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Avila's Best of Women and Men’s Boxing in 2011

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Mariana Juarez golf course (small)Mariana “Barbie” Juarez and Andre Ward are my pick for this year’s Fighters of the Year.

A number of prizefighters, especially in the female professional ranks, deserve consideration but canceled each other out when they clashed. Ana Maria Torres, Jackie Nava, Kaliesha West and Ava Knight were those who fought each other to a draw.

Among the male boxers Manny Pacquiao had a stranglehold until he met Juan Manuel Marquez. Though Pacman was deemed the winner many saw it otherwise.

Other categories below were relatively easy to decide.

Fighter of the year

Mexico’s Mariana “Barbie” Juarez (32-5-3, 15 KOs) spent six years in pursuit of a world title opportunity after getting robbed of the junior bantamweight title in North Korea back in 2005. Finally, last March, Juarez was granted a shot at Italy’s Simona Galassi for the WBC flyweight world title and was triumphant. Instead of sitting around she defended the title four times including last week’s victory in Mexico. Second was France’s Anne Sophie Mathis, who is the winner of another category below.

Oakland’s Andre “S.O.G.” Ward (25-0, 13 KOs) showed the rest of the world what most Californians already knew, he’s one of the best prizefighters in the world at any weight division. Not only did he defeat Carl Froch, he steamrolled Germany’s Arthur Abraham this year to prove that he stands alone among super middleweights and has a place alongside the elite fighters of the world. In second for this category was Nonito Donaire.

Best Fight of the Year

The first of two encounters between junior bantamweight world champion Ana Maria Torres of Mexico City and junior featherweight champion Jackie Nava of Tijuana proved to match the lofty expectations held by the boxing world. In a ferocious 10 round affair both Torres and Nava showed just how good female boxing has become. In a back and forth struggle Nava and Torres battled to a draw in their first match and it was the best female fight in 2012. In second place was Ava Knight and Kaliesha Wests’ second meeting last June in Southern California. It was West’s speed versus Knight’s strength and it ended in a draw.

Last April, in Atlantic City, Victor Ortiz and welterweight champion Andre Berto put on one of the most amazing, jaw-dropping fights seen in a while. Both were knocked down in a scintillating back and forth fistic drama that had the audience standing on their feet. Ortiz eventually won the fight by unanimous decision and took the welterweight title. A rematch has been signed for this coming February in Las Vegas. In second place was Mauricio Herrera’s brutal 12-round junior welterweight slugfest against Ruslan Provodnikov in Las Vegas last January.

KO of the Year

Ava Knight’s wicked left hook knockout of IBF flyweight titleholder Arely Mucino in round two of their title match was electrifying. Knowing she had to demolish Mucino to win the title in Mexico, Knight proceeded to walk down the champion and drop her several times though only two were counted.  The knockout left Mucino unconscious for more than a minute and gave San Francisco’s Knight the world title and the most impressive knockout win of the year, hands down. In second was Anne Sophie Mathis knockout of Holly Holm in New Mexico.

In the men’s side it was another Northern Californian, Nonito Donaire, who left Mexico’s Fernando Montiel momentarily paralyzed after a single left hook in their much anticipated bantamweight collision. Donaire proved his power and speed was too much for Montiel, who couldn’t have imagined such a shocking ending. In second was Adrien Broner’s knockout of Jason Litzau that took place in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Upset of the Year  

When France’s Anne Sophie Mathis accepted the fight with New Mexico’s Holly Holm in Albuquerque, boxing observers expected another easy night for the hometown girl. Boy, were they wrong. Mathis battered Holm and stopped her in seven rounds. Few expected such a traumatic ending. Holm had not lost a fight in more than seven years. One added note to the referee Rocky Burke, who should have stopped the bout earlier: you almost got Holm seriously injured. In second was Australia’s Diana Prazak winning by technical knockout over Lindsay Garbatt in round nine for the world title. Not an easy feat.

Mexico’s Orlando Salido traveled to Puerto Rico to meet then world champion Juan Manuel Lopez in his native country. He thoroughly beat the Puerto Rican strongman and grabbed his title with both hands by knockout. Most experts thought it would be an easy victory for Lopez, instead it was Salido who won easily and thoroughly. In second was Mexico’s Jorge “El Travieso” Arce stopping junior bantamweight champion Wilfredo Vazquez of Puerto Rico in the final round to win the title in Las Vegas.

Round of the Year

Round nine of the Jackie Nava and Ana Maria Torres first fight showed that both women were unwilling to accept defeat. After nine rounds of intense fighting few expected the pair could push it any further but Torres and Nava increased the salvos with punishing results. Even in their rematch several months later that Torres won could they match the fury of the ninth round of their first encounter.

Round six between Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto was one of those three minute action-packed frames that you couldn’t imagine. It was like watching a Rocky movie as first Ortiz was floored midway through the round and looked like he was going to be stopped. Suddenly he erupted with a punch that sent Berto to the floor with moments to go in the round. The crowd went crazy.

Comeback Fighter of the Year  

A year ago Christy “The Coalminer’s Daughter” was shot and stabbed by her former husband. She not only survived the assault she was back in the ring seven months later fighting for the junior middleweight world title against Dakota Stone. Martin was winning the fight but suffered a broken right hand midway through the match. The referee stopped the fight against Martin’s pleas but she won over the fans for her gritty determination. It was quite a year for the 43-year-old Martin.

Mexico’s Jorge Arce, 32, moved up in weight class to challenge Puerto Rico’s young junior bantamweight world champion Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. Few expected much of a fight and everyone was surprised when Arce knocked out Vazquez in the last round to win the junior bantamweight title. Then he moved up a weight division and won the bantamweight world title too. It was quite a year for Arce who many thought was rapidly declining.

Trainer of the Year

Virgil Hunter did one heck of a job preparing Andre Ward for the super middleweight tournament that finally ended after more than two years. The Northern California boxing trainer always seemed on point when giving instructions. His strategies were sound and Ward evolved from a pure boxer into an all around force especially fighting inside.

Best Referees

Pat Russell, Big John McCarthy, Steve Smoger, Tony Weeks, Jack Reiss, Lou Moret, Kenny Bayless, and Dennis DeBon proved to be the best referees of the year. Most of them are familiar to boxing fans who recognize them as the most consistent and fair officials today. A referee is the single most powerful ring official and all of these men above never abused the privilege.  

Best Ringside Judges

Max DeLuca, Jerry Roth, Pat Russell Jack Reiss, Adelaide Byrd, Patricia Jarman, Lisa Giampa, Marty Denkin, Julie Lederman, Steve Morrow, Fritz Werner, James Jen Kin, Guido Cavalleri, Steve Weisfeld, Anek Hongtongkam, and Duane Ford. When you have a mega fight it’s extremely important that one of the above is ringside judging the fight. These judges mentioned proved all year-long that they’re the best of the best. Ask Amir Khan how important referees and judges are.

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In a Massive Upset, Dakota Linger TKOs Kurt Scoby on a Friday Night in Atlanta

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Although it was an 8-rounder on a show with two “tens,” Kurt Scoby’s match with Dakota Linger was accorded main event status on tonight’s card at the Overtime Elite Arena in Atlanta. This had everything to do with Scoby (pronounced Scooby), a former record-setting college running back who was considered one of the brightest prospects in the 140-pound weight class. “[Scoby] works harder than almost anyone I’ve ever seen,” said veteran New York promoter Lou DIBella in a conversation with Keith Idec. “But he’s literally getting better after every fight and he’s got the hammer of Thor, man. He can punch through walls.”

The Duarte, California product who has relocated to Brooklyn and trains at Gleason’s Gym, was undefeated (13-0) heading in and was expected to make Linger his ninth straight knockout victim. But Linger, a 29-year-old Buckhannon, West Virginia policemen whose first ring engagements were in Toughman competitions, wasn’t intimidated by Scoby’s press clippings or by Scoby’s bodybuilder physique.

Linger, who improved to 14-6-3 with his tenth win inside the distance, took the fight right to Scoby and repeatedly found a home for his overhand right. In the sixth round, after Linger strafed the ever-retreating Scoby with a barrage of punches, referee Malik Walid determined that he had seen enough and waived it off. The decision seemed a tad premature, but neither Scoby nor his cornermen offered anything in the way of a protest.

Tournament results

In the first installment of an 8-man super welterweight tournament, Brandon Adams returned to boxing after his second three-year layoff and showed no ring rust whatsoever. Adams, a 34-year-old family-man who grew up in the Watts district of LA, dismissed Ismael Villareal with a wicked punch to the liver in the waning seconds of round three. The official time was 2:59.

A former wold title challenger, Adams who improved to 23-3 (16 KOs), has become the king of boxing tournaments. He first attracted notice in 2018 when he won the fifth edition of “The Contender” series, scoring a wide 10-round decision over Shane Mosley Jr in the championship round.

Villareal, a second-generation prizefighter from the Bronx whose dad fought the likes of Hector Camacho, declined to 13-3.

Adams next opponent will be Francisco Veron who will bring a record of 14-0-1 (10).

In an energetic 10-rounder, Veron, a Florida-based Argentine with a strong amateur pedigree, scored a unanimous decision over Mexico-born, LA southpaw Angel Ruiz (18-3-1). The judges had it 100-90, 99-91, and 96-94.

Ruiz certainly had his moments, but Veron launched and landed many more punches despite fighting the last six rounds with a damaged eye.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 281: The Devin Haney and Ryan Garcia Show

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Over the years bouts between old foes such as Devin Haney and Ryan Garcia tend to be surprising.

Yes, both are only 25 but have known each other for many years.

When undisputed super lightweight champion Haney (31-0, 15 KOs) steps into the prize ring at Barclays Center to meet challenger Garcia (24-1, 20 KOs) on Saturday, April 20, fans will be witnessing the continuation of a feud that began more than a decade ago.

And though the champion is a heavy favorite, familiarity is Garcia’s best weapon heading into their fight on the Golden Boy Promotions card that will be shown on PPV.COM with Jim Lampley and friends. DAZN pay-per-view is also streaming the card.

In many ways Haney and Garcia have ventured down the same path. From amateur sensations to fighting in Mexico while teens to asking for the biggest challenges available.

“Whichever version of Ryan shows up on April 20, I will be ready for him. Ryan Garcia is just another opponent to me,” said Haney who holds the WBC super lightweight title after his win over Regis Prograis.

The first time I saw Haney as a pro he battled the dangerous Mexican contender Juan Carlos Burgos at Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula. It was an impressive performance against a fighter who fought three times for a world title.

Haney was 19 at the time.

My first look at Garcia as a pro was in his first bout in the U.S. when he met Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Cruz at the Exchange in downtown Los Angeles. The Boricua looked at Garcia and tried intimidating him with stares, taunts and the usual patter. During the fight both swung and missed until the second round when Garcia zeroed in and took him out.

Garcia had just turned 18, the legal age to fight in California.

Both fighters did not have the Olympics credentials that lead to fame. But their talent has allowed them to fight through the dense smoke that is professional boxing.

Haney has defeated numerous world champions such as Prograis, Vasyl Lomachenko and George Kambosos Jr., while Garcia has stopped champions Javier Fortuna and Luke Campbell.

As amateurs, Garcia and Haney battled six times with each winning three.

“They know each other very well,” said Oscar De La Hoya of Golden Boy Promotions. “Ryan is going to beat Devin Haney.”

Haney has a buttery-smooth style with one of the best jabs in boxing. He’s very adept at keeping distance and not allowing anyone to fight him inside. His reflexes are outstanding, yet he seldom fights inside. That’s his weakness.

Garcia fights tall and has superb hand speed and a lightning quick left hook. Though his defense lacks tightness his ability to rip off three-punch combinations in a blink of an eye pauses opponents from bullying their way inside.

“These guys always just look at me and look at me like I don’t know how to box,” said Garcia on social media. “Why was I one of the best fighters in the amateurs. Why was I a 15-time National champion…why did I beat everyone I came across.”

Haney is a strong favorite by oddsmakers to defeat Garcia. But you can never tell when it comes to fighters that know each other well and are athletically gifted.

When Sergio Mora challenged Vernon Forrest he was a big underdog. When Tim Bradley fought Manny Pacquiao the first time, he was also the underdog. And when Andy Ruiz met Anthony Joshua few gave him a chance.

Haney and Garcia have history in the ring. It should be an interesting battle.

PPV.COM

Jim Lampley will be leading the broadcast on PPV.COM for the Haney-Garcia card at Barclays and texting with fans on the card live. He will be accompanied by journalists Lance Pugmire, Dan Conobbio and former champion Chris Algieri.

The PPV.COM broadcast begins at 5 p.m. PT. and is available in Canada and the USA.

Other News

MMA stars Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal will be holding a media day event on Friday, April 19, at NOVO at L.A. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Diaz and Masvidal will be boxing against each other in a grudge match on June 1 at the KIA Forum in Inglewood, Calif. The two MMA stars met five years at UFC 244 with Masvidal winning by TKO over Diaz due to cuts.

This is a grudge match, but under boxing rules.

Fight card in Commerce, Calif.

360 Promotions returns to Commerce Casino on Saturday April 20 with undefeated super lightweight Cain Sandoval leading the charge.

Sandoval (12-0) faces Angel Rebollar (8-3) in the main event that will be shown live on UFC Fight Pass. Also on the card are two female events including hot prospect Lupe Medina (5-0) versus Sabrina Persona (3-1) in a minimumweight clash.

Doors open at 4 p.m.

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Boxing Odds and Ends: The Heavyweight Merry-Go-Round

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Boxing Odds and Ends: The Heavyweight Merry-Go-Round

There were few surprises when co-promoters Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren and their benefactor HE Turki Alalshikh held a press conference in London this past Monday to unveil the undercard for the Beterbiev-Bivol show at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on June 1. Most of the match-ups had already been leaked.

For die-hard boxing fans, Beterbiev-Bivol is such an enticing fight that it really doesn’t need an attractive undercard. Two undefeated light heavyweights will meet with all four relevant belts on the line in a contest where the oddsmakers straddled the fence. It’s a genuine “pick-‘em” fight based on the only barometer that matters, the prevailing odds.

But Beterbiev-Bivol has been noosed to a splendid undercard, a striking contrast to Saturday’s Haney-Garcia $69.99 (U.S.) pay-per-view in Brooklyn, an event where the undercard, in the words of pseudonymous boxing writer Chris Williams, is an absolute dumpster fire.

The two heavyweight fights that will bleed into Beterbiev-Bivol, Hrgovic vs. Dubois and Wilder vs. Zhang, would have been stand-alone main events before the incursion of Saudi money.

Hrgovic-Dubois

Filip Hrgovic (17-0, 13 KOs) and Daniel Dubois (20-2, 19 KOs) fought on the same card in Riyadh this past December. Hrgovic, the Croatian, was fed a softie in the form of Australia’s Mark De Mori who he dismissed in the opening round. Dubois, a Londoner, rebounded from his loss to Oleksandr Usyk with a 10th-round stoppage of corpulent Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller.

There’s an outside chance that Hrgovic vs. Dubois may be sanctioned by the IBF for the world heavyweight title.

The May 18 showdown between Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury has a rematch clause. The IBF is next in line in the rotation system for a unified heavyweight champion and the organization has made it plain that the winner of Usyk-Fury must fulfill his IBF mandatory before an intervening bout.

The best guess is that the Usyk-Fury winner will relinquish the IBF belt. If so, Hrgovic and Dubois may fight for the vacant title although a more likely scenario is that the organization will keep the title vacant so that the winner can fight Anthony Joshua.

Wilder-Zhang

The match between Deontay Wilder (43-3-1, 42 KOs) and Zhilei Zhang (26-2-1, 21 KOs) is a true crossroads fight as both Wilder, 38, and Zhang, who turns 41 in May, are nearing the end of the road and the loser (unless it’s a close and entertaining fight) will be relegated to the rank of a has-been. In fact, Wilder has hinted that this may be his final rodeo.

Both are coming off a loss to Joseph Parker.

Wilder last fought on the card that included Hrgovic and Dubois and was roundly out-pointed by a man he was expected to beat. It’s a quick turnaround for Zhang who opposed Parker on March 8 and lost a majority decision.

Other Fights

Either of two other fights may steal the show on the June 1 event.

Raymond Ford (15-0-1, 8 KOs) meets Nick Ball (19-0-1, 11 KOs) in a 12-round featherweight contest. New Jersey’s Ford will be defending the WBA world title he won with a come-from-behind, 12th-round stoppage of Otabek Kholmatov in an early contender for Fight of the Year. Liverpool’s “Wrecking” Ball, a relentless five-foot-two sparkplug, had to settle for a draw in his title fight with Rey Vargas despite winning the late rounds and scoring two knockdowns.

Hamzah Sheeraz (19-0, 15 KOs) meets fellow unbeaten Austin “Ammo” Williams (16-0, 11 KOs) in a 12-round middleweight match. East London’s Sheeraz, the son of a former professional cricket player, is unknown in the U.S. although he trained for his recent fights at the Ten Goose Boxing Gym in California. Riding a skein of 13 straight knockouts, he has a date with WBO title-holder Janibek Alimkhanuly if he can get over this hurdle.

The Forgotten Heavyweight

“Unbeaten for seven years, the man nobody wants to fight,” intoned ring announcer Michael Buffer by way of introduction. Buffer was referencing Michael Hunter who stood across the ring from his opponent Artem Suslenkov.

This scene played out this past Saturday in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. It was Hunter’s second fight in three weeks. On March 23, he scored a fifth-round stoppage of a 46-year-old meatball at a show in Zapopan, Mexico.

The second-generation “Bounty Hunter,” whose only defeat prior to last weekend came in a 12-rounder with Oleksandr Usyk, has been spinning his wheels since TKOing the otherwise undefeated Martin Bakole on the road in London in 2018. Two fights against hapless opponents on low-budget cards in Mexico and a couple of one-round bouts for the Las Vegas Hustle, an entry in the fledgling and largely invisible Professional Combat League, are the sum total of his activity, aside from sparring, in the last two-and-a-half years.

Hunter’s chances of getting another big-money fight took a tumble in Tashkent where he lost a unanimous decision in a dull affair to the unexceptional Suslenkov who was appearing in his first 10-round fight. The scores of the judges were not announced.

You won’t find this fight listed on boxrec. As Jake Donovan notes, the popular website will not recognize a fight conducted under the auspices of a rogue commission. (Another fight you won’t find on boxrec for the same reason is Nico Ali Walsh’s 6-round split decision over the 9-2-1 Frenchman, Noel Lafargue, in the African nation of Guinea on Dec. 16, 2023. You can find it on YouTube, but according to boxrec, boxing’s official record-keeper, it never happened.)

Anderson-Merhy Redux

The only thing missing from this past Saturday’s match in Corpus Christi, Texas, between Jared Anderson and Ryad Merhy was the ghost of Robert Valsberg.

Valsberg, aka Roger Vaisburg, was the French referee who disqualified Ingemar Johansson for not trying in his match with LA’s Ed Sanders in the finals of the heavyweight competition at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Valsberg tossed Johansson out of the ring after two rounds and Johansson was denied the silver medal. The Swede redeemed himself after turning pro, needless to say, when he demolished Floyd Patterson in the first of their three meetings.

Merhy was credited with throwing only 144 punches, landing 34, over the course of the 10 rounds. Those dismal figures yet struck many onlookers as too high. (This reporter has always insisted that the widely-quoted CompuBox numbers should be considered approximations.)

Whatever the true number, it was a disgraceful performance by Merhy who actually showed himself to have very fast hands on the few occasions when he did throw a punch. With apologies to Delfine Persoon, a spunky lightweight, U.S. boxing promoters should think twice before inviting another Belgian boxer to our shores.

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