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RASKIN’S RANTS: Stormy Weather Gives Way To Stormy Mayweathers

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Everyone on the east coast has a story about where they were and what they felt when the earthquake hit last Tuesday. Everyone on the west coast just wants them to shut the hell up. Everyone on the east coast has a story about what Hurricane Irene did or didn’t do to disrupt their lives. Everyone who lives in the southeastern corner of the U.S. just wants them to shut the hell up.

Was Irene an inconvenience? Sure. My family was in the middle of a vacation at the Jersey shore (the steroid-free, Snooki-free section, thank you very much) and we had to evacuate, and then on Saturday, due to tornado warnings, we had to carry the kids to the basement in the middle of the night. That’s about it. All these natural disasters combined weren’t even enough to make Andre Berto cancel a fight. So, to my fellow east coasters: Pick up your toppled lawn chairs and get over yourselves.

After all, there’s boxing to talk about. We start this week’s column with a one-email mailbag, and as you’ll see, the email was sent prior to last weekend’s fights, in response to my TSS piece on the pressure Teddy Atlas was facing in the Alexander Povetkin-Ruslan Chagaev fight:

Eric,

In your opinion, do you think Teddy Atlas is a Hall of Famer as a trainer? To me, I don’t think so. He’s great at self-promotion, positioning himself as the noble teacher and fountain of fistic ethics and high standards. But I see him as doing more to tear down fighters he’s trained than build them up. I see his work with Povetkin as a disaster in the making: taking a young fighter who could have been a great masterpiece (a la Freddie and Manny), and tearing him down so much that he’s lost any concept of what his ring identity is or should be, and thus Povetkin losing a career direction when that’s the very thing Teddy was supposed to be providing.

I expect Povetkin to win, but look unclear of who he is as a fighter.

—Bakari??P.S. Loved the Chekhov’s gun analogy. I say the gun backfires.

Bakari,

Your prediction wasn’t far off: Povetkin won, and finished strongly, but didn’t look like an improved fighter under Teddy’s tutelage—at least not yet. But there’s still time. This was a good learning experience, and maybe he’ll get in one or two more of them before challenging a Klitschko. Povetkin is a perfectly competent heavyweight, and in this era of incompetency, that might just make him the third best heavyweight in the world. Still, if he wants to beat a Klitschko, he ought to stall as long as possible, for two reasons: (1) Povetkin will gain experience and perhaps improve as a fighter; (2) the only way he beats a Klitschko is if they start to age and slow down.

But back to Teddy Atlas: Dare I say his unique brand of motivation (which led my four-year-old daughter, who watched the last three rounds with me, to ask, “Why is he always yelling?”) helped Povetkin in this fight? It was looking bleak for the Russian in round six, when he couldn’t get out of the way of Chagaev’s left hand, but he showed resolve and found the energy he needed to win most of the late rounds. So, good on Teddy. His methods don’t work for every fighter. But Povetkin seems to really believe in everything Atlas has to say, he seems to want to maximize his potential and learn and train hard, and this might just prove to be a productive partnership. By Povetkin winning this fight with Chagaev, he and Atlas took a huge stride toward making their decision to pass on a fight with Wlad Klitschko look prudent.

As for Atlas’ Hall of Fame potential, his career isn’t over, and if Povetkin becomes world heavyweight champion eventually, that helps his case. Still, the only major accomplishment on Teddy’s training resume is Michael Moorer’s win over Evander Holyfield. Other than Moorer, he hasn’t taken anyone to the top. So, no, I don’t think Atlas is a Hall of Fame trainer at this point.

However, I do 100 percent expect him to make the Hall of Fame because of the exposure he’s gained as a broadcaster (he’s been in our homes, on basic cable, every week for 13 years and counting) and as an ambassador for the sport. Whether you love or hate Atlas’ commentating style, it’s definitely padded his “fame” resume. The question is, under what category would he be inducted? Broadcasters are “Observers.” Trainers are “Non-Participants.” Technically, “Non-Participant” should cover both (and it used to before “Observer” was created several years back). I suppose this creates a slight complication for Atlas’ Hall of Fame case. But one way or another, he will get in—regardless of where Povetkin’s career goes from here.

And now, some more Povetkin-Chagaev thoughts and the rest of the Rants:

• Is there really a chance that Povetkin will fight Evander Holyfield next? Just when you thought the heavyweight division couldn’t sink any lower …

• This coming weekend, 47-year-old Al Cole faces Danny Williams. Just when you thought the heavyweight division couldn’t sink any lower …

• I don’t mind that Epix tape-delayed the broadcast of Saturday’s heavyweight fights by about 15 minutes (presumably because the fighters entered the ring in Erfurt, Germany ahead of schedule and Epix couldn’t start their telecast early), but I do mind the word “LIVE” on the corner of my screen when the fight isn’t, you know, live.

• Things I like about Robert Helenius: He’s an excellent finisher, he’s a fluid puncher, he has a quality nickname (“The Nordic Nightmare”), and he looks like Karl Hungus. Things I don’t like about Helenius: He’s a slow starter, and I’ve seen better physiques on bowlers. I know that boxing isn’t bodybuilding and there have been a lot of great heavyweights over the years who lacked muscle tone. But I still like my fighters to look like they’ve trained. In any case, Helenius is a heavyweight to keep an eye on, and there aren’t many of those.

• While both heavyweight fights on the Epix show were a little better than I expected them to be, the best fight of the weekend was a strawweight bout on Fox Deportes late Saturday night between Moises Fuentes and Raul Garcia. A knockdown apiece, a mild upset, gutsy efforts from both guys—what more can you ask for? (Besides to find a few men twice their size who can duplicate that drama.)

• Actually, on second thought, the best fight of the weekend was the one between Floyd “Not No Junior” Mayweather and Floyd Mayweather Sr. on HBO’s 24/7. It escalated quickly from “this feels like a performance for HBO’s cameras” to “so thaaaaat’s the way it is in their family.” When Big Floyd started dropping MF-bombs, you knew it was no act. And then came the best line, Little Floyd telling him “You couldn’t fight worth s—!” It was fascinating to watch Little Floyd’s bodyguards trying not to get too involved. You could almost see them thinking, “Normally, I’d beat this old man to a pulp and leave him on the curb, then let Floyd deal with a lawsuit later … but I’m not sure what the protocol is when it’s my boss’ dad.”

• By the way, the MF-bombs were intense but, to the viewing audience, harmless. I’m not sure the same can be said about the barely audible homophobic slur that “Money” slipped in there.

• I’ve heard some people claim that Victor Ortiz’s backstory is a complete fabrication, but even if that’s the case, it’s great for generating interest. You can’t watch Ortiz and his brother talk about their childhood and not be drawn in.

• In case you couldn’t infer it: I thought that was the most promising opening episode of a 24/7 series in a long time. Maybe even going all the way back to the original De La Hoya-Mayweather edition.

• Congratulations to Brian Kenny on his new gig with MLB Network and on 13 tremendous years driving the ESPN Friday Night Fights bus. What I’m about to write is based purely on personal conjecture, not on any inside information whatsoever, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see BK providing blow-by-blow on HBO’s new prospect-based boxing series next year. It just seems an obvious match now that he’s left ESPN.

• I’m already bored by the Bob Arum-Dana White feud. But I am curious to see how the upcoming MMA film “Warrior” does at the box office. If it’s a bigger hit than “The Fighter,” that will tell me that MMA has gained a meaningful mainstream foothold.

• Lost amid the discussion of how baseless Zab Judah’s formal complaint over the refereeing in the Amir Khan fight was: Why in the hell would Judah want a rematch with Khan? Damn, Zab. Take a hint.

• As he revealed last week in hopes of easing some of his legal difficulties, Floyd Mayweather’s partying lifestyle is only an act. In related news, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. has revealed that his pursuit of a professional boxing career is only an act.

• There will be no new episode of Ring Theory (http://ringtheory.podbean.com) this week, as we take one of our occasional three-week breaks. We’ll return with a new episode either immediately after Labor Day, or the next time J-Woww’s face moves, whichever happens first.

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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Christian Mbilli has the Wow Factor: Dismisses Mark Heffron in 40 Seconds

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Christian Mbilli has the Wow Factor: Dismisses Mark Heffron in 40 Seconds

The Gervais Auto Center in Shawinigan, Quebec, Canada, roughly 100 miles south of Montreal, hosted tonight’s card on ESPN+, a co-promotion of Camille Estephan’s Eye of the Tiger Promotions and Bob Arum’s Top Rank. Arum wasn’t there; he was in Leeds, England, but the outcome would have mitigated his aggravation at seeing his fighter Josh Taylor fall short earlier in the day.

Super middleweight Christian Mbilli, of whom Arum owns a piece, needed only 40 seconds to conquer British import Mark Heffron who, on paper, was a very credible opponent. Mbilli backed Heffron into the ropes and collapsed him with a left hook that landed under his rib cage. Heffron, 30-3-1 heading in with 24 KOs, went down on all fours and was counted out. The contest was over almost before it began.

The Cameroon-born Mbilli, a 2016 Olympian for France who turned pro in Montreal, is ranked #2 by the WBC and WBA; #3 by the IBF and WBO. With the victory, he advanced his record to 27-0 (23 KOs). His next fight will reportedly come in August with rugged but battle-blistered Sergiy Derevyanchenko in the opposite corner. Mbilli has been chasing a fight with Canelo Alvarez, but has scant chance of landing it. At this juncture of his career, the red-headed Mexican undoubtedly wants less daunting assignments.

Co-Feature

Arslanbek Makhmudov, the Russian Lion, rebounded from his poor performance against Agit Kabayel with a second-round stoppage of sacrificial lamb Milan Rovcanin. Makhmudov (19-1, 18 KOs) knocked Rovcanin to the canvas with an overhand right in the opening round. The punch knocked Rovcanin sideways, his head resting on the ring apron. To Rovcanin’s credit, he beat the count and launched a futile offensive after he arose. A similar punch ended the brief bout at the 2:32 mark of the next frame.

Makhmudov is certainly heavy-handed, but he moves at a glacial pace and would be up-against-it against a world-class opponent with faster hands and better footwork. Rovcanin, who had  been feasting on fourth-raters in his native Serbia, declined to 27-4.

Other Bouts of Note

In a bout contested at the catch-weight of 178 pounds, Montreal-based Mehmet Unal, a 31-year-old former Olympian for Turkey, scored the best win of his career with a fourth-round stoppage of 34-year-old Laredo, Texas campaigner Rodolfo Gomez.

Gomez, routinely matched tough and better than his record (14-7-3 heading in), protested loudly when the referee waived it off, but his corner stood poised to throw in the towel. He hadn’t previously been stopped, let alone knocked off his feet. Unal improved to 10-0 (8 KOs).

Super middleweight Mereno Fendero, a 24-year old French Army veteran, improved to 6-0 (4) with a six-round decision over 38-year-old Argentine journeyman Rolando Mansilla (19-15-1). Fendero won every round on all three cards including a 10-8 round on one of the cards although there were no knockdowns. Although badly out-classed, the teak-tough Mansilla, a glutton for punishment, earned his pay.

Local prospect Alexandre Gaumont, a middleweight, improved to 11-0 (7) with an unpopular 8-round split decision over Argentina’s Santiago Fernandez (8-1-1). Two of the judges gave Gaumont six rounds, ridiculed as home town bias, with the other awarding five rounds to the Argentine who received a loud ovation as he left the ring.

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Sweet Revenge for the ‘Cat’: Catterall Outpoints Taylor in a Fan-Friendly Fight

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Former unified junior welterweight champion Josh Taylor and Jack Catterall renewed acquaintances tonight in a sold-out arena in Leeds, England. Their first bout 27 months ago in Glasgow ended in favor of Taylor, a controversial winner by split decision as most felt that Catterall was robbed. Tonight, the Cat, as he is nicknamed, turned the tables, winning a unanimous decision in a 12-round non-title fight that was more entertaining than their first encounter.

Catterall, who closed a short favorite, came out fast and was plainly ahead at the mid-point of the fight. But Taylor closed the gap and on unofficial scorecards it was an even fight after 10 frames. Then, in the 11th, shortly after the referee halted the action to warn the fighters about something, Catterall turned the tide back in his favor, stunning Taylor with a looping left hand coming out of the break. Seconds later, both fighters went down in a heap in front of a corner post.

Both fighters were marked-up at the finish, more so Taylor who ended the fight with his right eye swollen and nearly closed shut.

A draw would not have been unreasonable, but two of the judges gave Jack Catterall nine rounds (117-111) and the other had it 7-4-1 (116-113).

In his post-fight interview, Eddie Hearn, Catterall’s promoter, conceded that the scores were too wide but opined that the right guy won. Few would disagree, but co-promoter Bob Arum had a different take. “Those scores were a disgrace,” he said, taking the microphone. “I feel sorry for Josh. I thought he won the fight….”

In avenging his lone defeat, Catterall improved to 29-1 (13). It was second straight loss for Taylor (19-2) who had been inactive since losing his unified title to Teofimo Lopez.

A rubber match would be welcome.

Semi Wind-up

In the chief supporting bout, Cheavon Clarke improved to 9-0 (7 KOs) with an eighth-round stoppage of Ellis Zorro. Clarke, who represented both his native Jamaica and England in international amateur competitions, won the BBBoC British cruiserweight title.

This fight didn’t provide a lot of action. The humdrum ended in the waning seconds of round eight when Clarke nailed Zorro with a chopping right hand. He seized the moment, swarming after Zorro, and chopped him down with a series of punches. None appeared to land very cleanly, but Zorro was counted out with a mere second remaining in the round. It was his second straight defeat after opening his career with 17-0. In his previous bout, Zorro was blasted out in the opening round by Jai Opetaia.

Clarke, 33, is eyeing the winner of the forthcoming fight in London between WBO cruiserweight champion Chris Billam-Smith and Richard Riakporhe.

Also

Welterweight Paddy Donovan, a Traveler from Limerick, Ireland, advanced to 14-0 (11 KOs) with a ninth-round stoppage of former British lightweight champion Lewis Ritson (25-4).

Donovan, trained by former middleweight titlist Andy Lee, fought off his back foot for the first seven rounds as Ritson forced the pace. He changed tactics in round eight which was a strong round for him and then closed the show in the ninth. A series of punches had Ritson plainly hurt and the referee stepped in after 32 seconds and waved it off. It was Donovan’s fifth straight win inside the distance.

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Okolie Demolishes Rozanski to Jump-Start a Busy Boxing Weekend

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The weekend boxing activity got underway today in Rzesnow. Poland where, to the dismay of the locals, Lukasz Rozanski, was blown away in the opening round by UK invader Lawrence Okolie. Heading in, the Pole was 15-0 with 14 knockouts, was coming off back-to-back first-round stoppages, and had never fought beyond the fourth round. And he was a world champion of sorts, making the first defense of his WBC bridgerweight title.

Okolie (20-1, 15 KOs) knocked him down hard on the seat of his pants with a straight right hand, the first of three knockdowns. The final knockdown was the result of a combination that knocked Rozanski to his knees with his head landing outside the ropes. There were only seconds to go in the round, but when Rozanski arose on unsteady legs, the referee properly waived it off. At age 38, his first career loss may also mark the end of his career.

A 2016 Olympian co-managed by Anthony Joshua, Okolie (pictured) was making his first start with trainer Joe Gallagher after previously working under Shane McGuigan and SugarHill Steward and his first start since losing his WBO cruiserweight title to Chris Billam-Smith.  At six-foot-five and with an 82-inch reach, the 31-year-old Londoner is a very interesting specimen. His stated goal when he turned pro was to unify the cruiserweight division before moving up to heavyweight.

Had Rozanski won, there was talk of him fighting Badou Jack. The guess is this may be Okolie’s first and last fight at bridgerweight (under 225), a division recognized only by the WBC which invented it. (The WBA is poised to follow its lead. The WBA board of directors recently approved the addition of a super cruiserweight weight class.)

Saturday

The action tomorrow in regard to major fights begins at the Royal Arena in Copenhagen where the Fighting Dane, Dina Thorslund (21-0, 9 KOs), defends her WBC/WBO female world bantamweight title against Turkey’s Seren Cetin (11-0, 7 KOs). Thorslund, whose name appears on many pound-for-pound lists, is appearing in her 11th world title fight.

The marquee event takes place in the late afternoon (USA time) in Leeds, England, where Josh Taylor (19-1, 13 KOs) clashes with Jack Catterall (28-1, 13 KOs) in an eagerly-anticipated and twice-delayed rematch. Catterall will be seeking to avenge his lone defeat.

Their first encounter took place in February 2022 on Taylor’s turf in Glasgow, Scotland. Taylor won a split decision. To say that it was controversial would be putting it mildly. One pundit called it the biggest robbery in British boxing history. At stake was Taylor’s unified welterweight title which he would lose in his next outing when he was upset by Teofimo Lopez.

Catterall has fought twice since that night in Glasgow, most recently scoring a 12-round decision over globetrotter Jorge Linares who announced his retirement after the match. This is Taylor’s first ring outing since the Teofimo fight in New York. He and Catterall have engaged in a nasty war of words since their first encounter and the match – televised live exclusively in the U.S. on ESPN+ and around the world on DAZN — is an advance sellout. Check local listings for start times.

There’s been steady money on Catterall today and, if the odds hold up, Josh Taylor will assume the role of an underdog for the first time in his career.

Lastly

We’re back to ESPN+ again for a show in Shawinigan, Quebec, Canada, a co-promotion between Eye of the Tiger and Top Rank.

In the featured bout, Christian Mbilli (26-0, 22 KOs) meets England’s Mark Heffron (30-3-1, 24 KOs) in a 10-round super middleweight contest.

The Cameroon-born Mbilli, a 2016 Olympian for France who turned pro in Montreal, is ranked #2 by the WBC and WBA; #3 by the IBF and WBO.

In the co-feature, heavyweight Arslanbek Makhmudov, the Russian Lion, returns to the ring looking to rebuild a reputation that was badly tarnished last December when he was manhandled by underdog Agit Kabayel in Saudi Arabia. Makhmudov (18-1, 17 KOs) opposes no-hoper Milan Rovcanin (27-3, 18 KOs) who has been feasting on fourth-raters in his native Serbia. The TV portion of this Saturday Night card has a scheduled starting time of 7 pm ET/4 pm PT.

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