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Tim Bradley: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

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On October 12th, Tim Bradley fought Juan Manuel Marquez at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. The belts were irrelevant. Most fight fans had no idea which sanctioning body strap (WBO welterweight) was on the line. This was a bout between two elite fighters, period. And it was particularly significant for Bradley.

“Beating Márquez will make me one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world,” Tim said days before the fight. “I don’t do this just to make money. The money is important, but I want to fight the best to be the best. That’s what motivates me. After I beat Marquez, there’s no way that people will be able to deny me what I’m due.”

Bradley stands just under 5-feet-6-inches tall and wears size twelve shoes. “Big heart too, baby,” he’s quick to note. He’s a volume puncher without knockout power (unbeaten but with only 12 KOs in 31 fights). Roy Jones calls him “a 147-pound Evander Holyfield without the punch.”

Like most fighters, Bradley dreams big dreams. But he pushes himself harder than most to accomplish them.

“I can be stubborn at times,” Tim says. “I never doubt myself. Doubt me; tell me I can’t do something. I love it. I admire people who push themselves beyond what anyone thinks they can do. Diana Nyad; sixty-four years old, swimming in the ocean with sharks, jellyfish; keeps swimming for more than fifty hours. That’s me. I’ll go into the devil’s mouth, dive into the deepest part of the ocean, do whatever I have to do to win.”

Bradley knew that he’d have a hard road to travel against Marquez.

Mexican pride has taken a beating in the boxing ring lately. Earlier this year, Canelo Alvarez was whitewashed by Floyd Mayweather; Julio Cesar Chavez Jr embarrassed himself against Brian Vera; Alfredo Angulo quit against Erislandy Lara; and Rafael Marquez was stopped by Efrain Esquivias. In 2012, Erik Morales lost twice to Danny Garcia, and Jorge Arce was demolished by Nonito Donaire. Prior to that, Antonio Margarito was bludgeoned by Shane Mosley and Manny Pacquiao and out-finessed by Miguel Cotto. Marco Antonio Barrera disappeared from the spotlight after being terminated by Amir Khan four years ago.

That left Marquez, whose most recent outing was a one-punch highlight-reel knockout of Pacquiao last December.

“I’ve seen every one of his fights,” Bradley (seen unloading on the Mexican in Chris Farina-Top Rank photo) said during a media conference call in early October. “I’ve always been a fan of Márquez.I always thought he was a great fighter and I still think he’s a great fighter. He’s one of the best counter-punchers in the game. People struggle when they fight him. He never ducked anybody.He has been in there with Mayweather. He fought Pacquiao four times. There’s nothing he hasn’t seen.Marquez isn’t easy for anyone.”

Two issues were troubling to Tim’s fans where Bradley-Marquez was concerned. The first was PED testing.

In other sports, the great athletes are getting younger. In boxing, they’re getting older. Age thirty-five used to be washed up and over-the-hill in the sweet science. Marquez is forty (ten years older than Bradley) and as formidable as he has ever been. Indeed, in recent years, Juan Manuel seems to have gotten bigger, faster, and stronger. Sort of like Barry Bonds.

Bradley is an awesome physical specimen. “I’ve got the six-pack, the back-pack, and the ninja turtle shell,” Tim says. But he’s within three pounds of the weight that he turned pro at nine years ago. And the fact that he has made a commitment to VADA testing (all of his VADA tests came back negative prior to Bradley-Marquez) entitles him the presumption that he’s clean.

Marquez, by contrast, has elevated through six weight divisions during the course of his career. And after joining forces with conditioner Angel “Memo” Heredia (who previously admitted under oath to being a purveyor of performance enhancing drugs), Juan Manuel has come into the ring with a significantly more-muscular physique and added punching power.

Marquez refused to submit to VADA testing prior to fighting Bradley.

Also, in Bradley’s most recent fight – a narrow decision win over Ruslan Provodnikov on March 16th – he was seriously concussed and suffered from slurred speech and dizziness for ten weeks afterward.

Most fighters don’t talk about their vulnerabilities. Bradley does. In fact, he talked more openly about his concussion and its aftereffects than any active fighter in recent memory.

“One of the reasons I’ve been so open about this,” Tim explained several days before Bradley-Marquez, “is so other fighters will get the help they need when they’ve been concussed. Every fighter knows that, when he enters the ring, he might not come out the same. But a lot of times, there are things you can do to get better. Testing, therapy. And you’ve got to do them.”

Marquez was a 6-to-5 favorite. Bradley dismissed those numbers, saying, “The odds are about the last punch in Marquez’s last fight. And then you look at my last fight, when I was concussed. But I was trying to prove something against Provodnikov that I shouldn’t have tried to prove. And Pacquiao was beating Marquez until he got sloppy-overconfident. I’m fine now. Everything is back to normal. I am not worried about getting punched or can I take a punch.”

Still, many of those who predicted a Bradley victory over Marquez did so with a caveat: “If Tim is okay.”

Both fighters made the 147-pound limit with room to spare. Bradley weighed in at 146 pounds; Marquez at 144-1/2. An announced crowd of 13,011 was on hand when the main event began.

It’s hard to outbox Marquez. But for much of the night, Bradley did it.

“Concentration will be very important in this fight,” Tim had said earlier in the week. “Never taking a second off physically or mentally, but especially mentally.”

Bradley stayed true to that creed, making adjustments throughout the night in a tactical fight fought at a high skill level with neither man able to establish control.

“The game plan was to move and keep moving,” Tim said afterward. “I felt his power in the first round. He caught me with an uppercut that hurt . . . My speed and footwork were the key. I got in a rhythm early . . . You have to be careful when you fight him. He’s really dangerous when he backs up. You follow him in and BOOM . . . He knocked Pacquiao out with that big right hand. I knew he’d be going for that . . . I had a good tight defense. I was blocking a lot of his shots and making him miss . . . He changed gears in the second half of the fight, kept making adjustments, started closing the gap. After a while, he started timing my jab and I said to myself, ‘It’s time to do something else’ . . . A lot of times when we had big exchanges, I wanted to fight with him. But he was throwing heavy shots and I told myself, ‘Stay disciplined; stay smart’ . . . Marquez is a smart fighter and very dangerous.”

It was a hard fight to score. According to CompuBox, neither fighter outlanded the other by more than six punches in any round. In six of the twelve rounds, the differential was two punches or less. There were only five rounds in which the judges were in agreement.

Glenn Feldman scored the bout 115-113 for Marquez. But he was overruled by Robert Hoyle (115-113) and Patricia Morse Jarman (116-112), each of whom gave the nod to Bradley.

Marquez and Nacho Beristain (his trainer) were notably ungracious at the post-fight press conference.

“The judges did it again,” Juan Manuel said, alluding to his previous losses by decision to Pacquiao in Sin City. “To win in Las Vegas, I need to knock my opponent out.”

“Bradley is a good fighter and he’s also very lucky,” Beristain added. “He’s the only undefeated fighter with two losses [the other “loss” being a controversial decision victory over Pacquiao in 2012].”

But in truth, there’s no judging controversy here. Bradley-Marquez was a close competitive fight that could have gone either way. Two of the three judges said that Bradley won. It’s as simple as that.

One might also note that Juan Manuel’s face was bruised and swollen after the fight, particularly around his left eye, while Bradley was largely unmarked.

How good is Bradley?

Tim doesn’t talk constantly about the “0” on his record. But it’s there. After decisioning Marquez, he had a 31-and-0 record. In addition to beating Juan Manuel, he has victories over Manny Pacquiao, Devon Alexander, Lamont Peterson, Junior Witter, Ruslan Provodnikov, Luis Abregu, Joel Casamayor, and Nate Campbell to his credit.

Floyd Mayweather, at the same age, had a 36-and-0 record with wins over Genaro Hernandez, Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo, Arturo Gatti, Zab Judah, Carlos Baldomir, Angel Manfredy, and Jesus Chavez.

“Fighting Mayweather is a huge goal for me,” Bradley says. “I’m not Manny Pacquiao. I’m not Juan Manuel Marquez. I’m not Floyd Mayweather. But you can put my name in the conversation. I’m Tim Bradley and I know how to fight. If you think you can beat me, come on and try.”

Tim Bradley has arrived. Enjoy the show.

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book (Straight Writes and Jabs: An Inside Look at Another Year in Boxing) was published by the University of Arkansas Press.

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Fast Results From London: Joshua Takes Out Povetkin in the 7th

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UK sporting

It was a very wet night at Wembley Stadium, but the dampness didn’t diminish the enthusiasm of the crowd which welcomed UK sporting hero Anthony Joshua into the ring with a thunderous ovation. And Joshua didn’t disappoint. After six relatively even rounds, he found his range in the seventh and became the first man to stop Alexander Povetkin. A three punch combo that began with an overhand right sent Povetkin sprawling into the ropes. The Russian beat the count, but Joshua smelled blood and as soon as the ref allowed the proceedings to continue he moved in for the kill. The official time was 1:59.

Povetkin started fast and in the eyes of many observers won the first three rounds. A sharp right hand in the waning seconds of round one reddened Joshua’s nose which leaked blood in the next round. The tide began to turn in round four when Povetkin suffered a cut above his left eye.

Povetkin (now 34-2), was the lighter man by 23 pounds. Joshua had a four inch height advantage and a seven inch reach advantage. And it mattered greatly that AJ was the younger man by 10-plus years. Povetkin wasn’t intimidated by Joshua and had several good moments but, at age 39, his reflexes betrayed him once the fight had crossed the midpoint.

Joshua, who owns three of the four meaningful heavyweight title belts, improved to 22-0 with his 21st stoppage. His next fight is penciled in for April 13 of next year against an opponent to be determined. His promoter Eddie Hearn has reserved that date at Wembley Stadium.

Other Bouts

In a 12-round lightweight bout, Joshua’s Olympic Games teammate and fellow gold medalist Luke Campbell (19-2) avenged the first loss of his career with a unanimous decision (119-109, 118-111,116-112) over France’s Yvan Mendy (40-5-1). This was Campbell’s second start since coming up short in a bid for Jorge Linares’s lightweight title and his first fight under his new trainer Shane McGuigan.

In their first meeting in December of 2015 at London’s O2 Arena, Mendy won a split decision that should have been unanimous. Campbell insisted that he had improved greatly in the interim and tonight’s fight bore witness. However, he needs to develop a harder punch to rank among the top lightweights in the world, a list headed by Mikey Garcia. As this fight was framed as a WBC title eliminator, Campbell is next in line to meet Garcia, but Mikey has indicated that he will pursue bigger game.

Lawrence Okolie, a 2016 Olympian who trains with Anthony Joshua, won a Lonsdale belt in only his 10th pro start with a 12-round decision over defending BBBofC cruiserweight champion Matty Askin in a messy fight. The undefeated Okolie had a point deducted in round five for leading with his head and had two more points deducted for holding, but banked enough rounds to get the nod on all three cards: 116-110, 114-112, and 114-113. Askin, who declined to 23-4-1, had won five straight heading in.

A 10-round heavyweight match between Sergey Kuzmin (13-0, 1 NC) and David Price (22-6) ended suddenly when Price retired on his stool after four relatively even rounds. The six-foot-eight, china-chinned Price claimed to have aggravated a biceps tear.

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Michael Dutchover Remains Undefeated in Ontario, Calif.

Transplanted Texan Michael Dutchover needed a little time to figure out Costa Rican Bergman Aguilar but when he did it was over quickly on Friday.

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Michael Dutchover

ONTARIO-Calif.-Transplanted Texan Michael Dutchover needed a little time to figure out Costa Rican Bergman Aguilar but when he did it was over quickly on Friday.

Lightweight prospect Dutchover (11-0, 8 KOs) knocked out southpaw Aguilera (14-4-1, 4 KOs) in the fifth round with a barrage of body blows that left the Costa Rican limp at the Doubletree Hotel.

For two rounds Aguilar used an awkward counter-punching style that had Dutchover a little tentative. But once he figured out that combination punching was the key, he opened up with barrages and floored Aguilar with body shots at the end of round four.

That signaled doom for Aguilar.

The fifth round saw Dutchover target the body with impunity as Aguilar tried holding, running and covering up with no success. Referee Wayne Hedgepeth signaled the fight over at 2:31 of the fifth round giving Dutchover the win by knockout.

In a bantamweight clash Santa Ana’s Mario Hernandez (7-0-1, 3 KOs) and Mexico City’s Ivan Gonzalez (4-1-2, 1 KO) fought to a majority draw after six back and forth rounds.

Hernandez targeted the body against the taller Gonzalez who relied on long range counters. Both found success but neither could prove superiority after six turbulent rounds.

After six rounds one judge saw it 58-56 for Gonzalez but the two other judges saw it 57-57 for a majority draw.

Other bouts

South Central L.A.’s Ruben Torres (7-0, 6 KOs) extended his undefeated streak with a knockout over Mexico’s Eder “El Koreano” Amaro (6-6, 2 KOs) in a lightweight fight. But it wasn’t easy.

Amaro switched from southpaw to orthodox and was matching Torres for two rounds until the taller local fighter began blasting away to the body and head with precision. Many in the crowd cheered “Koreano” in unison but it couldn’t help once Torres zeroed in.

At the end of the fourth round Amaro could not continue and the fight was stopped giving a knockout for Torres.

Richard Brewart Jr. (2-0) mowed through Edward Aceves (0-5) flooring him with body shots in the first round then overwhelming him in the second. After seven unanswered blows referee Eddie Hernandez stopped the fight at 1:32 of round two giving Rancho Cucamonga’s Brewart the win by knockout in the super welterweight bout.

Southpaw David Ortiz (1-0) won his pro debut by unanimous decision after four rounds in a welterweight match against San Diego’s Mario Angeles (2-11-2). Ortiz lives in Bloomington, Calif. and is trained by Henry Ramirez. No knockdowns were scored.

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

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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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