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Haymon Boxing on NBC

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Almost always, the place to be for a big fight card is in the arena. On the night of Saturday, March 7, the place to be was at home, watching on television.

Keith Thurman vs. Robert Guerrero and Adrien Broner vs. John Molina were credible, not remarkable, match-ups. But they highlighted what, in some respects, was the most significant televised fight card in decades: the rollout of Al Haymon’s plan to “take over” boxing.

Writing about Don King in the September 15, 1975, issue of Sports Illustrated, Mark Kram declared, “Don King is boxing, the man with the show, the man with the fistful of dollars and the imagination to match.”

Haymon, like King, is from Cleveland. Unlike King (who graduated from the Marion Correctional Institute after serving four years in prison for manslaughter), Haymon graduated from Harvard Business School. Right now, Haymon is the man with the show, the man with the fistful of dollars and the imagination to match. If he has his way, he might soon be boxing.

HBO was Haymon’s first bank. Then it was Showtime. Now he has venture capital support that’s believed to exceed $100,000,000. He no longer has to cajole network television executives into giving him dates. He simply buys them.

During the past few months, Haymon has orchestrated a heavy schedule of time buys on NBC, NBC Sports Network, CBS, CBS Sports Network, Spike, Bounce TV, and Telemundo. A time buy on ESPN2 is expected to be announced shortly. Haymon Boxing will also have dates on Showtime on a more traditional license-fee basis.

The time buys allow Haymon to bypass normal media filters in delivering his boxing programming to the public. In a sense, they’re similar to the paid infomercials that run on television at odd hours asking consumers to buy a five-CD set of “Golden Oldies.” Only here, Haymon’s investors hope to recoup their investment through the sale of advertising, pay-per-view fights, and (possibly) a subscription package and/or public stock offering.

March 7 marked the first fight card televised on NBC in prime-time since Larry Holmes defended his heavyweight championship with a 15-round decision over Carl Williams on May 20, 1985. The match-ups weren’t great. But they were were as good as lot of what boxing fans have seen lately on premium cable and far superior to the standard “free” fare.

Broner (who weighed in one pound over the 140-pound contract weight) entered the fight with a 29-and-1 record and 1 no contest. There was a time when Adrien was considered a potential superstar. Now, after being beaten down by a one-dimensional Marcos Maidana and looking lethargic in two subsequent outings, he’s known in some circles primarily for X-rated videos of himself that he posts on the Internet.

Molina, who’d lost four of his last seven outings, had been brought in to make Broner look good. John’s last victory was in 2013 against Jorge Pimentel (who has been on the short end in seven of his last eight fights). Molina has trouble against speed and movement. That didn’t augur well for his chances against Broner.

Broner-Molina was an inauspicious way for Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions on NBC to start. Broner is a safety-first fighter who doesn’t take chances. He’s good at blowing out overmatched little guys and dancing rings around plodding opponents. But the latter has limited entertainment value, as evidenced by the fact that the crowd booed for much of the fight and also during Adrien’s post-fight interview.

Broner outlanded Molina 219 to 54 according to CompuBox and outpointed him on the judges’ scorecards 120-108, 120-108, 118-110. At the end of the bout, Sugar Ray Leonard (who’d been kind to Adrien in his earlier commentary) noted disapprovingly, “You have to close the show.” Broner didn’t.

Keith Thurman is an entertaining fighter who came into his contest against Robert Guerrero with 24 wins and 21 knockouts in 24 fights. Thurman’s power hasn’t had the same effect against credible opponents that it had against the men he fought earlier in his career. But under the tutelage of trainer Dan Birmingham, his boxing skills have improved significantly.

Guerrero began his career as a featherweight and has worked his way up to 147 pounds. Both men can be hit. Thurman hits harder.

The most damaging blow landed by Guerrero during the fight was an accidental head butt in round three that raised an ugly bump on the left side of Thurman’s forehead. Thurman avenged that affront in round nine with a right uppercut that put Guerrero on the canvas and opened an ugly cut over Robert’s left eye.

Guerrero fought back with the heart of a champion. He survived and, needing a knockout to win in round twelve, he went for a knockout. But there were few moments during the course of twelve rounds when when the outcome of the bout was in doubt. Thurman outlanded Guerrero 211 to 104, and outscored him 120-107, 118-108, 118-109.

But the fights were only part of the show. Virtually every aspect of Premier Boxing Champions on NBC was publicized and subjected to scrutiny.

Three iconic sports personalities formed the core of the announcing team.

Al Michaels implanted himself in the consciousness of sports fans at the 1980 Winter Olympics with his call of the United States men’s hockey team victory over the Soviet Union (“Do you believe in miracles!”). He’s one of the best in the business at calling sports, most notably Major League Baseball and NFL football. But that wasn’t his role here. Instead, he hosted the telecast from a glitzy in-arena set, following a script that didn’t do justice to his considerable acumen and persona.

Marv Albert handled the blow-by-blow chores. Like Michaels, Albert is sportscasting royalty. His resume begins with the NBA and covers every major sport, including boxing. Marv seemed a bit rusty on Saturday night, not having fully updated his encyclopedic knowledge with regard to the minutiae of boxing.

Ray Leonard, in addition to being one of the greatest fighters ever, is articulate and smooth behind a microphone. He and Albert haven’t fully jelled yet, but they will.

B.J. Flores is engaging but was one voice too many in the booth.

Kenny Rice tended to repeat official pre-scripted story lines. After his pre-fight interview with Broner, Rice informed viewers: “We’re seeing a calmer Adrien Broner.”

Laila Ali was there to provide a female presence and a bit of Ali magic. But for the most part, she did little more than state the obvious. After the first round of Broner-Molina (in which Molina landed one punch), Laila informed viewers that Molina’s corner was “not happy with his connectivity in that round.”

Referee Steve Smoger provided an occasional useful rules interpretation.

It would have been appropriate to have some editorial reference – perhaps by Al Michaels – regarding Al Haymon’s master plan. That was an obvious and calculated omission.

Haymon Boxing poured an enormous amount of money into production of the telecast. There was a huge floor set augmented by giant video screens. Twenty-seven cameras caught the action from every possible angle under enhanced lighting.

The telecast tried for a UFC-WWE feel. Academy-Award winner Hans Zimmer wrote the signature music. The Lion King, Gladiator, and The Dark Night Trilogy are among Zimmer’s screen-score credits. If the Premier Boxing Champions music sounded evocative of The Contender, it’s because he also wrote that music.

One of the production innovations was not effective. NBC had trumpeted the use of a 360-degree over-the-ring video rig with 36 still cameras to offer a moving panoramic view of the action. But when pieced together, the photos had the feel of a not-very-good video game from the 1980s.

In a nod to The Contender, the fighters walked to the ring alone. That seemed unnecessarily contrived. A fighter’s corner men should take that walk with him.

There were no round-card girls and no visible ring announcer. If Premier Boxing Champions is going to continue using a disembodied voice to impart information to fans, the voice should be more authoritative than the one heard on Saturday night.

I love the fact that Haymon Boxing eliminated the mob that pours into the ring before and after fights. There were no people in the ring shouting, “You da man.” No sanctioning body officials shamelessly draping T-shirts and phony belts over the combatants. No promoters, managers, commissioners, or mistresses jockeying for position in front of the camera.

Thank you, Al Haymon. I hope every network that televises boxing follows your lead on that one.

Now let’s return to numbers; only this time, the numbers revolve around dollars, not punches.

Haymon Boxing isn’t doing business as usual, but it is a business. The idea is to make money.

It was expected that advertising sales would be weak for the first NBC fight card, and they were. The promotion had difficulty selling ad time.

There were a handful of commercials for Nissan, Mazda, Lincoln, McDonald’s, and Verizon-Fios, as well as some Corona spots. But the Corona commercials were part of a broader sponsorship deal that included logo placement on the ring canvas. Many of the commercials that aired in New York (where this writer watched the telecast) were local rather than national and were for fringe enterprises. There was also the oddity of seeing two commercials hawking tickets for Wladimir Klitschko versus Bryant Jennings (which will be televised on HBO) and two more commercials offering Time Warner Cable customers the opportunity to subscribe to HBO at a special rate.

In other slots where ideally there would have been commercials, viewers saw dozens of promos for NBC programming, PCB fighters, and future PCB shows.

Ad sales are dictated in large measure by ratings. There were full-page ads for the March 7 telecast in the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and other publications. NBC ran promotional spots in advance of the show.

Interim ratings released on Monday indicate that the NBC telecast averaged 3,400,000 viewers. That trailed two CSI reruns and an episode of 48 Hours on CBS as well as a rerun of 20/20 and In An Instant on ABC. For purposes of further comparison, NBC as a network averaged 4,800,000 viewers on Saturday nights in 2014.

Haymon Boxing expects to lose money on many of its early fight cards. March 7 was considered a loss leader, and it lost. Factoring in undercard costs, the fighters’ purses totaled roughly $4,000,000. There were large production and promotional expenses.

Haymon is said to be looking at an initial term of three-to-four years before evaluating the overall success of his effort. He knows that hardcore boxing fans will watch Premier Boxing Champions in each of its incarnations. But his target audience isn’t boxing junkies. It’s the general sports fan that he needs and covets. That’s why Al Michaels and Marv Albert are part of the NBC package.

There will be more bells and whistles as Premier Champions Boxing unfolds. Viewers have been told to expect that, in some jurisdictions, referees will wear a tiny camera mounted on a headband. There’s also talk of a dubious technology that might accurately estimate the speed of punches but is less likely to accurately estimate their force.

All of that is window dressing. At the end of the day, it’s about the fights. It would have been nice if the fights on March 7 had been more entertaining. Neither Thurman nor Broner did much to implant himself in the consciousness of the general sports public. Next time out, it would be great to see Thurman vs. Broner; not Thurman and Broner vs. two more “B-side” opponents. Not only would that be entertaining and attract viewers; it would add millions of dollars to the value of the winner as a future Floyd Mayweather pay-per-view opponent.

Boxing fans and Haymon’s investors have different priorities. Haymon’s investors want to make money. Boxing fans want to see good fights. These goals aren’t necessarily irreconcilable. Ideally, they will coincide.

If Haymon succeeds in pushing boxing back into the consciousness of mainstream sports fans, it will be good for Haymon and good for boxing. Beyond that, one has to ask, will he use the power of his purse to honor the essence and best traditions of the sport? Will he make quality fights available to the public free of charge on a regular basis? Will he make a sincere effort to eliminate the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs from boxing? Or will he promote mismatches, find creative new ways to separate fans from their dollars, corrupt the sport’s already-inadequate drug-testing protocols, play an illegal shell game with dollars, and substitute one group of bogus beltholders for another?

Al Haymon interviews are scarcer than hen’s teeth. But twenty years ago, he sat for a Q&A with Ebony Men (an offshoot of Ebony magazine).

In that interview, Haymon spoke of his role as a music promoter and declared, “Promoters are viewed as shady characters. I had the opportunity to represent something fresh and new to the artists. I don’t imagine a lot of information is being provided about this industry because it’s not a conventional industry for people of higher education to pursue. Black people – if they knew how much money was in it and how much opportunity there was and how fertile the ground was and how successful and influential one could become by being in it – then perhaps more would be in it. The entertainment industry, and professional sports particularly, represent an area where we are basically the natural resource. When you have an industry that offers high returns, you’re going to have high risk. We have to be willing to take those risks because, believe me, the opportunities are there. I saw the potential. I saw, if done right, one could make a lot of money and control a good deal of commerce and have a business.”

Sound familiar?

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book – Thomas Hauser on Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press.

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Three Punch Combo: Jacobs-Derevyanchenko on HBO, Baranchyk-Yigit and More

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This Saturday, Daniel Jacobs (34-2, 29 KO’s) takes on Sergiy Derevyanchenko (12-0, 10 KO’s) for the vacant IBF middleweight title. The fight, which headlines an HBO World Championship Boxing tripleheader, is highly anticipated in boxing circles as on paper it is an evenly matched contest with a wide range of potential outcomes. The fight also bears an eerie resemblance to another middleweight title fight from more than twenty years ago.

On March 16th, 1996, then IBF middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins (28-2-1, 21 KO’s) faced off against the IBF’s number one ranked contender in Joe Lipsey (25-0, 20 KO’s). Opinions were split as to who would come out as the victor. It was televised live in the United States on ABC in the afternoon and served as a precursor for that evening’s big pay-per-view event between Mike Tyson and Frank Bruno.

Hopkins, 31 at the time, had fought much better opposition and those who favored him thought his experience along with his better athleticism would lead him to victory. Lipsey, who was 29, had a burgeoning reputation in the fight game and was known for his relentless pressure style. In addition, he had displayed devastating one punch knockout power in both hands that had many thinking he had a bright future in the sport.

It was the experience and ring savviness of Hopkins versus the untapped raw potential of Lipsey.

As it played out, Hopkins’ skill proved too much for Lipsey. After effectively out-boxing and neutralizing the aggression of Lipsey for three rounds, Hopkins landed a perfectly placed counter right uppercut using Lipsey’s forward momentum against him that instantly ended matters. It was a statement making performance for Hopkins.

Jacobs, 31, is in a similar spot to that of Hopkins when he faced Lipsey. With two losses on his ledger, Jacobs is in need of a statement making victory. One of those losses was to Gennady Golovkin and, of course, Hopkins entered the Lipsey contest with one of his losses to all-time great Roy Jones Jr.

Jacobs holds a significant experience edge in the pro game compared to that of Derevyanchenko. Jacobs is also the more athletic fighter. Similar to that of Hopkins against Lipsey, Jacobs will look to play the role of the boxer-puncher and use his experience along with athleticism to dictate the tempo of the fight.

Derevyanchenko, 32, comes in highly touted. Similar to Joe Lipsey in 1996, he enters with an undefeated record along with a glossy knockout percentage and many in the sport see a fighter with raw untapped potential.

The similarities between Jacobs-Derevyanchenko and Hopkins-Lipsey are striking. Will history repeat itself or will Derevyanchenko be able to rise to the occasion?

Baranchyk-Yigit

The World Boxing Super Series 140-pound tournament resumes this week with a pair of fights in New Orleans. While the fans will be mostly showing up to watch the main event between hometown rising star Regis Prograis (22-0, 19 KO’s) and Terry Flanagan (33-1, 13 KO’s), it is the other WBSS fight, pitting Ivan Baranchyk against Anthony Yigit for the vacant IBF title that piques my interest.

Baranchyk (18-0, 11 KOs) is well known to US fight fans from his multiple appearances on the ShoBox series on Showtime on which he has scored some highlight reel knockouts. He is an aggressive pressure fighter with heavy handed power. He has been showing signs of improved boxing skills of late and is coming off a career best performance in knocking out former world title challenger Petr Petrov.

Yigit (21-0-1, 7 KOs) is a former decorated amateur who participated in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. A southpaw with quick feet and good hand speed, Yigit is an excellent counterpuncher who is adept at using feints to bait his opponents to throw to set up counter opportunities. He is also very slick and uses good head movement, making him not an easy target to hit.

This is a classic matchup of an aggressive pressure fighter against a skilled slick boxer. Baranchyk has the buzz and will be favored, but Yigit’s style and skill could present a major challenge for him. It’s a very compelling fight,.

The Journey of Yuandale Evans

On April 24th, 2010 I hit the road to attend a club show in a suburb of Cleveland. I wanted to get a firsthand look at a local fighter named Yuandale Evans who was headlining the 6-fight card. The venue was a small indoor soccer complex and tickets were only $20. There was no assigned seating and I had no problem finding a ringside seat for the evening’s festivities.

Evans did not disappoint. Fighting in front of the sparse audience, he dispatched an opponent named Reymundo Hernandez in the first round. I liked what I saw from Evans and thought he had a bright future in boxing.

A year later, Evans found himself on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fight Series in a step-up fight against veteran Emmanuel Lucero. This was a coming out party for Evans as he impressively took apart the former world title challenger. There was speed, athleticism and power in his game and many took notice.

Nine months later, Evans found himself in a significant fight. It was another date on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fight Series but this time against a fellow undefeated fighter in Javier Fortuna. Fortuna had been getting a lot of buzz and if Evans could defeat him then he’d find himself on the brink of a world title opportunity.

On March 16th, 1996, then IBF middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins (28-2-1, 21 KO’s) faced off against the IBF’s number one ranked contender in Joe Lipsey (25-0, 20 KO’s). Opinions were split as to who would come out as the victor. It was te

But the Fortuna fight did not go well for Evans. As a matter of fact, it was disastrous.  Fortuna scored a vicious, highlight reel first round knockout of Evans, the kind of knockout loss that a lot of fighters never recover. from.

It appeared for a while that Evans would not get back in the game. Out for three years, he finally returned in 2015 with two wins against less than stellar competition. These wins were needed confidence boosters.

After those bounce back wins, it took another 17 months for Evans to return to the ring. This time it was his first major test since the Fortuna loss in facing Billel Dib. Brought in as the “B” side, Evans was supposed to be a name on the resume for Dib, but he flipped the script, scoring a clear ten round unanimous decision.

The win against Dib, which took place in the 130-pound division, put Evans back on the radar. But it was his next performance that put him into contention. Dropping down to featherweight and again coming in as the underdog, he scored a rousing split decision win against Louis Rosa in November of 2017 in a fiercely fought contest that received Fight of the Year consideration. Evans fought with passion and determination to secure the best win of his career.

Evans, now 20-1 with 14 KO’s, will challenge undefeated 130 pound champion Alberto Machado next week. Evans is once again an underdog and not many are giving him much of a chance. But if Evans fights like he did against Rosa and can stay inside on Machado, applying constant pressure, we could be in for another surprise.

Evans has come a long way since I first saw him fight at a small indoor soccer venue in Ohio and I for one do not discount his chances to lift Machado’s world title belt.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

 

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Andrade Grabs Vacant WBO Middleweight Belt in Boston

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TD GARDEN​​ — It’s a good thing Eddie Hearn didn’t listen to the people who told him not to promote prizefighting in Boston. With all four major American sports in full swing in the city, Matchroom Boxing absolutely rocked the house as an equitable fan attraction in New England.The media was out in full force and so were the fans. At the final fight week press conference, Hearn introduced ESPN’s Dan Rafael before he even barked for his boxers. “You know it’s a big card when Dan Rafael shows up,” he said of the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer award winner for career excellence in journalism. Hearn knows it’s about building hype and that’s what he’s doing.

Sugar Ray Leonard was on the mic for DAZN. Paulie Malignaggi was doing the same for Sky Sports. I saw Micky Ward and Conor McGregor seated at ringside. Mike Tyson conqueror Kevin “The Clones Colossus” McBride was also spotted in the mix throughout the night.

“We did about five thousand in Chicago,” Hearn told me of his first Matchoom USA show October 6 on DAZN. Hearn expected about seven thousand for Boston, hoping for a good walk-up crowd. “I’m pleased with ticket sales. I’m pleased with the venue. If the fans are happy and enjoy a great night at the fights and if they want us back, we’d love to return,” he said.

Hearn’s originally scheduled main event fell apart in September when Billy Joe Saunders controversially failed VADA drug testing for the banned stimulant oxilofrine. “Unfortunately Billy Joe failed a drug test. I don’t think the Massachusetts Commission had any choice in denying him a license,” Hearn told me during the final fight week press conference at Fenway Park.

Saunders was to defend the WBO middleweight title against Providence, Rhode Island’s Demetrius Andrade. Instead, Saunders was stripped of his strap and unknown African champ Walter ​Kautondokwa stepped in to face Andrade for the vacant WBO 160 pound title. “I’m too old to fight nobodies now,” said the 30 year-old Andrade without a trace of irony. In fact, Andrade’s whole pro career has been carefully built on soft touches and vacant ABC championships.

Hearn’s undercard also suffered a hit when popular local junior welterweight Danny “BHOY” O’Connor pulled out of his bout against Tommy Coyle, citing injury. According to Hearn, “​O’Connor was working very hard in camp but I don’t think it was going particularly well.”

The live crowd in attendance at the Garden was loud and enthusiastic. In a full sized entertainment venue that seats close to twenty thousand fans and with promotional aspirations optimistically set at half that number (official attendance was listed at 6,874), your best chance to have seen these fights for yourself was on the emerging and effective streaming app DAZN.

For Brits stuck back home it was on Sky Sports.  For everybody else, I’m here to ringside report.

In the Main Event for the vacant WBO middleweight championship, Providence, Rhode Island’s Demetrius “Boo Boo” Andrade, 30, 160, 26-0 (16) dominated Namibian import Walter Kautondokwa, 33, 17-1 (16). ​A stablemate of former super lightweight champ Julius Indongo, Kautondokwa drew inspiration from his countryman’s international accomplishments in boxing. Indongo parlayed the WBO African title into an eventual unification showdown with Terence Crawford in Nebraska. “He’s definitely not stopping this train,” promised Andrade at the weigh-in.

He was right.

In the first round, ​Kautondokwa slipped to the canvas and Andrade hit him on the chin while he was on all fours. Referee Steve Willis ruled it a knockdown, rather than reacting to the foul. Kautondokwa pushed the action in the second but Andrade scored with the cleaner punches. In the third, Andrade scored a clean knockdown with a flush left hand to the chin. The challenger rose and answered the bell for the fourth down by two extra points. Kautondokwa went down again twice more in the fourth leaving Andrade with a look like, “What more do I have to do?”

As the rounds wore on and on, Andrade found the answer to be elusive, even if Kautondokwa wasn’t terribly so. His best power punches were either missing or being blocked, and Kautondokwa was proving durable. By the championship rounds, it was clear that Andrade wouldn’t be able to stop the train that was Kautondokwa. The energy in the live crowd suffered accordingly. Michael Buffer announced what was already known, that Andrade won a virtual shutout on the cards.  Scores were 120-104(2x) and 119-105.

“I did what I had to do. I could see that he was tough. It was good to get those twelve rounds in because I’ve been inactive,” said Andrade at the post-fight press conference. He also spoke of a fight week injury to his left shoulder that affected his performance and prevented a knockout. To be perfectly honest, it sounded like an excuse for not finishing off a badly hurt fighter.

In her de facto Irish Homecoming, Katie Taylor, 32, Bray, 11-0 (5) successfully defended her WBA/IBF female lightweight titles against the very experienced Cindy Serrano, 36, Brooklyn, 27-6-3 (10), over ten two-minute rounds. Serrano was moving up in weight to challenge Taylor, who’s already made two title defenses this year in London and in Brooklyn. Serrano was never in danger of being hurt or knocked out and Taylor was never in any danger of losing the fight.  Taylor won every round on all three cards 100-90.  “Cindy was just in there to survive,” said a disappointed Taylor.  Some fans jeered the “action” but it didn’t bother Serrano. “Eddie Hearn believes in female fighting. Hopefully he can turn it around and we can get a couple more promoters just like him.”

To make the first defense of his newly won IBF super featherweight championship, Philly southpaw Tevin “American Idol” Farmer, 27-4-1 (6), stopped Belfast KRONK’s James Tennyson, 22-3 (18) in five. During promotion for the title bout, it looked for all to see that Farmer was overlooking Tennyson with his focus squarely on a big money grudge match with Gervonta Davis. ​“I’m not overlooking James but I want to fight Tank Davis. I have to have that fight and it’s got to happen. Let’s leave the streets on the streets and fight in the ring. We’ve talked enough.”

In the ring, Farmer looked at his opponent and punched right through him. In the fourth frame, Farmer dropped Tennyson with a solid left hook to the body. It got no better for the Belfast native. The next round, Arthur Mercante stopped it when Tennyson fell again from body shots. ​In accepting the fight, Farmer’s promoter Lou DiBella didn’t want to deny his fighter the opportunity to appear on such a high profile card so he willingly worked with Hearn to make it happen.  Time of the TKO was @1:44 of the round 5.

In an IBF featherweight elimination bout scheduled for twelve, Evander Holyfield’s Toka Kahn Clary, Providence, R.I., 25-3 (17), dropped a pedestrian UD to Ingle Gym’s Kid Galahad, Sheffield, 25-0 (15). At the press conference in August to announce the match-up, there was bad blood in the air. “Toka is a bum,” a chippy Galahad told me at Boston’s Faneuil Hall. “He didn’t want this fight. He was talking trash so I called him a wanker and it got a little out of hand.”

“I’m gonna beat him,” Galahad promised.

At the final press conference, Galahad was demonstrably more peaceful. During the media face-off with Kahn, he offered his hand to shake but Toka just left it hanging there. “I’ve calmed down,” Kid told me. “Nothing personal, just business.” ​Is Toka a bum?​ “You can’t call him a bum.” ​You did Kid.​ “I might have gone over the top. Any fighter that gets in the ring you gotta have some respect for. Toka is gonna show up and my job is to make sure I do a job on him.”  Job well done, Kid.  Final scores were 118-110 twice and 115-113.

In an entertaining ten round junior welterweight scrap, Tommy “Boom Boom” Coyle, Hull, Yorkshire, U.K., 25-4 (12), outpointed Ryan Kielczweski, Quincy, Mass, 29-4 (11) over the distance. Unanimous scores were 99-90, 98-91 and 96-93. The “Polish Prince” substituted for Danny O’Connor against Coyle, a fighter TSS’s own Ted Sares expected Ryan to have had his hands full with in a knockout loss; describing Coyle as a “load” in the ring. In the seventh round, Kielczweski was felled by a massive right hand to the body and a vicious follow up left hook to the head. He took a long nine count but got up to then stalk a fading Coyle down the stretch.  “This is the most ready I’ve been for any fight,” Kielczweski told me before the bout. “I fought in September. A week later I got a call for this one so it’s like I’m on a ten week training camp.”

Coyle is a pressure fighter and an interesting character. Kielczweski struggled to keep him at bay but landed with several quality power shots of his own, many coming in the last three rounds—after the knockdown. Calling this his “American Dream” come true, Coyle grew up in England loving ROCKY movies and Irish Micky Ward fights. Tonight, he was almost in one.

In a super featherweight comeback bout, former super bantamweight and featherweight champion Scott Quigg, 30, Bury, U.K., 35-2-2 (26) made a successful return against journeyman Mexican Mario Briones, 29-8-2 (21), stopping him in two rounds with an unanswered three punch combination along the ropes. Trained by Freddie Roach, Quigg was defeated last March by WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez in a bruising non-title bout. Quigg suffered multiple facial laceration and a broken nose in the unanimous decision loss. “I want a rematch with Valdez and with Carl Frampton because I want to avenge my losses. If I’d be happy not fighting them again, I’d be in the wrong game,” a candid Quigg told me. “The work Freddie’s had me doing and the sparring I’m on, I feel like I’m a ten times better fighter now.”

In a junior middleweight rematch, Murphys Boxing U.S. Marine Mark “Bazooka” DeLuca, Whitman, Mass, 22-1 (13) outgunned Walter “2 Guns” Wright 37, Seattle, Washington 17-5 (8) to defeat the only man to have beaten him as a pro, winning 97-93, and 96-94 twice. From ringside I scored it 6-4 in rounds for DeLuca who scored well early with left hooks. Wright did well in the middle rounds on the inside when DeLuca was tiring but it wasn’t enough. Though his promoter Ken Casey questioned the outcome of the first fight last June in N.H., DeLuca told me it was tight. “But he got me,” he admitted. Wright didn’t understand the manufactured controversy. “I won. To come across the country, fight the local guy, and beat him, I should think I’d get my props for winning. My performance should outweigh politics.” On this night, Wright’s good but not good enough performance earned him an appropriately scored unanimous decision loss.

There was no protest from Wright with the verdict.

UNDERCARD RESULTS:

In the show opener, super lightweight southpaw Sean McComb from Belfast improved to 4-0 (3), outclassing 37 year-old Peruvian Carlos Galindo, 1-6. Galindo’s only win came against Maine’s Brandon Berry last June in N.H. This was McComb’s first appearance outside the U.K. Galindo took a body beating and the fight was stopped in the third after a pair of knockdowns.

Accompanied to the ring by middleweight corker Spike O’Sullivan, Murphys Boxing’s Gorey, Ireland heavyweight Niall Kennedy 221.6, 12-0-1 (7) took a few to give a few against New Jersey’s Brendan Barrett 238, 7-1-2 (5), including a hip-toss and a headlock. The 6’3” Kennedy used his good left jab and strong right cross to earn a unanimous six round decision, dropping the stocky Barrett in the fifth with a brutal right hand. Official scores: 60-53 twice and 58-55.

Kazakh Olympic Gold medalist welterweight prospect Daniyar Yeleussinov improved to 4-0 (2) against Salem, Mass “Mantis” Matt Doherty, 8-6-1 (4). Doherty wore a J.D. Martinez Red Sox jersey to the ring but he was outgunned. The 27 year-old southpaw finished Doherty off with a barrage of unanswered punches in the first round and referee Arthur Mercante waved a halt.

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Rob Brant is the New WBA Middleweight Champion

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LAS VEGAS, Nevada- In a major upset that saw a mega fight disappear, Rob Brant took the WBA middleweight title from Japan’s Ryota Murata with a lot of hustle and a heck of a chin to the surprise of many on Saturday.

Murata (14-2,11KOs) was expected to fight Gennady “GGG” Golovkin if he won, but the dress rehearsal turned into a nightmare as Brant (24-1, 16 KOs) attacked and attacked while out-punching the Japanese fighter nearly two to one in front of a stunned audience of more than 2700 at the Park Theater at the MGM.

“This was one of the best moments of my life, said Brant. “I wasn’t thinking of punch output. I was thinking about winning.”

With many planning their trips to Tokyo for an expected showdown between Murata and Golovkin, the Las Vegas based Brant put a stick into the spokes of their travel plans.

Brant started quickly with combination punching and moving in and out of range during the first three rounds of the middleweight bout. Murata smiled throughout the incoming blows from the upstart Brant.

“It’s easy to smile, but his eyes were swollen and he had blood on his mouthpiece,” said Brant.

It wasn’t until the fourth round that Murata found life while attacking the body.

The body punches opened up the lead right cross for Murata, who began targeting Brant’s head. But the Minnesota native was able to absorb the big blows and kept firing back. Though Brant was landing more shots, Murata’s punches were clearly harder and landed with a thud.

The crowd got into the fight early as cheers of “USA! USA!” were shouted sporadically throughout the fight. It probably had an effect on the judges.

It seemed Murata was landing the more effective blows in the middle rounds, especially when he targeted the body, then switched to the head. But though they were hard punches, Brant moved backward and kept returning fire.

The action was measured, but constant, with no slow rounds after round three. At times it looked like Murata was about to score a knockout but it never came. Brant proved resilient. More than that, he convinced the three judges he was the winner 119-109(2x) and 118-110.

Only the widespread scores were surprising. It seemed like a much closer fight.

Dudashev prevails

Maxim Dudashev (12-0, 10 KOs) tried to blast it out with Mexico’s Antonio DeMarco (33-7-1, 24 KOs), but after taking heavy incoming fire, the undefeated super lightweight changed tactics and out-boxed the former world champion to win by unanimous decision.

Dudashev moved around just enough and used quick short combinations to out-score the long-armed Tijuana fighter after the midway point of the 10-round affair. Though DeMarco was able to score with heavy body shots  and lead lefts to the head, Dudashev managed to fire off combinations that kept winning rounds in the second half of the fight. The judges scored the fight 97-93, 96-94, 98-92 for Dudashev. TheSweetScience.com scored it 96-94 for Dudashev, who keeps the NABF super lightweight title.

“This was a great learning experience for me,” said Dudashev. “DeMarco is a true champion, and he fought with great heart and determination.”

Falcao and other bouts

Brazil’s Esquiva Falcao (22-0, 15 KOs) showcased his various boxing skills against Argentina’s Guido Pitto (25-6-2, 8 KOs) who lost by unanimous decision but forced the undefeated fighter into various situations. In the first four rounds, Falcao fought from the outside with impunity as Pitto was unable to touch the Brazilian. But when the Argentine boxer took the fight inside, he found more success and forced Falcao to utilize his inside boxing skills. The fighting was intense but Falcao was just too strong and slightly quicker in winning every round in the 10 round middleweight fight. Pitto’s best moments came during the fifth round when he forced his way inside. All three judges saw it 100-90 for Falcao.

Ireland’s Michael Conlan (9-0, 6 KOs) battered Nicola Cipolletta (14-7-2) every round with rights to the body and head. The Italian boxer rarely fired back and after several unanswered blows by Cipolletta the referee Russell Mora stopped the featherweight fight @1:55 of round seven. Cipolletta protested the stoppage but never truly engaged Conlan, who must have connected on more than 60 percent of his punches thrown. It was a whitewash for the former Irish Olympian.

Vladimir Nikitin (2-0) won by unanimous decision over Louisiana’s Clay Burns (5-5-2) in a featherweight fight that was much closer than the scores given. Burns started out fast and easily won the first two rounds. Then the battle got much closer as Nikitin’s overhand rights began scoring. Burns switched to southpaw and switched back and forth and that gave Nikitin pause. The last two rounds were very close especially the final round. But all three judges scored it 59-55 for Nikitin, thus only giving Burns one round. It was much closer in reality.

A battle between undefeated Puerto Rican lightweights saw Joseph Adorno (10-0, 9 KOs) drop Kevin Cruz (8-1, 5 KOs) twice in winning by unanimous decision. Though Adorno’s knockout streak was snapped, he engaged in a spirited battle against left-handed Cruz who let loose in the sixth and final round. A counter left hook by Adorno floored Cruz the second time during a furious exchange. Cruz beat the count and tried his best to go for the knockout; Adorno scooted away until the final bell. Scores of 59-53(2x) and 58-54 for Adorno.

Adam Lopez (11-1, 5 KOs) won by knockout over Hector Ambriz (12-8-2) in a featherweight match. The end came @1:29 of the eighth and final round of the fight when Lopez fired a four punch combination that forced referee Tony Weeks to halt the fight though Ambriz was still standing.

Uzbekistan’s Fazliddin Gaibnazarov (6-0, 3 KOs) stopped veteran Wilberth Lopez (23-10, 15 KOs) with a series of body blows @2:13 of round two in a super lightweight contest between lefties.

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