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3 Punch Combo: Truax’s Improbable Upset, a Winky Wright Flashback and More

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THREE PUNCH COMBO — Caleb Truax (29-3-2, 18 KO’s) stunned the boxing world this past Saturday scoring a majority decision win against the heavily favored James DeGale (23-2-1, 14 KO’s) to win a 168-pound belt. Truax is a great story of perseverance and seizing the moment in this sport. Ironically, nearly 20 years ago to the day another major upset also took place with a fighter in a very similar spot to that of Truax.

In 1997, Top Rank was seeking opponents for their cash cow Oscar De La Hoya. That year, they signed Terry Norris with the idea of matching Norris with De La Hoya sometime in 1998 in a big pay-per-view event. With the fight essentially signed, Top Rank wanted to build that event by placing Norris and De La Hoya together on a big card. De La Hoya would headline on December 6th, 1997 in Atlantic City, NJ against Wilfredo Rivera while Norris would have his showcase bout as the chief support against journeyman Keith Mullings.

Mullings entered the ring that night with a pedestrian record of 14-4-1 and was coming off a hard fought loss to Raul Marquez three months earlier. Known as a durable guy with limited skills and not much of a punch, Mullings seemed to be the perfect safe opponent to showcase the abilities of Norris and help build toward a super fight with De La Hoya.

In the early going, the fight went to script. Norris controlled the early rounds and seemed to be on his way to an easy victory. But midway through the scheduled 12-round fight, Mullings began bouncy castle with pool to slowly turn the tide. After scoring a knockdown of Norris in round eight, the realization began to seep in that we could be in store for a mega upset. In the ninth, Mullings hurt Norris and pounced on him, throwing a barrage of punches which eventually forced the referee to stop the contest.

Similar to Norris, DeGale seemingly had a big fight lined up himself with a unification bout with David Benavidez on the horizon. Much like Mullings, Truax was hand-picked to showcase the skills of DeGale prior to him going on to bigger things. And similar to Mullings, Truax refused to read that script. Instead, Truax had a plan of his own and executed that plan to perfection to pull the stunning upset. Now it is Truax who is on the brink of much bigger things as we head into 2018.

Remembering Winky Wright’s First Attempt at a World Title

The International Boxing Hall of Fame announced its class of 2018 this past week and one of the inductees in the Modern category was Ronald “Winky” Wright. Wright had an amazing career and is well deserving of being enshrined in Canastota. It was a career of patience and perseverance as he is remembered most for the bouts that took place toward the tail end of his career. What has been forgotten about Wright are some of his earlier fights and the long journey he took to reach the pinnacle of the sport.

Caleb Truax

One of Wright’s most memorable fights from the early part of his career was his first attempt at a world title against Julio Cesar Vasquez on August 21, 1994 in France. Wright (25-0, 18 KO’s) was still relatively green at this point in his career and was facing a very seasoned champion in Vasquez (50-1, 35 KO’s) who had held the title for nearly two years, having already made eight successful defenses.

Wright set a blistering pace in the first round, beating Vasquez to the punch working fast combinations behind a stiff right jab. The second round saw a little controversy as a counter right hand from Wright put Vasquez on the canvas but was not counted as an official knockdown. Later in that round, Vasquez would land his first significant punch of the fight with a counter left uppercut that put Wright on the canvas. This was counted as a knockdown and Wright arose willing to go toe to toe with Vasquez as the round came to a close.

The next three rounds saw Wright work combinations behind the jab and out-box Vasquez. Wright’s speed and boxing ability were giving the aggressive Vasquez all sorts of issues.

In round six, Wright appeared to be getting a little tired. Vasquez’s pressure seemed to be getting to him and Vasquez enjoyed his best round since the second, landing with consistency a hard left to Wright’s head.

Wright was dropped for the second time in the fight in the seventh. But he would get up again and after surviving the initial onslaught go to war with Vasquez for the remainder of the round. The eighth saw Wright turn the tables and hurt Vasquez with a sweeping right hook. It would be the best round for Wright since the fifth.

But again in round nine, Wright would get deposited on the canvas, this time from an overhand left.  Wright was visibly hurt but resilient, not only in getting to his feet but surviving the remainder of the round.

Looking fatigued, Wright’s punch output slowed the next two rounds as Vasquez stepped up the pressure, raking Wright with hard shots to the head and body. In the twelfth and final round, Vasquez would put a totally gassed Wright down two more times. Wright did well just to hear the bell.

The decision would be unanimous for Vasquez. But this was one tremendous fight and a learning experience for Wright who showed incredible courage and fortitude. He fought his heart out and though he came up short this night set the foundation for what would later become a Hall of Fame career.

Under The Radar Fights

Well the last big boxing weekend of 2017 is upon us. There is plenty of action in store before a bit of a reprieve. With so many bouts, there are bound to be some that are flying severely under the radar.

On Friday as part of the PBC on FS1 broadcast, Jamal James (21-1, 9 KO’s) battles Diego Chaves (26-2-1, 22 KO’s) in an evenly matched 147-pound crossroads fight. James was once a highly-thought-of prospect but a 2016 loss to Yordenis Ugas knocked James back a rung on the ladder. He rebounded earlier this year with a solid win against former world title challenger Ionut Dan Ion and looks to build on that performance against Chaves.

James has solid skills and is a well-rounded fighter. A boxer-puncher by trade, he will look to work behind the jab using his legs to set up angles to fire off combinations. James has a bit of slickness to him and will need that against Chaves. Chaves knows only one way to fight and that is to bring pressure from the opening bell. He will look to make this a rough and tumble fight on the inside. And Chaves will not be afraid to bend the rules some to lure James out of his game plan into a firefight. It is an interesting clash of styles and should be a solid entertaining scrap.

On Saturday as part of HBO’s tripleheader, once-beaten 160 pound prospect Antoine Douglas (22-1-1, 16 KO’s) takes on rugged veteran Gary O’Sullivan (26-2, 18 KO’s) in a scheduled 10-round contest. Douglas is a skilled prospect who seemed to be on the verge of a title shot before getting derailed by Avtandil Khurtsidze in March of 2016. Since that loss, Douglas has scored three straight knockout wins, albeit against less than formidable opposition. Douglas is athletically gifted and possesses very fast hands. He is a natural boxer puncher and will work combinations with his quick hands behind a sharp left jab.

In O’Sullivan, Douglas is facing an opponent in a similar mode to Khurtsidze. O’Sullivan will apply constant pressure. He may not be a one punch knockout guy but has relatively heavy hands and will try to overwhelm opponents with volume. O’Sullivan is not known for his defense and opponents usually find him to be a very easy target. He can be out-boxed by more skilled fighters as evidenced in his two losses to Billy Joe Saunders and Chris Eubank Jr. The question here is whether or not Douglas can get the respect of O’Sullivan early to discourage him from unloading a high volume of punches. If Douglas can, it could be easy work for him. If he can’t, we may see a replay of the Khurtsidze fight.

It has been quite a year in boxing in 2017. And we are going out with a bang with one last big week of action. Though the above fights may not be getting the press of some of the other bouts taking place this coming week, these should be entertaining fights and should not be missed.

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

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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.

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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

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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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