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50 Cent Talks Gamboa, Boxing and First Pitches Gone Awry

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Recording artist and boxing promoter Curtis Jackson, who entertains audiences under the name 50 Cent, told TSS it’s easy for him to promote lightweight Yuriorkis Gamboa because the hard-hitting Cuban has both the technical skill and raw ability to end fights at any moment.

“I’m not selling fighters,” 50 told me. “We’re selling the excitement surrounding Gamboa!”

Still, I asked Jackson if he felt like it was difficult to sell audiences on a fighter from Cuba. After all, I reasoned, Gamboa’s contemporaries Guillermo Rigondeaux and Erislandy Lara have done just about as well as one can do in the sport but have still failed to really resonate with the boxing public.

Jackson wasn’t having it.

“You point out Rigondeaux, but you know what? No one who is hardcore into the sport of boxing can point out someone who can beat Rigondeaux. It may not be the most attractive thing to see, but he’s a technician. He’s going to outsmart the other fighter. You know? I mean, it’s tough to reprogram a guy to go get hit a few times or to go through things they don’t train to do.”

Jackson said it boils down to the boxing culture being racial by nature. In fact, he said that if his fighter, Gamboa, was from Mexico, he’d be as big a star in the sport as Floyd Mayweather.

“These are some of the top fighters in boxing right now, and because they’re Cuban…maybe I’m living in my own little world not looking at ethnicity and just saying great is great. Ethnicity won’t save you if you get in there as an opponent to them.”

I argued the point a little with him. I said that it wasn’t necessarily that they were from Cuba, but rather it was the Cuban fighting style, the one taught in the country’s stalwart amateur system, that turned some fight fans off. While some boxing people, like me, appreciate the Cuban fighters for what they are, many folks simply don’t want to watch a fighter with such a defensive mindset.

Jackson wasn’t buying it.

“They Cuban! They are Cuban,” he said with a laugh. “Look, the sport of boxing is very racial. So Mexican fighters will have a huge audience with huge passion connected to the fighters, because culturally the people just embrace the sport.”

Jackson put his promoter hat on a bit at this point and talked about the importance of helping a fighter navigate his career no matter what kind of culture he has behind him. He said it was up to a fighter’s team to help put him in the best position possible to succeed.

“But when you run into that guy who isn’t part of the plan, we can’t fight for them–not that night. No matter how much support you might have for them emotionally, you can’t help them out.”

Since starting SMS Promotions back in 2012, Jackson has worked with Top Rank on several promotions, an interesting choice considering Bob Arum and company are Gamboa’s former promoters. Next weekend’s bout between Gamboa and Terrence Crawford is such an example. Both promoters are high on their undefeated lightweight and expect their guy to win but still see benefit in working with each other.

Still, Jackson said his working relationship with the company was as good as it can be.

“Like most promoters, they’ll protect their assets at different points. It’s as good a working relationship as you can actually have.”

I asked whether or not Jackson believed his status as a celebrity might help bring additional eyeballs to both his fighter and the sport in general. I relayed a story to him about a friend of mine named Melissa Bradshaw, a married mother of three from Tyler, Texas.

Melissa doesn’t follow boxing. I’m sure she knows about the existence of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, but that’s probably about it. But Melissa has listened to rap music her whole life, artists such as Tupac, Master P and Young Bleed. So Melissa might not know much about boxing, but she knows a heck of a lot about 50 Cent.

I asked Jackson how to sell someone like Melissa on the sport.

“All I do is tell her I’m connected to it and invested in it, and she should actually take a look at it…just having something that she does relate to be connected to it would make [boxing] more interesting to her than [having] nothing connected. So the fighter who isn’t connected to SMS Promotions and isn’t connected to 50 Cent, she has zero interest in.”

So Jackson believes he can help bring more relevance to the sport among the mainstream crowd?

“Of course. It works, and it brings additional relevance to the sport.”

But Jackson recognized he can only help get people to the door. Once there, he said it was the fighters who have to do something worth watching.

Jackson said Gamboa was up to the task.

First Pitch Blues

In May, Jackson was invited to throw out the first pitch for the New York Mets. It went just about as poorly as any first pitch has ever gone. Jackson didn’t come anywhere close to the plate. It was as if he was aiming sideways or something. If you missed it, you can check it out here. It’s pretty funny.

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So what happened, 50 Cent?

“Oh…um…it slipped.”

Jackson was good natured about it. He said he had practiced the pitch beforehand but let his nerves get the best of him.

“I did pretty well when it didn’t mean anything. And then you come in front of the audience and everybody is there and you go to throw the ball and it slipped. If I threw the ball four or five more times, you’d see me throw the ball over the plate four or five more times.”

So even 50 Cent gets nervous performing in front of a stadium full of people?

“Of course I’m nervous in front of a stadium full of people! You don’t actually throw the ball in front of a stadium front of people, do you?”

I told him I don’t, but that I also wasn’t used to performing in front of a stadium full of people the way he was because of his music career.

“Yeah, but I’m not pitching in a professional baseball game!”

Fair enough.

Andre Dirrell Update

Jackson said fans could expect to see super middleweight Andre Dirrell back inside the ring in the near future. He would not specify the exact timing of the fight or an opponent, but indicated it would be within the next few months.

“Andre will be back in the ring shortly. I’m excited to see him move forward in his career and get things going. Sometimes, there doesn’t have to be anything in the way. Sometimes the guys will be in their own way. I think you should expect to see him shortly. I know he’s back actively training.”

***

Kelsey McCarson contributes to The Sweet Science, Boxing Channel and Bleacher Report. To read more from his discussion with 50 Cent, click here.

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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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