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Berto Gets TKO Win, Stops Zaveck After Fifth Round…WOODS

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BertoOrtiz_Hogan21This fight won't remove the hurt from his last bout, but Andre Berto helped ease the sting a bit with his stoppage victory over Slovakian Jan Zaveck in the main event which unfolded at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Mississippi on Saturday night.

After the fifth round, Zaveck's corner said no mas, with their man's right eye swollen badly. He wanted to continue, and swore in dismay, but he was starting to eat clean, hard shots in the HBO After Dark headliner. Berto, who dropped his WBC crown to Victor Ortiz in April, threw 90 more punches, while Zaveck landed 20 more, but Berto's power was the difference-maker.

Both men have a tendency to drop their heads, and lower their eyes, which lessens their ability to pick up incoming fire. Berto took full advantage of that, and cracked Zaveck while the loser looked down. No one can question his heart, as he seemed genuinely irked that his face was busted up. “Is my right eye swollen too?” he asked his corner while they tried to urge him to quit.

Berto (age 27; from Florida; 27-1 with 21 KOs entering) weighed 146 3/4 pounds , while the IBF welterweight champion Zaveck (age 35; from Slovenia; 31-1-1NC with 18 KOs entering) was 146 1/2 pounds.

Analyst Max Kellerman mentioned that Berto hired ex Balco chemist Victor Conte to recommend supplements, and lauded the hire. Berto did indeed look strong and fast and fiesty in the first. He ripped to both sides of the body. Zaveck didn't come to survive; he thrived in the first with a solid uppercut, and didn't look overwhelmed by his first fight in the States. Berto pumped a jab, but mostly as is his custom wants to get it done with power shots. Trainer Tony Morgan told Berto after the second that he wanted bhim to get in and get out, and move his head more. The Zaveck corner told their guy to “be careful.”

In the third, both men were squared up, winging it, though Zaveck wasn't as busy as Berto. His right hand to the body after Berto piled up combos with a minute left wasn't enough to win him the round. Berto took the fourth off, somewhat, and I think let Zaveck open up. He roared back in the fifth, and opened up a nasty cut on Zaveck's right eye. The fight became a rumble, but Berto had more skills, and more strength. Zaveck went back to his corner and his trainer didn't like his face. “Both eyes are swollen, it's too much,” the trainer said. The left eye was cut too, not as badly, though.

In the TV opener, Gary Russell Jr clashed with Leonilo Miranda (26-3 entering; from Mexico), in a clash of featherweights. Russell looked solid against a guy who'd amassed wins at home, and emerged the victor, by scores of 80-72, 80-72, 79-72.

The 17-0 Russell has been having hand problems but they looked to be working well early. The 23 year old Russell comes from Maryland, and was selected for the 2008 Olympics. His hand speed is most noticeable, one termed an “exceptional” talent by Kellerman. Jones said he thinks Russell will be a big star in years to come, but heard his brittle hands are troublesome.

The two lefties started fast, but Russell was faster. His jab is crisper than a Deadhead, and though he often throws it in singlet form, he put a few combos together late in the first. His father-trainer Gary Sr asked him to add the hook to the mix after the round.

In the second, Jones had me shaking my head when he told Kellerman that Russell wasn't really a “boxer” because he stays in the pocket, and doesn't really move his feet much,  after Kellerman had made a point of saying what an impressive “boxer” he is. Kellerman defended his point, and then Jones flip-flopped, and admitted that Russell is indeed a boxer. “You are boxing, he is a boxer,” Jones said. It was a more-than-a-bit-strange exchange. Russell, during all this, was in a comfort zone. He stood in the pocket, slipped some when he had to, but basically stayed in an offensive mode.

Russell got nastier in the fourth. He worked over Miranda on the ropes a minute in. Body and head, hard shots were landing on Miranda. Russell did go low-ish a few times, but nothing Golota-ish. Watching Russell slip punches, and then slide to reset, I flashed back to Jones Jr. telling us he isn't really a “boxer” and I shook my head again.

Russell blasted Miranda in the sixth, and the underdog ducked outside the ropes to get some air. Kellerman by this time cemented himself as at least a vice president in the Russell Jr Fanclub, as he said that he could see Russ and Donaire in a super fight in a couple years. We shall see how it plays out. I'd like to see him against top 20 guys first, then top tenners, and of course if those hands are as brittle as they say, his time could be short.

All wondered if maybe Russell hurt a hand by the eighth. Why wasn't he putting Miranda down, then?

We'd go to the cards…

Russell said his bum left hand felt good, so the “hurt hand” theory went out the window. He also said he was ready for the division's elite.

SPEEDBAG Kellerman to end the show sort of ripped Al Haymon a new one. He said the advisor gets slammed for having excess influence at HBO, and evidenced Russell getting to fight an eight rounder against a journeyman. Max said the coddling of Haymon fighters by Haymon and those who sign off on the fights on TV is unfair to the fighters themselves. Max is Mensa smart; I'd be surprised if he didn't have cover as he said this. Might there be a good idea among those truly in the know who'll be running HBO boxing, and might Max understand that Haymon's coziness, or perceived coziness, might be at the end of the line under the new regime?

OTHER ACTION (From DiBella Release)
Biloxi, MS – (9/3/2011) –  It was a clean sweep for DiBella Entertainment (DBE) stable-mates Thomas Oosthuzien, Randall Bailey, Luis Orlandito Del Valle and Ivan Redkach earlier in Biloxi, Mississippi, on the undercard of tonight's live HBO Boxing After Dark telecast, featuring former WBC Welterweight Champion, Andre Berto looking to reclaim a piece of the welterweightr crown when he takes on reigning IBF Champion, Jan Zaveck.

In a very entertaining fight, South Africa's Oosthuzien defended his IBO Super Middleweight Title with a twleve round unanimous decision victory over Aaron Pryor Jr.  The southpaw Oosthuzien, who was making both his U.S. and DBE debut, was able to work behind a vicious body attack to outwork Pryor for most of the fight.  Pryor hung tough, and did some good work of his own, causing a nasty cut to open over Oosthuzien's right eye, but in the end Oosthuzien was the much busier of the two, winning by scores of 117-11 on all three judge's scorecards.

IBF #2 rated welterweight, Randall “The K.O. King” Bailey improved to 42-7, 36KO's with a dominant ten round unanimous decision over Yoryi Estrella.  Bailey, the manadatory challenger to tonight's main event winner, controlled the action throughout, dropping Estrella with an uppercut in the 5th round, before going on to win by scores of 100-89, 100-89, 98-91. 

Del Valle knocked out Anthony Napunyi with a tremendous overhand right, improving to a perfect 14-0, 11KO's.  Official time of the stoppage was 1:21 of round three.

Redkach improved to a 8-0, 7KO's stopping Vernon Alston (4-2, 4KO's) in the third round of their scheduled six round lightweight contest.

In the opening bout of the evening, Gerald Jordon (8-5-1, 5KO's) scored an upset six round split decision over previously undefeated welterweight Sergio Vartanov (9-1, 6KO's).

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Anderson Cruises by Vapid Merhy and Ajagba edges Vianello in Texas

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Jared Anderson returned to the ring tonight on a Top Rank card in Corpus Christi, Texas. Touted as the next big thing in the heavyweight division, Anderson (17-0, 15 KOs) hardly broke a sweat while cruising past Ryad Merhy in a bout with very little action, much to the disgruntlement of the crowd which started booing as early as the second round. The fault was all Merhy as he was reluctant to let his hands go. Somehow, he won a round on the scorecard of judge David Sutherland who likely fell asleep for a round for which he could be forgiven.

Merhy, born in the Ivory Coast but a resident of Brussels, Belgium, was 32-2 (26 KOs) heading in after fighting most of his career as a cruiserweight. He gave up six inches in height to Anderson who was content to peck away when it became obvious to him that little would be coming back his way.

Anderson may face a more daunting adversary on Monday when he has a court date in Romulus, Michigan, to answer charges related to an incident in February where he drove his Dodge Challenger at a high rate speed, baiting the police into a merry chase. (Weirdly, Anderson entered the ring tonight wearing the sort of helmet that one associates with a race car driver.)

Co-Feature

In the co-feature, a battle between six-foot-six former Olympians, Italy’s Guido Vianello started and finished strong, but Efe Ajagba had the best of it in the middle rounds and prevailed on a split decision. Two of the judges favored Ajagba by 96-94 scores with the dissenter favoring the Italian from Rome by the same margin.

Vianello had the best round of the fight. He staggered Ajagba with a combination in round two. At the end of the round, a befuddled Ajagba returned to the wrong corner and it appeared that an upset was brewing. But the Nigerian, who trains in Las Vegas under Kay Koroma, got back into the fight with a more varied offensive attack and better head movement. In winning, he improved his ledger to 20-1 (14). Vianello, who sparred extensively with Daniel Dubois in London in preparation for this fight, declined to 12-2-1 in what was likely his final outing under the Top Rank banner.

Other Bouts of Note

In the opening bout on the main ESPN platform, 35-year-old super featherweight Robson Conceicao, a gold medalist for Brazil in the 2016 Rio Olympics, stepped down in class after fighting Emanuel Navarrete tooth-and-nail to a draw in his previous bout and scored a seventh-round stoppage of Jose Ivan Guardado who was a cooked goose after slumping to the canvas after taking a wicked shot to the liver. Guardado made it to his feet, but the end was imminent and the referee waived it off at the 2:27 mark.

Conceicao improved to 18-1 (9 KOs). It was the U.S. debut for Guardado (15-2-1), a boxer from Ensenada, Mexico who had done most of his fighting up the road in Tijuana.

Ruben Villa, the pride of Salinas, California, improved to 22-1 (7) and moved one step closer to a match with WBC featherweight champion Rey Vargas with a unanimous 10-round decision over Tijuana’s Cristian Cruz (22-7-1). The judges had it 97-93 and 98-92 twice.

Cruz, the son of former IBF world featherweight title-holder Cristobal Cruz, was better than his record. He entered the bout on a 21-1-1 run after losing five of his first seven pro fights.

Cleveland southpaw Abdullah Mason, who turned 20 earlier this month, continued his fast ascent up the lightweight ladder with a fourth-round stoppage of Ronal Ron.

Mason (13-0, 11 KOs) put Ron on the canvas in the opening round with a short left hook. He scored a second knockdown with a shot to the liver. A flurry of punches, a diverse array, forced the stoppage at the 1:02 mark of round four. A 25-year-old SoCal-based Venezuelan, the spunky but out-gunned Ron declined to 14-6.

Charly Suarez, a 35-year-old former Olympian from the Philippines, ranked #5 at junior lightweight by the IBF, advanced to 17-0 (9) with a unanimous 8-round decision over SoCal’s Louie Coria (5-7).

This was a tactical fight. In the final round, Coria, subbing for 19-0 Henry Lebron, caught the Filipino off-balance and knocked him into the ropes which held him up. It was scored a knockdown, but came too little, too late for Coria who lost by scores of 76-75 and 77-74 twice.

Suarez, whose signature win was a 12th-round stoppage of the previously undefeated Aussie Paul Fleming in Sydney, may be headed to a rematch with Robson Conceicao. They fought as amateurs in 2016 in Kazakhstan and Suarez lost a narrow 6-round decision.

Photo credit: Mikey Willams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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Ellie Scotney and Rhiannon Dixon Win World Title Fights in Manchester

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England’s Ellie Scotney started slowly against the long reach of France’s Segolene Lefebvre but used rough tactics and a full-steam ahead approach to unify the super bantamweight division by unanimous decision on Saturday.

“There’s a lot more I didn’t show,” said an excited Scotney (pictured on the left).

IBF titlist Scotney (9-0) added the WBO title by nullifying Lefebvre’s (18-1) reach and dominating the inside with a two-fisted attack in front of an excited crowd in Manchester, England.

For the first two rounds Lefebvre used her long reach and smooth fluid attack to keep Scotney at the end of her punches. Then the fight turned when the British fighter bulled her way inside with body shots and forced the French fighter into the ropes.

Aggressiveness by Scotney turned the fight in her favor. But Lefebvre remained active and countered with overhand rights throughout the match.

Body shots by Scotney continued to pummel the French champion’s abdomen but she remained steadfast in her counter-attacks. Combinations landed for Lefebvre and a counter overhand right scored to keep her in the contest in the fifth round.

Scotney increased the intensity of her attack in the sixth and seventh rounds. In perhaps her best round Scotney was almost perfect in scoring while not getting hit with anything from the French fighter.

Maybe the success of the previous round caused Scotney to pause. It allowed Lefebvre to rally behind some solid shots in a slow round and gave the French fighter an opening. Maybe.

The British fighter opened up more savagely after taking two Lefevbre rights to open the ninth. Scotney attacked with bruising more emphatic blows despite getting hit. Though both fired blows Scotney’s were more powerful.

Both champions opened-up the 10th and final round with punches flying. Once again Scotney’s blows had more power behind them though the French fighter scored too, and though her face looked less bruised than Scotney’s the pure force of Scotney’s attacks was more impressive.

All three judges saw Scotney the winner 97-93, 96-94 and a ridiculous 99-91. The London-based fighter now has the IBF and WBO super bantamweight titles.

Promoter Eddie Hearn said a possible showdown with WBC titlist Erika Cruz looms large possibly in the summer.

“Great performance. Great punch output,” said Hearn of Scotney’s performance.

Dixon Wins WBO Title

British southpaw Rhiannon Dixon (10-0) out-fought Argentina’s Karen Carabajal (22-2) over 10 rounds and won a very competitive unanimous decision to win the vacant WBO lightweight title. It was one of the titles vacated by Katie Taylor who is now the undisputed super lightweight world champion.

An aggressive Dixon dominated the first three rounds including a knockdown in the third round with a perfect left-hand counter that dropped Carabajal. The Argentine got up and rallied in the round.

Carabajal, whose only loss was against Katie Taylor, slowly began figuring out Dixon’s attacks and each round got more competitive. The Argentine fighter used counter rights to find a hole in Dixon’s defense to probably win the round in the sixth.

The final three rounds saw both fighters engage evenly with Carabajal scoring on counters and Dixon attacking the body successfully.

After 10 rounds all three judges saw it in Dixon’s favor 98-91, 97-92, 96-93 who now wields the WBO lightweight world title.

“It’s difficult to find words,” said Dixon after winning the title.

Hometown Fighter Wins

Manchester’s Zelfa Barrett (31-2, 17 KOs) battled back and forth with Jordan Gill (28-3-1, 9 KO-s) and finally ended the super featherweight fight with two knockdowns via lefts to the body in the 10th round of a scheduled 12-round match for a regional title.

The smooth moving Barrett found the busier Gill more complex than expected and for the first nine rounds was fighting a 50/50 fight against the fellow British fighter from the small town of Chatteris north of London.

In the 10th round after multiple shots on the body of Gill, a left hook to the ribs collapsed the Chatteris fighter to the floor. He willed himself up and soon after was floored again but this time by a left to the solar plexus. Again he continued but was belted around until the referee stopped the onslaught by Barrett at 2:44 of the 10th.

“A tough, tough fighter,” said Barrett about Gill. “I had to work hard.”

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O.J. Simpson the Boxer: A Heartwarming Tale for the Whole Family

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O.J. Simpson passed away on Wednesday, April 10, at age 76 in Las Vegas where he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. For millions of Americans, news of his passing unloosed a flood of memories.

The O.J. Simpson double murder trial lasted 37 weeks. CNN and two other fledgling cable networks provided gavel-to-gavel coverage. On Oct. 3, 1995, the day that the jury rendered its verdict, CBS, NBC, ABC, and ESPN suspended regular programming to cover the trial. Worldwide, more than 100 million people were reportedly glued to their TV or radio.

O.J.’s life can be neatly compartmentalized into two halves. The dividing line is June 12, 1994. On that date, Simpson’s estranged wife, the former Nicole Brown, and her friend Ronald Goldman were found stabbed to death in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood at the home that Nicole shared with their two children.

Before then, O.J. was famous. After then, he was infamous.

Simpson first came to the fore on the gridiron. In 1968, his final season at the University of Southern California, he was so dynamic that he won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide, out-distancing Purdue’s Leroy Keyes by 1,750 votes. This was the widest margin to that point between a Heisman winner and runner-up and a milestone that stood for 51 years until surpassed by LSU quarterback Joe Burrows in 2019.

In the NFL, among his many achievements, he became the first and only NFL running back to eclipse 2,000 rushing yards in a 14-game season, a record that will never be broken.

But one can’t appreciate the depth of O.J.s celebrityhood by citing statistics. He transcended his sport like few athletes before or since. Owing in large part to his commercials for the Hertz rental car chain, he became one of America’s most recognizable people.

O.J. Simpson was raised by a single mother in a government housing project in the gritty Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. Unlike many of his boyhood peers, he was never quick to raise his fists. Weirdly, he once said that running away from fights proved useful to him when he took up football. It helped his stamina.

Although he never boxed in real life, O.J. portrayed a boxer in a made-for-TV movie. Titled “Goldie and the Boxer,” it aired on NBC on Sunday, Dec. 29, 1979, two weeks after O.J. played in his last NFL game. Co-produced by Simpson’s own production company, it starred O.J. opposite precocious Melissa Michaelson who played the 10-year-old Goldie.

In promos, the movie was tagged as a heartwarming tale for kids and their parents. Associated Press writer John Egan described it as “a cross between the Shirley Temple classic ‘Little Miss Marker’ and a low-budget ‘Rocky.’”

Here’s a synopsis, compliments of New York Times TV critic John J. O’Connor:

“The year is 1946, and Joe Gallagher is returning to Louisiana as an army veteran. He is quickly ripped off by a succession of thugs and finds himself broke and battered in Pennsylvania where he is befriended by a young Goldie. Her father is a boxer and Joe joins the training camp as a sparring partner. When the father dies, Joe takes his place on the fight circuit and Goldie becomes his manager…”

The consensus of the pundits was that O.J. the actor was very much a work in progress, but that he had great potential. And the movie, despite its hokey plot, attracted so many viewers that NBC wanted to turn it into a series.

O.J. had too much on his plate to commit to doing a regular series. Among other things, he had signed on to become part of NBC’s main stable of reporters at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, a gig that evaporated when the U.S. under President Jimmy Carter joined 64 other nations in boycotting the Games as a protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. However, the movie did spawn a sequel, “Goldie and the Boxer Go To Hollywood,” with Simpson and Michaelson reprising their roles.

I never met O.J. Simpson, but have a vivid memory of finding myself walking behind him into the outdoor boxing arena at Caesars Palace. If memory serves, this was the Hagler-Hearns fight of 1985, in which case the lady on his arm would have been Nicole as they were married earlier that year. She was quite a dish in that tight-fitting pantsuit and I remember thinking to myself, “of all the trophies this dude has won, here is the best trophy of them all.” (Forgive me.)

Simpson had cameo roles in several movies before leaving USC. When he finally turned his back on football, the world was his oyster. O.J., wrote Barry Lorge in the Washington Post, was “bright, affable, charming, articulate and credible, a public relation man’s dream-come true.”

No one would have foreseen the swerve his life would take.

When the jury, after only four hours of deliberation, returned a verdict of “not guilty,” there was cheering in some corners of America. The overwhelming consensus of the white population, however, was that the verdict was an abomination, a gross miscarriage of justice.

We’ll leave it at that.

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