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Atlantic City Gala Recalls Good Times Perhaps Lost Forever

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The mostly middle-aged crowd at 23 East, a bar in Ardmore, Pa., on Philadelphia’s Main Line, was clearly into the live rock ’n’ of a stage show headlined by Tommy Conwell, the front man for a popular local group from the 1980s, Tommy Conwell & the Young Rumblers.

“The ’80s are coming back!” Conwell yelled into the microphone, to the approval of his relatively small but enthusiastic audience. And maybe that really can be the case to some degree. There always are going to be music lovers who choose to remain rooted in the sounds of their youth because, well, thinking of the Young Rumblers as still being young is a convenient way of forgetting the graying or thinning of their own hair, or the formation of spare tires around their waists and those worrisome crow’s feet around their eyes.

One night later and 65 miles to the East, there was a similar celebration of what was. The second annual Atlantic City All Stars Boxing Gala at Resorts Casino Hotel, in a sense, was like a gathering of members of the Flat Earth Society. There had been good times for boxing in the ’80s along the boardwalk, and plenty of them, but good times and those who helped make them happen have a way of slipping away with the passage of time. Aging boxers are in their own way like Young Rumblers whose rumbling now is mostly confined to memory. When the hits stop coming, what alternative is there but to recycle past glories?

“There are mixed emotions,” admitted Jonathan Diego, the former Atlantic City prosecutor who conceived the black-tie-optional event and serves as its chairman and foremost cheerleader. “`Bittersweet’ is a good word to describe it. It’s sweet that you can get 50 former champions , referees and judges in the same room. The bitter part is that we don’t have as many big fights, world championship fights, in Atlantic City as we once had.”

Ken Condon, the Sports and Entertainment consultant for Caesars Entertainment, has waved the banner for Atlantic City boxing even longer than Diego (he was there, in the marketing department, when Resorts became the first A.C. casino to open its doors in 1978), and just as passionately. He sees a pinpoint of light at the end of what for years had been an ever-darkening tunnel.

“Boxing is cyclical,” said Condon, one of a group of award recipients Saturday night that included, among others, former world champions Virgil Hill (who’ll be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame on June 9), Iran Barkley, William Joppy, Keith Holmes, Cory Spinks, DeMarcus Corley and contenders Chuck Wepner, Ivan Robinson, Jameel McCline and John Scully. “Atlantic City has always been receptive to good boxing. I think more (casino) properties are starting to add boxing to their marketing programs. Things are getting a little better in that respect. But we have a ways to go yet.”

If the rate of fight cards continues to hold through 2013, there is a strong likelihood double-digits will be reached, with the total number of shows topping out somewhere between 15 and 20. Even as honorees strode to the podium to accept their plaques from Diego and master of ceremonies Mike Mittman, less than a mile down the boardwalk there was a J Russell Peltz-promoted card headlined by junior welterweight Teon Kennedy’s 10-round unanimous decision over Carlos Vinan.

But while a 20-fight-card year might seem puny in comparison to the early- to mid-1980s, when Atlantic City averaged 130 shows from 1982 to 1985, when it was the site of a staggering 145 events, it is a damn sight better than the even punier five cards that were staged in the erstwhile capital of East Coast boxing in 2009, which marked the sport’s nadir down the shore.

So what happened? How could something so, well, great do an about-face and march backward toward near-irrelevance? Everyone has his own theory on the rise and fall of Atlantic City boxing.

“In the late 1970s, all through the ’80s and even into the ’90s, there was a level of success you almost couldn’t expect,” said Roy Foreman, George Foreman’s younger and shorter brother who for a quarter-century has split his time between his Texas and New Jersey residences. “We knew there would have to be a lull, eventually.

“I hope more people, influential people, begin to realize that boxing built Atlantic City. I don’t mean the actual buildings, but fight fans poured into this town for boxing matches. That’s why they came for, not just for the gambling. They came from New York, they came from Philadelphia, they came from Washington. And they didn’t just come to see superstars like Mike Tyson and George. A lot of fighters made their reputations here, and they developed their own followings.

“Now, the city is hurting. We have to find a way to do whatever it takes to bring it back to what it was, or somewhere near to what it was. The main problem is taxes. We need to get Gov. Christie and the legislature to give boxing some sort of tax break to make things more attractive to fighters and promoters. Guys would love to fight here more. Floyd Mayweather told me one of the best times he had was when he came here (to fight Arturo Gatti).”

Diego is mindful of the obstacles between the still-bleak current reality and a new dawn of progress. Not only is the economy gelatin-soft, but the cost of doing business is getting steeper, as is the competition from neighboring states that have legalized casino gambling to the detriment of Atlantic City’s 12 casinos, some of which are losing their battles with the bottom line. It’s hard to argue with such depressing facts as the 42 percent in lost casino revenues (from $5.2 billion to barely $3 billion) since 2006, at a time when casino revenue for the United States as a whole has increased 4.8 percent. Some 10,300 Atlantic City casino jobs have disappeared through layoffs and attrition, and the bad news could get worse when online gambling in Delaware goes into effect in the fall.

Joe Lupo, the senior vice-president of operations for one of Atlantic City’s glitziest casino properties, the Borgata, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that “the Jersey shore will never be quite the same due to the fact we are completely surrounded by gaming on all sides.”

So how boxing stage a comeback amid the overall chaos enveloping Atlantic City as a whole? Well, there are steps that might be taken, if only the powers that be choose to take them.

One is to identify a headliner, an Arturo Gatti type, who can become the city’s franchise fighter as was the late, great blood-and-guts brawler – who will be posthumously inducted into the IBHOF on June 9 – when he regularly packed Boardwalk Hall.

“In the ’80s boxing was at its height with Tyson and all those big stars that regularly appeared here,” Condon said. “I do think you’re going to see more and more boxing shows every year here. What I’ve tried to do is to find East Coast fighters who can develop a following and who want to make Atlantic City their boxing home. Obviously, we were able to do that very successfully with Arturo.

“Look, Mayweather-level fights are few and far between. They usually wind up in Vegas, anyway. We’re always hopeful we can find the next Arturo Gatti.”

To Diego, whose uncle is former middleweight contender Dave Tiberi, the solution could be as simple as giving up some money on the front end to make more on the back end.

“I don’t think some of these entertainment directors really understand the fight game and how boxing can benefit their properties,” he said. “Their predecessors did.

“A big part of the issue is cost. The reality is that staging boxing now costs a lot of money. Back in the day, you’d get a four-corner deal where a promoter would get the venue and hotel rooms for the fighters and their cornermen for free. The casinos just presumed they would get that money, and more, from fans (patronizing) their casinos and restaurants.

“Now those same properties are asking promoters to pay for everything. It’s cost-prohibitive for smaller- and medium-sized shows.”

The downside took some time to develop, just as the upside did. Casino gambling was approved by New Jersey voters in 1976, and Resorts – then known as Merv Griffin’s Resorts – opened with great fanfare on May 26, 1978. Two years later, French director Louis Malle’s 1980 film Atlantic City, starring Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon, depicted not only the extent of the resort town’s decades-long deterioration, but the steps taken to restore its former opulence with the erection of the gambling palaces that began to rise like so many steel skeletons. It was a transitional period from one era to the next, and with it the hope for a brighter tomorrow.

Make no mistakes, part of the vision was the realization of what boxing had meant to Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace, which opened in 1966, and to the neon-bathed desert outpost as a whole. Nudged by financier and casino owner Donald Trump, city fathers began to hype Atlantic City as the “boxing capital of the world.”

“It became very competitive between us and Vegas, maybe even a little contentious,” Larry Hazzard Sr., the chairman of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board, from 1985 to 2007, said in 2009. “But we had the edge because we had Tyson.”

Mike Tyson, for those with short memories or are too young to remember, once was as big or bigger than basketball’s Michael Jordan or golf’s Tiger Woods. His status as an Atlantic City icon began modestly – with eight appearances mostly in ballroom settings when he was gaining notoriety as a young knockout artist – but it gained traction soon after Trump threw truckloads of money at him to become the marquee attraction in Boardwalk Hall, and the face of Trump’s ambitious boxing operation headquartered at Trump Plaza.

Tyson fought five times in Atlantic City after he became heavyweight champion for the first time, but the biggest night of all for him, and for boxing on the boardwalk, was June 27, 1988, when he squared off against fellow unbeaten Michael Spinks.

Let Spinks’ manager, the loquacious Butch Lewis (who was 65 when he died on July 23, 2011), explain just how wild a scene it was the night Atlantic City boxing reached its absolute apex.

“It was the biggest event in the world at that time – not just in this country or in boxing,” Lewis recalled in 2009. “I’m talking the whole bleepin’ world. If there was a Superdome in Atlantic City, we could have filled that sucker up twice over. The demand for tickets was just crazy. (The announced attendance was a sold-out 21,785.)

“I was getting calls from everybody you could think of – superstar athletes, big-time entertainers, politicians, right up to the White House. `Butch, you gotta get me in,’ they all said. But there wasn’t anything I could do. Ringside tickets had a face value of $1,500 – remember, this is 1988 dollars we’re talking about – and they were being scalped for more, a lot more, and that’s only if the people lucky enough to have ’em were willing to sell, which they weren’t.

“Anyway, Richard Pryor calls and tells me he’ll do anything to get in. Richard and me were close, so I had to try, right? I checked around, called in some favors and, somehow, I got him two tickets somewhere in the first three rows, right behind Magic Johnson.

“The fight happens. Slim (Spinks) gets knocked down in the first round. Even before he went down, Magic stood up. Boom, boom, the fight ends just like that (after an elapsed time of 91 seconds). Richard calls me later and says he never saw a punch, all he saw was Magic Johnson’s back.

“Richard is yelling, `Bleeper-bleeper, I could just as well have stayed home!’” Lewis, cracking himself up, said in replicating Pryor’s frantic, profane indignity. “But you know what? At least Richard was in the house. That was one night when you had to be there. And if you couldn’t actually be in the arena, you at least had to be in Atlantic City, taking in the wild scene. All the hotels had closed-circuit telecasts and those sold out, too.

“People who couldn’t get into Boardwalk Hall were milling around outside and offering hundreds of dollars for ticket stubs to the people who were coming out after the fight ended. They were willing to pay good money for stubs! I never saw or heard anything like that before. But, in a way, I understood. They wanted to be able to go back to wherever they came from and tell their friends and co-workers, `See, I was there.’”

But nothing lasts forever, not for Tommy Conwell or Mike Tyson, or for municipalities either. Not only did boxing begin to lose prominence in Atlantic City, but the Miss America Pageant relocated to Las Vegas in 2006. (Miss America 2014 will be crowned in Boardwalk Hall on Sept. 15, the first in a three-year return engagement in its ancestral home.) The famous diving horses at the Steel Pier stopped diving in 1978. Even finding a saltwater taffy shop along the boardwalk isn’t as easy as it once was.

So now those who would at least partially restore Atlantic City boxing peer into an uncertain future, aware of the impediments that still exist but steadfast in their shared belief that progress is being made, if incrementally. Diego insists the second annual Atlantic City All Star Boxing Legends Gala will not be the last.

“This really is a labor of love,” he said. “I’ve been a boxing fan since I was a preteen. In the ’70s and ’80s I watched guys like Ray Mancini, Livingstone Bramble, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns. It was a classic era for boxing and fans got to see the best of the best.

“I was there when my uncle David fought James Toney for the middleweight title. He got robbed. All right, he was in trouble in the first and second rounds, but he dominated the rest of the way. He was the far busier and more effective fighter. That fight inspired me to become more involved in the sport.

“I remember when Uncle David used to hold his `Night of Champions’ in Wilmington, Delaware. He had guys like Smokin’ Joe Frazier come in. I went to a couple of those events and thought, `Why can’t we do something like that in Atlantic City, only bigger and better?’ And this is bigger and better. It’s going to keep getting bigger and better.”

 

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Three Punch Combo: Jacobs-Derevyanchenko on HBO, Baranchyk-Yigit and More

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This Saturday, Daniel Jacobs (34-2, 29 KO’s) takes on Sergiy Derevyanchenko (12-0, 10 KO’s) for the vacant IBF middleweight title. The fight, which headlines an HBO World Championship Boxing tripleheader, is highly anticipated in boxing circles as on paper it is an evenly matched contest with a wide range of potential outcomes. The fight also bears an eerie resemblance to another middleweight title fight from more than twenty years ago.

On March 16th, 1996, then IBF middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins (28-2-1, 21 KO’s) faced off against the IBF’s number one ranked contender in Joe Lipsey (25-0, 20 KO’s). Opinions were split as to who would come out as the victor. It was televised live in the United States on ABC in the afternoon and served as a precursor for that evening’s big pay-per-view event between Mike Tyson and Frank Bruno.

Hopkins, 31 at the time, had fought much better opposition and those who favored him thought his experience along with his better athleticism would lead him to victory. Lipsey, who was 29, had a burgeoning reputation in the fight game and was known for his relentless pressure style. In addition, he had displayed devastating one punch knockout power in both hands that had many thinking he had a bright future in the sport.

It was the experience and ring savviness of Hopkins versus the untapped raw potential of Lipsey.

As it played out, Hopkins’ skill proved too much for Lipsey. After effectively out-boxing and neutralizing the aggression of Lipsey for three rounds, Hopkins landed a perfectly placed counter right uppercut using Lipsey’s forward momentum against him that instantly ended matters. It was a statement making performance for Hopkins.

Jacobs, 31, is in a similar spot to that of Hopkins when he faced Lipsey. With two losses on his ledger, Jacobs is in need of a statement making victory. One of those losses was to Gennady Golovkin and, of course, Hopkins entered the Lipsey contest with one of his losses to all-time great Roy Jones Jr.

Jacobs holds a significant experience edge in the pro game compared to that of Derevyanchenko. Jacobs is also the more athletic fighter. Similar to that of Hopkins against Lipsey, Jacobs will look to play the role of the boxer-puncher and use his experience along with athleticism to dictate the tempo of the fight.

Derevyanchenko, 32, comes in highly touted. Similar to Joe Lipsey in 1996, he enters with an undefeated record along with a glossy knockout percentage and many in the sport see a fighter with raw untapped potential.

The similarities between Jacobs-Derevyanchenko and Hopkins-Lipsey are striking. Will history repeat itself or will Derevyanchenko be able to rise to the occasion?

Baranchyk-Yigit

The World Boxing Super Series 140-pound tournament resumes this week with a pair of fights in New Orleans. While the fans will be mostly showing up to watch the main event between hometown rising star Regis Prograis (22-0, 19 KO’s) and Terry Flanagan (33-1, 13 KO’s), it is the other WBSS fight, pitting Ivan Baranchyk against Anthony Yigit for the vacant IBF title that piques my interest.

Baranchyk (18-0, 11 KOs) is well known to US fight fans from his multiple appearances on the ShoBox series on Showtime on which he has scored some highlight reel knockouts. He is an aggressive pressure fighter with heavy handed power. He has been showing signs of improved boxing skills of late and is coming off a career best performance in knocking out former world title challenger Petr Petrov.

Yigit (21-0-1, 7 KOs) is a former decorated amateur who participated in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. A southpaw with quick feet and good hand speed, Yigit is an excellent counterpuncher who is adept at using feints to bait his opponents to throw to set up counter opportunities. He is also very slick and uses good head movement, making him not an easy target to hit.

This is a classic matchup of an aggressive pressure fighter against a skilled slick boxer. Baranchyk has the buzz and will be favored, but Yigit’s style and skill could present a major challenge for him. It’s a very compelling fight,.

The Journey of Yuandale Evans

On April 24th, 2010 I hit the road to attend a club show in a suburb of Cleveland. I wanted to get a firsthand look at a local fighter named Yuandale Evans who was headlining the 6-fight card. The venue was a small indoor soccer complex and tickets were only $20. There was no assigned seating and I had no problem finding a ringside seat for the evening’s festivities.

Evans did not disappoint. Fighting in front of the sparse audience, he dispatched an opponent named Reymundo Hernandez in the first round. I liked what I saw from Evans and thought he had a bright future in boxing.

A year later, Evans found himself on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fight Series in a step-up fight against veteran Emmanuel Lucero. This was a coming out party for Evans as he impressively took apart the former world title challenger. There was speed, athleticism and power in his game and many took notice.

Nine months later, Evans found himself in a significant fight. It was another date on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fight Series but this time against a fellow undefeated fighter in Javier Fortuna. Fortuna had been getting a lot of buzz and if Evans could defeat him then he’d find himself on the brink of a world title opportunity.

But the Fortuna fight did not go well for Evans. As a matter of fact, it was disastrous.  Fortuna scored a vicious, highlight reel first round knockout, the kind of knockout loss that many fighters never recover from.

It appeared for a while that Evans would not get back in the game. Out for three years, he finally returned in 2015 with two wins against less than stellar competition. These wins were needed confidence boosters.

After those bounce back wins, it took another 17 months for Evans to return to the ring. This time, in his first major test since the Fortuna loss, he faced Billel Dib. Brought in as the “B” side, Evans was supposed to be a name on the resume for Dib, but he flipped the script, scoring a clear ten round unanimous decision.

The win against Dib, which took place in the 130-pound division, put Evans back on the radar. But it was his next performance that put him into contention. Dropping down to featherweight and again coming in as the underdog, he scored a rousing split decision win against Louis Rosa in November of 2017 in a fiercely fought contest that received Fight of the Year consideration. Evans fought with passion and determination to secure the best win of his career.

Evans, now 20-1 with 14 KO’s, will challenge undefeated 130-pound world title holder Alberto Machado next week. Evans is once again an underdog. Not many are giving him much of a chance. But if Evans fights like he did against Rosa and can stay inside on Machado, applying constant pressure, we could be in for another surprise.

Evans has come a long way since I first saw him fight at a small indoor soccer venue in Ohio and I for one do not discount his chances to lift Machado’s world title belt.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

 

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Andrade Grabs Vacant WBO Middleweight Belt in Boston

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TD GARDEN​​ — It’s a good thing Eddie Hearn didn’t listen to the people who told him not to promote prizefighting in Boston. With all four major American sports in full swing in the city, Matchroom Boxing absolutely rocked the house as an equitable fan attraction in New England.The media was out in full force and so were the fans. At the final fight week press conference, Hearn introduced ESPN’s Dan Rafael before he even barked for his boxers. “You know it’s a big card when Dan Rafael shows up,” he said of the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer award winner for career excellence in journalism. Hearn knows it’s about building hype and that’s what he’s doing.

Sugar Ray Leonard was on the mic for DAZN. Paulie Malignaggi was doing the same for Sky Sports. I saw Micky Ward and Conor McGregor seated at ringside. Mike Tyson conqueror Kevin “The Clones Colossus” McBride was also spotted in the mix throughout the night.

“We did about five thousand in Chicago,” Hearn told me of his first Matchoom USA show October 6 on DAZN. Hearn expected about seven thousand for Boston, hoping for a good walk-up crowd. “I’m pleased with ticket sales. I’m pleased with the venue. If the fans are happy and enjoy a great night at the fights and if they want us back, we’d love to return,” he said.

Hearn’s originally scheduled main event fell apart in September when Billy Joe Saunders controversially failed VADA drug testing for the banned stimulant oxilofrine. “Unfortunately Billy Joe failed a drug test. I don’t think the Massachusetts Commission had any choice in denying him a license,” Hearn told me during the final fight week press conference at Fenway Park.

Saunders was to defend the WBO middleweight title against Providence, Rhode Island’s Demetrius Andrade. Instead, Saunders was stripped of his strap and unknown African champ Walter ​Kautondokwa stepped in to face Andrade for the vacant WBO 160 pound title. “I’m too old to fight nobodies now,” said the 30 year-old Andrade without a trace of irony. In fact, Andrade’s whole pro career has been carefully built on soft touches and vacant ABC championships.

Hearn’s undercard also suffered a hit when popular local junior welterweight Danny “BHOY” O’Connor pulled out of his bout against Tommy Coyle, citing injury. According to Hearn, “​O’Connor was working very hard in camp but I don’t think it was going particularly well.”

The live crowd in attendance at the Garden was loud and enthusiastic. In a full sized entertainment venue that seats close to twenty thousand fans and with promotional aspirations optimistically set at half that number (official attendance was listed at 6,874), your best chance to have seen these fights for yourself was on the emerging and effective streaming app DAZN.

For Brits stuck back home it was on Sky Sports.  For everybody else, I’m here to ringside report.

In the Main Event for the vacant WBO middleweight championship, Providence, Rhode Island’s Demetrius “Boo Boo” Andrade, 30, 160, 26-0 (16) dominated Namibian import Walter Kautondokwa, 33, 17-1 (16). ​A stablemate of former super lightweight champ Julius Indongo, Kautondokwa drew inspiration from his countryman’s international accomplishments in boxing. Indongo parlayed the WBO African title into an eventual unification showdown with Terence Crawford in Nebraska. “He’s definitely not stopping this train,” promised Andrade at the weigh-in.

He was right.

In the first round, ​Kautondokwa slipped to the canvas and Andrade hit him on the chin while he was on all fours. Referee Steve Willis ruled it a knockdown, rather than reacting to the foul. Kautondokwa pushed the action in the second but Andrade scored with the cleaner punches. In the third, Andrade scored a clean knockdown with a flush left hand to the chin. The challenger rose and answered the bell for the fourth down by two extra points. Kautondokwa went down again twice more in the fourth leaving Andrade with a look like, “What more do I have to do?”

As the rounds wore on and on, Andrade found the answer to be elusive, even if Kautondokwa wasn’t terribly so. His best power punches were either missing or being blocked, and Kautondokwa was proving durable. By the championship rounds, it was clear that Andrade wouldn’t be able to stop the train that was Kautondokwa. The energy in the live crowd suffered accordingly. Michael Buffer announced what was already known, that Andrade won a virtual shutout on the cards.  Scores were 120-104(2x) and 119-105.

“I did what I had to do. I could see that he was tough. It was good to get those twelve rounds in because I’ve been inactive,” said Andrade at the post-fight press conference. He also spoke of a fight week injury to his left shoulder that affected his performance and prevented a knockout. To be perfectly honest, it sounded like an excuse for not finishing off a badly hurt fighter.

In her de facto Irish Homecoming, Katie Taylor, 32, Bray, 11-0 (5) successfully defended her WBA/IBF female lightweight titles against the very experienced Cindy Serrano, 36, Brooklyn, 27-6-3 (10), over ten two-minute rounds. Serrano was moving up in weight to challenge Taylor, who’s already made two title defenses this year in London and in Brooklyn. Serrano was never in danger of being hurt or knocked out and Taylor was never in any danger of losing the fight.  Taylor won every round on all three cards 100-90.  “Cindy was just in there to survive,” said a disappointed Taylor.  Some fans jeered the “action” but it didn’t bother Serrano. “Eddie Hearn believes in female fighting. Hopefully he can turn it around and we can get a couple more promoters just like him.”

To make the first defense of his newly won IBF super featherweight championship, Philly southpaw Tevin “American Idol” Farmer, 27-4-1 (6), stopped Belfast KRONK’s James Tennyson, 22-3 (18) in five. During promotion for the title bout, it looked for all to see that Farmer was overlooking Tennyson with his focus squarely on a big money grudge match with Gervonta Davis. ​“I’m not overlooking James but I want to fight Tank Davis. I have to have that fight and it’s got to happen. Let’s leave the streets on the streets and fight in the ring. We’ve talked enough.”

In the ring, Farmer looked at his opponent and punched right through him. In the fourth frame, Farmer dropped Tennyson with a solid left hook to the body. It got no better for the Belfast native. The next round, Arthur Mercante stopped it when Tennyson fell again from body shots. ​In accepting the fight, Farmer’s promoter Lou DiBella didn’t want to deny his fighter the opportunity to appear on such a high profile card so he willingly worked with Hearn to make it happen.  Time of the TKO was @1:44 of the round 5.

In an IBF featherweight elimination bout scheduled for twelve, Evander Holyfield’s Toka Kahn Clary, Providence, R.I., 25-3 (17), dropped a pedestrian UD to Ingle Gym’s Kid Galahad, Sheffield, 25-0 (15). At the press conference in August to announce the match-up, there was bad blood in the air. “Toka is a bum,” a chippy Galahad told me at Boston’s Faneuil Hall. “He didn’t want this fight. He was talking trash so I called him a wanker and it got a little out of hand.”

“I’m gonna beat him,” Galahad promised.

At the final press conference, Galahad was demonstrably more peaceful. During the media face-off with Kahn, he offered his hand to shake but Toka just left it hanging there. “I’ve calmed down,” Kid told me. “Nothing personal, just business.” ​Is Toka a bum?​ “You can’t call him a bum.” ​You did Kid.​ “I might have gone over the top. Any fighter that gets in the ring you gotta have some respect for. Toka is gonna show up and my job is to make sure I do a job on him.”  Job well done, Kid.  Final scores were 118-110 twice and 115-113.

In an entertaining ten round junior welterweight scrap, Tommy “Boom Boom” Coyle, Hull, Yorkshire, U.K., 25-4 (12), outpointed Ryan Kielczweski, Quincy, Mass, 29-4 (11) over the distance. Unanimous scores were 99-90, 98-91 and 96-93. The “Polish Prince” substituted for Danny O’Connor against Coyle, a fighter TSS’s own Ted Sares expected Ryan to have had his hands full with in a knockout loss; describing Coyle as a “load” in the ring. In the seventh round, Kielczweski was felled by a massive right hand to the body and a vicious follow up left hook to the head. He took a long nine count but got up to then stalk a fading Coyle down the stretch.  “This is the most ready I’ve been for any fight,” Kielczweski told me before the bout. “I fought in September. A week later I got a call for this one so it’s like I’m on a ten week training camp.”

Coyle is a pressure fighter and an interesting character. Kielczweski struggled to keep him at bay but landed with several quality power shots of his own, many coming in the last three rounds—after the knockdown. Calling this his “American Dream” come true, Coyle grew up in England loving ROCKY movies and Irish Micky Ward fights. Tonight, he was almost in one.

In a super featherweight comeback bout, former super bantamweight and featherweight champion Scott Quigg, 30, Bury, U.K., 35-2-2 (26) made a successful return against journeyman Mexican Mario Briones, 29-8-2 (21), stopping him in two rounds with an unanswered three punch combination along the ropes. Trained by Freddie Roach, Quigg was defeated last March by WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez in a bruising non-title bout. Quigg suffered multiple facial laceration and a broken nose in the unanimous decision loss. “I want a rematch with Valdez and with Carl Frampton because I want to avenge my losses. If I’d be happy not fighting them again, I’d be in the wrong game,” a candid Quigg told me. “The work Freddie’s had me doing and the sparring I’m on, I feel like I’m a ten times better fighter now.”

In a junior middleweight rematch, Murphys Boxing U.S. Marine Mark “Bazooka” DeLuca, Whitman, Mass, 22-1 (13) outgunned Walter “2 Guns” Wright 37, Seattle, Washington 17-5 (8) to defeat the only man to have beaten him as a pro, winning 97-93, and 96-94 twice. From ringside I scored it 6-4 in rounds for DeLuca who scored well early with left hooks. Wright did well in the middle rounds on the inside when DeLuca was tiring but it wasn’t enough. Though his promoter Ken Casey questioned the outcome of the first fight last June in N.H., DeLuca told me it was tight. “But he got me,” he admitted. Wright didn’t understand the manufactured controversy. “I won. To come across the country, fight the local guy, and beat him, I should think I’d get my props for winning. My performance should outweigh politics.” On this night, Wright’s good but not good enough performance earned him an appropriately scored unanimous decision loss.

There was no protest from Wright with the verdict.

UNDERCARD RESULTS:

In the show opener, super lightweight southpaw Sean McComb from Belfast improved to 4-0 (3), outclassing 37 year-old Peruvian Carlos Galindo, 1-6. Galindo’s only win came against Maine’s Brandon Berry last June in N.H. This was McComb’s first appearance outside the U.K. Galindo took a body beating and the fight was stopped in the third after a pair of knockdowns.

Accompanied to the ring by middleweight corker Spike O’Sullivan, Murphys Boxing’s Gorey, Ireland heavyweight Niall Kennedy 221.6, 12-0-1 (7) took a few to give a few against New Jersey’s Brendan Barrett 238, 7-1-2 (5), including a hip-toss and a headlock. The 6’3” Kennedy used his good left jab and strong right cross to earn a unanimous six round decision, dropping the stocky Barrett in the fifth with a brutal right hand. Official scores: 60-53 twice and 58-55.

Kazakh Olympic Gold medalist welterweight prospect Daniyar Yeleussinov improved to 4-0 (2) against Salem, Mass “Mantis” Matt Doherty, 8-6-1 (4). Doherty wore a J.D. Martinez Red Sox jersey to the ring but he was outgunned. The 27 year-old southpaw finished Doherty off with a barrage of unanswered punches in the first round and referee Arthur Mercante waved a halt.

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Rob Brant is the New WBA Middleweight Champion

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LAS VEGAS, Nevada- In a major upset that saw a mega fight disappear, Rob Brant took the WBA middleweight title from Japan’s Ryota Murata with a lot of hustle and a heck of a chin to the surprise of many on Saturday.

Murata (14-2,11KOs) was expected to fight Gennady “GGG” Golovkin if he won, but the dress rehearsal turned into a nightmare as Brant (24-1, 16 KOs) attacked and attacked while out-punching the Japanese fighter nearly two to one in front of a stunned audience of more than 2700 at the Park Theater at the MGM.

“This was one of the best moments of my life, said Brant. “I wasn’t thinking of punch output. I was thinking about winning.”

With many planning their trips to Tokyo for an expected showdown between Murata and Golovkin, the Las Vegas based Brant put a stick into the spokes of their travel plans.

Brant started quickly with combination punching and moving in and out of range during the first three rounds of the middleweight bout. Murata smiled throughout the incoming blows from the upstart Brant.

“It’s easy to smile, but his eyes were swollen and he had blood on his mouthpiece,” said Brant.

It wasn’t until the fourth round that Murata found life while attacking the body.

The body punches opened up the lead right cross for Murata, who began targeting Brant’s head. But the Minnesota native was able to absorb the big blows and kept firing back. Though Brant was landing more shots, Murata’s punches were clearly harder and landed with a thud.

The crowd got into the fight early as cheers of “USA! USA!” were shouted sporadically throughout the fight. It probably had an effect on the judges.

It seemed Murata was landing the more effective blows in the middle rounds, especially when he targeted the body, then switched to the head. But though they were hard punches, Brant moved backward and kept returning fire.

The action was measured, but constant, with no slow rounds after round three. At times it looked like Murata was about to score a knockout but it never came. Brant proved resilient. More than that, he convinced the three judges he was the winner 119-109(2x) and 118-110.

Only the widespread scores were surprising. It seemed like a much closer fight.

Dudashev prevails

Maxim Dudashev (12-0, 10 KOs) tried to blast it out with Mexico’s Antonio DeMarco (33-7-1, 24 KOs), but after taking heavy incoming fire, the undefeated super lightweight changed tactics and out-boxed the former world champion to win by unanimous decision.

Dudashev moved around just enough and used quick short combinations to out-score the long-armed Tijuana fighter after the midway point of the 10-round affair. Though DeMarco was able to score with heavy body shots  and lead lefts to the head, Dudashev managed to fire off combinations that kept winning rounds in the second half of the fight. The judges scored the fight 97-93, 96-94, 98-92 for Dudashev. TheSweetScience.com scored it 96-94 for Dudashev, who keeps the NABF super lightweight title.

“This was a great learning experience for me,” said Dudashev. “DeMarco is a true champion, and he fought with great heart and determination.”

Falcao and other bouts

Brazil’s Esquiva Falcao (22-0, 15 KOs) showcased his various boxing skills against Argentina’s Guido Pitto (25-6-2, 8 KOs) who lost by unanimous decision but forced the undefeated fighter into various situations. In the first four rounds, Falcao fought from the outside with impunity as Pitto was unable to touch the Brazilian. But when the Argentine boxer took the fight inside, he found more success and forced Falcao to utilize his inside boxing skills. The fighting was intense but Falcao was just too strong and slightly quicker in winning every round in the 10 round middleweight fight. Pitto’s best moments came during the fifth round when he forced his way inside. All three judges saw it 100-90 for Falcao.

Ireland’s Michael Conlan (9-0, 6 KOs) battered Nicola Cipolletta (14-7-2) every round with rights to the body and head. The Italian boxer rarely fired back and after several unanswered blows by Cipolletta the referee Russell Mora stopped the featherweight fight @1:55 of round seven. Cipolletta protested the stoppage but never truly engaged Conlan, who must have connected on more than 60 percent of his punches thrown. It was a whitewash for the former Irish Olympian.

Vladimir Nikitin (2-0) won by unanimous decision over Louisiana’s Clay Burns (5-5-2) in a featherweight fight that was much closer than the scores given. Burns started out fast and easily won the first two rounds. Then the battle got much closer as Nikitin’s overhand rights began scoring. Burns switched to southpaw and switched back and forth and that gave Nikitin pause. The last two rounds were very close especially the final round. But all three judges scored it 59-55 for Nikitin, thus only giving Burns one round. It was much closer in reality.

A battle between undefeated Puerto Rican lightweights saw Joseph Adorno (10-0, 9 KOs) drop Kevin Cruz (8-1, 5 KOs) twice in winning by unanimous decision. Though Adorno’s knockout streak was snapped, he engaged in a spirited battle against left-handed Cruz who let loose in the sixth and final round. A counter left hook by Adorno floored Cruz the second time during a furious exchange. Cruz beat the count and tried his best to go for the knockout; Adorno scooted away until the final bell. Scores of 59-53(2x) and 58-54 for Adorno.

Adam Lopez (11-1, 5 KOs) won by knockout over Hector Ambriz (12-8-2) in a featherweight match. The end came @1:29 of the eighth and final round of the fight when Lopez fired a four punch combination that forced referee Tony Weeks to halt the fight though Ambriz was still standing.

Uzbekistan’s Fazliddin Gaibnazarov (6-0, 3 KOs) stopped veteran Wilberth Lopez (23-10, 15 KOs) with a series of body blows @2:13 of round two in a super lightweight contest between lefties.

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