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COMMISSIONER’S CORNER: On Judging Missteps, Algieri’s Deep Cut, More

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Let’s get one thing straight: The decision rendered on the Canelo Alvarez-Erislandy Lara fight was not fixed or pre-ordained, as so many of you have told me through your calls, your texts, your e-mails, your messages and your tweets.

Canelo Alvarez-Erislandy Lara. This is the perfect example of why it’s so hard, so difficult, to score a fight. Read each post here on TSS in reaction to the fight. Read ’em carefully. Some of you thought Lara won convincingly (as did I & judge Dave Moretti). Some of you thought Canelo won (as did judges Levi Martinez & Jerry Roth).

Some of you were so turned off by Lara’s fight plan that you’ve placed him on your “Don’t Watch” list, along with Richar Abril and Guillermo Rigondeaux (quite possibly the world’s most-gifted boxer!).

This was a bit like Chris Algieri v Ruslan Provodnikov. A boxer/mover/elusive competitor vs the constantly coming in, power-punching foe.

Half of us saw the aggressive power-puncher winning in both fights–Provodnikov/Alvarez. Some saw the elusive boxer winning (Algieri/Lara).

That’s boxing. That’s why the scores of the three officials read the way they did. They weren’t like that because of incompetence or dishonesty, which a few of my e-mails & texts claimed (“Well, looks like Golden Boy got to two of the judges” read one of my texts). That just wasn’t the case.

At the final bell, I was thinking Lara won by split decision, but really felt it should be unanimous. I saw him land the greater frequency of shots, while Alvarez’ hardest punches landed on nothing but the MGM Grand Ballroom’s air. Several of his body hooks got in. Many more were blocked. Sure, Lara was landing what many of you saw as “pitty-pat” punches, but Alvarez didn’t come into the ring with that swelling under his right eye.

I don’t agree with the decision.

But I am not going to go crazy and holler robbery or fix.

That’s boxing and that’s scoring.

You want to talk about controversial endings? Try a few of these bouts:

Tyrone Everett vs. Alfredo Escalera…

Pernell Whitaker vs. Jose Luis Ramirez…

Pernell Whitaker vs. Julio Cesar Chavez…

Those were three of the biggest robberies I have seen in boxing. How about Timothy Bradley vs Manny Pacquiao I? They still haven’t cleared the stench from the Las Vegas air from that one.

But that first one on my list–Everett-Escalera…that may be the WORST decision in the history of boxing. I was there that night. My card had it 12-3 for the undefeated southpaw slickster from Philadelphia. Boxing writer Jack “KO-JO” Obermayer, who has been to more boxing events than perhaps anyone else, said, “I believe I had it 12-1-2 for TE. He may have even won all 15 rounds.”

You saw it your way. The judges saw it their way.

I saw it my way.

***

Speaking of Chris Algieri, the red-hot Huntington, L.I. jr. welter has signed to face Manny Pacquiao on November 22 in Macau, China. Opening lines have Pacquiao an overwhelming favorite, much in the way of how heavily-favored Mike Tyson was going into his title defense against Buster Douglas in 1990. Manny is not getting and younger or any better. A prospective, mind-boggling super fight between Pacquiao and $$$May is yesterday’s news and no longer a reality, no matter how much many of us still want to see it. So, now it’s Pacquiao vs. Algieri. Unless I see something along the way which will change my mind, I think Algieri stands on the precipice of his second straight major upset–his first being against Ruslan Provodnikov a few months ago. A victory in Macau will unquestionably make him 2014’s “Fighter of the Year.” You’re not gonna’ buy the fight, you say? You may regret that move the next morning! I know. Most of you–I would say 95%–are reading this and saying “Commish, you’re nuts to tthink Algieri even has a miniscule chance of beating Pacquiao.” Algieri showed his fighting heart and courage against Provodnikov. Pacquiao is going to see nothing less.

A HUGE CUT–Cutmen are a dime a dozen, but top-notch ones are rare. Big George Mitchell, who, at 6’10” is the tallest cutman in the world, is also regarded as one of the best. He is one of the top-notch guys. Mitchell, a former NYC police officer, trained for years under one of the finest, most-respected cutmen of all time, Al Gavin. Fighters train to win championships. Trainers dream of working with and training a world champion. Managers clamor to work with a world champ. Cutmen ply their trade in the hope that one day they’ll be able to work the corner of a champion. Mitchell got his dream in May, when he worked the corner of Chris Algieri, whom he had been working with for a long time. As you may recall, Algieri was dropped in the first round by a powerful left hook. When he arose from the knockdown, a puffiness was already under Algieri’s eye. Later, a cut opened above the eye. Mitchell did his best to stem the flow of blood and control the swelling. It was something he needed to do from the end of the first round until the final bell. From press row, it looked as if Mitchell did a super job. His handiwork was examined by the extremely squeamish NYSAC doctors and approved. They allowed the fight to continue. Algieri showed tremendous heart by hanging in and winning a split decision. Now, as the announcement has come that Algieri has been rewarded with a fight against Manny Pacquiao for over $1 million, he has elected to let Big George go. It is not known the reason for Mitchell’s dismissal. Perhaps he asked for a lot more money from Algieri. Perhaps Algieri was unhappy with the work Mitchell did in the Provodnikov fight, although we can’t understand what there was to be unhappy about. In any event, Mitchell has been cut by Algieri. It’s a shame, because, while Algieri and his team get to earn their greatest payday, the man so responsible for helping Algieri get there won’t be there to earn his own payday. Somebody else will. It’s certainly the largest cut–even larger than the one which Algieri suffered against Provodnikov and the one which Mitchell kept under control–that Big George has ever had to face.

***

WHO WILL REF?: As of this writing, there has been no announcement from the NYSAC who will be the officials for Saturday’s WBO Middleweight Title fight between Gennady Golovkin and Daniel Geale. In recent years, the NYSAC has moved away from exclusively using New York State officials. Chairperson Melvina Lathan has been doing that for years, and now, new Executive Director David Berlin, has begun his time in office by using non-NY residents. For the Miguel Cotto-Sergio Martinez fight, his first major show, Berlin brought in Canadian Michael Griffin. This did not sit well with many New York State referees, who began whispering, “Why didn’t Berlin use a New York State ref?” There are plenty of world-class ones to choose from. Charlie Fitch is one (although we hear he will be working on a Showtime card from the Turning Stone Casino the night before)…Ron Lipton is another. There’s also Eddie Claudio. And Steve Willis. There are more. My guess is that for the two feature fights this weekend at MSG–GGG-Geale and Jennings-Perez–Berlin will select Benji Esteves and Harvey Dock. While both are residents of New Jersey, each has found a home in New York rings and each does excellent work. Hopefully, Berlin refrains from using another particular out-of-state ref, but that’s an issue which will be addressed if and when Berlin gives him a call for GGG-Geale or Jennings-Perez

THE HARDER THEY FALL: Until 2011, El Paso heavyweight David Rodriguez was cruising along, slowly but surely, in his boxing career. He was 34 and unbeaten in 36 fights. He, his handlers and his fans believed he had the power and skills to win at least a portion of the heavyweight title. Then, he was slashed on the fight by a knife in a street fight. It took him two years to recover and return to the ring.

“I was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Rodriguez had told me about the knife attack on my SiriusXM show last December, one week before his comeback fight against veteran Darnell Boone. The veteran brought a very opponent-like record of 24-17-3 into the fight against Rodriguez’ 36-0 (34 KO’s). The veteran battered and stopped Rodriguez in the sixth round.

Rodriguez licked his wounds, rested for awhile, the headed back to the gym. This past weekend, he launched yet another comeback, against another veteran. Ironically, this veteran–Raymond Ochieng–had the identical record of Rodriguez’ last opponent, Darnell Boone. Their knockout totals virtually matched, too. Boone came in with 20 knockouts. Ochieng came in with 19. It was eerily similar. Perhaps it was an omen of things to come. The only thing is, Ochieng didn’t stop Rodriguez in the sixth round. He stopped him midway through the first.

For David Rodriguez, his dream of winning the heavyweight title ended in the fight against Ochieng. Perhaps it ended last December, against Boone. Perhaps it ended two years earlier, when the knife slashed across Rodriguez’ face. In any case, it ended.

David Rodriguez announced his retirement after the fight.

***

TIME FOR THE CALL: It’s time to put the name Al Gavin on the ballot for selection into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Al Gavin was a cutman/cornerman/trainer par excellence who was visible in so many corners during the 70’s, 80’s 90’s and into the new millennium. Gavin worked the corner of amateurs, pro and celebrities. He worked with the best (Lennox Lewis), the busiest (Micky Ward) and the worst (me). He treated everybody like a champ. Gavin passed away in 2009. Ralph Citro, also a great cutman, was inducted in 2001. It’s time to put Al Gavin’s name on the ballot and put his selection into boxing immortality in the hands of lthe Boxing Writer’s Association. It really is time.

***

NEXT FOR MIGUEL COTTO: Winning the middleweight title from Sergio Martinez was merely another step towards Canastota for Miguel Cotto. Chances are, no matter what he does between now and his eventual induction will not affect his selection into the IBHOF. Two names being tossed around as possibly opponents for Cotto are Canelo Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. With Alvarez possibly going in the direction of James Kirkland and Julio Sr. saying his son will gladly make 160 to face Cotto, expect to see a middleweight title clash between Cotto and Chavez. Does this one head to New York or Las Vegas? I say it winds up in Cotto’s adopted home of New York City.

***

HE’S COMING BACK: He was battered and overpowered by Miguel Cotto on June 7 at Madison Square Garden. A bum knee and a surgically-repaired shoulder left Sergio Martinez looking like anything but a champion, and he was stopped in 10 one-sided rounds. Now, only a month later comes news from Spain–Martinez’ home–that the ex-middleweight king intends to fight on.

“He is 100% healthy and will resume his career with the intention of regaining the title,” said Sampson Lewkowicz, Martinez’ adviser.

One hundred percent healthy? How can that be? Only one month ago, Martinez looked like a cripple. He looked frail and weak and was treated as such by Cotto, who dropped him four times on the way to taking his title. How can he be 100% just a little over a month later?

“He said he feels fine,” said Martinez’ promoter Lou DiBella. “He’ll be coming into New York for a battery of physical exams and we will take it from there. My guess is he’ll be fighting in the early part of 2015 against a tough, top-15, top-20 opponent. We’ll take it from there.”

Martinez will be 40 in February.

***

VAST IMPROVEMENT: After watching Zou Shiming thoroughly outbox veteran Luis De la Rosa on Saturday night, you can see his hard work with Freddie Roach paying off. Shiming is planting his feet a lot more when he throws his blistering combinations and his movement is much more fluid with less wasted energy. Shiming won nine of the 10 rounds against De la Rosa to go 5-0 in a fight for the vacant WBO International Flyweight Title. There will probably be one more fight for Shiming before the 33-year-old Shiming–a hero throughout China–is put into a world title fight…On the same card as Shiming, Guillermo Rigondeaux moved to 14-0 with a second-round stoppage of Thailand’s Sod Kokietgym. It’s too bad the fight ended the way it did, on a cheap–but legal–punch by Rigondeaux. Kokietgym had come into the fight with a 63-2-1 record, with his only two losses coming to Daniel “Ponce” De Leon, the last one in 2006…Patrick Day, the sensational middleweight prospect from Long Island, will see action this Wednesday at B. B. King’s in NYC on a Lou DiBella card. Day is currently 7-0-1 with four knockouts.

A CHANGE IN THE RATINGS: With Top-10 PxP fighter GGG in action this weekend, I am wondering how he will look and if his performance will raise him, keep him the same or drop him in our PxP ratings. Guess we’ll find out on Saturday. My pick is GGG by late round stoppage.

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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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