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Kathy Duva Speaks Out On…Well, Everything (Part 1)

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You say this latest “Cold War” pitting Showtime and Golden Boy’s Richard Schaefer against HBO and Top Rank founder Bob Arum is basically a new twist on an old theme? Something with elements of hostility and intrigue that boxing really hasn’t seen before, at least to this degree, and might never see again?

How naïve such an assumption would be. Main Events CEO Kathy Duva might now merely play the role of interested observer, given her lack of direct involvement with either of the warring factions, but she was in the midst of a nearly identical battle, with different principals, 20 or so years ago, and she says that what happened then makes today’s combatants seem as if they are engaging in child’s play. The difference between then and now is the dizzying rise of social media, which takes every squabble, every veiled or direct insult that used to take place behind closed doors or in private conversations, and puts the nastiness out there on Twitter or Instagram for everyone to see.

So Duva, whose company has found a cozy television home on NBC SportsNet, sits back and watches as Showtime’s forces engage in a bitter and expensive war of attrition with its opposite numbers at HBO, the end result of which could be the mutual destruction of each side or, at least, one or the other.

And Duva figures she or some other patient entrepreneur will be sitting there like a spider, waiting to feast on the fleshy remains of the struggle scattered about on the world wide web. Something new – maybe better, maybe not — almost surely must arise in such an eventuality because, well, the fight game isn’t just going to go away because the two biggest current players have bled themselves dry. Somehow, some way, boxing always survives, doesn’t it? Just like the common cockroach survived the Ice Age while mighty dinosaurs didn’t.

“If HBO and Showtime beat each other up enough, and make each other small enough because their executives get tired and say, `We’re not going to bankroll this anymore,’ you’re going to see other networks come back into boxing,” Duva theorized. “We’re already close. ESPN has already bought a heavyweight title fight (in which WBO/WBA/IBF champion Wladimir Klitschko defends against Alex Leapai this Saturday evening in Oberhausen, Germany).

“What’s happened is that HBO’s budget for boxing has shrunk. Showtime’s has grown. But if you look at the money they spend on boxing as opposed to what they spend on one football game, any network that has the will to do it could come into this business and blow them both away on the same day.

“The result of this fight is that they’re going to empower somebody else because that’s how this business works. It’s not like they have only the two premium cable outlets and a finite number of fighters. There’s always going to be somebody else, and that’s the part that the two of them are just not thinking about. It’s the part that will create opportunities for someone like me, so I’m not arguing about it or knocking it.

“ESPN or NBC, or maybe CBS, will say, `Hey, here’s a great big void. Let’s jump in and take it over.’ When you try to eliminate competition, all you do is creating openings for somebody else. Really, I’m kind of happy about it. I’m not going to lie. I got no problem with the `Cold War.’ It was great for Main Events the first time. We put a lot of great fights on HBO during that time. Don King took his fighters elsewhere (to Showtime) and it created dates for us.”

Spanish philosopher/essayist George Santayana once observed that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. In the mid-1990s, HBO and Showtime were tossing similarly poison-tipped darts at one another, albeit with the better-financed, more powerful HBO in an even more obvious position of strength and scrappy Showtime hoping to take its haughty tormentor down a peg or two. And while Duva’s late husband, Dan, held a seat at the head table, he also knew, as his widow does now, that he could become the beneficiary of whatever collateral damage was wrought by the fierce determination of the arch-rivals to inflict as much damage upon the other as was humanly possible.

Playing the role of current HBO Sports president Ken Hershman then was the well-financed Seth Abraham, boxing’s equivalent of New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. Current Showtime honcho Stephen Espinoza predecessor was the late Jay Larkin, forever asked to do more with less and doing it with some degree of regularity. Arum was still Arum, then as now a feisty, spit-in-your-eye sort long on vinegar and short on patience. But instead of Schaefer, Arum’s mortal enemy was Don King, publicly harrumphing “Only in America!” while cutting backroom deals that any seedy Washington politician would have been envious of.

And where the pivotal figure in the ring today is Floyd Mayweather Jr., who crossed the street from HBO to Showtime and brought his enormous star power with him, Showtime’s big-ticket attraction was Mike Tyson, who was to do for Larkin what Mayweather abdication from HBO is supposed to be doing for Espinoza and his company today.

There is a notion, quaint and incorrect, that Cold War I was a bit more civil than the present version. Hey, didn’t HBO and Showtime both televise, via their pay-per-view arms, the Lennox Lewis-Tyson heavyweight megafight on June 8, 2002, in Memphis, Tenn.? Wasn’t that an indication that the two sides could play nice, at least once, if circumstances so dictated? And if it happened then, isn’t there still hope that a Mayweather –Manny Pacquiao fight somehow can be made for the good of the sport, present business allegiances notwithstanding?

King and Arum even occasionally got past their obvious personal differences, if there was enough money to be made on each side. They were photographed, smiling and shaking hands, when the matchup of Arum’s Oscar De La Hoya and King’s Felix Trinidad was made. OK, so those smiles were forced and fake. A very attractive superfight nonetheless was negotiated and took place. If it happened then, couldn’t it happen again? Wouldn’t it just be a matter of Arum and Schaefer sitting down together and somehow stowing away the animosity, or at least picking up a telephone and having a conversation? What might happen if Hershman and Espinoza bumped into each other at a coffee shop and, you know, sat down for a latte and a Danish? If Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill could have a summit meeting with Joe Stalin, isn’t a temporary boxing truce at least possible?

Duva said the idea that Arum-Schaefer somehow surpasses Arum-King, or even Arum-Dan Duva, for pure, unadulterated hatred is downright ludicrous. Those legendary feuders, the Hatfields and McCoys, had nothing on the feudin’ fight folks of two decades past.

Although Lewis-Tyson was a shared event (and, almost certainly, a one-of-a-kind thing never to be repeated), the counterpoint that underscores just how weird had gotten was the scheduling of two major fights on the same night in the same town – literally just down the street from each other — and at the same time. That, too, is something unprecedented and highly unlikely to ever happen again.

Remember what was supposed to happen on Nov. 4, 1995? HBO had announced the much-anticipated rubber match between Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield, which was to take place in the outdoor arena at Caesars Palace. Fox (not Showtime), meanwhile, had penciled in the matchup of Tyson, in his second comeback fight on the comeback trail against an opponent to be named (it would prove to be Buster Mathis Jr.) at the MGM Grand, just down the Las Vegas Strip.

Boxing’s answer to the Gunfight at the OK Corral, of course, didn’t happen. Bowe did fight Holyfield, “Big Daddy” winning on an eighth-round stoppage, but a few days before Tyson was to have fought Mathis, he appeared at a press conference to show the bandaged right thumb he supposedly had injured in sparring a couple of weeks earlier. At Tyson’s side were two doctors who held up X-rays and assured the media that the injury was indeed legitimate.

Duva, whose company co-promoted Bowe-Holyfield III, is one of many skeptics who continues to believe that, wink-wink, Tyson-Mathis (which was rescheduled and took place on Dec. 16, 1995, in Philadelphia) was pushed back not so much because of Tyson’s perhaps damaged thumb as because his likely blowout of Mathis was going to get killed at the box office by the more competitive and attractive third pairing of Bowe and Holyfield.

“I can’t remember who had first dibs on the date,” Duva said. “Back then I was the (Main Events) publicist and raising three kids, too. I can’t say I was paying that much attention to that stuff. That was Danny’s deal.”

But Duva has a much more vivid recollection of Lewis-Tyson, which might have resembled peace in our time between HBO and Showtime but was actually a raging fire fight involving guys in suits that somehow was kept out of the public’s eye.

“Everyone who was involved in that debacle – and `debacle’ is the only word to use – will tell you that, yes, it was an incredibly successful event,” she said. “It was incredibly successful from a financial standpoint. At the time it was the highest-viewed pay-per-view fight ever , so I have to be careful in parsing my comments. But everyone who was involved in it walked away saying, `We will NEVER do this again.’ It was a nightmare.

“Here’s the difference. Today, you are seeing on social media conversations that took place privately on the phone back then, when Dan and King and Arum hated each other’s guts on a level (Arum and Schaefer) don’t even come close to. It’s just that most people weren’t aware of how deep it went. But I was living through it.

“During that Lewis-Tyson promotion, they had to have a weekly conference call with all the lawyers that were involved, representing all the various entities just to hash out the legal issues. Those calls would last for two or three hours every Tuesday.

“You had lawyers literally arguing over who would bring the stool into the ring. I mean, crazy stuff. The Tyson and Lewis camps were trying to screw each other in so many ways, I can’t even begin to count them all.

“At one point we got a house for Lennox (Main Events was his U.S. promoter) to stay in when he got to Memphis,” Duva continued. “Next thing I know, Mike Tyson’s people rented him a house in the same neighborhood. We had a blowup over that.

“If you recall, there was a press conference where Tyson literally assaulted Lennox Lewis (and chewed on his thigh). There’s no other word for it. And they’re trying to put them in the same neighborhood? All we were trying to do was to keep them apart until the bell rang.”

Today’s technological advances, Duva figures, would have altered the landscape considerably.

“If there had been Twitter back then, you’d realize that what’s happening now with Arum and Richard Schaefer is, like, I don’t know, gentlemen playing cricket or something. But, as a publicist, all that nastiness would have made my job a lot easier.”

Part 2 of 3 will deal with how the HBO-Showtime divide is impacting the light heavyweight division, now and moving forward.

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Tanaka vs. Kimora: A Monday Morning Treat For Serious Fight Fans

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Kosei Tanaka was just 4-0 the first time he was appraised on The Sweet Science back in 2015; the question then was, is Tanaka the world’s brightest boxing prospect? The question now is whether or not Tanaka is about to add a strap at a third weight to an already glittering career that has seen him annex belts at 105 and 108lbs in just his first eight fights.

Now 11-0 with seven knockouts he prepares, this coming Monday, to duel Sho Kimura in Nagoya, Japan and with a lot more than just the WBO trinket on the line.

Hearts and minds, as always, translate into dollars and yen. The winner of this all-Japanese contest will find himself buoyed in fame, glory and gold in his home country, which also happens to be one of the few places on the planet where a boxer can collect a small fortune without ever leaving his native shores. Should the winner dare to dream a wider dream, then that too can be facilitated by the win.  Even fistic denizens of boxing strongholds in Japan and Britain feel a shiver run down their spines when the words “Las Vegas headliner” are whispered into their ear.

The favored man among the hardcore in the west is Tanaka. He is still very young at just twenty-three years old and is slick and quick, what the west expects of a Japanese force. Interestingly enough, however, the Japanese seem to be leaning towards Kimura: older, at twenty-nine, armed with a superb work-rate, good power, limited technique but the conqueror of Chinese superstar Shiming Zou who he stopped in the summer of 2017. Zou may have had his bubble burst by the Thai brawler Amnat Ruenroeng in 2015, but it was Kimura who sent him stumbling into retirement and at a time when the talk was of China stealing Japan’s thunder as boxing’s home in the east.

Kimura was indeed impressive that night in Shanghai. He maintained pressure with wonderful variety, eschewing the jab, perhaps, for spells, but filling those gaps with an assortment of wonderful punches, most of all his body attack, which was persistent, withering, and apparently went unscored by two of the three judges who somehow had the Chinese ahead at the time of the eleventh round stoppage. Zou had shown a skill for flurrying while fleeing and Kimura had shown him how to fight.

Now a strapholder at 112lbs, Kimura staged two defenses in the following twelve months. The first was against Toshiyuki Igarashi, the man who beat Sonny Boy Jaro, the man who had beaten the superb champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam before a softer fight against Froilan Saludar. He won both by stoppage.

Kimura, then, rather came from nowhere but made the most of his arrival. What he displayed in all three of these fights was a determination to offer pressure and footwork educated enough to do it while taking many fewer steps than his harried opponent. A tad overrated as a puncher, I suspect, he places himself in hitting position often enough that his default fight plan – chase, harass, throw – makes him capable of hurting his opponents by way of persistence and pressure.

He left Zou, Igarashi and Saludar, broken in his wake.

In short, he is the type of opponent Kosei Tanaka has been waiting for.

There have been calls for Tanaka to be considered a pound-for-pound talent should he overcome Kimura this Monday. I understand the impulse. Tanaka, were he to triumph, would become a three-weight world champion and he hails from a boxing territory which has little direct control over the meaningful pound-for-pound lists, if such a statement is not a contradiction in terms.

In short, it is felt he would be undervalued.

Tempering these calls is the fact that he has never beaten a divisional number one and that Kimura would be, by far, the best opponent he would have bested, and the most proven. Some Tanaka opponents have come good after he defeated them, some were ranked in the lower reaches of their respective divisional top tens when he matched them, but none are scalps as impressive as those dangled by the likes of Errol Spence or Anthony Joshua, who populate the nine, ten and eleven spots in reputable lists.

But this is neither here nor there; the key is not what Kimura does not represent, it is what he does represent. He is the best that Tanaka has met and, I would argue, the first truly elite fighter that Tanaka has met. He is the litmus test and he is one with a stylistic advantage.

Tanaka can punch. Here we will find out whether or not he punches hard enough to keep Kimura off him. Personally, I doubt it and that means that Kimura is going to hand him a serious gut check.

Interestingly, it will not be Tanaka’s first. The first time I wrote about him I stressed that his chin was essentially untested. That is no longer true. Tanaka, who is reasonably sound defensively, can be lazy in minding himself and foolish in pursuing the attack.

Thai puncher Rangsan Chayanram checked him in 2017, delivering a serious eye injury among other ignominies before succumbing in nine; puncher Angel Acosta, a ranked fighter if not a great one, hit and hurt Tanaka repeatedly late in their 2017 contest. If Tanaka has been learning these lessons, expectations concerning his potential may be realized. If he is not, he will fall short. Kimura is the man to test him.

Kimura’s experience and seemingly limitless twelve-round stamina are to be pitted against Tanaka’s skill, proven heart and taut footwork. It sees a superior technician – Tanaka – who has shown a propensity for being drawn into a cruder fighter’s wheelhouse matching an aggressive stalker – Kimura – who specializes in drawing technically superior foes into knockdown-drag-out scraps.

It is framed both as a fight that is likely to finish a future pound-for-pounder’s education and a fight where a young pretender is found out by a grizzled veteran.

Best of all, it is a fight that fight fans can watch for free, simply by clicking here.  The Asian Boxing website has secured exclusive international rights to the fight and will broadcasting it, free of charge, to anyone with an internet connection. As can be seen here, the fight is due to start at 4pm Japanese time.

All the reader has to do is find out what that means for timing in their own corner of the globe and a potential fight of the year will unfold before his or her eyes free of charge.

World class boxing being broadcast for free and including two of the best below 115lbs; a stylistic crossroads contest that opens up the on-ramp to pound-for-pound recognition for at least one of the combatants – on a Monday.  All facts worth keeping in mind the next time that someone tells you boxing’s prime was any number of decades ago.

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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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