK sporting

It was a very wet night at Wembley Stadium, but the dampness didn’t diminish the enthusiasm of the crowd which welcomed UK sporting hero Anthony Joshua into the ring with a thunderous ovation. And Joshua didn’t disappoint. After six relatively even rounds, he found his range in the seventh and became the first man to stop Alexander Povetkin. A three punch combo that began with an overhand right sent Povetkin sprawling into the ropes. The Russian beat the count, but Joshua smelled blood and as soon as the ref allowed the proceedings to continue he moved in for the kill. The official time was 1:59.

Povetkin started fast and in the eyes of many observers won the first three rounds. A sharp right hand in the waning seconds of round one reddened Joshua’s nose which leaked blood in the next round. The tide began to turn in round four when Povetkin suffered a cut above his left eye.

Povetkin (now 34-2), was the lighter man by 23 pounds. Joshua had a four inch height advantage and a seven inch reach advantage. And it mattered greatly that AJ was the younger man by 10-plus years. Povetkin wasn’t intimidated by Joshua and had several good moments but, at age 39, his reflexes betrayed him once the fight had crossed the midpoint.

Joshua, who owns three of the four meaningful heavyweight title belts, improved to 22-0 with his 21st stoppage. His next fight is penciled in for April 13 of next year against an opponent to be determined. His promoter Eddie Hearn has reserved that date at Wembley Stadium.

Other Bouts

In a 12-round lightweight bout, Joshua’s Olympic Games teammate and fellow gold medalist Luke Campbell (19-2) avenged the first loss of his career with a unanimous decision (119-109, 118-111,116-112) over France’s Yvan Mendy (40-5-1). This was Campbell’s second start since coming up short in a bid for Jorge Linares’s lightweight title and his first fight under his new trainer Shane McGuigan.

In their first meeting in December of 2015 at London’s O2 Arena, Mendy won a split decision that should have been unanimous. Campbell insisted that he had improved greatly in the interim and tonight’s fight bore witness. However, he needs to develop a harder punch to rank among the top lightweights in the world, a list headed by Mikey Garcia. As this fight was framed as a WBC title eliminator, Campbell is next in line to meet Garcia, but Mikey has indicated that he will pursue bigger game.

Lawrence Okolie, a 2016 Olympian who trains with Anthony Joshua, won a Lonsdale belt in only his 10th pro start with a 12-round decision over defending BBBofC cruiserweight champion Matty Askin in a messy fight. The undefeated Okolie had a point deducted in round five for leading with his head and had two more points deducted for holding, but banked enough rounds to get the nod on all three cards: 116-110, 114-112, and 114-113. Askin, who declined to 23-4-1, had won five straight heading in.

A 10-round heavyweight match between Sergey Kuzmin (13-0, 1 NC) and David Price (22-6) ended suddenly when Price retired on his stool after four relatively even rounds. The six-foot-eight, china-chinned Price claimed to have aggravated a biceps tear.

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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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