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Boxing Hall of Fame Induction Report: “This Is Beautiful”



LN8I9289At the June 10 Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Thomas Hearns shows us those hands, which Ray Leonard said were the hardest he ever had to contend with. (photo by Teddy Blackburn)

CANASTOTA, N.Y. — Philadelphia-based promoter J Russell Peltz, a 2007 inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, once described the IBHOF, as well as its placement in this pastoral village, as “boxing heaven.”

References to the celestial afterlife were plentiful throughout the four-day annual celebration of fights and fighters. The 23rd annual Induction Weekend ceremonies – a bit of misnomer when you consider the festivities always begin on a Thursday – were, as usual, a festive time for honorees and fans alike, with devotees of the pugilistic arts traveling from as far away as Australia to soak in the upstate New York hospitality and the chance to mingle with ring greats. The primary draw in the 13-member Class of 2012, including six living inductees, was the legendary Thomas “The Hit Man” Hearns, whose big day drew two of his most celebrated opponents and fellow Hall of Famers, Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvelous Marvin Hagler. The five-division former world champion from Detroit was joined on the dais here Sunday afternoon by former flyweight and super flyweight champion Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson, trainer Freddie Roach, broadcaster Al Bernstein, ring announcer Michael Buffer and journalist Michael Katz.

“This is beautiful,” a beaming Hearns said as he surveyed the throng that had come to pay him tribute.

But the good times that are always had by all seemed just a bit muted by the absence of six Hall of Famers who have died since the 2011 enshrinement activities, which drew a record crowd thanks to the superstar presences of Mike Tyson, Julio Cesar Chavez and actor Sylvester Stallone, the movies’ Rocky Balboa.

Among those who were given the ceremonial 10-count were trainer Angelo Dundee (Class of 1992) and author/editor/raconteur Bert Randolph Sugar (Class of 2005), who returned to Canastota on almost an annual basis to greet fans, perch on the back seats of convertibles for the feel-good parade down Canastota’s short, picturesque main drag, and to oblige virtually everyone seeking an autograph or a photo op. As the beloved Dundee always said, it doesn’t cost anything more to be nice. Angelo and Sugar leave behind thousands of close friends, many of whom they might have only met for a minute or two.

“My father and Bert had a gift for making everyone they met feel special,” said Jim Dundee, Angelo’s son, who as best he could filled in for his dad, who not only was the chief second in the corners of Muhammad Ali and Leonard, but was maybe the friendliest, most accommodating individual ever to walk the earth.

As much as every inductee into the IBHOF, or any Hall of Fame (the baseball one is in Cooperstown, N.Y., a little more than an hour away by car), would like to believe that their selection ensures a degree of immortality, even the best of the best must accept the inevitability of death and taxes. Hall of Famers die off as fast, or faster, as new ones are minted, an annual revision of the roster of the living and the dearly departed is as expected as the changing of the seasons. When another visitor whose appearances here have come with clockwork regularity, 85-year-old Carmen Basilio, arrived late in the program, there were murmurs in the crowd that the health concerns of the one Hall of Famer with the deepest ties to Canastota – the “Onion Farmer” was born and raised here – somehow might have worsened.

Of course, boxing being what it is, there is a third inevitability—the dubious decision — that was revisited on Saturday night, and one that cast a pall over Sunday’s sun-splashed glory just off Exit 34 of the New York Thruway. The split verdict that went against Manny Pacquiao and in favor of Timothy Bradley Jr., who took possession of Pacquiao’s WBO welterweight championship in faraway Las Vegas, was widely assailed as another stain on a frequently soiled sport, and a reminder that even the best of the best fighters, including future Hall of Famers, are occasionally subject to malfeasance by pencil. If nothing else, Pacquiao’s upset defeat probably fired a couple of torpedoes into the already listing vessel holding hopes of someday pairing the Filipino icon with Floyd Mayweather Jr.

“It’ll probably happen again and again and again,” the always acerbic Katz, noting that the vast majority of media and fans attending the Pacquiao-Bradley scrap had “Pac Man” winning easily, said of the high incidence of odious scoring during his acceptance remarks. Katz described the points nod for Bradley as the “worst decision since Dred Scott.”

As if to balance the scales for Roach’s hello/goodbye comments, which seemingly were compressed within the same breath, Buffer – the “Let’s get ready to rumble” man – waxed lyrical for 29 minutes, which easily surpassed what many considered to be the longest acceptance speech in IBHOF history. WBC president-for-life Jose Sulaiman officially droned on for 20 minutes in 2007, but it seemed like forever. To his credit, Buffer’s stories were much more interesting, and his voice decidedly more melodious.

“In the sport of boxing, I’m the only person in history to have ever been in the ring with Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas `The Hit Man’ Hearns, Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson – and none of them were ever able to land a hand on me,” said Buffer, who also noted that he tried out such catchphrases as “Man your battle stations,” “Fasten your seat belts” and “Gentlemen, start your engines” before deciding that none worked as well as that rumbling tag.

Bernstein, a straightforward type whose delivery contains no catchphrases, said his approach to his craft is rooted in the simple belief that “being fair is more important than being clever.” He also stated, correctly, that the Hall of Fame was founded primarily to honor top-tier fighters.

“This is their house,” said Bernstein, who four days earlier accepted the BWAA’s Marvin Kohn Good Guy Award in New York City. “However, they are very generous in sharing this stage with others in a different category.”

Johnson, one of the youngest inductees ever into the IBHOF at 40, choked up a bit toward the end of his remarks, closing with, “This is truly, truly, truly a dream come true for me,” before lifting his eyes skyward and raising his arms above his head.

But the person most of those assembled came to hear on this day was Hearns, whose entertainment quotient was always high, be it in victory or defeat. With Hearns, fans knew they were in for something special, and he rarely disappointed.

“I prayed that I’d be able to go out and give you guys what you paid to see, each and every time I’d fight,” said Hearns, resplendent in a tan suit, light blue dress shirt and blue-and-gold tie.

Turning toward Leonard, who was seating just behind him, Hearns said, “Ray, together we made a lot of folks happy. And we made a lot of people sad, too.” That was clearly a reference to their 1981 superfight, in which Hearns was leading on points on all three judges’ scorecards through 13 rounds until a furious 14th-round assault by Leonard catapulted him to a win by stoppage, thus disappointing Hearns loyalists.

During a Saturday ringside lecture, Leonard had praised Hearns as the hardest puncher he ever faced, by far. That statement was relayed to Hearns, who clearly appreciated the compliment.

“It was something I didn’t enjoy,” Leonard said of being on the receiving end of Hearns’ harder shots.

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Tanaka vs. Kimora: A Monday Morning Treat For Serious Fight Fans



Kosei Tanaka was just 4-0 the first time he was appraised on The Sweet Science back in 2015; the question then was, is Tanaka the world’s brightest boxing prospect? The question now is whether or not Tanaka is about to add a strap at a third weight to an already glittering career that has seen him annex belts at 105 and 108lbs in just his first eight fights.

Now 11-0 with seven knockouts he prepares, this coming Monday, to duel Sho Kimura in Nagoya, Japan and with a lot more than just the WBO trinket on the line.

Hearts and minds, as always, translate into dollars and yen. The winner of this all-Japanese contest will find himself buoyed in fame, glory and gold in his home country, which also happens to be one of the few places on the planet where a boxer can collect a small fortune without ever leaving his native shores. Should the winner dare to dream a wider dream, then that too can be facilitated by the win.  Even fistic denizens of boxing strongholds in Japan and Britain feel a shiver run down their spines when the words “Las Vegas headliner” are whispered into their ear.

The favored man among the hardcore in the west is Tanaka. He is still very young at just twenty-three years old and is slick and quick, what the west expects of a Japanese force. Interestingly enough, however, the Japanese seem to be leaning towards Kimura: older, at twenty-nine, armed with a superb work-rate, good power, limited technique but the conqueror of Chinese superstar Shiming Zou who he stopped in the summer of 2017. Zou may have had his bubble burst by the Thai brawler Amnat Ruenroeng in 2015, but it was Kimura who sent him stumbling into retirement and at a time when the talk was of China stealing Japan’s thunder as boxing’s home in the east.

Kimura was indeed impressive that night in Shanghai. He maintained pressure with wonderful variety, eschewing the jab, perhaps, for spells, but filling those gaps with an assortment of wonderful punches, most of all his body attack, which was persistent, withering, and apparently went unscored by two of the three judges who somehow had the Chinese ahead at the time of the eleventh round stoppage. Zou had shown a skill for flurrying while fleeing and Kimura had shown him how to fight.

Now a strapholder at 112lbs, Kimura staged two defenses in the following twelve months. The first was against Toshiyuki Igarashi, the man who beat Sonny Boy Jaro, the man who had beaten the superb champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam before a softer fight against Froilan Saludar. He won both by stoppage.

Kimura, then, rather came from nowhere but made the most of his arrival. What he displayed in all three of these fights was a determination to offer pressure and footwork educated enough to do it while taking many fewer steps than his harried opponent. A tad overrated as a puncher, I suspect, he places himself in hitting position often enough that his default fight plan – chase, harass, throw – makes him capable of hurting his opponents by way of persistence and pressure.

He left Zou, Igarashi and Saludar, broken in his wake.

In short, he is the type of opponent Kosei Tanaka has been waiting for.

There have been calls for Tanaka to be considered a pound-for-pound talent should he overcome Kimura this Monday. I understand the impulse. Tanaka, were he to triumph, would become a three-weight world champion and he hails from a boxing territory which has little direct control over the meaningful pound-for-pound lists, if such a statement is not a contradiction in terms.

In short, it is felt he would be undervalued.

Tempering these calls is the fact that he has never beaten a divisional number one and that Kimura would be, by far, the best opponent he would have bested, and the most proven. Some Tanaka opponents have come good after he defeated them, some were ranked in the lower reaches of their respective divisional top tens when he matched them, but none are scalps as impressive as those dangled by the likes of Errol Spence or Anthony Joshua, who populate the nine, ten and eleven spots in reputable lists.

But this is neither here nor there; the key is not what Kimura does not represent, it is what he does represent. He is the best that Tanaka has met and, I would argue, the first truly elite fighter that Tanaka has met. He is the litmus test and he is one with a stylistic advantage.

Tanaka can punch. Here we will find out whether or not he punches hard enough to keep Kimura off him. Personally, I doubt it and that means that Kimura is going to hand him a serious gut check.

Interestingly, it will not be Tanaka’s first. The first time I wrote about him I stressed that his chin was essentially untested. That is no longer true. Tanaka, who is reasonably sound defensively, can be lazy in minding himself and foolish in pursuing the attack.

Thai puncher Rangsan Chayanram checked him in 2017, delivering a serious eye injury among other ignominies before succumbing in nine; puncher Angel Acosta, a ranked fighter if not a great one, hit and hurt Tanaka repeatedly late in their 2017 contest. If Tanaka has been learning these lessons, expectations concerning his potential may be realized. If he is not, he will fall short. Kimura is the man to test him.

Kimura’s experience and seemingly limitless twelve-round stamina are to be pitted against Tanaka’s skill, proven heart and taut footwork. It sees a superior technician – Tanaka – who has shown a propensity for being drawn into a cruder fighter’s wheelhouse matching an aggressive stalker – Kimura – who specializes in drawing technically superior foes into knockdown-drag-out scraps.

It is framed both as a fight that is likely to finish a future pound-for-pounder’s education and a fight where a young pretender is found out by a grizzled veteran.

Best of all, it is a fight that fight fans can watch for free, simply by clicking here.  The Asian Boxing website has secured exclusive international rights to the fight and will broadcasting it, free of charge, to anyone with an internet connection. As can be seen here, the fight is due to start at 4pm Japanese time.

All the reader has to do is find out what that means for timing in their own corner of the globe and a potential fight of the year will unfold before his or her eyes free of charge.

World class boxing being broadcast for free and including two of the best below 115lbs; a stylistic crossroads contest that opens up the on-ramp to pound-for-pound recognition for at least one of the combatants – on a Monday.  All facts worth keeping in mind the next time that someone tells you boxing’s prime was any number of decades ago.

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



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.



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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