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RASKIN’S RANTS: Goodbye Friday Night Fights, Hello Alfredo Angulo

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By Eric Raskin:

As this wasn’t the most eventful weekend in boxing (televised main events were limited to a rare dull Friday Night Fights bout and a Saturday midnight ESPN Deportes fight that was over by about 12:02), this week’s one-email mailbag harkens back to the highly eventful Abner Mares-Joseph Agbeko fight from two Saturdays ago:

Hey Eric,

I just read your piece from this past Monday and I’m gonna have to go ahead and disagree with you about the judging of the Mares-Agbeko fight. 115-111 in favor of Mares is, as I’m sure you well know, 7-5 in rounds, which seems to me reasonable. You said yourself you gave Agbeko but one of the first six rounds, is it that farfetched to believe Abner won two more? Personally, I thought he did. How did you score the fight? I thought the third card, can’t remember the judge’s name, at 113-113 was too far in favor of Agbeko (7-5 for him). The oddest part of all of this is that despite probably four to five really close rounds in the second half of the fight, we didn’t get one truly wacky scorecard. I’ve come to expect decisions that somehow manage to be 115-113, 113-115, 117-111.

Best,

Robb

Hey Robb,

You make some valid points, and after thinking it through more carefully than I did before banging away impulsively on my keyboard last week, I have (almost) no problem with your 115-111 card. Still, I don’t have any regrets over what I wrote because the wording I used was “slightly too wide” and “questionable.” Had I used the word “unreasonable,” I would want to retract that.

My scorecard looked different than the 115-111 cards of Oren Shellenberger and Adalaide Byrd. I had it just 114-113 for Mares. But you’re right, 115-111 was reasonable—or at least just one point away from being reasonable. The only thing about the 115-111 card that I vehemently disagree with is that those judges gave Mares a 10-8 round in the 11th. The knockdown was so obviously a horrible call by ref Russell Mora, and Agbeko was doing just fine in the round otherwise, so to me, that was an obvious 10-9 knockdown round. Official judges at ringside and unofficial scorers at home alike need to use a little personal judgment and not just automatically make a round 10-8 because the ref says there was a knockdown. I didn’t have a problem with scoring the opening round 10-8 despite the shaky knockdown call, because Mares dominated the round so completely that it could almost have been 10-8 without a knockdown. But the 11th round was a different story. It was unfair enough to Agbeko just to make it 10-9 in the other guy’s favor.

In any case, while I had the fight six rounds apiece, with one 10-8 round, giving Mares a one-point win, I’m okay with a 7-5 scorecard and a 115-112 victory for Mares. I also think you could have given Agbeko one more early round than I did (the second was close) and had “King Kong” ahead 114-113. Bottom line: While I don’t quite agree with 115-111 (and I think Byrd’s scorecards are frequently off-base), maybe I was a tad harsh to rank the two judges who scored it that way among the “losers” of the evening. You’re right, Robb, there were no wacky scorecards here. Just a wacky ref who caused scorecards that didn’t reflect what really happened in the fight. With correct knockdown non-calls and reasonable low-blow deductions (conservatively, there should have been one deduction prior to the 11th round and a second one on the “knockdown” punch), Agbeko should have been at least a one-point winner.

And now let’s get the weekly Rants rolling, segueing seamlessly by starting with a note on the Mares-Agbeko rematch in the offing:

• Yes, the alphabet body involved in the Mares-Agbeko fight made a good decision in ordering an immediate rematch. But all of the alphabet embracers in the media, who are so very content with the status quo, shouldn’t rush to press with their “See, we need the alphabets!” columns. This is a rematch that the marketplace was going to dictate happen anyway, and Mares is a real fighter who wasn’t going to run away from it.

• You’ll notice in my Alexander Povetkin-Ruslan Chagaev article that will run later this week on TSS that I don’t write one single word about the silly alphabet title involved, and the story doesn’t suffer for it. Ignore, ignore, ignore. It’s not that hard, people.

• I spoke last week to Doug Loughrey, ESPN boxing’s director of programming and acquisitions, and he informed me that preliminary discussions have begun to get some extra boxing cards on the air late in the year if NBA games are missed. “If there’s not a positive end to the NBA lockout, some dates might open up toward November or December,” Loughrey said. “A lot of the college football games that would have been on ESPN2 would move over to ESPN to fill the NBA slot, and leave a hole on ESPN2 and a need for live programming. If the lockout happens, we’re prepared to step in.” I know most of the folks at ESPN, including Loughrey, aren’t actively rooting for a lockout. But as a boxing fan—and, importantly, as a 76ers fan—I sure am.

• I asked Amir Khan over the weekend if he regretted his conspiracy-theory tweets regarding the Robert Guerrero-Marcos Maidana cancellation. Khan said he wasn’t the one who sent those tweets; they were typed by a second tweeter on the grassy knoll.

• Glen Johnson is clearly the most credible opponent that was available for Lucian Bute to fight, and with Johnson having just fought Carl Froch, this bout will give us some indication of where Bute stands in relation to the Super Six finalists. So I’m fully in favor of Bute-Johnson happening. But at the same time, it’s getting hard to believe Johnson, at age 42 and with close losses in the past 24 months to Froch, Tavoris Cloud, and Chad Dawson is actually going to win a fight against an elite opponent. This fits the description of a quality bout that somehow is hard to get pumped for.

• I will say this, in terms of finding a reason to get pumped for Bute-Johnson: Johnson’s insistence on taking this fight for short money makes you wonder if he knows something the rest of us don’t.

• Is there any reason to think Oliver McCall won’t still be beating fourth-rate heavyweights when he’s in his sixties?

• Alfredo Angulo is back, and on Saturday night, “El Perro” proved he can defeat a chew toy. Instead of the stick-and-move, Joseph Gomez used the move-and-suck, which involves running for one minute, then taking a couple of clean punches and folding immediately. It wasn’t a very entertaining return for Alfredo Angulo, but at least he followed that old show-biz maxim about leaving us wanting more.

• I thought Andre Ward was solid overall providing color commentary on the season finale of Friday Night Fights, and he got off one outstanding line in defense of Demetrius Andrade as the unbeaten prospect started stinking it out in the main event: “This is not pride fighting. This is prize fighting.” I don’t know if it was an original line or not, but it was a fine turn of phrase just the same.

• Credit for another excellent line to fellow fight scribe David Greisman, who tweeted, “Is this Demetrius Andrade Dirrell?” There was an unmistakable Dirrell vs. Curtis Stevens vibe to the fight, though Andrade’s performance wasn’t as boring and maddening. I give Andrade a bit of a pass for the way he fought because Grady Brewer represented such an enormous step up in competition and because Brewer is a dangerous puncher.

• Maybe Andrade-Brewer wasn’t the ideal capper to the FNF season, but at least we got the super-slo-mo in the co-feature that offered blood splashing off of David Diaz’s face, followed by the magnificent undulating ear shot. For what it’s worth, I doubt that left hand from Hank Lundy lands so cleanly if Diaz isn’t busy trying to blink the blood out of his right eye.

• What’s less surprising: that Octomom is hitting the celebrity-boxing circuit, or that Damon Feldman is promoting it?

• It’s not tooting your own horn if you’re quoting someone else tooting it, right? In reference to last week’s episode of Ring Theory (http://ringtheory.podbean.com), one listener with impeccable taste emailed me to say “the Morales-Marquez-Barrera discussion was maybe the best boxing conversation I’ve ever heard.” If you want to discover for yourself what that listener was talking about, well, it’s not too late to subscribe and join our club of true fight fans.

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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A Fistful of Murder: The Fights and Crimes of Carlos Monzon

Thomas Hauser

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Book Review by Thomas Hauser — Carlos Monzon was born into extreme poverty in Argentina on August 7, 1942. He was mean, violent, surly, brutal, arrogant, occasionally charming, handsome with a smoldering sensuality, and remorseless. His life was marked by street fighting, drunken behavior, domestic violence, and more than forty arrests. In the midst of it all, he found boxing.

Monzon’s story is told by Don Stradley in A Fistful of Murder: The Fights and Crimes of Carlos Monzon. It’s the latest in a series of short books from Hamilcar Publications published under the imprint Hamilcar Noir that deal with boxers whose lives were marked and often terminated by violent crime. Told in 128 pages, the story moves at a brisk pace.

Monzon had one hundred professional fights in a career that began in 1962. He reigned as middleweight champion from 1970 until his retirement in 1977 and was honored as the 1972 “Fighter of the Year” by the Boxing Writers Association of America. All told, he compiled an 87-3-9 (59 KOs) record with 1 no contest. The three losses came during the first two years of his career when he was a novice.

Monzon was a big, strong, tough fighter with a good chin and a basic skill set: stand tall, throw a sharp jab, and follow with a hard right behind it. Mark Kram described him as “a perfectly shaped middleweight, tall with long arms and with style running through every sinew up to his dramatic Belmondo face.”

By contrast, British boxing commentator Reg Gutteridge described Monzon as having “little ring grace” and added “he clubs as if wearing a Roman cestus on his fist.”

Those who question Monzon’s greatness point to the fact that the best of the fighters he beat were past their prime (e.g. Nino Benvenuti) or past their prime and naturally smaller men (e.g. Emile Griffith and Jose Napoles). Monzon was also held to a draw by Benny Briscoe before besting Briscoe on a close decision in a rematch. And he only narrowly defeated Rodrigo Valdez in the last two fights of his ring career.

But as Stradley writes, “A strange thing happened to Monzon in retirement. He became a better fighter. The boxer who had often been dismissed as a classless thug was now revered as an all-time great. During the next decade when lists were made of the top middleweights or of great championship reigns, Monzon’s name would always be near the top.”

How good was Monzon?

Hall of Fame matchmaker Bruce Trampler says that he would have been competitive with any middleweight in any era. More significantly, in 2007, I had a conversation with Bernard Hopkins in which I asked Bernard to speculate as to how he would have fared in the ring against Sugar Ray Robinson, Marvin Hagler, and Monzon. Hopkins’ answer is instructive:

“Sugar Ray Robinson at 147 pounds was close to perfect,” Bernard said. “But at middleweight, he was beatable. I would have fought Ray Robinson in close and not given him room to do his thing. He’d make me pay a physical price. But at middleweight, I think I’d wear him down and win. Me and Marvin Hagler would have been a war. We’d both be in the hospital afterward with straws in our mouth. We’d destroy each other. My game-plan would be, rough him up, box, rough him up, box. You wouldn’t use judges for that fight. You’d go by the doctors’ reports. Carlos Monzon? I could lose that fight. Monzon was tall, rangy, did everything right. I see myself losing that fight more than winning it.”

Stradley’s recounting of Monzon’s ring career is largely pro forma. The more compelling portions of the book lie in the portrait he paints of Monzon’s personal life.

Monzon had virtually no formal education and was close to illiterate. At age 19, he married 15-year-old Mercedes Beatriz Garcia. The newly-wed couple lived with her family in a two-room shack where they slept on a mattress on the floor.

“In many ways,” Stradley writes, “Monzon was the typical wife abuser. He was obsessed with control; he had an evil temper; he drank too much.” In 1973, Mercedes shot her husband in the arm and shoulder after a quarrel between them.

Monzon’s pattern of physically abusing women, assaulting people in public, reckless driving, and other anti-social acts was a constant in his life before, during, and after his championship reign. But as his fame grew, so did his following.

“Monzon,” Stradley notes, “didn’t look like other fighters of the day. He was photographed to look like a stylish Latin pop star, usually in a long leather coat, with plenty of gold jewelry. Argentina’s El Grafico [a popular magazine] treated Monzon like a model, featuring him in regular photo spreads.”

In 1974, while married to Mercedes, Monzon met Susana Gimenez (a popular actress and talk show host). Soon, they were involved in a torrid affair that lasted for four years. At one point, Mercedes complained to her husband about Susana and he punched her in the face, breaking the superciliary arch above her eye. Monzon was arrested and avoided a prison term by pleading temporary insanity. A divorce followed.

Susana’s film credits included adult-oriented comedies. In Stradley’s words, “Monzon had abandoned the mother of his children for a slutty clown. It didn’t help that her sartorial sense ran towards pink denim.”

Even so, Stradley recounts, “Monzon and Susana were now the most photographed twosome in Argentina. Journalist Alfredo Serra estimated they appeared on more than three hundred magazine covers, describing the pair as combining ‘the strength, beauty, fame and glamour of the world in a single couple.'”

During his championship reign, Monzon parleyed his fame as a fighter into several film roles. Then he retired; his relationship with Susana ended; and he met Alicia Muniz Calatayud.

Alicia had worked as a model and belly dancer in addition to once managing a hair salon. She and Monzon married in Miami because his divorce from Mercedes wasn’t recognized under Argentine law. They lived together from May 1979 through August 1986 and again during a brief reconciliation in 1987. On several occasions, Alicia filed complaints with the police alleging that Monzon had beaten her.

By 1988, Stradley writes, “Monzon was still famous but no longer important. Most of the time he was drunk.”

On February 14, 1988, during a weekend they were spending together, Monzon murdered his estranged wife.

“Here’s what probably happened,” Stradley posits. “When Alicia came for the weekend, she reminded him that he was late with his monthly payments [for child support]. They returned from their night out, a night where they’d been unfriendly to each other and a witness had seen Monzon hitting Alicia. At some point before 6 a.m., she said something that made the dynamite in his head go off.”

Monzon told conflicting stories after Alicia’s death, all of which centered on the claim that she’d accidentally fallen over a balcony railing during an argument between them. Then an autopsy report revealed that Alicia had been strangled to death.

“Medical examiners,” Stradley recounts, “estimated thirty-five pounds of pressure or more had been applied to Alicia’s throat. Strangling only requires eleven pounds. They estimated it had been done with a two-fingered grip, probably thumb and forefinger in a kind of one-handed death clamp. It takes only twenty seconds or so to strangle someone into unconsciousness. The damage to Alicia’s throat would take much longer. It wasn’t done by accident or in the heat of the moment. It took a few minutes of full-on rage. Alicia had been strangled long after she had passed out. It’s also rare that a strangling victim has visible marks on the neck or throat. The imprints on Alicia were clear and deep, as if someone had tried to squeeze her head off at the neck. He dumped her body over the balcony to make it look like she’d fallen.”

Monzon was charged with murder. The trial was broadcast live on radio throughout Argentina. Monzon testified that he and Alicia had argued about money and admitted that he had slapped her. “I have hit women on other occasions and nothing happened to any of them,” he told the court. “I hit all of my women except one. My mother.”

A three-judge panel found Monzon guilty of murder. He was sentenced to eleven years in prison with the possibility of time off for good behavior.

By 1993, Monzon was allowed to spend daytime hours and weekends outside of prison. On Sunday, January 8, 1995, after attending a barbeque, he was behind the wheel of a car, probably drunk and definitely speeding.

“By the rules of his furlough agreement,” Stradley writes, “he had to be back at the Las Flores prison by 8 p.m. He didn’t want to risk being late. He only had a short time left to serve on his sentence and didn’t want any infractions on his record. So he drove fast. He’d always been a terrible driver. Being in prison hadn’t made him any better at it.”

While speeding back to the prison, Monzon lost control of the vehicle which turned over multiple times, killing him instantly. Two other passengers also died in the accident. He was 52 years old.

After Monzon’s death, his body lay in state at City Hall in his hometown of Santa Fe. An estimated ten thousand people filed past it. Twenty thousand more lined the route to the Municipal Cemetery while six thousand mourners waited at the cemetery entrance.

Argentine president Carlos Menem told the nation. “Remember Carlos Monzon as a champion, not as a man jailed for murder.” But Argentinian journalist and political commentator Bernardo Neustadt took a contrary view, declaring, “We are a macho society that idolizes a man who beats or violates a woman; a macho society that taught Monzon to dress up, to speak a bit better, but didn’t teach him to think; a macho society that wasn’t horrified when Monzon said he beat all his women.”

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His next book – Staredown: Another Year Inside Boxing – will be published by the University of Arkansas Press this autumn. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. He will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame with the Class of 2020.

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Lipinets and Clayton Battle to a Draw at the Mohegan Sun

Arne K. Lang

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Tonight’s PBC show at Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Casino, billed as a “Showtime Special Edition,” was to feature Sergey Lipinets against Kudratillo Abdukakhorov in the main event. That match-up would have pit fighters born in neighboring countries in Central Asia, the first major fight of its kind on American soil, but Uzbekistan’s Abdukakhorov had visa problems and a Canadian filled the breach.

Custio Clayton, whose 18-0 record was suspect because he had done all his fighting in Eastern Canada, proved to be more than just a worthy opponent. The 33-year-old ex-Olympian from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia held Lipinets (now 16-1-1) to a draw and the general feeling was that he had done just enough to edge it out. Don Trella scored the 12-round welterweight bout for him (115-113), but Trella’s counterparts Glen Feldman and Tom Schreck both had it even at 114 apiece.

Conspicuously bigger than Lipinets – to the eyes if not on the scale – Clayton did his best work in the late rounds. Lipinets, briefly the IBF world 140-pound title-holder (he lost the belt to Mikey Garcia; no shame there) is something of a one-dimensional fighter and as the rounds wore on he connected with fewer punches on the more multi-dimensional Canadian.

In theory, the winner would have been in line for a match with Errol Spence.

Martinez-Marrero

Prior to tonight, Sacramento junior lightweight Xavier Martinez had never fought beyond the eighth round and tonight it appeared that he wouldn’t see the ninth. He was on the deck twice in round eight and nearly didn’t make it to the bell. But he lasted the full 12 to win a well-earned unanimous decision over Claudio Marrero

Marrero, a 31-year-old southpaw from Santo Domingo, DR, was well behind on the scorecards when he caught Martinez with a big right hook shortly after the start of the eighth round. He pressed his advantage and knocked him down again with a flurry of punches. But Martinez recuperated and prevailed on scores of 115-111, 114-112, and 114-112 to keep his undefeated record intact, advancing to 16-0.

This was quite a departure from Martinez’s previous bout when he knocked out his opponent in 21 seconds. Marrero (24-5) lost for the fourth time in his last five outings. The match was billed as a WBA 130-pound title eliminator.

Matias-Hawkins

The TV opener was a 10-round junior lightweight contest between Malik Hawkins and Subriel Matias. Hawkins, a former National Golden Gloves champion from the same Baltimore gym that produced Gervonta Davis, came in undefeated (18-0). Puerto Rico’s Matias, who opened his career with 15 straight knockouts, was looking to rebound from his first defeat, having lost a 10-round decision to Petros Ananyan on the Wilder-Fury II undercard.

Matias’s bout with Ananyan was his first start since his match will ill-fated Maxim Dadashev. The Dadashev tragedy may have preyed on his mind, but according to his promoter Juan Orengo, he was lax in his training for Ananyan. Whatever the case, Matias rebounded from that defeat tonight, saddling Hawkins with his first pro loss.

Matias forged ahead in the sixth, knocking Hawkins to his knees and then pursuing him around the ring to apply the finisher. Hawkins survived the onslaught but had no argument when he was pulled out by the ring physician before the next frame.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

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Juan Francisco Estrada KOs Carlos Cuadras; Chocolatito Wins Too

David A. Avila

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WBC super flyweight world titlist Juan Francisco Estrada led a triumvirate of world title fights with a sizzling knockout victory over Mexican rival Carlos Cuadras to retain the world title and set up a future clash with former foe Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez who won his bout in the co-feature.

In front of a small Mexico City crowd Estrada (41-3, 28 KOs) proved he could defeat Cuadras (39-4-1, 27 KOs) again and did it emphatically to retain his title by knockout. There was no squabbling about scorecards in this clash like their first encounter in 2017 that ended with Estrada by decision.

It did not begin well for Estrada who endured Cuadras imposing his strength and speed behind a very strong left jab in the first three rounds. And then a sneaky right uppercut followed by a left hook sent Estrada down for the count in the third round.

But that only proved to be a spark for the fighter known as “El Gallo.”

Estrada realized he was falling behind, especially after the knockdown. Instead of counter-punching, the boxer from Sonora, Mexico began moving forward and became an aggressor. The dynamics of the fight changed suddenly.

Cuadras was hurt by a body shot in the sixth round and spent most of his time looking to avoid more contact. Estrada was in full control.

Despite the change in momentum no round was easy for either Mexican pugilist. Both exchanged freely always looking to end the fight with a big blow. Though each were hurt at times, neither showed signs of relenting.

From the eighth through the 10th round Cuadras seemed to find a second wind, or maybe it was desperation. The Mexico City native known as “Principe” fought possessed and managed to swing the momentum back toward his way for maybe two of those rounds.

In the 11th round both exchanged blows and Estrada connected with a left and right and down went Cuadras. The former world champion got up and was then floored with a counter right cross. He got up again a little shaky and Estrada attacked with a four-punch combination that forced referee Lupe Garcia to stop the fight for a technical knockout at 2:22 of the round.

Estrada retained the WBC super flyweight world title and will now meet Chocolatito.

Chocolatito

Nicaragua’s Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (50-2, 41 KOs) proved that an opponent like Mexico’s Israel Gonzalez (25-3) can be faster, taller, longer and younger but the Nicaraguan will find a way to beat you. He did that with a convincing unanimous decision win after 12 rounds to retain the WBA super flyweight world title.

Chocolatito will now probably meet Juan Francisco Estrada for a long-expected rematch. In their first encounter back in 2012, the Nicaraguan won by decision in Los Angeles.

Chocolatito looked dominant in his ability to deflect the speedy combinations by the young Mexican fighter Gonzalez. Nothing worked against the Nicaraguan who skillfully manipulated his way through barrage after barrage and connected inside with body shots and uppercuts.

It was a masterful performance.

JC Martinez

Mexico City’s Julio Cesar Martinez (17-1, 13 KOs) was defending his WBC flyweight world title against Moises Calleros (33-10-1) a virtual bantamweight weighing more than 7 pounds over the 112-pound flyweight limit. Even the extra weight could not help him.

In the first round, Martinez exploded with a blistering three-punch combination the sent Calleros to the floor dazed and confused. He beat the count and survived the round.

The second round wasn’t too kind for Calleros who became the punching bag for the quick-fisted Martinez who opened up with a nine-punch salvo that forced the referee Cesar Castanon to end the slaughter at 2:42 of the second round.

Other Bouts

Diego Pacheco (10-0, 8 KOs) used his height and reach to score a knockout with a snapping right uppercut to the chin of Mexico’s Juan Mendez (12-3-2) in a super middleweight fight. The end came at 2:02 of the second round with Mexican referee Rafael Saldana stopping the fight at the perfect moment.

Austin “Ammo” Williams (6-0, 5 KOs) powered through Esau Herrera (19-12-1) with body shots and combination punches to win by knockout in a middleweight battle. The end came at 1:36 of the fifth round.

Otha Jones III (5-0-1, 2 KOs) and Mexico City fighter Kevin Montiel (6-0-1) fought to a split draw after six rounds in a super featherweight clash. Both fighters started quickly with Jones having good rounds in the middle portion of the six-round fight, but he tired and allowed Montiel to rally from behind. The scores were split with 58-56 for Jones, 58-56 for Montiel and 57-57.

Photo credit: Ed Mulholland / Matchroom

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