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Sonny Liston’s Blues Send Sad Notes 50 Years Into Future

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Some day they’re gonna write a blues for fighters. It’ll just be for slow guitar, soft trumpet and a bell.” — Sonny Liston

One can’t deny that there is something about Sonny’s quote that resonates deeply. And on many levels. It’s unseen but blares within us, though gently. Perhaps it’s due to history’s recording that Sonny’s ending wasn’t a good one. And perhaps, also, that’s what Sonny really was, gentle and soothing. Or at the very least — in the cacophony of extreme degrees of his complex world — he was in search of it. As all fighters are, really.

Clang!

Wind chimes, second cousins, of the boxing ring’s bell, disrupt the silence on the patio where I sit writing this story. And from black skies above me, hundreds of stars twinkle whispers of appreciation.

Whispering what?

Adulation?

Sonny didn’t trust it. How could he? Illiterate and battered by an unfulfilled father and abandoned by an abused mother, he was forever lost. But there was another who would come along. The same color as Sonny, only with a different set of circumstances. Better circumstances than Sonny, but perhaps still not better than most. Still, it was enough to prepare and propel him. May 25, 2015, was the fiftieth anniversary of second fight between Liston and Muhammad Ali. The fight christened the dawning (to the dismay and delight of many) of a disruptive and uncomfortable bolt of thunder and lightning named Cassius Clay, aka Muhammad Ali.

Cassius Clay — to the total surprise of the experts — would handle Sonny rather easily during their first Miami encounter in February of 1964. Sonny had his moments. But the young cat — literally cat-like — controlled the tempo and the boxing ring’s general geography. He systematically shut down Sonny and relegated one of the greatest heavyweight champions in history, to ordinary journeymen status.

Yes, you read that correctly. One of the greatest heavyweight champions in history.

Top three?

In my view, absolutely. In his prime, Sonny’s technique, talent and temperament stops Marciano. Forty nine and oh? More like forty nine and uh oh. Same with Joe Louis.

Interestingly enough, Sonny would have had problems with Joe Walcott, the former heavyweight champ who refereed Ali-Liston II. Walcott was a victim of Marciano and Louis, but Walcott was a slick, talented, cutie-pie boxer who could crack. I see him taking Sonny deep but I think Sonny wears him down and stops him late. Maybe.

Louis and Marciano looked to “punch.” They couldn’t have ‘punched’ and survived with Sonny.

Larry Holmes could and would have because of the three T’s I mentioned before: talent, technique, temperament. Larry’s stock and trade, his jab, his mind and movement would ensnarl Sonny. It’s a good fight though. Like Ali, Holmes, in his prime, and even after it, knew when, where and how to pull the trigger, in the moment. He was brilliant.

Fifty years ago no one had seen or imagined anything like what was fashioned in the great grandson of abolitionist Cassius Marcellus Clay. His namesake would emphatically put a stamp on his unique approach (in and out the ring) with his first-round knockout of Sonny in Lewiston.

To boxing purists,- the likes of Cus D’Amato chief among them- Ali’s ring behavior was dangerously outside the conventional approach to fighting. In the ring Ali, did everything wrong. He performed with hands by his sides and awkwardly — to the conventionalist — leaned back from opponents punches.

He eschewed body shots and danced –glided as if on skates, actually — to lyrics and a rhythm only he heard. To the gate keepers of America’s status quo, Ali conducted himself with equal- no, scratch that. With a singleness of purpose that was ferocious.

Ali’s protestations — echoes of Malcolm X , his Nation of Islam mentor who was slain a few weeks before the Lewiston rematch — would bring about death threats from those in allegiance with Malcolm as well unwanted attention from the eyes ears of The Company (CIA). The heavyhandedness of the period notwithstanding, history records that one of the greatest heavyweights – Sonny Liston – lost by KO in mysterious fashion to Muhammad Ali in the Lewiston, Maine. There were supposed to be death threats against both fighters. Whether it was Brothers from the Nation of Islam or organized crime, if the fight was fixed Jimmy Breslin’s ‘The Gang That Couldn’t Straight’ must’ve been pulling strings.

In preparation for my portrayal of Sonny Liston in Michael Mann’s ‘ALI’, I was given written works and videos on Sonny. I knew who Sonny was but the rich material supplied to me more than helped fill in the blanks. I’d sit in front of a video monitor and study, frame by frame, Sonny’s movements, idiosyncrasies, in and out of the ring and parse, with the volume muted, rewind and parse again. I’d look at the black and white images of Sonny and the unheard linguistics of his body,- they blared mightily- as he skipped rope to James Brown’s ‘Night Train’, this I’d turn up the volume for- or as when a laugh thundered from him while he was in the company/protection of children.

There were also awkward moments that were in just as awkward and grainy and distorted color images of when he would be seated, talking with a reporter. His searching, protective, untrusting eyes-even in moments where he donned the mask of hubris, one painfully birthed from the canal of private overcoming’s and public triumphs, his eyes would momentarily glazed over with the expectations that abject disappointment was always up ahead and a step or two behind him.

Muting the volume really put me in touch with the essence of who he was and he came alive for me. As Sonny was an illiterate, he behaved as a man who thought that he wasn’t being heard but simply seen. In the upheaval of the sixties, he was not being seen on his terms, either. Sound and speech are only masks for what’s underneath them.

I’m not that unfamiliar with the feelings that coursed through Sonny.

No fighter is. And that’s why we fight or did fight. To be seen, much more than heard, on what we think are, our own terms.

On extremely rare occasions though, the likes of William Shakespeare, Marlon Brando, Muhammad Ali, Miles Davis, or John, Paul, George and Ringo or Elia Kazan or Bob Marley comes along with the gift (or burden-take your pick) that unapologetically marry ‘what they are saying to us with what they are doing to us.’

Our collective volumes are turned up to full blast, their higher frequencies agitate our molecules into some form of action, whether we like it or not.

‘Your Momma wont lose this one/ Your the lucky one, under the sun/If ya

make me move then you know you’ve got the groove’ – Bob Marley.

Esoteric b—–t? No, all relatable on some levels, if open to it. Ali was completely open to the complexities-if not in full comprehension of them, but who is?- of his world fifty years ago.We can see it in his confusion, which then flashes into outrage while he glares downward, right fist-to his chest- positioned and taunting contemptuously over Sonny.

Fifty years later, Neil Leifer’s iconic photo of two giants, one fallen, -on posters and tee-shirt’s – still symbolizes, the world over, majestic dominance. And just think, it all started with yet another ‘shot’-from the pot boiling-over called The 60’s- that was heard and seen around that world.

In my breaking down of the who, what, why, where and how of the events of Ali-Liston II for the film, I came to a conclusion. The phantom punch was a clean one delivered by Muhammad. Notice, I said clean. As in, it landed flush. But would the punch thrown by Ali -not known as a one-punch knock out artist – in that specific moment result in a stoppage of a fighter of Sonny’s quality? Doubtful.

A flash knockdown as a result of that shot? That’s more believable. But not really because Sonny didn’t sell us it or cell it to himself, very well. And it looked just like what it was, bad acting on Sonny’s part.

Buy why? The look in his eyes afterward, for just a moment: self loathing.

Why?

The Phantom punch was borderline bourgeois,- more style than substance. Not that Muhammad chucked it in that context. He threw that right hand as he threw all of his right hands: with primal elegance, in search of the disruption of hardwire within the faculties of the head it crashed into.

But Ali’s capacity for punching lacked the potency to get someone out of there with literally one shot. He’d never done it before.

Dispatching an opponent with an avalanche of them? Yep – see Ali- Cleveland ‘Big Cat’ Williams. No one- with his a combination of guile, grace and killer instinct- did it better.

Ever.

Would Muhammad’s right hand get Sonny’s attention? Sure. Cause a stoppage? Non cipher.

What caused the stoppage was the macro chaos revolving around the micro chaos of Joe Walcott’s panic, Muhammad histrionics, and Sonny’s capitulation. The aforementioned death threats-hovering over both fighters- didn’t assist in facilitating an uneventful evening either. Sonny was looking for a way out.

It happens.

Recently, Manny Pacquiao, -though he was coming forward against Floyd- looked for a pleasant,agreeable-barely confrontational- way out and succeeded in finding it.

But I digress.

Sonny was coming forward when the shot hit him fifty years ago. Force against force, physics 101.

Yeah….but.

In Sonny’s next to last fight, he was knocked out by one of his former sparring partners. Leotis Martin put two shots together and in graphic fashion, deposited Sonny, face first, onto the canvas, and virtually out cold. Ali — four and a half years prior in Lewiston — never hit Sonny like that.

Or, should I say Sonny never responded to Ali’s Phantom punch like he responded to Martin’s undubbed one.

While prepping for ‘Ali’, I was put in contact with a Las Vegas associate of Ash Resnick, the manager of Sonny.The associate proceeded to give me his insights on Sonny and would also also forward the contact number of Davey Pearl. Mr. Pearl,-famously was the third man in the ring during Leonard-Hearns I- in his 80’s when we spoke, used to be one of Sonny’s best friends.

Near the close of Sonny’s life, he and Mr. Pearl would go for early morning runs on and around Las Vegas golf courses. He travelled with Sonny to ‘keep him straight’ as he told it to me. They went together to New Jersey for Sonny’s last fight against Chuck Wepner.

The Ali-Liston rematch was originally scheduled for November 16, 1965 at Boston Garden, Mr. Pearl would tell me that Sonny’s conditioning clicked, focused and returned to that of his two round in two fights blitzkrieg of Floyd Patterson, saying that Sonny ‘was in the best shape of his career’.

But wherever Muhammad and Liston went drama followed. Sonny would never get to show what kind of shape he was in. Three days before the rematch, Ali suffered a hernia and the fight was postponed six months.

Perpetually Effed! – That’s Sonny’s word not mine. I mean I played him but……

History.

What a concept.

Blues: Sonny Liston: slow, easy and methodical.

Rock and Roll: Ali: outwardly disruptive

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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 Beyrooty 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 Genaro “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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