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Monday Mashings: Kovalev, Gonzalez and Diaz



“Solid” was the best word to describe the Main Events fight card in Las Vegas.

It was the first time I got to see Sergey Kovalev perform in person. It’s difficult to analyze a fighter based on television viewing. Also, several other light heavyweights took center stage on Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

We drove in from Southern California on Saturday morning. Seems several sports tournaments had most of the hotels booked and the prices were incredibly high.

One of the best places to watch a boxing card is the Mandalay Bay. Over the years I saw several of the best matches in the last 50 years. One of the first great cards came in September 1999 when Oscar De La Hoya met Felix Trinidad. Then there was Paulie Ayala vs. Johnny Tapia and that was followed by Marco Antonio Barrera fighting Erik Morales. They were all within a year’s span.

When MGM properties bought the Mandalay Bay in 2005 that spelled the end of its dominance for mega fights. Now most of the mega fight cards are held at the MGM Grand. But there’s still magic left at the Mandalay Bay.

Main Events brought several great fights on Saturday. Any time you have a champion with three world title belts that means several things, including a willingness to fight anyone. The greats are like that. But fighters like that are few and promoters willing to risk losing their paydays are even fewer.

Kathy Duva, president of Main Events, has a solid gold champion in Kovalev and I’m sure she worries about the risks. But so far Kovalev has devoured the competition.

Kovalev has height, incredible reach and speed to go with the mind numbing power he possesses. Though it was a short fight against Nadjib Mohammedi, it was enough for me to see his main strengths.

Television tends to dumb down the speed and movements when watching on a screen. What I saw in the arena was Kovalev’s elongated reach and the speed he delivers those crushing right hand blows. Plus, he can truly box. He has good footwork, sets up his punches and willingly exchanges when the opponent unloads. That spells entertainment.

Mohammedi just seemed intimidated from the opening bell. It would have been interesting to see him get inside those long arms of Kovalev and work the inside. Instead it was Kovalev working from long range and unleashing missiles from a safe distance.

Kovalev has the tools to dominate the light heavies until we see what he can do with Andre Ward once that match is made. Ward has the speed advantage at super middleweight but what about at 175?

Another future rival could be Gennady “GGG” Golovkin should he move up that high in weight. The sparring match they had before in Big Bear is reaching legendary proportions. Most accounts say GGG stopped Kovalev. But that was sparring. As good as GGG is, it could be a lot different under the lights.

That’s a fight about a year or two in the future.

Jean Pascal

Former light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal and Cuba’s Yunieski Gonzalez engaged in perhaps the Fight of the Year in my opinion. It was a firefight from the second round on with each cracking the other.

These two guys can box but they were fighting on Saturday. Each exchange you could see they intended to knock the other out of the ring. Crushing blows were exchanged and the remarkable thing was they were connecting but not shy about unloading while leaving themselves open for retaliation.

I hadn’t seen a light heavyweight fight this good since James “Lights Out” Toney and Vassily Jirov clobbered each other for 12 rounds in 2003. It was serious business for Pascal and Gonzalez. And it was a very close fight with the judges scoring it for Pascal. I had it for Gonzalez but there were several rounds that could have gone the other way. Neither fighter dominated the other.

Despite only 17 pro fights Gonzalez never backed up. He was fearless. The only drawbacks in his game were his inability to profit from Pascal’s dipping down low. There are tricks he could have used to take advantage of the dipping down tactics but the Cuban probably needs more pro seasoning. Still, he looked on even ground with Pascal.

Pascal, on the other hand, has nerves of steel and one of the best chins in boxing. He was hammered a few times by Gonzalez and countered well after taking some bombs. His fight against Kovalev might have been too quick of a stoppage this past March. It was great to hear Kovalev say he wouldn’t mind taking on Gonzalez. That means there are two more fights ahead for Kovalev that fans would love to see. And with Ward and Golovkin down the road, that makes four more possibilities.

Joel Diaz

The kid from Palmdale can really crack. In the past many were concerned with his defense. He’s only 23 and for his age has already endured some eye-popping battles. In his seventh pro fight he was matched with undefeated Guy Robb in a pitched battle that saw both fighters get dropped. Ultimately Diaz had slightly more firepower and ended the fight early in Las Vegas.

He’s grown from featherweight to junior welterweight and seems to have carried his power with him. Last Saturday Diaz stopped Guadalajara’s Alejandro Rodriguez with vicious right hands. He may have busted the Mexican junior welter’s nose. Diaz is not real tall but fights tall and trains in Big Bear. He’s learned a lot sparring with guys from all over the world. It’s like a United Nations of boxing up there at Abel Sanchez Big Bear Summit.

Diaz has picked up some subtle defensive moves that aren’t obvious to the casual observer. He doesn’t get hit as much as before and knows how to set up his punches. Will he stay at junior welterweight or drop down to lightweight is the question.


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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.



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



Manuel Charr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bob Arum Hails Terence Crawford (not Lomachenko) as Boxing’s Next Superstar



Arum says Terence

Top Rank’s Bob Arum says Terence Crawford will become this generation’s Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao–elite boxers who became worldwide celebrity sensations. Arum, who promoted both Mayweather and Pacquiao on the way to their historic crossover statuses expects big things from the undefeated Crawford over the next few years.

“He’s the best fighter in the United States, and he’s so charismatic,” said Arum. “He comes from middle America, and In the next year or so, he will be huge.”

Arum’s assertion is noteworthy for two reasons. First, Arum is also the promoter for Vasyl Lomachenko. Lomachenko is ranked No. 1 pound-for-pound by The Ring, the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. More importantly, Lomachenko seems to have a groundswell of support behind him both in the media and among fight fans.

Lomachenko has also been heavily featured through Top Rank’s television partnership with ESPN. While Crawford has achieved more in his career than Lomachenko (at least in my eyes) and, as noted by Arum, is a homegrown American talent, Lomachenko seems to be considered the more marketable commodity to that network judging by the amount of promotional materials ESPN has pumped out about the fighter over the last year.

The other reason Arum’s claim about Crawford is interesting is the performance of Canelo Alvarez over the weekend in his majority decision rematch win over Gennady Golovkin. Besides Mayweather and Pacquiao, Alvarez is the clear PPV leader among all of boxing’s current commodities, and his status as boxing’s new money fighter should only grow stronger after the best win of his career.

Still, Crawford is one of the few very elite fighters in all of boxing. He’s ranked No. 2 pound-for-pound by The Ring, the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.

While Lomachenko and Alvarez are also candidates to become boxing’s next big thing, there’s no doubt Crawford is also one of the few boxers in the sport right now with the right things in place to become the next Mayweather or Pacquiao.

Omaha’s Crawford is in the midst of an historic run. When he stopped Jeff Horn in round 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in June, Crawford captured a world title in his third different weight class, welterweight. This after Crawford had already captured two lineal boxing championships, as well as multiple alphabet titles, in both the lightweight and junior welterweight divisions.

By any measure, Crawford is truly one of the best boxers in the sport. Not only does he look the part in the ring on fight night (something more and more writers seem to value most when voting for pound-for-pound lists), but the fighter has already accomplished so much in his career that it seems Arum is doing more than the fiduciary duty of promoting his fighter when he ascribes to Crawford such lofty praise.

Crawford, still just 30 years old, is already halfway to matching Mayweather and Pacquiao’s shared record of most lineal championships. Over the course of his career, Mayweather captured lineal championships at junior lightweight, lightweight, welterweight, and junior middleweight. Pacquiao won his as a flyweight, featherweight, junior lightweight, and junior welterweight.

In order for Crawford to grab lineal championship No. 3, most believe he’ll have to go through welterweight phenom Errol Spence. While promotional entanglements might keep this superfight on the shelf for a while, Arum said he had no problem pitting Crawford against Spence in what would be one of the best matchups in recent memory.

“Absolutely,” said Arum when asked about working with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions, who represents Spence, to make the fight. Could any response from him be more exciting? Crawford vs. Spence might be the next superfight in boxing. Both fighters are among the very elite, and unlike what ultimately happened with Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, who fought each other well past their peak years, both would be in the prime of their careers.

Winning that fight would certainly go a long way to making Arum’s vision of Crawford’s future come true. And who knows? Maybe Crawford really is the next Mayweather or Pacquiao. Heck, for all we know, he could even be on his way to doing something more.

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