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The Hauser Report: January Notes

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The most interesting action in boxing often takes place outside the ring. There have been developments on both sides of the ropes in January 2015 that are worthy of comment.

*     *     *

The Al Haymon Era officially began this month when Haymon Boxing, armed with a reported $100,000,000 war chest in venture-capital funds, put the finishing touches on two time buys.

NBC Sports announced on January 14 that it had entered into an agreement with Haymon that provides for twenty fight telecasts in 2015 (five on NBC on Saturday nights, six on NBC on Saturday afternoons, and nine in prime time on NBC Sports Network).

The NBC commentating team will include Al Michaels and Sugar Ray Leonard, two of the best in the business. There are reports that another elite commentator, possibly Marv Albert, will join them.

The first telecast pursuant to the agreement will come on March 7, when Keith Thurman faces off against Robert Guerrero and Adrien Broner takes on John Molina at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. That will be followed by Danny Garcia vs. Lamont Peterson and, possibly, Andy Lee vs. Peter Quillin on April 11, most likely at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Both of these cards will be televised on NBC. Thurman, Broner, Garcia, and Quillin will be the favored fighters in more ways than one.

On January 22, a second Haymon Boxing time buy was announced; this one on Spike TV. Thirty-three monthly cards (nine in 2015, twelve in 2016, and twelve in 2017) will be televised on Friday nights, many of them opposite ESPN2 Boxing.

The inaugural Spike telecast will take place on March 13 with Andre Berto vs. Josesito Lopez and Shawn Porter vs. Roberto Garcia. Berto and Porter are considered the house fighters.

Much of the boxing media was frozen out of the press conferences announcing these events. That might be because Haymon had more prominent scribes in mind. Or it might be because he doesn’t want anyone who knows the business boxing asking hard questions in the presence of the uninitiated.

The reaction of competing promoters and television executives left out in the cold has ranged from denial to panic. Some in between these extremes have noted that Haymon now has the burden of selling advertising for programming that advertisers have resisted for decades.

As for fans, there was an ominous signal when it was announced that the April 11 fight between WBA-WBC 140-pound beltholder Danny Garcia and IBF 140-pound beltholder Lamont Peterson will be an over-the-weight non-title bout. That’s Haymon’s way of distributing as many belts as possible among as many of his fighters as possible to keep them happy. Also, presumably, he can pay the fighters a bit less because they aren’t risking their belts.

Haymon is trying to create a sense of inevitability. And he’s spending a lot of his investors’ money to do it. One of many unanswered questions is whether or not the investors will get their money back.

*     *     *

A lot of people in boxing have free time on their hands and not much to do with it. That’s the most likely explanation for the breathless reporting during the past month regarding the non-fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.

Pacquiao wants the fight. So does Showtime (a subsidiary of CBS Corporation), which would like to dig itself out from under the weight of its $32,000,000-per-fight minimum obligation to Mayweather.

Bob Arum (Pacquiao’s promoter) may, or may not, want it. But by posturing publicly in favor of the bout, he’s ingratiating himself with Les Moonves (president and CEO of CBS Corporation), who banished Top Rank from the network after Arum brought Pacquiao back to HBO following a flirtation with Showtime for Pacquiao vs. Shane Mosley in 2011.

Speculation that Mayweather-Pacquiao would happen peaked on January 14, when HBO CEO Richard Plepler and Ken Hershman (president of HBO Sports) were seen having lunch in a Manhattan restaurant with Matt Blank and Stephen Espinoza (their Showtime counterparts). By most accounts, the meeting went poorly.

There are numerous issues between Showtime (which has an exclusive contract with Mayweather) and HBO (Pacquiao’s network). These issues range from how the commentating team for Mayweather-Pacquiao would be constituted to which network would televise the rebroadcast of the fight a week later.

More to the point; Mayweather’s actions (as opposed to his words) indicate that he doesn’t want the fight. Al Haymon (Floyd’s manager and de facto promoter) might not want it either.

Haymon is accustomed to controlling all revenue streams from Mayweather’s fights. And he’s a secretive guy. Mayweather-Pacquiao would be a joint venture with Top Rank. That means Bob Arum would know what foreign revenue Haymon was bringing in. And vice versa.

Come to think of it; Arum might not like that much either.

This is the only time in memory that the two most prominent fighters in the world have been in the same weight class and didn’t fight each other. There are reports that Moonves has instructed Espinoza to not give dates to Haymon unless and until Mayweather-Pacquiao is made. That would explain why Showtime has so little programming in place for this year.

*     *     *

Deontay Wilder vs. Bermane Stiverne, contested on January 17, was seen going in as an entertaining match-up between two guys with questionable chins who could punch. Even better, it was unclear who would win.

Stiverne came in at 239 pounds with some extra weight around his waist. For most of the night, he plodded forward without letting his hands go often enough. Wilder used his considerable advantage in height and reach well. Even though Deontay moved away for most of the night, he did so as the aggressor, firing jabs with right hands mixed in. His jab was effective as both an offensive weapon and a defensive shield. The right hands stunned Stiverne at the end of round two and again in round seven.

Wilder had never gone more than four rounds before. By mid-fight, it was clear that Stiverne needed a knockout to win. The only open issues were Deontay’s stamina and his chin. Bermane didn’t do much to test either. Instead, he kept plodding forward, taking punishment and failing to cut off the ring. On the few occasions when he landed something promising, Wilder fired back. The judges’ scores of 120-107, 119-108, and 118-109 were a bit generous to Deontay, but not by much.

With his victory, Wilder claimed the bogus WBC heavyweight belt. The real champion is Wladimir Klitschko. But by besting Stiverne, Deontay established himself as a legitimate contender. He looked better against Bermane than a lot of people thought he would.

Wilder is entertaining to watch. He has the potential to excite people. There’s a big payday waiting for him against either Klitschko or Tyson Fury. Wladimir would be a decided favorite over Deontay. Fury would not.

Wilder-Fury would be a huge event in England. Think Wembley Stadium and the 80,000 fans who attended Carl Froch vs. George Groves last spring. Let’s hope then Deontay opts for Klitschko or Fury in his next fight and not Bozo the Clown.

*     *     *

The January 24 rubber match between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado shaped up at best as an entertaining club fight. The two men had combined to lose five of their previous seven outings over the past thirty-three months, with their only victories coming against each other. There was an effort to brand their trilogy as the second coming of Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward. That had no more credibility than likening Harry Connick Jr to Frank Sinatra.

In the weeks leading up to the fight, there was a widespread belief that, at best, Alvarado wasn’t training properly. At the start of round one, he looked like a man who didn’t want to fight. Then he morphed into a human punching bag. His only moment of serious aggression came toward the end of the second round, when he walked away from the action, then turned and whacked Rios in the testicles. In round three, Brandon pounded away without mercy. Following that stanza, the fight was stopped.

HBO commentator Jim Lampley acknowledged afterward, “It was a one-sided annihilation by a well-prepared Brandon Rios against a stunningly unprepared Mike Alvarado. Basically, he wasn’t there.”

“He had nothing, zero,” promoter Bob Arum added.

Boxing fans were spared comparisons with Gatti-Ward in the post-fight analysis.

*     *     *

The sad story of Jermain Taylor got sadder on January 19 with his arrest on charges of aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of a minor, and possession of marijuana after he fired a gun during a parade in Little Rock honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

Taylor was out on bail at the time, pending trial on charges of first degree battery stemming from an incident last August, when he shot his cousin in the leg. His bail was revoked after the parade incident.

There was a time when Jermain was considered a model citizen, and rightly so. Those days are gone.

“It’s possible that brain trauma from boxing is contributing to this,” Dr. Margaret Goodman (one of the most knowledgeable advocates for fighter safety in the United States) posits. “With CTE [chronic traumatic encephalopathy], you see extreme personality and mood changes. But you wouldn’t know whether that’s the case here without a lot of tests.”

Drug abuse is also believed to be a factor. After Taylor defeated Bernard Hopkins twice in 2005, he left his longtime trainer, Pat Burns, to work with Emanuel Steward, who was assisted by Ozell Nelson. Thereafter, Jermain was introduced to some not-so-healthy aspects of street life.

Taylor reunited with Burns in 2011. Last year, he won a watered-down 160-pound “championship” belt.

“If I sound perturbed,” Burns told this writer last week, “it’s because I am. Jermain was completely against drugs when I first knew him. And now, it’s not just marijuana. It can’t be. Marijuana doesn’t make you crazy like this. I’m told there’s stuff on the streets now that’s marijuana processed in a certain way that’s very dangerous. Maybe it’s that; I don’t know. But he’s out of control. That’s the scary part. The drugs are kicking Jermain’s ass.”

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book (Thomas Hauser on Boxing: Another Year Inside the Sweet Science) was published by the University of Arkansas Press.

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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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