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Weekend Recap: Garcia, Relikh, and Prograis Bring Home the Bacon

entertaining and when the smoke cleared Mikey Garcia claimed his fourth world title, Kiryl Relikh stood tall, and the star of Regis Prograis shined even brighter,

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The 140-pound division took center stage on the second weekend of March with two world title fights and two other matches in the weight class bearing the label of a title eliminator. Overall, the bouts were entertaining and when the smoke cleared Mikey Garcia claimed his fourth world title, Kiryl Relikh stood tall, and the star of Regis Prograis shined even brighter.

FREEMAN COLISEUM, SAN ANTONIO

Mikey Garcia improved to 38-0 (30) and captured the IBF 140-pound title with a unanimous decision over Sergey Lipinets who was making his first defense. A former European kickboxing champion, Lipinets (13-1) did his best work in the middle rounds although Garcia landed the best punch of the fight, a counter left hook that knocked the Kazakhstani to the mat in round seven.

In an upset, Kiryl Relikh claimed the vacant WBA 140-pound title with a clear-cut decision over previously undefeated Rances Barthelemy who was bidding to become the first boxer from Cuba to win world titles in three weight classes. Relikh (22-2, 19 KOs), who threw more than twice as many punches, won 10 of the 12 rounds on two of the scorecards and nine rounds on the other.

This was a rematch. Barthelemey won the first meeting in May of last year, prevailing by margins of 4, 6, and 8 points, tallies that were widely denounced as too wide. There was no controversy tonight as the Belarusian was in control from the get-go. It was the first pro loss for the Las Vegas-based Barthelemy who was 26-0 going in.

Fighting before his hometown fans, hot prospect Mario Barrios, yet another junior welterweight, knocked out Eudy Bernardo (23-3) of the Dominican Republic in the second round with a perfectly placed right hand. This was the second time that Bernardo was on the wrong side of a one-punch knockout. Mason Menard turned the trick in April of 2016. Bernardo appears to have a glass jaw. The steadily improving 22-year-old Barrios (21-0, 13 KOs) has stopped each of his last five opponents.

In an exciting lightweight contest, Ghana’s Richard Commey (26-2, 23 KOs) took a major step toward a rematch with reigning IBF lightweight champion Robert Easter Jr. with a sixth round stoppage of previously undefeated Alejandro Luna (22-1) of Bellflower, California. Commey and Easter Jr. fought for the vacant IBF strap in September of 2016 with Commey losing a split decision.

STUB HUB

Fighting in a steady rain, WBO world featherweight champion Oscar Valdez (24-0, 19 KOs) overcame a bad cut inside his mouth to upend Scott Quigg (34-2-2) by unanimous decision. A two-time Olympian making his fourth title defense, Valdez won by comfortable margins on the scorecards (117-110, 118-109 twice) but had several anxious moments against his bigger adversary who rarely took a backward step. Quigg came in almost three pounds over the 126-pound limit, so the title was at stake only for Valdez.

Someone’s “O” had to go said ring announcer Michael Buffer before the 10-round junior lightweight contest between 20-0 Andy Vences and 17-0 Erick DeLeon, but Buffer was wrong. The match was scored a draw. The fight was devoid of fireworks but relatively entertaining as the combatants were well-matched.

Alex Saucedo had a more difficult time than expected before putting away Tijuana’s Abner Lopez in the seventh frame of a 10-round junior welterweight contest. Saucedo ate a lot of leather but gave more than he got before ending the contest with a left hook to the liver. An Oklahoma City product who trains with Abel Sanchez in Big Bear, Saucedo advanced to 27-0 (17). Lopez declined to 21-9.

Andy Ruiz, making his first start in 15 months, made short work of Devin Vargas, taking him out in the opening round. Ruiz, who improved to 30-1 (20), came in at a pudgy 260 ½ pounds, giving him a 43-pount weight advantage. The 36-year-old Vargas, once considered a very promising prospect, has lost five of his last eight with all five losses inside the distance.

GAY PAREE

Earlier in the day in Paris, France, WBA junior middleweight champion Brian Castano (15-0, 11 KOs) had all the best of veteran Cedric Vitu (46-3) before stopping him in the final round. The match was live streamed in the United States for free on Richard Schaefer’s Ringstar Sports digital platform.

Castano, a highly decorated amateur, is rated in some quarters the best of the current crop of Argentine fighters. He holds the title vacated by Demetrius Andrade.

DEADWOOD

The best performance of the weekend was turned in by fast rising junior welterweight Regis Prograis who blew away former WBA/IBF 140-pound world titlist Julius Indongo inside two rounds at the Deadwood Mountain Grand Casino in historic Deadwood, South Dakota. Prograis knocked Indongo off balance with the first two punches that he landed. The Namibian was on the floor four times before referee Ian-John Lewis decided that he had seen enough.

A southpaw, the undefeated (21-0) Prograis has knocked out 14 of his last 15 opponents. The colorful New Orleans native is now a client of Churchill Management, an agency led by Hollywood heavyweights Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg, but when it comes to “building his brand” his best assets are his fists. When the pound-for-pound lists are updated, look for his name to appear. Prograis is the real deal.

The chief undercard match was another contest in the 140-pound weight class. The match between transplanted Russians Ivan Baranchyk and Petr Petrov was a one-sided affair. Baranchyk, based in Brooklyn, had too much firepower for the globetrotting Petrov, a late replacement for Sweden’s Anthony Yigit. The end came in round eight. Petrov was being hammered against the ropes when referee Mark Nelson intervened.

The IBF garbed the bout an eliminator, putting the victorious Baranchyk (17-0, 11 KOs) in line to fight the winner of the next day’s contest between Mikey Garcia and Sergey Lipinets. Petrov, a two-time world title challenger, declined to 38-6-2.

In another bout of note, New Zealand heavyweight Junior Fa improved to 14-0 with a messy 8-round majority decision over Detroit’s Craig Lewis (14-2-1), a former National Golden Gloves champion.

OC FAIRGROUNDS

Also on Friday, junior featherweight Azat Hovhannisyan scored a sixth round stoppage over heavily favored Ronnie Rios at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, California. Hovhannisyan, with Freddie Roach in his corner, scored the biggest win of his young career.

Through the completed rounds of the action-packed fight, the LA-based Armenian was up by one point on one of the cards whereas the other judges had it even. Hovannisyan improved to 14-2 (11). Rios, a former world title challenger who was fighting within a few miles of his home, declined to 29-3.

Alexis Rocha (11-0, 8 KOs), the 20-year-old brother of Rios, salvaged the day for the home folks with a first round stoppage of Tijuana’s Miguel Dumas on the undercard.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

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Photo: Amanda Westcott – Showtime Boxing

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

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Arum says Terence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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