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Brownsville Helped Make Curtis Stevens & Lots of Other Fighters

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It shouldn’t come as any surprise that boxing is a sport that draws far more participants from the so-called wrong side of the tracks than from more prosperous zip codes. Put it this way: Henry Milligan, the former light heavyweight and cruiserweight from Wilmington, Del., who held a master’s degree from Princeton University, is like the tail that wagged the dog, not the other way around.

By those commonly accepted standards, middleweight contender Curtis “Showtime” Stevens fits the description of what an up-by-the-bootstraps fighter is supposed to be: Hard, tough and a product of his environment. And that is even more likely to be the case when the environment in question is the famously mean streets of the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, N.Y., incubator of some of the more accomplished fighters the world has come to know.

Brownsville, whose 2010 population of 58,300 constitutes a tiny sliver of Brooklyn’s nearly 2.6 million residents, is 76.7 percent black; only 29.9 percent of 18-and-ups are high school graduates and the median household income is a well-below-poverty-level $15,978.

Two-time former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson unquestionably is the most famous product of Brownsville’s pugilistic school of hard knocks, but the neighborhood also birthed many other world titlists, including Riddick Bowe, Shannon Briggs, Zab Judah and Eddie Mustafa Muhammad.

Now along comes the 28-year-old Stevens (25-4, 18 KOs), who takes on Patrick “The Machine” Majewski (21-2, 13 KOs) in the 10-round main event of a fight card at Resorts Atlantic City. The other bout which will be televised by the NBC Sports Network pairs cruiserweight contenders Thabiso Mchunu (14-1, 10 KOs) and Olanrewaju Durodala (17-1, 16 KOs) in another scheduled 10-rounder.

“I think it’s something that must be in the atmosphere in Brownsville,” Stevens said when asked about the aforementioned list of top-tier fighters to have emerged from the always-raging turf wars there. “Growing up in Brownsville, you find out fast that the streets are rough. We learn how to fight, how to defend ourselves, at an early age. Some of us decide to put those fighting skills to better use by going pro. Instead of letting our talent go to waste, we take it to the gym and make something of it.

“I imagine it’s like that in North Philadelphia and anywhere else where you got to fight to survive. The streets can eat you up, man. You got to make sure your mind is right and your body tight.”

Tyson, when he was in Tokyo in the days leading up to his Feb. 11, 1990, title defense against Buster Douglas, regaled some media members with a tale of some of Brownsville’s other feisty creatures. “One day I was out running at 3 a.m., near the Imperial Palace, and I saw this big rat run out from under the wall,” Tyson said. “Now, I couldn’t believe there would be rats where the emperor lived.”

Asked to rate Japanese rats against the domestic version he grew up around, Tyson could only smile. “There’s no comparison,” he said. “The rats in Brooklyn would eat these rats. One time I saw a rat and a cat, and they were fighting hard! There was a crowd of people standing around, watching. People in Brownsville will watch any kind of fight.”

Stevens can relate. In his only shot at a world title to date, back on Nov. 12 in The Theater at Madison Square Garden, a curiously detached Stevens was stopped at the end of eight rounds by WBA/IBO middleweight champ Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. It is a performance that still haunts Stevens, who said he did not allow the full measure of his Brownsville side to come out.

“I was thinking too much and not reacting,” he said. “When I got home the next day, I looked at the replay of the fight and seen at times I was able to back him up when I let my hands go. But I didn’t do it enough. That was me being nervous and over-thinking.

“We went back to the gym, made our corrections. What I learned from that fight was this: Don’t think, just react. This fight, you’ll see. I’m going to do less thinking and more reacting.”

Nobody is liable to confuse Majewski, who is 34 and unranked by all the major sanctioning bodies (so is Stevens, for that matter), with an instrument of destruction like Golovkin. The impressive record of the Atlantic City fighter, by way of his native Poland, has been crafted mostly against second-level opposition, but he knows this is his big chance at something better and he doesn’t intend to blow it. “This is my shot in the middleweight division,” Majewski said. “Curtis Stevens is a known fighter. I’m not – yet. To be known, I have to pass through him.”

Stevens understands that his image as a gritty Brownsville homeboy was smudged against Golovkin, and he is aware that anything less than a spectacular effort against Majewski is apt to push him further out of the spotlight in and around a weight class that is teeming with talent and potential big-money, high-visibility matchups.

“I don’t know too much about (Majewski),” Stevens acknowledged. “But it’s not the opponent that I’m fighting; it’s me, myself. As long as I’m comfortable, relaxed and having fun, my night is going to go great.

“Would I like to fight Golovkin again? Yeah. I wanted that fight the first time. Look, I’m not mad that I asked for the fight. I’m not mad at what happened. I’m mad that I didn’t let my hands go and do what I know I’m capable of doing. But I’m going to climb right back up to the top of the ladder. If I get another chance at Golovkin, I’ll know better what to do and what not to do.”

Making some of the most obviously attractive bouts, though, isn’t as easy as it should be, as Stevens is quick to point out. Fighters fight, but they aren’t promoters or television executives, who more or less deal the cards the guys in the ring are obliged to play.

“Some of those fights might never happen because some promoters don’t get along with each other, and HBO doesn’t get along with Showtime,” he said. “Can everybody just put aside their differences for the good of boxing? If they can just try to do that, you’ll see boxing back where it needs to be.”

And maybe Brownsville, and Stevens, will be, too.

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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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