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RASKIN’S RANTS: From Unwarranted DQs To Unwarranted Blurcles

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VazquezMarquezIV_Hogan11Vazquez-Arce does seem like a fine scrap on paper. TSS-EM thinks Rafael is a step closer to the end of the line than is Arce. What say you, TSS Universe? (Hogan)

As a lifelong Philly sports fan, I suppose I have to open this week’s column by commenting on the almost embarrassing bounties reaped by my football and baseball franchises this weekend. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Eagles, behind a dog-killing ex-con quarterback and more blockbuster free agent signings than the rest of the NFL combined, become one of the top four teams America loves to hate this year (joining the Cowboys, Patriots, and Steelers). But if they finally win a Super Bowl, that’s fine by me. Meanwhile, the Phillies managed to add another All-Star bat on Friday without giving up a single major leaguer and then swept the Pirates (not even requiring any help from the umps, it should be noted). According to one website I just checked (in other words, I did research, but only the bare minimum), the Phils currently have the shortest odds to win the World Series (+230, just ahead of the Red Sox at +240).

On the one hand, I’m thrilled to see my teams spending money that is not mine and possibly swindling other GMs. On the other hand, with the Eagles in particular, there will be so many new faces that I can’t deny I’m really just “rooting for laundry,” to borrow the famous Jerry Seinfeld line. So be it. As long as some guy wearing my preferred laundry hoists the Lombardi Trophy, all other details are incidental.

Unless you’re from Philly, you’ve probably tuned out by now, so let’s move along to boxing, the sport where we all have the same rooting interest: We just want to see a good fight. This week’s reader email suggests one that definitely qualifies as such.

Hi Eric,

I have an interesting matchup in mind. It seems Rafael Marquez’s next fight may be against top 122-pounder Toshiaki Nishioka, but since many people are of the opinion that the fight may not be so competitive, how about scrapping the idea in favor of this one: Rafael Marquez versus Jorge Arce. What’s not to love about this matchup!? Two popular Mexican warriors who make for exciting fights; both faded enough that they’ll both get hit plenty but neither so faded that fans would feel guilty about enjoying it; and there would even be a meaningless alphabet belt on the line, if either guy cares about that kind of thing. And there’s already the perfect slot for this fight—the undercard to Pacquiao-Marquez III! Both Marquez bros on the same card is never a bad thing and the appearance of Arce might entice casual fans who shelled out for the Pacquiao-Mosley snoozefest and remember how much fun his fight with Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. was. It might even persuade those boxing fans who view Pacquiao-Marquez as a mismatch.

What do you think?

—Joe T.

Joe,

I think you’re making entirely too much sense for your idea to ever become a reality. This is boxing, after all, the sport that puts a 5,000-ticket fight in a 90,000-seat stadium outside Detroit, the sport that is allowing Antonio Margarito to make more money after getting caught loading his gloves than he could when we thought he was legit, the sport that couldn’t give us Bernard Hopkins-Roy Jones II between 1997 and 2004 but did give it to us in 2010. So let’s not discuss your idea in any realistic terms involving when and where. There’s little room in the boxing business for logic. Marquez-Nishioka is happening, which means Marquez-Arce won’t be happening on the November 12 pay-per-view undercard, no matter how perfect it would be in that slot. So let’s discuss your idea purely as a fantasy fight, because that’s all it is for now.

No question, Marquez vs. Arce is a sensational matchup, and I have to give you credit, Joe, because I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere else. Both fighters are indeed faded to perfection, which is to say that both are still viable competitors but neither has the option of relying on razor-sharp reflexes and outboxing the other guy. Marquez-Arce can only be a bloody, brutal brawl. So many of the greatest fights in boxing history have come when both guys are either at the tail end of their primes or just beyond that, in the early stages of decline. Think the Gatti-Ward trilogy, Ali-Frazier III, Corrales-Castillo, and even the Vazquez-Marquez fights. Nobody in any of those fights was “shot” (except maybe Ward by the third Gatti fight and Vazquez in the fourth Marquez fight). But nobody was at their absolute physical peak either. That’s what we have with Arce and Marquez: faded but not shot, skilled but easy to hit, able to turn a fight with one punch, and willing to dig deep to win. Plus they’re both huge names for 122-pounders. As you wrote, what’s not to love?

Okay, enough living in a dream world, here are this week’s Rants on real fights and real news from around the boxing scene:

• Fights are not won and lost during Face Off With Max Kellerman. But if they were, mark down Floyd Mayweather for a guaranteed manhandling of Victor Ortiz. Mayweather was well spoken and made strikingly intelligent points, while Ortiz didn’t know what approach he wanted to take, his inexperience on the grand stage showed, and nothing he said really felt pure and honest. But, again, fights are not won and lost during Face Off. (Though I should note that Bernard Hopkins out-talked Jean Pascal and then outfought him, and Wladimir Klitschko narrowly outpointed David Haye on the set before comprehensively outpointing him in the ring.)

• I’m as big a Pawel Wolak fan as anybody. But I have to point out: His media blitz that has included the signing of a new managerial contract, talk of an alphabet title shot, etc., is doing a fine job of masking the reality that he’s coming off a fortunate draw in a fight nearly every observer expected him to win.

• If there’s a good fight going on, the fans are enjoying it, both boxers are producing viable offense, and one boxer ends up getting disqualified for punches that weren’t malicious in intent or damaging in effect, well, that’s just weak refereeing. Yes, Vic Drakulich, I’m talking to you. You sodomized the pooch in the Yordanis Despaigne-Edison Miranda fight. But don’t take my criticism personally, Vic. Refereeing is a hard job. Not everyone has the right mental makeup for it. There’s no shame in admitting you’re among those who don’t.

• Just when you thought Drakulich’s night couldn’t get any worse, Kenny Bayless came out and worked the next two fights on the ESPN2 broadcast. Not a flattering point of comparison for my man Vic.

• As for the main event that Bayless officiated on Friday Night Fights, you have to give Lamont Peterson serious points for closing the show. You just never know what the judges might say if you let them get the last word.

• Regarding the staredown between Despaigne and Miranda at the weigh-in: Why do we still have to blurcle the middle finger? It’s 2011. I feel like Stone Cold Steve Austin has lost and the terrorists have won.

• Great news, everybody: Nonito Donaire, one of the five most talented fighters on the planet, is coming back in October, after only a nine-month layoff following a career-best HBO-televised win in which he sustained no damage at all! (Remember what I wrote earlier about logic rarely prevailing in boxing?)

• Just have to say, I agree wholeheartedly with The Ring’s decision to move Amir Khan ahead of Tim Bradley in the junior welterweight rankings. Their 140-pound resumes are comparable, but recent achievement has to warrant additional weight. In the last two years, Khan is 6-0 at junior welter, with three wins I’d call highly meaningful. In that same time span, Bradley has only fought three times in the division (and had to settle for a no-contest in one of those bouts). It’s a close call, but activity is the difference maker here.

• Guess what happened last week? Some sanctioning body stripped some guy of his belt for no reason and now two undeserving guys will fight for the vacant belt. And that’s all I’ll say about that, because if fans, journalists, broadcast networks, and everyone else would just stop citing these for-profit organizations’ rankings or telling us who their beltholders are—in either positive or negative terms—maybe someday a generation of fighters will come up that isn’t interested in paying for their belts.

• Actually, that “someday” might have started this past weekend. Thank you, Mike Alvarado, for breaking free of the sheep mentality. I’m starting a “303! 303!” chant in my living room right now.

• In fact, just for being so unusually awesome, Mr. Alvarado, I’m going to do something I never do for anyone: give you props for having a tattoo with a cool-looking design. (On the other end of the tat spectrum, may I present junior featherweight Shawn Nichol and the pair of red lips inked into the side of his neck?)

• Did everyone get a look at Kevin McBride’s love handles and jiggling gut in his knockout loss to Marius Wach? Jeez, I’ve seen guys on press row with better physiques than that. Hey, Kevin, James Toney called; he wants his workout tapes back.

• I received a press release last week that began with the words “Boxing Sensation Hector Camacho Jr.” I have no idea what the next word was.

• Check out a new episode of Ring Theory (http://ringtheory.podbean.com) this week (probably Wednesday), featuring a guest appearance from the always insightful Ring Editor-in-Chief Nigel Collins. We’ll talk Khan vs. Judah, Tarver vs. Green, Mares vs. Agbeko, and of course, with the “Quick Picks” competition suddenly heating up, Raskin vs. Dettloff.

Eric Raskin can be contacted at RaskinBoxing@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter @EricRaskin and listen to new episodes of his podcast, Ring Theory, at http://ringtheory.podbean.com.

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Berchelt TKOs Valenzuela in Mexico City

David A. Avila

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Mexico’s Miguel Berchelt hammered his way to a decisive knockout victory over fellow Mexican Eleazar Valenzuela in a non-title light fight on Saturday.

After nearly nine months off, WBC super featherweight titlist Berchelt (38-1, 34 KOs) unraveled a withering body attack including numerous low blows but Valenzuela remained upright in front of a sparse TV studio audience until he could take it no longer.

Berchelt used a seven-punch combination to knock the senses out of the very tough Valenzuela who hails from Sinaloa. The referee saw enough and stopped the fight with Valenzuela leaning against the ropes with a dazed look.

The champion from Cancun used a triple left hook in the first round to floor Valenzuela and it looked like the fight would not last more than two rounds. But Valenzuela, a sturdy veteran, bored into Berchelt to keep him off balance and was able to stop the momentum.

It did not last.

A vicious attack to the body sapped the energy from Valenzuela who has fought many elite fighters in the past, but none like Berchelt. He was able to batter the veteran round after round.

Valenzuela sought to reverse the momentum with some combinations of his own. Berchelt opened up with some combinations from the outside and cracked his foe with some skull-numbing blows that clearly affected Valenzuela’s senses. The referee wisely stopped the fight at 1:03 of the sixth round to give the win to Berchelt by knockout.

The victory opens the door to a potential clash with featherweight world titlist Oscar Valdez of Nogales, Mexico who has a fight of his own planned next month. Both champions are promoted by Top Rank.

Other Bouts       

Omar Aguilar (18-0, 17 KOs) bushwacked veteran Dante Jardon (32-7, 23 KOs) within a minute of the first round to win by technical knockout. A barrage of blows by Ensenada’s Aguilar opened up the fight and a four-punch combination forced the referee to stop the super lightweight fight with Mexico City’s Jardon against the ropes.

A battle between super bantamweights saw the taller Alan Picasso (14-1) out-hustle Florentino Perez (14-6-2) in an eight round clash between Mexican fighters. Mexico City’s Picasso fought effectively inside against the shorter Perez of Monterrey and was able to maintain a consistent pace. Neither fighter approved the use of a jab but Picasso was more effective inside with body shots and uppercuts and dominated the last half of the fight.  The six judges scored in favor of Picasso.

The WBC instituted the extra judges as a means of tabulating score cards efficiently. Three judges scored from the television studios and another three judges scored from the USA. It was the second time WBC judges officiated remotely and all six scorecards were official.

Photo credit: Zanfer Promotions

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Boxing Odds and Ends: Big Baby Miller, Roberto Duran and More

Arne K. Lang

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Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller just can’t keep his hands out of the cookie jar. It was announced today (Saturday, June 27) that the jumbo-sized heavyweight from Brooklyn tested positive for a banned substance, forcing him out of a July 9 fight at the MGM Grand “Bubble” against Jerry Forrest. The story was broken by Mike Coppinger of The Athletic who breaks more hard news stories than any other boxing writer.

Miller, needless to say is a repeat offender. He failed three different PED tests in a span of three days for three different banned substances leading into his planned June 2019 match at Madison Square Garden with WBA/IBF/WBO world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua. That cost him the fight and a reported $5 million-plus payday. Andy Ruiz filled the void and scored an historic upset.

When the first test came back positive, Miller wailed that he was the victim of a faulty test. “My team and I stand for integrity, decency and honesty and will fight this with everything we have,” he said in a prepared statement. He later changed his tune. “I messed up,” he said.

In a story that appeared on these pages, Thomas Hauser noted that Big Baby had a history of PED use dating to 2014. In that year, he was slapped with a nine-month suspension by the California Athletic Commission following a kickboxing event in Los Angeles.

Counting this latest revelation, it’s five strikes for Big Baby. He’s taking quite a roasting right now on social media. Some of the harshest criticism is coming from his fellow boxers.

Assuming that Top Rank can’t find a replacement for Miller, this is another tough break for Jerry Forrest, a 32-year-old southpaw from Virginia with a 26-3 (20) record. Forrest was scheduled to fight hot prospect Filip Hrgovic on April 17 on a card at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, a show swept away by the coronavirus outbreak. Forrest has been matched very soft throughout his career, but he acquitted himself well in his lone previous TV appearance, losing a split decision to undefeated Jermaine Franklin on “Showtime: The New Generation.” The decision was controversial.

There’s talk now that Carlos Takam is angling to replace Big Baby. The French-Cameroonian, a former world title challenger who turns 40 in December, was billed out of Henderson, Nevada, in his last ring appearance that saw him winning a unanimous decision over fellow greybeard Fabio Maldonado in Huntington, NY.

—-

When it comes to Murphy’s Law (“anything that can go wrong, will”), there’s no sport quite like boxing. Just ask Bob Arum. The most mouth-watering matchup in his ESPN “summer series” fell out this week when Eleider Alvarez suffered a shoulder injury in training, forcing a postponement of his July 16 date with Joe Smith Jr. The match between Alvarez (25-1, 13 KOs) and Smith (25-3, 20 KOs) would have been a 12-rounder with the winner guaranteed a shot at the vacant WBO light heavyweight title, a diadem that Alvarez previously owned.

Joe Smith Jr, a Long Island construction worker once dismissed as nothing more than a club fighter, won legions of new fans in his last start, a one-sided (to everyone except one myopic judge) win over Jesse Hart in Atlantic City.

Cancelled matches have become a recurrent theme in ESPN’s semi-weekly boxing series. The very first card in the series lost what shaped up as its most competitive fight when Mikaela Mayer tested positive for COVID-19, scuttling her bout with Helen Joseph. In subsequent weeks, the manager of Mikkel Les Pierre tested positive for COVID-19 as did WBO junior lightweight champion Jamel Herring. Those bad test results forced the postponement of two main events. Then earlier this week, hot lightweight prospect Joseph Adorno was lopped off Tuesday’s card after feeling sick after coming in overweight at the previous day’s weigh-in.

The undercards of the Tuesday/Thursday ESPN fights have left something to be desired, but that’s understandable. As Bob Arum noted in a conversation with veteran boxing scribe Keith Idec, Top Rank’s matchmakers Bruce Trampler and Brad “Abdul” Goodman have had a hard time fleshing out the cards because with so many gyms closed there’s a shortage of boxers who are in shape to fight on short notice. Then there are the COVID-19 travel restrictions and (something Arum did not acknowledge) budgetary restrictions more severe than an ordinary Top Rank card. Most of the undercard fighters have come from neighboring states such as Utah, saving Top Rank the cost of air fare. Fighters from faraway places, with some exceptions, were already training in Las Vegas.

Kudos to the entire Top Rank staff for keeping boxing alive during these challenging times.

It’s old news now, but Panamanian boxing legend Roberto Duran, 69, tested positive for the coronavirus and was hospitalized in Panama City with a viral infection. There’s been no update on his condition but his son Robin Duran wrote on Instagram that his father is not having any symptoms beyond those associated with a common cold. We will update you when new details become available.

Duran’s hospitalization came just a few days after the 40th anniversary of his first fight with Sugar Ray Leonard in what would say was Duran’s finest hour. They met on June 20, 1980 at Olympic Stadium in Montreal.

Duran won a unanimous decision. Converting the “10-point must” system into rounds, Duran prevailed by scores of 3-2-10, 6-5-4, and 6-4-5. As Yogi would have said, you could look it up.

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Fast Results from the Bubble: Jason Moloney TKOs Baez

Arne K. Lang

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Top Rank was back inside the MGM Grand “Bubble” tonight for chapter six of their semi-weekly ESPN summer series. Jason Moloney, one-half of Australia’s Moloney twins, accomplished what his brother Andrew Moloney was unable to accomplish in this ring on Tuesday night, adding a “W” to his ledger and looking good doing it. It came at the expense of Mexicali’s Leonardo Baez.

It was Jason Moloney’s second start on U.S. soil after coming up just a tad short in a bid for the vacant IBF world bantamweight title at Orlando in October of 2018. Against Baez, he fought a smart tactical fight, blunting the Mexican’s superior reach by fighting him at close quarters. Baez fought from the third round on with a cut over his right eye and then suffered a cut over his left eye in the seventh round. By then the fight was becoming increasingly one-sided and Baez’s corner did not let him come out for round eight.

Jason Moloney improved to 21-1 with his 18th knockout. Leonardo Baez, who took the fight on short notice after Maloney’s original opponent Oscar Negrete was forced to withdraw with a detached retina, slumped to 18-3.

Co-Feature

In the 10-round co-feature, Abraham Nova advanced to 19-0 with a unanimous decision over Philadelphia’s Avery Sparrow but won no new fans with a lackadaisical performance. Nova, born in Puerto Rico to parents from the Dominican Republic and raised in Albany, NY, showed little but his jab through the first seven rounds until hurting Sparrow with a big right hand in the eighth. The judges had it 96-94, 97-93, and 99-91.

Sparrow (10-2), whose lone previous loss was by disqualification, was making his first start in 15 months. He was slated to fight Ryan Garcia in Los Angeles last Sept. 14 but never made it to the weigh-in after being arrested by U.S. marshals on a charge of threatening a woman with a gun after she threw his clothes out the window…

Other Bouts

In an 8-round featherweight contest, Puerto Rican southpaw Orlando Gonzalez advanced to 15-0 with a unanimous decision over Ecuador’s Luis Porozo (15-3). The scores were 76-74 and 77-73 twice.

Gonzalez wasn’t particularly impressive although he did score two knockdowns. He decked Porozo near the end of round two with a left hook following a straight left and decked him again near the end of round seven with a left uppercut to the body.

In a rather ho-hum fight, welterweight Vlad Panin improved to 8-1 with 6-round majority decision over San Antonio’s 36-year-old Benjamin Whitaker (13-4). Panin, a Belarusian who grew up in Las Vegas and earned a BA in English from UCLA, has a good back story but seemingly a limited upside in the fight game.

In an entertaining 6-round welterweight clash, Filipino campaigner Reymond Yanon improved to 11-5-1 with a split decision (59-55, 58-56, 56-58) over Clay Burns. A 33-year-old ex-Marine from Fort Worth, Burns declined to 9-8-2.

The opener, a heavyweight bout slated for six rounds, matched two Phoenix-based fighters in a rematch. Kingsley Ibeh, a former standout defensive lineman for the Washburn College Ichabods, avenged his lone defeat and improved to 4-1 with a fourth-round stoppage of Waldo Cortes (5-3). Ibeh, who at 286 had a 39-pound weight advantage, softened Cortes up with a series of uppercuts and Cortes was on his way down when he was tagged with a glancing left hand. He got to his feet, but referee Vic Drakulich waived it off. The official time was 1:41.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams for Top Rank

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