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THE COMMISSIONER’S CORNER: Ed Derian Was One of the Best

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Throughout my ESPN/USA Network/MSG Network/Ring Magazine days of the late ’70’s right up until the time I became head of the NYSAC, I had the pleasure of listening to and working with ring announcer Ed Derian, who we liked to call “Steady Eddie.

“He was fun to listen to and fun to work with.

Unlike many individuals who are filled with jealousy of others in their business who are moving up, Ed Derian was full of praise for those who were in the ring-announcing business.

One day, in the early 1980’s, I asked him what he thought of a rich-toned ring announcer with the looks of a model which Top Rank had been using on its cards in Atlantic City.

“The kid is tremendous,” said Derian. “I love the way he sounds. The problem is, I don’t think Bob Arum loves him. If I have a chance, I am going to say something to Arum. With a little work, this guy could become one of the best. I’d like to see Bob give him a chance to develop. I know this: I’d like to have this guy’s future.”

I don’t know if Derian ever got to speak to Arum about the guy, but he was certainly right about his future. A few years ago, the guy Derian had high praise for was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York, quite possibly the best-known ring announcer of all time–Michael “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” Buffer.

Ed Derian, who always wore a tuxedo on nights he was announcing, had a smooth, easy-to-listen-to sound and was always prepared. Many times, when I showed up at ringside long before the fights started, either in my days as an announcer or commissioner, Derian would already be sitting at ringside, studying his notes. He knew everybody’s weight, hometown and record.

When he was announcing, Derian used to love to say, “This young man comes all the way from…” and then repeat the fighter’s last name.”…Mike Tyson. Tyson.”

He also loved to play with unique names. One of his favorites was when he announced referee Frank Cappuccino. In doing so, Derian would say, “…and the third man in the ring is referee Frank Cap/oo/CHEEEEENO!”

“I loved when he did that,” Cappuccino told me. “I really loved Eddie. He was a fantastic guy.”

One night, while I was announcing a fight on the USA Network alongside Al Albert, we were opening the show, then “Threw it” (an announcing term) to Derian to begin his introductions. As it was a title fight, the national anthems of both of the contestant’s countries were sung. First came the National Anthem of Mexico. Then came the National Anthem of the United States.

As Derian introduced the man who would sing the Star Spangled Banner, he then handed the man his microphone and stepped back a few steps to allow the singer to be the center of attention. After only a few words, the singer became more than the center of attention. He became the focus of everybody in the arena. That’s because he had no idea of what the words were or even the tune.

He later said he froze as he looked into the TV camera.

It was something like “Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s bursting bombs. O’er the ramparts we watched, and so proudly we hailed…”

The look on Derian’s face was priceless. In our headset, Albert and I heard the gang in the control truck hysterical with laughter.

“It’s a new rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, guys,” said our producer.

I glanced at Albert. He glanced at me as we both stood at attention. Then, I stared at Derian. I rolled my eyes. He was fighting to stifle a laugh. I made a subtle gesture to Derian that he should sing. He watched me. He got it. He had to do something, because the poor guy was singing about having “rockets red glare as we stared in the air” and going in circles with our national song.

Derian then stepped in and, gently lifting the microphone from the stage-struck singer’s hands, said, “Why don’t we all join in and sing our National Anthem?”

“Oh, say, can you see…” sang Derian. By the time he hit “by the dawn’s early light…” the crowd was behind him, and so was the singer, who was rescued from his stage fright by Derian.

In 1986, Derian became the ring announcer for Madison Square Garden Boxing. When the MSG Boxing Department closed its doors around 15 years later and as the USA Network phased out of their “Tuesday Night Fights” series, where he was promoter Russell Peltz’ ring announcer, Derian’s work load as an announcer slowed drastically.

In 2012, Ed’s beloved wife and best friend, Roxy, passed away. As often happens, part of a man dies when his wife passes away. A huge part of Ed Derian died then, too.

He went downhill after that. He passed away on September 26 at the age of 77.

Last year, Frank Cappuccino was an in-studio guest on my SiriusXM show. He gave me Ed Derian’s phone number. I called him the next day. He was so thrilled to hear from me. He asked me if I would ever get in my car and drive down to see him. The drive would have been 2-2 1/2 hours. I told him I would. I meant it. But life–work–kept getting in the way.

I so badly wanted to take the drive from Long Island to Derian’s house in Pennsylvania and visit him. I kept telling myself “I’ll go next week.” Then, something would come up and I’d say, “I’ll go next week.”

Well, “next week” never came.

As I write this, I’m not ashamed to tell you tears are falling. I really wish I had gone to visit him on one of those many promises to myself of “next week.”

Ed, I’m sorry I didn’t just pick up the phone and call you, telling you I was coming down to take you to lunch.

He was truly one of the greatest ring announcers boxing has ever seen.

“This young man hails all the way from…”

Ed Derian. Derian.

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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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