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Jesse Hart: The Spawn of a Cyclone is Brewing up a Storm in Philly

Bernard Fernandez

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By BERNARD FERNANDEZ

In this pivotal year in American politics, a power struggle of sorts with presidential-primary-type overtones is brewing in Philadelphia boxing. It involves two fighting men of the city, one a beloved older citizen and the other his firebrand son, each of whom has his own vision of how the immediate future will soon play out.

So who gets the final say?

“I do,” insists 26-year-old Jesse Hart (19-0, 16 KOs) who wants to fight for the WBO super middleweight championship before the end of 2016 and likely would be afforded that opportunity should he win his Friday night fight against journeyman Dashon Johnson (19-18-3, 6 KOs), of Escondido, Calif., at the 2300 Arena in South Philly.

“Me,” Jesse’s father-trainer, 1970s middleweight contender Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, 64, said when asked the same question. But Cyclone is of a mind that his son going for a world title this year – or maybe even in the next couple of years – would be a rush to judgment with potentially disappointing consequences.

“I wouldn’t want him fighting for no championship now,” Cylone said when asked if Jesse’s likely elevation to a No. 1 rating from the WBO and mandatory-challenger status for the winner of the April 9 title fight between champion Arthur Abraham (44-4, 29 KOs) and Gilberto Ramirez (33-0, 24 KOs), should result in a showdown for a bejeweled belt. “Jesse is saying now, right now. Me, I would prefer him to wait until he gets about seven more fights and is more comfortable in the ring. A lot of people want him to (be in a title fight soon). Why? I told Bob (Arum, founder of Top Rank, Jesse’s promotional company) I thought he needed six or seven more fights, and then he’d be ready for anybody. Jesse got the tools to get (a world title) now, but he needs to get the tools to hold onto it after he gets it.”

So, if push comes to shove, which Hart gets to make the final decision?

“The son,” said J Russell Peltz, the longtime Philadelphia promoter who co-promotes Jesse’s career.

Or it might be Arum, whom Cyclone said will have a voice in the matter.

“Bob is smart,” Cyclone mused. “Bob will know when Jesse is ready, just like I’ll know.”

Time is always a factor in boxing. How long should a big fight be allowed to simmer until it’s ready to be served at its flavorful best? Or should some matchups be microwaved and hurried to the table?

Jesse Hart’s impatience to fight for a world title is understandable. Another seven bouts worth of seasoning would take him to age 28, possibly 29, and would possibly abbreviate his championship reign, should he be fortunate enough to have one. He believes he is ready to go for the big prize now, so why wait?

But Arum also might not want to delay the process of developing the next Top Rank superstar any longer than necessary. Manny Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38 KOs), Arum’s prime attraction for what seems like forever, has announced his April 9 rubber match against Timothy Bradley Jr. (33-1-1, 13 KOs) at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand, will be his farewell to boxing, so Arum, 84, can be excused for wanting to quickly determine a marquee replacement for “Pac-Man.” That might be Hart, or Ramirez, or possibly WBO super lightweight champion Terence Crawford (28-0, 20 KOs), most recently observed scoring a fifth-round stoppage over Philadelphia’s Hank Lundy (26-6-1, 13 KOs) on Feb. 27 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden.

It is a promoter’s duty to stroke the egos of all of his fighters, to make them feel as if each is his top priority, and Arum has taken care to ensure that Jesse Hart is showered with the requisite compliments.

“There’s boxing stars and there’s superstars,” Jesse said before a recent workout at the Joe Hand Boxing Gym in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia. “You got to know how to talk when you get up in front of that camera. You got to have a great smile. There’s different characteristics that go into it, and Bob said I got ’em all. He said I got the total package, the `it’ factor, to be a superstar.”

It is not anything Jesse hasn’t heard before. Not long after he joined Top Rank’s deep stable, Arum told the then-24-year-old about what could happen when talent meets charisma and the fighter in question is given the benefit of Arum’s special touch.

“When we first sat down, (Arum) said, `I want you. You’re going to be a superstar. You have what (Oscar) De La Hoya had, what Floyd Mayweather has,’” Jesse said in January 2014. “I was, like, wow. Then he asked me, `Who’s the first Mexican-(American) fighter that was on a Wheaties box?’ I said, `I don’t know, who was it?’ He said, `Oscar De La Hoya. That’s how big I want you to be. You have all the qualities to be a megastar in the sport of boxing. I’m going to let you reach those heights.’”

Jesse certainly has the genes to be something special. His dad, Cyclone, began his career with 19 straight victories inside the distance and has been described by Peltz as “the best one-punch knockout artist I ever saw in person.”

Hart had the good fortune – or misfortune, depending on which way one chooses to look at it – of being one of four Philly middleweights who were all world-ranked in the top 10 in the 1970s, the others being Bennie Briscoe, Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts and Willie “The Worm” Monroe. But elite opponents ducked the Philly Four as if they were lepers and, although Watts and Monroe did score decision victories over a young Marvin Hagler at the since-demolished Spectrum, only Briscoe ever was afforded the opportunity to fight for a world championship. He was 0-3 in such bouts, losing twice to Rodrigo Valdez and once to Carlos Monzon.

“We held down the city for, like, 20 years,” Cyclone said of that golden era of middleweights in Philly, when he and the other local kings of the ring were stars as celebrated as much as any member of the Eagles, Phillies, 76ers or Flyers. “Couldn’t nobody come in here and do nothin’ with us. The only way we could make money was to fight each other.”

Thus was the legend embellished of Philly’s down-and-dirty gym wars, where the best of the best took turns cannibalizing one another for neighborhood pride and then did so again in well-attended main events at the Spectrum. It was an era perhaps beyond replication, but Jesse Hart, who has heard all the stories of that magical time from his dad, is eager to do his part to restore at least some of that lost tradition.

Jesse had been scheduled to appear on the non-televised portion of the Crawford-Lundy undercard, but he went directly to Arum and requested that he headline his own show in his hometown. It is high time, Jesse declared, that Philadelphia fighters, the most accomplished of whom have been obliged to take their act on the road, return to America’s best fight town and remind everyone of what once was, and could be again.

“I wish I was back in that (1970s) era,” he sighed. “The mission for me has always to become one of the greatest Philadelphia fighters. I kept hearing about how great my dad was, how great Georgie Benton was, how great Bennie Briscoe was. Gypsy Joe Harris. My dad came up in that era and that’s the mindset I have. In my mind, I’m a 15-round fighter. I’m not a modern-day dude, man.”

Cyclone remembers taking Jesse to the gym for the first time when he was around 10. He has tutored him well, but no trainer can confer the gift of power on a fighter who lacks the natural capability to deliver a shot with the force of a runaway locomotive. Cyclone had that gift, and he said Jesse does, too.

“I realized he had the same qualities I had as a fighter,” Cyclone said. “He can punch with either hand, he can take you out with either hand. Once he gets a little more comfortable, ain’t nobody going to beat Jesse Hart.”

Jesse said he is pretty damn comfortable now, and he has little inclination for taking the long view espoused by Cyclone. He has a wife and child to support, and why shouldn’t he strike when the iron is hot? If he’s a superstar-in-waiting, as Arum had so often told him, why delay the inevitable?

“All I know is I get the winner of the Ramirez-Abraham fight,” Jesse said. “I don’t care who it is. That’s why I’m pushing for a win (against Johnson) in spectacular fashion. This fight is going to prove to the world that I’m one of the best super middleweights in the world, if not the best.

“This is what sets me apart. Nobody else is fighting here. I wanted to bring it home to the Philly fight fans. I’m not knocking nobody else, but what other top Philadelphia fighter is bringing it back here? Bernard Hopkins isn’t. Danny Garcia isn’t.

“That’s why we’re calling this promotion `Hart of the City.’ All our pro teams stink, nobody’s doing nothin’. But you got Jesse Hart standing up for Philly.

“Oh, and make sure to tell everybody that Philly still has the best boxers in the world.”

 

 

 

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Odds Review for Friday’s Boxing on Telemundo

Miguel Iturrate

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South Florida promoter Tuto Zabala Jr has a seven fight card planned for the Osceola Heritage Center in Kissimmee this Friday, February 22nd that sees three undefeated prospects headline the show. For more than two decades, Zabala Jr has promoted the sport in Mexico and Florida and Friday’s event will air on Spanish language Telemundo in the United States, so check your local listings for start times.
A pair of ten round bouts hold the main event spots as undefeated Yomar Alamo faces veteran Manuel Mendez at welterweight and likewise unbeaten Carlos Monroe takes on Jonathan Tavira in a middleweight bout.
The 23 year old Alamo is from fight hungry Puerto Rico and he is considered a key piece to promoter Zabala Jr’s plans to run shows back on the island. The 28 year old Mendez once carried the ‘prospect’ label as well but Mendez is 1-3-1 in his last five fights. The experience of being in there with the likes of Sonny Fredrickson (19-1) and undefeated Johnathan Navarro (15-0) will make him Alamo’s toughest test to date. The welterweight division is crowded and Alamo is going to need to keep winning beyond Friday to get noticed, but he already banks on the fervent support of his “boriqua” crowd. Promoter Zabala Jr may be wondering if matchmaker Ruben DeJesus picked the right guy in Mendez. Alamo’s record in Puerto Rico looks to have a good bit of fluff. He didn’t face an opponent with a single pro win until his seventh fight. He faced 40 year old vet Edwin Lopez in 2016, but Lopez hurt his hand in the first round and could not continue, so Alamo is largely untested.
Middleweight prospect Carlos Monroe looks to go 12-0 as he steps in to his first bout scheduled for ten rounds. Veteran Jonathan Tavira provides the opposition for the 24 year old Monroe, who turned pro in December of 2017 and notched 10 fights in calendar year 2018. Monroe has been brought along carefully, as the combined record of his 11 opponents stands at 46-98-8. Tavira has been in there with the likes of Arif Magomedov, Dario Bredicean and Esquiva Falcao, all undefeated fighters on the way up. Tavira hits hard but he has been stopped five times in his six losses, so look for Monroe to improve on his eight KOs to date.
2016 U.S. Olympian Antonio Vargas looks to improve to 10-0 in an eight round bantamweight bout against Lucas Rafael Baez (34-17-5). Vargas was originally scheduled to take on Wilner Soto, a veteran with a 21-5 record and he was a big favorite in that match-up.
Below are the current lines as we start off fight week.
Fri 2/22 – Osceola Heritage Center – Kissimmee, Florida
Welterweight 10 rounds –
Manuel Mendez(16-4-1) +160
Yomar Alamo(15-0)         -210
Middleweight 10 rounds –
Jonathan Tavira (17-6)            +550
Carlos Monroe (11-0)             -1050
Bantamweight 8 rounds –
Lucas Rafael Baez        +1150
Antonio Vargas            -2450
(Opponent change for Vargas, line should be similar for new opponent Lucas Rafael Baez)

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Blake Caparello Looks To Grab WBA Regional Belt This Friday

Miguel Iturrate

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Caparello
This Friday night in Australia, light heavyweight contender Blake Caparello returns to action as he faces youngster Reagan Dessaix for the WBA’s Oceania title in the main event of a planned six fight card at The Melbourne Pavilion.
Dessaix currently holds the belt that Caparello held back in 2017, and the 22-year-old is hoping a win on Friday will put him on the international radar. It is where Caparello, who enters this fight as a 32-year-old, has been and hopes to get to again.
Those are the basics of Friday’s main event, the youngster Dessaix making a significant leap in competition level as he looks to get ranked internationally, while the veteran Caparello is hopeful a win will propel him closer to another world title shot.
Caparello laid claim to the IBO’s world title at 175 pounds back in October of 2013 when he won a comfortable unanimous decision over veteran Allan Green. Caparello, who was 17-0-1 at the time of the Green fight, went on to an introductory fight in the United States, and a win there saw him earn an August of 2014 title shot against WBO champion Sergey Kovalev.
Caparello has to feel he was close to a world title as he had the feared Kovalev down in round one before the “Krusher” took him out in round two. Since then, he has fought Isaac Chilemba and Andre Dirrell, extending both ranked veterans the full fight distance. The March of 2018 loss to Chilemba was for the WBC’s world title, and Caparello managed to go 2-0 the rest of the calendar year.
Green, Kovalev, Dirrell and Chilemba. The bottom line is that Dessaix had a solid amateur career in Australia, but there is no one with resumes like the men Caparello has faced when asked to step onto the world scene.
The WBA’s current world champion is Dmitry Bivol (15-0), who is making the fourth defense of his title in March against hard hitting Joe Smith Jr. The veteran Caparello could mount a case for a mandatory shot against either man with a win on Friday, while Dessaix would likely have to keep fighting and winning before earning a shot at a world title.
The co-feature bout is for the Australian title at 154 pounds and sees 31 year old Billy Klimov facing Joel Camilleri. Camilleri is favored as he has had a lot more professional experience than Limov, who turned professional at 29 years old. Strictly regional stuff here.
Both fights have lines at some of the sportsbooks. Check out the numbers as they were at the start of fight week below.
Fri 2/22 – The Melbourne Pavilion – Victoria, Australia
WBA Oceania Title
Light Heavyweight 10 rounds –
Reagan Dessaix(16-1)         +255
Blake Caparello (28-3-1)    -365
Australian Title
Super Welterweight 10 rounds –
Billy Limov (4-0-1)     +200
Joel Camilleri(16-5-1) -280
Check out the link for the live event right here. http://www.epicentre.tv/events/blake-caparello-v-reagan-dessaix/

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Will Fury’s Deal With ESPN Torpedo The Fights That Fight Fans Want to See?

Arne K. Lang

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Fury's deal with ESPN

For the past few weeks, boxing fans have been led to believe that the rematch between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder was ever so-close to being a done deal. But in the world of professional boxing where Machiavellian characters seemingly hold all the positions of power, nothing is ever a done deal until it’s finally finalized. Today’s announcement that Tyson Fury has signed with ESPN is the latest case in point. It’s a three-fight deal that will reportedly earn the Gypsy King $80 million if he can successfully hurdle the first two legs.

As Thomas Hauser has noted, what we have in boxing today is something similar to leagues in other sports. There’s the Top Rank/ESPN League, the Matchroom/DAZN League, and the PBC/Showtime/FOX League. We would add that these are intramural leagues. Occasionally there’s cross-pollination, similar to when the Yankees play the Mets in a game that counts in the regular season standings, but basically the boxers in each league compete against each other.

We have no doubt that WBC/WBA/IBF heavyweight ruler Anthony Joshua will eventually fight Wilder and/or Fury, but it now appears that these matches, when they transpire, will have marinated beyond the sell date. The action inside the ring may mirror the Mayweather-Pacquiao dud.

A match between Joshua and Wilder is already somewhat less enticing than it would have been if it had come to fruition last autumn. The odds lengthened in favor of Joshua after Wilder’s raggedy performance against Tyson Fury on Dec. 1 in Los Angeles.

True, the Bronze Bomber almost pulled the fight out of the fire with a thunderous punch but he was out-slicked in most of the rounds and it wasn’t as if he was fighting a bigger version of Pernell Whitaker. Before that fight, casual fans were less tuned-in to Deontay Wilder’s limitations.

It was reported that the Wilder-Fury rematch was headed to Las Vegas or New York, but that Las Vegas fell out of the running when the State Athletic Commission insisted on using Nevada officials. Fury was the one that balked.

In hindsight we should have seen that this was fake news. No Nevada officials were involved in Fury-Wilder I. The judges were from California, Canada, and Great Britain. The California judge voted against Fury, scoring the fight 115-111, a tally for which he was excoriated. The judge from Great Britain, like many ringside reporters, had it draw. The TV crews, especially the crew from Great Britain, left no doubt that Fury should have had his hand raised and the controversy made the hoped-for rematch more alluring.

So who will be Tyson Fury’s next opponent? Speculation immediately centered on Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev.

Pulev, who turns 38 of May 4, sports a 26-1 record. He was slated to fight Anthony Joshua in October of 2017 but suffered a torn biceps in training and was forced to withdraw. In his most recent bout he outpointed Hughie Fury, Tyson’s cousin. He’s currently ranked #1 by the IBF.

On Dec. 8 of last year, Bob Arum announced that he had hammered out a deal to co-promote Pulev. It was subsequently reported that Pulev’s first fight under the Top Rank/ESPN umbrella would be against Finland’s Robert Helenius on March 23 in Los Angeles. Six days ago, the distinguished European fight writer Per Ake Persson told his readers that the fight had fallen out, ostensibly because the parties could not come to terms.

Tyson Fury is the most charismatic white heavyweight to come down the pike since Gerry Cooney and the big galoot is bigger than Cooney ever was as he has avid followers on both sides of the Atlantic and Cooney didn’t have social media to enhance his profile. I have little doubt that ESPN will recoup their investment in him. However, deals in boxing are never consummated with an eye on uplifting the sport – on patching things up with the disaffected – and here’s yet another example.

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