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The Raskin PPV Running Diary: Hopkins vs. Dawson (Part II)

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We now continue our pay-per-view running diary where we left off yesterday, with Nigel Collins, Bill Dettloff, and I watching at stately Dettloff Manor and the Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson main event about to begin …

11:51 p.m. EST: The broadcasters note that Dawson has a tendency to “lose focus” during fights, prompting Nigel to ask aloud how it’s possible to lose focus when another man is trying to punch you in the head. It’s a heck of a question.

11:52: B-Hop is making his entrance, not to “My Way” but to some sort of sped up version of “We Will Rock You.” I’d like to take this moment to thank HBO PPV for not wasting anytime between the end of the undercard and the start of the main event. This thing might just get off before midnight on the east coast, which is great news for people like me whose children don’t believe in sleeping past 5:30 a.m.

11:59: In the words on Hector Salamanca: “Ding! Ding!”

12:00 a.m.: Steward drops a Bennie Briscoe reference, delighting Nigel, since “Baaaad Bennie” was his favorite fighter. All references to 1970s Philly fighters will be well-received in Dettloff’s living room tonight.

12:02: It’s an ugly first round (no surprise there), and as Lampley correctly observes, they’re fighting at a Bernard Hopkins pace. Despite that, I give Dawson the round, but not with a whole lot of conviction.

12:05: Dawson has a look of confidence about him in round two. He’s still not getting much done offensively, but there’s a look in his eyes that wasn’t there in the Jean Pascal fight or the Adrian Diaconu bout.

12:06: Can you say, “Worst case scenario”? Dawson lifts Hopkins in the air and throws him to the canvas without provocation, and Hopkins stays down, a look of anguish on his face as he points to his left shoulder. It quickly becomes apparent that there’s a chance the fight isn’t going to continue. Nobody wanted to see this thing end in a no-contest …

12:07: … but a no-contest would beat the crap out of an inexplicably ruled TKO to transfer ownership of the light heavyweight championship of the world! Pat Russell has just said something about there being no foul and therefore it’s a TKO, which sparks immediate outrage at our little PPV party. If he wants to call it an accidental foul instead of an intentional foul, I’ll buy that. But there’s no way Hopkins should lose the title on a TKO. While a no-decision would be the most fair outcome, a disqualification win for Hopkins would be more reasonable than a TKO win for Dawson. Surely Russell will confer with members of the commission, and they’ll get this right. Right?

12:13: We send it up to Michael Buffer in the ring, who tells us it’s Dawson by second-round technical knockout. Buffer declares him the “new Ring magazine champion.” Nigel: “Thank goodness I’m no longer the editor.”

12:15: Max Kellerman interviews a member of the California Commission who looks an awful lot like Mr. Noodle from Sesame Street. Based on what Mr. Noodle is saying, it sounds possible that they’ll reverse this ruling sometime in the near future. For the record, the real Mr. Noodle, despite his reputation for bumbling and stumbling, isn’t quite inept enough to serve on the California Commission.

12:17: On our Grantland Network podcast last week, Bill and I made note of the blandness of Dawson’s personality, with Bill somehow comparing him to a plantar wart. So it’s refreshing to see Dawson showing real personality when Kellerman interviews him. “He was faking, you know he was faking!” Dawson says of Hopkins. “Gangsta woulda got up and fought like a man!” It is at this moment that I must come to terms with the fact that I do not qualify as gangsta.

12:18: Dawson says he wants a rematch with Jean Pascal next and doesn’t want to fight Hopkins again. If this result ends up being changed and Hopkins keeps the title, I wonder if Dawson might just find himself interested in a second Hopkins fight after all. By the way, not to criticize Kellerman, who did a strong job overall with the postfight interviews, but I would have liked to have heard him ask Dawson if it was unsatisfying to win the title in this outrageous manner. (And if Kellerman did ask him that and I missed it because I was wrapped up in a conversation of my own, I apologize.)

12:19: The Staples Center crowd boos as Hopkins appears on the JumboTron for his interview. Hopkins says he would have continued if he knew Russell was going to rule it a TKO, referencing the time he defeated Antwun Echols with one arm after getting bodyslammed. On the one hand, I feel like if Bernard could have continued, as he claims, then he should have gotten up and told Russell he wanted to try to fight in the first place. On the other hand, why in the hell wouldn’t Russell take three seconds to tell him of his intentions to rule it a TKO, so Hopkins could make an informed decision?

12:23: Lampley and Lederman are playing microphone tug of war, conjuring up memories of the legendary Larry Merchant-Lennox Lewis microphone battle of 2003. If Lederman was 50 years younger, he could definitely wrest that mic away from Lamps.

12:29: HBO makes the executive decision to try to give viewers a little more for their money, replaying the Dewey Bozella-Larry Hopkins fight in its entirety. Underrated Bozella fact: He’s the only person who refers to Bernard Hopkins as “Bernie.” Hey, you do 26 years in jail for a crime you didn’t commit, you can call people whatever you want.

12:45: Nigel says what everyone’s thinking but nobody wants to say because we all love Bozella: “He’s gotta get a different haircut.” After the fight, Lampley notes that Bozella is “posing for the obligatory Ring magazine photograph.” Well, HBO is just mentioning The Ring left and right all of a sudden, huh?

12:47: Dettloff has been waiting all night for Lampley to reach that voice-cracking emotional place that he finds every so often, and at the conclusion of the Bozella replay, he seems on the verge. “Did you ever have a dream that you thought was out of reach,” Lamps offers with the slightest hint of a tightening throat. “Oh, here we go!” yells Bill excitedly. Sadly, it goes no farther than that. Damn you for keeping it together, Jim. (And damn you, Dewey Bozella, for keeping me out till almost 1 a.m. even though the main event lasted less than two rounds. If you hadn’t done 26 years in the slammer for no good reason, I might really be pissed at you.)


RASKIN’S RANTS

There will be no mini-mailbag this week, but let’s fill out the column with a few quick Rants, shall we?

–David Haye took a lot of abuse last week, but I commend him for his decision to retire. If your heart isn’t 100 percent committed to boxing, you’re wasting everyone’s time while risking your health. Sure, Haye had his mind mostly made up about this before fighting Wladimir Klitschko, and went ahead and fleeced the fans in that fight in order to leave himself with a healthy nest egg. But if he’s quitting after only one such ripoff, then he’s way ahead of the curve.

–Many in the boxing community are revolted by the idea of a Hector Camacho Jr. vs. Andrew “Six Heads” Lewis fight. For the record, I was revolted halfway into the announcement of the matchup.

–As you may have heard, David Tua and Cedric Kushner parted ways last week. The breakup was mutual, with both men simultaneously assuming the other had quit the boxing business five years ago.

–Because I hate being left out of things that everyone else is doing, this week I plan to fire Emanuel Steward, sue both Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, and get myself on the short list to fight Alexander Povetkin.

–Attention Ring Theory (http://ringtheory.podbean.com) subscribers, there’s a new episode coming later this week. I’m not sure yet exactly what topics we’ll be discussing, but you can be certain you’ll hear talk about the volume of Dettloff’s footsteps. You see, Quick Picks is all tied up with five episodes to go in the year. It’s a good thing I have Angelo Dundee’s cell number in my address book, because I think I need to hear a “You’re blowin’ it, son!” right about now.

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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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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