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When Did Larry Merchant Get a Promoter’s License?

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NEW YORK – When did Larry Merchant get a promoter’s license?

In the midst of a makeshift post-fight press conference at ringside Saturday night, Sergio Martinez’s bombastic promoter Lou DiBella was expounding on what might be next for the best middleweight in the world when Merchant wandered over and began to tell any media member who would listen how Martinez should move up to 168 pounds and challenge one of the best super middleweights in the world – IBF champion Lucian Bute or WBA/WBC champion Andre Ward.

Despite the best efforts of Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, this is still America, so Merchant can say what he wants but what was he doing interjecting his promotional opinion at the same time Martinez’s actual promoter was trying to express his?

Beyond that, for a guy who so often insists on telling Floyd Mayweather, Jr. that he must fight Manny Pacquiao to legitimize himself completely why hasn’t Merchant demanded the same of the most protected champion in boxing – HBO creation Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.?

That is a far more logical fight for Martinez, who is an undersized middleweight who could more easily make 154 than 168 and is willing to go all the way down to 150 for a shot at Mayweather. It is also one Chavez should have been forced into a long time ago.

The truth is Chavez is no more the WBC middleweight champion or any middleweight champion than Larry Merchant is. Martinez is that champion and, frankly, the only champion worthy of a belt at 160 pounds.

So why aren’t Merchant and HBO demanding that promoter Bob Arum stop building a fortress around Chavez, which he pays for with HBO rights fees, to avoid Martinez instead of having Merchant suggesting Martinez move up to 168 when he can’t even get to 160 pounds eating steak and potatoes on the day of the weigh in?

More to the point, why does HBO have one standard for a champion like Mayweather but quite another for a champion like Chavez?

Why does Merchant consistently cite Mayweather as the main cause of the long absent Pacquiao fight even though Arum and Pacquiao are, at the least of it, equally responsible for the logjam there… but expresses no such outrage at Chavez consistently ducking Martinez while his network funds fights for Chavez against journeymen like Peter Manfredo, Jr. and Martin Murray?

Ask new HBO Sports boss Ken Hershman, who is livid at DiBella for publicly criticizing a promotional network that talks like a promoter, acts like a promoter but, lo and behold, doesn’t have a promoter’s license, and doesn’t seem to have a problem with one of his announcers being in business with Chavez’s trainer (Jim Lampley was executive producer of the highly successful and quite well done documentary “On Freddie Roach’’ that recently aired on HBO and for which Roach also received a producer’s credit) while another publicly pushes for one fighter – Martinez – to move up in weight while ignoring the fact his more logical challenger – Chavez – has ducked him time and again.

Chavez has ridden first his father’s reputation and good name and now Arum’s promotional power, which is rooted in Pacquiao’s success, to big money fights on HBO while the far more talented Martinez is still chasing him. Such is the seedy business of boxing but why do DiBella and Martinez have to witness an HBO broadcaster conducting the equivalent of a rival ringside press conference on how they should conduct their business at the same time they’re trying to expound on the same subject?

The bottom line in all this is perhaps Hershman should ask his newest paid advisor, attorney and former boxing journalist Thomas Hauser, if anyone working for his network has a promoter’s license and if so why?

“It’s horsebleep that HBO suggests he move up to fight Bute or (Andre) Ward,’’ DiBella bellowed at ringside at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden. “My guy isn’t even a real middleweight. He was eating steak and a baked potato the day of the weigh-in and still was only 157.

“He’s really a 154-pounder and they want him to move up instead of insisting Chavez do what he should have done already and face him? Sergio’s knocking out everyone at middleweight and he’s not even a middleweight. His only disadvantage is that he’s not a true middleweight. So he’s got to spot guys weight until he gets knocked out?  He’s not going to do that. Why don’t they just tell him to move up and fight (heavyweight champion Wladimir) Klitschko while they’re at it?’’
The way things are going at HBO these days maybe they will. Or then again maybe Hershman will stand up and tell Bob Arum the only Chavez fight he’ll be buying any time soon is the one Larry Merchant should have been pushing for – the one against the real middleweight champion, Sergio Martinez.

And oh, by the way, that’s the only fight Julio Cesar Chavez, Sr. would have wanted if someone was trying to strap a “silver champion’’ belt around his waist when he knew someone named Sergio was the real gold standard in the middleweight division.

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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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