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SURLY SERGIO TO JUNIOR: “I Will Beat You Up”

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Martinez workout 120725 007aWith an assassin's eyes and a tone of controlled fury, Sergio Martinez promised to inflict pain on Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. during Max Kellerman's “Face Off.” (Chris Farina)

A different Sergio Martinez, less mellow, more focused, more nasty, emerged on the latest installment of Max Kellerman's “Face Off,” which is currently running on HBO ahead of the Sept. 15 Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. clash.

Martinez, the favored vet, takes on young gun Chavez, the son of the legend who has come into his own in the last year or so, on Sept. 15 in Las Vegas. That scrap will be offered on pay-per-view.

The event taped on July 12, the same day as an NYC press conference. At that gathering, Martinez called Junior a chicken. Max asked the former WBC middleweight champ, aged 37, about that remark. He answered that the 26-year-old Junior wanted on the job training while he was already champion, and said that is wrong. “That's chicken attitude,” he said in Spanish. Junior admitted that maybe he wasn't ready a couple years ago, to his credit, but said he is ready now.

Martinez said he doesn't agree with the stance that his marketability wasn't what it should have been, so he didn't bring enough to the table back then. He reiterated that a champion, a proper champion, shouldn't be given latitude to keep learning while wearing a belt.

With a sneer on his face, Junior went at Martinez, asking if he picked all his fights. Why did he fight Darren Barker and Matt Macklin, he asked, and why not Miguel Cotto or Floyd Mayweather? Because those guys didn't want to fight him, Martinez correctly pointed out.

Junior was asked about calling Martinez a “ballerina.” That's because he dances, he said. “I've won my last four matches by knockout,” the Argentine noted, implying that for a dancer, he can crack pretty good.

Junior said he thinks he knows how to beat Sergio already. Sergio disagreed and said history agrees with him. During these first few minutes, I assessed that Martinez had the look of the assassin on his visage, controlled and intense, with a suppressed vibe of violence in his eyes, while Junior looked like a frat boy fronting during a yackfest preceding a barfight. Junior's occasional grin to me looked like a nervous reaction, while Martinez' looked like the show of teeth of a man born without a conscience. Of course, I welll know Junior is no joke, that he has come a long way in a few years, and that it is to his immense credit that he didn't secure a trust fund and laze away decades in Culiacan. But in my eyes, Martinez was winning the fight before the fight, at Kellerman's table.

“After I beat you, I will be nipping at Mayweathers' heels,” Martinez said.

Is Junior a true challenge, after meeting and beating fighters like Paul Williams or Kelly Pavlik, Max asked? No, he's not at that level, the vet said. Junior said Martinez will learn different.

“I hope your corner protects you, I hope the referee protects you, I hope the doctor protects you,” Martinez said, as Junior's eyes widened.

Max had the men stand up, and talked about size. Junior said his size will help but his skills will be the difference.

Max asked about the surlier Martinez, who has talked of hurting the kid. “I'm not insulting him, I'm just telling the truth,” he said.

Martinez said his foe wasn't handed the fight, but that he was handed a belt. Junior said folks don't give him credit, and think he's helped because of who his dad was. He seems OK with that perception, to me a healthy level of acceptance which reduces mental stress.

“Chavez will hit the canvas, he will be sitting in his corner, or with the doctor or referee stopping the fight,” Martinez declared, again reiterating his belief that he will win by stoppage.

Junior said the left to the stomach weakens foes but that he will be ready to do the distance.

Do you think you will knock him out, Max asked? “Of course I can knock him out,” he answered. Notice he didn't say he WILL, he said he COULD. Is he deep down confident of his chops, or is there a hint, or more than a hint, of doubt which will hinder him on fight night? I lean towards the former, based on this linguistic tell…

The increased stakes, Martinez said, help him, because it motivates him. For ten years, he has been an outsider, fighting away from home, so he is soaking this up. Junior said he has already exceeded expectations, and that everyone underestimates him.

Junior noted that Sergio's first loss, way back in 2000, was to a Mexican (Antonio Margarito) in Las Vegas. Martinez didn't seem phased.

“I will probably make you retire from boxing because I will beat you up,” Martinez said in closing. “I'm going to win, I'm going to hurt you,” he said.

“I just want to wish him luck, lots of luck,” Junior said, in answer, while offering a handshake. This struck me, as I thought a sharp, “Eff you” might have been more appropriate. “On September fifteenth, you will realize what type of fighter I am. I'm the new Julio Cesar Chavez.”

Me, I like Martinez via UD, with close rounds galore, because Sergio, I think, will fight his usual patient match. He will dissect, wait, pounce when the time is right. He hasn't had a Darren Barker or Matt Macklin training camp, he's gone back to the level of motivation he had for the Pavlik fight in 2010. I caution fans to not go overboard in making too much of Junior's wins over Marco Antonio Rubio and Andy Lee. If either of those two ever secures a world title belt, well, then we can revisit my stance…But Lee is no Sergio, he is a step down, or maybe two steps down if Martinez delivers the sort of showing that his motivation reservoir could propel him to. Readers, what say you?

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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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Bob Arum Hails Terence Crawford (not Lomachenko) as Boxing’s Next Superstar

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Arum says Terence

Top Rank’s Bob Arum says Terence Crawford will become this generation’s Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao–elite boxers who became worldwide celebrity sensations. Arum, who promoted both Mayweather and Pacquiao on the way to their historic crossover statuses expects big things from the undefeated Crawford over the next few years.

“He’s the best fighter in the United States, and he’s so charismatic,” said Arum. “He comes from middle America, and In the next year or so, he will be huge.”

Arum’s assertion is noteworthy for two reasons. First, Arum is also the promoter for Vasyl Lomachenko. Lomachenko is ranked No. 1 pound-for-pound by The Ring, the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. More importantly, Lomachenko seems to have a groundswell of support behind him both in the media and among fight fans.

Lomachenko has also been heavily featured through Top Rank’s television partnership with ESPN. While Crawford has achieved more in his career than Lomachenko (at least in my eyes) and, as noted by Arum, is a homegrown American talent, Lomachenko seems to be considered the more marketable commodity to that network judging by the amount of promotional materials ESPN has pumped out about the fighter over the last year.

The other reason Arum’s claim about Crawford is interesting is the performance of Canelo Alvarez over the weekend in his majority decision rematch win over Gennady Golovkin. Besides Mayweather and Pacquiao, Alvarez is the clear PPV leader among all of boxing’s current commodities, and his status as boxing’s new money fighter should only grow stronger after the best win of his career.

Still, Crawford is one of the few very elite fighters in all of boxing. He’s ranked No. 2 pound-for-pound by The Ring, the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.

While Lomachenko and Alvarez are also candidates to become boxing’s next big thing, there’s no doubt Crawford is also one of the few boxers in the sport right now with the right things in place to become the next Mayweather or Pacquiao.

Omaha’s Crawford is in the midst of an historic run. When he stopped Jeff Horn in round 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in June, Crawford captured a world title in his third different weight class, welterweight. This after Crawford had already captured two lineal boxing championships, as well as multiple alphabet titles, in both the lightweight and junior welterweight divisions.

By any measure, Crawford is truly one of the best boxers in the sport. Not only does he look the part in the ring on fight night (something more and more writers seem to value most when voting for pound-for-pound lists), but the fighter has already accomplished so much in his career that it seems Arum is doing more than the fiduciary duty of promoting his fighter when he ascribes to Crawford such lofty praise.

Crawford, still just 30 years old, is already halfway to matching Mayweather and Pacquiao’s shared record of most lineal championships. Over the course of his career, Mayweather captured lineal championships at junior lightweight, lightweight, welterweight, and junior middleweight. Pacquiao won his as a flyweight, featherweight, junior lightweight, and junior welterweight.

In order for Crawford to grab lineal championship No. 3, most believe he’ll have to go through welterweight phenom Errol Spence. While promotional entanglements might keep this superfight on the shelf for a while, Arum said he had no problem pitting Crawford against Spence in what would be one of the best matchups in recent memory.

“Absolutely,” said Arum when asked about working with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions, who represents Spence, to make the fight. Could any response from him be more exciting? Crawford vs. Spence might be the next superfight in boxing. Both fighters are among the very elite, and unlike what ultimately happened with Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, who fought each other well past their peak years, both would be in the prime of their careers.

Winning that fight would certainly go a long way to making Arum’s vision of Crawford’s future come true. And who knows? Maybe Crawford really is the next Mayweather or Pacquiao. Heck, for all we know, he could even be on his way to doing something more.

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