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YEAR IN REVIEW: Loose Cannon Arum Drops the H Word, A Superfight Gets Made in Feb. ’14

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Indulging in a look-back at the past year in boxing can be a slightly discouraging task, if one chooses to acknowledge how naggingly repetitive some of the issues that bedevil us as fans of the sport can be.

I look back at February 2014 in the year of boxing, and I’m reminded that I, on Feb. 2, 2014, was apparently not in a defeated mode after failing at resolutions number one thru four. My inclination for offering a plea and a road-map for positive change didn’t go the way of my wish to be comeback player of the year at the Y, a king of cardio, when I wrote “A Plea For Better PPV Undercards,” and I wrote, “Arum, being a wise sort, makes a fine point when he tells Iole that he sees buildings half empty during the pre main event bouts on PPV cards, and notes that at PPV parties, people are busy shooting the bull and eating and drinking until the big guns step to the ring. He’s not wrong. But he could be working to change that dynamic, instead of capitulating to it. The reason disinterest reigns is because fight fans, 100%, have come to expect to much dreck, too many record building bouts, on PPV undercards…and they react by being less than enthused about them. But watch that change if some care and more money is extended on these undercards. Watch the bump to the brand, of Top Rank, of Manny Pacquiao, of HBO, when these undercards get the love they deserve. Watch the buzz on social media when fans Tweet their support and appreciation for getting a great bang for their buck because Top Rank has dumped that old school “only the 10% care” thinking.”

I sign off on that POV and wording today, and will continue to do so until the thinking on that issue changes…which may be in Neveruary, but anyway.

On Feb. 6, I was pleased to check out Manny Pacquiao’s trek to NYC, to hype his rematch with Tim Bradley. I was surprised to recall that a papier mache figure of judge CJ Ross was used as a pinata at the event…no…I kid, that only happened in my mind. Pacquiao told me he saw the sequel as a 50-50 fight going in, but as we know, he made it so even the cretins of corruptitude got it right, and gave The Congressman his due, a W, when Pacquiao-Bradley II unfolded in April. At the same presser, the loose cannon side of promoter Arum reared its head, and the Vegas-based dealmaker blew up the Twitter when he told me, on the subject of Floyd Mayweather’s true desire to make a match with Pacman, “This is like a tactic, I’m not equating the politics, it’s like Hitler. Before the Second World War, ‘give me Czechoslovakia, there’ll be peace,’ and this and that..and (Neville) Chamberlain (then UK Prime Minister) kept appeasing, kept appeasing…was there ever going to be peace? No. No. It’s not going to get anybody closer to that fight.”

“That’s a pretty heavy-duty analogy,” I pointed out to Arum.

“That’s the truth,” he said. “That’s the truth. You do something like that, that’s the tactic. You bully, you bully, you bully…finally the guy says, ‘Enough,’ and he says, ‘See, you don’t want to fight me.”

A look back at this tete a tete is useful for context I think, to better appreciate the temp of the water under the bridge of futility that is the “negotiation” process for a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. Yeah, the rancor is such that one guy is publicly referring to the other as a Hitler sort….not any sort of recipe for finding common ground, typically. But then again, our sport is special, and conventions which apply to the straights and outside our realm sometimes don’t apply to us and our wondrous theater of the unexpected.

One Superfight that did get made in 2014 was a middleweight clash between the future first ballot Hall of Famer Miguel Cotto, and the late-to-boxing standout Sergio Martinez. June 7, they were slated to tangle at the famed and fabled Madison Square Garden, and Cotto trainer Freddie Roach explained to me why his guy had the edge going in.

One of the top stories of the year came out of left field, as we learned on Feb. 19 that Al Haymon’s tentacles had snagged another pug. Light heavy stud Adonis Stevenson liked the flavoring of the Haymon Kool Aid, and the succumbed to the sweet whisperings of uber advisor Haymon. There were ripples which grew into waves down the line resulting from that development…

Amir Khan, optimists and the deluded suffered a blow to their hopes and dreams when Floyd Mayweather on Feb. 24 took to Twitter to say: “I will be fighting Marcos Maidana May 3rd on Pay-per-View Showtime/CBS.”

As the aforementioned bout turned out to be a one-sided sport of scrap that Dick Cheney would have adored, as a fan of torture, this one turned out to be far better than most analysts would have thought. This is why we fight ’em in the ring, instead of on paper, right?

And as tempting it is to leave out this item, as that helps insulate us from the brutal truths of the trade which are easier to ignore, decency dictates that I recall the sad news received on Feb. 3, 2014, when Mexican featherweight Oscar Gonzalez died, at age 23, from injuries sustained in a KO loss to Jesus Galicia in Mexico City, on Feb. 1.

We headed to March looking forward to seeing if Orlando Salido could derail the Lomachenko train, and unawares that the ides of March would be in full effect, that the year in boxing was going to get murkier, jerkier, muddier, juicier…

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Michael Dutchover Remains Undefeated in Ontario, Calif.

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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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