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Road Of The Little Titans Timothy Bradley & Manny Pacquiao

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When Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley first stepped into the professional prize ring the crowd didn't know what to expect that blistering hot day in Corona as he faced another debuting boxer.

The fight took place outdoors at Omega Products International where temperatures can soar to a sweaty 115 degrees in August. As both fighters engaged at the sound of the bell it was obvious there was a difference in not only physical appearance, but Bradley was simply too athletic for the other fighter.

Bradley forced a stoppage of the fight in round two as referee Lou Moret decided that the other debuting prizefighter Francisco Martinez had run into a buzz saw. From that moment on a lot of other boxers were cut to pieces by the Bradley buzz saw.

Nearly eight years have passed and now Bradley (28-0, 12 KOs) looks to topple one of the top prizefighters in the world in Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KOs) on Saturday June 9, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The Filipino southpaw has a similar story.

The first time I saw Pacquiao perform in person was in 2003 against Emmanuel Lucero. The fight fittingly occurred at the Olympic Auditorium where a number of great Filipino fighters of the past like Speedy Dado and Ceferino Garcia had engaged in numerous battles before sold out crowds at the boxing palace in downtown Los Angeles.

Lucero was an undefeated Mexican fighter out of New York City. Pacquiao had been training at the Wild Card Gym for a couple of years under Freddie Roach. Before the fight the trainer was relaying to me about his trip to the Philippines with Pacquiao. He had no concerns about the fight. He was right. A vicious Pacman left uppercut ended the night for the bob and weave style of Lucero in round three.

It was the first and last time Pacquiao would fight in the Olympic Auditorium. The venerable boxing venue would be sold two years later and changed into a Korean church.

Pacquiao was about to change the landscape of boxing in his next fight that came four months later in San Antonio. Marco Antonio Barrera would find out first hand the speed and power of Pacquiao. He overwhelmed the Mexico City warrior and stopped him in 11 rounds.

Six months later another Mexico City warrior Juan Manuel Marquez would be dropped three times before realizing how to fight Pacquiao on May 2004. Several months later Bradley would become a professional.

Crowd booed

In the beginning Bradley was a mix of speedy footwork and fancy blistering combinations. He would dance around the ring and perform Muhammad Ali-like movements to the disdain of the crowd. When he fought Raul Nunez in October 2004, at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario, the crowd booed Bradley though he won easily. That seemed to end the showmanship antics.

One month later Bradley returned to the Doubletree Hotel and fought Luis Medina. The fight lasted 18 seconds as the “Desert Storm” showed up and obliterated Medina. Referee Jack Reiss stopped it. From that point on the Palm Springs boxer became a professional prizefighter intent on ending the fight as quick as possible.

Under the tutelage of Joel Diaz, the eldest of the Coachella's fighting Diaz brothers, the Palm Springs junior welterweight began to morph into a fighting machine capable of stopping bigger and seemingly stronger opponents.

Perhaps Bradley's most significant victory came on July 21, 2005 when he faced Brazil's Marcos Andre Rocha Costa. His record said no victories and one defeat, but his trainer said the tall Brazilian southpaw was actually 10-1. When the two combatants entered the ring Bradley had to crane his neck to look at Rocha who was clearly 6-feet tall. Nobody told the promoters that the Brazilian was a southpaw. It looked pretty bad for Bradley.

In the first few rounds Bradley had problems trying to figure out Rocha who knew how to use his size and reach. Around the third round Bradley decided to go for broke and saw some success. But in round four he ran into a Rocha left hand and was wobbled. It looked bad for Bradley who fought out of the Brazilian's onslaught.

Round five began and the partisan-Bradley crowd sensed their fighter was in trouble. He wasn't. The desert prizefighter erupted on Rocha with a fury and shocked the taller fighter who expected to dominate. Instead, the Brazilian was dominated by Bradley who attacked so furiously that even the crowd was in shock. Bradley stopped Rocha at 2:15 of the fifth round. It was Bradley's moment of truth and he proved that he indeed had a fighter's heart and determination.

Now here they are Bradley and Pacquiao.

Equal size and heart

“Bradley is a different type of fighter and we don't take this fight lightly. We have trained hard for Bradley because he is the type of fighter we cannot underestimate. Tim Bradley is undefeated and he is a champion,” said Pacquiao, 33, during a conference call. “The fights are all different.”

Indio's desert fighter Bradley is confident that Pacquiao has not faced his style or intensity before.

“I systematically break guys down. I get in the ring and they (opponents) say I don't have any power but then they feel me and feel my strength. As soon as they get hit they want to hold me. The last couple of fights guys have been holding me all night,” Bradley, 28, said.

Both champions are rather small for the welterweight weight class of today. Of course back in the 1950s and earlier welterweights like Carmen Basilio were of similar size and height. And like that Hall of Fame boxer, both have the heart.

“Bradley beat a pretty good fighter in Lamont Peterson,” said Top Rank's Bob Arum, adding that at the time both fought he was promoting Peterson. “Peterson was and is a very good fighter.”

Of course the world knows how good Pacquiao is and gets an opportunity to measure Bradley's abilities on Saturday. The fight will be shown on HBO pay-per-view.

Tecate pay-per-view rebate information

Here are the five quick steps they must follow to redeem (JPEG below my signature):

1. Visit the “Cupón Carácter” Tab on www.Facebook.com/TecateBoxing (direct URL: http://on.fb.me/M4JHvs)

2. Select your state of residence and click on the link to access the coupon

3. Make sure to read through all the fine print and follow the directions to qualify to receive up to $40 by mail in the purchase of the HBO PPV event of Pacquiao vs. Bradley and Tecate product (where necessary)

4. Qualifying beer purchase must be made before 6/9/12. All coupons and accompanying materials must be postmarked by 7/15/12 and received by 7/31/12, to the address listed in the coupon. Allow 8-10 weeks for delivery of rebate check.

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The Middleweight Division has a New Star in Janibek Alimkhanuly

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Step aside, GGG. Kazakhstan has a new fistic hero and his name is Janibek Alimkhanuly. Tonight, at Resorts World in Las Vegas, Janibek (he usually goes by his first name) destroyed Britain’s intrepid Danny Dignum inside two rounds, scoring two knockdowns, the second of which, a five-punch combination climaxed by a short uppercut, left Dignum unconscious. Referee Tony Weeks waived the fight off immediately. The official time was 2:11 of round two.

With the victory, Janibek (12-0, 8 KOs) becomes the interim WBO middleweight champion. The belt is currently held by Demetrius Andrade who is expected to move to 168, opening the door for the 29-year-old Kazakh southpaw to become “full-fledged.”

Although he held the WBO European middleweight title and was undefeated (14-0-1) coming in, Dignum wasn’t expected to provide much opposition. Janibek was stepping down in class after stopping former title-holders Rob Brant and Hassan D’Dam D’Jikam in his previous two fights.

Janibek’s trainer Buddy McGirt doesn’t believe that there is a middleweight on the planet who can hold his own with Janibek (no, not even undefeated Jermall Charlo!) and based on tonight’s performance, it would be hard to argue.

Co-Feature

In the co-feature, youth was served as Jamaine Ortiz, the younger man by 10 years, won a unanimous 10-round decision over former WBO super featherweight champion Jamel Herring. The judges had it 96-94 and 97-93 twice.

Ortiz, from Worcester, Massachusetts, did his best work late in the fight as Herring’s workload declined. The bout was marred by several accidental clashes of heads with Herring getting the worst of it on each occasion.

“I could have done a lot better,” said Ortiz (16-0-1, 8 KOs) after winning the most high-profile fight of his career. Herring, who was making his first start with trainer Manny Robles, fell to 23-4 and hinted that he may retire.

Other Bouts of Note

The opener on ESPN’s main platform showcased Cleveland welterweight Delante “Tiger” Johnson, a 2020 Olympian, who advanced to 4-0 (3) with a third-round stoppage of Argentina’s Agustin Kucharski (8-5-1).

Johnson had Kucharski on the canvas twice in the first minute of the third round, both the result of counter right hands. Kucharski, who was making his U.S. debut and hadn’t previously been stopped, twisted around as he fell the second time and the white towel flew out from his corner. The official time was 0:54.

Glendale, CA featherweight Adam Lopez (16-3, 6 KOs) overcame a pair of knockdowns to win a unanimous 8-round decision over William Encarnacion. The judges had it 76-74 and 77-74 twice.

Lopez, 26, is one of two fighting sons of the late Hector “Torero” Lopez, a former two-time world title challenger who developed a big following in LA in the 1990s. Encarnacion who represented the Dominican Republic in the 2012 Olympics, lost for the third time in 22 starts.

Former WBO super bantamweight champion Jessie Magdaleno returned to the ring after an absence of almost two full years and whitewashed Mexico’s Edy Valencia in an 8-round featherweight contest, winning by 80-72 across the board. Las Vegas’ Magdaleno improved to 29-1 (4-0 since losing his belt to Isaac Dogboe. Valencia declined to 19-7-6.

Cincinnati featherweight Duke Ragan, a silver medalist in Tokyo improved to 6-0 with his fifth straight win by decision, a four-round whitewash of South Carolina’s Victorino Gonzalez (5-3).

In the ESPN+ opener, undefeated Chicago lightweight Giovanni Cabrera (20-0, KOs) won a unanimous 8-round decision over 34-year-old Argentine import Elias Araujo (21-5). The judges saw it 79-72, 77-74, and 75-73. There were no knockdowns, but Araujo lost a point for holding.

Cabrera lacks a hard punch which diminishes his upside, but he’s a stylish southpaw who has elevated his game since hooking up with Freddie Roach.

Photo Credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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Jean Pascal Lives to Fight Another Day; Upsets Fanlong Meng

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Jean Pascal is a tough old bird as he proved again tonight by turning away previously undefeated Fanlong Meng in a 12-round light heavyweight contest at the White Sands Events Center in the Tampa Bay community of Plant City, Florida.

Things looked bleak for Pascal early on. In round two, he was rocked by a hard left that had him looking like a man who is out on feet. But the wily Pascal, fighting in spurts to conserve his energy, came on strong at the end and won the battle in the eyes of all three judges: 114-113, 115-112, and a way too wide 116-111.

Fanlong Meng, five years younger than Pascal at age thirty-four, came in undefeated (17-0, 10 KOs) and ranked #1 by the IBF. A former Olympian, Meng had bouts fall out with Artur Beterbiev and Sergey Kovalev during the Covid era – cancellations that were not his fault – and was the sentimental and actual favorite over Pascal, the French Canadian via Haiti, who sat out all of 2021 after testing positive for FOUR banned substances preceding his scheduled rematch with Badou Jack.

During a career that began in 2005, Jean Pascal (36-6-1, 20 KOs) has answered the bell for 333 rounds. His best moment tonight came late in round nine when he scored the bout’s lone knockdown. His triumph (somewhat controversial) was his third straight in an underdog role following an upset of previously undefeated Marcus Browne (TD 8) and then Badou Jack (SD 12).

Last Chances

The “Last Chance” junior welterweight tournament, an 8-man competition consisting of four 8-round bouts, preceded the main event.

Thirty-six-year-old Zhimin Wang of Wuhan, China, returned to the professional ranks after a nearly four-year absence and came out on the short end of a unanimous decision vs. Joseph Fernandez of nearby Saint Petersburg, Florida. The scorecards read 77-75 and 78-74 twice.

The fight started slow but evolved into an entertaining skirmish. Fernandez advanced to 15-4-3. Wang declined to 11-4.

San Antonio’s Kendo Castaneda revived his career with a smashing first-round TKO over Toledo’s Sonny Frederickson. Late in the second minute of the contest, Castanada (18-5, 9 KOs) nailed Frederickson with a left hook. Frederickson went down hard and the fight was waived off  as he was struggling to his feet. The official time was 2:02.

A FedEx warehouse worker, Castaneda (19-5, 9 KOs) halted a five-fight losing streak. It was the fifth straight loss for Frederickson (21-6).

Castaneda moves on to the semifinal to oppose Joseph Fernandez.

Midland, Texas native Michael Dutchover advanced to 16-2 with a well-earned split decision over Adam Booth (21-5). The 34-year-old Booth, a stablemate of Joseph Fernandez, had won six straight coming in but against shabby opposition.

In the “Last Chance” opener, Mexico City’s Antonio Moran improved to 27-5-1 with a unanimous decision over Philadelphia’s Jeffrey Torres (10-2). The scorecards read 79-73, which was excessive, and 77-75 twice.

Moran meets Dutchover in the next round.

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Arne’s Almanac: Benavidez vs Lemieux Tops the Busy Weekend Boxing Slate

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The marquee event on this weekend’s boxing slate will be held at the Gila River Arena in Glendale Arizona, the recent home of the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes, where David Benavidez meets David Lemieux in a match stamped as a WBC interim title fight in the super middleweight division. Showtime will televise.

It’s a homecoming for the 25-year-old Benavidez (25-0, 22 KOs) who has the seemingly incongruous distinction of being both undefeated and a former two-time world title-holder. He was stripped of his first title after a failed drug test and his second title reign ended when he came in overweight.

The 33-year-old Lemieux, from Montreal, is one of the sport’s hardest punchers (check out his brutal one-punch knockout of Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan). He’s won five straight since being schooled by Billy Joe Saunders, elevating his record to 43-4 (20), but he’s moving up in weight against an opponent who is taller and younger and more technically proficient. The bookies don’t like his chances. Benavidez is in the vicinity of a 15/1 favorite.

Benavidez has been calling out Canelo Alvarez for some time. Canelo’s 168-pound belts were not at risk in his engagement with Dmitry Bivol. However, barring a big upset, Benavidez is more likely to fight Caleb Plant or England’s John Ryder next.

The undercard is deep but not particularly interesting with the exception of the TV opener, a crossroads fight between precocious featherweight prospects Luis Reynaldo Nunez (16-0, 12 KOs) and Jonathan Javier Fierro (13-0, 12 KOs). Nunez, 22 is from the Dominican Republic. Fierro, who is only 18 years old, fights out of Guadalajara, Mexico.

Meng vs Pascal

The action gets underway tonight (Friday, May 20) in Plant City, Florida, where Fanlong Meng, rated #1 by the IBF at 175 pounds, steps up in class to meet veteran Jean Pascal.

The 34-year-old-Meng, a 2012 Olympian and currently undefeated (17-0, 10 KOs), will have a three-and-a-half-inch height advantage over his 39-year-old opponent. However, assuming he is still in shape – this will be his first fight in 29 months — Pascal (35-6-1, 20 KOs) won’t be an easy nut to crack. The Laval, Quebec resident from Haiti, a former two-division world title-holder, upset Badou Jack in his last outing, winning a split decision.

Four 8-round fights in the junior welterweight division, the opening round of the “Last Chance” Tournament, precede the main event. The combatants are all former promising prospects whose careers have stalled or hit the skids. To take the most severe example, Kendo Castaneda, who boasts a 17-5 record but has lost five straight, takes on Sonny Frederickson who has lost his last four, dipping his record to 21-5.

Some of these 140-pound fights should provide lively entertainment. They will air on ProBox TV (proboxtv.com), a new streaming platform described as “the first and only global sports streaming and media company dedicated exclusively to professional boxing.” Subscriptions are being offered at the introductory rate of $1.99 per month or $18 per year.

—-

A Matchroom Matinee

The Saturday docket includes a matinee for DAZN subscribers in North America. The featured bout, airing from London’s O2 Arena, is an all-South London showdown between light heavyweights Joshua Buatsi (15-0, 13 KOs) and Craig “Spider” Richards (17-2-1, 10 KOs).

Buatsi, born in Ghana, was a bronze medalist for England at the 2016 Rio Olympics. His manager of record is Anthony Joshua. Richards is a former world title challenger who hunkers for a rematch with Dmitry Bivol to whom he lost a 12-round decision in May of last year.

Alen Babic, whose fan-friendly fighting style has been compared to a typhoon, opposes Adam Balski in the co-feature. A victory for the wild-swinging Babic, who has answered the bell for only 29 rounds while building a 10-0, 10 KOs record, will reportedly propel the London-based Croatian into a WBC bridgerweight title fight with Oscar Rivas who won the inaugural bridgerweight title in October of last year in a slugfest with fellow Canadian Ryan Rozicki. Balski, a 31-year-old Pole, brings a 16-1 record.

In another bout of note, British junior welterweight Chantelle Cameron, who owns the WBC and IBF versions of the 140-pound title, looks to keep her undefeated (15-0, 8 KOs) record intact at the expense of Argentine challenger Victoria Noelia Bustos (23-6). Cameron is pointing toward a unification fight with Rhode Island’s Kali Reis who owns the other two pieces of the title.

Top Rank in Las Vegas

Top Rank returns to Resorts World on Saturday with an 11-bout card airing on ESPN, ESPN Deportes, and ESPN+. The show kicks off earlier than usual with the main card on ESPN kicking off at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT.

The main event, packaged as a WBO interim middleweight title fight, matches Janibek (Qazaq Style) Alimkhanuly (11-0, 7 KOs) against Danny Dignum (14-0-1, 8 KOs).

dignum

Dignum and his team, a six-man traveling party, arrived in Las Vegas from London on Sunday. To fight in the main event of a boxing show in Las Vegas is a dream come true for the 30-year-old Brit (pictured on the right; photo courtesy of Mikey Williams) whose record includes a 3-0-1 mark in bouts sanctioned for the WBO European middleweight title.

“I didn’t come here just to show up,” said Dignum at the pre-fight press conference. “I am going to cause a big upset and make a lot of fans.” However, he didn’t say it with a lot of conviction. He knows that he is the “B” side. Top Rank calls Janibek, trained by Buddy McGirt, one of boxing’s most-avoided fighters and the next big star from Kazakhstan.

The opener on ESPN’s main platform showcases Cleveland welterweight Delante “Tiger” Johnson, a 2020 Olympian who looks to build upon his 3-0 record in a 6-rounder with Argentina’s Agustin Kucharski who is 8-4-1 and has never been stopped. The co-feature is an intriguing lightweight battle between Jamel Herring (23-3, 11 KOs) and Jamaine Ortiz, (15-0-1, 8 KOs), the latter of whom was the subject of a recent profile in these pages.

On paper Ortiz, who hails from Worcester, Massachusetts, is moving up in class. In Jamel Herring, the ex-Marine, he is facing a former Olympian and former world title-holder. However, the oddsmakers deem this a very winnable fight for Ortiz who will enter the bout in the unaccustomed role of the favorite. Herring, moving back to lightweight, looked every bit his age (36) in his one-sided defeat to Shakur Stevenson.

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