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THE WOODSIES: The Year in Boxing 2011

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WardFroch Bailey10There was no lockdown choice for Fighter of the Year. But Andre Ward deserves more credit than he gets, so we’re happy that a solid role model and superior pugilist is getting the acclaim he has earned. (Hogan)

It wasn’t the best of years for boxing, it wasn’t the worst of years for the sport.

Try as I might to look on the bright side, which is the best way to look, because you can get caught up looking at the copious darkness which abounds in the sport and world at large, I find myself coming to the conclusion that the year in pugilism 2011 will quite likely be remembered as another year that the most logical, the most yearned-for, the most no-brainer of all no-brainer fights didn’t get made. 2011 was another year in which boxing fans didn’t get what they most wanted: a Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao clash.

Now, some good stuff happened, don’t get me wrong. Please don’t tell Andre Ward, my choice for Fighter of the Year, that this year was all about what didn’t happen. The 27 year-old Oakland resident got Ws over Arthur Abraham and Carl Froch while snagging top honors in the Super Six tournament, and elevated himself to a place where he can lay legitimate claim that he could well be No. 2 on the pound for pound list, behind Floyd Mayweather.

Manny Pacquiao, Sergio Martinez, Nonito Donaire and Juan Manuel Marquez would likely not agree to place SOG at No. 2, but Ward’s stellar pugilistic arsenal is world-class stuff. And it would be in any era; he is a thinking-man’s hitter, someone who can neutralize the best and brightest in the game, make them look ordinary as anything, and while a lack of power and lack of edge and darkside will perhaps keep him from becoming a PPV driver, Ward deserves plaudits galore for being an ace at his craft.

But back to what didn’t happen. I try mightily to keep focus as much as possible on what makes the game great. I firmly believe that the sport gives young men who would otherwise be headed to jail or an early demise a reason to exist. Boxing is a net positive to the world, overall, because countless men who might otherwise leave a wake of carnage and sadness in the outside world instead become people who inspire hope and pride in themselves, their family, their community, their nation. But the sport does so much to muddy that message.

It is unfathomable why the fight that cries out to be made, which would be the sport’s Super Bowl, which would gross each boxer something in the neighborhood of $50 million or so, and draw 3 million pay-per-view buys, and get the sport more mainstream ink than any bout since lord knows when, doesn’t get made. I won’t re-litigate the matter extensively, because we’ve all wasted too many inches and too much breath on this non-happening. We’ve speculated as to who deserves the most blame, Mayweather for allegedly ducking the fight, or Pacquiao for allegedly being afraid of stringent blood-testing, or Arum for allegedly being afraid to injure his cash cow. I say they all share culpability, and if 2012 passes and we again don’t get this match made, then I say we Occupy all of ‘em. In any other sport, sanity would prevail, differences would be ironed out, and the public would get what they want, and by the way, would pay a pretty penny for the privilege. Floyd, Manny, Bob, Al, HBO, please..book a suite at Camp David, and refuse to leave until you guys get ‘er done, until Mayweather-Pacquiao is made, because if much more time passes, the public might just lose their interest.

Now, let’s take a look back at what else transpired in the year, shall we?

JANUARY

We started off the year with a tabloid-y story. Kelly Pavlik was due to leave rehab for a booze problem. He came home, and we heard that he wanted to be mindful of his decisions and inclinations. We crossed our fingers he’d stay on course. Sadly, the year ended on a less hopeful note for the Youngstowner, as he was picked up for DUI on an ATV two weeks ago. We all hope he gets a handle on himself and even if he never fights again, finds a measure of peace and the strength of will to keep the cork in the bottle.

Mid month, we all soaked in the vibes of harmony, as we saw the two promoters of the era, Don King and Bob Arum, work together seamlessly to set the Miguel Cotto-Ricardo Mayorga bout (March 12). These two battled each other like Hagler-Hearns back in the day so it was something to see, the two old warhorses grooving together in NYC.

http://tss.ib.tv/news/articles/12126-now-best-buds-king-and-arum-it-wasnt-always-so

The fans were let down by the battle of junior welterweight young guns, as the Devon Alexander-Tim Bradley bout never really achieved liftoff. They tangled in Michigan on Jan. 29 and the ending was a particular downer, as Alexander indicated he was too pained to continue in the tenth, giving Bradley a TD10 victory. We all hoped that this wouldn’t be a harbinger for the year.

http://tss.ib.tv/news/articles/11952-bradley-wins-technical-decision-from-alexander-super-fight-was-so-so

FEBRUARY

Nonito Donaire moved himself into another echelon with his head-denting KO of Fernando Montiel on Feb. 19. The TKO2 win for the bantamweight-super bantam ace opened tons of eyes, as fight fans realized this is a bomber with a compelling personality who could well help carry the sport in the coming years.

You all heard that the rumor is Floyd Mayweather bet a cool million on the Pats to beat the Broncos two weeks ago? I guess “Money” didn’t heed my Feb. 25 call for him to ditch the gambling, that easy method of excitation of his pleasure centers, and concentrate on his ring work. http://tss.ib.tv/news/articles/12091-dear-floyd-ditch-the-gambling-nightlife-and-do-what-you-say-you-do-the-bestbox

Another young ‘un, Brandon Rios, showed himself to be a future star when he stopped Miguel Acosta in the tenth round on Feb. 26. This feat was made that much more impressive when we learned that he broke his right hand in round eight. Yes, it was nice as it always is to marvel at the toughness shown by the athletes we so admire in the sport which often tortures us with the ancillary idiocy offered up by the promoters and sanctioning bodies and such…

MARCH

Fight fans had high hopes when in early March we learned that another flirtation reached fruition, when Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye signed on to fight. They jawed like champs, but when it came time to brawl, both underperformed. The bright side? We didn’t have to pony up PPV dollars on July 2 to see it.

Zab Judah reinvigorated his career with a TKO7 win over Kaizer Mbuza on March 5. His crippling counter had everyone thinking he would finally put it all together. He had found God, and the serenity that would make him a total package in the ring, many thought. Later in the year, expectations were reset once again, as he reverted to form against Amir Khan.

The top dogs didn’t want to test themselves against Sergio Martinez in 2011, so the Argentine had to make do with second tier opposition. Sergei Dzinziruk gave a solid account of himself on March 12 against “Maravilla,” scoring a TKO8. We all hoped that Sergio, who became the most ducked man in the game in 2011, would score a megafight later in the year. Alas, he’s still waiting…

Miguel Cotto stayed relevant, with a TKO12 win on March 12 over Ricardo Mayorga, whose fake Twitter account gave us some most-hearty belly laughs of the year. We repeat our call for Mayorga to hire his impersonator to Tweet for him legit…

http://tss.ib.tv/news/articles/12185-cotto-gets-stoppage-in-round-12

We all got a reminder how much the heavyweight division stinks, when slovenly Odlanier Solis crumpled to the canvas in the first round of his fight with Vitali Klitschko on March 19. His knee gave out, a condition probably not helped by the fact that he carries an excess of fifty pounds or so on his frame when not fighting. Semi understandable for a keyboard tapper, not so much for a “world class” athlete…

The promoters gave us a week of mid-month entertainment, when Golden Boy stole Nonito Donaire from Top Rank. An arbitrator ruled that Donaire was still under contract to Arum at the end of the month, so Oscar De La Hoya looked for other ways to damage rival Arum. They sniped at each other in print, with Oscar taking to Twitter to zing the Bobfather.

The fight game lost several notables this year. Gil Clancy died on March 31, and we all lamented the exit of the Hall of Fame trainer and analyst. http://www.tss.ib.tv/news/articles/12311-qit-was-always-great-with-gil-q-homage-to-clancyborges

APRIL

We keyboard tappers like to do the tsk-tsk thing, and opine that the old warhorses should fade away, exit the game when we deem it appropriate. Much of the time, it can be argued we are right. But 34 year-old Erik Morales, seven years past his prime,  proved to the tsk-tskers he had something left when he gave Marcos Maidana all he could handle on April 9. The Mexi-legend lost (MD10) but won another pile of respect for his toughness. We tappers like to be wrong, sometimes.

Some of us wondered if maybe we’d overrated Amir Khan. The Brit  looked only OK against Paul McCloskey in England on April 16. He revived against Zab Judah in July, and then closed out the year with a decision loss to Lamont Peterson. Most expected Khan to elevate in 2011 to the tippy top, but it turns out the year ends with him being in a crossroads place. Is he a future star, has he plateaued? We shall see…

The Andre Berto-Victor Ortiz fight on April 16 in Connecticut made everyone’s top 5 fights of the year list. Both men tasted the canvas, and thrilled the crowd with their exchanges and stubbornness. Ortiz got the decision and ample satisfaction, as he made clear later in the year when he lashed out at the press for questioning his heart. No one questioned it on this night…Though questions did arise if Ortiz was all natch on fight night, after Berto Tweeted insinuations that Victor was on something stronger than vitamins in training. He quickly backed off the unfounded accusation.

http://tss.ib.tv/news/articles/12419-ortiz-beats-berto-in-fight-of-the-year-back-and-forth-barnburner

Dan Rafael had Floyd Mayweather at No. 3, pound for pound, at the end of April, behind Manny Pacquiao and Sergio Martinez.

By the end of the year, Floyd would own the top slot and debate occurred on who should be next on the totem pole.

MAY

Shane Mosley tarnished his legacy with a cash-grab type performance against Manny Pacquiao on May 7 in Vegas. Fans at the MGM Grand booed multiple times during the bout, which saw Mosley seek to survive, not thrive, for most of the 12 rounds. Some wondered if Pacquiao had lost something, as he wasn’t able to cut off the ring as many thought he should have been able to against the aged underdog.

http://tss.ib.tv/news/articles/12536-pacquiao-not-in-vintage-form-get-ud-over-defensive-mosley

http://tss.ib.tv/news/articles/12547-shame-shane-mosleys-legacy-is-stained-by-his-poor-effort-against-pacquiaowoods

Andre Ward scored a UD12 over Arthur Abraham on May 14 in Cali. The Nuetralizer made Abraham look ordinary, though it must be said that Abraham’s best days had passed.

46 never looked so sharp as on the night of May 21 in Quebec, when Bernard Hopkins showed off his vast storehouse of fistic knowledge. He schooled Jean Pascal and won the light heavyweight title via UD12, becoming the oldest man to win a crown.  Here is how I sized the match up before it went down: http://theboxingchannel.com/thesweetsciencecom-editor-michael-woods-breaks-down-the-bernard-hopkins-jean-pascal-rematch

We also learned that the Golden Boy had some of the same problems as the rest of us, if we didn’t already know that, when it was announced that Oscar De La Hoya had entered rehab to battle substance abuse. TMZ was all over the story, and they clung close to Oscar, who has had to fend off women of dubious morality looking for payoffs.

Hope sprang alive when on May 31 we learned that Manny Pacquiao was to receive an apology from Oscar De La Hoya and Richard Schaefer for defaming him, and would thus drop his suit against the Golden duo. Alas, it didn’t mean the impasse would be bridged, and Mayweather-Pacquiao would get made.

JUNE

Tears were shed when ex super feather champ Genaro Hernandez died on June 7. He’d fought cancer as hard as he fought ring foes but didn’t get the W in this scrap.

The man didn’t think he’d live long enough to enjoy the honor, but Mike Tyson, sober, vegan, humbled, entered the International Boxing Hall of Fame on June 12.  The former enfant terrible made a sweet speech which showed how far he’d come from being an ear chomping, woman-violating brute.

The esteemed Nick Charles, of CNN and then Showtime, died on June 25. Cancer took him, but not the memories of his graceful presence in our lives.

The Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz hype wagon pulled into NYC on June 28, and us suckers got our hopes up again as Floyd said he’d like to fight Manny Pacquiao next. The hype job made many think that Ortiz had a slim chance, maybe, but we all know how that turned out…

JULY

It was the Most Fraudulent Performance of the Year. On July 2, David Haye fought with the passion and courage of a butterfly, and dropped a UD to Wladimir Klitschko in Hamburg. Haye lobbied for the bout for a couple years, indicated that he’d go guns a blazing at Klitschko, and then did just the opposite. Most of us hoped that this was the last we saw of the Brit, and hoped that big brother Vitali wouldn’t reward him with another gig.

http://tss.ib.tv/news/articles/12881-klitschko-wins-ud-ultra-cautious-haye-haye-talked-big-but-barely-threw

So soon after Charles’ death, the fightgame lost another esteemed media figure. TSS’s own George Kimball, the literary lion of the keyboard tapper set, died on July 6. He was taken more than five years after being diagnosed with esophageal cancer, and given only six or so months to live. Kimball churned out book after book in his late stages, showing all of us the right way to deal with the KO artist cancer. They simply do not make ‘em like George anymore, and they will not ever again.

http://deadspin.com/george-kimball/

Paul Williams may well have jumped the shark on July 9, when Erislandy Lara got the better of LTP in AC. But the judges didn’t think so; they gave Williams the decision in what most thought was one of the very worst decisions of the year. Hard to say it was the worst, as judges did as they do every year—they butchered about one big fight a month. The AC commish did the right thing by busting the judges responsible, and demanding they do remedial training.

http://tss.ib.tv/news/articles/12921-paul-williams-gets-decision-over-erislandy-lara-in-ac

They earned every darned dime of their purses, did Delvin Rodriguez and Pawel Wolak on Friday Night Fights. I had Delvin ahead in the NYC clash, but many though Pawel won in a bigtime Fight of the Year candidate, and the judges called it a draw. Here was another example that the best tussles usually don’t feature the mega names, and often feature guys with losses on their ledger.

Mid month, we learned that Ross the Boss wouldn’t be much longer. Ross Greenburg was encouraged to exit at HBO, and Showtime head Ken Hershman was named his successor. Most applauded the move, with the thinking being that Ross had gotten stale, and the fight fare offered by the cabler had fallen dramatically in recent years. Too many walkover matches, too many SMH purses given to puzzling persons. Fight fans hoped a new era would bring pick ‘em fights galore.

http://sports.yahoo.com/box/news?slug=ki-ross_greenburg_resignation_hbo_071711

AUGUST

Kelly Pavlik’s tumultuous year got that much whackier, when the fighter  pulled out of his scheduled fight with Darryl Cunningham on Aug. 2,  four days before they were set to tussle on a Showtime date. Pavlik said he was irked that he wasn’t get paid enough, and jealous that Mikkel Kessler was allegedly offered a boatload to meet Lucian Bute. This  wasn’t bottom for the Ohioan, sadly enough…

Ref Russell Mora turned in the Most Inept Performance of the Year by an official, quite an honor considering how many crap performances are turned in every year. He missed about a hundred low blows thrown by Abner Mares at Joseph Agbeko’s groin on Aug. 13. Mora had his face right near Agbeko’s groin when Mares smashed it with a left hook in round 11, but he inexplicably called the blow a fair launch and called for a knockdown. People screamed fix, and called for Mora’s head. He later apologized, admitting he had an off night. That is an understatement. He should work nothing but four rounder’s for all of 2012, at the leats, before he’s considered for a larger gig.

http://tss.ib.tv/news/articles/13107-russell-mora-beats-joseph-agbekostay-tuned-for-avila-from-ringside

SEPTEMBER

Was it a cheap shot? Is all fair in love and war and boxing? Floyd Mayweather cracked Victor Ortiz off a break, dropping and stopping the Californian, and introduced the “two piece with a biscuit” into the lexicon, on Sept. 17. Ortiz stirred things up with a blatant headbutt attempt on Floyd, and then when order was restored, took his eyes off the eager-for-revenge Mayweather. He paid for it with scrambled marbles.  Perhaps the most lasting memory of the evening came post-fight, when Mayweather took offense at Larry Merchant’s questioning, told him he was a hack, and heard Merchant say, “I wish I was fifty years younger, and I’d kick your ass.” T-shirts were printed up in the next half hour and Larry’s wife wore one. Some thought Merchant was unprofessional, I personally loved the pugnacious display. If only so many of the pugilists displayed Merchant-type fire during their bouts…

http://tss.ib.tv/news/articles/13280-floyd-drops-and-stops-ortiz-in-fourthwas-it-a-cheap-shot-woods

Class ended for “The Professor,” George Benton, an ace fighter and trainer who taught tricks of the trade to much of the Main Events stable. He was 78, and a master craftsman who left us with the adage, “Win this fight. Look good in the next one.”

OCTOBER

Boxing saw it’s second bizarre finish to a big fight in a month when Chad Dawson dumped Bernard Hopkins on his back after Hopkins grabbed him in the second round of their Oct. 15 match in California. Ref Pat Russell—it was a year of controversy for Cali refs named “Russell”—called Dawson the winner via TKO, declaring that Hopkins quit. Hopkins did tell Russell that he had just one good limb, saying his left shoulder was hurt, and then cried foul when the match was halted and Dawson’s hand was raised. The powers that be then declared the event a No Contest, which most of us thought was the right call on fight night. Many pundits and fans gave Hopkins a thumbs down for his part in the affair and to this day, Dawson’s trainer John Scully publicly calls Hopkins a faker, saying he thinks his shoulder wasn’t all that injured.

http://tss.ib.tv/news/articles-frontpage/13435-hopkins-shoulder-hurt-after-dawson-throws-him-down-fight-ends-in-2nd

http://tss.ib.tv/news/articles/13448-dawson-trainer-scully-on-hopkins-qa-real-gangster-wouldve-gotten-upq

It was one and done for Dewey Bozella, a man who didn’t let his wrongful conviction for murder eat him alive. Instead, he fought for his freedom, and to celebrate his release, he secured a fight on the Hopkins-Dawson undercard. On Oct. 15, the 52 year-old Bozella beat Larry Hopkins (UD4), age 31, and gained some serious consideration to gain Fighter of the Year honors. I would not have a problem bestowing Dewey that designation, not at all.

Akira Yaegashi of Japan and Thailan’s Pornsawan Porpramook did not stop throwing on Oct. 24, as they battled for Porn’s WBA minimum-weight title and for that they must win my vote for Fight of the Year. Eric Raskin was first to this bandwagon, to my knowledge, and Dan Rafael also tipped his cap to these guys, so I’m happy to shine some more light on the 105 pounders as well. Side-note: you have to love YouTube, for without this service, two minimum-weight boxers would never be contenders for the BWAA versionof FOY.

NOVEMBER

The steroids issue popped up in the fight game, when we learned at the beginning of the month that Juan Manuel Marquez’ strength and conditioning coach Angel Heredia used to be a PED dealer and ratted out athletes who used. Whatever Heredia did with JMM, it worked, as Marquez gave Manny Pacquiao all that he could handle and then some on Nov.  12, in their third tangle; but Marquez didn’t get love from the judges, as the Vegas arbiters scored for Manny, 115-113, 116-112, and one had it even, 114-114.

http://tss.ib.tv/news/articles-frontpage/13612-pacquiao-wins-majority-decision-in-ultra-tight-scrapwoods

A true Fight of the Year contender unfolded on Nov. 5, when James Kirkland bounced back from a quickie knockdown in the first, dropped Alfredo Angulo in the same frame, and finished him in the sixth. He fought like a man possessed, or perhaps a man no longer possessed, by the man. Kirkland did time on a weapons charge, scrubbed off some rust, and goes in to 2012 as one to watch.

Fight fans shed another tear, when they learned that Smokin’ Joe Frazier was gone. The ex heavyweight champion perished from liver cancer, at age 67, on Nov. 7. One presumes he will be in the mind of Muhammad Ali when The Greatest celebrates his 70th birthday on Jan. 17th.

Stephen Espinoza was named new head of boxing at Showtime on Nov. 17. The lawyer comes over from Golden Boy, so all eyes will be on him to see if his old bosses get preferential treatment. His first act was to open up the purse strings to snag Berto-Ortiz II. So far, so good…(Yes, Ortiz is a Golden Boy fighter, but as long as Espinoza buys pick ‘em fights of great quality, he will be fine.)

NY fight fans rejoiced when they learned that the Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito rematch would take place at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 3. They held their breath as mega-drama played out in the second half of the month, because the New York State Athletic Commission acted in a quite deliberate manner while processing Margarito’s application to receive a license to box. The Mexican had three surgeries, for a fractured orbital bone, a detached retina and then a cataract, in a span of six months, but with 12 days till fightnight, the NYSAC licensed the hitter.

DECEMBER

Yep, he cheated. The verdict came in, in the minds of many fight fans, when they saw Miguel Cotto have his way with Antonio Margarito on Dec. 3 at MSG. A packed house saw the Puerto Rican box and move like an ace, and force the doctor to pull the plug on Margarito after nine rounds were completed. His damaged right eye was closed, and his reputation was in complete tatters, as most all assumed that the first time they tangled, in 2008, “Margacheato” was using loaded hand wraps. Cotto goes into 2012 as a viable foe, again, for Manny Pacquiao if the ball is again dropped, and Pacquiao-Mayweather doesn’t get made.

It was one of the top handful of upsets of the year, just maybe not in the eyes of the winner, Lamont Peterson. The DC-based boxer was neck and neck with Amir Khan, and had his hand raised at the end of their Dec. 10 junior welter title scrap. Point deductions from Khan for pushing were the difference, as the judges saw it 113-112, 113-112, 110-115 for Peterson, whose stock rises immensely, as he rose to the occasion in a big way. Khan’s stock drops, and we are all left wondering if we over-estimated his worth. As an aside, Peterson is another one of those kids who could easily have tumbled down a crack if boxing hadn’t given him a platform to shine.

Ward made Carl Froch look like a solid journeyman, nothing more, on Dec. 17, and hoisted the Super Six tourney trophy at the end of the night in AC. In a perfect world, a just world, this God-fearing upstanding citizen would enjoy the same buzz as Floyd Mayweather. This world is what it is, far from perfect, so Ward will for now have to be somewhat content with being most appreciated by purists.

Dec. 21 brought the word that Floyd would be doing some jail time, no more than 90 days, for his Sept. 10 altercation with the mother of his kids, and to us, hope that this “clarity” in his legal matters would pave the way to make Manny-Mayweather. But if Floyd goes behind bars Jan. 6, and gets out in March or April, he wouldn’t likely be in line to meet Manny until September. Which means we have another nine or so months to bloviate on the Matchup That Might Never Be…And Floyd would be 35 ½ and Pacman almost 34….Sigh. I’m trying to finish up this piece leaning in a positive direction, and this line of thinking is making it hard.

On Dec. 30, Jermain Taylor came back to the ring after two plus years away, and got the W over journeyman Jessie Nicklow. He said he was fired up, had the motivation, and wanted to reclaim a title. He said all the things you expect the comebacking fighter to say. It’s fair to say we all breathed a sigh of relief that he left the ring A-OK after his TKO8 win, which is saying something, since he suffered bleeding on the brain following his KO12 loss to Arthur Abraham. Docs said he’s good to go, and we pray they are correct as he moves toward bigger fights against harder-punching opponents.

With no bouts scheduled for Dec. 31, unless Mayweather lights a stack of thousand dollar bills on fire in a club, or Pavlik or someone else acts up, that’s a wrap on the year in boxing, 2011.

Thanks to all who gave their all in the ring for our entertainment, and to all you faithful readers of TSS. Happy New Year!

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Three Punch Combo: Jacobs-Derevyanchenko on HBO, Baranchyk-Yigit and More

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This Saturday, Daniel Jacobs (34-2, 29 KO’s) takes on Sergiy Derevyanchenko (12-0, 10 KO’s) for the vacant IBF middleweight title. The fight, which headlines an HBO World Championship Boxing tripleheader, is highly anticipated in boxing circles as on paper it is an evenly matched contest with a wide range of potential outcomes. The fight also bears an eerie resemblance to another middleweight title fight from more than twenty years ago.

On March 16th, 1996, then IBF middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins (28-2-1, 21 KO’s) faced off against the IBF’s number one ranked contender in Joe Lipsey (25-0, 20 KO’s). Opinions were split as to who would come out as the victor. It was televised live in the United States on ABC in the afternoon and served as a precursor for that evening’s big pay-per-view event between Mike Tyson and Frank Bruno.

Hopkins, 31 at the time, had fought much better opposition and those who favored him thought his experience along with his better athleticism would lead him to victory. Lipsey, who was 29, had a burgeoning reputation in the fight game and was known for his relentless pressure style. In addition, he had displayed devastating one punch knockout power in both hands that had many thinking he had a bright future in the sport.

It was the experience and ring savviness of Hopkins versus the untapped raw potential of Lipsey.

As it played out, Hopkins’ skill proved too much for Lipsey. After effectively out-boxing and neutralizing the aggression of Lipsey for three rounds, Hopkins landed a perfectly placed counter right uppercut using Lipsey’s forward momentum against him that instantly ended matters. It was a statement making performance for Hopkins.

Jacobs, 31, is in a similar spot to that of Hopkins when he faced Lipsey. With two losses on his ledger, Jacobs is in need of a statement making victory. One of those losses was to Gennady Golovkin and, of course, Hopkins entered the Lipsey contest with one of his losses to all-time great Roy Jones Jr.

Jacobs holds a significant experience edge in the pro game compared to that of Derevyanchenko. Jacobs is also the more athletic fighter. Similar to that of Hopkins against Lipsey, Jacobs will look to play the role of the boxer-puncher and use his experience along with athleticism to dictate the tempo of the fight.

Derevyanchenko, 32, comes in highly touted. Similar to Joe Lipsey in 1996, he enters with an undefeated record along with a glossy knockout percentage and many in the sport see a fighter with raw untapped potential.

The similarities between Jacobs-Derevyanchenko and Hopkins-Lipsey are striking. Will history repeat itself or will Derevyanchenko be able to rise to the occasion?

Baranchyk-Yigit

The World Boxing Super Series 140-pound tournament resumes this week with a pair of fights in New Orleans. While the fans will be mostly showing up to watch the main event between hometown rising star Regis Prograis (22-0, 19 KO’s) and Terry Flanagan (33-1, 13 KO’s), it is the other WBSS fight, pitting Ivan Baranchyk against Anthony Yigit for the vacant IBF title that piques my interest.

Baranchyk (18-0, 11 KOs) is well known to US fight fans from his multiple appearances on the ShoBox series on Showtime on which he has scored some highlight reel knockouts. He is an aggressive pressure fighter with heavy handed power. He has been showing signs of improved boxing skills of late and is coming off a career best performance in knocking out former world title challenger Petr Petrov.

Yigit (21-0-1, 7 KOs) is a former decorated amateur who participated in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. A southpaw with quick feet and good hand speed, Yigit is an excellent counterpuncher who is adept at using feints to bait his opponents to throw to set up counter opportunities. He is also very slick and uses good head movement, making him not an easy target to hit.

This is a classic matchup of an aggressive pressure fighter against a skilled slick boxer. Baranchyk has the buzz and will be favored, but Yigit’s style and skill could present a major challenge for him. It’s a very compelling fight,.

The Journey of Yuandale Evans

On April 24th, 2010 I hit the road to attend a club show in a suburb of Cleveland. I wanted to get a firsthand look at a local fighter named Yuandale Evans who was headlining the 6-fight card. The venue was a small indoor soccer complex and tickets were only $20. There was no assigned seating and I had no problem finding a ringside seat for the evening’s festivities.

Evans did not disappoint. Fighting in front of the sparse audience, he dispatched an opponent named Reymundo Hernandez in the first round. I liked what I saw from Evans and thought he had a bright future in boxing.

A year later, Evans found himself on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fight Series in a step-up fight against veteran Emmanuel Lucero. This was a coming out party for Evans as he impressively took apart the former world title challenger. There was speed, athleticism and power in his game and many took notice.

Nine months later, Evans found himself in a significant fight. It was another date on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fight Series but this time against a fellow undefeated fighter in Javier Fortuna. Fortuna had been getting a lot of buzz and if Evans could defeat him then he’d find himself on the brink of a world title opportunity.

But the Fortuna fight did not go well for Evans. As a matter of fact, it was disastrous.  Fortuna scored a vicious, highlight reel first round knockout, the kind of knockout loss that many fighters never recover from.

It appeared for a while that Evans would not get back in the game. Out for three years, he finally returned in 2015 with two wins against less than stellar competition. These wins were needed confidence boosters.

After those bounce back wins, it took another 17 months for Evans to return to the ring. This time, in his first major test since the Fortuna loss, he faced Billel Dib. Brought in as the “B” side, Evans was supposed to be a name on the resume for Dib, but he flipped the script, scoring a clear ten round unanimous decision.

The win against Dib, which took place in the 130-pound division, put Evans back on the radar. But it was his next performance that put him into contention. Dropping down to featherweight and again coming in as the underdog, he scored a rousing split decision win against Louis Rosa in November of 2017 in a fiercely fought contest that received Fight of the Year consideration. Evans fought with passion and determination to secure the best win of his career.

Evans, now 20-1 with 14 KO’s, will challenge undefeated 130-pound world title holder Alberto Machado next week. Evans is once again an underdog. Not many are giving him much of a chance. But if Evans fights like he did against Rosa and can stay inside on Machado, applying constant pressure, we could be in for another surprise.

Evans has come a long way since I first saw him fight at a small indoor soccer venue in Ohio and I for one do not discount his chances to lift Machado’s world title belt.

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Andrade Grabs Vacant WBO Middleweight Belt in Boston

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TD GARDEN​​ — It’s a good thing Eddie Hearn didn’t listen to the people who told him not to promote prizefighting in Boston. With all four major American sports in full swing in the city, Matchroom Boxing absolutely rocked the house as an equitable fan attraction in New England.The media was out in full force and so were the fans. At the final fight week press conference, Hearn introduced ESPN’s Dan Rafael before he even barked for his boxers. “You know it’s a big card when Dan Rafael shows up,” he said of the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer award winner for career excellence in journalism. Hearn knows it’s about building hype and that’s what he’s doing.

Sugar Ray Leonard was on the mic for DAZN. Paulie Malignaggi was doing the same for Sky Sports. I saw Micky Ward and Conor McGregor seated at ringside. Mike Tyson conqueror Kevin “The Clones Colossus” McBride was also spotted in the mix throughout the night.

“We did about five thousand in Chicago,” Hearn told me of his first Matchoom USA show October 6 on DAZN. Hearn expected about seven thousand for Boston, hoping for a good walk-up crowd. “I’m pleased with ticket sales. I’m pleased with the venue. If the fans are happy and enjoy a great night at the fights and if they want us back, we’d love to return,” he said.

Hearn’s originally scheduled main event fell apart in September when Billy Joe Saunders controversially failed VADA drug testing for the banned stimulant oxilofrine. “Unfortunately Billy Joe failed a drug test. I don’t think the Massachusetts Commission had any choice in denying him a license,” Hearn told me during the final fight week press conference at Fenway Park.

Saunders was to defend the WBO middleweight title against Providence, Rhode Island’s Demetrius Andrade. Instead, Saunders was stripped of his strap and unknown African champ Walter ​Kautondokwa stepped in to face Andrade for the vacant WBO 160 pound title. “I’m too old to fight nobodies now,” said the 30 year-old Andrade without a trace of irony. In fact, Andrade’s whole pro career has been carefully built on soft touches and vacant ABC championships.

Hearn’s undercard also suffered a hit when popular local junior welterweight Danny “BHOY” O’Connor pulled out of his bout against Tommy Coyle, citing injury. According to Hearn, “​O’Connor was working very hard in camp but I don’t think it was going particularly well.”

The live crowd in attendance at the Garden was loud and enthusiastic. In a full sized entertainment venue that seats close to twenty thousand fans and with promotional aspirations optimistically set at half that number (official attendance was listed at 6,874), your best chance to have seen these fights for yourself was on the emerging and effective streaming app DAZN.

For Brits stuck back home it was on Sky Sports.  For everybody else, I’m here to ringside report.

In the Main Event for the vacant WBO middleweight championship, Providence, Rhode Island’s Demetrius “Boo Boo” Andrade, 30, 160, 26-0 (16) dominated Namibian import Walter Kautondokwa, 33, 17-1 (16). ​A stablemate of former super lightweight champ Julius Indongo, Kautondokwa drew inspiration from his countryman’s international accomplishments in boxing. Indongo parlayed the WBO African title into an eventual unification showdown with Terence Crawford in Nebraska. “He’s definitely not stopping this train,” promised Andrade at the weigh-in.

He was right.

In the first round, ​Kautondokwa slipped to the canvas and Andrade hit him on the chin while he was on all fours. Referee Steve Willis ruled it a knockdown, rather than reacting to the foul. Kautondokwa pushed the action in the second but Andrade scored with the cleaner punches. In the third, Andrade scored a clean knockdown with a flush left hand to the chin. The challenger rose and answered the bell for the fourth down by two extra points. Kautondokwa went down again twice more in the fourth leaving Andrade with a look like, “What more do I have to do?”

As the rounds wore on and on, Andrade found the answer to be elusive, even if Kautondokwa wasn’t terribly so. His best power punches were either missing or being blocked, and Kautondokwa was proving durable. By the championship rounds, it was clear that Andrade wouldn’t be able to stop the train that was Kautondokwa. The energy in the live crowd suffered accordingly. Michael Buffer announced what was already known, that Andrade won a virtual shutout on the cards.  Scores were 120-104 twice and 119-105.

“I did what I had to do. I could see that he was tough. It was good to get those twelve rounds in because I’ve been inactive,” said Andrade at the post-fight press conference. He also spoke of a fight week injury to his left shoulder that affected his performance and prevented a knockout. To be perfectly honest, it sounded like an excuse for not finishing off a badly hurt fighter.

In her de facto Irish Homecoming, Katie Taylor, 32, Bray, 11-0 (5) successfully defended her WBA/IBF female lightweight titles against the very experienced Cindy Serrano, 36, Brooklyn, 27-6-3 (10), over ten two-minute rounds. Serrano was moving up in weight to challenge Taylor, who’s already made two title defenses this year in London and in Brooklyn. Serrano was never in danger of being hurt or knocked out and Taylor was never in any danger of losing the fight.  Taylor won every round on all three cards 100-90.  “Cindy was just in there to survive,” said a disappointed Taylor.  Some fans jeered the “action” but it didn’t bother Serrano. “Eddie Hearn believes in female fighting. Hopefully he can turn it around and we can get a couple more promoters just like him.”

To make the first defense of his newly won IBF super featherweight championship, Philly southpaw Tevin “American Idol” Farmer, 27-4-1 (6), stopped Belfast KRONK’s James Tennyson, 22-3 (18) in five. During promotion for the title bout, it looked for all to see that Farmer was overlooking Tennyson with his focus squarely on a big money grudge match with Gervonta Davis. ​“I’m not overlooking James but I want to fight Tank Davis. I have to have that fight and it’s got to happen. Let’s leave the streets on the streets and fight in the ring. We’ve talked enough.”

In the ring, Farmer looked at his opponent and punched right through him. In the fourth frame, Farmer dropped Tennyson with a solid left hook to the body. It got no better for the Belfast native. The next round, Arthur Mercante stopped it when Tennyson fell again from body shots. ​In accepting the fight, Farmer’s promoter Lou DiBella didn’t want to deny his fighter the opportunity to appear on such a high profile card so he willingly worked with Hearn to make it happen.  Time of the TKO was @1:44 of the round 5.

In an IBF featherweight elimination bout scheduled for twelve, Evander Holyfield’s Toka Kahn Clary, Providence, R.I., 25-3 (17), dropped a pedestrian UD to Ingle Gym’s Kid Galahad, Sheffield, 25-0 (15). At the press conference in August to announce the match-up, there was bad blood in the air. “Toka is a bum,” a chippy Galahad told me at Boston’s Faneuil Hall. “He didn’t want this fight. He was talking trash so I called him a wanker and it got a little out of hand.”

“I’m gonna beat him,” Galahad promised.

At the final press conference, Galahad was demonstrably more peaceful. During the media face-off with Kahn, he offered his hand to shake but Toka just left it hanging there. “I’ve calmed down,” Kid told me. “Nothing personal, just business.” ​Is Toka a bum?​ “You can’t call him a bum.” ​You did Kid.​ “I might have gone over the top. Any fighter that gets in the ring you gotta have some respect for. Toka is gonna show up and my job is to make sure I do a job on him.”  Job well done, Kid.  Final scores were 118-110 twice and 115-113.

In an entertaining ten round junior welterweight scrap, Tommy “Boom Boom” Coyle, Hull, Yorkshire, U.K., 25-4 (12), outpointed Ryan Kielczweski, Quincy, Mass, 29-4 (11) over the distance. Unanimous scores were 99-90, 98-91 and 96-93. The “Polish Prince” substituted for Danny O’Connor against Coyle, a fighter TSS’s own Ted Sares expected Ryan to have had his hands full with in a knockout loss; describing Coyle as a “load” in the ring. In the seventh round, Kielczweski was felled by a massive right hand to the body and a vicious follow up left hook to the head. He took a long nine count but got up to then stalk a fading Coyle down the stretch.  “This is the most ready I’ve been for any fight,” Kielczweski told me before the bout. “I fought in September. A week later I got a call for this one so it’s like I’m on a ten week training camp.”

Coyle is a pressure fighter and an interesting character. Kielczweski struggled to keep him at bay but landed with several quality power shots of his own, many coming in the last three rounds—after the knockdown. Calling this his “American Dream” come true, Coyle grew up in England loving ROCKY movies and Irish Micky Ward fights. Tonight, he was almost in one.

In a super featherweight comeback bout, former super bantamweight and featherweight champion Scott Quigg, 30, Bury, U.K., 35-2-2 (26) made a successful return against journeyman Mexican Mario Briones, 29-8-2 (21), stopping him in two rounds with an unanswered three punch combination along the ropes. Trained by Freddie Roach, Quigg was defeated last March by WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez in a bruising non-title bout. Quigg suffered multiple facial laceration and a broken nose in the unanimous decision loss. “I want a rematch with Valdez and with Carl Frampton because I want to avenge my losses. If I’d be happy not fighting them again, I’d be in the wrong game,” a candid Quigg told me. “The work Freddie’s had me doing and the sparring I’m on, I feel like I’m a ten times better fighter now.”

In a junior middleweight rematch, Murphys Boxing U.S. Marine Mark “Bazooka” DeLuca, Whitman, Mass, 22-1 (13) outgunned Walter “2 Guns” Wright 37, Seattle, Washington 17-5 (8) to defeat the only man to have beaten him as a pro, winning 97-93, and 96-94 twice. From ringside I scored it 6-4 in rounds for DeLuca who scored well early with left hooks. Wright did well in the middle rounds on the inside when DeLuca was tiring but it wasn’t enough. Though his promoter Ken Casey questioned the outcome of the first fight last June in N.H., DeLuca told me it was tight. “But he got me,” he admitted. Wright didn’t understand the manufactured controversy. “I won. To come across the country, fight the local guy, and beat him, I should think I’d get my props for winning. My performance should outweigh politics.” On this night, Wright’s good but not good enough performance earned him an appropriately scored unanimous decision loss.

There was no protest from Wright with the verdict.

UNDERCARD RESULTS:

In the show opener, super lightweight southpaw Sean McComb from Belfast improved to 4-0 (3), outclassing 37 year-old Peruvian Carlos Galindo, 1-6. Galindo’s only win came against Maine’s Brandon Berry last June in N.H. This was McComb’s first appearance outside the U.K. Galindo took a body beating and the fight was stopped in the third after a pair of knockdowns.

Accompanied to the ring by middleweight corker Spike O’Sullivan, Murphys Boxing’s Gorey, Ireland heavyweight Niall Kennedy 221.6, 12-0-1 (7) took a few to give a few against New Jersey’s Brendan Barrett 238, 7-1-2 (5), including a hip-toss and a headlock. The 6’3” Kennedy used his good left jab and strong right cross to earn a unanimous six round decision, dropping the stocky Barrett in the fifth with a brutal right hand. Official scores: 60-53 twice and 58-55.

Kazakh Olympic Gold medalist welterweight prospect Daniyar Yeleussinov improved to 4-0 (2) against Salem, Mass “Mantis” Matt Doherty, 8-6-1 (4). Doherty wore a J.D. Martinez Red Sox jersey to the ring but he was outgunned. The 27 year-old southpaw finished Doherty off with a barrage of unanswered punches in the first round and referee Arthur Mercante waved a halt.

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Rob Brant is the New WBA Middleweight Champion

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LAS VEGAS, Nevada- In a major upset that saw a mega fight disappear, Rob Brant took the WBA middleweight title from Japan’s Ryota Murata with a lot of hustle and a heck of a chin to the surprise of many on Saturday.

Murata (14-2,11KOs) was expected to fight Gennady “GGG” Golovkin if he won, but the dress rehearsal turned into a nightmare as Brant (24-1, 16 KOs) attacked and attacked while out-punching the Japanese fighter nearly two to one in front of a stunned audience of more than 2700 at the Park Theater at the MGM.

“This was one of the best moments of my life, said Brant. “I wasn’t thinking of punch output. I was thinking about winning.”

With many planning their trips to Tokyo for an expected showdown between Murata and Golovkin, the Las Vegas based Brant put a stick into the spokes of their travel plans.

Brant started quickly with combination punching and moving in and out of range during the first three rounds of the middleweight bout. Murata smiled throughout the incoming blows from the upstart Brant.

“It’s easy to smile, but his eyes were swollen and he had blood on his mouthpiece,” said Brant.

It wasn’t until the fourth round that Murata found life while attacking the body.

The body punches opened up the lead right cross for Murata, who began targeting Brant’s head. But the Minnesota native was able to absorb the big blows and kept firing back. Though Brant was landing more shots, Murata’s punches were clearly harder and landed with a thud.

The crowd got into the fight early as cheers of “USA! USA!” were shouted sporadically throughout the fight. It probably had an effect on the judges.

It seemed Murata was landing the more effective blows in the middle rounds, especially when he targeted the body, then switched to the head. But though they were hard punches, Brant moved backward and kept returning fire.

The action was measured, but constant, with no slow rounds after round three. At times it looked like Murata was about to score a knockout but it never came. Brant proved resilient. More than that, he convinced the three judges he was the winner 119-109(2x) and 118-110.

Only the widespread scores were surprising. It seemed like a much closer fight.

Dudashev prevails

Maxim Dudashev (12-0, 10 KOs) tried to blast it out with Mexico’s Antonio DeMarco (33-7-1, 24 KOs), but after taking heavy incoming fire, the undefeated super lightweight changed tactics and out-boxed the former world champion to win by unanimous decision.

Dudashev moved around just enough and used quick short combinations to out-score the long-armed Tijuana fighter after the midway point of the 10-round affair. Though DeMarco was able to score with heavy body shots  and lead lefts to the head, Dudashev managed to fire off combinations that kept winning rounds in the second half of the fight. The judges scored the fight 97-93, 96-94, 98-92 for Dudashev. TheSweetScience.com scored it 96-94 for Dudashev, who keeps the NABF super lightweight title.

“This was a great learning experience for me,” said Dudashev. “DeMarco is a true champion, and he fought with great heart and determination.”

Falcao and other bouts

Brazil’s Esquiva Falcao (22-0, 15 KOs) showcased his various boxing skills against Argentina’s Guido Pitto (25-6-2, 8 KOs) who lost by unanimous decision but forced the undefeated fighter into various situations. In the first four rounds, Falcao fought from the outside with impunity as Pitto was unable to touch the Brazilian. But when the Argentine boxer took the fight inside, he found more success and forced Falcao to utilize his inside boxing skills. The fighting was intense but Falcao was just too strong and slightly quicker in winning every round in the 10 round middleweight fight. Pitto’s best moments came during the fifth round when he forced his way inside. All three judges saw it 100-90 for Falcao.

Ireland’s Michael Conlan (9-0, 6 KOs) battered Nicola Cipolletta (14-7-2) every round with rights to the body and head. The Italian boxer rarely fired back and after several unanswered blows by Cipolletta the referee Russell Mora stopped the featherweight fight @1:55 of round seven. Cipolletta protested the stoppage but never truly engaged Conlan, who must have connected on more than 60 percent of his punches thrown. It was a whitewash for the former Irish Olympian.

Vladimir Nikitin (2-0) won by unanimous decision over Louisiana’s Clay Burns (5-5-2) in a featherweight fight that was much closer than the scores given. Burns started out fast and easily won the first two rounds. Then the battle got much closer as Nikitin’s overhand rights began scoring. Burns switched to southpaw and switched back and forth and that gave Nikitin pause. The last two rounds were very close especially the final round. But all three judges scored it 59-55 for Nikitin, thus only giving Burns one round. It was much closer in reality.

A battle between undefeated Puerto Rican lightweights saw Joseph Adorno (10-0, 9 KOs) drop Kevin Cruz (8-1, 5 KOs) twice in winning by unanimous decision. Though Adorno’s knockout streak was snapped, he engaged in a spirited battle against left-handed Cruz who let loose in the sixth and final round. A counter left hook by Adorno floored Cruz the second time during a furious exchange. Cruz beat the count and tried his best to go for the knockout; Adorno scooted away until the final bell. Scores of 59-53(2x) and 58-54 for Adorno.

Adam Lopez (11-1, 5 KOs) won by knockout over Hector Ambriz (12-8-2) in a featherweight match. The end came @1:29 of the eighth and final round of the fight when Lopez fired a four punch combination that forced referee Tony Weeks to halt the fight though Ambriz was still standing.

Uzbekistan’s Fazliddin Gaibnazarov (6-0, 3 KOs) stopped veteran Wilberth Lopez (23-10, 15 KOs) with a series of body blows @2:13 of round two in a super lightweight contest between lefties.

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