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If There Was No Boxing, There Would Be No Me Here Now



When you attend a fight card with Wale Omotoso on the bill, you can expect to see Lucky Boy listed as the fighter’s name in your program. No, not his given name of Oyewale, or even the abbreviated Wale (pronounced Wall-ee). Instead, entering the ring that night will simply be a man named Lucky Boy Omotoso, and when the fighter disrobes before the opening bell, you’ll see it tattooed proudly across his chest in robustly round script.

Lucky Boy.

“I call myself Lucky Boy,” Omotoso told TSS, “because of what I’ve passed through, growing up in Africa, what I’ve seen, what I’ve faced in life…”

Omotoso has lived through more than most of us could ever imagine. He’s seen men and women butchered in the street. He’s tasted the cold bitterness of poverty in a developing country, and he’s carried the burden of hopelessness and the badge of pragmatic necessity that comes with it. For this, he calls himself lucky.

Omotoso has picked up six wins on American soil. At 23-0, the undefeated welterweight stands on the precipice of achieving things he dared not dream about oh-so-long-ago in Lagos. Not only will he be appearing on the co-feature of Saturday’s Timothy Bradley-Ruslan Provodnikov fight card, but the bout, Omotoso’s biggest test yet against fellow undefeated Top Rank prospect Jessie Vargas (pictured above, on the left, with Omotoso, in photo by Chris Farina-Top Rank), will be televised live on HBO’s World Championship boxing.

Lucky Boy can tell you tales of his life as a “street boy” in Lagos, the most populous city in Nigeria. Almost eight million souls call this African port metropolis home. Truth be told, compared to other parts of Nigeria the standard of living in Lagos is quite high, so long as your family has the means to enjoy it. Omotoso’s family did not.

“I grew up in the street,” says the lucky one. “If there was no boxing, there would be no me here now.”

One of five children, Omotoso lost his mother at an early age. His father worked hard at providing what he could, but wasn’t able to keep his children away from the street life. Like his siblings, Omotoso said he did what he had to do. He joined a street gang. He learned to take what he could get from who he could get it. He was a gangster in the truest sense of the word.

Still, Omotoso said he never fully lost his grip on morality. He knew what was right and what was wrong. It’s just that it wasn’t always about right or wrong. It was about survival. He did what he had to do, he said, but he was sorry for it.

“I went every Sunday when I was in street,” he said. “Commit crime and get in trouble Monday through Saturday, then go to Church on Sunday to ask for forgiveness in case anything happened to me or if I died. I’d always go to ask for forgiveness for all the things I did on Monday through Saturday.”

Omotoso told TSS he never really wanted to be a boxer. It just happened. He learned to fight out of necessity. On the streets of Lagos, he said, fighting was just part of staying alive long enough to ask for forgiveness again at church.

“I started boxing on the street. That’s what I did. I was a street fighter. I never planned on being a boxer. I just planned to learn boxing so I could learn how to punch people, so I could fight three people at a time without a weapon. And life just changed from there.”

Once, after a particularly brutal street fight, Omotoso said he headed to the boxing gym while he and other gang members were laying low for awhile from local authorities. Once inside the structured life of the boxing gym, Omotoso quickly established himself. His powerful fists and quick hands made him a natural boxer. His life-or-death battles on the street gave him ruggedness not easily had. But more was needed to make it off the streets of Lagos.

Good fortune smiled on Omotoso by way of an Australian named Murray Thompson. The fighter was invited by the boxing trainer to leave his homeland and train down under. He gave Omotoso a shot at a different kind of lifestyle, a prizefighter’s. Omotoso jumped at the opportunity. In Australia, Omotoso found hope and purpose. He still attended church every Sunday, he said, but he no longer had street crimes to confess.

“I loved the country! I thought I was dead. I thought I was in heaven!”

Omotoso stayed with Thompson from the beginning of his professional career in 2006 until 2010. Running his record to 17-0, Omotoso started to sense he would need more to make a life for himself in the brutal sport of boxing than his newfound heaven could give him.

“I fought in Australia and fought people from Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, and the Philippines – all the Asian counties. But I watched United States fighters and would see how Australian fighters would travel to the United States and they would lose. I knew this was the next step. I needed to go to the U.S. to learn more, to grow more in my career, to make a life for myself.”

After waiting months for trainer Murray to bring him over to the States as promised, Omotoso finally decided to go it on his own. He set out for America alone, this pilgrim pugilist from Nigeria, aimed straight for Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym in Hollywood.

“United States boxing is like going to University,” he said. “I made it to Freddie Roach’s gym. I sparred there two times. Top Rank saw me and they picked me up from there. Look where I am today! Why not call myself Lucky Boy, brother?”

Top Rank’s chief matchmaker, Bruce Trampler, remembers first discovering Omotoso when he saw him sparring with Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.

“Lucky Boy is skilled and he hits real hard. He got my attention quick,” Trampler said.

Omotoso said once signed, he was told things wouldn’t be easy for him. Despite his skill level and power, it wouldn’t take just a few months or a year to reach the top. It would take considerable time and effort on his part. No longer a “street boy” from Lagos plying the boxer’s trade to make ends meet, Omotoso transformed himself into a hardworking, dedicated, professional boxer. He focused on the little things, the subtle nuances of the science that separate the sport’s top performers from the everyday palookas fighting for table scraps.

“When I came here, it’s not that they changed me, it’s that they told me what I didn’t know: how to sit down on my punches, how to work the angles. America is the school of boxing. In Australia I sparred, but not like here. Here, in America, you will find sparring. You can spar as much as you want. Fighting different people, getting different experience. I love my training here.”

Of his Saturday clash, he said, “I can’t wait! This fight will let everyone know I’m ready…that I’m born to do this,” said Omotoso as we finished up the call.

And with a name like Lucky Boy, maybe he really is.


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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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Charr-Oquendo Scuttled When Charr Tests Positive; the Odious WBA Saves Face



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



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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