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THE CHAVEZ BOYS: Julio and Omar Chavez In L.A.; Plus, Oscar Valdez

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VAN NUYS, CALIF.-While members of his Reno camp walked in the front door, Julio Cesar Chavez strode in the backdoor at the Ten Goose Boxing Club gym on Friday.

Chavez (48-1-1, 32 Kos) will be fighting next week against Andrzej Fonfara (26-3, 15 Kos) at the StubHub Center on Saturday April 18.

The super middleweight match will be televised on Showtime.

The son of Mexico’s greatest boxing hero (to those 50 years and younger) has been a marvel to those who knew him during his youth in Riverside, Calif. Back in the early 2000s the lanky awkward kid was just learning the second line of techniques in boxing. He knew the fundamentals but was learning how to use his length. He was already much taller than father even at the tender age of 14.

Slowly the smoothness began to come. Both he and his younger brother Omar Chavez would arrive each day at Willy Silva’s gym in a rural part of Riverside County. On hot days you could smell the heavy scent of cow manure that permeated the air like a heavy blanket. The dairy farms of Ontario were in close proximity and the cow manure was plentiful.

Even as young teens it was obvious that the older brother was more focused than the younger Chavez. Many observers would often relay this to me adding that Omar had more genuine talent. But focus and determination are important factors in prizefighting.

Silva, whose gym was built by him in his backyard, was known as the trainer of Carlos Bojorquez. He kept the Chavez boys busy running different stations from heavy bags, to speed bags to shadow boxing. They always showed up, but it was Julio who would be steadfast in his training. The younger brother liked to talk to the various people watching the action.

Now both will be fighting on the same card. Omar Chavez (32-3-1, 22 Kos) faces Richard Gutierrez (28-15-1, 17 Kos), a dangerous opponent if taken lightly. The younger Chavez has serious pop and can also take a punch like his father and older brother.

“How have you been?” asked Omar Chavez. “Where do I know you?”

I told him it was back in Riverside. He laughed. It was a long time ago.

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. remembers well. We’ve encountered each other many times over the years. The last time I saw him was at Dodger Stadium where he was scheduled to throw out the first pitch. He looked as if he felt out of place in a baseball stadium filled with 45,000 fans. When he saw me that day a few years ago a big smile crossed his face. It made him feel at ease to see someone familiar.

“How is Willy?” Chavez asked that day with a chuckle. “Tell him hi.”

Chavez has improved 100 fold since those days. His technique improved immensely and his ability to set up that deadly hook has proven to be quite potent. Against Sergio Martinez he showed the true impact of his power and the ability to set it up. He’s also shown a world class chin that current WBO champion Andy Lee could not crack.

The baby faced Mexican destroyer needs a win here against Fonfara. Should he emerge victorious a match with middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin could be made in an instant. A fight between them would sell more than 30,000 tickets.

“He does everything I tell him to do,” said Joe Goossen, the venerable trainer and younger brother of the late great promoter Dan Goossen. “I never had a problem with Julio in training camp.”

Next week will determine both Chavez’s fate.

Oscar Valdez

Oscar Valdez headlines a fight card in Laredo, Texas on Saturday April 11. The super featherweight bout will be shown on UniMas.

Valdez (14-0, 13 Kos) faces Jose Ramirez (25-5, 15 Kos) of Mexico who currently lives and trains in Oxnard, Calif. It should be an interesting test for Valdez who is the closest I’ve seen to resembling Julio Cesar Chavez Sr.

The undefeated Valdez is managed by Frank Espinoza. If that name is familiar it’s because he has managed many of the most popular and talented prizefighters of the past 15 years. Israel “El Magnifico” Vazquez in my opinion was the greatest of Espinoza’s fighters. Others include Martin Castillo, Yohnny Perez and Abner Mares, who departed to sign with Al Haymon recently.

Valdez has that swagger and confidence that the great Chavez had whenever he stepped in the boxing ring. Inside a boxing ring Valdez, like Chavez, always maintains attack mode and seems to be able to hit and not be hit despite his aggressive approach.

Ramirez should provide a very stiff test. Though he’s lost back-to-back fights, those defeats were to Vasyl Lomachenko and Abner Mares. Those losses came to magnificent boxers.

Can Valdez add Ramirez to his victim’s list?

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Fast Results From London: Joshua Takes Out Povetkin in the 7th

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UK sporting

It was a very wet night at Wembley Stadium, but the dampness didn’t diminish the enthusiasm of the crowd which welcomed UK sporting hero Anthony Joshua into the ring with a thunderous ovation. And Joshua didn’t disappoint. After six relatively even rounds, he found his range in the seventh and became the first man to stop Alexander Povetkin. A three punch combo that began with an overhand right sent Povetkin sprawling into the ropes. The Russian beat the count, but Joshua smelled blood and as soon as the ref allowed the proceedings to continue he moved in for the kill. The official time was 1:59.

Povetkin started fast and in the eyes of many observers won the first three rounds. A sharp right hand in the waning seconds of round one reddened Joshua’s nose which leaked blood in the next round. The tide began to turn in round four when Povetkin suffered a cut above his left eye.

Povetkin (now 34-2), was the lighter man by 23 pounds. Joshua had a four inch height advantage and a seven inch reach advantage. And it mattered greatly that AJ was the younger man by 10-plus years. Povetkin wasn’t intimidated by Joshua and had several good moments but, at age 39, his reflexes betrayed him once the fight had crossed the midpoint.

Joshua, who owns three of the four meaningful heavyweight title belts, improved to 22-0 with his 21st stoppage. His next fight is penciled in for April 13 of next year against an opponent to be determined. His promoter Eddie Hearn has reserved that date at Wembley Stadium.

Other Bouts

In a 12-round lightweight bout, Joshua’s Olympic Games teammate and fellow gold medalist Luke Campbell (19-2) avenged the first loss of his career with a unanimous decision (119-109, 118-111,116-112) over France’s Yvan Mendy (40-5-1). This was Campbell’s second start since coming up short in a bid for Jorge Linares’s lightweight title and his first fight under his new trainer Shane McGuigan.

In their first meeting in December of 2015 at London’s O2 Arena, Mendy won a split decision that should have been unanimous. Campbell insisted that he had improved greatly in the interim and tonight’s fight bore witness. However, he needs to develop a harder punch to rank among the top lightweights in the world, a list headed by Mikey Garcia. As this fight was framed as a WBC title eliminator, Campbell is next in line to meet Garcia, but Mikey has indicated that he will pursue bigger game.

Lawrence Okolie, a 2016 Olympian who trains with Anthony Joshua, won a Lonsdale belt in only his 10th pro start with a 12-round decision over defending BBBofC cruiserweight champion Matty Askin in a messy fight. The undefeated Okolie had a point deducted in round five for leading with his head and had two more points deducted for holding, but banked enough rounds to get the nod on all three cards: 116-110, 114-112, and 114-113. Askin, who declined to 23-4-1, had won five straight heading in.

A 10-round heavyweight match between Sergey Kuzmin (13-0, 1 NC) and David Price (22-6) ended suddenly when Price retired on his stool after four relatively even rounds. The six-foot-eight, china-chinned Price claimed to have aggravated a biceps tear.

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Michael Dutchover Remains Undefeated in Ontario, Calif.

Transplanted Texan Michael Dutchover needed a little time to figure out Costa Rican Bergman Aguilar but when he did it was over quickly on Friday.

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Michael Dutchover

ONTARIO-Calif.-Transplanted Texan Michael Dutchover needed a little time to figure out Costa Rican Bergman Aguilar but when he did it was over quickly on Friday.

Lightweight prospect Dutchover (11-0, 8 KOs) knocked out southpaw Aguilera (14-4-1, 4 KOs) in the fifth round with a barrage of body blows that left the Costa Rican limp at the Doubletree Hotel.

For two rounds Aguilar used an awkward counter-punching style that had Dutchover a little tentative. But once he figured out that combination punching was the key, he opened up with barrages and floored Aguilar with body shots at the end of round four.

That signaled doom for Aguilar.

The fifth round saw Dutchover target the body with impunity as Aguilar tried holding, running and covering up with no success. Referee Wayne Hedgepeth signaled the fight over at 2:31 of the fifth round giving Dutchover the win by knockout.

In a bantamweight clash Santa Ana’s Mario Hernandez (7-0-1, 3 KOs) and Mexico City’s Ivan Gonzalez (4-1-2, 1 KO) fought to a majority draw after six back and forth rounds.

Hernandez targeted the body against the taller Gonzalez who relied on long range counters. Both found success but neither could prove superiority after six turbulent rounds.

After six rounds one judge saw it 58-56 for Gonzalez but the two other judges saw it 57-57 for a majority draw.

Other bouts

South Central L.A.’s Ruben Torres (7-0, 6 KOs) extended his undefeated streak with a knockout over Mexico’s Eder “El Koreano” Amaro (6-6, 2 KOs) in a lightweight fight. But it wasn’t easy.

Amaro switched from southpaw to orthodox and was matching Torres for two rounds until the taller local fighter began blasting away to the body and head with precision. Many in the crowd cheered “Koreano” in unison but it couldn’t help once Torres zeroed in.

At the end of the fourth round Amaro could not continue and the fight was stopped giving a knockout for Torres.

Richard Brewart Jr. (2-0) mowed through Edward Aceves (0-5) flooring him with body shots in the first round then overwhelming him in the second. After seven unanswered blows referee Eddie Hernandez stopped the fight at 1:32 of round two giving Rancho Cucamonga’s Brewart the win by knockout in the super welterweight bout.

Southpaw David Ortiz (1-0) won his pro debut by unanimous decision after four rounds in a welterweight match against San Diego’s Mario Angeles (2-11-2). Ortiz lives in Bloomington, Calif. and is trained by Henry Ramirez. No knockdowns were scored.

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Charr-Oquendo Scuttled When Charr Tests Positive; the Odious WBA Saves Face

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Manuel Charr

Manuel Charr and Fres Oquendo were scheduled to fight in Cologne, Germany, later this month (Sept. 29). Charr would be defending his WBA world heavyweight title, the “regular” version of it, not the “super” version which rests in the hands of Anthony Joshua.

The bout was quickly cancelled when it was revealed that Charr had tested positive for two banned anabolic steroids. The test was performed by VADA, the anti-doping agency identified with Las Vegas neurologist Dr. Margaret Goodman.

The 33-year-old Charr, born in Lebanon but a resident of Germany since the age of three, won the belt in his last start with a unanimous decision over 281-pound Russian behemoth Alexander Ustinov in Oberhausen, Germany. The title was vacant. Charr won the right to fight for it with a 10-round decision over Albanian slug Sefer Seferi. The victory over Ustinov elevated his record to 31-4. He has been stopped three times, by Vitali Klitschko, Alexander Povetkin, and Mairis Briedis.

If it wasn’t for bad luck, as the old saying goes, Fres Oquendo wouldn’t have any luck at all. For various reasons, his fights keep falling out. Before long he’ll be drawing social security. Well, not exactly, but he turned 45 in April and hasn’t fought in more than four years.

Oquendo has competed for this belt before. In his last ring appearance in July of 2014, he lost a majority decision to Russia’s Ruslan Chagaev in Grozny, Russia. As a concession for taking the fight on short notice, Team Oquendo negotiated a rematch clause in the contract, but a shoulder injury prevented Fres from activating it. When the injury healed, he had to go to court to compel Chagaev to fulfill his obligation. But then the Russian retired, muddling the water.

The WBA was legally bound to find Oquendo a title fight and in desperation turned to ancient Shannon Briggs. But the Oquendo-Briggs fight, scheduled for June 3 of last year in Hollywood, Florida, fell out when Briggs’ urine specimen showed an abnormally high level of testosterone.

Fres Oquendo was dogged by bad luck even before these recent developments. His professional record, 37-8, is somewhat misleading as six of his eight defeats were razor-thin including his 2003 setback to Chris Byrd and his 2006 setback to Evander Holyfield. However, Oquendo, something of a cutie, was never a crowd-pleaser and in none of his narrow defeats was there a public clamor for a rematch.

The cancellation of Charr-Oquendo cuts the World Boxing Association out of a sanctioning fee, but one would think that the WBA honchos are actually rather pleased by this turn of events. The fight, more precisely the WBA’s world title imprimatur, would have brought more unwanted publicity to the Panama-based organization.

ESPN’s Dan Rafael, who has the largest platform of any boxing writer, has been a persistent critic of the organization which once recognized 41 “champions” in 17 weight classes. In 2009, Rafael wrote, “(The WBA) has become such an absolute farce that even somebody like me, who follows boxing closely, sometimes has a hard time keeping track of all the nonsensical so-called world title belts the WBA has been doling out at an alarming rate. It almost reminds me of the ladies at Costco who hand out various samples on a busy Saturday afternoon.”

Rafael took note when WBA president Gilberto Mendoza promised to cull the herd by eliminating “regular” titles, and then became more caustic when Mendoza didn’t follow through. Recently, in one short, punchy diatribe, Rafael blistered the WBA as wretched, vile, and rancid.

Regardless of your opinion, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Fres Oquendo who keeps getting stranded at the altar. No, he’s not fun to watch and a man of his age shouldn’t be taking any more punches, but he has always been an honest workman and by all accounts he’s a very decent man. Born in Puerto Rico but raised in Chicago, Oquendo pitched right in when the island nation of his birth was ravaged by Hurricane Maria. He was personally responsible for relocating Puerto Rican boxing legend Wilfred Benitez and Benitez’s sister, his caregiver, to Chicago where their lives wouldn’t be as hard.

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