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RINGSIDE REPORT Mayweather-Canelo Tour Hits Houston

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Fans in Houston started gathering together at 5 o’clock in the morning on Monday to secure a view of boxing superstars Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez as the two descended from on high to Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros, for a press conference slated for 1 o’clock in the afternoon.

Golden Boy Promotions grabbed a big venue. Minute Maid can hold a capacity crowd of 49,950 souls, but Richard Schaefer told the media he only reserved a space big enough to hold the same number of folks who showed up back in 2007 to see Mayweather and opponent Oscar De La Hoya come through town on a similar tour.

It was a huge mistake.

The line of fans hoping to file into the comparatively tiny space reserved for them was absolutely massive. It wrapped around the gargantuan baseball park all the way to the direct opposite side of the structure well before the doors were scheduled to open. There was absolutely no way all of them were going to be able to attend, so many of those who didn’t get into the room lined the glass planes surrounding it like sad little fish hoping for a morsel.

This fight is going to be huge.

Canelo Alvarez was first to arrive. He made his way up to the private media room for one-on-one interviews with the press. The media attention the undefeated junior middleweight titlist received dwarfed any I’d ever seen before in a town that’s served frequent host of top shelf boxing stars like Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Erik Morales and Nonito Donaire.

Alvarez answered questions in Spanish when posed to him as such, and was translated by Golden Boy matchmaker Eric Gomez when English was thrown his way. Through it all, Alvarez appeared calm, comfortable and confident. It was hard to believe he’s just 22 years of age.

Alvarez talked to TSS about the 152 pound catchweight.

“That’s what was negotiated…obviously I accepted. I was willing to go down two pounds, and I think I’m going to be fine,” Canelo told TSS. “I think I’m actually going to be a lot faster in the ring being a little lighter.”

Alvarez confirmed it was the Mayweather camp who requested the two pound reduction in weight from the junior middleweight limit of 154 pounds.

“All I can tell you is that I fight at 154,” he smirked. “Why would I ask for it?”

Mayweather skipped the prefight media gathering to make a fashionably late entrance. Fans cheered and jeered for the world’s top boxing star as if he were a polarizing political figure. Chants of his opponent’s name were deafening at times, though Mayweather did lead a group of his followers in attendance to The Money Team’s rhythmic call of “Hard work, Dedication” to help turn the tide.

The fighters appear to be similar in height and weight through the video lens, but standing close to each offered a different perspective. Mayweather is a true welterweight, meaning he appears to walk around very close to what he typically weighs in on fight night. Alvarez, meanwhile, was thickly muscular and appears not long for the junior middleweight division he now competes in. He’s the bigger man, no doubt.

After the two men did their obligatory faceoff for the cameras, and after each promotional entity had their say, both men read their lines for the gathered throng of onlookers.

“Fans can’t fight for you,” Mayweather said to the decisively pro-Alvarez crowd.

“It’s my time now,” said Alvarez to his gushing admirers.

After the proceedings, Alvarez made his way around to sign autographs and take pictures with the lucky fans that had squirmed their way to the surrounding media gates. He’s a hero to them already, it seems.

Meanwhile, Mayweather came over to talk about the fight with media television crews. He wore an affable smile and seemed as good natured as ever. Having seen him now on a few different occasions, it appears he genuinely enjoys all the attention he receives for being the best fighter in the sport of boxing today, from both fans and media.

“This happens every day,” said Mayweather with a smile. “I can’t go to the mall. I can’t go the movies. I would like to, but like I said before, without the media, the writers….without them, I wouldn’t be where I’m at, so I’m happy.”

Some of the credentialed media must have taken that as a sign, because soon after, he was signing autographs for not just those behind the gates, but those inside as well.

He truly is a star.

Floyd Mayweather versus Canelo Alvarez is the hottest fight of 2013 and for good reason. The stars have aligned to bring the two top 154-pound boxers in the sport into the ring together at the exactly right time. One (Mayweather) is the best and biggest star in the sport. The other (Canelo) is the brightest young celebrity boxer on the planet. It can’t help but be the biggest fight of the year.

Still, despite attending the largest boxing media event the city of Houston has ever seen, there is a bit of somberness which filled my soul afterwards. No, it wasn’t because I’m not going to attend the fight live in person. And it’s not because I believe it’s going to be a boring or one-sided fight either.

The truth of the matter is that this gigantic, multi-city press tour circus, the largest one imaginable really, only reminded me of something we fight fans will never get to see.

You see, no matter how big Mayweather-Canelo is or how great a fight it is this coming September, it will serve only as a poor reflection of the biggest and best fight this era could’ve possibly made, but didn’t.

And so leaving the venue late in the afternoon, I am left with only one feeling really: Mayweather-Canelo is huge; Mayweather-Pacquiao would’ve been…

 

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Michael Dutchover Remains Undefeated in Ontario, Calif.

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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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