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Andre Ward To Roc Nation Sports?

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Word on the street is Roc Nation Sports, the new Jay Z boxing promotional entity, wants Andre Ward to be a boxing building block for them, and are trying to get a bit creative about ways to get that done.

If you have followed the recent arc in the career of Ward, you know the Bay Area boxer is supremely talented, but that his exploits of late have been thin, simply because he hasn’t gloved up. First, there was an injury (November 2012) which kept him from taking part in a planned tussle against faded Kelly Pavlik. That was to unfold in January 2013.

But soon thereafter, Ward (27-0 with 14 KOs) started shifting his fighting away from the gym, to the business arena. He tried to split from promoter Dan Goossen, and employed lawyers and an arbitration session with the California State Athletic Commission in June 2013. He was rebuffed, as the Commission ruled in favor of Goosen, after the 30-year-old Ward complained that members of his team were kept out of the loop while Goossen discussed a Ward fight with HBO.

Ward complained that Goossen kept other members of his team, such as co-promoter Antonio Leonard, and advisor James Prince, a music CEO, out of the loop, while Goossen worked on hammering out deals with HBO, who has been the platform for his bouts of late.

In November 2013, Leonard tried to exert some leverage, looking to sue Goossen in Texas, because he alleged that Goossen was improperly seeking to cut him out of a valid co-promotional arrangement. Leonard got nowhere with that attempt. Ward kept on punching…

In April 2013, the Cali Commssion again saw things Goossen’s way, after Ward contended that Cali labor laws should invalidate a contractual deal with Goossen, because it exceeded seven years. No, Team Goossen argued, Mr. Ward of his own free will re-signed an extension, in 2011, and the Commission agreed. Ward’s attorney Josh Dubin took offense, and hit at the Commission’s trending towards not seeing things his client’s way. The Cali oversight body ruled that because of Ward’s “incapacity and/or uncooperativeness,” 14 months was being added to his contract with Goossen, and thus, the deal was good till Nov. 8, 2016.

Goossen countered that it was Ward who was the one keeping HIM out of the loop with HBO, and thus, that gummed up the works in putting a bout together for Ward. Goossen asserted he had a deal ready for Ward to face off against Mikkel Kessler, in February 2014, but that Ward didn’t want to play ball.

Ward, showing some of the pluck which serves him well in the ring, didn’t go quietly. In May, he said he “didn’t really have anything personal against Goossen. This isn’t a personal fight or personal vendetta.” But in early August 2014, Ward upped his charges, to a new level. His legal team filed suit alleging violations by Goossen of the Muhammad Ali Act. “Even though Goossen has promoted Mr. Ward for nearly his entire ten year professional career, and despite repeated requests by Mr. Ward, Goossen failed in all instances to make any timely disclosures to Mr. Ward under the Ali Act for any of his fights from 2004 through 2012,” read a portion of the Team Ward complaint. Goossen had about enough, and filed a countersuit, to the tune of a $10 million defamation charge versus Ward. Yes, it became, to my eyes, somewhat personal.

Goossen took umbrage at that accusation, but chose not to speak publicly, telling me he wanted the issue to be cleared up not in the public eye, but through our system of law. But it was clear he was somewhat stung that Ward would lodge what seemed like a smear to a proud man. He took the high road, though, refusing to engage in an in-the-press mud-throw-fest. On Aug. 20, a Cali Superior Court judge ruled against Ward, yet again. The status of the defamation countersuit by Goossen is unclear to me, at this time.

With the passing of Goossen on Sept. 29, the rumor mill started humming.

Here’s what I’ve been hearing:

Ward, or Ward and Roc Nation, will buy out the Goossen contract. Leonard will be part of a package, will hop aboard Team Roc Nation, to work in some capacity, and Ward will be freed from the Goossen deal, and be featured as Roc’s top dog boxing client. I also heard that people working at Goossen boxing, which includes son Craig Goossen and matchmaker Tom Brown, might be open to listening to buyout offers, but the figure Team Ward might like to offer isn’t in the right ballpark.

I reached out to Ward first, to see what is truth and what is just grist for the mill. His publicist wished me well, and said Ward had “no comment” when I asked about a buyout of the Goossen contract and a leap to Roc.

I also reached out to Leonard, to see if he could shed light on the issue. He took my call, said he would call back in 20 minutes, and I am hoping a call back is in fact on his To Do list.

Here is the “About” from his website, to help you get a sense of him:

Antonio Leonard Promotions is the premiere boxing promotions, management, and special events company. Our primary goal is to bring the most exciting and entertaining boxing events across the globe. Antonio Leonard Promotions was founded in 1995 by long time boxing manager and promoter Antonio Leonard. Antonio Leonard has managed and worked with many of our generations greatest world champion boxers such as Winky Wright, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Diego Corrales, Jeff Lacy, Roy Jones Jr, Andre Ward, and Chad Dawson. Mr. Leonard has been apart of many of the greatest boxing events of our time and looks forward to bringing that same excitement across the globe.

I reached out to Ron Berkowitz, a spokesman for Roc Nation Sports, to help shed light, and clarify the issue. Berkowitz didn’t respond to several emails or a phone message. Roc Nation chief operating officer David Itskowitch, when asked about these rumors, about Roc wanting Ward and Leonard coming aboard, about there being resistance on the Goossen side of accepting a buyout offer, replied, via email: “News to me. Haven’t heard that.”

I left a message requesting Craig Goossen, Dan’s son, who is taking over a portion of the reins of the boxing endeavor, to help clarify the issues, and I await his reply.

My take: as with most such rumbles, I would be most pleased if the lawyers had less to do with the matter. Maybe this all plays out and Ward gets to say “I told ya so” in five years, but to me, I see a talented guy reaching his possible prime who fought once in 2012, once in 2013, and hasn’t fought in 2014. The man is a fighter…who isn’t fighting where he does it best, in the ring. Here’s hoping peace pipes get brought out, an agreeable settlement occurs, and all involved can get busier making lawyers less happy, and fight fans more so.

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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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