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The Beast of Stillman's Gym, Part 4…TOLEDO



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Robinson nervously laughs, LaMotta looks over his shoulder. Is Bert Lytell in the house?



Promoter “Rip” Valenti, a product of Boston’s North End, finagled an agreement with uncrowned welterweight champion Sugar Ray Robinson to fight Bert Lytell in 1945. In May, that agreement had become “very definite plans” and Valenti assured reporters that Robinson and Lytell would meet during the outdoor season at Fenway Park.

Robinson had bigger things on his mind. The National Boxing Association would soon announce that the world titles were being unfrozen as World War II winded down and the champions came out of the armed services. Welterweight king Freddie Cochrane promised his navy pals that he would be an active champion and was making overtures to Robinson. Robinson pondered his options. With Cochrane making moves in his direction and that golden crown getting a little closer, why risk blowing it by taking on a high-risk challenge like Lytell? He wasn’t crazy like Jake LaMotta, so that summer saw him face a white fighter with a record of 7-11 instead of Bert.

At the end of 1948, Boston tried again. Promoter Sam Silverman offered Robinson a $15,000 guarantee to face Bert in early 1949 for the “Negro Middleweight Championship.” They told him that he could name the date. By this time Robinson was campaigning hard to face middleweight king Marcel Cerdan. Defeating the number-one contender who was touted as “the most-feared fighter in the country” would have made that campaign as politically persuasive as a gun to the head. But he passed again.

Meanwhile, Bert went right on facing hazardous fighters for fun.

For journalists who expected their boxers to be fearless, Robinson’s business acumen looked bad. One of his critics counted over 30 times that Robinson reneged or “ran out” on agreements to fight. Host cities left hanging dotted the national landscape between Boston, where Valenti shook his fist, and Houston, where an agreement to fight Cocoa Kid was left bleaching in the sun.

Robinson shrugged it off until he overheard Manhattan restaurateur Toots Shor grumbling within earshot. “There goes Robinson,” said Shor, “–-they ought to ban him from boxing.” That did it. Robinson penned a retort in the November 1950 issue of Ebony: “My critics would have the public believe that I’m a bad boy who hates all promoters and breaks contract with impunity. They seek to prove that I have caused bitterness, bad feeling, and confusion in boxing… this time I’ll have my say.” The media was biased, he charged; why else did typewriters rattle every time a promoter wailed about an alleged run-out but went strangely quiet when it came to his side of the story? Those “run-outs” weren’t run-outs at all, he said, they were misunderstandings motivated by wishful thinking. Fly-by-night promoters had a habit of mistaking his willingness to consider a fight with a signed contract, and if they chose to kick off expensive publicity campaigns based on that, it wasn’t his problem.

In his righteous indignation, Robinson’s pen did to him what most of our mouths do to us –-it spun off without him: “I fight all comers,” he wrote, “provided they can put up a good scrap and draw a decent gate.”

This, of course, wasn’t true. Bert Lytell was already drawing decent gates and after fighting on even terms with the best middleweight in the world in LaMotta, everyone knew he could put up a good scrap with anybody. Robinson knew it better than most -–Artie Towne was one of his stablemates as was Van McNutt, whom Bert cut to pieces in January 1945. “I want it known,” Robinson wrote, “that Ray Robinson never runs out on a bona-fide match contract.” He should have made an exception. What Rip Valenti called “very definite plans” in May 1945 to stage a Robinson-Lytell fight became “a signed contract” and still never came off. On August 1st Sammy Aaronson was complaining to the Baltimore Sun that “Lytell had a contract to fight Ray Robinson July 23rd at the Boston ball park but Robinson ran out.”

LaMotta himself may have had a hand in Robinson’s reluctance to fight the beast of Stillman’s Gym. His split decision win at the Boston Garden may be just a bland statistic now, but for a number of years afterward it was remembered as a scandal.

The Aaronson office never stopped trying to get a rematch with LaMotta and let the whole world know it. Boxing weeklies as far away as San Francisco ran front-page challenges: “BERT LYTELL challenges the World’s Leading Middleweights –-wants Marcel Cerdan or Jake La Motta” declared the May 3rd 1947 issue of Referee and Redhead; “Recently Lytell boxed a whale of a close one with Jake LaMotta, in Boston. And since that memorable encounter, promoters throughout the Nation have tried in vain to make the rematch. But it seems that LaMotta (that guy who claims no one wants to fight him) wants no part of Lytell.” Over in New York City, insiders like Willie Schulkin were also calling out LaMotta. “Jake LaMotta has been licking light heavies and claims that middleweights don’t want any part of him. Does he forget Bert Lytell?” Schulkin wrote, “Lytell stands ready to go with LaMotta at a moment’s notice. Are ya listenin’ Jake?”

Jake wasn’t listenin’. Neither was Sugar Ray. One week after the summer of Bert’s discontent, they fought each other for the fifth time instead of him.

By the end of 1945, Bert hadn’t fought for three months and fell out the rankings. He was back in January, fighting as a substitute in a preliminary bout in Holyoke, MA and then crossed the border into Connecticut to score his second clean knockout inside of two weeks.

Two weeks after that he was in Rhode Island for a rematch against Walter “Popeye” Woods.

Woods was a balding thirty-two-year-old who owned a close decision win over Bert. He was known as a clown, even if it was usually the other guy acting silly after his right hand landed. He was ranked eighth among light heavyweights by the time he faced Bert again.

The fight was “an out-and-out stinker” according to the Providence Journal. Bert seemed to miss on purpose and Woods’s punches were no more serious than a squirting flower. The fans jeered and the referee repeatedly warned both fighters of disqualification. The Journal stated in no uncertain terms that “the pair of them” should have been tossed out of the building “as early as the fourth round and possibly sooner.” Woods took the decision, probably because Bert lost two rounds on low blows, though the whole thing looked like a collusion where one fighter agreed to lose a decision and the other agreed not to hurt him along the way.

If it was, it meant an agreement was made between managers, which likely involved gambling interests –-which likely meant that somewhere down the line stood Mr. Gray, alias Paolo Giovanni Carbo, alias Frankie Carbo.

Frankie Carbo made his bones not with La Cosa Nostra as would be expected, but with Jewish gangsters. He was a product of the lower East Side, an area of New York City overrun with Russian Jewish immigrants and their rebellious, American-born children. It was a breeding ground for crime and violence and produced enough Jewish fighters and gangsters to challenge the Irish and the Italians. One of Carbo’s neighbors was Meyer Lansky, a major force in the underworld for much of the twentieth century. Although the Jews and the Italians ran separate organizations and collaborated often, it was the Italians who emerged as the controlling partner, and they used Lansky’s guys as fronts. “They know better than to try to f*ck us,” said one with all due respect.

Carbo was managing fighters by the mid-thirties and was arrested on suspicion of murder five times. After an acquittal for one of them in 1942, he let his gats cool and stepped up operations in boxing. He was given the go-ahead to make millions by treating the boxing ring as if it were a prostitution ring with him as pimp. If Carbo didn’t manage a fighter through a front man, he owned a piece of him. If he didn’t own a piece of him, he probably owned his manager outright. If he owned neither, there were plenty of strings he could pull –-not to mention his well-documented persuasive skills of the “or/else” variety. In return for fealty, fighters got opportunities at Madison Square Garden and a $2500 payday which their managers usually fleeced.

His power was an open secret from the 1940s until the early 1960s. Few in or around the ring were not secretly owned or tapped now and then by boxing’s corrupt king. And he was particularly interested in middleweights.

Did he tap Lytell and Woods? Hints are found when you look for subsequent rewards. Bert got what he’d been after, a third match against Holman Williams who had ascended to the number two spot in the rankings despite the fact that he himself was no longer rated. Woods went to Los Angeles for the first time in his career; and faced Watson Jones at Olympic Stadium for the last win of his career.

Jones was managed on-the-sneak by a matchmaker shaped like a witch’s brew called Babe McCoy. McCoy would have the dubious honor of getting himself banned for life from boxing in 1956 for fixing fights, managing fighters while functioning as matchmaker at the Olympic, and associating with known criminals. Among the witnesses against him was none other than Watson Jones. McCoy, said Jones, instructed him to take a dive on three occasions and routinely short-changed him. “He’d say let the crowd see me get hit on the chin so that it would look good,” Jones testified. “I never cheated Mr. McCoy. I brought him all the money. I brought him every nickel,” he went on, “I was McCoy’s little colored boy.” At the end of his testimony he broke down and cried.

How could McCoy, who operated on the west coast, have any connection to New York’s Frankie Carbo? First of all, McCoy wasn’t the real McCoy. He wasn’t even Irish. He was a New York Jew born Harry Rudolph who admitted under oath that he knew Carbo. He also admitted that the gangster had been to his hotel suite for private meetings and then came down with a sudden case of amnesia when asked about the purpose of those meetings. As far back as 1941, he was the manager of record for a fighter controlled by Carbo. The two were in bed together and everyone knew who was on top.

That isn’t all.

Carbo, it was whispered, owned a piece of Popeye Woods. And by the time Woods met McCoy’s fighter in 1946, Carbo was already making trips to Los Angeles and pulling strings behind the considerable girth of his old pal.

It was during one of those trips that he took time away from boxing to see another old friend, or so the story goes. Turncoat Jimmy “The Weasel” Frattiano” said that Carbo was given the contract to kill fellow East-sider and Vegas mogul Bugsy Siegel, and did so with an army carbine outside the window of the house Siegel was staying at in Beverly Hills.

“The fight racket, since its rotten beginnings,” spat Jimmy Cannon, “has been the red light district of sports.”

Those roses you smell are coming from Sugar Ray Robinson. Considering what he was up against in the 1940s and 50s, his obsessive self-interest and hardnosed negotiations take on a different light. They almost look noble. “I’m not really as bad as some make me out to be,” he tells us really, his modern critics, “I don’t intend to be exploited by any individual or syndicate in this business, where shrewdness counts and sentiment is just about worthless. I am an individualist, both in terms of my style in the ring and my business methods. I shall continue to be independent of boxing combines…”

Bert Lytell couldn’t afford to be an individualist.

While Robinson honored contracts with less dangerous fighters, most of whom sported a more marketable skin tone, Bert would never again face a nationally-known white fighter after LaMotta.

He would descend into the madhouse that was Murderers’ Row, swapping blows with other condemned fighters who were just as rough as he was. Years would be spent crisscrossing the United States by bus and train, flopping in fleabag motels, taking meals at YMCAs, and enduring separate entrances and segregated dressing rooms in the South. His dignity would be trampled when hick promoters handed him smaller purses than white fighters though the pain was the same. Inexplicable losses against hometown darlings would see him whip his robe across the ring and punch walls on the way to the dressing room, but soon that bell would ring again and he’d be back at it, fighting in a frenzy; fighting as if something was spurring him on, something like joy or desperate hope.

It wouldn’t matter to him who or when or for how much he fought; it wouldn’t matter whether big lights put a sheen on his shoulders or plaster fell from the ceiling –-because for that precious half-hour, his fate was in his hands.

And that felt good.


The madhouse that was Murderers’ Row was nothing nice. Bert Lytell is gonna bleed in PART 5 OF “THE BEAST OF STILLMAN’S GYM.”

Boston tries to sign Robinson-Lytell in Boston Evening American 1/13, 2/5, and 3/2/45. Holyoke Daily Transcript and Telegram 5/31/45, Baltimore Sun 8/2/45. McNutt fight in Holyoke Daily Transcript and Telegram 5/25/45. “Why I’m The Bad Boy Of Boxing,” by Ray Robinson in Ebony, November 1950; Williams-Lytell in The Times-Picayune 8/15, 16, 17, 18/45. LaMotta on how to beat a southpaw in “The Great Middleweights Talk About The Fight” by Peter Heller, Boxing Scene Collector’s Edition “Duran Vs. Hagler: The Fight of the Century.” Williams II in The Times-Picayune 8/31/45. Wade in The Sun 10/2, 3 /45; see also Holyoke Daily Transcript and Telegram 1/8/46, Hartford Courant 1/22/46. Woods-Lytell II in Providence Journal 2/3, 5/46; Watson Jones’ testimony in International 3/30/1956, Honolulu Record 11/15/56, and Sports Illustrated, 11/19/56. Babe McCoy’s problems in Los Angeles Times, and New York Times 3/30/1956 and Chicago Daily Tribune, 3/31/1956. Carbo’s career recounted in Life 5/26/1952, The Last Mafioso: Jimmy “The Weasel” Fratianno by Ovid DeMaris, pp. 54-56, Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires by Selwyn Raab, pp. 104-5.

Springs Toledo can be contacted at

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The Ali-Shavers Fight and the Ever-Present Open Scoring Debate



Ali defended

Saturday, Sept. 29, marks the 41st anniversary of Muhammad Ali’s last successful title defense. The 35-year-old Ali defended his WBA and WBC belts against Earnie Shavers, a devastating puncher, but otherwise limited, in Madison Square Garden. Those tuning in to the Thursday night fight on NBC, an estimated 70 million, were able to track the round-by-round scoring. And therein lies an interesting tale.

A bit of background. Technically, the first instance of open scoring, at least as it pertained to television, was to have been implemented by Ted Nathanson, producer for NBC Sports, which televised the May 11, 1977, heavyweight bout pitting Ken Norton against Duane Bobick in Madison Square Garden. Although on-site spectators would not have been privy to round-by-round scoring, the TV audience would have had such access. The grand experiment proved dead on arrival, however, when Norton needed only 58 seconds of the first round to blast out Bobick.

Nathanson was nothing if not determined, however, and he successfully lobbied for the same format to be used for the Ali-Shavers fight. As was the case for Norton-Bobick, spectators in the arena would not have the same access to the round-by-round scoring as would NBC viewers. The New York State Athletic Commission, then headed by former heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson, signed off on the arrangement with NBC with some hesitation.

John F.X. Condon, vice president of Garden Boxing, said he originally had planned to show the round-by-round scoring on the huge overhead screen to the 14,613 on-site spectators, but he decided against it. “We didn’t think it was wise,” Condon concluded. “Personally, I think it also detracts from the pleasure of watching at home. Fight fans like to get involved. They like the uncertainty of waiting for the final decision.”

Even more adamant in his opposition to open scoring, in any form, was legendary Garden matchmaker Teddy Brenner, who said he would do everything in his power to ensure that the NBC experiment would be a one-and-done, at least if he had anything to say about it. “I am against it,” Brenner stressed. “We at the Garden plan to do something about it.”

Unlike Norton-Bobick, Ali-Shavers would go the 15-round distance, with scoring on a round basis instead of the 10-point-must system now in place. Ali won by 9-5-1 on the card submitted by referee Johnny LoBianco and by 9-6 on the cards turned in by judges Tony Castellano and Eva Shain, the latter of who made history as the first woman ever to work a big-time fight. It was Ali’s 19th victorious title defense.

Garden officials were embarrassed, however, when a question of fairness was raised. The NBC telecast was shown in Ali’s dressing room, and a runner was assigned to keep Ali trainer Angelo Dundee informed of the judges’ evolving scores. The Shavers dressing room did not have similar access, which led his manager, Frank Luca, to complain of preferential treatment being granted to Ali. He said the NYSAC even attempted to obligate the fighters to use 10-ounce gloves instead of eight-ouncers, a change which was not approved but would have been detrimental to the harder-hitting challenger.

When informed of a playing field seemingly tilted to favor Ali, Patterson said the NYSAC never again would consent to open scoring at any venue in the state, be it for on-site spectators or just TV. “That will be stopped,” Patterson said. “I understand Angelo Dundee had someone running back to get him information and the other corner didn’t. That’s not fair. It could influence a fight, affect gambling in the arena with cheaters. It was not a success and it will never happen again.”

Shavers, who went into the Ali fight with a 54-5-1 record that included 52 wins inside the distance, said he might have fought differently – yeah, right – had he been apprised of the round-by-round scoring. “My corner told me I was ahead,” he lamented. “I didn’t go for the knockout. I would have put more pressure on him, taken more chances.”

Promoter Don King pushed for open scoring on May 5, 1994, at a Las Vegas press conference to hype the pay-per-view card two nights later at the MGM Grand headlined by WBC super lightweight champion Frankie Randall’s rematch with Julio Cesar Chavez, whom he had controversially outpointed nearly four months earlier.

“Progress can’t be stopped,” King said with his trademark bluster and hyperventilation. “It’s time for a change. Bring boxing out of the dark and into the light. People who go to football and basketball games know what the score is at all times. Why should boxing be the only sport where judges pass little scraps of paper back and forth and nobody else knows who’s winning until the end?”

King said he had been “excoriated and vilified” for having promoted two bouts during the previous eight months that ended in questionable decisions, and that open scoring could eliminate or reduce the problem.

“If anything controversial happens, people will be calling for (WBC president) Jose Sulaiman and me to be ridden out of town on a rail,” King continued. “One little controversy and these four great (rematches, the others being Simon Brown vs. Terry Norris, Gerald McClellan vs. Julian Jackson and Azumah Nelson vs. Jesse James Leija) suddenly become secondary. I don’t want that to happen.”

His Hairness indisputably was on target in noting that the two referenced bouts, in which Pernell Whitaker retained his WBC welterweight title on a majority draw against Chavez on Sept. 10, 1993, and Randall nipped Chavez on a split decision in large part because JCC had been docked two penalty points by referee Richard Steele, were controversial. Most ringside observers had Whitaker winning eight to 10 of the 12 rounds in San Antonio, Texas, and were it not for the two penalty points Chavez would have won a split decision instead of losing by the same margin.

Although King advocated for open scoring to be instituted immediately, he had to know that the wheels of change do not move that swiftly in Nevada or any other jurisdiction. But Marc Ratner, the executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, while expressing his own doubts as to the usefulness of open scoring, said such a proposal at least merited further scrutiny.

“For this particular card, there will be no open scoring,” Ratner said. “But we’re not ostriches. We don’t have our heads in the sand. This is an issue that should be studied.”

Studied and almost certainly likely to be rejected, as it later was by the NSAC, for reasons that to Ratner were even more glaringly obvious than those offered by King for the other course of action.

“What if two fighters accidentally butt heads in the fourth round and one of them suffers a cut?” hypothesized Ratner. “If the bleeding fighter is ahead on the scorecards, his corner might be tempted not to close the cut, thereby prompting the bout’s premature conclusion and a decision victory.”

An even more compelling reason to forever squash the notion of full-blown open scoring holds that a fighter, if he knows he is sufficiently ahead entering the late rounds to be uncatchable on the scorecards, would get on his bicycle and pedal around the ring to eliminate or at least reduce the risk of being knocked out. Such a safety-first approach would drain whatever measure of hope still existed for the losing fighter banking on a puncher’s-chance turnaround.

We haven’t heard the last of the open scoring debate. The subject came up again in the aftermath of the Golovkin-Alvarez rematch, a tightly contested bout which Alvarez won by majority decision, much to the displeasure of Golovkin and his supporters. But for now, fight fans must continue to live with the occasional scorecard that defies credulity. And while too much controversy is never a good thing, some of it helps sell the sport and keeps interest high up to and even beyond the final bell. The alternative is the elimination of uncertainty, and with it the magic that sometimes is produced when two fighters believe success hinges on giving maximum effort to the very last punch.

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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George Groves and Callum Smith Finally Meet in the WBSS Capstone




The 168-pound tournament of the inaugural World Boxing Super Series, an 8-man invitational, kicked off on Sept. 16 of last year with a match between Callum Smith and Erik Skoglund at Liverpool, England. Tournaments of this nature in boxing almost never play out as planned and this tourney was no exception. But on Friday we will finally crown a winner when Smith meets George Groves at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, of all places. At stake will be the coveted Muhammad Ali Trophy and the bundle of cash that comes with it and Groves’ WBA “super” world super middleweight title.

Despite the odd location, this is a domestic affair. Groves, the top seed, and Smith, the #2 seed, are both Englishmen. And if the fight were on British soil, it would have certainly drawn well. In the UK, Groves is enormously popular. His second fight with Carl Froch attracted a crowd of 80,000 at Wembley Stadium, a British post-war record eventually broken by Joshua-Klitschko.

Groves (28-3, 20 KOs) suffered his lone defeats at the hands of Froch, who defeated him twice, and Badou Jack, and there’s no shame there. Carl Froch, in the minds of many, has a plaque waiting for him at the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Jack, a title-holder in two weight classes, is currently ranked #1 as a light heavyweight by the WBA and WBC.

Although both fights with Froch ended inside the distance, both were nip-and-tuck until Froch closed the curtain. Badou Jack defeated Groves by split decision in Las Vegas.

Groves has a high boxing IQ as he demonstrated on Feb 17 in Manchester where he scored a 12-round unanimous decision over Chris Eubank Jr. Groves, observed ringside reporter Gareth Davies, “was just a step too far, too strong and ultimately too technical and experienced in the championship rounds.” Eubank’s father and trainer Chris Eubank Sr. saluted Groves for fighting the perfect fight.

The victory was bittersweet as Groves dislocated his left shoulder in the final round. It required surgery, pushing back the finale until this Friday, a full two months after the conclusion of the other WBSS tourney, for cruiserweights, the finale of which was also pushed back from the originally scheduled date. For a time the promoters seriously considered bumping Eubank into the finals in place of the incapacitated Groves but eventually thought better of it. (Eubank will appear on the undercard in a stay-busy fight against Ireland’s J.J. McDonagh.)

Callum Smith (24-0, 18 KOs) is the youngest of four fighting brothers, each of whom captured one or more regional titles. In the family, the relationship between talent and birth order is inverse, which is to say that Paul Smith, the oldest of the foursome, wasn’t as good as his younger brother Stephen and Stephen wasn’t as good as younger brother Liam.

Liam “Beefy” Smith accomplished what his two older brothers could not, winning a world title. He won the WBO 154-pound diadem in his twenty-second fight and successfully defended the belt twice before it was sheared from him by Canelo Alvarez who knocked him out in the ninth round.

If Callum Smith wins on Friday, he will be recognized by hardcore fans as a more legitimate champion than was the case with his brother Liam. That’s because Callum, who stands six-foot-three (none of his brothers is taller than 5’11”), was touted from the very onset of his career as the most gifted of the fighting Smith brothers. He solidified that opinion in November of 2015 when he knocked out Liverpool rival Rocky Fielding in the opening round. Fielding went on to win the “regular” version of the WBA 168-pound title and that remains the only blemish on his record.

In recent bouts, however, Smith hasn’t looked that sharp. His last two opponents, the aforementioned Skoglund and Neiky Holzken, lasted the full 12 rounds. The obscure Holzken, a converted kickboxer from the Netherlands, was a late sub for Juergen Braehmer who was forced to bow out of the tournament with an illness.

George Groves was a slight underdog to Eubank. On Friday, the odds favor him, but only slightly. At last look it was 13/10 which portends a very close fight. Groves has the edge in experience and in ring savvy and has fought tougher opposition, but Smith will have a three-and-a-half inch height advantage and is judged to be the harder puncher.

Fight fans in the U.S. can access the fight on the new DAZN app. Keep in mind that Saudi Arabia is seven hours ahead of New York and other precincts in the Eastern Time Zone and adjust accordingly.

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Three Punch Combo: A Bouquet for “ShoBox” and More



new television

THREE PUNCH COMBO — We are embarking into a new age in boxing. There are new television contracts and digital platforms available that are making the sport more visible than ever before to the masses. But with all these new deals and platforms, it is important not to forget some of the consistent programming that has been around for some time. There is no better example of this than the ShoBox series on Showtime.

ShoBox, more formally ShoBox: The New Generation, began with a simple premise of matching young prospects in with tough opposition. To get their fighters on this series, promoters would have to find credible opponents who could potentially test and maybe even upset their prized prospect. This premise has led to consistently competitive and entertaining fights in the more than 200 broadcasts since the inception of the series in 2001.

This past Friday, we saw just how this premise works once again. There was a four fight card that featured competitive fights on paper in all the matches. However, in two of those matches there did seem to be clear favorites though each of the respective fighters was being matched with their toughest foe to date.

James Wilkins and Misael Lopez opened the telecast in a 130-pound contest. Wilkins was featured in a documentary that aired on Showtime just prior to the card and was expected to make a smashing television debut. He was a knockout artist and the thought was that he would put on a show to open the telecast. But instead, Wilkins got a boxing lesson from Lopez who was busier from the outside and managed to mostly avoid the power of Wilkins throughout the contest in winning an eight round unanimous decision.

The main event featured Jon Fernandez facing O’Shaquie Foster in another 130-pound contest. Fernandez had been getting a lot of buzz and many in the sport considered the Spaniard a future star. This was supposed to be a test for Fernandez as Foster (pictured on the right) represented a step up in class, but nonetheless many expected Fernandez to pass the test with flying colors. Instead, the power punching Fernandez was clearly out-boxed by Foster for ten rounds in an entertaining fight.

These two fights showed once again that when young fighters are matched tough we often get better than expected fights that can sometimes deliver surprises. This coming Friday, the series returns with highly touted lightweight prospect Devin Haney (19-0, 13 KO’s) in the main event taking on former world title challenger Juan Carlos Burgos (33-2-2, 21 KO’s). This is a fight in which Haney is favored but one in which he is facing the toughest challenge of his young career. At the very least, this should be a test for the highly touted 19-year-old Haney and I am certain we get a compelling fight.

ShoBox is boxing’s most consistent series and one that just continues to provide fight fans with high caliber, competitive fights.

10 Percent or 10 Pounds – How To Combat Fighters Who Blow Up In Weight

It is time to address the issue of fighters gaining an absurd amount of weight following the weigh-in. There is a reason why we have weight classes in boxing. If one fighter enters the ring weighing significantly more than his opponent, it gives the bigger fighter a big advantage. This can make for not only non-competitive fights but potentially dangerous situations. I have a simple solution that I think can combat this problem.

In past articles, I have touched on the issue of fighters who miss the contracted weight. My argument has always been to implement a system with stiff financial penalties. So in a similar aspect, I think stiff financial penalties can combat the continued problem of fighters blowing up in weight after the official weigh-in.

What I propose is second day weigh-ins where fighters would not be permitted to put on more than ten pounds or 10 percent (whichever is more) of the contracted weight limit. If they are over, the fight still goes on but the fighter who misses the second day weight limit pays a substantial fine. This simple adjunct can be easily administered by the various state commissions in the United States (or any other commissions worldwide).

Here is an example:  Let’s say we have a fight contracted at 130 pounds and each fighter weighs in at 129 pounds. The second day limit would be 10 percent of 130 pounds which was the contracted weight. So each fighter could come in at a maximum of 143 pounds. Now let’s say one fighter comes in at 146 pounds. The penalty I propose would be 20 percent of that fighter’s purse per pound over the weight. And this money goes directly to their opponent. Under this example, the fighter over weight would lose 60 percent of his purse.

Zero Shouldn’t Mean That Much

We are in an era, largely due to The Floyd Mayweather Jr. Factor, where fighters are often overly protected to keep that precious zero in the loss column. But to do so, they are frequently matched with soft opposition and learn little from dismantling their overmatched foes. There is little to no growth in their career during this period and though the record may get glossy, the development of the fighter may be stunted.

Setbacks can humble fighters and make them see what needs to be done so as not to experience that feeling again. They become better overall fighters and put themselves in a better long term position in their career.

This past weekend, we saw two once promising prospects bounce back with career defining wins after suffering an early unexpected defeat. They are both now in prime position to have their respective careers blossom which may not have otherwise been the case.

Earlier I mentioned O’Shaquie Foster’s upset win against Jon Fernandez. Three years ago, Foster was a highly touted prospect. He had a good amateur background and was blessed athletically with dynamic speed. After building up an 8-0 record against less than formidable opposition, he lost in a dreadful performance to Samuel Teah. Another loss would follow several months later to Rolando Chinea. But Foster clearly learned from his mistakes in these fights and bounced back, layering his natural athletic ability with much improved skills in frankly outclassing Fernandez. Foster’s losses made him take a step back and re-evaluate what needed to be done inside the ring. He is now in prime position to become a contender in the 130-pound weight division.

Luke Campbell was a 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist and considered a can’t-miss future star in boxing. But in his 13th pro fight, in a rather shocking development, he was put on the canvas and lost a split decision to veteran Yvan Mendy. Another loss followed two years later against Jorge Linares but Campbell performed well while losing a split decision and flashed signs of improvement from the Mendy setback.

The rematch with Mendy for Campbell took place this past weekend and Campbell did what many expected him to do in their first encounter. He boxed effectively from the outside and mixed in precision combination punching to easily avenge the defeat. It was a dynamic performance by Campbell and put him in line for a big fight at lightweight.

Luke Campbell is a vastly different fighter from the one who lost to Mendy three years earlier and appears primed to potentially live up to the once high expectations. He is in a better spot today in his career due to what he learned from that first loss to Mendy.

Photo credit: Dave Mandel / SHOWTIME

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