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KOVALEV VICTORY PRELUDE TO HIS REAL MAIN EVENT

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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Do they still say “’til death do us part” at wedding ceremonies? These days, with the divorce rate continuing to rise, the notion of two people or entities staying together forever because of a recited promise might seem quaint and outdated.

IBF/WBA light heavyweight champion Bernard “The Alien” Hopkins verbally filed divorce papers from his most recent premium-cable partner on Thursday, and just like that he altered the face of the 175-pound weight class and, perhaps by extension, the landscape for all of boxing.

Contracts were hurriedly drawn up and signed on Friday for a unification matchup of Hopkins (55-6-1, 32 KOs) and WBO light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev (25-0-1, 23 KOs), to be held on a date yet to be determined in November, either at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., or Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall, and televised by HBO.

That an agreement for a Hopkins-Kovalev showdown could be reached so quickly, in a sport where negotiations often are as drawn-out and tedious as soap-opera story lines, had the immediate effect of transforming Kovalev’s HBO-televised title defense here Saturday night against Australia’s Blake Caparello into a preview of a much-better coming attraction. And Kovalev, the “Krusher from Russia,” held up his end of the bargain, stopping Caparello (19-1-1, 6 KOs) 1 minute, 47 seconds into the second round of a scheduled 12-rounder. Although Caparello, a southpaw and a 15-to-1 underdog, registered a flash knockdown in Round 1 with an overhand left, it was but a momentary aberration. Kovalev floored the Aussie three times in the following stanza, prompting referee Sparkle Lee to step in and wave a halt to the increasingly one-sided proceedings.

The defining shot was a straight right to Caparello’s midsection, sending the challenger, grimacing in pain, down on one knee for the second of his three trips to the canvas.
“When I (hit) his liver, I felt I could finish fight. Why not?,” said Kovalev, who now has ended 12 of his last 13 bouts inside the distance, the only non-knockout a technical draw against Grover Young that was called in the second round on Aug. 27, 2011. Of the flash knockdown scored by Caparello, Kovalev said, “It was not really like knockdown. I didn’t feel his punch. He got me off my balance.”
Kovalev said procuring a fight with Hopkins “is very big fight, very interesting for me and for boxing world. It is my dream, really. One of my dreams.”
Is a cornerstone of that dream the notion of becoming the first man to knock out Hopkins? Many have tried, but no one has come close to succeeding in putting the old master down and out. No one has even succeeded in putting that much punishment on a man Lou DiBella, who promotes Caparello, described as “a defensive genius.”

“I am not going to try for it,” Kovalev said of any thoughts he might harbor of taking B-Hop out in the same emphatic manner in which he starched Caparello. “We will see what happens in the ring. Who knows? Maybe he can teach me something. Bernard Hopkins is very smart fighter, very experienced. But I am not afraid of him.”
Nor is Hopkins intimidated by the prospect of swapping punches with the most-feared power hitter in the light heavyweight division, and maybe in all of boxing.

“I always ran to the fire, not away from the fire,” he said.
As might be expected, much of the buzz at the Revel Casino Hotel, where the fight was held, centered around what will take place a few months hence rather than what had just occurred. Hopkins, at 49, has confounded boxing experts with his amazing longevity for more than a decade, and his 180-degree shift from his previously stated position indicates still another reversal on the business end of an enterprise that is forever buffeted by strong winds.
In late April, Hopkins, whose previous two bouts and three of his last seven had been on Showtime, pledged his undying fealty. “I’m a Showtime fighter,” he insisted. “I’m loyal to Showtime. I’m loyal to (then-Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer). I’m loyal to Al Haymon. Unless Kovalev comes here (to Showtime) or crosses the street, that fight ain’t never gonna happen.”

With WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson jumping from HBO to Showtime at the behest of Haymon, his powerful and influential adviser, it seemed inevitable that if a unification bout was be held, it would pit Hopkins against Stevenson on Showtime. With preliminary discussions for a Kovalev-Stevenson match on HBO having fallen through, Kovalev’s promoter, Main Events CEO Kathy Duva, responded by filing a lawsuit against

Golden Boy, Schaefer and Haymon for interference.

But after Duva received a telephone call from Golden Boy matchmaker Eric Gomez on Thursday, moments before the final press conference hyping Kovalev-Caparello was to begin, the dominoes fell in rapid fashion. Gomez told Duva what Hopkins wanted to make a Kovalev fight, Duva relayed that information to Kovalev’s manager, Egis Klimas, and an accord was soon reached. Duva had already removed Golden Boy Promotions as a defendant in her still-pending lawsuit, and Hopkins now appears to be spared the necessity of going through with a mandatory IBF defense against Nadjib Mohammedi (35-3, 21 KOs), a fight that few people wanted to see, although it would not shock anyone if the IBF decided to strip Hopkins of its title because, well, that’s what turf-protecting alphabet sanctioning bodies do.

“It’s not that hard to do (to make fights) when everybody wants to make a deal,” said Duva, who knows it’s often easier to get fighters’ lawyers to slug it out in a courtroom than for those fighters to do it in the ring.

Hopkins, though, might have dropped hints that he was leaving the door open for a return to HBO (which has televised 21 of his fights), regardless of his I-love-Showtime comments. On June 1, he noted that “I’m not under contract to Golden Boy. No one has asked me to come here or to stay there. I got my own team, a separate team. When all is said and done, I’m going to evaluate everything and decide what’s best for Bernard Hopkins. I’m going to try to be fair to everybody, but I got to look out for me first. It’s crucial for me to make the right move, whether it’s with Richard or with Oscar (De La Hoya). I worked too hard to get here to do anything else.

“No matter what, though, what’s going on now between them won’t affect me from getting in the ring and winning another title,” he continued. “I want to continue to unify the light heavyweight division, and with two titles I’m in better position to do that now, regardless of the (GBP) shakeup. I could even promote my next fight myself. It won’t be an emotional decision. I’m going to align myself with the best, with the smartest, and with whoever an do the most for me at this stage of my career.”

Eighteen years older than Kovalev, Hopkins – who reportedly will be paid $2 million for that bout – again will be an underdog against a younger, harder-hitting opponent. But he’s been there before, against Kelly Pavlik, Jean Pascal, Tavoris Cloud, Karo Murat and Beibut Shumenov, and confounded the so-called experts who keep trying to shovel dirt upon his pugilistic grave. Can the figurative funeral finally take place against Kovalev? Maybe, but Hopkins is an exquisite technician who seems to fare best against guys who come straight at him hoping to draw him into slugfests, which is pretty much describes Kovalev’s effective but no-frills style. Kovalev is a level or two above the likes of some of the aforementioned

Hopkins victims, though, –.

Hopkins’ shift in allegiance – his latest marriage of convenience, if you will – appeared to catch Stephen Espinoza, Showtime’s executive vice president and general manager of Sports and Event Programming, off-guard.
“I’m puzzled that Bernard seems to have taken the less lucrative offer (than for a bout with Stevenson),” Espinoza said in a telephone interview with the Los Angeles Times’ Lance Pugmire. “We’ve had a good relationship with Bernard and we wish him the best.”

Russian junior middleweight Dmitry “The Mechanic” Mikhaylenko (17-0, 6 KOs) didn’t exactly tune up veteran southpaw Sechow Powell (26-6, 15 KOs), of Brooklyn, N.Y., in the eight-round lead-in to Kovalev-Caparello, but he stayed busy enough to take a fairly wide unanimous decision.

Light heavyweight Isaac Chilemba (23-2-2, 10 KOs), the South African who is former world champion Buddy McGirt’s latest pupil, took another step forward by scoring a seventh-round stoppage over Corry Cummings (17-7-1, 13 KOs), of Newark, N.J., in a scheduled 10-rounder.

In a scheduled six-round heavyweight bout, Poland-born, Brooklyn-based heavyweight Adam Kownacki (7-0, 7 KOs) extended his knockout streak with a fifth-round stoppage of Charles Ellis (9-2-1, 8 KOs), of Wichita, Kan. Kownacki has heavy hands, but, at 258 pounds, that isn’t the only part of his doughy physique that can make the needle on a bathroom scale jump. Check back on him later if he can lay off the kielbasa and drop 20 or so pounds.

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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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