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Road To Middleweight Title Goes Through Sergio Martinez

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Next weekend, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. clashes with Marco Antonio Rubio in a middleweight clash for the so-called WBC middleweight title.

Hmmm. I thought Sergio Martinez was the true middleweight world champion?

Not according to WBC jefe Jose Sulaiman, who says Chavez is the real middleweight champion of the world.

Huh?

Seeking to find out what the real world champion Martinez had to say, four of us took a road trip on Thursday from Riverside, Calif. to Port Hueneme, where the Argentine southpaw gentleman works his trade. Few work out more strenuously or with more focus than Martinez.

Around 3 p.m. we arrived early in hopes of catching Martinez before he engaged in his various physical routines. The weather was a perfect 80 degrees, the skies were crystal blue and the nearby ocean breezes left the air freshly coated with a scent of early spring.

An hour passed before Martinez and crew arrived in the boxing gym, led by his trainer and friend Pablo Sarmiento. First things first, Martinez-a former cyclist- jetted upstairs to a stationary bike to warm up his body before the pending boxing workout. When he finally entered the gym we exchanged greetings and Martinez asked us to meet for dinner afterwards if we had time. We agreed and departed for another part of town.

Down the road we headed toward Robert Garcia’s Boxing Academy in Oxnard. As soon as we stepped in the doors, there was Garcia himself to greet us, though he wasn’t expecting us.

Garcia, a former junior lightweight world champion and current world famous trainer, greeted us all and gave us a rundown on his extremely busy schedule. After closing the gym he was heading to Las Vegas to meet Nonito Donaire, Brandon Rios and others that very night. No wonder he looks in shape. Despite the graying hair Garcia looks fit and youthful. He could really fight up a storm in his heyday. I was ringside when he fought the late, great Diego Corrales, who often told me that Garcia was his toughest battle. This was said despite his fighting Joel Casamayor and Jose Luis Castillo.

“You know we have Kelly Pavlik training here?” asked Garcia. “He’s been doing real good.”

Ironically Pavlik was the middleweight champion when Martinez challenged him and was victorious on April 2010. Pavlik had defeated Jermain Taylor, who had defeated Bernard Hopkins, who held all of the middleweight titles including the WBC, WBA, WBO and IBF back in July 2005. You can say honestly that Hopkins was the dictator of all things middleweight and whoever beat him was the no-doubt middleweight champion.

That lineage was passed all the way to Martinez when he defeated Pavlik.

After speaking to Garcia and watching Rolando Reyes work the mitts in the ring, we returned to Martinez’s gym where he was patiently waiting in a car for us to return so that we could follow him home.

Martinez quickly showered and dressed at his seafront home and we headed out the door toward a restaurant in the city of Ventura called the Watermark. Inside the prim Renaissance styled restaurant we were greeted warmly by someone who recognized the middleweight champion.

Apparently Martinez regularly frequents the place, which has a remarkable ornate ceiling and upper floor dining area as well.

After an hour of dining and talking about various topics involving business and the world in general, we asked Martinez how he felt about Sulaiman’s letter sent to the boxing media around the world, especially the written comment: “Julio César Chávez Jr. is not a coward, as boxers are not cowards, and I am sure that he will respond to the spirit of Mexicans to prove with his valiant heart to fight to show that he is the real middleweight champion of the world, even when mercenaries try to tarnish his credibility.”

Martinez bowed his head slightly while he thought about the question I asked and slowly said with a slight sigh, “It’s very disappointing to hear those words. It’s not fair.”

Personally, this writer has known Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. since he first began training in a boxing gym in the horse grazing town of Mira Loma, a community formerly known as “Wineville” where children were captured and killed in the true story portrayed by Angelina Jolie “The Changeling in the 1920s.” The dark reputation from those crimes forced the city dwellers then to change the name from Wineville to Mira Loma.

Though undefeated, Chavez has not beaten anyone with the rightful ownership of the middleweight championship. When he defeated Sebastian Zbik in June 2011 he conquered a good middleweight contender, but Zbik had never fought the real middleweight champion Martinez. The Germany-based southpaw was literally given the title. Basically Chavez beat a fellow contender.

“His title is a big lie,” said Martinez with no hint of animosity or sarcasm. “I’m never going to fight Julio Cesar Chavez.”

Martinez said he read the note that Sulaiman sent and admitted the words were extremely hard to digest.

“It’s very hard to hear what he is says and everything that is going on,” said Martinez while sitting in the Ventura restaurant. “I try to fight the best fighters in the world.”

So far many of the so-called best fighters in the world have refused to meet Martinez in the boxing ring. Especially those considered by boxing fans to be champions like Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, or even Chavez.

Martinez is scheduled to fight United Kingdom’s Matthew Macklin, who many boxing experts call one of the most dangerous middleweights in the world.

“He’s the best option,” said Martinez, who has accepted no easy fights since fighting to a controversial loss against Paul Williams in December 2009. Since that fight the Argentine superstar has beaten Kelly Pavlik, Williams, Serhiy Dzinziruk, and Darren Barker. Those last two were undefeated when they entered the ring and promptly exited by knockout.

“I hurt my left arm in the second round against Barker,” said Martinez.

On March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, Martinez fights at Madison Square Garden in New York City against Macklin. It’s a tough fight and if he wins, what’s next?

“A fight with Mayweather would be my dream,” Martinez says.

Martinez is the true middleweight world champion regardless of what sanctioning organizations say or do. WBC, WBA, IBF or WBO are simply not deceiving the public. Who is really the mercenary?

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

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UK sporting

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

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

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

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

Other Bouts

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

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

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

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

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Michael Dutchover Remains Undefeated in Ontario, Calif.

Transplanted Texan Michael Dutchover needed a little time to figure out Costa Rican Bergman Aguilar but when he did it was over quickly on Friday.

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Michael Dutchover

ONTARIO-Calif.-Transplanted Texan Michael Dutchover needed a little time to figure out Costa Rican Bergman Aguilar but when he did it was over quickly on Friday.

Lightweight prospect Dutchover (11-0, 8 KOs) knocked out southpaw Aguilera (14-4-1, 4 KOs) in the fifth round with a barrage of body blows that left the Costa Rican limp at the Doubletree Hotel.

For two rounds Aguilar used an awkward counter-punching style that had Dutchover a little tentative. But once he figured out that combination punching was the key, he opened up with barrages and floored Aguilar with body shots at the end of round four.

That signaled doom for Aguilar.

The fifth round saw Dutchover target the body with impunity as Aguilar tried holding, running and covering up with no success. Referee Wayne Hedgepeth signaled the fight over at 2:31 of the fifth round giving Dutchover the win by knockout.

In a bantamweight clash Santa Ana’s Mario Hernandez (7-0-1, 3 KOs) and Mexico City’s Ivan Gonzalez (4-1-2, 1 KO) fought to a majority draw after six back and forth rounds.

Hernandez targeted the body against the taller Gonzalez who relied on long range counters. Both found success but neither could prove superiority after six turbulent rounds.

After six rounds one judge saw it 58-56 for Gonzalez but the two other judges saw it 57-57 for a majority draw.

Other bouts

South Central L.A.’s Ruben Torres (7-0, 6 KOs) extended his undefeated streak with a knockout over Mexico’s Eder “El Koreano” Amaro (6-6, 2 KOs) in a lightweight fight. But it wasn’t easy.

Amaro switched from southpaw to orthodox and was matching Torres for two rounds until the taller local fighter began blasting away to the body and head with precision. Many in the crowd cheered “Koreano” in unison but it couldn’t help once Torres zeroed in.

At the end of the fourth round Amaro could not continue and the fight was stopped giving a knockout for Torres.

Richard Brewart Jr. (2-0) mowed through Edward Aceves (0-5) flooring him with body shots in the first round then overwhelming him in the second. After seven unanswered blows referee Eddie Hernandez stopped the fight at 1:32 of round two giving Rancho Cucamonga’s Brewart the win by knockout in the super welterweight bout.

Southpaw David Ortiz (1-0) won his pro debut by unanimous decision after four rounds in a welterweight match against San Diego’s Mario Angeles (2-11-2). Ortiz lives in Bloomington, Calif. and is trained by Henry Ramirez. No knockdowns were scored.

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Charr-Oquendo Scuttled When Charr Tests Positive; the Odious WBA Saves Face

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Manuel Charr

Manuel Charr and Fres Oquendo were scheduled to fight in Cologne, Germany, later this month (Sept. 29). Charr would be defending his WBA world heavyweight title, the “regular” version of it, not the “super” version which rests in the hands of Anthony Joshua.

The bout was quickly cancelled when it was revealed that Charr had tested positive for two banned anabolic steroids. The test was performed by VADA, the anti-doping agency identified with Las Vegas neurologist Dr. Margaret Goodman.

The 33-year-old Charr, born in Lebanon but a resident of Germany since the age of three, won the belt in his last start with a unanimous decision over 281-pound Russian behemoth Alexander Ustinov in Oberhausen, Germany. The title was vacant. Charr won the right to fight for it with a 10-round decision over Albanian slug Sefer Seferi. The victory over Ustinov elevated his record to 31-4. He has been stopped three times, by Vitali Klitschko, Alexander Povetkin, and Mairis Briedis.

If it wasn’t for bad luck, as the old saying goes, Fres Oquendo wouldn’t have any luck at all. For various reasons, his fights keep falling out. Before long he’ll be drawing social security. Well, not exactly, but he turned 45 in April and hasn’t fought in more than four years.

Oquendo has competed for this belt before. In his last ring appearance in July of 2014, he lost a majority decision to Russia’s Ruslan Chagaev in Grozny, Russia. As a concession for taking the fight on short notice, Team Oquendo negotiated a rematch clause in the contract, but a shoulder injury prevented Fres from activating it. When the injury healed, he had to go to court to compel Chagaev to fulfill his obligation. But then the Russian retired, muddling the water.

The WBA was legally bound to find Oquendo a title fight and in desperation turned to ancient Shannon Briggs. But the Oquendo-Briggs fight, scheduled for June 3 of last year in Hollywood, Florida, fell out when Briggs’ urine specimen showed an abnormally high level of testosterone.

Fres Oquendo was dogged by bad luck even before these recent developments. His professional record, 37-8, is somewhat misleading as six of his eight defeats were razor-thin including his 2003 setback to Chris Byrd and his 2006 setback to Evander Holyfield. However, Oquendo, something of a cutie, was never a crowd-pleaser and in none of his narrow defeats was there a public clamor for a rematch.

The cancellation of Charr-Oquendo cuts the World Boxing Association out of a sanctioning fee, but one would think that the WBA honchos are actually rather pleased by this turn of events. The fight, more precisely the WBA’s world title imprimatur, would have brought more unwanted publicity to the Panama-based organization.

ESPN’s Dan Rafael, who has the largest platform of any boxing writer, has been a persistent critic of the organization which once recognized 41 “champions” in 17 weight classes. In 2009, Rafael wrote, “(The WBA) has become such an absolute farce that even somebody like me, who follows boxing closely, sometimes has a hard time keeping track of all the nonsensical so-called world title belts the WBA has been doling out at an alarming rate. It almost reminds me of the ladies at Costco who hand out various samples on a busy Saturday afternoon.”

Rafael took note when WBA president Gilberto Mendoza promised to cull the herd by eliminating “regular” titles, and then became more caustic when Mendoza didn’t follow through. Recently, in one short, punchy diatribe, Rafael blistered the WBA as wretched, vile, and rancid.

Regardless of your opinion, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Fres Oquendo who keeps getting stranded at the altar. No, he’s not fun to watch and a man of his age shouldn’t be taking any more punches, but he has always been an honest workman and by all accounts he’s a very decent man. Born in Puerto Rico but raised in Chicago, Oquendo pitched right in when the island nation of his birth was ravaged by Hurricane Maria. He was personally responsible for relocating Puerto Rican boxing legend Wilfred Benitez and Benitez’s sister, his caregiver, to Chicago where their lives wouldn’t be as hard.

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