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THE WYLIE PICK: Dawson By Decision..But Don't Count Out Hopkins

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in Atlantic City, on HBO
12 rounds, for Hopkins' lineal light heavyweight title

Bernard Hopkins has been here before. As we head into Saturday night's light heavyweight title showdown, the 47 year-old Philadelphia native finds himself in the underdog role yet again. It's not difficult to see why. At 29 years-old, Chad Dawson is eighteen years Bernard's junior – an unbelievable age deficit between two competitors in a world title bout of this magnitude. Not only that, but you can also throw in the fact that Dawson could also be the more skilled fighter. Dawson's athleticism along with his technical skills are what made Floyd Mayweather Jr once declare that Chad Dawson, not Manny Pacquiao, was the best fighter on the planet, pound for pound [during Floyd's exile of course]. At 6 '1'' – although he seems taller – and with a 77-inch reach, Dawson possesses the type of physicalities that would be problematic for any light heavyweight, let alone for a light heavyweight like Hopkins who has almost outlasted the twilight of his career. At his absolute apex, Dawson is able to sync all of his talents together, combining his southpaw stance, speed and length, to keep his opponents on the end of his offense by throwing jabs and combinations without putting himself at risk. Should his jab be breeched, he is more than proficient on inside fighting – his lead hand work to the body along with his defense in close are of the highest order.

During the last fight between Hopkins and Dawson, there appeared to be a pattern emerging, despite the bout lasting a little over the first round. From the opening bell, Dawson was the fighter who looked the more assertive. Bernard was backing up early as Dawson, using long strides, stalked Hopkins around the perimeter of the ring. Even though there were not many punches thrown and landed from either fighter, it was Dawson who appeared to be the busier {Hopkins was 11/29 and Dawson was 7/55 in total punches} and it was Dawson who appeared to have gained the upper hand in ring generalship. I was actually amazed at how much bigger Dawson looked next to Bernard, who at 6-1 and with a 75-inch reach, is actually of a similar size to Dawson.

In the ring, not only does Hopkins pride himself on being the superior technician, but he also takes great pride in being the more positive minded fighter. It has to be said, Bernard looked a little pensive by Dawson's demeanor during the opening stages of their first fight. On the other hand, Hopkins, who is a thinking fighter, may have intended on using those early rounds merely to analyse his opponent.

While I think there may have been a pattern emerging during the very early stages of Hopkins' last fight, there is already a definitive pattern that already exists with regards to Bernard Hopkins career as a whole. Every time Bernard has been the heavy underdog – like he is again with Dawson – he has somehow managed to produce a display for the ages. Heading into his bouts with Felix Trinidad, Antonio Tarver, Kelly Pavlik and Jean Pascal, many thought Hopkins was in well over his head. The final outcome? Some of the finest systematic deconstructions of a fighter you are likely to see – courtesy of Bernard Hopkins. That's the thing with Hopkins, there always seems to be the questionable performance – Talyor, Calzaghe, Jones 2 -before the great performance. Last time out, Hopkins probably put in his most questionable and controversial performance to date – many claim Hopkins was faking it when he was unable to continue because of a shoulder injury – against Dawson. If history were to repeat itself, we can all anticipate something special from The Executioner this Saturday. After all, Hopkins may be 47, but he is still an elite level fighter.

Hopkins' best asset may well be his ability to take his opponent's best asset away from them. Everything starts with defense for Bernard, which he uses to set up his counters and to smother on the inside. Bernard is also a master at laying traps for his opponent. Using his brilliant sense of distance and timing, he drops his lead hand to draw leads from his opponent – he did this repeatedly against Jean Pascal, setting up his counter right hand. His encyclopedic boxing knowledge and supernatural conditioning, along with his solid fundamentals, have lead to him remaining relevant for far longer than anyone could ever have imagined. There is no doubting Bernard's credentials going into this fight. Chad Dawson maybe the betting favourite going in, but Bernard is not here to merely make up the numbers.

Having said all this, I'm not sure that Hopkins will be able to dominate Dawson like he has with some of his more transparent opponents in the past. Let's take a look at the very fighters who Hopkins has prospered against. Felix Trinidad, Kelly Pavlik and Jean Pascal {Pascal may be more layered than Pavlik and Trinidad, but in reality, he can only fight one way} could be all put in the same category – aggressive, one dimensional punchers who are not able to adapt in the ring. If there is an obvious weapon in an opponent that can be exposed, rest assured, Hopkins will find it and neutralize it. {Hard to imagine now, but all of these one dimensional opponents were the heavy betting favourites against Hopkins.}

Contrast this with the type of fighter that Hopkins has somewhat struggled with; Roy Jones, Winky Wright {Hopkins did struggle with Wright's southpaw angles and defense), Jermain Taylor and Joe Calzaghe. The commonality among those fighters? Mobility, speed and volume. Wright and Calzaghe, like Dawson, are also southpaws. Missing in these fighters repetoire? An obvious offensive tool that could be taken away – Dawson fits perfectly into this, the more versatile category of opponent who Bernard Hopkins has not thrived against.

There are exceptions to the rule of course. Antonio Tarver is one of the better boxers Hopkins has faced, and he, like Dawson, is also a southpaw. However, there is a significant difference between the two southpaws. Against Tarver, Hopkins was able to remain on the outside and fall in with straight, sneaky right hand leads from bell to bell. A look at the punchstats in that fight shows that of 133 landed punches for Hopkins, 123 of those were power shots, namely straight right hand leads. Hopkins didn't need a jab against Tarver [ he only landed 7 jabs throughout the entire fight]. By staying on the outside, Hopkins could control the pace and distance of the fight, and because Tarver couldn't land his own jab often enough {only 30 jabs landed throughout the whole fight}. Hopkins could afford to focus his entire offense on single power shots – once he took away Tarver's left power hand by moving away from it, the fight was over. Tarver could not adapt.

Dawson on the other hand, is a converted southpaw – his left hand from the southpaw stance has hurt opponents in the past, but his lead hand work {right} may be even more impressive. This is the dilemma that Hopkins faces. The key to fighting a southpaw is knowing which way to move. Against Tarver, the evasive direction was obvious for Hopkins. The conventional way to move against a southpaw, is to move away from the southpaw's left hand, which means an orthodox fighter should move to their left. But I believe Dawson, who hits harder and has more variety with his lead right hand than Tarver, placed doubt in Hopkins' mind early in their last fight because of this. If Hopkins is moving to his left, then he is walking straight onto Dawson's lead right hand, which will be coming from outside Hopkins' line of vision. One other thing, the Hopkins-Tarver fight was back in 2006, Hopkins had a significant hand and foot speed advantage over Tarver in that fight, which is something he will be conceding against Dawson. We must ask ourselves, can Bernard still fight effectively backing up, using his legs for twelve hard rounds anymore? It takes alot more energy backing up for twelve rounds than it does going forward.

Last time out against Dawson, Hopkins appeared to be employing the exact same strategy that was used in the two Jermain Taylor fights – circling out of range, slowing down the pace of the fight before leaping in with his sneaky right hand lead. The problem here though, is if this shot isn't landing for Hopkins, then he runs the risk of being outworked. This is what happened against Jermain Taylor on two separate occasions. While Hopkins was thinking, feinting, moving and positioning himself, looking to land his right hand, Taylor was jabbing, racking up points and winning the fight.

If we take a look at the moment of the incident in the last fight between Hopkins and Dawson, Hopkins ended up on Dawson's back after a missed right hand lead, which was well scouted and slipped by Dawson. It's hard to imagine Bernard coming in with the same naive tactics that he brought into the last fight. Surely Bernard must realize that there isn't much chance of him winning from the outside, throwing infrequently, in a fight that is likely going the distance, against an opponent who will be pressing the attack behind a persistent jab. If Bernard believes this is the key to defending his light heavyweight crown on Saturday, then Dawson will likely be the one leaving with the gold.

Alternatively, Bernard must try and get inside of the Dawson jab, where he certainly won't be greeted with open arms – Dawson is very good defensively at close quarters. Hopkins has more things going for him at this range against Dawson, then he would from the outside against Dawson – I'm not sure Hopkins can be the busier fighter from the outside, but he can be the busier and better fighter in close. Dawson's workrate and volume must be restricted in order for Bernard to be in with a legitimate chance on the scorecards {can anyone see Bernard stopping Dawson?}. Although it's not what most spectators will wish for, Bernard has to put some sourness into his sweet science. This means the crafty veteran will have to maul, smother and try and rough Dawson up using every trick he knows. Hopkins is very effective at tying an opponent up in close and nailing them with his free hand – illegally so when the official is blindsided. If Dawson retaliates with anger, Hopkins could take advantage as Hopkins is a master of ring psychology, and there have been occasions in the past when Dawson has appeared to be a little disinterested and lethargic – almost as if boredom has set in. Such emotions against Hopkins will surely be made to pay.

Yes, Dawson has tasted defeat before. But in order for Hopkins to utilise the same strategy that Dawson conquerer Jean Pascal used, Hopkins would have to be someone he is not. Jean Pascal had success against Dawson through exploding in with sporadic bursts at great speed and with variation. Pascal was throwing punches in bunches which is something Hopkins hasn't or cannot do. Besides, Dawson was giving the impression that he had Pascal figured out as he was coming on strong late in the fight and seemed to be in with a great chance of scoring a late stoppage.

This really is a tough fight for Bernard to win. Dawson's blend of fast hands, athleticism, solid technical skills, defense and strength seem to be the very attributes that have been Bernard's kryptonite in the past. I am of the belief that Chad Dawson is a pound for pound talent, in his prime, who possesses a style that does not accommodate that of Bernard's. Also worrying for Hopkins, is the fact that during his last two full outings against Jean Pascal, Hopkins, a defensive master, was hit clean and more often than he has ever been hit throughout the rest of his career combined – maybe a significant sign that his advanced years have finally caught up with him?

And yet as I write this, there is still a part of me that thinks Bernard Hopkins may actually pull it off. If he did, then it must surely be regarded as the greatest night of his already legendary hall of fame career – a win here for Hopkins would propel him to brand new heights, in terms of his all time status.

Prediction:

Dawson, via a close, maybe even split decision, in a fight that mirrors the Hopkins-Taylor fights. Hopkins will probably land the cleaner shots, while Dawson will land more often.

It's hard to look beyond a decision win for Dawson. It's not inconceivable to think that he may hold every single physical and stylistic advantage over his older opponent. However, if anyone can pull off the upset, Bernard Hopkins can. He has after all, been here before.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 274: Yeritsyan vs Randall at Chumash Casino, Japan and More

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Violence of an organized nature begins in the rustic and peaceful surroundings of Santa Inez, California as welterweights Gor Yeritsyan and Quinton Randall headline a 360 Boxing Promotions card at Chumash Casino on Friday.

Hours later, three world championship fights erupt in Japan. And hours after that, super middleweights tangle in Florida.

All will be streamed.

Undefeated Yeritsyan (17-0, 14 KOs) meets Randall (13-1-1, 3 KOs) for the WBC Continental Americas title on Friday, Feb. 23, at Chumash Casino. UFC Fight Pass will stream the 360 Boxing Promotions card.

Others on the card include undefeated super lightweight Cain Sandoval (11-0, 11 KOs) meeting Javier Molina (22-5, 9 KOs) in a battle set for 10 rounds. It’s a stronger test for Sandoval who has blasted out every opponent. Molina is one of the fighting twin brothers who both were Olympians.

Javier was an Olympian in 2008 for the USA and Oscar Molina an Olympian for Mexico in 2012.

“I’ve been hearing about Cain for a while, but I know my skills and experience will give me the victory,” said Molina who fights out of Los Angeles.

Sandoval, 21, last November won by knockout in Madison Square Garden in New York City.

“Javier is a very good veteran who has had many more fights than me, but he’s never felt my power before,” said Sandoval who fights out of Sacramento.

Chumash Casino is located near one of the old California missions and built by the Spaniards in 1804. You can see open land for miles with the next nearest town of Solvang a short driving distance away.

Over the decades I’ve seen some memorable fights including Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley’s wild victory over Manuel Garnica in 2007 and Seniesa “Super Bad’ Estrada’s pro debut win in 2011 against Maria Ruiz.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Tokyo Hosts Three World Title Fights

It’s a triple-header in Tokyo for real fight lovers.

Early Saturday morning at 1 a.m. (Pacific Time) three world title matches headed by WBC bantamweight titlist Alexandro Santiago (28-3-5, 14 KOs) of Mexico defending against Japan’s Junto Nakatani (26-0, 19 KOs) take place.

Santiago defeated legendary champion Nonito Donaire last July in Las Vegas in an upset. He also fought to a draw against Filipino slugger Jerwin Ancajas who is also on this card.

Nakatani is a big hitter and two-division world champion. He is very familiar with Mexican fighters and often trains in Southern California. I saw him in Maywood, California a year ago. He’s quite a fighter.

In the other co-main event WBA bantamweight titlist Takuma Inoue (18-1, 4 KOs) defends against former super flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas (34-3-2, 23 KOs) of the Philippines. Its speed against power.

A third co-main features WBO super flyweight titlist Kosei Tanaka (19-1, 11 KOs) defending against Mexico’s Christian Bacasegua (22-4-2, 9 KOs).

ESPN+ will stream the card live on Saturday.

Matchroom in Orlando

It’s a showcase for contenders.

Brooklyn native Edgar Berlanga (21-0, 16 KOs) “the Chosen One” meets United Kingdom’s Padraig “the Hammer” McCrory (18-0, 9 KOs) in the super middleweight main event on Saturday, Feb. 24. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing card from Orlando, Florida.

Berlanga, of Puerto Rican descent, burst on the pro boxing scene by knocking out 16 consecutive foes. But ever since 2021 he has been unable to win by knockout. Five consecutive opponents went the distance.

Can Berlanga still punch?

Facing the Boricua slugger will be McCrory a 35-year-old from Northern Ireland who remains undefeated. To put it into perspective, the United Kingdom is filled with very good super middleweights and none have beaten McCrory so far.

Also on the card is Cuban Olympic gold medalist Andy Cruz (2-0) defending a regional lightweight title against Mexican southpaw Brayan Zamarripa (14-2, 9 KOs). Cruz has blistering speed and an aggressive style as a pro.

Other interesting fights feature bantamweight prospects Antonio Vargas (17-1) and Jonathan Rodriguez (17-1-1). Both can punch but each lost via knockout. Whose chin will prove sturdier in this clash?

Fights to Watch (all times Pacific Time)

Fri. UFC Fight Pass 7 p.m. Gor Yeritsyan (17-0) vs Quinton Randall (13-1-1)

Sat. ESPN+ 1 a.m. Alexandro Santiago (28-3-5) vs Junto Nakatani (26-0).

Sat. DAZN 4 p.m. Edgar Berlanga (21-0) vs Padraig McCrory (18-0).

Photo: Tom Loeffler is flanked by Javier Molina and Cain Sandoval. Photo credit: Lina Baker

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Fighters from Tijuana are on a Roll; Can Alexandro Santiago Keep Up the Momentum?

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Fighters from Tijuana are on a Roll; Can Alexandro Santiago Keep Up the Momentum?

Last Thursday, a Golden Boy Promotions card in California produced an early entrant for Upset of the Year. In the main event, unsung Jesus “Ricky” Perez out-pointed former U.S. Olympian and former two-division title-holder Joseph “Jojo” Diaz.

Perez hails from Tijuana. Heading in, he had lost five of his last nine and had never won a match slated for more than eight rounds. He started fast and held on to win a split nod (ancient ringside judge Lou Moret awarded Perez nine of the 10 rounds).

The fast-growing, hardscrabble city of Tijuana, which sits at the northwest tip of the Baja peninsula, has produced a steady stream of good boxers over the years (Erik Morales, a Hall of Famer, and Antonio Margarito, a two-time world welterweight champion, come quickly to mind), but is currently enjoying arguably the best run in the city’s boxing history. And the distaff side is sharing in the prosperity. Flyweight Kenia Enriquez (28-1, 11 KOs) and her younger sister Tania Rodriguez (21-1, 10 KOs), a light flyweight, are knocking on the door of world title fights (Kenia holds an interim belt).

Last December, when pundits at the leading U.S. boxing websites brainstormed to come up with the 2023 Fight of the Year, two bouts stood out above all others: the Feb. 18 match between super bantamweights Luis Nery and Azat Hovhannisyan and the June 10 super middleweight contest between Jaime Munguia and Sergiy Derevyanchenko.

The Nery-Hovhannisyan match was a riveting, see-saw rumble that ended with Nery winning by TKO in the 11th round. Munguia scored a knockdown in the 12th to overcome Derevyanchenko, eking out a razor-thin but unanimous decision. Both victors have since added another “W” to their respective ledgers. Nery (35-1, 27 KOs) KOed Filipino veteran Froilan Saludar. Munguia (43-0, 34 KOs) dominated and stopped England’s John Ryder.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Luis Nery and Jaime Munguia were both born and raised in Tijuana. And we will be hearing a lot more about them. Although unofficial, Nery has an agreement in place to fight superstar Naoya Inoue in Tokyo in May and, according to various reports, Munguia is now the frontrunner to be Canelo Alvarez’s next opponent.

The month after Munguia-Derevyanchenko, Tijuana’s Alexandro Santiago (pictured) scored his signature win and won the vacant WBC world bantamweight title with an upset of the great Filipino fighter Nonito Donaire. Santiago won a clear-cut decision on the card topped by the mega-fight between Terence Crawford and Errol Spence.

Santiago (28-3-5, 14 KOs) has a formidable challenge for his first title defense which comes on Saturday in Tokyo. In the opposite corner will be undefeated Junto Nakatani (26-0, 19 KOs) who is moving up in weight after winning world titles at 112 and 115. Nakatani can really crack as he showed with his brutal, one-punch knockout of Andrew Moloney.

There are two other title fights on the card which will air in the U.S. on ESPN+. Needless to say, one will have to get out of bed early to catch all the action. The first bell is slated for 4 am ET, 1 pm PT.

Santiago will be a heavy underdog against his Japanese opponent who will have a 5-inch height advantage. However, if recent history is any guide, one should not be too quick to dismiss his chances.

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Who Murdered Peter Bufala? A ‘Whodunit’ with a Boxing Backdrop

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On Friday, Oct. 8, 1976, Peter Bufala returned home from work just as a new day was dawning. The Las Vegas baccarat dealer pulled his Cadillac into his circular driveway, exited his car, walked toward his front door, and was felled by two bullets from a 9 mm handgun, one entering his chest and the other his brain. A neighbor fetching his morning newspaper found him lying in a pool of blood on his front lawn. He was dead when the police arrived. He was 33 years old and left behind a wife and two young daughters.

A 12-year resident of the fast-growing southern Nevada gambling mecca, Bufala grew up in Chester, Pennsylvania, a blue collar suburb of Philadelphia. He had come here to rekindle his boxing career.

A Middle Atlantic amateur featherweight champion, he had begun his pro career on a high note, winning a 4-round decision over a fellow novice on a show at New York’s St. Nicholas Arena that included Rubin “Hurricane” Carter who would go on to fight for the world middleweight title but would be best remembered for the many years he spent behind prison walls for his alleged involvement in a triple homicide.

Following his New York engagement, Bufala fought in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Virginia. As a pro, he never fought in his home state and there was a reason for it. In 1961, while undergoing a routine medical examination at an amateur show, he was diagnosed with a heart murmur. The Pennsylvania Boxing Commission rescinded his license. He subsequently underwent a series of tests at Temple University Medical Hospital and was given a clean bill of health, but the Pennsylvania authorities were unyielding and, bit by bit, in a day when news traveled slowly, other jurisdictions fell into line.

Nevada was the Wild West. The regulators there had looser standards and Bufala resumed his career on Sept. 2, 1964 at the Castaways, out-pointing his opponent in a 5-round match to improve his ledger to 7-3. The publicity man misspelled his name, adding an extra “f”, and he would remain Pete Buffala whenever his name appeared in the sports section of the local papers.

Fifty years ago, in 1964, approximately 165,000 people resided in all of sprawling Clark County, home to Las Vegas. The thought that Vegas would someday host a Formula 1 Grand Prix or a Super Bowl, two of the grandest sports spectacles in the world, was preposterous. The only local sport that ever made the national news wire was boxing.

The fulcrum was Bill Miller, a hot-headed boxing junkie from Elmira, New York, who owned a saloon on the Las Vegas Strip that he out-fitted with a boxing gym in the basement. Miller’s “Strip Fight of the Week,” which bounced from one little casino to another during a run that lasted well over a decade, bucked the national trend. Small fight clubs, with very few exceptions, had fallen by the wayside, a development triggered by the mass production of televisions.

Miller was hardly immune to all the little hassles that plague a grass-roots boxing promoter. Matches were constantly falling out. But he had several things working in his favor. As opportunities dried up elsewhere, journeymen boxers were drawn here by the promise of steady work. And although Miller couldn’t afford to pay enough to make boxing a full-time profession, good-paying jobs were plentiful in the construction and hospitality industries.

To be certain, there were also push factors. Chester, Pennsylvania, a shipbuilding hub during World War II, had fallen on hard times, plagued by unemployment and racial strife. Lowell, Massachusetts, a city known for its vibrant amateur boxing culture, was likewise hurting with row after row of textile factories sitting vacant. Lowell produced Eddie Andrews, a hard-hitting middleweight who would be the first fighter to make promoter Miller any significant money without having to take him on the road to a larger precinct or overseas.

Andrews supplemented his ring earnings dealing blackjack at Caesars Palace. For a time, Ralph Dupas was a co-worker. A former world title-holder at 154 pounds, Dupas settled in Las Vegas in the mid-1960s as his career was winding down and remained here until his encroaching dementia passed the tipping point and family members brought him home to his native New Orleans to live out his final days.

Returning to Peter Bufala, he worked his way up the ladder on Miller’s promotions, eventually topping the marquee for a fight with Johnny Brooks. They fought at the Hacienda, a grind joint at the south end of the Strip (where Mandalay Bay now sits) on April 13, 1965. Brooks was nothing special, but he was better than his 17-6-3 record. He would go on to last the distance in 10-round fights with future Hall of Famers Emile Griffith and Carlos Monzon.

Bufala was bloodied in the third round and knocked down in the fourth, but mounted a furious rally and at the end of the 10 rounds the judges could not pick a winner and the match went into the books as a draw. Working on the “5-point-must” system, the scores were 46-44 Bufala, 46-45 Brooks, and 46-46. (Trivia time: The 46-46 tally was turned in by ringside judge Harry Reid who would go on to become the most powerful man in the U.S. Senate. Nowadays, visitors flying in to Las Vegas arrive at Harry Reid International Airport.)

Had Bufala won the bout, his next fight would have been a 12-rounder against Reno’s Dave Patterson, the Nevada Lightweight Champion. But when he returned to the ring the following month, it was in a 6-rounder against an unsung fighter from Los Angeles named Davey White and, in a shocker, White blasted him out in the second round.

Bufala announced his retirement after this fight. It warranted scarcely a mention in the Las Vegas papers, but the folks back in Chester hadn’t forgotten him. “Pete Bufala Quits Boxing for Health,” read the bold headline on the sports page of the June 9, 1965 issue of the Delaware County Daily Times. The accompanying story said that Buffala, “Chester’s most promising professional fighter,” had emerged from his most recent bout with a blot clot in his neck and was troubled by chronic back problems. (Buffala would have one more fight before quitting the sport for good. He won his final fight, a 6-rounder, bringing his final record, per boxrec, to 16-5-2.)

Bufala never returned to Chester. He married a local girl and, in short order, was a father of three, two girls and a boy who tragically died at 16 months when he crawled into a plastic laundry bag and suffocated as his mother was distracted writing checks.

In December of 1973, the MGM Grand opened on the southeast corner of the busiest intersection on the Las Vegas Strip. This was the city’s original MGM Grand that would take the name Bally’s and was recently re-branded the Horseshoe. With 2,100 rooms, a 1,200-seat showroom and a jai alai fronton, the MGM Grand made its competitors look puny by comparison. Peter Bufala was there on opening night, dealing baccarat.

In terms of the money put at risk, baccarat is the crème-de-crème of card games. It attracts the whales, the high-rollers that leave the biggest tips. On a good night at a high-end establishment like the MGM Grand, it wasn’t uncommon for a dealer to rake in $500 in gratuities. Bufala worked the graveyard shift (likely 9 pm to 5 am; it varied by hotel), the most coveted shift for a dealer in a day when visitors to Las Vegas were more nocturnal than they are today.

One didn’t get to be a baccarat dealer in a ritzy joint by working his way up from the bottom. One had to know the right people. In the vernacular, one got juiced into the job. And the juicer might expect a kick-back.

One of the most influential people in Las Vegas was an outsider who tried to keep a low profile, Gaspare “Jasper” Speciale. A transplanted New York bookmaker, Speciale co-owned and managed the Tower of Pizza restaurant which sat a stone’s throw from the MGM Grand on the opposite side of the street. Speciale opened doors for dozens of people seeking employment in the hospitality industry. If one was new in town and needed work in a hurry, Jasper was the man to see.

Until the arrival in Las Vegas of the notorious Tony Spilotro, Speciale was the city’s premier private money lender. He would eventually serve four years in a federal prison for loan-sharking.

Whenever there was a murder in Las Vegas that had the earmarks of a mob hit, speculation always centered on Gaspare Speciale. It mattered not that he was active in his church and donated lavishly to local charities. Moreover, he had a warm spot in his heart for prizefighters. In the spacious backyard of his home, chockablock with mementos of his boyhood in New York City, there was a replica of Stillman’s Gym complete with a punching bag and rubbing tables.

Another theory, although one that acquired less currency, pointed the finger at Bufala’s father-in-law who was the beneficiary of Peter’s life insurance policy. The two were partners in a small sporting goods store where it was rumored that one could purchase an unregistered firearm.

On the day that Peter Bufala was assassinated, the story about it in the Las Vegas Sun, an afternoon paper, said that the former boxer had no bad habits – he didn’t drink, smoke, gamble or chase women — and that he was well-liked by everyone that knew him. But, said a police detective, “Someone wanted him dead and eventually we’re going to find out who that someone is and why.”

Forty-seven years after the fact, the who and the why remain as baffling as ever. If Peter Bufala were alive today, he would be 80 years old. This is a mystery that will likely never be solved.

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