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Thomas Hearns: Hall Of Famer, You Better Believe It…LOTIERZO

Frank Lotierzo

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As most boxing fans and observers are aware by now, former five division champ Thomas Hearns 61-5-1 (48) has been nominated for induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, and he will no doubt be officially inducted this coming June in Canastota, New York. Nominating an athlete to any HOF can be tricky because everyone uses different criteria to determine if one athlete is more worthy than another as a legitimate HOF’er. Then again, there are those that when you hear their name, you don’t have to debate with yourself for a second whether or not they belong, you know they do without even thinking about it. However, there are some fighters in the IBHOF who shouldn’t be there. For instance, when you hear the names Ingemar Johansson or Ken Norton, both are former heavyweight champions and HOF inductees. Are they worthy of HOF status? I say no and since their official inductions in 2002 (Johansson) and 1992 (Norton), I still haven’t figured out exactly why they’re there.

Then there’s a fighter like Thomas Hearns, who the very second you hear he’s a nominee, you say yes. If there ever was a fighter who’s a first ballot HOF’er, it’s Hearns. Think about the credentials of the former “Hitman.” Hearns has to be considered one of the top 10 pound-for-pound punchers in boxing history. During a career that spanned from 1977 through 2006, Hearns won titles at welterweight, junior middleweight, middleweight, super-middleweight and light heavyweight. And in the midst of doing so he stopped fighters weighing between 147-190 pounds. And there are plenty of stories throughout different gyms throughout the country where he bested and even stopped some good heavyweights while sparring.

Hearns possessed a 78 inch reach as a welterweight, had a piston like left jab, a heat seeking missile for a right hand and a devastating left hook, especially to the body. That makes three different punches he could end a fight with. The list of fighters who that could be said about is short. In addition to that, Hearns has to rank as one of the top five greatest welterweights in boxing history and a terrific case can be made that he’s the greatest junior middleweight in the history of the division. This is a fighter whose prime was during the 1980s, which may be one of the strongest and deepest decades ever for great fighters, excluding heavyweights. And if you want to start a list of the top five pound-for-pound fighters of the 1980s, only Sugar Ray Leonard and Michael Spinks deserve to rank ahead of Hearns.

But that’s just part of the story.

The opposition Hearns faced and defeated during his career is a mini hall-of-fame list in itself. Hearns basically retired Sugar Ray Leonard after their first fight and was about five minutes away from winning it before succumbing in the 14th round to a desperate Leonard who was trailing on the scorecards when the fight ended. And although Hearns is officially 0-1-1 against Ray, everyone who saw their rematch knows he won it, and Leonard has admitted so himself in his recently released auto-biography and also during several interviews he’s given since the bout 22 years ago. Hearns is also the only fighter to knock out the real Roberto Duran. In fact Roberto fell face first courtesy of one Hearns right hand to the chin. He also devastated Pipino Cuevas to win the welterweight title and out-boxed and out-fought the once beaten Wilfred Benitez during a junior middleweight title bout. In his first challenge for the middleweight title, Hearns was stopped by Marvin Hagler in the third round in what is regarded as one of the most exciting fights in championship history.

Part of the beauty and greatness of Thomas Hearns is he fought everybody who was somebody and gave the sport of professional boxing all he had every time out, win or lose. He never boasted after an impressive knockout and never made excuses after a loss. Over the years some have described him as a fighter who didn’t have such a great chin. Luckily, they’ve been smart enough to never question his heart, but label his chin as suspect, something I’m not on board with. Only Iran Barkley stopped him with one punch, and that was a lottery shot in a bout that was just about to be halted because Hearns was tearing Iran apart. In their rematch six years later at light heavyweight a shot Hearns went the distance with Barkley. Sure, he was stopped by both Leonard and Hagler, but Leonard, who was a terrific puncher himself at welterweight, hit him for 14 rounds before finally finishing him, and Hagler hit him more times clean in three rounds than any other fighter he hit in 10 rounds before he was stopped.

Another mark against Hearns is the fact that he lost the two signature fights of his career, to Leonard at 147 in 1981 and Hagler at 160 in 1985. But is that so bad? Think about it, Leonard is considered by many historians as the second greatest welterweight of all-time and only ranks behind Sugar Ray Robinson – and those same historians consider Hagler amongst the five greatest middleweights ever. And it’s a fact the legacy of both Leonard and Hagler were cemented because they beat Hearns when they did. If Hearns wasn’t great, then why does beating him circa 1981-1985 solidify their credentials as all-time greats? And in all fairness, Hearns is really 1-1 against Leonard.

As for why Hearns ranks above Hagler pound-for-pound despite losing to him… It’s partly because he accomplished more and not only won the middleweight title after losing to Hagler, he also won a piece of the light heavyweight title twice, as well. Marvin never left the middleweight division and formed a lot of his legacy beating smaller fighters who moved up, whereas Hearns sought the bigger challenges at higher weights. Hearns was also a better puncher and more versatile than Hagler, and against two common marquee opponents, Leonard and Duran, Hearns inflicted more damage on Leonard and devastated Duran 10 months after Roberto went 15-rounds with Hagler. As to their versatility, Hagler was great when his opponent pressed him, but if he had to force the fight as he did against Duran and Leonard, he was significantly less effective, as opposed to Hearns who could use the ring and box or he could be a catch and kill attacker.

For whatever the reason, some fighters never get their just due from the fans and media. Thomas Hearns is a great example of that. Maybe he’s best remembered for losing to Leonard and Hagler in two highly promoted superfights that were seen worldwide. Regardless of the reason, Hearns is a certified all-time great and provided fans with many more thrilling and exciting fights than Leonard and Hagler combined.

Just in case anyone is cloudy about Hearns as a fighter, let me repeat, he’s one of the top 10 greatest pound-for-pound punchers in boxing history. One of the five greatest welterweights of all-time and one of the top three fighters of the 1980s. He could box and punch, he fought the greatest fighters of his era in between 147-168, and he’s beyond all doubt a Hall-of-Fame fighter/boxer.

Lastly, think about what he would do to Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao at 147 if he were around today. The Hearns who destroyed Cuevas and fought Leonard in 1981 would be a nightmare for either Floyd or Manny. In fact Mayweather would demand Hearns enter the ring with his right elbow and left knee in a brace, and Pacquiao would make him weigh in at 143 five minutes before they entered the ring.

Thomas Hearns was a real fighter and his inclusion into the IBHOF actually adds a little credibility to what’s become a very watered down hall.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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Hughie Fury vs. Alexander Povetkin: At the Crossroads

Ted Sares

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Hughie Fury vs Alexander Povetkin will be on the undercard of the Vasiliy Lomachenko vs Luke Campbell world lightweight title fight on August 31 at the O2 in London.

Fury is 23-2 while the Russian is 34-2 but these records somewhat hide the fact that the loser will need to reevaluate things while the winner can move on to bigger things. In short, a win can catapult Hughie (Tyson Fury’s cousin) to the world stage, but a loss in this, his Matchroom debut, can be disastrous, especially coming after his ugly win against a bloated Samuel Peter in a foul-fest this past July.

Said promoter Eddie Hearn, “Hughie will have to come through fire in this fight to win but, if he does, the rewards are huge.”

That’s a big “if.”

Povetkin turns 40 in a few weeks. Father time takes no prisoners and Povetkin is hardly the Povetkin of old. He was dismantled by Anthony Joshua and was even in trouble against big David Price. But “Sasha” has fought much stiffer opposition and is heavy-handed with many notable wins on his resume.

Fury himself said, “You can’t underestimate Povetkin. One [wrong] move and you get your head taken off.”

So, the two will be at the crossroads. And Robert Johnson said it best in these lines from his iconic “Cross Road Blues”:

I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
Asked the Lord above “have mercy, now save poor Bob, if you please”

Ooh, standin’ at the crossroad, tried to flag a ride
Ooh-ee, I tried to flag a ride
Didn’t nobody seem to know me, babe, everybody pass me by

Many pundits (but not this one) think Fury, being the younger and fresher man, will prevail in the fight as youth trumps experience, but others, including the oddsmakers that made Povetkin the favorite, assert that the more experienced Russian is stronger and more dangerous and will not stop moving forward.

Fury adds, “My mind is good at the moment….I’ve had a bit of bad luck with boxing, health issues and all that….It has been frustrating at times but that’s all behind me now and we’ve got a good team behind me. We’re ready now….Nobody has got the experience I have at my age. I’ve fought all over the world and I haven’t been protected. I’ve had experience that nobody else has ever had, especially at my age.”

However, his last effort against former titleholder but now woefully dreadful Samuel Peter in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia was, well, dreadful. BLH’s Scott Christ nailed it: “The cousin of Tyson Fury is not known as one of the world’s more exciting heavyweights, to put it kindly, but he’s a good technician who understands how to use his physical advantages, and he kept range easily against Peter, who was never much of a mover and at this point has cinder blocks for feet.”

One notable thing the combatants have done is signed on to be tested by VADA, both before and after their fight. “It is impossible to say in advance how many doping samples will be collected in total,” Povetkin’s promoter Vadim Kornilov told TASS. Given Povetkin’s record on this account, the VADA tests are a welcomed addition.

Ted Sares is a lifetime member of Ring 10, and a member of Ring 4 and its Boxing Hall of Fame. He also is an Auxiliary Member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA). He is an active power lifter and Strongman competitor in the Master Class.

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Three Punch Combo: Observations on Kovalev-Yarde and other Upcoming Fights

Matt Andrzejewski

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THREE PUNCH COMBO — Light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev (33-3-1, 28 KO’s) returns to the ring on Saturday in his native Russia to face mandatory challenger Anthony Yarde (18-0, 17 KO’s). Kovalev is coming off an impressive victory in his rematch with Eleider Alvarez, but was that performance a mirage and is the resurrection of the now 36-year-old Kovalev for real?

It’s funny how quickly perceptions can change in boxing. When Kovalev was knocked out by Alvarez in August of 2018, many thought Kovalev’s career as an upper echelon fighter was done. But when Kovalev out-boxed Alvarez in the rematch six months later, many thought Kovalev was back amongst the elite in the light heavyweight division.

In order to better gauge just where Kovalev is at in his career, we need to take a closer look at both of those fights.

Per CompuBox, Kovalev averaged throwing 48 punches per round (21 were jabs) to Alvarez’s 36 (17 were jabs) in their first fight. Most ringsiders had that fight fairly close through six rounds with maybe a slight edge to Kovalev. Then in round seven, Alvarez landed the overhand right that put Kovalev down and turned the tide.

In the second fight, per CombuBox, Kovalev averaged 68 punches per round (32 were jabs) to Alvarez’s 31 (17 were jabs). So Kovalev’s overall volume increased drastically while Alvarez’s volume remained relatively the same. In this fight, Kovalev essentially coasted to an easy victory.

In the first fight, it appeared that in round seven Kovalev began to look fatigued. But despite throwing a much higher volume of punches in the second fight, Kovalev never really looked fatigued or took his foot off the gas. So, what changed?

Re-watching both fights, it is clear that in the first fight Kovalev loaded up on almost everything he threw at Alvarez. But in the second fight, Kovalev didn’t load up that often. Instead, he used his jab more. By doing so, he was able to pace himself while displaying excellent overall boxing skills.

Kovalev changed his style in the second fight and clearly it worked. Coming up the ladder, Kovalev always had the raw power but early in his career he displayed very good boxing skills. As his career progressed, he began falling more and more in love with his power, often times abandoning those boxing skills. But his new trainer for that second fight with Alvarez, Buddy McGirt, helped bring back those boxing skills and we saw the results.

So, is this resurrection of Kovalev for real? Yes, I believe so, if he continues to focus on what worked for him in that second fight with Eleider Alvarez. The boxing skills can be elite and there is still the raw power. Light heavyweight is deep but I think this resurrected version of Kovalev can still defeat anyone in the division.

ShoBox Returns

ShoBox returns on Friday with a tripleheader from Main Street in Broken Arrow, OK. The card will be headlined by fast-rising 168-pound prospect Vladimir Shishkin (8-0, 5 KO’s) who will be taking a big step up in competition in facing DeAndre Ware (13-1-2, 8 KO’s) in a bout scheduled for 10 rounds. Also featured on the card will be the return of Shohjahon Ergashev (16-0, 14 KO’s) who will face the tough Abdiel Ramirez (24-4-1, 22 KO’s) in a scheduled ten at 140 pounds.

Shishkin, 28, turned pro in July of 2016 after a solid amateur career. He is coming off a career best win last October when he stopped former world title challenger Nadjib Mohammedi in the 10th round of their scheduled 12-round fight. Now Shishkin will come to the U.S. for the first time to face an even stiffer test in Ware.

Ware, 31, is coming off a career-best performance himself in February when he scored a surprise 10- round majority decision over the previously undefeated Ronald Ellis. Ware once held Shishkin’s status as a rising super middleweight then took a step back with a bad performance in 2018 against Cem Kilic. He can reclaim his stature in the division with a victory on Friday.

Ergashev, featured earlier this year as a break-out candidate, is coming off a rather pedestrian performance in February when he won a 10-round decision against awkward Mykal Fox. Prior to that performance, Ergashev had been putting on some dominant performances, flashing a tantalizing skill set along with devastating power.

Ramirez is a tough aggressive veteran who pulled a big surprise last December when he stopped former contender Michael Perez. He is certainly no pushover and his aggressive style should at the very least make for an entertaining fight.

ShoBox continues to deliver in 2019 and I expect no different from this event on Friday. While both Shishkin and Ergashev will enter the ring as favorites, they are certainly not in easy, and it’s this type of matchmaking that continues to make the series a big hit.

Under the Radar Fight

DAZN returns on Saturday from Mexico with a card headlined by 115-pound champion Juan Francisco Estrada (39-3, 26 KO’s) who will be making the first defense of the title he won in April when he takes on Dewayne Beamon (16-1-1, 11 KO’s). While this fight will grab much of the publicity surrounding this card, there is an intriguing undercard fight pitting fast-rising 140-pound prospect Shakhram Giyasov (8-0, 6 KO’s) against veteran Darleys Perez (34-4-2, 22 KO’s).

Giyasov, 26, had a stellar amateur background that included winning a silver medal for Uzbekistan at the 2016 Olympics. He turned pro in 2018 and has been moved along at a very brisk pace. He is coming off a 10-round unanimous decision in April against veteran Emanuel Taylor and seems poised to quickly move into contender status at 140.

Giyasov can best be described as an aggressive boxer puncher. He throws very fluid combinations to both the head and body. His footwork is excellent and he is very adept at setting precision angles to land his heavy-handed shots with maximum impact. And though he is comfortable coming forward, Giyasov has also proven to be a very effective counter-puncher in the early stages of his pro career.

As with many up-and-coming young fighters, Giyasov does have some defensive holes. Most notably he has a habit of carrying his left hand at his hip and pulling straight back with his hands down. In his fight against Taylor, Giyasov was buzzed by a left hook in the first round while pulling straight back.

Perez, 35, is a hard-nosed skilled veteran and this is clearly a big step up in competition for Giyasov. Perez has tested up-and-coming fighters in the past and has shown a knack for exposing their weaknesses. In 2016, he pushed future world champion Maurice Hooker to the limit in what ended in a controversial 10-round split draw (most ringside observers felt Perez clearly deserved the nod). Perez has shown recently that he still has plenty in the tank and hopes to position himself back in contention in the deep 140-pound division.

Shakhram Giyasov has plenty of talent but also plenty of questions. Can he rise to the occasion and show his full potential against Darleys Perez or will he be exposed?  This is a very intriguing crossroads fight between a savvy skilled veteran and an elite young prospect.

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The Bones Adams Story (Part Two)

Arne K. Lang

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When Bones Adams retired from boxing, he was still in his mid-twenties. The kid from Henderson, Kentucky, now lived in Henderson, Nevada, a suburb of Las Vegas, and before leaving the sport he had made enough money to go on a home-buying spree.

Real estate in the form of rental homes was a sound investment, or so everyone told him. But that was before the Great Recession, a scourge that clobbered real estate speculators and new homeowners, hitting Las Vegas especially hard.

“Suddenly,” says Bones, looking back, “a house next door to one of my mine, a house that looked a lot like mine, was on the market for half the price that I paid for mine. I didn’t have the equity to ride out the storm.”

One of Bones’ best friends worked as a limousine driver for Charles Horky. The friend suggested that Bones join the team. Horky, a big fight fan, hired him in a flash.

Horky was an American success story. Starting with one limousine, he built a mini-empire. His fleet serviced the MGM Grand properties, of which there were eight on the Las Vegas Strip. Many of his regular clients were celebrities.

A town like Las Vegas attracts a lot of predators. Charles Horky fit right in. The FBI would allege that he didn’t merely turn a blind eye when his drivers supplied hookers and drugs – cocaine, meth, Ecstasy – to his customers, but that he encouraged it and demanded a cut of the action. Then there was the little matter of unauthorized charges on credit cards, a common scam in Vegas, particularly in “gentleman’s” clubs. “What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas,” goes the slogan, and what often stays is a lot more money than a visitor remembers spending.

On Dec. 13, 2012, the FBI arrested Charles Horky and eight of his employees or associates, including four limousine drivers, on racketeering charges. Clarence “Bones” Adams, identified in the papers as one of the limousine drivers, was caught up in the sting.

“I did some stuff I shouldn’t have,” Bones acknowledged when this reporter broached the subject. But he says he wasn’t a limousine driver except on his first day of work because Horky thought he was more valuable out in the field working as a starter, a person that works with the concierge at a hotel. (In Las Vegas, a taxi driver is prohibited from carrying more than five passengers. For larger parties, it’s often cheaper to hire a limo than taking multiple cabs.)

At his initial hearing, Bones pleaded not guilty. The attorney he hired, confident that he would receive only a slap on the wrist, got him to change his plea. Indeed, probation was what the prosecutors recommended. But the judge thought otherwise and Bones would serve six months at the federal correctional institution in Taft, California.

– – –

When we caught up with Bones Adams last week, he had just returned from shepherding his three youngest children to school (Bones has a daughter, Alexa, from a previous marriage). It entailed three stops – a high school, a middle school, and an elementary school. The school buses don’t service his neighborhood, an upper-middle-class neighborhood in the southwest part of Las Vegas.

The home that Adams shares with Millette, his wife of 14 years, and their children has a very deep back yard. Situated at the end of the long driveway is a 3,200-square foot building that houses a two-car garage and the boxing gym. The previous owner was a custom glass maker. This was his workshop.

Bones Adams doesn’t speak well of his former manager Cameron Dunkin, but Bones concedes that Dunkin did him a big favor when he sold his contract to James Prince. The change-over was made shortly after Bones’ first match with Paulie Ayala.

Prince, the Houston-based rap music mogul, was previously involved in the careers of Floyd Mayweather Jr, with whom he had a big falling out, and Andre Ward, among others. Today he is connected to a stable of boxers in Las Vegas who compete under the Prince Ranch insignia, the most notable of whom is former U.S. Olympian Michael Hunter who meets undefeated Sergey Kuzmin at Madison Square Garden on Sept. 13 in a match that will leave the winner well-positioned for a shot at a world heavyweight title.  Undefeated super bantamweight Raeese Aleem (pictured with Bones) is one of several rising contenders.

The gym that sits in Bones’ backyard was designed for Prince Ranch fighters but isn’t exclusively for them. “Basically,” says Bones, “whenever there is a really big fight in town, one of the fighters comes here.” Amir Khan used the gym to put the final touches on his preparation for Canelo Alvarez. Daniel Jacobs did likewise. More recently, Manny Pacquiao and his trainer Freddie Roach were here during the final days preceding PacMan’s fight with Keith Thurman. Tucked away in a quiet residential neighborhood, the gym offers a marquee fighter a level of privacy he is unlikely to find elsewhere.

pac

Pacquiao

When Khan was here in May of 2016, Bones Adams wasn’t yet immersed in the daily routine of a trainer. It would be more accurate to say that he was the facility’s caretaker. But he and Khan forged a relationship and when Khan was in the market for a new trainer – having left Virgil Hunter, who trained him for his bout with Terence Crawford — he thought of his new buddy back in Las Vegas.

Amir Khan is no longer an “A side” fighter in the United States. Canelo Alvarez starched him with one punch and he was flayed on social media for his weak showing against Crawford. But Khan, an Olympic silver medalist for England at age 17, remains one of the most well-known sporting personalities in the U.K. His supposedly tempestuous relationship with his attractive American-born wife has been a steady source of fodder for the tabloids.

Bones spent two-and-a-half weeks with Khan in Khan’s hometown of Bolton and another two-and-a-half weeks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where Khan finished his training for his fight with Billy Dib, a late sub for India’s Neeraj Gorat who had to pull out after being injured in a car crash. The fight was hyped as a landmark event that would pave the way to a succession of bigger fights in Saudi Arabia.

The Arab nation has been in the news lately and we asked Bones for a few tips on the unlikely chance that we would ever go there. “I was told that I shouldn’t strike up a conversation with a woman I didn’t know, but what I found was that things had loosened up,” he said. “However, ‘no touching’ is still the rule (a no-no that covers everything from a handshake to a hug). The people over there were very warm. We were treated very well.”

Late in his boxing career, Bones’ hairline began to recede. The recession has now completed its journey, perhaps with a little assistance from a barber, and Bones is fashionably bald. But he looks younger than his age; the muscles in his arms are taut, fittingly so for a man who preaches that a boxing-themed workout is the best workout of all for a man that wants to stay physically fit.

Capture

When Bones looks back on his boxing career, he thinks about what might have been if those that had influence over his career had done a better job of looking out for his interests and if the deck hadn’t been rigged against him in several of his most important fights. But the bitterness has long since dissipated, usurped by an understanding that there were times when his life could have spiraled completely out of control and an appreciation for those that reeled him back in. Foremost is his wife Millette, whose name Bones spells out to make certain the reporter gets it right.

It’s been a bumpy ride for Clarence “Bones” Adams, but he is now in a good place. Back in the day, the WBA stripped him of his title for no good reason other than they could, but looking back Bones can see that owning all the title belts in the world wouldn’t have amounted to a hill of beans if he hadn’t met Millette who has stood by his side through thick and thin.

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