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Avila's Best of Women and Men’s Boxing in 2011

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Mariana Juarez golf course (small)Mariana “Barbie” Juarez and Andre Ward are my pick for this year’s Fighters of the Year.

A number of prizefighters, especially in the female professional ranks, deserve consideration but canceled each other out when they clashed. Ana Maria Torres, Jackie Nava, Kaliesha West and Ava Knight were those who fought each other to a draw.

Among the male boxers Manny Pacquiao had a stranglehold until he met Juan Manuel Marquez. Though Pacman was deemed the winner many saw it otherwise.

Other categories below were relatively easy to decide.

Fighter of the year

Mexico’s Mariana “Barbie” Juarez (32-5-3, 15 KOs) spent six years in pursuit of a world title opportunity after getting robbed of the junior bantamweight title in North Korea back in 2005. Finally, last March, Juarez was granted a shot at Italy’s Simona Galassi for the WBC flyweight world title and was triumphant. Instead of sitting around she defended the title four times including last week’s victory in Mexico. Second was France’s Anne Sophie Mathis, who is the winner of another category below.

Oakland’s Andre “S.O.G.” Ward (25-0, 13 KOs) showed the rest of the world what most Californians already knew, he’s one of the best prizefighters in the world at any weight division. Not only did he defeat Carl Froch, he steamrolled Germany’s Arthur Abraham this year to prove that he stands alone among super middleweights and has a place alongside the elite fighters of the world. In second for this category was Nonito Donaire.

Best Fight of the Year

The first of two encounters between junior bantamweight world champion Ana Maria Torres of Mexico City and junior featherweight champion Jackie Nava of Tijuana proved to match the lofty expectations held by the boxing world. In a ferocious 10 round affair both Torres and Nava showed just how good female boxing has become. In a back and forth struggle Nava and Torres battled to a draw in their first match and it was the best female fight in 2012. In second place was Ava Knight and Kaliesha Wests’ second meeting last June in Southern California. It was West’s speed versus Knight’s strength and it ended in a draw.

Last April, in Atlantic City, Victor Ortiz and welterweight champion Andre Berto put on one of the most amazing, jaw-dropping fights seen in a while. Both were knocked down in a scintillating back and forth fistic drama that had the audience standing on their feet. Ortiz eventually won the fight by unanimous decision and took the welterweight title. A rematch has been signed for this coming February in Las Vegas. In second place was Mauricio Herrera’s brutal 12-round junior welterweight slugfest against Ruslan Provodnikov in Las Vegas last January.

KO of the Year

Ava Knight’s wicked left hook knockout of IBF flyweight titleholder Arely Mucino in round two of their title match was electrifying. Knowing she had to demolish Mucino to win the title in Mexico, Knight proceeded to walk down the champion and drop her several times though only two were counted.  The knockout left Mucino unconscious for more than a minute and gave San Francisco’s Knight the world title and the most impressive knockout win of the year, hands down. In second was Anne Sophie Mathis knockout of Holly Holm in New Mexico.

In the men’s side it was another Northern Californian, Nonito Donaire, who left Mexico’s Fernando Montiel momentarily paralyzed after a single left hook in their much anticipated bantamweight collision. Donaire proved his power and speed was too much for Montiel, who couldn’t have imagined such a shocking ending. In second was Adrien Broner’s knockout of Jason Litzau that took place in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Upset of the Year  

When France’s Anne Sophie Mathis accepted the fight with New Mexico’s Holly Holm in Albuquerque, boxing observers expected another easy night for the hometown girl. Boy, were they wrong. Mathis battered Holm and stopped her in seven rounds. Few expected such a traumatic ending. Holm had not lost a fight in more than seven years. One added note to the referee Rocky Burke, who should have stopped the bout earlier: you almost got Holm seriously injured. In second was Australia’s Diana Prazak winning by technical knockout over Lindsay Garbatt in round nine for the world title. Not an easy feat.

Mexico’s Orlando Salido traveled to Puerto Rico to meet then world champion Juan Manuel Lopez in his native country. He thoroughly beat the Puerto Rican strongman and grabbed his title with both hands by knockout. Most experts thought it would be an easy victory for Lopez, instead it was Salido who won easily and thoroughly. In second was Mexico’s Jorge “El Travieso” Arce stopping junior bantamweight champion Wilfredo Vazquez of Puerto Rico in the final round to win the title in Las Vegas.

Round of the Year

Round nine of the Jackie Nava and Ana Maria Torres first fight showed that both women were unwilling to accept defeat. After nine rounds of intense fighting few expected the pair could push it any further but Torres and Nava increased the salvos with punishing results. Even in their rematch several months later that Torres won could they match the fury of the ninth round of their first encounter.

Round six between Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto was one of those three minute action-packed frames that you couldn’t imagine. It was like watching a Rocky movie as first Ortiz was floored midway through the round and looked like he was going to be stopped. Suddenly he erupted with a punch that sent Berto to the floor with moments to go in the round. The crowd went crazy.

Comeback Fighter of the Year  

A year ago Christy “The Coalminer’s Daughter” was shot and stabbed by her former husband. She not only survived the assault she was back in the ring seven months later fighting for the junior middleweight world title against Dakota Stone. Martin was winning the fight but suffered a broken right hand midway through the match. The referee stopped the fight against Martin’s pleas but she won over the fans for her gritty determination. It was quite a year for the 43-year-old Martin.

Mexico’s Jorge Arce, 32, moved up in weight class to challenge Puerto Rico’s young junior bantamweight world champion Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. Few expected much of a fight and everyone was surprised when Arce knocked out Vazquez in the last round to win the junior bantamweight title. Then he moved up a weight division and won the bantamweight world title too. It was quite a year for Arce who many thought was rapidly declining.

Trainer of the Year

Virgil Hunter did one heck of a job preparing Andre Ward for the super middleweight tournament that finally ended after more than two years. The Northern California boxing trainer always seemed on point when giving instructions. His strategies were sound and Ward evolved from a pure boxer into an all around force especially fighting inside.

Best Referees

Pat Russell, Big John McCarthy, Steve Smoger, Tony Weeks, Jack Reiss, Lou Moret, Kenny Bayless, and Dennis DeBon proved to be the best referees of the year. Most of them are familiar to boxing fans who recognize them as the most consistent and fair officials today. A referee is the single most powerful ring official and all of these men above never abused the privilege.  

Best Ringside Judges

Max DeLuca, Jerry Roth, Pat Russell Jack Reiss, Adelaide Byrd, Patricia Jarman, Lisa Giampa, Marty Denkin, Julie Lederman, Steve Morrow, Fritz Werner, James Jen Kin, Guido Cavalleri, Steve Weisfeld, Anek Hongtongkam, and Duane Ford. When you have a mega fight it’s extremely important that one of the above is ringside judging the fight. These judges mentioned proved all year-long that they’re the best of the best. Ask Amir Khan how important referees and judges are.

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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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