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Travis Kauffman Still Waiting On That Big Break He Needs

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Scan the top 15 ratings for the four most widely recognized world sanctioning bodies and you’ll see that there isn’t the shortage of U.S. heavyweights many believe to be the case. But most of the names listed belong to fighters over 30 years of age and, in the case of the highest-ranked American, Tony Thompson, over 40.

That whittles the supply of “young” American heavyweights – defined here as those on the sunny side of 30 – to three men who might or might not have the goods to represent a real challenge not only to reigning champions Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, but to a glut of other Eastern Europeans who dominate the rankings.

Two of those heavyweights you probably know about. Deontay Wilder (29-0, 29 KOs) is 27, a bronze medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and has won every one of his professional bouts by knockout, including a first-round starching of faded former WBO titlist Sergei Liakhovich on Aug. 9 in Indio, Calif., a fight which was televised by Showtime. Bryant Jennings (17-0, 9 KOs) is 28 and has been featured regularly in nationally televised scraps on NBC SportsNet, including a ninth-round stoppage of the aforementioned Liakhovich on March 24, 2012.

Then there is Travis Kauffman (24-1, 18 KOs). The Reading, Pa., fighter, who turns 28 on Wednesday, is not a former Olympian, hasn’t had the benefit of recent TV exposure and has no really recognizable names on his resume. Maybe he is the best of the young American heavys, as his father-trainer-manager, Marshall Kauffman, insists, but there aren’t many who have seen enough of him to objectively weigh in on the subject, despite Travis’ No. 13 ranking from the WBA.

One thing is certain: No matter what happens Friday night at the Valley Forge (Pa.) Casino and Resort in suburban Philadelphia, few are apt to sit up and take notice. Kauffman is paired against 32-year-old journeyman Arron Lyons (12-12-1, 9 KOs) — who’ll be fighting for the first time in 16 months — in a scheduled eight-rounder, and he’ll be expected to take care of business swiftly and emphatically. Kauffman-Lyons ostensibly isn’t even the main event of the evening; top billing is going to Naim Nelson (10-1, 1 KO), who defends his Pennsylvania lightweight title against Ryan Belasco (18-5-3, 3 KOs) in a scheduled six-rounder.

But those high-paying, high-visibility TV dates are hard to come by for someone who is not backed by a big-time promoter or manager , so Kauffman for now is obliged to play not only off-off-Broadway, but off-off-Broad Street (that’s Philly, folks).

Kauffman, who was on the cusp of much bigger and better things four years ago, before he was stopped in the fourth round of a ShoBox-televised fight against Tony Grano, still believes it can happen for him, and that he is a more complete and naturally gifted fighter than either Jennings or Wilder.

“I take nothing away from them, but I see so many things I could take advantage of if we fought,” Kauffman said. “Yeah, Wilder has a great jab and good power, but I think I’m better than him. Same thing with Jennings. I don’t consider Jennings to be so very talented, but his work ethic is unbelievable. He’s gotten as far as he has because he works so hard.”

Make no mistake, the 6-3½ Kauffman, who has fought at weights ranging from 221 pounds to 243, hasn’t always had the most disciplined approach to his craft. At one point between bouts, he allowed his weight to balloon to 310 pounds. The reformed bad boy – he has spent time in juvenile detention facilities and once was charged with statutory rape, although the charge eventually was dropped for lack of evidence – has had to deal with injuries (including two surgeries to his right hand and one to his left) and his less-connected handlers’ inability to secure the kind of fights he needs to get back into the limelight. He admits to occasional stretches of depression, none more severe than in the months after his powerhouse manager, Al Haymon, dropped him following the loss to Grano.

“It wasn’t so much that I lost,” Kauffman said of that fateful night of Sept. 18, 2009, in Indio, Calif. “It was more that Al Haymon turned his back on me. I had put my whole life into boxing and it felt like I lost it all in the blink of an eye. Let’s face it, Al Haymon was the one who was getting me that TV exposure in the first place. He’s got Floyd Mayweather. When he told me I could go all the way to the top, of course I believed him.”

Kauffman, who also had scored a third-round TKO of Malachy Farrell that was televised by ShoBox during his brief association with Haymon, suddenly found himself not only a step or two behind where he had been, but seemingly at the back of the line.

“Al Haymon had promised me that if I beat Tony Grano, my next fight, my coming-out party, would be on HBO for a minimum of $100,000,” Kauffman recalled. “I live in the inner city of Reading, Pennsylvania. I was showing my kids (he had four at the time, including two stepchildren, a number which has since climbed to five) nice houses in the suburbs. So when I lost and Al turned his back on me, it was devastating.

“People tell you it’s just one loss, to forget about it and move on, but it’s not that easy. I really didn’t want to box no more. And it’s been an up-and-down battle ever since. I’ve had my share of injuries. Now it’s time to (crap) or get off the pot. Mentally, I feel as good as I did before the Grano fight, when I was the most talked-about American heavyweight besides Chris Arreola. But after I lost to Grano, it was like everybody forgot who Travis Kauffman was. I won’t lie to you, it hurt.”

Steve Farhood, the ShoBox commentator who was a ringside for Kauffman’s fights with Farrell and Grano, said he is disappointed that Kauffman crawled into a hole following the Grano fight instead of dusting himself off and getting right back to work, preferably in a rematch with his conqueror.

“He was in complete control against Grano, but as soon as things started going against him, it was over. He got stopped,” Farhood said. “I don’t want to make it sound too much like I’m taking a shot at the kid, but look at Seth Mitchell. When he got beat (by Johnathan Banks), he got right back in the ring with the fighter who had beaten him. And while he wasn’t particularly impressive, he was victorious. Kauffman would have shown me a lot more if he had rematched with Grano and won. Instead, he’s fought mostly fighters with losing records.

“You can tell a lot about a fighter by who his handlers put him in with. To this point, (a low level of competition) has been the knock against Deontay Wilder, and you can the same thing about Travis Kauffman.”

But it’s not really the same thing, is it? Mitchell, the former Michigan State linebacker, continued to have the Golden Boy promotional machine in his corner. Without Haymon’s managerial clout to open doors, Kauffman’s career became even more dependent on his dad, who freely admits he doesn’t have the resources to maneuver his son into more lucrative dates than the stay-busy kind he’s taking against Lyons.

“Travis’ biggest drawback, probably, is me,” said Marshall Kauffman, who also has trained former world champs Kermit Cintron and Hasim Rahman. “And the biggest positive for him probably is me, too. We’ve had to deal with that whole father-son, coach-boxer thing that sometimes gets in the way. I don’t think it’s as much of an issue as it used to be. A lot of those kinks have been ironed out over the years.

“But there’s only so much I can do on a limited budget. Look, I’d have Travis fight someone like Liakhovich any time, any place. But you have to have enough money to pay Liakhovich enough money to entice him into the ring. Same thing with Bowie Tupou, who Jennings beat. I just can’t afford to pay those guys enough to appear on a small club card with no TV, like I’m doing at Valley Forge.”

So Travis Kauffman is obliged to take another off-the-radar fight against Lyons, the latest in a line of opponents who pose no real threat to someone his admittedly biased father calls “by far the best American heavyweight out there.” Only eight of the fighters who have faced Kauffman have winning career records, and the cumulative of everyone he has fought is 277-304-23, with 194 wins inside the distance and 164 KO losses.

It’s not that Kauffman hasn’t mixed it up with higher-quality guys. He has sparred with, among others, Rahman, Arreola, Eddie Chambers, Oleg Maskaev, Dominick Guinn and Malik Scott. But sparring sessions aren’t the same things as fights that count, and Kauffman can only hope to catch the sort of break that Jennings did when, on short notice, he and Maurice Byarm found themselves in the main event of the first NBC SportsNet “Fight Night” card after an injured Chambers fell out.

So what’s needed for Travis Kauffman to again wangle his way into position to make some noise in a depleted heavyweight division that is literally crying out for a young American contender?

“Patience. Persistence,” said the father. “Something will open up, eventually. Of course, it can happen a lot quicker when you have a Top Rank or a Golden Boy or a Main Events behind you. But you also have to be smart about the choices you make.

“When Grano fell out of a fight with (Tomasz) Adamek, Travis got offered his spot, but he would have had only one week to get ready, and that wasn’t nearly enough time. Look, you always have to be ready for a chance like that, but you also have to make sure the reward outweighs the risk. Give Travis six to eight weeks to train and he’ll be only too glad to fight anybody.”

Travis said the mistake too many fighters make is to jump into a seemingly lucrative situation when the circumstances aren’t right.

“I have too much pride to take a fight on short notice when I’m not in shape,” he said. “I know a lot of guys who do that simply because they need the money. Do I need the money? Absolutely. Who doesn’t need money? But I want to be heavyweight champion of the world. If I take a fight when I’m not ready and lose, I’ll probably never get the right kind of opportunity again.

“Sometimes you feel, like, cursed. I got offered a fight with Seth Mitchell, but it was on the same day I underwent surgery on my right hand. So much for that.

“You almost feel like quitting sometimes, but I’ve never worked a 9-to-5. For me to give up boxing now and to try to find a regular job, with no experience, would be hard. I can’t take care of five kids working at McDonald’s. So what choice do I have except to keep pushing ahead?”

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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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