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The Changing Climate Of Professional Boxing



 cus life mag 2c0c2

By Jose Corpas

My nose was sunburnt last week. 

Not counting vacations, it was the first time that happened during the winter.  While I was out relishing the near 80-degree March weather, others warned it was not a good thing.  The 30 degree higher than normal temps were because of greenhouse effects they said.  Climate change. 

It was a reminder that not all change is good and it got me to thinking that boxing is in the midst of a climate change of its own.

Around the same time attached thumbs became mandatory and trainers went into a mini-scramble to relearn how to clinch, a pair of other changes were implemented – the ramifications of which are only recently being noticed. 

On December 9, 1982, the WBC announced it was reducing the number of rounds in title fights from 15 to 12 effective January 1, 1983.  Safety was the reason though critics felt they caved in to public pressure following the death of Duk Koo Kim the previous month.  Along with the reduction in rounds, the WBC allowed the use of the standing 8-count in title matches and stated they were awaiting the results of a medical report before increasing the minute rest between rounds to 90 seconds. 

The rest remained 60 seconds.  That further fueled speculation that the reduction in rounds had motives other than safety.  Some believe the fights were shortened to better fit into American television schedules.  Dr. Ferdie Pacheco pointed out that deaths in amateur boxing outnumbered professional fatalities.  Manager and historian Jimmy Jacobs told the Washington Post, “Of the last 26 ring deaths, only four occurred in the 13th, 14th, or 15th rounds.” 

Cus D’Amato asked, “Must we change the rules because we have a bunch of incompetent trainers who don’t train their fighters right?”

Cus tiptoed across the threshold of a problem few discussed.  While he focused on trainers, a consequence of the proliferation of titles and divisions was the need for more challengers.  And some of those “challengers,” because of attrition, were underqualified to be in “championship” fights to begin with.  Aside from an occasional oddity, such as when Pete Rademacher challenged Floyd Patterson for his title in his professional debut, title challengers were experienced veterans at the top of their games.  A generation ago, the upcoming Charles Martin-Anthony Joshua fight would be a crossroads matchup of prospects clamoring for a ranking rather a 12-round fight for the “world title.”

While the notion of 12-round fights being safer than 15-round fights is debatable, the change in strategies because of the shorter limit is making its presence felt.  Over the years pacing changed and body blows are now increasingly deemed less necessary.  A fighter behind in points has to “go for the knockout” much sooner and without the benefits that a sustained body attack would have provided.  Fighters like Eusebio Pedroza, who concentrated on the body until the 12th or 13th round, would likely be forced to shift their attacks to the head as early as the ninth round. 

And because of the shorter distance, more fighters were willing to cut maximum amounts of weight than they would have if faced with three additional rounds because fighting in a potentially weakened state is more attractive to do over 12 rounds rather than 15.  Which brought about another major change right around the same time.

In order to prevent extremes in dehydration, weigh-ins were changed to the day before rather than the day of.  An extra day to rehydrate was safer, proponents stated.  It is crucial, they say, since a dehydrated brain is much more susceptible to not just the sheer force of a blow, but also the repeated cranial accelerations caused by snapping punches.  

Critics, however, point out that day before weigh-ins encourage weight cutting and as a result, cancels out any safety gains.  Some have even gone on to say that, like 12 round limits, bringing out the scales the day before has as much to do with promotional purposes as it does safety.  Promoters now have an extra day to advertise a match, especially when it involves the headline making, pushing and shoving that occur at some weigh-ins.  In the past, there was no time to report such incidents in the papers and, if they were lucky, it received a mention on the evening news.  Today, it would be trending on every social media platform for 24 hours.   

Experts are split on the topic of when a weigh-in should occur.  One thing for certain, day before weigh-ins have increasingly made a mockery of weight limits.  No longer does a light heavyweight need to weigh 175 pounds on the morning of a fight.  In fact, the IBF calls for a second weigh-in the day of and officially allows a fighter to be as much as ten pounds over the contracted weight the day of the fight.  That effectively makes the light heavyweight limit 185 pounds for IBF title fights. 

That partially explains why a former middleweight champion like Vito Antuofermo looks the same size as a modern welterweight like Paulie Malignaggi.  It also helps to explain why Marvin Hagler is dwarfed by someone like Joe Calzaghe, who is presumably only eight pounds heavier. 

Because of this allowance, Sergey Kovalev can step into the ring to defend his 175-pound title while weighing as much as 185 pounds.  In fact, according to unofficial weigh-ins, he tipped the scales as high as 188 the day of his match against Bernard Hopkins.  Consider that Rocky Marciano weighed 184 on the morning he won the heavyweight title.  The heaviest Marciano weighed in for a title fight was 189.  Instead of debating how Marciano would have fared against Wladimir Klitschko, perhaps we should debate how he would’ve fared against Sergey Kovalev. 

The Rock vs Krusher.  5’10 184-189 vs 5’11 185-188. 

HBO’s unofficial, day of, weights have seen Victor Ortiz weigh 164 instead of 147 for the Mayweather fight and Arturo Gatti tip in at 160 for his 141-pound match against Joey Gamache.  Note that Rocky Graziano weighed 154 the day he beat Tony Zale.  How about matching Graziano against Gatti on the undercard of the Kovalev – Marciano fantasy fight? 

Rocky 5'7 154 vs Arturo 5'7 161.  A junior welter vs a middle yet, because of the day before weigh- in, the junior welter is bigger.

Yes, there was a time when a middleweight weighed under 160.  That was back when one reached for the down filled parka instead of the Hawaiian Tropic during winter in New York. 



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



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.



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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