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Good-Bye to Roseland, From Hauser

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After a while, the big arenas where fights are held start to feel the same. The spectator areas, dressing rooms, and ringside corrals have a homogenous look. Small venues are more likely to have their own unique character.

Roseland had character. It opened as a ballroom in 1919 at Broadway and 51st Street in New York. Thirty-seven years later, the building was torn down and ballroom dancers were redirected to what had once been a skating rink one block to the north.

In the decades that followed, Roseland hosted everything from gala parties to rock concerts. Guests sang Happy Birthday to Hillary Clinton and listened enthralled as the Rolling Stones blasted out Satisfaction.

Time marches on. Roseland will close its doors after an April 7 concert by Lady Gaga. Then it will be demolished to make way for a high-rise building.

Roseland was never identified with boxing in the public mind. But over the years, 27 fight cards were contested there. An overhanging balcony offered spectators a spectacular view of the ring. There wasn‘t a bad seat in the house.

The first boxing event held at Roseland was a Cedric Kushner “Heavyweight Explosion” card on December 8, 1998, featuring Al Cole vs. Kirk Johnson, Obed Sullivan vs. Jesse Ferguson, and Shannon Briggs vs. Marcus Rhode. Three months later, Kushner returned with Hasim Rahman vs. Michael Rush and Danell Nicholson vs. Frankie Swindell. Rahman KO’d Rush in five rounds. Two years later, he knocked out Lennox Lewis in South Africa to become heavyweight champion of the world.

Paulie Malignaggi won his second pro fight at Roseland with a fourth-round stoppage of Robert Sowers on July 26, 2001. He was there again on November 23 to fight on a card promoted by Lou DiBella with the proceeds going to the families of police officers and firefighters who had died on 9/11. Future champions Jermain Taylor and Orlando Salido also emerged victorious that night. But the show ended on a horrifying note when James Butler (who lost a unanimous decision to Richard Grant in the main event) sucker-punched Grant as the victor stood in the ring awaiting a post-fight television interview.

It was a horrifying moment. Grant dropped to the canvas. Blood poured from his mouth. His jaw was fractured and he went into convulsions. Butler was arrested on the spot. He later pled guilty to felony assault, served four months in prison, and was released on five year’s probation. He is now in prison again subsequent to guilty plea in conjunction with the 2004 murder of writer Sam Kellerman.

Five years passed after the Butler-Grant fiasco before boxing returned to Roseland. The most glorious moment in the ballroom’s ring history occurred on July 15, 2011, when Pawel Wolak and Delvin Rodriguez fought to a ten-round draw that evoked memories of the first encounter between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward.

David Tua, Peter Quillin, Yuri Foreman, David Telesco, and Louis Del Valle also fought at Roseland. The final bell tolled on Wednesday night, when DiBella Entertaiment promoted the last fight card that the one-time ballroom will ever host.

Wednesday’s fights started shortly after 7:00 pm. The seats filled up early. Soon only standing room was available. Curtis Jackson III (better known as Fifty Cent) was there. So was Rosie Perez. Stephen Espinoza and Gordon Hall were on hand to scout future opponents for ShoBox. Harold Lederman and Peter Nelson gave HBO a presence.

There were nine fights, most of them well-matched with spirited action. If one imagined that the fighters’ gloves were black, their trunks black or white, and the ring canvas tan, it could have been the 1940s.

Ron Rizzo (vice president of operations for DiBella Entertainment) stood in the balcony, overlooking the scene. “For me, the closing is personal,” Rizzo said. “I was working for Cedric when we did the first show here. Roseland always had a special feel to it. There’s enough room and enough open space that you can move around and socialize between fights. Wherever you are, you get a good look at the ring. In all the years I’ve been in boxing, I haven’t found a place I like as much as this. I’ll miss it.”

Those thoughts resonated with Kushner, who was sitting quietly on a banquette toward the rear of the arena. These are hard times for Cedric. Once, he was at the center of the boxing universe. But in recent years, he has suffered reversals.

How did Kushner feel about Roseland closing?

“It’s a sign of the times,” Cedric said. “And for me, personally, it’s another part of my past, gone.”

*     *     *

On February 25, 1975, Elijah Muhammad died and his son, Wallace, succeeded him as leader of the Nation of Islam.

Muhammad Ali later recalled, “That didn’t surprise us, because we’d been told Wallace would come after his father. But what surprised some people was, Wallace changed the direction of the Nation. He’d learned from his studies that his father wasn’t teaching true Islam, and Wallace taught us the true meaning of the Qur’an. He showed that color don’t matter. He taught that we’re responsible for our own lives and it’s no good to blame our problems on other people. And that sounded right to me, so I followed Wallace. I’ve changed what I believe, and what I believe in now is true Islam.”

That bit of history is relevant today because Mauricio Sulaiman has succeeded his father as president of the World Boxing Council. Mauricio can take the organization that his father was largely responsible for building, keep the good, and reform its abuses. Or he can embrace the concept of phony belts, questionable officiating, biased rankings, and a lack of overall financial accountability.

The choice is his.

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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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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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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