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Better Late Than Never For Kimbo Slice….WOODS

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kimbo-slice-11The future of the heavyweight division will not be gloving up on Saturday night in Oklahoma.

No, Kimbo Slice, we can safely say, at age 37, taking part in his first amateur or professional boxing match, is not the future of the heavyweight division.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t wish his fight against 39-year-old James Wade, holder of an 0-1 mark as a pro, was off TV. On the contrary, I’d love to see how the man whose career was launched off his skills in backyard brawls, and transitioned to a romance in the MMA realm, looks in the ring.

Actually, I can pretty much predict what Slice will look like. He will look fearsome,  the epitome of a man who you’d not like to be stuck in a dark alley with in a strange city at an ungodly hour. He will rush at Wade, and blast him with a dozen unanswered blows, and Wade, for the second straight fight, will fall to the canvas and stay on the canvas until the ref has safely reached the count of ten. I’d venture to say more than two minutes won’t elapse before Slice is declared the winner in his boxing inaugural.

I dare say it would have made more sense to me had this occurred back in 2007 or so, when Kimbo’s knees were that much sturdier. Instead, he debuted as a mixed martial artist in November of that year. To his credit, he bit off a big chunk of challenge.

Really, no one can say Slice didn’t give it a  full go. He had eight bouts in MMA, two exhibitions and six real scraps. He went 1-1 in exhibitions, splitting fights against Ray Mercer and Roy Nelson, and 4-2 in sanctioned contests. But if it were me managing him, I’d have tried mightily to get him right into the sweet science, where his blend of a fearsome look–lord, this guy was tailor made to fight Stallone in a Rocky flick, wasn’t he?–and decent boxing skills* maybe would have allowed him to get to 15-0 within two years, and maybe land him a multimillion dollar shot against a Klitschko.

Maybe, I say, as Slice periodically loses his train of thought in his pursuit of athletic accomplishment. He started training to enter the ring the end of last year, changed his mind, went on hiatus, did some film work, and then re-changed his mind.

At 37, with that much more wear and tear on his body, and his mind, having put up with a boatload of being told what to do, the odds are good that Slice’s boxing foray gets halted before too long, before promoter Gary Shaw gets him to the promised land, a megabucks cashout fight.

The promoter, to his credit,  isn’t overselling Slice as the next big thing, the man to rescue fight fans from the rule of Klitschko.

Shaw said Slice has been training with striking coach Randy Khatami, who isn’t a boxing trainer, and Shaw isn’t all that enthused by that choice. He’d set up Slice with Alfredo Angulo’s trainer, Clemente Medina, last year, and that tutor-student relationship would’ve sat better in Shaw’s mind. Are we going to see a Klitschko killer on Saturday night if we are at the Buffalo Run Casino, Gary?

“It’s more to see how comfortable he is in the ring and he knows to make a move, he’s got to change trainers, get more disciplined,” Shaw said. “The best thing for him is the heavyweight division is really light, so he can move up quickly.

“I don’t think he’d be ready for a Klitschko in six months. I think he’d be ready to move up substantially in six months. I’d like to fight him every six to eight weeks. We’ll see what we have. I’m not interested in a Butterbean type of guy. If he can box, he can box. If he can’t box competitively on that level, we’ll step back in a different direction.”

Hey, you bustin on da Bean?

“I want him to fight more than four rounders,” Shaw explained. “He’s got a lot of pride and to be king of the four rounders, that’s not Kimbo Slice.”

I sort of threw up my hands at the entirety of the division when I watched that pacifists’s waltz between Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye, a match between two reluctant men who both looked like they were better suited off for a vocation that didn’t involve possibly getting hit hard on the chin, they were so risk averse. Sure, Klitschko is technically skilled, and part of me can appreciate his skills, his discipline. But I’m a fan of fighting, and his brand of fighting, ultra cautious, robotic, isn’t my thing. I’ll venture to say there could well be more goofy drama, and thrills, and humor, in this Kimbo Slice entrance into boxing than anything I’ve seen from Wlad since he used to meltdown when his chin got touched.

*=I showed Emanuel Steward video of Slice in action, from his backyard butt-thrashing days, last year, and Steward was impressed. He liked Slice’s head movement and ability to put his punches together. So you can scoff at his skills if you want, but just know Steward didn’t scoff. Part of him was likely thinking with his manager brain, knowing that with that look, and persona, he and Slice could make money together.

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Aaron McKenna and Kieran Conway Victorious in Osaka

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Aaron McKenna scored a 10th-round stoppage of Jeovanny Estela today (Monday, July 15) in Osaka, Japan. The bout was one of four scheduled 10-rounders in the middleweight division in a revamped Prizefighter Tournament with a $1,000,000 prize at stake for the winner.

One of two fighting brothers from the little town of Smithborough in County Monaghan, Ireland, the undefeated (19-0, 10 KOs) McKenna (pictured) was well ahead on the scorecards when the referee stepped in and halted the match at the 2:02 mark of the final round. He entered the ring a 4/1 favorite over Estela (14-1), a 23-year-old Floridian of Puerto Rican descent who began his pro career at 147.

McKenna’s opponent in the next round (at a date and place to be determined) will be England’s Kieran Conway (21-3-1, 6 KOs) who scored a seventh-round stoppage over China’s obscure Ainiwaer Yilixati (19-2). All three of Conway’s losses were to opponents who were undefeated when he fought them with two of those setbacks occurring on Canelo Alvarez undercards.

Two Japanese fighters – Riku Kunimoto and Kazuto Takesako – were victorious in the other bouts and will meet in the semifinals.

Local fan favorite Kunimoto, recognized as the middleweight champion of Japan, advanced to 12-1 (6 KOs) with a fifth-round stoppage of countryman Eiki Kani (8-5-3). This was a rematch. The two fought earlier this year in Nagoya with Kunimoto registering a fifth-round TKO.

Takesako (17-2-1, 15 KOs) registered the lone upset on the card with a hard-earned decision over England’s Mark Dickinson. It was the first pro loss for Dickinson who had only six pro fights under his belt but was a highly decorated amateur. The scores were 98-92, 97-93, and 95-94.

The next fight for Kunimoto will be another rematch. Takesako saddled him with his lone defeat, knocking him out in the first round at Tokyo’s venerable Korakuen Hall in May of 2021.

The tournament, co-sponsored by Matchroom and televised on DAZN, offers an aggregate $100,000 per event for knockouts. McKenna, Conway, and Kunimoto scooped up $25,000 apiece.

Aaron McKenna, his brother Stephen, and their father/trainer Feargal McKenna were the subjects of a story that ran on these pages. Stephen McKenna (14-0, 13 KOs) returns to the ring next month against 14-2 Joe Laws on a BOXXER promotion that will air on Sky Sports in the UK.

Aaron McKenna entered the Prizefighter Tourney as the pre-fight favorite and Matchroom honcho Eddie Hearn has indicated that he will be in line for a world title shot if he wins his next two matches.

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Results and Recaps from Philly where ‘Boots’ Ennis Stomped Out David Avanesyan

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PHILADELPHIA, PA — On what Matchroom Boxing Promotions called the most important night in Philadelphia boxing in over 40 years, Jaron “Boots” Ennis (32-0, 29 KOs), the current IBF welterweight champion from the city of Brotherly Love, attracted a larger-than-expected crowd of 14,119 to the Wells Fargo Center where he stopped David Avanesyan who was pulled out after five rounds. In Avanesyan (30-5-1, 18 KOs), Ennis looked to impress on two fronts, both commercially and critically.

It didn’t take long for there to be some excitement after Ennis landed a clean jab that caused Avanesyan to stagger momentarily. Ennis turned southpaw and the action stopped after Ennis landed a low blow. Rounds two and three saw both fighters decide to fight on the inside. Ennis was able to land crisp upper cuts while only getting hit with a few shots in exchange. After four rounds, the evidence was clear that Avanesyan was getting hit with clean shots as his face started to get busted up. Avanesyan had a moment when he landed a right hand that got the attention of the crowd and Ennis.

In return, Ennis continued to press forward, this time behind a straight left and combinations. A huge overhand left floored Avanesyan who rose to his feet. Round five ended with Ennis landing some clean power shots that had Avanesyan looking deflated. The ringside physician called an end to the fight after the conclusion of round five.

After the fight, Ennis agreed that he would love the opportunity to fight Terence Crawford if Crawford were to win next month, this despite not having the type of performance that he would have loved to have had after having a year-long lay-off. Eddie Hearn mentioned that he would love to have Ennis return to Philadelphia sometime in October or November if the Crawford fight can’t be made in a possible unification fight.

Other Bouts

After three pedestrian rounds, what sounded like it would be a grudge match between Jahlil Hackett (9-0, 7 KOs) and Pete Dobson (16-2) finally turned into a fight in the fourth. With both fighters finally warming up, Hackett used his jab to continue to work his way inside to land power combinations. Dobson was forced to back up into the ropes and take shots after a large lump formed on his forehead above his left eye.

The action settled down after the sixth round with Hackett taking total control. He continued to work behind an educated jab that stunted any offensive attack that Dobson tried to muster. After all ten rounds, two of the judges saw the fight 97-93, while the third had it 96-94 all in favor of Jahlil Hackett.

Skye Nicolson (11-0, 1 KO), the 2020 Tokyo Olympian and current WBC featherweight champion, utilized her skills in every way to defeat Dayan Vargas (18-2, 12 KOs). All three judges scored the fight 100-90 after Nicolson completed the shutout in dominating fashion through her command of range with a sharp jab and lateral movement. Moving forward unification fights and a possible move up in weight may force Nicolson to face the type of opposition that could make for more entertaining fights in the future.

Light heavyweight action kicked off the main portion of the DAZN telecast. Jersey City native Khalil Coe (9-0-1, 7 KOs) made short work of Kwame Ritter (11-2). After an uneventful first round, Coe started to close the distance to start the second round and as a result he landed a hard straight right that hurt Ritter. A left hook dropped Ritter and he fell backwards into the ropes. When he got up, Coe was able to swarm him with hard shots and the referee called a halt to the action with just one second remaining in the second round.

Former world title challenger Christopher “Pitufu” Diaz (29-4, 19 KOs) made quick work of the game but clearly overmatched Derlyn Hernandez (12-2-1). A short-left hook hurt Hernandez and the seasoned Diaz took his time applying the follow-up pressure that forced the referee to wave off the action at the 2:36 mark of the second round. Diaz stated prior to this comeback fight that he’s looking for one more run towards a world title.

Christian Carto (23-1, 17 KO’s) looked impressive in three rounds of action against Carlos Buitrago (38-14, 22 KOs). Both fighters were happy to exchange from the opening bell. Carto took the punches he was hit with well and was able to return fire with combinations that caught and dropped Buitrago to start round three. A series of well-placed power combinations hurt Buitrago as the round came to an end, which prompted the referee to stop the bout at the end of the round.

A pair of Boots Promotions fighters kicked off the night with entertaining bouts:

It took all six rounds to decide the Ismail Muhammad (5-0, 1 KOs) Frank Brown (3-5-2) fight. Brown pressed the action early and caught the cold Muhammad in an exchange knocking him down for the first time in his career. Muhammad rose to his feet and proceeded to work the gameplan to get himself back into the fight. Muhammad scored his own knockdown in the fourth round and finished the fight strong to earn the unanimous decision victory by scores of 58-54 twice and 57-55.

Dennis Thompson (1-0) won his professional debut at bantamweight with a unanimous decision over the game Fernando Valdez (1-8).

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Muratalla Nips Farmer and Segawa Upsets Villa on a Top Rank Card in Las Vegas

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Fontana, California lightweight Raymond Muratalla, ranked #2 by the WBC and WBA and #4 by the IBF, continued his charge toward a world title with a hard-fought 10-round decision over Philadelphia southpaw Tevin Farmer on a Top Rank card at the Palms in Las Vegas tonight. The judges had it 97-92, 96-93, and 95-94. There were no knockdowns but referee Tom Taylor deducted a point from Farmer in round eight for excessive holding.

Farmer, 33, formerly held the IBF junior lightweight title. He lost the belt in his fifth defense to Jojo Diaz in 2020 and was out of the ring for the next 29 months. He won three straight after returning to the ring, elevating his record to 33-5-1 (8) preceding tonight’s tussle with Muratalla.

Farmer fought mostly off his back foot but was seemingly ahead after seven frames. But Muratalla, who improved to 21-0 (16), had more fuel in his tank and clearly got the best of the late rounds. He landed the best punch of the fight with a shade over a minute remaining in the final stanza, catching Farmer against the ropes and rocking him with a looping right hand.

Co-Feature

In a major upset, Sulaiman Segawa, a 33-year-old southpaw from Silver Spring, Maryland, by way of Uganda, out-worked Ruben Villa to win a 10-round unanimous decision and snatch away Villa’s regional featherweight title. The judges had it 98-92, 97-93, and 96-94.

Villa came in ranked #1 at 126 by WBC. He had lost only once in 23 starts, that coming in a WBA title fight vs. Emanuel Navarrete, a narrow defeat. Among his victims were reigning IBF featherweight champion Luis “Venado: Lopez. He was a consensus 14/1 favorite over Segawa who was 16-4-1 with only six knockouts coming in. But Villa fell behind early and although he had his moments, he didn’t punch hard enough to keep the Ugandan from staying the course.

Other Bouts of Note

In his first fight at 140 pounds, Brisbane, California’s Charlie Sheehy won an unpopular 8-round decision over SoCal’s Ricardo Quiroz. The judges had it 78-74 and 77-73 twice.

Sheehy (10-0, 5 KOs) was underwhelming. Quiroz (13-5) has been repeatedly matched tough and has never been stopped.

In a junior lightweight match, Jonathan “Geo” Lopez, a 21-year-old Pennsylvania native of Puerto Rican descent, trained by Eddy Reynoso, improved to 16-0 (12 KOs) first a first-round demolition of Venezuela’s Leonardo Padilla (23-6-1). Lopez, who defeated the likes of Xander Zayas and Abdullah Mason in the amateurs, knocked Padilla sideways and through the ropes with a body punch. Padilla slumped to his knees when he was extricated and was counted out at the 1:43 mark. “Geo” is a fighter who bears watching.

Albert “Chop Chop” Gonzales, a 22-year-old SoCal super featherweight, used an effective body punch to wear down and stop Texas campaigner Conrado Martinez. The end came at the 1:43 mark of the sixth and final round. Trained by Robert Garcia, Chop Chop improved to 9-0 (5 KOs). Martinez falls to 9-2.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank

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