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COMMISSIONER’S CORNER: Love For Bud, Our Man Harold, And Mayflower-Merriweather

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Last week, this column kind of just appeared out of nowhere, with no explanation of what the heck it is and when to expect it.  It’s like this:  After signing with Al Haymon, I struck a multi-billion dollar deal with Dino DaVinci & Michael Woods to allow me to throw this column onto TSS every Monday.  So, here is installment #2…Oh, I also said I’d remind you guys to call toll free into my show on SiriusXM later today.  The number is 1-866-522-2846.  We are on from 6-8pm (ET).  You guys in other time zones, make the adjustments.

On Saturday night  in Omaha, Nebraska, a boxing match—for a world championship—took place in the CenturyLink Center.  Not since 1972, when heavyweight Ron Stander—who was from across the river in Council Bluffs, Iowa—took on heavyweight champion Smokin’ Joe Frazier in Omaha, had a title fight taken place there.

On Saturday, a capacity crowd came out to cheer for Omaha native Terence Crawford, who was making the first defense of the WBO lightweight title he had won less than four months earlier.

The opponent across the ring was as tough an opponent as Crawford could have possibly selected:  A Cuban refugee named Yuriorkis Gamboa.  The challenger brought a 23-0  professional record—enhanced by over 250 amateur fights, most of them on the elite level—into the fight.  Sixteen of his wins were by knockout.  Oddly and ironically enough, Crawford had the same record.

After falling behind in the first four rounds to the quick, shifty and talented Cuban, Crawford brought out his championship pedigree.

The right-hander switched to southpaw, a move which was questioned by many in the crowd and even by HBO announcers Jim Lampley, Roy Jones Jr. and Max Kellerman.  However, it was really easy to see what Crawford was doing.

By switching to southpaw, his right jab began repeatedly finding the challenger.  Not since switch-hitting middleweight champ Marvelous Marvin Hagler has any champion been able to switch boxing stances as easily as effectively as Crawford did.  From the southpaw stance, he began to take Gamboa apart.

Crawford dropped Gamboa in the fifth and sixth rounds, only to have the Cuban come storming back each time.  Finally, after two more knockdowns over a challenger who insisted on going out on his shield, referee Genaro Hernandez waved it off after 2:53 of the ninth round.

The incredibly game challenger later said he could have continued.   He could NOT have.  What he meant to say is that he WANTED to continue.  He truly wanted to go down swinging.  The fact is, he did exactly that.

He fought his heart out against probably the best lightweight on this planet and gave an amazing account of himself.  A recommendation from this corner:  Drop down to 130, Yuri.  You’ll probably be able to win another  belt there.

The fight itself was memorable in its two-sidedness and in how the champion was able to kick-start his huge heart into turning it on when the champion found himself falling  behind on the scorecards.

For me, I took four things from this fight:

One:  Yuri Gamboa needs to take the summer off, then get back in the ring before the end of the year.  We want to see him again.

Two:  Terence Crawford is the best lightweight in the world, perhaps far better than anyone else at 135 pounds.

Three:  This fight might just beat out last week’s Robert Guerrero- Yoshihiro Kamegai battle for 2014’s “Fight of the Year.”  How can that be, you ask, when Guerrero was 10 rounds of non-stop you-hit-me-and-I’ll-hit-you action?  That’s because, Guerrero-Kamegai was contested between two guys with very little defensive skills.  They get insulted if you miss them with a punch.  Crawford-Gamboa was nearly nine full rounds of amazing boxing ability, drama and will-to-win excitement.

Four:   Omaha, Nebraska, has a world champion.  He’s one the city is in love with and who loves the city right back.  His presence packed the arena on Saturday.

You can rest assured It won’t be 42 years before Omaha, Nebraska, hosts its next world title fight!

                                                                      ***

WHERE’S HAROLD? : HBO’s longtime ringside scorer, Harold Lederman, was conspicuous by his absence from the HBO telecast from Omaha.  Sitting in, explaining the rules  and giving us his scoring was Steve Weisfeld, who has been working in that capacity for over a year.  Sometimes, HBO uses both Weisfeld and Lederman.   We like Steve Weisfeld a lot.  When I was commissioner in New York, I gave Steve his judge’s license.  He turned into one of the finest judges in the world.  In my mind, he’s one of the Top-10  judges.  As is another once of my N.Y. judges, Julie Lederman, Harold’s daughter.  Back to Harold.  Here’s a guy who is a pharmacist by trade.  He may hold the Guinness Book of Records for getting fired from more jobs than anybody.  That’s because of fights he was assigned to by HBO when the pharmacy expected him to work for them on that night.  When it came to making a choice, there was no choice.  Harold chose the HBO.  Incredibly, early in his HBO career, Harold made more at his pharmacy job than at HBO.  Harold has shown HBO nothing but respect.  They should be proud they have an employee so loyal as Harold Lederman.  You’d think the least they could do is show some loyalty back to him.

LIGHTWEIGHT RATINGS:  With Terence Crawford’s huge victory on Saturday night, I couldn’t help but put my list together for the world’s top 135-pounders.  The list, with the title they hold in parentheses, looks like this:

1.      Terence Crawford (WBO)—24-0 (17)

2.      Miguel Vazquez (IBF)—34-3 (13)

3.      Yuri Gamboa—23-1 (16)…He’d help his cause if he dropped to 130

4.     Omar Figueroa—(WBC) 23-0 (17)

5.     Ray Beltran—29-6-1 (17)

6.      Richard Abril (WBA)—18-3-1 (8)“The Road Runner”…Inactive since March 2013

7.      Dejan Zlaticanin—19-0 (13) WBC International Champion

8.       Paulus Moses—33-2 (21) WBO International Champion

9.      Hank Lundy—25-3-1 (12)

10 Kevin Mitchell—38-2 (28)

                                                                     ***

MY TWEEKED PxP LIST:  Last week after my column was posted, I realized I had omitted one of my favorite fighters, whom I believe absolutely belongs on the list.  That man is GuillermoRigondeaux.  So, here goes:

10.  Leo Santa Cruz

9.  Vasyl Lomachenko

8.  Sergei Kovalev

7.  Guillermo Rigondeaux

6.  Mikey Garcia

5.  Wladimir Klitschko

4.  Gennady Golovkin

3.  Manny Pacquiao

2.  Andre Ward

1.  Floyd Mayweather

If you guys would like, do your own PxP list and either post your own ratings or in-box them to me by Friday at midnight (ET).  I will compile them all, giving 10 points for first place down to one point for 10th place.  That way, TSS can have its own PxP Top-10 List.  I await your entries.

WEEKEND RESULTS:  The boxing career of Ricky Burns lies in ruins, as he suffered a 12-round split decision loss on Saturday to Montenegro’s Dejan Zlaticanin.   In front of a silent, stunned hometown crowd in Glasgow, Scotland, Burns was dropped by a left hook and was never in the fight, despite the scorecards (on which a British judge, naturally, gave it to Burns).  In reality, he lost at least seven—perhaps eight—of the rounds.  The fight, for the WBC International Lightweight Title, was Burns’ second loss in a row.  He lost his WBO lightweight title to Terence Crawford last March 1…In Kinshasa, Zaire, localite Llunga Makabu won the vacant WBC International Cruiserweight Title with a ninth-round stoppage of former world champion Glen “The Road Warrior” Johnson in the ninth round.  The 45-year-old Johnson told me, when I saw him at the IBHOF weekend earlier this month, “I hope to get one more title shot.”  This loss should effectively end his career and begin his five-year countdown until he is inducted in the IBHOF.  Johnson is 54-19-2.  Makabu is now 17-1 with 15 KO’s…Heavyweight Shannon Briggs was forced to go the distance for the first time in four comeback fights, taking a unanimous decision over Raphael Zumbano Love for the vacant NABA heavyweight title.  Briggs is now 55-6-1 (48) and hoping to punch his way into a world title shot.  He is 42…2012 U.S. Olympians Errol Spence and Marcus Browne scored impressive wins in Las Vegas on Saturday.   Welterweight Spence took a unanimous 10-round decision over tough Ronald Cruz.  It was Spence’s 13th win in as many fights.  He has 10 KO’s.  On the same card, light heavyweight Marcus “The Liver Killer” Browne needed just 91 seconds to dispatch of last-minute replacement Donta Woods.  Browne’s original opponent, Yusaf Mack, failed a NSAC blood test and was scratched from the card.  “The Liver Killer” is 11-0 with eight stoppages.  It is expected he will be fighting again on the August 9th card at the Barclay’s Center…Also on the card in Las Vegas, heavyweight prospect Gerald Washington went to 13-0 (10) with a second-round wipeout of veteran Travis Walker…Unbeaten junior welter Ivan Redkach labored to a 10-round unanimous decision against rugged veteran Sergey Gulyakevich on a Showtime-televised card in St. Charles, MO.

MY FAVORITE LOSER: British junior welterweight Kristian Laight dropped a four-round unanimous decision to Ryan Smith on the undercard to Dejan Zlaticanin-Ricky Burns.  For Ryan, the win upped his record to 2-0.  For Laight, the loss dropped his record to 9-176-7.  In 2014, Laight is actually doing quite well—he has won two fights while only losing 12.  He has two more fights scheduled in July.  If he pushes, he may be able to reach that magical 20-loss circle this year.  He has done it before.  We just know he can do it again.  Oh, in those 176 losses, he has only been stopped five times.  In his nine wins, he has yet to record a knockout.

TWO MORE FOR AL:  Junior middleweight Vanes Martirosyan recently signed with advisor Al Haymon.  So did IBF lightweight king Miguel Vazquez.  If you’re keeping track, here are some of the bigger names who have signed with the powerful but reclusive Haymon:  $$$May, Deontay Wilder, Marcos Maidana, Shawn Porter, Lucas Matthysse, Amir Khan, Adonis Stevenson, Robert Guerrero, Keith Thurman, Omar Figueroa, Peter Quillin and most of the 2012 U.S. Olympians.

FUNNY:  On Saturday evening, a few hours before the HBO telecast of Crawford-Gamboa, my wife and I went to see “Jersey Boys” at a Long Island theatre.  As I was about to pay for the tickets, I noticed a poster on a stand.  “CANELO ALVAREZ vs ERISLANDY LARA” read the poster.  “See it Here.”  Two female employees, one perhaps around 40 and the other in her early 20’s, stood behind the counter and saw me looking at the poster and then heard me discussing it with my wife.

“Are you a boxing fan?” asked the older woman.

“I am indeed a boxing fan,” I answered.

“Well, this is the second time we’ll be showing a big boxing match,” she replied.

“When was the first boxing match you showed?  Who were the fighters?” I asked.

The older woman looked at the sign.

“We showed Alvarez,” she said, pointing to the photo of Canelo.   “He fought, uh, uh…”

She had to think of Alvarez’ opponent’s name.  Then it came to her.

“He fought Mayflower,” she said.  I smiled.  I knew who she meant.

Her younger colleague laughed and playfully said to her, “You dummy, it’s not Mayflower.”

“Well, it was something like that,” she retorted.

Before I could correct her on “Mayflower,” her colleague said, “It’s Merriweather.”

“Oh, that’s right,” said the Mayflower girl.  “Merriweather.  I knew it was something like that.”

I never bothered to correct her.

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Michael Dutchover Remains Undefeated in Ontario, Calif.

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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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