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SoCal Gym Hopping: Golovkin, Molina Brothers, More

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SOUTH EL MONTE-For one summer-like Saturday afternoon the city of South El Monte was the boxing hub for former Olympians now fighting professionally.

Flanked by El Monte, Rosemead, Whittier and Pico Rivera, the small suburban city of South El Monte welcomed Olympians of the past such as WBA and IBO middleweight champ Gennady Golovkin, Javier and Oscar Molina, and Oscar Valdez. Plus, a number of great prospects such as Alex Luna, Joel Diaz, Ramon Valadez, Daniel Ramirez, and Emanuel Medina.

It was quite a batch of great young fighters.

The fair-sized boxing gym was packed with trainers, corner men and a few supporters that came to watch the tournament type of sparring.

Abel Sanchez drove down with his crew from Big Bear Lake and was one of the first to arrive. Soon the others arrived and began to prepare for the sparring session that rivaled a big fight card. Ben Lira, the trainer at South El Monte, and Sanchez organized the sparring session.

Golovkin came along “just to help out,” said Sanchez. Later in the afternoon Golovkin’s manager Tom Loeffler showed up to see the action. The middleweight champion was not slated to spar but has begun preparing for his upcoming world title defense against Japan’s Nobuhiro Ishida on March 30. It takes place in Monaco and will be televised on HBO.

“He’s a difficult fighter. He beat James Kirkland so it won’t be easy,” said Golovkin, 30, who recently defeated Gabriel Rosado in New York City this past January. “I’m fighting him in Monte Carlo.”

Golovkin filmed the sparring sessions of his stablemates Valadez and Diaz. In between the sessions he spoke with me regarding a number of topics such as his failed attempts to meet Dmitry Pirog in the ring.

“First they said yes, then they said no, then they say yes,” said Golovkin about the multiple attempts to meet Pirog in a middleweight unification bout. “They said he hurt his hand. I don’t know much more. I have to take what they tell me.”

Golovkin is one of the most congenial prizefighters today and his English is improving in leaps and bounds. He’s like the big brother to all of the many fighters that live and train in Sanchez’s The Summit Training camp in Big Bear Lake.

The first to spar was Oscar Molina and Emanuel Medina, who started tentatively and increased the tempo each round. By the time they entered the final round both were unloading menacing shots to the head and body as several dozen people watched intensely.

Next were Ramon Valadez and Oscar Valdez. There was a quick explosion of punches in the opening bell as both dropped bombs on each other. Unlike the previous sparring session, this one slowed a little more each round after the initial start. Valdez has been working on his jab, said his trainer Clemente Medina. Valadez is looking to fight soon in March, said his manager Hector Ibarra.

The final sparring session saw knockout artist Joel Diaz of Lancaster get in the ring with amateur Daniel Ramirez. Diaz didn’t step on the gas but worked on his inside fight game against the promising looking Ramirez. Every so often Diaz would unload the goods but kept the bombs at a minimum. Ramirez worked well for not having a pro fight. His stable mate said he will be making a pro debut very soon.

Diaz, 20, a junior lightweight prospect working under Abel Sanchez, has nine consecutive knockout victories in 11 pro fights. So far only one fighter has heard the final bell against the hard-hitting 130-pounder. Golovkin taped the entire sparring sessions. The Big Bear team is very cohesive, like a collegiate athletic squad. They’re very close and take care of each other. It shows from the top to the bottom. All are very supportive of each other. Golovkin was the most popular of all the fighters in the South El Monte gym. He stopped numerous times for photo requests.

One of the trainers remarked, “Isn’t funny to see such a happy looking guy outside of the ring?” Of course, inside the ring is another matter altogether.

Before Golovkin departed we talked about a number of options he has in the boxing ring. Sergio Martinez, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. are both viable challenges. The South El Monte gym is just a few miles from Montebello, where another middleweight contender trains, named Sergio Mora.

“He’s a very complicated boxer to fight,” said Golovkin, using his head and hands to emulate Mora’s movements. “He is a very good boxer.”

Golovkin took all of the casual questions in stride as he strode around the gym. Many of the other fighters asked to pose with the middleweight champion who’s about to enter another championship level.

This might be the year of GGG.

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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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