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Ward-Dawson Is Faceoff Between Young Guns..Why The Negativity?

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WardDawsonMediaEvent Hogan10TSS Universe, how do you see Ward-Dawson playing out? Will this fight exceed expectations? Will both men see it as an opportunity to get to another level, and perform at peak form? Will it be a cautious chess-match, or will Ward and Dawson show their most aggressive sides, and shout down critics who say that this tussle couldn't excite them less?

So, let me get this straight. We got the best against the best on Sept. 8, we got the guy I see as No. 2 on the pound for pound list, Andre Ward, against a top-ten pound for pounder, one of the top handful of Americans currently gloving up, Chad Dawson, in their primes, not at a catchweight…and we got people grousing?

We keyboard tappers lobby for more “best fighting the best” bouts, evenly matched scraps pitting the best and the brightest against fellow aces, off pay-per-view…and we've been given that, in Ward-Dawson, and many folks are not down the event…because they don't think the styles will mesh?

My, aren't we picky?

Hey, listen, I'm not here to tell you that I think Ward-Dawson is a frontrunner for 2012 Fight of the Year. I'd bet Mike Bloomberg's change jar contents that it won't be, not unless each man suddenly decides to abandon what got them to this point, the notion that being a superior technician who understands that caution is a useful trait to have if one wants to one day exit the sport with most of your marbles intact.

But HBO and promoters Dan Goossen and Gary Shaw have put together something that we all regularly ask for, and in the Twittersphere I'm reading opinions from any number of “experts” that this one is a stinkbomb.

I won't say I'm surprised; social networks, the ease of transmission of opinions, has fostered an atmosphere where every armchair GM and matchmaker can advertise their acumen and build their follower fanbase. But I guess I am a bit surprised at this level of blowback to the Ward-Dawson tussle.

I reached out to HBO boxing boss Ken Hershman to see if the lack of full-on embrace from the fightwrite media mafia surprised him, or bothered him.

No, is the answer.

The ex Showtime exec isn't the sort to thunder or bluster or get into a defensive mode. Smart, I'd say, if one wants to maintain a healthy blood pressure, especially in an age where if one chooses one can become consumed with responding to a constant streams of 140 characters-or-less critiques.

Hershman told me that he thinks Ward-Dawson is an HBO fight, a Ken Hershman HBO fight, because “it is two top pound for pound fighters in the world, fighting at 168 pounds, where Dawson has said for years he could make, and I'm not sure who that favors.”

So, is it not frustrating to sample the response to the match being made, and learn that more than a couple of the experts have virtually dismissed the scrap the day it was announced?

No, the head of the division said. He told me this fight, as well as the Sergio-Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, are co-faves of the events he has spearheaded since he took over the reins at the beginning of the year, following Ross Greenburg's exit. He said he doesn't get caught up much in the negative nelly talk, and prefers to look towards the bounty of fights that can be made riffing off of this main event. If Ward wins, he said he a scrap against a Mikkel Kessler or a Kelly Pavlik would be intriguing. A Dawson win would mean the Connecticut fighter could stick at 168 after a signature win, and maybe do a rematch, or head back up to 175, where a Jean Pascal rematch, or a Tavoris Cloud bout beckons. Basically, Hershman wouldn't take my bait when I offered the “aren't know it alls on Twitter annoying” ball on a T. He preferred to point out that for those not as keen on the sweet science element of the sport, they should be satisfied with the Antonio DeMarco-John Molina lightweight title scrap, from the Ward undercard, which he thinks should have the “take one-to give one” feel to it. Also, Hershman noted that if anyone feels left out still, some action from the marquee division, the heavyweights, could cheer them up. Vitali Klitschko will meet unknown Manuel Charr, in what could be his final fight before he enters the political realm full-time. “So you have something for everyone,” Hershman said. Also, he pointed ahead, to the Brandon Rios-Mike Alvarado tiff on Oct. 13, as a bone for those that point to Ward-Gatti I as their all-time fight of the year.

HBO does like to identify and spotlight the top-grade talents, and nurture them. Some opiners would rather they went for a more a la carte approach, snagging compelling fights, rather than snagging athletes, and then finding them foils. I see the validity of both avenues, as from a business perspective, one sees how it doesn't make sense to introduce an athlete to the public, build them up, and then hand that athlete to another broadcast entity, to reap the rewards of the buildup. And on the other side, us fans simply want to see the matches that make the most sense, and don't care as much about the longterm story arc of a boxer. I confess I am curious to see how the Ward arc plays out. Because he is something of a hard sell as a personality; the SOG brand isn't one that lends itself to be written about, because, frankly, there is a predictability to his message that while admirable, can be less than compelling. When he talks about his faith being important to him, and it being paramount that he represent his faith and God as he sees him, there is an absence of drama…and writers like and seek out drama. And if Ward were the sort who looks to remove heads from shoulders, purely predatory, then there would be a message dissonance that would demand attention. But he is smart tactician, who doesn't allow you to do what you do best, and then uses angles and intelligent combos to rack up points on you. All in all, I wonder, does Ward's solidity as a citizen, and the absence of drama he leaves in his wake, subconsciously cause some of us writers to bury his brilliance? For that matter, I wonder, if Dawson fought the same way, but helped us writers churn out copy with marvelously malevolent trash talk, and had a knack for incendiary Tweets, would he not be a more marketable draw? Would this match have drawn the early criticism it did if both men fought exactly the same way, but had personalities that made our jobs easier?

So anyway, I wondered, is Ward an athlete born at a bad time, a good guy campaigning in an era where bad boys draw the most press, and loot? “I don't think so,” Hershman said. “Andre Ward is a family man, a devoted athlete, and I think he and Dawson appreciate that this is an opportunity to make their stamp,” said Hershamn, who clearly hasn't given in to the pop culture tendency to be magnetized to the hot mess, the TMZ perennial. Hershman said he won't press to fill a moral vacuum, try to shove Ward down peoples' throats as a role model for the youth. “I will leave those decisions to parents and others,” he said.

I suspect that Ward-Dawson could surprise to the upside, that one or both men could shift tactics away from being a skilled neutralizer, and that the low or moderate expectations of many could be bettered. I asked Hershman if in this atmosphere where fight buyers and promoters are looking for more aggressive combatants, and aren't as likely to utilize a patient counterpuncher type, especially one who has below average power, he doesn't consider approaching fighters, a la UFC's Dana White, and recommending that they take things out of the hand of the judges. (Who, must I remind you, have a recent track record that is somewhere between mercurial and disgraceful.) Again, showing a temperance which indicates that the man simply stays in his lane, and doesn't try to over-reach and over-leverage himself, Hershman said no, that is not his way. He appreciates the technical wizardry that a Ward and Dawson bring to the table, and wouldn't think to try and diminish that. (Good news, I'd say, if you rising talent who doesn't own bricks for hands, and wants a coveted HBO slot.)

Hey, I love the Twitter, I appreciate writers who aren't afraid to make their opinion known, ruffle some feathers. Indeed, if Ward and Dawson light up a stinkbomb on Sept. 8, I will be out and about, critiquing myself. And, if the fight bombs, you are welcome to hammer me with “I told ya sos.”

But, I say, let's see how the fight plays out, and moving forward, perhaps we should consider less “contempt prior to investigation” and embrace more of a “let's wait and see how it plays out” stance.

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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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