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BWAA Dinner Report: Donaire Impresses, Arum Rails



Gosh, are major, multinational companies dropping the ball not throwing fat endorsement deals at Nonito Donaire, I found myself thinking on Thursday evening at the luxurious Capitale in NYC, at the 88th annual Boxing Writers Association of America awards dinner. Yeah, sorry, I gotta admit that business thoughts intruded where they shouldn’t, but one and all in the room were feeling the waves of emotion and gratefulness emanating from Donaire as he received his award as 2012 Fighter of the Year.

He spoke about being the runt of the litter growing up in the Phillipines, about how he was taunted, bullied and beaten, and lived in fear. Breaking into a nervous grin, and admitting he felt ill at ease giving this speech, as wife Rachel and his Top Rank team, led by Bob Arum, looked on, Donaire (above, in Chris Farina-Top Rank photo) said that this award should be noted by all the little kids who are getting taunted, bullied and beaten. This award is for the asthmatics, for the children who aren’t expected to flourish as adults, he said. This award is being held by a person who was so nervous that he peed his pants before his first time stepping into a boxing ring. “Don’t worry, I’m not gonna wet the stage,” he cracked.

Yes, I have said this before, but maybe this time some marketer, or someone with influence in this sphere will get the damn memo–Donaire is a role model whose story should be disseminated far and wide. His is an inspirational tale and it is a minor felony that non boxing fans aren’t fully aware of where he has come from to get to this peak. His level of excitement and committment as he counts down to the birth of his first child in July is widely appealing to women as a whole, I suspect, and we know that his in-ring skill and power has fight fans, male and female, enthralled.

Most of you know, you can see Donaire in action Saturday night, at Radio City Music Hall (NYC) or on HBO, against Guillermo Rigondeaux (11 PM ET).

The dinner was a success, as BWAA president Jack Hirsch once again oversaw, with event coordinator Gina Andriolo, a smashing gala. It got off to a rough start for me, as I arrived at 7:20, and went to a bar to grab a club soda. A Capitale employee grabbed the club soda out of my hand, and said, “The bar is closed.” We argued, I informing the man that I was on the board of the damn organization paying for the event, but he was unmoved. He wouldn’t let me have a club soda. I dropped an eff bomb and he pouted. I then walked into the dinner area and got a club soda. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” I found myself thinking as I collected myself. It’s not like I was grabbing a bottle of Stoli and causing a ruckus. Shame on Capitale for enforcing such a silly rigidity…

One standout moment for me, aside from collecting a second place writing award for this story on the late Willie Classen, in the long feature category, was hearing Bob Arum rail against the programming powers that be while accepting the Fight of the Year award on behalf of Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao, for their December 2012 squareoff. (Note: Please feel free to follow me on Twitter here.) Enough with appearance fights, Arum said to a room of about 150 people, as many had cleared out because the dinner ran a bit long. All of the fights up for Fight of the Year were basically even fights going in, and that is instructional, he said. Fans don’t want showcase fights, don’t want to see record and hype building exercises. Give them pick em fights, and we will once again see boxing tick up in popularity. I cracked up to myself as Arum, as passionate as ever at 81, gave folks the what for. And guess what? He’s not wrong. Programmers need to assert themselves and force advisors and promoters to bring pick em fights to the table. If they do that 95% of the time, all of us will benefit. Brandon Rios lost against Mike Alvarado, but are any of us writing him off, dismissing him, saying that we don’t want to see him again? No. Informercials are great for 2 AM on a bottom tier cable channel, but not appropriate on premium cable, is what I took Arum to be saying, reading between the lines.

As for Arum, you should have seen his face when Jack Obermayer, introing the Long and Meritorious award to Top Rank’s Bruce Trampler, cracked a joke about Oscar De La Hoya and his relationship with Arum. Arum looked like he’d found a roach on his filet.

Kathy Duva probably gave the best speech of the night. She gave a shoutout to all the ladies in the sport and jabbed the preponderance of penises in the power-archy in the game. We’ve gotten better, she said, but there is still room for improvement. Russell Peltz, introing her, had the best anecdote of the night. He recalled that Kathy’s late husband Dan signed Arturo Gatti. Russell had his brother Joe. Before Arturo was much into his pro career, Dan called Russell and asked to trade 50% of Joe for 50% of Arturo. Russell said yes, and from then on, after a few years, he shared in the bounty of Arturo’s take. Dan died in 1996 and around 2000, Kathy was sorting out Main Events business. She wondered why funds from Arturo’s purse were being funneled to Russell, so she asked Russell. Because Dan and I made a deal, over the phone. Good enough for me, Kathy said. Peltz noted that her decency was apparent to him, in spades, because of that interaction.

SPEEDBAG I took note halfway through that this was the best behaved crowd I’d ever seen at one of these things. There was no chatter while people spoke, people were fantastically attentive. And I figured out why…no open bar. Cash bar. People weren’t that sauced, over all. So they acted respectfully, instead of babbling like intoxicated orangutans. I make a motion that we do the same every year. (Top Rank sponsored a cocktail hour, so it’s not like the savages didn’t get their freebie hooch anyway.)

–No, Al Haymon didn’t show up to get his Manager of the Year award, but they did show a picture of him on the screen, so that means another couple hundred people won’t see Sam Watson in the ring and think that’s Haymon, moving forward.

—Max Kellerman of HBO gave a classy speech, mentioning most all the fine people he’s worked with, and who helped him get to the point where he was voted broadcaster of the year. As the attendees filed out, I noticed that he looked stricken. “I forgot to mention Harold Lederman!” he said. As I exited the building, I noticed Max apologizing to Harold profusely.


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Michael Dutchover Remains Undefeated in Ontario, Calif.



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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