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Riddick Bowe’s Marine Corps Misadventure

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The snide remarks stung then, probably more than any legal punch he received from Evander Holyfield or even the illegal ones below the belt landed by Andrew Golota. Twenty years later, they probably still haunt Riddick Bowe as the Ghost of Christmas Past tortured Ebenezer Scrooge. If there is a difference, it is that Scrooge’s vision was private, and in it he found ultimate redemption. For Bowe, who enjoyed so much success in the ring and so little of it at the United States Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, S.C., those 11 days of chasing a boyhood dream became an exercise in humiliation that has yet to fully cease. Perhaps the taint of it all will endure forever, as will the glory of his epic, three-bout trilogy with Holyfield.

                 Riddick Bowe wasn’t as good a Marine as Gomer Pyle.

                Once he washed out of the Marines, Bowe should have become a UPS driver. That way he’d at least get to wear a uniform.

                The Marines are looking for a few good men, and Riddick Bowe ain’t one of them.

There are worse things for a former heavyweight champion – one whose accomplishments include a silver medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, ring earnings estimated at between $65 million and $100 million, depending on whose figures you choose to believe, and his 2015 induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame – to endure than 11 days of discovering that some boyhood dreams are best left in one’s boyhood. Since he voluntarily separated himself from the Corps on Feb. 20, 1997, probably as much to the Marines’ relief as to his, the man known as “Big Daddy” has seen his fortune disappear, his mental and physical health diminish, his family and so-called friends drift away, and his otherwise commendable legacy at least somewhat tarnished.

Many of the sad and bad things that have made Bowe’s rags-to-riches story a cautionary tale of how easy it is for the process to be reversed likely would have happened regardless of whether he raised his right hand and taken the oath of enlistment on Feb. 10, 1997. Was it a just a publicity stunt to call positive attention to Bowe’s then-sputtering boxing career, or to the USMC? By all rights, Bowe, at 29, should never even have been considered as a candidate for Semper Fi-dom; the age limit for joining was 28; at 6-foot-5 and a bit north of 250 pounds, he was more than 20 pounds over the weight cutoff for his height, and he had a wife and five dependent children (the limit is three) at home.

The rationale for the Marines to grant multiple waivers for the celebrity recruit remains unclear, but one thing quickly became obvious: Once in uniform, Private Bowe would have to fulfill his duties in the same prescribed manner as would his younger, poorer and non-famous platoon mates. The Marines do not provide exceptions for wannabes who enter their ranks with a measure of wealth and privilege. For someone like Bowe, who detested training for fights and being told what to do as much as he reveled in being champion of the world and living life on his own pampered terms, the strict regimentation required of a Marine – and, even more so, of a Marine recruit – was virtually guaranteed to result in severe culture shock.

Chuck Wepner, the former heavyweight contender best known for his courageous but doomed challenge of WBC/WBA titlist Muhammad Ali on March 24, 1975, as well as being the inspiration for Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa character, knew better than most what Bowe was getting himself into. Wepner was 17 and a recent high school graduate when he joined the Marines in 1956, serving three years of active duty before mustering out as a corporal.

“The training in boot camp is harder than training for any opponent, ”Wepner, who lasted until the 15th round before being stopped by Ali,told boxing writer Robert Mladinich in 1997, shortly after Bowe left for Parris Island. “Riddick is a world-class athlete and will be in better shape than most of the recruits. I’m sure he can handle the physical aspect, but the mental aspect is the toughest part. The training is built on humiliation and embarrassment. They break you down so they can build you back up as a Marine. When you are a young kid looking for answers it will make a man out of you. But Riddick is pushing 30, a family man with $100 million in the bank. How is he going to take being called `maggot’ instead of `champ’ all day long?”

Bowe wasn’t the first individual to romanticize the notion of a military life, nor will he be the last. One of 13 children raised by Dorothy Bowe in a drug- and crime-infested housing project in the same gritty Brownsville section of Brooklyn, N.Y., that spawned Mike Tyson, he spoke of wanting his mother to see him in his “dress blues at attention” and that “the Marines are the elite and I want to be part of itbefore I get too old.”

To those familiar with what Bowe had to overcome to become the splendid boxer he was during his prime, getting to wear those dress blues was not necessary to qualify as a heroic figure. He refused to yield to the lure of gangs and drugs, and took it as a personal responsibility to walk his mother to and from work to protect her from muggers on the lookout for an easy mark. But not all of his family members were so strong, or so fortunate; he lost a sister, killed by drug dealers, and a brother, killed by AIDS contracted from dirty needles.

When the mocking putdowns arose after Bowe quit the Marines after 11 days, only three of which involved actual training, the fortitude and singularity of purpose he previously had exhibited in rising above his circumstances were largely ignored.

“Parris Island has to be Disney World compared with Brownsville,” Michael Katz, then with the New York Daily News, wrote in defending Bowe as so much more than Gomer Lite. “Don’t even try to compare the mortality rates.”

But while Bowe had the courage to say no to drugs and gangs, he could not always suppress his indulgence in other areas. It was not unusual for him to gain 30 to 40 pounds between fights, and his frequently professed devotion to then-wife Judy and his five kids by her (whose images he had tattooed on his back) notwithstanding, he slept around with the reckless abandon of an alley cat. With the assistance of Florida writer John Greenburg, Bowe’s yet-unpublished memoirs, with the working title of Big Daddy Forever, includes a passage in which he speculates he might have impregnatedas many as 25 women. He also said a family friend paid for six abortions.

Little wonder that Bowe’s manager, Rock Newman, had to repeatedly urgelegendary trainer Eddie Futch, who often threatened to quit and sometimes did, to return to the fighter’s exasperated support team. Then again, Bowe himself always seemed to be looking for the exit. Sure, it was a giddy trip, thrice testing himself against a great warrior like Holyfield and pulling down some serious scratch in the process –at one point Bowe owned 26 cars, including four Rolls-Royces, and 10 houses — as well as having a private audience with the Pope in Vatican City and appearing on The Late Show With David Letterman – but at some point a fighter always has to return to the sweat, pain and monotony of the gym. To his credit, Bowe took time from his opulent and hedonistic ways to serve as a spokesman for Somalia famine relief and as a critic of South Africa’s then-official apartheid policy.

“It’s not like Bowe got money and then started hating the training,” Newman told The Washington Post in 2010. “He always hated it. There was rarely a fight – four, six, eight rounds, whatever – where Bowe didn’t want to quit. I mean, Bowe retired preparing for his second fight.”

Eventually, the lurching starts and screeching halts had to take a toll on any such athlete not named Roberto Duran, and that was never more apparent than in Bowe’s pair of disqualification victories against Golota, who was clearly winning on points in each instance until he sabotaged himself by too often targeting “Big Daddy’s” private parts. Although Bowe officially was 40-1 with 32 knockouts after the second of those matchups, he was a career-high and jiggly 252 pounds for the first, on July 11, 1996, the DQ prompting a half-hour riot in Madison Square Garden, a night which continues to live in pugilistic infamy.

Was it by coincidence or design that Bowe, searching for something he’d either lost or never found, revisited his old Marine Corps fantasy after the second referee-dictated nod over the ball-busting Golota, which took place on Dec. 14, 1996, in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall?

Bowe’s enlistment –the signup deal was for three months of boot camp at Parris Island, six weeks of combat training at Camp LeJeune, N.C., then three years of active and five years inactive Reserve duty in the Washington, D.C. area (Bowe was then living in Fort Washington, Md.) –wasn’t particularly out of the ordinary, other than the fact that most Marine enlistees aren’t granted a slew of waivers prior to holding a press conference to reveal their career pivot.

The Marines didn’t promise Bowe a rose garden prior to his affixing his signature on the enlistment documents. They had him visit Parris Island for a look-around, the better to let him know what he would be in for, and rather than to scare him off, what he saw made him even more enthusiastic. He insisted he would go in with his eyes wide open, and nothing could or would dissuade him.

The first eight days at Parris Island involved mostly paperwork and orientation. But it was that first day of actual training – up at 5 a.m., in bed at 9 p.m., with shouting drill instructors always at high, profane decibel levels – that caused Private Bowe to realize that the lifestyle change he had yearned for was not going to be a good fit. Although neither he nor anyone with the Marines familiar with his situation have spoken at length about particulars of his abbreviated stay, the consensus appears to be that multimillionaires accustomed to freedom of movement are not necessarily the best candidates for a $900.90-a-month job which requires absolute adherence to rules, regulations and a strict code of conduct that is the very essence of esprit de corps. Three days into the nitty-gritty part of his training, Bowe, as well as his friend, Deion Jordan, who was accepted with him under the USMC’s “Buddy Program,” became the first recruits to be released from Platoon 1036, C Company, 1st Recruit Battalion.

“I thought they’d probably give you a hard time for a week or so,” Bowe said. “I didn’t realize that for the 12 weeks you’re in boot camp, somebody was going to be in your face.”

Major Rick Long, then a Marine spokesman at Parris Island, said he had spoken to Bowe about his intention to voluntarily withdraw from training and that he understood, at least to a point, the boxer’s rationale for doing so. “He seemed very genuine in his desire to become a Marine,” Long noted. “However, he decided at this stage of his life that adjusting to the regimented lifestyle was too difficult. It was just a combination of being told when to eat and how fast, when to dress and how fast, and the structured environment. In Marine Corps recruit training, you are constantly supervised and you are on a very rigorous and fast-paced schedule.”

Added Marine Gunnery Sgt. Wiley Tiller: “As an athlete, he had it his way. In the Marines, you don’t have it that way. He would have been totally stripped of anything he ever was. That was probably messing with his manhood. He could have done the physical training, but being told what to do, when to do it, how to do it, that’s not easy for a 29-year-old to handle.”

Newman was of the opinion that family considerations, more so than the Marine way of doing things, likely was the primary reason for Bowe to bail. More than anything, he just might have been homesick.

“For eight years, Riddick’s spent enormous amounts of time away from his wife and family,” Newman reasoned. “The hardest part for Riddick was never in the ring, and it was never the long hours of training. It was always the separation that took place … He hated time away from his family.”

If Newman is correct, what has happened to Bowe in the aftermath of his famously futile flirtation with the Marine Corps devolves from bewildering to tragic. Two months after leaving Parris Island, Bowe abruptly announced his retirement from boxing (he later returned for three winning bouts against C-grade opponents from 2004 to 2008). A year after that, he and Judy separated, he was accused of kidnapping her and the children and forcing them into a car in Charlotte, N.C., and driving them to Maryland.  Pleading guilty to a reduced federal charge of interstate domestic violence (for  allegedly threatening Judy and the kids with a knife and pepper spray), he was convicted and, following several appeals, sentenced in January 2003 to 18 months in prison. He did the time, plus six months of house arrest, but maintains Judy and the children willingly got into his Lincoln Navigator and that “I never kidnapped anybody.”

Things would go from bad to worse. Bowe filed for bankruptcy in 2005, listing debts in excess of $4 million; his weight, always an issue when he was boxing, swelled to 300 pounds, and during the criminal proceedings against him it was revealed that he underwent neurological tests that indicated he had irreparable frontal lobe damage. Bowe does have slurred speech, but he steadfastly rejects any mental damage stemming from his 45-bout boxing career.

“I feel great,” he told The Post. “Some people tell me I talk funny, but this is the sport I chose and perhaps this is one of the downfalls. It is what it is.”

Bowe, now 49, is remarried – happily, he said, to wife Terri, with whom he has two children — and claims to have exorcised many of the demons that cast dark shadows on his frame of mind before, during and after he did his Marine thing. But, apart from the fact his once-vast fortune is gone, so are those he once welcomed into his inner circle. He no longer has any contact with his onetime Svengali, Newman, or with family members and confidantes who, he said, only wanted to be around him so long as he was paying their way.

“I really don’t have any regrets,” Bowe said in advance of his induction into the IBHOF in June 2015, dismissing some critics’ charges that he deliberately avoided squaring off against Lennox Lewis and Tyson in the pro ranks. “The fact that I fought Evander three times pretty much made up for everything else. I think those other guys (Lewis and Tyson) realize that they couldn’t have done anything better than I did when I fought Holyfield. They couldn’t even have done it as good. (Bowe won two of his three fights with Holyfield, including one by stoppage.)

“If I could change anything, the No. 1 thing is that I wouldn’t have Rock Newman as my manager. I wish I had people around me who had my best interests at heart. I wish I was more into the financial part of the game, that I had paid more attention to what was going on around me. There were meetings and stuff where I needed to be there. I really thought that (Newman) had my back. He didn’t.”

Time has a way of distorting reality to accommodate individual perspective. There are those who maintain that Bowe was unworthy of entering the hallowed halls of the IBHOF, and those who figure his 43-1 career record, with 33 KOs, made him a slam-dunk for election. There also are those who dismiss his 11 days at Parris Island as a cartoonish attempt to regain some form of relevancy, while others credit him for at least taking a few tentative steps toward realization of an inner truth that he long sought, and still lies beyond his grasp.

The real Riddick Bowe remains a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. He is that rare figure who is who he is, but only to himself. For the rest of us, he is who we choose to think of him as being. In their recruiting brochures the Marines promise that “the change is forever,” but one wonders how much change, or how permanent, can be wrought by 11 days in the broad stratosphere of life.

“I just hope Riddick finds whatever it is he’s looking for,” said Mackie Shilstone, the New Orleans-based conditioning expert who had the perplexing task of helping get Bowe ready for some of his most significant bouts. “It always seemed to me he was looking for some alter ego. I think that’s what happened when he went into the Marines. You know that was a form of escapism. He was always trying to escape from, or to, something.”

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The Ali-Shavers Fight and the Ever-Present Open Scoring Debate

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Ali defended

Saturday, Sept. 29, marks the 41st anniversary of Muhammad Ali’s last successful title defense. The 35-year-old Ali defended his WBA and WBC belts against Earnie Shavers, a devastating puncher, but otherwise limited, in Madison Square Garden. Those tuning in to the Thursday night fight on NBC, an estimated 70 million, were able to track the round-by-round scoring. And therein lies an interesting tale.

A bit of background. Technically, the first instance of open scoring, at least as it pertained to television, was to have been implemented by Ted Nathanson, producer for NBC Sports, which televised the May 11, 1977, heavyweight bout pitting Ken Norton against Duane Bobick in Madison Square Garden. Although on-site spectators would not have been privy to round-by-round scoring, the TV audience would have had such access. The grand experiment proved dead on arrival, however, when Norton needed only 58 seconds of the first round to blast out Bobick.

Nathanson was nothing if not determined, however, and he successfully lobbied for the same format to be used for the Ali-Shavers fight. As was the case for Norton-Bobick, spectators in the arena would not have the same access to the round-by-round scoring as would NBC viewers. The New York State Athletic Commission, then headed by former heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson, signed off on the arrangement with NBC with some hesitation.

John F.X. Condon, vice president of Garden Boxing, said he originally had planned to show the round-by-round scoring on the huge overhead screen to the 14,613 on-site spectators, but he decided against it. “We didn’t think it was wise,” Condon concluded. “Personally, I think it also detracts from the pleasure of watching at home. Fight fans like to get involved. They like the uncertainty of waiting for the final decision.”

Even more adamant in his opposition to open scoring, in any form, was legendary Garden matchmaker Teddy Brenner, who said he would do everything in his power to ensure that the NBC experiment would be a one-and-done, at least if he had anything to say about it. “I am against it,” Brenner stressed. “We at the Garden plan to do something about it.”

Unlike Norton-Bobick, Ali-Shavers would go the 15-round distance, with scoring on a round basis instead of the 10-point-must system now in place. Ali won by 9-5-1 on the card submitted by referee Johnny LoBianco and by 9-6 on the cards turned in by judges Tony Castellano and Eva Shain, the latter of who made history as the first woman ever to work a big-time fight. It was Ali’s 19th victorious title defense.

Garden officials were embarrassed, however, when a question of fairness was raised. The NBC telecast was shown in Ali’s dressing room, and a runner was assigned to keep Ali trainer Angelo Dundee informed of the judges’ evolving scores. The Shavers dressing room did not have similar access, which led his manager, Frank Luca, to complain of preferential treatment being granted to Ali. He said the NYSAC even attempted to obligate the fighters to use 10-ounce gloves instead of eight-ouncers, a change which was not approved but would have been detrimental to the harder-hitting challenger.

When informed of a playing field seemingly tilted to favor Ali, Patterson said the NYSAC never again would consent to open scoring at any venue in the state, be it for on-site spectators or just TV. “That will be stopped,” Patterson said. “I understand Angelo Dundee had someone running back to get him information and the other corner didn’t. That’s not fair. It could influence a fight, affect gambling in the arena with cheaters. It was not a success and it will never happen again.”

Shavers, who went into the Ali fight with a 54-5-1 record that included 52 wins inside the distance, said he might have fought differently – yeah, right – had he been apprised of the round-by-round scoring. “My corner told me I was ahead,” he lamented. “I didn’t go for the knockout. I would have put more pressure on him, taken more chances.”

Promoter Don King pushed for open scoring on May 5, 1994, at a Las Vegas press conference to hype the pay-per-view card two nights later at the MGM Grand headlined by WBC super lightweight champion Frankie Randall’s rematch with Julio Cesar Chavez, whom he had controversially outpointed nearly four months earlier.

“Progress can’t be stopped,” King said with his trademark bluster and hyperventilation. “It’s time for a change. Bring boxing out of the dark and into the light. People who go to football and basketball games know what the score is at all times. Why should boxing be the only sport where judges pass little scraps of paper back and forth and nobody else knows who’s winning until the end?”

King said he had been “excoriated and vilified” for having promoted two bouts during the previous eight months that ended in questionable decisions, and that open scoring could eliminate or reduce the problem.

“If anything controversial happens, people will be calling for (WBC president) Jose Sulaiman and me to be ridden out of town on a rail,” King continued. “One little controversy and these four great (rematches, the others being Simon Brown vs. Terry Norris, Gerald McClellan vs. Julian Jackson and Azumah Nelson vs. Jesse James Leija) suddenly become secondary. I don’t want that to happen.”

His Hairness indisputably was on target in noting that the two referenced bouts, in which Pernell Whitaker retained his WBC welterweight title on a majority draw against Chavez on Sept. 10, 1993, and Randall nipped Chavez on a split decision in large part because JCC had been docked two penalty points by referee Richard Steele, were controversial. Most ringside observers had Whitaker winning eight to 10 of the 12 rounds in San Antonio, Texas, and were it not for the two penalty points Chavez would have won a split decision instead of losing by the same margin.

Although King advocated for open scoring to be instituted immediately, he had to know that the wheels of change do not move that swiftly in Nevada or any other jurisdiction. But Marc Ratner, the executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, while expressing his own doubts as to the usefulness of open scoring, said such a proposal at least merited further scrutiny.

“For this particular card, there will be no open scoring,” Ratner said. “But we’re not ostriches. We don’t have our heads in the sand. This is an issue that should be studied.”

Studied and almost certainly likely to be rejected, as it later was by the NSAC, for reasons that to Ratner were even more glaringly obvious than those offered by King for the other course of action.

“What if two fighters accidentally butt heads in the fourth round and one of them suffers a cut?” hypothesized Ratner. “If the bleeding fighter is ahead on the scorecards, his corner might be tempted not to close the cut, thereby prompting the bout’s premature conclusion and a decision victory.”

An even more compelling reason to forever squash the notion of full-blown open scoring holds that a fighter, if he knows he is sufficiently ahead entering the late rounds to be uncatchable on the scorecards, would get on his bicycle and pedal around the ring to eliminate or at least reduce the risk of being knocked out. Such a safety-first approach would drain whatever measure of hope still existed for the losing fighter banking on a puncher’s-chance turnaround.

We haven’t heard the last of the open scoring debate. The subject came up again in the aftermath of the Golovkin-Alvarez rematch, a tightly contested bout which Alvarez won by majority decision, much to the displeasure of Golovkin and his supporters. But for now, fight fans must continue to live with the occasional scorecard that defies credulity. And while too much controversy is never a good thing, some of it helps sell the sport and keeps interest high up to and even beyond the final bell. The alternative is the elimination of uncertainty, and with it the magic that sometimes is produced when two fighters believe success hinges on giving maximum effort to the very last punch.

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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George Groves and Callum Smith Finally Meet in the WBSS Capstone

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168-pound

The 168-pound tournament of the inaugural World Boxing Super Series, an 8-man invitational, kicked off on Sept. 16 of last year with a match between Callum Smith and Erik Skoglund at Liverpool, England. Tournaments of this nature in boxing almost never play out as planned and this tourney was no exception. But on Friday we will finally crown a winner when Smith meets George Groves at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, of all places. At stake will be the coveted Muhammad Ali Trophy and the bundle of cash that comes with it and Groves’ WBA “super” world super middleweight title.

Despite the odd location, this is a domestic affair. Groves, the top seed, and Smith, the #2 seed, are both Englishmen. And if the fight were on British soil, it would have certainly drawn well. In the UK, Groves is enormously popular. His second fight with Carl Froch attracted a crowd of 80,000 at Wembley Stadium, a British post-war record eventually broken by Joshua-Klitschko.

Groves (28-3, 20 KOs) suffered his lone defeats at the hands of Froch, who defeated him twice, and Badou Jack, and there’s no shame there. Carl Froch, in the minds of many, has a plaque waiting for him at the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Jack, a title-holder in two weight classes, is currently ranked #1 as a light heavyweight by the WBA and WBC.

Although both fights with Froch ended inside the distance, both were nip-and-tuck until Froch closed the curtain. Badou Jack defeated Groves by split decision in Las Vegas.

Groves has a high boxing IQ as he demonstrated on Feb 17 in Manchester where he scored a 12-round unanimous decision over Chris Eubank Jr. Groves, observed ringside reporter Gareth Davies, “was just a step too far, too strong and ultimately too technical and experienced in the championship rounds.” Eubank’s father and trainer Chris Eubank Sr. saluted Groves for fighting the perfect fight.

The victory was bittersweet as Groves dislocated his left shoulder in the final round. It required surgery, pushing back the finale until this Friday, a full two months after the conclusion of the other WBSS tourney, for cruiserweights, the finale of which was also pushed back from the originally scheduled date. For a time the promoters seriously considered bumping Eubank into the finals in place of the incapacitated Groves but eventually thought better of it. (Eubank will appear on the undercard in a stay-busy fight against Ireland’s J.J. McDonagh.)

Callum Smith (24-0, 18 KOs) is the youngest of four fighting brothers, each of whom captured one or more regional titles. In the family, the relationship between talent and birth order is inverse, which is to say that Paul Smith, the oldest of the foursome, wasn’t as good as his younger brother Stephen and Stephen wasn’t as good as younger brother Liam.

Liam “Beefy” Smith accomplished what his two older brothers could not, winning a world title. He won the WBO 154-pound diadem in his twenty-second fight and successfully defended the belt twice before it was sheared from him by Canelo Alvarez who knocked him out in the ninth round.

If Callum Smith wins on Friday, he will be recognized by hardcore fans as a more legitimate champion than was the case with his brother Liam. That’s because Callum, who stands six-foot-three (none of his brothers is taller than 5’11”), was touted from the very onset of his career as the most gifted of the fighting Smith brothers. He solidified that opinion in November of 2015 when he knocked out Liverpool rival Rocky Fielding in the opening round. Fielding went on to win the “regular” version of the WBA 168-pound title and that remains the only blemish on his record.

In recent bouts, however, Smith hasn’t looked that sharp. His last two opponents, the aforementioned Skoglund and Neiky Holzken, lasted the full 12 rounds. The obscure Holzken, a converted kickboxer from the Netherlands, was a late sub for Juergen Braehmer who was forced to bow out of the tournament with an illness.

George Groves was a slight underdog to Eubank. On Friday, the odds favor him, but only slightly. At last look it was 13/10 which portends a very close fight. Groves has the edge in experience and in ring savvy and has fought tougher opposition, but Smith will have a three-and-a-half inch height advantage and is judged to be the harder puncher.

Fight fans in the U.S. can access the fight on the new DAZN app. Keep in mind that Saudi Arabia is seven hours ahead of New York and other precincts in the Eastern Time Zone and adjust accordingly.

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Three Punch Combo: A Bouquet for “ShoBox” and More

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THREE PUNCH COMBO — We are embarking into a new age in boxing. There are new television contracts and digital platforms available that are making the sport more visible than ever before to the masses. But with all these new deals and platforms, it is important not to forget some of the consistent programming that has been around for some time. There is no better example of this than the ShoBox series on Showtime.

ShoBox, more formally ShoBox: The New Generation, began with a simple premise of matching young prospects in with tough opposition. To get their fighters on this series, promoters would have to find credible opponents who could potentially test and maybe even upset their prized prospect. This premise has led to consistently competitive and entertaining fights in the more than 200 broadcasts since the inception of the series in 2001.

This past Friday, we saw just how this premise works once again. There was a four fight card that featured competitive fights on paper in all the matches. However, in two of those matches there did seem to be clear favorites though each of the respective fighters was being matched with their toughest foe to date.

James Wilkins and Misael Lopez opened the telecast in a 130-pound contest. Wilkins was featured in a documentary that aired on Showtime just prior to the card and was expected to make a smashing television debut. He was a knockout artist and the thought was that he would put on a show to open the telecast. But instead, Wilkins got a boxing lesson from Lopez who was busier from the outside and managed to mostly avoid the power of Wilkins throughout the contest in winning an eight round unanimous decision.

The main event featured Jon Fernandez facing O’Shaquie Foster in another 130-pound contest. Fernandez had been getting a lot of buzz and many in the sport considered the Spaniard a future star. This was supposed to be a test for Fernandez as Foster (pictured on the right) represented a step up in class, but nonetheless many expected Fernandez to pass the test with flying colors. Instead, the power punching Fernandez was clearly out-boxed by Foster for ten rounds in an entertaining fight.

These two fights showed once again that when young fighters are matched tough we often get better than expected fights that can sometimes deliver surprises. This coming Friday, the series returns with highly touted lightweight prospect Devin Haney (19-0, 13 KO’s) in the main event taking on former world title challenger Juan Carlos Burgos (33-2-2, 21 KO’s). This is a fight in which Haney is favored but one in which he is facing the toughest challenge of his young career. At the very least, this should be a test for the highly touted 19-year-old Haney and I am certain we get a compelling fight.

ShoBox is boxing’s most consistent series and one that just continues to provide fight fans with high caliber, competitive fights.

10 Percent or 10 Pounds – How To Combat Fighters Who Blow Up In Weight

It is time to address the issue of fighters gaining an absurd amount of weight following the weigh-in. There is a reason why we have weight classes in boxing. If one fighter enters the ring weighing significantly more than his opponent, it gives the bigger fighter a big advantage. This can make for not only non-competitive fights but potentially dangerous situations. I have a simple solution that I think can combat this problem.

In past articles, I have touched on the issue of fighters who miss the contracted weight. My argument has always been to implement a system with stiff financial penalties. So in a similar aspect, I think stiff financial penalties can combat the continued problem of fighters blowing up in weight after the official weigh-in.

What I propose is second day weigh-ins where fighters would not be permitted to put on more than ten pounds or 10 percent (whichever is more) of the contracted weight limit. If they are over, the fight still goes on but the fighter who misses the second day weight limit pays a substantial fine. This simple adjunct can be easily administered by the various state commissions in the United States (or any other commissions worldwide).

Here is an example:  Let’s say we have a fight contracted at 130 pounds and each fighter weighs in at 129 pounds. The second day limit would be 10 percent of 130 pounds which was the contracted weight. So each fighter could come in at a maximum of 143 pounds. Now let’s say one fighter comes in at 146 pounds. The penalty I propose would be 20 percent of that fighter’s purse per pound over the weight. And this money goes directly to their opponent. Under this example, the fighter over weight would lose 60 percent of his purse.

Zero Shouldn’t Mean That Much

We are in an era, largely due to The Floyd Mayweather Jr. Factor, where fighters are often overly protected to keep that precious zero in the loss column. But to do so, they are frequently matched with soft opposition and learn little from dismantling their overmatched foes. There is little to no growth in their career during this period and though the record may get glossy, the development of the fighter may be stunted.

Setbacks can humble fighters and make them see what needs to be done so as not to experience that feeling again. They become better overall fighters and put themselves in a better long term position in their career.

This past weekend, we saw two once promising prospects bounce back with career defining wins after suffering an early unexpected defeat. They are both now in prime position to have their respective careers blossom which may not have otherwise been the case.

Earlier I mentioned O’Shaquie Foster’s upset win against Jon Fernandez. Three years ago, Foster was a highly touted prospect. He had a good amateur background and was blessed athletically with dynamic speed. After building up an 8-0 record against less than formidable opposition, he lost in a dreadful performance to Samuel Teah. Another loss would follow several months later to Rolando Chinea. But Foster clearly learned from his mistakes in these fights and bounced back, layering his natural athletic ability with much improved skills in frankly outclassing Fernandez. Foster’s losses made him take a step back and re-evaluate what needed to be done inside the ring. He is now in prime position to become a contender in the 130-pound weight division.

Luke Campbell was a 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist and considered a can’t-miss future star in boxing. But in his 13th pro fight, in a rather shocking development, he was put on the canvas and lost a split decision to veteran Yvan Mendy. Another loss followed two years later against Jorge Linares but Campbell performed well while losing a split decision and flashed signs of improvement from the Mendy setback.

The rematch with Mendy for Campbell took place this past weekend and Campbell did what many expected him to do in their first encounter. He boxed effectively from the outside and mixed in precision combination punching to easily avenge the defeat. It was a dynamic performance by Campbell and put him in line for a big fight at lightweight.

Luke Campbell is a vastly different fighter from the one who lost to Mendy three years earlier and appears primed to potentially live up to the once high expectations. He is in a better spot today in his career due to what he learned from that first loss to Mendy.

Photo credit: Dave Mandel / SHOWTIME

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