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Is Kosei Tanaka the World’s Brightest Prospect?

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By my reckoning Naoya Inoue was the prospect of the year in January 2013 and the fighter of the year by January 2015; that is an astonishing rate of development. The temptation when a major force of boxing potential is born outside the United States is to ask, “He looks good, but will he travel well?”

But like the top British fighters, top Japanese don’t have to travel at all. They can make a lifetime of money boxing on their own shores. Where the Japanese differ from the British is in their ability to buy in the very best fighters from the rest of the world to provide the sternest tests for their potential conquistadors at home. Bringing the world’s #1 minimumweight Adrian Hernandez and the #1 junior bantamweight Omar Narvaez to Japan in order that they may suffer Naoya’s tender attentions has made him one of the feared fighters in the world with his professional record just 8-0 and at the age of just twenty-one. A Japanese prospect with world-class potential is not “held back”, is not allowed to “gain experience” and is not permitted to “get rounds under their belt.” Instead, they fight the best their fledging abilities allow.

Nineteen years of age with a professional record of just 4-0, Kosei Tanaka will probably fight a ranked opponent for an alphabet strap in 2015. A minimumweight, he has already been scheduled for twelve rounds in a fight that went ten, and he has never indulged in the traditional four round encounters that buoy prospects concerned about fitness and stamina. Even compared to Naoya he is ahead of the absurd learning curve set for the best Japanese prospects, so much so that if we don’t take a detailed look at him now, at just four fights, we will likely be looking at a contender or strapholder rather than a prospect. So here is a tentative breakdown of how good this teenager is – and just how good he might become.

Style

Tanaka is a box-mover in the truest sense, a methodology designed to embrace to the greatest extent his natural gifts. In danger of becoming a national style in Japan, it works well for any fighter with the necessary speed, stamina and temperament, and it forms the first line of defence for a fighter capable of its execution. Tanaka’s default style is one of retreat, but he is moving away in narrow circles, moving the opponent into range rather than moving himself out of it. While it forms a natural barrier to opposition forages, it also calls for a high degree of judgment and discipline and an ability to recognise viable openings in accordance with the fighter’s own physical abilities. Fortunately, Tanaka is naturally aggressive. Married to this mobile style is a spiteful determination to fight which happily bridges the gap between not enough and too much.

An accomplished amateur without being storied or draped in gold, he bested the much-hyped younger Inoue brother, Takuma, overall in their several unpaid encounters – but little of the amateur remains. Perhaps lacking a little in the fluidity and improvisational skill he now displays, it is nevertheless clear that despite the pillows and the headgear, Takuma’s brief stay in the amateurs was used not as a springboard to an Olympic gold medal but in the old fashioned way: to hone a professional.

Balance and Footwork

It is not a particularly interesting nor an insightful thing to say, but Tanaka’s balance is already elite. In his first fight he was matched with Oscar Raknafa, a fighter who moved up to flyweight and embraced a sad fate as a professional loser, but at minimumweight had never been stopped and had been the national champion of Indonesia for a year before gaining a regional strap. He was far from typical as a debut opponent, even for an elite prospect. Winning every one of the six rounds, Tanaka also dropped Raknafa in the first with a beautiful combination born first and foremost of his ability to make a punching out of movement.

Winning every one of the six rounds, Tanaka also dropped Raknafa in the first with a beautiful combination born first and foremost of his ability to create punching opportunities with movement alone.

On no notice he can dip through his right knee to support a firecracker right hand, as he did with thirty seconds departed of round two in the same fight, but he also has the skill in footwork to augment his balanced offence, using steps to escape again in a tight circle. This bobbing, mobile style is a variation of what made Manny Pacquiao so dangerous, and although those comparisons begin and end right there, the boy moves well enough that it is a valid one.

The only concern in this department is a possible lack of economy. If Tanaka has to fight defensively or force a lead he will be forced to take many more steps than his opponent to do so. Does he have the engine for it, and if he does, will he carry his power late enough for it to matter?

Technique on Defence

The choice for Tanaka’s second professional opponent was fascinating to me. The man who got the nod was Ronelle Ferreras (13-6-2 going in), a twenty-eight year old Filipino with a great jaw and a line in losing whenever he stepped up in class. A typical opponent then for most prospects bowed by the weight of the tag “future world champion” but what set Ferreras apart was that he was a southpaw. The only film in existence of Tanaka really struggling is against a southpaw, an amateur and 2014 Asian Youth Games bronze medallist, Erdenebat Tsendbaatar out of Mongolia. Tsendbaatar walked Tanaka onto repeated straight left hands out of the southpaw stance, and although Tanaka was never in trouble, nor discouraged, he was caught flush on several occasions.

Defensively, Tanaka uses movement and a disciplined high-guard to make him hard to hit, but he is no Cuban exile – he is a Japanese stylist and as such he comes to fight and inevitably will be, at times, there to be hit. If Ferreras was able to take advantage of a stylistic predisposition to violence in combination with a possible weakness against the southpaw left, perhaps he would be able to trouble Tanaka.

In reality, he hardly landed a straight left hand all night. Most of his success occurred on the inside, where Tanaka’s tightly regulated guard smothered most of his work. The Japanese ducked and stepped away from most of the Filipino’s offence on the outside while unleashing his latest pet punch, a caning right hand to the body.

It is a body attack to which he may be most vulnerable himself but he has never looked close to being overwhelmed against either good amateur competition or limited professional competition – although, I think Ryuji Hara hurt him with a body shot in the ninth round of their contest from October of last year. Despite that, the movement upon which his style is founded should lend him some protection.

This naturally occurring defence is an enormous boon for an aggressive young fighter and although some more advanced punch-picking wouldn’t hurt, his defence is essentially in line with his style, having improved dramatically since his amateur days.

Technique on Offence

Tanaka is brilliant on offence. Even before he turned professional a commitment to a withering body-attack and a sure fluidity at all ranges marked him out as a fighter destined to make a splash as a professional. That said, his inability to stop Ferreras or Raknafa despite dominating performances did make me wonder about the kid from Nagoya. His absurd first round knockout of Crison Omayao was the perfect tonic.

Omayao was the debut opponent for the devastating Naoya Inoue, a fight in which he managed no fewer than four rounds. Tanaka took him out in less than two minutes and he did it using his right, which looked the technically weaker of the two hands up until that point. Not that the finishing punches were necessarily textbook, but rather the type of marauding, booming crushers more suited to a heavyweight journeyman on the make. The end result was a stupefied Omayao regaining his feet but loose-limbed and vacant, staring across the ring as though confronted by the avenging angel itself. The referee took a brief look and then waved off the only fight that allows a direct comparison between Tanaka and Naoya, a comparison that on paper finds Naoya wanting.

His left hand is a thing of wonder. Against Raknafa he landed a left-hook double-jab combination to set up the brutalising right hand in the literal blink of an eye; it’s a can-opener of a punch, the rapier to the right-hand bazooka, two weapons that complement each other perfectly. Combinations beyond the reach of eight year professionals are at his fingertips.

A very healthy habit of adding punches with each successive fight can come to an end without further evolution and leave behind a varied attack based upon a snapping jab that unlocks a wide reserve of power punches. Great offence, when it evolves, tends to be based upon great punch selection, swift persistence in throwing or a combination of the two; Tanaka falls happily into this final category.

Temperament and Generalship

Generalship is a natural gift of Tanaka’s style. It provides a natural control over territory via small-moves ring-centre and the only way to challenge him directly is with a head on assault that rather plays into his style on offence, or a retreat, always a compromise on the scorecards and an invitation to measure pure technical ability with a fighter who looks to be a near world-class technician after just four fights. The flip side of this gold coin is tarnished by a necessity for patience and for the discipline to stick to a naturalised gameplan regardless of provocation.

Precious film of one of Tanaka’s confrontations with Takuma Inoue in the amateurs provides an answer to the question of whether Tanaka is this sort of man affirmatively. Inoue looks faster, stronger and more aggressive in the opening rounds of this contest, and although Tanaka appears already to be the more technically proficient the sheer pace at which the contest is being hustled sees him miss plenty of punches. Tanaka does not panic. He just sticks to his boxing and by the end of the third round the faster, more aggressive Takuma has been handled, is giving ground and getting hit.

Professionally he showed great patience in returning to his boxing after dropping Raknafa and in outwaiting and outfighting Hara. The pressure on this young man’s shoulders is incredible, the weight of expectation severe. All the outward signs are that he is equal to it.

Punch Resistance and Stamina

It is unusual for a four-fight professional to provide much in the way of evidence one way or the other in these categories, but Tanaka’s advancement has been so swift that we can draw certain tentative conclusions.

In his fourth fight, he met 18-0 prospect Ryuji Hara. Hara is an excellent talent, a fluid puncher with fast hands and a nice line in two piece combinations that often end in body punches. Tanaka dropped a handful of frames on the way to stopping him in the tenth round of a fight that demonstrated his ability to fight at pace and retain his power into the late rounds.

Despite having a fraction of his opponent’s experience over longer distances and despite having suffered the unwanted attentions of Hara’s violent body-attack, Tanaka was far the fresher man down the straight. His footwork was undiminished, his reactions were unimpaired, and although he sought to rest once in the eighth and once in the ninth, his output was basically unaffected. The end of the ninth and the beginning of the tenth was something of a zenith in Tanaka’s fledgling career – in the final minutes of a hard fight, he absolutely poured on punches for a stoppage that was a mercy.

Hara also landed his own punches during savage, lightning exchanges but one or two body shots aside, I was of the impression that Tanaka was never caught absolutely clean by the romping offence coming his way. This hints at superb radar, but doesn’t help in appraising the fighter’s chin. I turned to Asianboxing.com’s Takahiro Onaga for a second opinion.

“As a professional, no I don’t think he has been properly chin-checked,” offered Takahiro. “However, he’s never seemed bothered being tagged, and has shown a willingness to mix it up as and when he chooses. I suspect he’s very confident in his [chin].”

I agree, and this is reassuring – but like every potential champion, his moment of truth lies ahead.

Speed and Power

Tanaka is fast. Because he has a rangy feel and boxes tall, there is a sense that he might come second against the very fastest fighters in a straight-up quick-draw, but I am not entirely convinced there is any fighter in the world that puts together combinations faster. He is blindingly fast between punches and the fourth is as fast as the first.

In terms of his hitting power I have reservations. In his debut against Raknafa, he couldn’t get the stoppage despite landing punches with impunity. While it is true that Raknafa had never been stopped, he has been since – in fact, he’s been stopped in every outing since Tanaka in seven, six and four rounds against decent flyweight opposition. Presuming Tanaka did not break him (which seems premature), what this tells us is that on his debut, Tanaka did not have power that could rank him a puncher at flyweight. At nineteen years of age, flyweight is where he is eventually headed – if this read is accurate, he will not rate a knockout artist there.

His technique is superb and I can’t imagine an augmentation adding pounds per square inch, but he might get more power in line with weight gain. This is the best he could hope for I think, and it would make him a dangerous puncher. This could lead to many accumulation stoppages, but I don’t think he will ever be the kind of fighter to be rescued by his power.

Next

“There is no beef,” Takahiro told me in answer to my question about Tanaka and the Inoue brothers. “They are said to be somewhat friendly. I suspect they have a general respect for each other.”

Nevertheless, it is likely that the paths of one or both the Inoue brothers converge with that of Tanaka at some point in the near future. In the meantime, Wanheng Menayothin has been made the primary target for team Tanaka. The #2 ranked minimumweight is the holder of a belt and seemingly available, although a dominant performance against the unbeaten Jeff Galero may have made Katsunari Takayama and a Japanese superfight the more attractive option. Either way, Tanaka is looking at a major step up as early as his very next fight.

Personally, I make him a favourite to beat either of them.

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Johnny Bey and the Glory Days of Boxing at the Great Western Forum

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Veteran boxing publicist John Beyrooty was inducted into the West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame last week. This particular hall of fame is the third boxing hall of fame devoted primarily to boxers and boxing personalities who energized the Los Angeles boxing scene. Its antecedents were the California Boxing Hall of Fame and the World Boxing Hall of Fame.

With this latest honor, John Beyrooty (Johnny Bey to his friends and co-workers) hit the trifecta. He’s been recognized by all three. For good measure, Beyrooty received the 2016 Good Guy Award by the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Beyrooty’s induction called to mind the days when the Great Western Forum (now back to being called the plain old Forum) was a beehive of boxing. Wealthy real estate investor Dr. Jerry Buss then owned the joint as well as the arena’s signature tenant, the Los Angeles Lakers. During the Buss years (1982-1999), there were 302 GWF shows, most of which were held on a Monday. They aired on Prime Ticket, a regional cable network in which Buss had an ownership stake.

Beginning in 1989, Johnny Bey was Jerry Buss’s PR guy for the fights.

JOHN BEYROOTY, NEWSPAPERMAN

A little background. For folks of a certain vintage, John Beyrooty will always be associated with the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner. At one time the largest circulation afternoon paper in America, the paper, which could trace its roots to 1903, went belly-up 29 years ago. The last issue rolled off the press on Nov. 2, 1989.

The Herald-Examiner had a great sports section. The rival LA Times could boast of Jim Murray, a wonderful wordsmith, and several other notables, but no one bought the Times just for the sports section. Three Herald-Examiner sportswriters – columnists Allan Malamud and Melvin Durslag and Bob Mieszerski, the horse racing guy, were snatched away by the Times during the end days of the Herald-Examiner.

Beyrooty, who grew up in the LA suburb of Downey (Herald-Examiner sports editor Bud Furillo was a neighbor) joined the paper as a copy boy. After five years in this capacity he became a writer, assigned to the boxing beat. “They gave me boxing because no one else wanted it,” he recalled in a 2010 interview with former Herald-Examiner colleague Doug Krikorian.

The first boxing show Beyrooty covered, on March 15, 1979, at the fabled Olympic Auditorium, was also the first boxing show he ever saw. Alberto “Superfly” Sandoval opposed Eddie Logan in the main event.

During his days as a copy boy Beyrooty moonlighted as a parking lot attendant at the old LA Sports Arena, a job he kept for a time after becoming a boxing writer. One night he worked a double shift, so to speak. In the fashion of Superman changing his costume, he ripped off the colorful shirt that parking lot attendants were required to wear and dashed into the arena to take his assigned seat in the section reserved for the ringside press.

FORUM BOXING, SNAPSHOTS

Twelve fighters promoted by Forum Boxing have been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. For some, the Great Western Forum was their nursery. Juan Manuel Marquez graduated from a preliminary boy to a headliner here. Oscar De La Hoya made his pro debut at the Great Western Forum. John Beyrooty is credited with giving Oscar his nickname, “Golden Boy.”

At the Great Western Forum, good things came in small packages. The great flyweight Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson had most of his early fights in and around his native Washington DC, but came to the fore at the Great Western Forum where he made 14 appearances. Ask John Bayrooty and he would tell you that Mark Johnson in his prime was pound-for-pound the best boxer in the world. An even smaller man, Humberto “Chiquita” Gonzalez, made the GWF turnstiles hum. “Chiquita” was responsible for five of the 10 largest crowds.

In 1993 and again in 1995, Humberto Gonzalez was involved in the Fight of the Year. His opponents were Michael Carbajal and Saman Sorjaturong.

The first of these fights, co-promoted with Top Rank, was actually held in Las Vegas. Forum Boxing occasionally took its act on the road. This practice became more common when Forum Boxing president John Jackson took a second job as an assistant football coach at UNLV under his longtime friend and mentor John Robinson.

A bizarre moment in the shoddy history of UNLV football – engendering some outrage but mostly horse laughs — occurred on Nov. 2, 2002, when Coach Jackson disappeared with three minutes remaining in a game that was hanging in the balance. Marco Antonio Barrera, who was then the ace of the dwindling Forum Boxing stable, was fighting Johnny Tapia up the road at the MGM Grand. Jackson didn’t want to miss the fight. (UNLV prevailed without him, upending Wyoming 49-48 in overtime).

The Gonzalez-Sorjaturong fight was one of many great wars staged at the Great Western Forum during the Buss years. Among the others, two in particular stand out. The June 27, 1987, match between neighborhood rivals Frankie Duarte and Alberto Davila, won by Duarte (TKO 10), was a savage bloodbath. Two years later, in the first of their three meetings, Paul Banke and Daniel Zaragoza, went hammer and tongs for all 12 rounds. Zaragoza retained his WBA 122-pound title on a split decision.

The April 26, 1993, bout between defending WBA 130-pound champion Genero “Chicanito” Hernandez and Raul Perez warrants a citation as the most disappointing. The highly-anticipated match was over in 28 seconds. A wicked cut wrought by an accidental head butt forced the stoppage.

No arena is going to host that many fights without some rancid decisions. The worst of the worst was the May 20, 1991 match between Victor Rabanales and Greg Richardson. The crowd went berserk when the decision went to Richardson. All three judges were appointed by the WBC. Richardson was promoted by Don King. ‘Nuff said.

JOHN BEYROOTY, FIGHT PUBLICIST

Jerry Buss reportedly lost money with his boxing venture but he wasn’t the sort to pinch pennies. The program that Beyrooty assembled for each show – “Fight Night at the Forum” – was produced on thick, glossy paper stock at considerable cost. Inside the publication, at its core, Beyrooty analyzed the main event, breaking down the principals in terms of their fighting styles and other variables. In most issues, Beyrooty reprised his old Herald-Examiner weekly notes column, a wide-ranging potpourri of fight news and rumors. At his heart, John Beyrooty was still a newspaperman.

The programs – a complete set would be a cool collector’s item — were also chock full of eye candy. The late Dr. Buss had a fine eye for the ladies and that’s putting it mildly as he was in Hugh Hefner’s league as a playboy. The Great Western Forum was continually running tournaments for ring card girls (fans got to choose their favorite from each pod) and full pages were devoted to the lineup.

After the end of his run with Forum Boxing, Beyrooty joined Brener-Zwikel & Associates, a sports public relations firm. He did considerable traveling while handling the SHOWTIME BOXING account, including a trip to China for a fight that was cancelled at the 11th hour. Nowadays, Johnny Bey has been scarce around the office as he deals with a myriad of nagging little health issues. Hopefully this is only a hiccup and he will be back to full speed very soon.

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The Avila Perspective Chap. 18: Timekeepers, Pension and Coming Fights

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Mike North works in the underbelly of the boxing world in a state that sees more fight business in a month than other states see in an entire year.

If this was the military, he might be a radar technician or man the sonar in a nuclear-powered submarine.

But this is prizefighting, and in his role, North tirelessly works with a stopwatch as the official timekeeper. It’s a role that he’s performed for hundreds of fights through two decades in the state of California.

North will be inducted into the California Boxing Hall of Fame for his many years spent as an official timekeeper for the California State Athletic Commission. The ceremony takes place on Saturday Oct. 20, at the Sportsman’s Lodge in the Studio City area of Los Angeles.

Others being inducted are Michael Carbajal, Chango Carmona, Frankie Liles, Guty Espadas Sr. and Guty Espadas Jr., Jose Celaya and others.

As a youngster in Kansas City, Missouri who loved boxing, North began as an amateur boxer and frequented the nearby gym to learn the fistic art.

“The people training me said you’re not very good, why don’t you be a writer or photographer. So, I became one in 1990,” said North, adding that he moved to California and began working first as a photographer and then as a writer for various sports publications, including a magazine called Ring Sports.

Through his work as a journalist, he began meeting ring officials and was persuaded to apply for a position as a boxing official for the state of California.

“I got to meet a lot of officials, and Dick Young was a Missouri boy like me. He recommended to me to be an official in 1998,” said North who, because of an abundance of referees and judges, opted for the role as a timekeeper.

He’s been working the fights as a CSAC timekeeper ever since.

“One of my first shows on TV was for Julio Cesar Chavez at Staples Center. That was one of my first shows. I was happy to do that show. The boxing legend and his son made his pro debut but he (senior) got beat up and later retired. So, I got to time his second to last fight,” said North of the fight that took place in May 2005.

Along the way, North has worked many of the biggest prize fights in Southern California, including the Oscar De La Hoya and Steve Forbes fight at the StubHub Center in May 2008. That fight drew more than 30,000 fans into the stadium where the LA Galaxy and LA Chargers now play.

Another memorable moment for North occurred with one of his favorite fighters, Bernard Hopkins in 2016. That title contest turned out to be the Philadelphia fighter’s final prize fight.

“I was timekeeper when Bernard Hopkins got knocked out of the ring,” said North, who is married and works about 30 fight cards a year. “That night during a championship fight, he gets knocked out of the ring. He’s got 20 seconds to get back into the ring. I start counting. One or two of the inspectors helped him out. Once they touched Hopkins the fight was over and I finished counting.”

That fight emphasizes just one of the many duties of a timekeeper. Once any fight card begins, a timekeeper has to manage the clock, bell and whistle for the ring announcers, referees, and television when it’s involved.

It’s a tedious adventure and not meant for everyone.

“The difficulties come in doing it when I’m tired. Talk about the fundamentals, the hardest thing is having to stay focused during the entire fight from beginning to end. In a big 12 round fight, it’s 50 minutes just timekeeping and focusing, maintaining discipline of timing the rounds and rests and counting the knockdowns. Those are the biggest demands for a timekeeper,” said North, who works as an aerospace engineer during the day.

“It’s not as easy as people think. Especially if you are doing live TV like HBO, there are all kinds of distractions. Sometimes when you are on live TV it adds a little bit of pressure to you.”

Experiencing that pressure and dealing with it over the last two decades has prompted California State Athletic Commission executives to appoint North as an advisor for new recruits joining the ranks of timekeepers.

The first advice he gives is purchasing a reliable stopwatch, whistle, bell and black and white striped shirt.

“I recommend they buy a stopwatch that has a certificate of calibration from a manufacturer and costs over $25. You need to have two to four stopwatches in case one goes out,” says North, who has more than one of everything.

“Once, I had a whistle with a corked ball inside of it. I was doing a fight at the Playboy Mansion and the corked ball blew out the gap of the whistle. It didn’t impact the fight. But a malfunction can impact the fight if you are not prepared.”

North is always prepared.

“It is difficult to find people that want to do timekeeping, stay with it and like to do it,” said Andy Foster, Executive Director for CSAC. “We don’t have that many. It’s a real skill to picking up that count, to working with the referee and having the focus and instincts. There is a real skill to it.”

After 20 years of working along the boxing rings throughout Southern California, the veteran timekeeper realizes a need for more official clock watchers has arrived. But his time is not over as he works with new recruits.

“It has a lot of rewards that go with it. We have the best seats in the world for boxing events,” said North, who also keeps time for MMA bouts. “It’s very rewarding because you get to meet a lot of great people.”

Many of those people will be at the Sportsman’s Lodge when North receives his entry into the California Boxing Hall of Fame.

Time really does go fast when you are having fun.

 

California Pension for boxers

“A pension fund established for retired boxers has reached a total of more than $5 million dollars,” said Andy Foster, Executive Director for CSAC.

Any retired boxer over the age of 50 who fought more than 75 rounds with no more than a three-year break, or 10 rounds a year for at least four years without a three-year break is eligible for money due.

The pension fund was established in 1982 to help retired prizefighters in their older years.

A list will be provided soon and a future story on this will also be available.

Downtown L.A. and Indio on Thursday night

In the old business district of downtown Los Angeles, a boxing show takes place at the Exchange LA, located at 618 S. Spring Street, L.A. 90014. PR Sports is putting on the show that features Gloferson Ortizo, Adan Ochoa, and Damien Lopez among others. A couple of years ago it’s where current budding prospect Ryan “The Flash” Garcia made his first American debut as a professional.

It’s a solid fight card.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. For more information call (310) 315-0525.

It can be seen on the CBS Sports website.

About 120 miles east another boxing card takes place.

Fantasy Springs Casino hosts a Golden Boy Promotions fight card showcasing Ireland’s Jason Quigley (14-0) against Mexico’s Freddy Hernandez (34-9) in a middleweight clash set for 10 rounds.

Quigley defends the NABF title he won in March 2017. During that fight against Glen Tapia he broke his hand and was out of action for a year. He returned this past March and won by knockout on a Massachusetts card.

Hernandez, 39, is a veteran originally from Mexico City who fights out of L.A. His best victory came against Alfredo Angulo two years ago. He’s crafty and doesn’t take chances.

ESPN2 will televise the Golden Boy card.

Friday in Ontario

Thompson Boxing Promotions rolls out another boxing card at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

For 18 years this Southern California promotion group has been uncovering hidden jewels. Its latest is WBA super bantamweight champion Danny Roman, who is expected to be present at the fight card this Friday, Oct. 19.

Roman will be introduced to the crowd. Last week, the Los Angeles-based prizefighter knocked out England’s Gavin McDonnell in the 10th round in Chicago. It was his third successful defense of the title he grabbed in Japan a year ago.

A primary reason I’ve covered these fight cards has been Thompson Boxing’s ability to discover talent like Roman and many others.

Saturday in Las Vegas

WBA middleweight titlists Ryoto Murata (14-1, 11 KOs) defends the title against Rob Brant (23-1, 16 KOs) in a 12 round clash on Saturday Oct. 20, at the Park Theater MGM in Las Vegas. The Top Rank card will be televised by ESPN.

Murata, 32, doesn’t have time to waste at his age. He needs to go after the big guns, whoever they are. As the holder of the minor version of the title, he’s got to keep his place in line. And like most Japanese fighters, he’s not shy about taking chances.

Brant, 28, will be fighting an upper tier opponent for the second time. His only loss was to former WBA and WBO world light heavyweight champion Juergen Braehmer in first round action in the World Boxing Super Series 168-pound tournament.

With Canelo now holding the WBC title and fighting for the WBA super middleweight title in December after defeating Gennady Golovkin by decision, the middleweight division is wide open.

In the semi-main event, a super lightweight match set for 10 rounds, Russia’s Maxim Dadashev (11-0,10 KOs) meets the ultimate gatekeeper in Mexico’s Antonio DeMarco (33-6-1, 24 KOs).

Dadashev, 28, has knocked out almost all of his opponents, so the brain trust at Top Rank wants to see if he can truly fight someone who does not go down easily.

DeMarco, 32, is a rangy former world titlist from Tijuana who has warred against the best punchers in the business, including wins over Jorge Linares, John Molina and Mickey Roman. He doesn’t quit. He didn’t quit against one of the best punchers of all time, Edwin Valero, in that fighter’s last pro fight.

It’s a perfect test for Dadashev. It’s also a good fight for DeMarco to prove that he deserves another world title shot.

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Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Golden Boy Promotions Announce Fight Deal With DAZN at MSG

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At a press conference today at Madison Square Garden, professional boxing’s biggest star Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Golden Boy Promotions announced they signed a massive deal, reportedly a more than $365 million dollar contract, with the streaming company DAZN.

“I’ve always said when one door closes, another one opens,” said Alvarez in front of a crowd at the Garden and also to those watching it streamed live.

That door was blasted wide open with the announcement that Alvarez and Golden Boy Promotion fighters will be included on future DAZN streamed boxing cards in a five-year deal.

“Obviously for us it’s a major day. Live sports are undergoing a major change,” said Eric Gomez, president of Golden Boy. “We’ve made a deal with the sports leaders in the sport of boxing DAZN.”

Gomez added that Canelo will perform 11 fights with DAZN exclusively.

“He will now have the richest sports contract in sports history,” said Gomez, adding that 10 future DAZN events will feature other Golden Boy fighters too.

It’s been a topsy-turvy month, especially after HBO announced two weeks ago that they were moving out of the boxing business after 40 years. Boxing had brought that television network its success and now it is bailing out.

Streaming has become the new source for watching live boxing, but it still needed a major star to bring viewers. What bigger name than Canelo.

“Canelo was the answer,” said DAZN.

“Canelo has sold 3.6 million buys for three quarters of a billion dollars. His next 11 fights will be exclusively on DAZN,” said John Skipper, chairman of DAZN adding that Alvarez’s next fight will be free. “Today represents a major shift in providing the top major sports content.”

Super middleweight title fight

Alvarez, who recently defeated long reigning middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin to win the WBC and WBA middleweight titles, will now face WBA super middleweight titlist Rocky Fielding at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 15. It will be streamed free to entice fans to subscribe to DAZN which also streams MMA and other sports events.

Fielding, who fights out of Liverpool, England, looked like a basketball player standing next to the redhead Alvarez on the stage.

“I’ve worked all my life to get to the world stage. Now I’m fighting the biggest star in boxing. It’s every fighter’s dream to fight in Madison Square Garden,” said Fields. “I’ve watched him over the years. I’m going to give everything.”

Eddie Hearn, whose promotion company Matchroom Boxing represents Fielding and heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, is also a partner with DAZN.

“We had a mission to make sure that the DAZN platform worked and is a success. We launched that platform with Anthony Joshua and now with Golden Boy they bring Canelo Alvarez to the landscape,” said Hearn. “Now with Joshua and Canelo on DAZN the whole game is about to change. This is just the beginning for the DAZN platform believe me.”

No more pay-per-view

Golden Boy Promotions announced that the deal to showcase its other fighters begins in early 2019 and will feature 10 high caliber fight cards. No longer will its fight be on pay-per-view. Instead the low monthly cost of about $5 dollars a month will be the only charge for all of the fights on DAZN that will be streamed in not only the U.S., but also the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Canada and Japan.

Other sports promotions include Matchroom Boxing cards and MMA by Bellator and Combate Americas.

“It’s been many years that I wanted to fight here. I’m here and I want to give a great fight to the fans in New York,” said Alvarez at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. “The most important thing is the fans can enjoy this fight at a very low price.”

Golden Boy will also co-produce the televised events and social media presentations. The deal will also include 7,000 hours of Oscar De La Hoya’s library.

De La Hoya was elated by the new partnership.

“This is easily one of the best days in the growing history of Golden Boy Promotions,” said De La Hoya, the CEO and chairman of Golden Boy Promotions.

A new page is turned for the sport of boxing and a redhead named Canelo Alvarez is leading the way.

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