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There Are Decent People in Boxing, Doing Decent Things

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I know this story won’t draw a huge number of hits.

Tough tamales, I say.

Stories like this one, which spotlight people who are doing good things, aren’t written enough, not by me, and sure as hell not by a media obsessed with feeding the darker sides of all our human nature.

Melvina Lathan was named chair of the New York State Athletic Commission in 2008. It was a heady time. Optimism was in the air, amongst many of us, anyway, if not for the people for whom color blindness infects their reasoning, however much of it they may possess. A black man was elected to oversee the most powerful nation in the world, and that felt like a massive reparation, and a concession to progress, a reminder, of which there hasn’t been enough of in the last 30 or so years, that America can do great things, beyond thinking up ways to package sugar and fat into delectable fast food items, and engineer diabolically lucrative methods to exploit loopholes and make Wall Street richer than the sum total of some small nations’ GDP.

A woman being named to head up an athletic commission…good stuff.

Her tenure, as all of them are, was a mix of positive and negative. I’d argue that the positive far, far outweighed the negative, especially if you talk to some of those young fighters who she touched, with one of those hugs, or a heart to heart talk, or a string of encouraging words which lifted them up after back to back losses, or they admitted to a homelife featuring a paucity of love and attention.

We the media aren’t, of course, so prone to pick up on those stories. They don’t do as well in the hit department and also some feel funny about writing “positive” stories. It’s like we’re fated to skew negative, we fightwriters, because we often subscribe to the conventional wisdom theory, that our red light district of sports is a human cesspool where flesh merchants slither alongside wannabes and dreamers and square peggers who have been drawn to the only pro sport which would allow entry to the likes of them.

Further, sometimes people tell me to get over myself, stop being so self righteous, stop that earnest schtick, stop preaching. Eff them, eff that I say.

If we the media don’t get a bit better at accentuating positives then why don’t we just pull up stakes, call it a day, and concede to the darkside?

Hey, I wonder if maybe Lathan sometimes feels like conceding…throwing in the towel…hanging up the gloves, stepping down. You guys know what happened last November, how a boxer, a brave warrior fought his heart out, and almost gave his life for what he was born to do. You know that in such situations, we play the blame game. We ask, we want answers: who screwed up? We need a head to roll…That’s the way the game is played when fate takes a turn into a deep ditch. Should it be? No.

I was at MSG that night, I saw the warrior who is today back at home, getting better, to the utter joy of his wife and kids, throwing hard punches to the final bell. And after that fight, could things have gone more smoothly, and could maybe Mago have been better served? Sure. By any number of people. They know who they are. No one person deserves an excess of scorn or judgement in such a system, not when we are all operating within the imperfect system that is boxing, and life.

I don’t find it fair when one act defines a person.

Now, maybe she doesn’t really want me to write this, but I think it is important to get this out there. Lathan has been married for 44 years. She experienced the ups and downs that we all do, doing that marriage thing, doing the life thing, but if you know her, you hear her talk about her four kids, her 13 grand-children, and you know that this is a person who seems to understand priorities, what the big picture should be.

She’s been tested; her younger brother had a stroke, which left her asking why, if indeed everything happens for a reason. Two years later, her husband, a physician, also suffered a stroke. This is the kind of stuff that can and will happen to you if you are graced with enough decades on earth. But we’re not inclined to advertise our woes, are we, we’re encouraged to soldier on. So, while those issues linger in our mind while we get through that work day, because that mortgage still got to be paid, most folks we deal with don’t know when our souls are being particularly challenged. And most folks don’t know when a good person is doing things that aren’t earning themselves a boatload of money or acclaim. When a Lathan is helping put together a fund-raising golf outing for the American Association for the Improvement of Boxing, which unfolds Oct. 13 at the Galloway National Golf Club, in Galloway, New Jersey, you’re not as likely to hear about it as when the blame game is being indulged in….

Let’s put aside the blame game, and note that four kids were given scholarship dough last year out of funds raised at the AAIB outing and gala dinner. And while we’re shifting out of the gears of the familiar, the sensational, the blameworthy, the superficial, let’s consider a fuller picture on Lathan, who two weeks ago was visiting  about 30 kids at the Willis Ave. Gym in the South Bronx, giving out goodie bags, with fresh fruit and water and the like, from out of her own pocket. She talked to the kids about healthy nutrition, about staying in school, about being decent souls, about stuff that so many of us take for granted, and can’t conceive of anyone needing pointers on, because we come from a place of plenty. And did you hear about her presence at the WBC’s first Women’s Convention in Mexico last week, and how she was rallying people together, trying to help advance the cause and presence of women in the sport, encouraging the voiceless to use those lungs, announce their worth in the world? You didn’t hear about that stuff? Shame on me, for not shouting it louder….

Yeah, decent people in boxing. Doing good things. Spreading positive messages. it happens. A lot.

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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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