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Terence Crawford Hopes to Embellish His Case for No. 1 on Oct. 13 on ESPN

Bernard Fernandez

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losing team

Upon the conclusion of the College Football Playoff championship game on Jan. 7 in Santa Clara, Calif., one thing you won’t see is the losing team excitedly running around the Levi’s Stadium field, smiling players and coaches on the wrong side of the score thrusting a pair of fingers skyward and shouting, “We’re No. 2!”

Maybe even more so than in team sports, boxing isn’t big on the horseshoes-and-hand grenades premise that getting close sometimes is good enough. Going home with the consolation prize is never good enough for Super Bowl and World Series runners-up, and it damn sure isn’t enough for elite, championship-level fighters who don’t have to share the glory of victory, or the disappointment of defeat, with teammates. While promoters, managers and trainers provide a measure of group support, in the ring every fighter succeeds or falters on his own. The boxer on fight night, stripped down to shoes, trunks and padded gloves, is as nearly naked and isolated as any athlete can be.

WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford (33-0, 24 KOs) defends his title against that sanctioning body’s 14th-ranked contender, Jose Benavidez Jr. (27-0, 18 KOs), in the ESPN-televised main event on Oct. 13 at the CHI Health Center in Crawford’s hometown of Omaha, Neb. It isn’t exactly a mismatch on the level of, say, Christians vs. lions in the Roman Colosseum, but it would be quite the stunner if the challenger were to upset someone who is regarded in some quarters (but not as many as he would like) as the finest pound-for-pound fighter in the world, and by most everyone else as a highly qualified aspirant to that designation.

Crawford is 30, still in the most productive phase of his prime, and although he saying all the right things – he is focusing solely on Benavidez, yada, yada, yada – there is a part of him that realizes he is and likely will continue to be embroiled in an ongoing quest with Top Rank stablemate Vasiliy Lomachenko for recognition of a higher sort than some alphabet organization’s bejeweled belt. He staunchly believes he is A-No. 1, king of the hill, top of the heap, and summarily dismissing the more than competent Benavidez is not apt to move the needle much toward his universal acceptance as the best of the best.

When the matchup with Benavidez was announced, Crawford said the intramural rivalry with Lomachenko, which is not apt to ever be settled inside the ropes, given their weight differences (Loma, the WBA lightweight champ, already has moved up two divisions and might not have the frame to go much higher), is only a figment of other people’s imagination.

“I am the best fighter in the world, hands down. If I have a vote, I vote for myself,” Crawford said with the finality of someone who is cocksure of his own ability and brooks no dissent.

During a conference call with the media on Thursday to discuss his first defense of the 147-pound title he gained with an almost perfunctory ninth-round stoppage of Australia’s Jeff Horn on June 9, Crawford did little to camouflage his feelings about the matter, even if he did sort of dance around it a bit in a nod toward false modesty and political correctness.

Asked about who should be the consensus pick for that coveted No. 1 spot, Crawford said, “It depends on who you ask. Some people rate me No. 1, some people rate me No. 2. I can’t complain if I’m in the top two in almost everybody’s ratings.”

From the perspective of Top Rank executives, however, the polls have closed and fight fans should pledge fealty to the company’s preferred candidate, Crawford, to assume the role previously held by such legendary pound-for-pound monarchs as Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali and Roy Jones Jr.

“Terence `Bud’ Crawford is the world’s best boxer,” Top Rank founder and CEO Bob Arum, who was not on the conference call, said some weeks back, a reversal of his previous endorsement of Ukrainian sensation as numero uno.

Top Rank president Todd duBoef, who was on the conference call, also cast his ballot for the Omaha, Neb., fighter, whom he described as “the gold standard in boxing” who has “just electrified everybody with both boxing skill and power. When Terence Crawford gets in the ring, it’s like Alabama in football. He is that dominant.”

The question of “Who’s really No. 1?” is, of course, always a matter of opinion. Maybe Lomachenko simply doesn’t concern himself with an unofficial and arbitrary title, even if he has already been awarded it on several fronts. Perhaps Top Rank is especially sensitive to stroking Crawford’s ego, which might be a sound business decision in light of the fact that there potentially are a raft of better and more profitable fights to be made in a deep welterweight division than for Lomachenko at 135 pounds.

Going to the scorecards, as it were, it would appear that Lomachenko is slightly ahead in the chase for No. 1. He has the top spot to Crawford’s No. 2 in the Boxing Writers Association of America P4P ratings, as well as those listed by The Ring magazine, ESPN and Boxing News. Boxingscene.com has Crawford at No. 1 and Lomachenko second, with the outliers being World Boxing News, which has Loma first and Crawford an almost-unfathomable fifth, and Newsday, which places Loma first and Crawford third.

Moving forward, Crawford would appear to have the better chance of enhancing his claim to No. 1 if – and it’s a big if – Top Rank is able to tear down some of the barricades that presently separate the Nebraskan and fellow welter champs Errol Spence Jr. (IBF), Keith Thurman (WBA “super”) and Shawn Porter Jr. (WBC).

Porter claimed the vacant WBC title with a close unanimous decision over Danny Garcia on Sept. 9 in Brooklyn, whereupon Spence, who appeared at the postfight press conference, said it was “unlikely” he would ever swap punches with Crawford because, being affiliated with Premier Boxing Champions honcho Al Haymon, who deals almost exclusively with Fox and Showtime, he was “on the other side of the street” from Crawford, who is under contract to ESPN. Thurman is now with British promoter Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing and Porter with PBC, making for an obstacle-strewn path to making bouts that a lot of fight fans would want to see. Compounding matters is the fact that Arum has cast Haymon as his newest arch-rival, sliding into the spot previously occupied by Don King and then Richard Schaefer.

But duBoef said that where there’s a will, there probably is a way to get a deal done. He said he and Top Rank are ready to storm all enemy battlements if by doing so it would gain Crawford the sort of marquee opponents that would make him as big a star as his obvious skills suggest.

“I want to make this crystal-clear,” duBoef said. “With our re-signing of Terence, regardless of (any other fighter’s affiliation), we will take on all comers. That’s it. We don’t care where you are, what you do, we will take on all comers.

“Terence is an elite fighter. When there was a nice welterweight fight in early September (Porter-Garcia), all they did was talk about Terence Crawford. Terence wants to fight the biggest; we want to provide him with the biggest. We’re going after all those (other welterweight champions). If they want to do it and we want to do it, let’s just get it done. We’ll figure out a solution.”

Step one involves Crawford, who has become his home state’s best feel-good sports story when measured against the utter collapse of the University of Nebraska’s proud football tradition, which looks and smells like No. 2 of another sort, getting past Benavidez. It should be a relative gimme, but if history means anything there is this to consider.

The path to No. 1, like that to love, never runs smooth.

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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Allen (KO 3) and Chisora (UD 10) Victorious in Heavyweight Action in London

Arne K. Lang

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Heavyweights Allen & Chisora win

A pair of heavyweight battles topped the card at London’s 02 Arena. Both favorites won, but neither bout played out as expected.

Fan favorite David Allen, a 27-year-old Yorkshireman, continued his ascent from the lower depths of the boxing firmament with a one-punch knockout of Australia’s  heavily-tattooed Lucas Browne. Allen caved in Browne with a body punch in the third round that brought a sudden end to a bout that the Aussie appeared to be winning.

Browne, who turned 40 this month, made history when he became the first Australian to win a world heavyweight title (WBA version) when he scored a 10th round stoppage of Ruslan Chagaev in Russia. But, in hindsight, that win was a fluke. A gassed-out Chagaev was widely ahead on the cards when his roof fell in. Browne’s tenure was brief. He was stripped of the belt after testing positive for clenbuterol.

Allen, nicknamed the White Rhino, has now won four straight beginning with an upset of previously undefeated Nick Webb. His reputation is that of a common brawler, a fighter willing to take two punches to land one, but, regardless, he positioned himself for a nice payday or two going forward. Browne lost his second straight after opening his career 28-0.

The maddeningly inconsistent Dereck Chisora, who engaged in two barnburners with Dillian Whyte, snoozed his way to a 10-round unanimous decision over milquetoast Senad Gashi. The 35-year-old Chisora, a Zinbabwe-born Londoner, improved to 30-9 but did nothing to improve his stock. The well-traveled Gashi, born in Kosovo and now residing in Spain, declined to 17-3 while acquiring the patina of a trial horse.

Other Bouts

Welterweight Josh Kelly, a 2016 Olympian, won a lopsided 10-round decision over stubborn Przemysla Runowski. Kelly (9-0, 6 KOs) had Runowski on the canvas in rounds two, nine, and 10, but the previously undefeated Pole (now 17-1, 3 KOs) stayed the course. Kelly appeared to hurt his hand early in the fight. That may knock him off the Joshua-TBA card on June 1 at Madison Square Garden.

Joe Cordina, a Welshman, now holds the British and Commonwealth lightweight titles after scoring a 6th round stoppage of Yorkshireman Andy Townend (22-5). Cordina started slowly but gradually picked up the pace and scored three knockdowns before the referee waived it off. A 2016 Olympian, Cordina (9-0, 7 KOs) was a heavy favorite despite a dearth of pro experience.

Conor Benn the 22-year-old son of Nigel Benn, was extended the distance for the third time in his last four fights but had little difficulty advancing his record to 14-0 (9) at the expense of Josef Zahradnik (10-3) of the Czech Republic. The referee awarded Benn every round in this 8-round welterweight affair.

Middleweight Nikita Ababiy, a hot prospect with a big upside, was extended into the second round for the first time in his young pro career but eliminated Dmitri Faltin after only 26 seconds of round two. A 20-year-old Brooklynite of Russian extraction, nicknamed White Chocolate, Ababiy (4-0) excelled in all manner of combat sports as teenager. In the ring he doesn’t pussyfoot around. He won his pro debut in 28 seconds. Faltin, a 37-year-old Finn, fell to 2-4-1.

John Harding Jr., a 34-year-old middleweight, improved to 7-0-1 with a one-sided 6-round decision over Miroslav Juna (1-2). A protégé of Dillian Whyte, Harding started his pro career late after serving several stints in prison.

Cruiserweight Sam Hyde (14-1-1, 7 KOs) rebounded from his first defeat in fine fashion, blowing out Slovakia’s Josef Jurko (5-2) in the opening round.

Super bantamweight Sam Cox (4-0) won a 4-round decision over Bulgaria’s Georgi Georgiev.

In a woman’s fight, British bantamweight Shannon Courtenay (2-0) outpointed Bulgaria’s Roz Mari Silyanova (1-5-1). The ref gave Courtenay all four rounds.

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BWAA Writing Awards Announced: The Sweet Science Earns Multiple Citations

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BWAA Awards

The Boxing Writers Association of America has announced their annual Bernie Awards which recognize excellence in boxing journalism. Five stories that ran on this web site earned commendations.

TSS editor-in-chief Arne K. Lang copped first place in the category “Boxing Feature Under 1,500 Words.” Springs Toledo and Thomas Hauser earned third place ribbons, Toledo in the category “Best Column” and Hauser in “Boxing Investigative Reporting,” a category in which he has excelled. In addition, TSS New England correspondent Jeffrey Freeman and Sean Nam earned Honorable Mentions, Freeman in “Boxing Feature Under 1,500 Words” and Nam for an investigative reporting piece.

Four TSS correspondents – Toledo, Hauser, Kelsey McCarson, and Nam – were honored for stories that appeared on other web sites.

Springs Toledo, who has had the most abundant haul of BWAA writing awards since 2010 was omnipresent once again, earning five citations overall including a first place finish for “Boxing Feature Over 1,500 Words.” The multi-decorated Thomas Hauser also achieved a first place finish, this in the category “Boxing News Story.” Kelsey McCarson tied for first in “Boxing Column” and Sean Nam came in third in “Boxing Feature Under 1500 Words.”

What follows is the full press release authored by Awards Chairman BERNARD FERNANDEZ. A TSS mainstay, Fernandez is a former five-term president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

PRESS RELEASE: Toledo, Kriegel, Boxing News Top BWAA Writing Contest

Springs Toledo and Mark Kriegel scored highest among individual entrants, while Boxing News/BoxingNewsOnline.com topped the overall sweepstakes in the 18th annual Boxing Writers Association of America writing contest. Those who placed in the contest, which drew a record 147 submissions from a record 49 media representatives who cover the sport, will be recognized at the 94th annual BWAA Awards Ceremony, to be held May 31 at the Copacabana in New York City.

 Toledo, a Boston native and frequent honoree in the BWAA writing contest, led all entrants with 14 points on a scoring system of five points for a first place, three for second, two for third and one for an honorable mention. In the blind judging, in which all bylines and other identifying marks were removed beforehand before being forwarded to a distinguished panel of sports journalists and academics, Toledo took a first in Feature (Over 1,500 words), seconds in Investigative Reporting and a tie for Feature (Under 1,500 Words), a tie for third in Event Coverage and an honorable mention in Column. He spread the wealth around, too, with submissions for Boxing News, thesweetscience.com and City Journal.

 Kriegel, who took first places in both Feature categories in the 2017 contest, was again a major factor in multiple categories, totaling 12 points. He took first place in Investigative Reporting, seconds in Feature (Under 1,500 Words) and Feature (Over 1,500 Words) and an HM in Column, all for ESPN.com.

Other first places went to Arne K. Lang, editor of thesweetscience.com in Feature (Under 1,500 Words); Paul Wheeler of Boxing News in Event Coverage and Kelsey McCarson of NYFights.com (tie) in Column.

Boxing News and BoxingNewsOnline.com, based in the United Kingdom, stormed the BWAA contest like the Beatles coming to America in 1964, totaling 27 points on two firsts, three seconds, a third and five HMs. ESPN.com was next with 16 points, followed by thesweetscience.com and BoxingScene.com with 11 apiece.

 The entire list of placing entrants:

2018 BERNIE WINNERS

BOXING EVENT COVERAGE

First Place

PAUL WHEELER, “Win-Win for Usyk and Bellew,” Boxing News, November 11, 2018

Second Place

MATTHEW AGUILAR, “Vargas, Dulorme Draw is WBC Silver Welterweight,” The Associated Press, October 7, 2018

Third Place (Tie)

LANCE PUGMIRE, “Wilder – Fury Embodied the Greatness of Heavyweight Boxing of Yesteryear,” Los Angeles Times, December 2, 2018,

SPRINGS TOLEDO, “Art and Heroism in a Corrupted Sport,” thesweetscience.com, December 3, 2018

Honorable Mention: Tris Dixon, BoxingScene.com; Lee Groves,CompuBoxTV.com; Gordon Marino, TheDailyBeast.com; Kieran Mulvaney, InsideHBOBoxing.com; Cliff Rold, BoxingScene.com; Don Stradley, Ringside Seat; Chris Walker, BoxingNewsOnline.net.

BOXING COLUMN

First Place (Tie)

THOMAS GERBASI, “Beyond the Ring, The Next Fight,” BoxingScene.com, December 26, 2018

KELSEY McCARSON, “Tyson Fury, Mental Health and Vunerability,” NYFights.com, June 8, 2018

Second Place (Tie)

DON STRADLEY, “Goodbye to All That,” donstradley.blogspot.com, December 29, 2018

ELLIOT WORSELL, “Joe Fournier is the 11th Best Light-Heavyweight in the World – Apparently,” Boxing News, March 29, 2018

Third  Place

GREG BISHOP, “In Search of a Happy Ending to Boxing Career, Manny Pacquiao is Following a Familiar, Sad Trajectory Instead,” Sports Illustrated, January 12, 2018

Honorable Mention: Tris Dixon, Boxingscene.com; Mark Kriegel, ESPN.com; Kieran Mulvaney, Boxing News; Springs Toledo, Boxing News

BOXING NEWS STORY

First Place

THOMAS HAUSER, “Curtis Harper Goes Viral,” The Sporting News, August 29, 2018

Second Place

NORM FRAUENHEIM, “Bob Arum on the Passing of ‘The Boxing Senator’ John McCain: ‘He Was a Great American,’” RingTV.net, August 25, 2018

Third Place (Tie)

DON STRADLEY, “DeMarco is In!,” donstradley.blogspot.com; December 31, 2018

LEE GROVES, “Farewell to a Boxing Lifer, Don Chargin, the Last Gentleman Promoter,” CompuBoxTV.com, September 29, 2018

Honorable Mention: Lance Pugmire, Los Angeles Times; Dan Rafael, ESPN.com.

BOXING FEATURE (Under 1,500 words)

First Place

ARNE K. LANG, “Christmas Day in Germany with Sugar Ray Robinson,” thesweetscience.com, December 24, 2018

Second Place (Tie)

JOHN DENNEN, “Thank God I’m Not a World Champion,” Boxing News, September 16, 20128

MARK KRIEGEL, “The Old Man and the Kid: Alex Saucedo Fighting for a Title and His Mentor’s Legacy,” ESPN.com, November 13, 2018

CLIFF ROLD, “Golovkin, Hopkins, Monzon: The Record at Middleweight,” BoxingScene.com, May 2, 2018

SPRINGS TOLEDO, “The Quiet Man,” Boxing News, October 25, 2018

Third Place

SEAN NAM, “Eleider Alvarez Stuns Sergey Kovalev,” UCNLive.com, August 10, 2018

Honorable Mention: Ron Borges, Boxing Monthly; Thomas Gerbasi, The Ring; David Weinberg, Press of Atlantic City; Jeffrey Freeman, thesweetscience.com; Lance Pugmire, Los Angeles Times

BOXING FEATURE (Over 1,500 words)

First Place

SPRINGS TOLEDO, “The Historian: Mike Tyson and the Ghost of Boxing’s Past,” Boxing News, March 22, 2018

Second Place

MARK KRIEGEL, “The Education of Terence Crawford,” ESPN.com, June 9, 2018

Third Place

TRIS DIXON, “A Warrior’s Brain,” Boxing News, August 2, 2018

Honorable Mention: Matthew Aguilar, El Paso Times; Thomas Gerbasi, Boxing News; Lance Pugmire, Los Angeles Times; Dan Rafael, ESPN.com; Don Stradley, The Ring

BOXING INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

First Place

MARK KRIEGEL, “A Unique Family Dynamic and the Shooting Nobody Wants to Talk About: The Jose Benavidez Jr. Story,” ESPN.com, October 13, 2018

Second Place

SPRINGS TOLEDO, “191 Edgecombe,” City Journal, Summer 2018

Third Place

THOMAS HAUSER, “1,501 Tests, One Reported Positive? What’s Going on with the USADA and Boxing?,” thesweetscience.com, September 7, 2018 and December 7, 2018

Honorable Mention: Ron Borges, Boxing Monthly; Matt Christie, Boxing News; Jack Hirsch, Boxing News; Sean Nam, thesweetscience.com; Adam Pollack,Boxinginsider.com; Lance Pugmire, Los Angeles Times; Joseph Santoliquito, PremierBoxingChampions.com

 News Outlets

  1. Boxing News/BoxingNewsOnline.net (27 points) 
  2. ESPN.com (16)
  3. THESWEETSCIENCE.COM(11); BoxingScene.com (11)
  4. NYFights.com (7)
  5. Los Angeles Times (6)
  6. The Ring/RingTV.com (5)
  7. The Sporting News (5)
  8. The Associated Press (3); CompuBox.com (3); City Journal (3); DonStradley.blogspot.com (3)
  9. Sports Illustrated (2); Boxing Monthly (2); UCNLLive.com (2)
  10. El Paso Times (1); PremierBoxingChampions.com (1); Ringside Seat (1); The Press of Atlantic City (1); Boxinginsider.com (1); The Daily Beast (1); InsideHBOBoxing.com (1); BoxingNews (1)

2018 BERNIES JUDGES:

MICHAEL HIRSLEY, Chicago Tribune (Retired)

FRANZ LIDZ, Sports Illustrated (Retired)

THOMAS MACDONALD, Novelist and Boston College Writing Instructor

JOHN SCHULIAN, Chicago Sun-Times (Retired)

JOHN WHISLER, San Antonio Express News (Retired)

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Erick Ituarte Wins Featherweight Battle in Ontario, CA

David A. Avila

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Ituarte

ONTARIO, CA.-Looking to make waves as a featherweight, Santa Ana’s Erick Ituarte battled Tijuana’s Jose Estrella evenly before pulling away in the last third of the fight to win by decision on Friday.

Ituarte (21-1-1, 3 KOs) lacks the big punch but has the long arms that enabled him to keep distance and out-point the shorter Estrella (20-16-1, 14 KOs) in their 10-round bout at the Doubletree Hotel. Thompson Boxing Promotions staged the fight card that saw about 500 fans at the event.

Estrella used his guts and guile to keep the fight close in the first four rounds of the fight. Back and forth they went trading momentum, Ituarte was effective attacking the body and Estrella was good at connecting with big blows to the head.

It wasn’t until the seventh round that Ituarte began utilizing his reach and mobility to make Estrella chase and run into pot shots. From that moment on Ituarte was in control of the fight. No knockdowns were scored with one judge scoring it 98-92 and two others 100-89 for Ituarte. Each round was very competitive.

Other bouts

Corona’s Luis Lopez (5-0, 3 KOs) powered his way to victory by unanimous decision over Mexico’s Daniel Perales (10-17-2, 5 KOs) after four rounds in a welterweight match. Though Lopez won every round with sharper punches he was never able to hurt the super tough Mexican fighter from Monterrey. He recognized that early and used crisp combinations to win each round though Perales had his moments too. All three judges scored it 40-36 for Lopez.

A heavyweight fight saw local fighter Oscar Torres (5-0, 2 KOs) run his record to five wins with a fourth round stoppage over Houston’s Thomas Hawkins (4-4) after a barrage of punches. The fight was stopped twice in the fourth round and a final barrage of blows prompted referee Tony Crebs to halt the fight at 1:20 of the round. Torres fights out of Rialto, California and is trained by Henry Ramirez.

Lightweights Davonte McCowen (0-0-1) and Chris Crowley (0-0-1) fought to a majority draw after four torrid rounds. Both were making their pro debuts. McCowen started faster and slowed in the last two rounds that allowed Britain’s Crowley to mount a rally in the last two rounds. It was a spirited fight between the two newcomers.

Photo credit: Alonzo Coston

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