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Finally, the Ring A Country For Young Men

Bernard Fernandez

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KhanGarciaLAPC Blevins6Khan and Garcia both made weight, both scaling in at 139 pounds ahead of their Saturday clash.

It was 12:30 a.m., a time when under normal circumstances this retired sports writer should have been sound asleep. But maybe it was the percussion made by the pelting rain upon the rooftop of my sister-in-law’s New Orleans-area condo, where the wife and I are spending a few pleasant weeks in our old hometown visiting with family members and friends before our return to Philadelphia. If not that, possibly it was a mild case of indigestion from the generous portion of spicy Cajun fare I consumed at dinner some hours earlier. In any case, I was up and about, mostly awake and wishing I wasn’t. So, naturally, I did what many occasional insomniacs do: I turned on the television set in the otherwise unoccupied living room to watch whichever was the best of the late-late movies on one of the 75 or so available cable channels.

As luck, or maybe fate, would have it, the pick of the litter was a more recent classic, No Country For Old Men, which won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Picture and starred the always watchable Tommy Lee Jones as a folksy, back-country 1980s Texas sheriff trying to make sense of a series of murders committed by a sociopathic killer from another part of the world, whose weapon of choice was highly unusual.

Nearly a week has passed since that rainy night, and as I sit here pondering the approach I will take to the story I am about to write, it occurs to me that there might be an inspired reason why I awoke when I did, and elected to sit through the 2½ -hour entirety (including commercials) of a movie I already had watched probably seven or eight times.

Unlike most areas of our youth-obsessed culture, boxing is indeed a country for old men, which perhaps has contributed to the sport’s failure to attract as many new devotees as, say, mixed martial arts or the X-Games, where nut cases on skateboards and dirt bikes risk their health performing daredevil maneuvers without ever having to take a punch. In an era in which it is increasingly difficult to identify potential superstar fighters in their 20s, and some of the best-known practitioners of the pugilistic arts continue to be such fortysomethings as Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones Jr., Evander Holyfield and James Toney, even our interminable wait for a pairing of 35-year-old Floyd Mayweather Jr. and 33-year-old Manny Pacquiao almost qualifies as a dream showdown of ascending talents.

All of which stamps Saturday night’s super lightweight matchup of WBC champion Danny “Swift” Garcia (23-0, 14 KOs) and former WBA and IBF 140-pound titlist Amir “King” Khan (26-2, 18 KOs), at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, as the boxing equivalent, or close to it, of Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James in the NBA Finals, or wunderkinds Bryce Harper vs. Mike Trout in some World Series in the not-so-distant future.

All right, so Garcia, 24, and Khan, 25, aren’t yet members of the highly exclusive and ever-shrinking fraternity of boxing superstars. Part of that is attributable to the fact their professional development hasn’t been as accessible to the public as were those of Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns, whose meteoric rises in their formative professional stages owed in no small part to receiving regular exposure on free, over-the-air network television. The best, most anticipated scraps now are almost always on premium-cable or pay-per-view, freezing out thrifty fans on a budget who don’t subscribe to HBO or Showtime, or, even if they did, would prefer not to receive PPV-inflated monthly cable bills the size of new-car installment notes.

When Hearns was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y., on June 10, thousands of middle-aged idolators turned out to see him, Leonard and Marvelous Marvin Hagler share the dais, serving as reminders of a golden age that has passed and isn’t that likely to come around again unless certain parameters of the game can be changed. Part of that process is the need for promoters to expose the lead ponies in their respective stables to the type of risky showdowns that tend to jeopardize unblemished records and alphabet titles, as fabricated as those distinctions might be. It seems hard to believe now, but Leonard was only 25 when he took his 30-1 record into the ring on Sept. 16, 1981, at Caesars Palace against Hearns, who was 32-0 and still a month shy of his 23rd birthday. Oh, sure, Leonard embellished his burgeoning legend with a come-from-behind 14th-round stoppage of the very game “Hit Man,” but Hearns performed well enough that that defeat did not erode his popularity, just as his damn-the-torpedoes loss to Hagler in their 1985 slugfest also served to elevate his status as an all-time great rather than to take it down a notch.

It didn’t hurt, of course, that Garcia, who captured the vacant WBC crown on March 24 with his unanimous decision over faded icon Erik Morales (who had relinquished the title a day earlier when he failed to make weight), and Khan both are promoted by Golden Boy, making the negotiations less confrontational than is frequently the case. Also facilitating matters is the fact that Khan, who had been preparing for a late-May rematch with the man who had wrested the WBA and IBF titles from him on a controversial split decision, Lamont Peterson, tested positive for steroids and was stripped of those belts.

Mostly, though, this appealing bout, which will be televised by HBO, was made because two young, hungry and confident fighters wanted to test themselves against someone who brought many of the same attributes to the table, and because each knows the only way to step up to the threshold of superstardom is to say what the hell and take a chance now, when it actually means something.

“I felt it was a big opportunity,” said Garcia. “Khan was supposed to fight Peterson again, but when that fell through, my manager (Al Haymon) reached out to me and said, `Do you want to fight the guy? I know you can beat him.’ I said, `Yeah, I know I can beat him, too, so let’s do it.’

“I’ve watched Khan for years. I never thought he was as good as people were making him out to be. Boxing is too political sometimes. Fighters get to be champions and all of a sudden they or their managers just want to play it safe so they can hold onto the title for a long time. Boxing needs to get exciting again, with more fights between two young, strong, fast guys in their primes.

“I didn’t have to take this fight. I could have gone another way. But I heard what was being said after I won the WBC championship. `Danny Garcia beat an old man.’ It was like I wasn’t getting the credit I believed I deserved. That’s why I said yes to a fight with Khan. I want to show the world that I’m the real deal, and I’m going to be on top for a long time.”

Those sentiments were more or less echoed by Khan, who is thrilled that at least one of his former 140-pound titles, the WBA version, also will be on the line on Saturday night, the WBA having tossed its hardware into the pot as a result of Peterson testing dirty.

“We spoke to Golden Boy (CEO Richard Schaefer) and he said, `What do you think of Danny Garcia (as a replacement opponent)? I jumped to the occasion. I remember watching the highlights when Garcia beat Erik Morales. He’s a good fighter and he has a name that I thought would be in my future because he’s young, he’s good and he’s strong. I thought, `I’m going to have to keep an eye on this guy.’

“I would have liked to settle the score properly (with Peterson), but Garcia and I have similar speed and similar movements. We’re both unorthodox. And having two world titles on the line makes the fight even bigger.”

As well thought of as Garcia was prior to his conquest of Morales (he was a 2005 Under-19 U.S. champion and a 2006 U.S. national champion as an amateur), he didn’t enter the pro ranks as heavily hyped as was Khan, a silver medalist for Great Britain at the tender age of 17 at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Boxing writers from the United Kingdom had been rhapsodizing about him to their American counterparts for years, touting Khan, who is of Pakistani descent, as the second coming of “Prince” Naseem Hamed. And when Khan took out the great Marco Antonio Barrera, or what remained of him, in five rounds on March 14, 2009, in Manchester, England, it served to largely erase the memory of his shocking, first-round knockout by Breidis Prescott two bouts earlier, also in Manchester.

Despite those two defeats on his resume, Khan is anywhere from a 3½ -1 to a 6-1 favorite, depending on which wagering establishment is setting the odds. The extent of Garcia’s longshot status does seem a bit wide, but that could be the result of all those vocal and free-spending Brits putting next month’s rent money on their hero, whereas Garcia still is trying to expand his base of support. A victory over Khan would do much to further his ambitions to be recognized as top-tier fighter and bankable attraction.

It remains to be seen whether either Garcia or Khan, or both, ever rise to the prominence of a Leonard or a Hearns, although the suspicion is that much work needs to be done for them to even enter that discussion. But they are young guns willing to back up their conviction in themselves where it counts, inside the ropes.

For that, fights fans of all ages should be grateful.

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Dan Parker Bashed the Bad Guys in Boxing and Earned a Ticket to the Hall of Fame

Arne K. Lang

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Twenty-five years ago this month, sportswriter Dan Parker was formally ushered into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in the non-participant category. Parker wasn’t there to enjoy the moment. He had been dead going on 30 years.

Dan Parker, who began his career in journalism as a court reporter in his native Waterbury, Connecticut, hired on with the New York Daily Mirror in 1924, was named sports editor two years later, and remained with the paper until it folded during a prolonged newspaper strike in 1963, a total of 39 years.

Parker has been underappreciated by historians of the sports page because he worked for a paper that didn’t make the cut when advances in microphotography allowed copies of old newspapers to be stored on microfilm. During this reporter’s days as a college student — and here I date myself – the only out-of-town papers archived in the school library were the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post, and to cull something out of them for a term paper one had to commit to spending long hours manually scrolling through reels of microfilm on a clunky machine. The tabloids – and the Daily Mirror was a tabloid – were considered too lowbrow for serious research, and even today in the digital age, stuff by Dan Parker is hard to find if one doesn’t have the luxury of hunkering down for an extended stay in the periodicals section of the Library of Congress. His online omnibus consists entirely of scattered stories that were picked up by other newspapers and a few magazine pieces.

But among boxing writers, Dan Parker was a giant. He did more than anyone to cleanse the sport of the hoodlum element. The IBHOF electorate has come up with some curious choices in the non-participant category over the years, but in the case of Dan Parker they certainly got it right.

Parker was a big man, carrying about 240 pounds on his six-foot-four frame, but a man’s size is irrelevant when staring into the barrel of a gun and Parker was fearless when facing off with the goons that infested the fight racket. His best year, one might say, was 1955 when a story he authored for Bluebook magazine flowered into an award-winning, six-part series in the Mirror titled “They’re Murdering Boxing.” The series spawned an investigation that ultimately resulted in the imprisonment of Frankie Carbo, boxing’s so-called underworld czar, a man with a long rap sheet, and several of Carbo’s collaborators, most notably Philadelphia numbers baron Frank “Blinky” Palermo.

Parker’s friends urged him to lay off the hoodlums before something bad happened to him, but he ignored their counsel. “Everybody in boxing lived in fear of this enforcer (Frankie Carbo) but not Dan Parker. Nobody ever put enough heat on Parker to slow down his typewriter,” reminisced Hartford Courant sports editor Bill Lee.

Parker’s reputation as a reformer was well-established before he zeroed in on the machinations of Carbo and others of his ilk. In 1944, when a vacancy came up on the New York State Athletic Commission, Governor Thomas Dewey, who had made his reputation as a racket-busting District Attorney, offered the post to Parker.

It was easy money, but he declined. “What would I use for a punching bag if I were on the boxing commission myself?,” he said.

During a portion of Parker’s tenure with the paper, there were eight other New York dailies competing for readers. The Mirror was the paper of choice for well-informed boxing fans thanks in large part to Murray Lewin who came to be recognized as the city’s best fight prognosticator within the ranks of the newspaper writers. Lewin, the boxing beat writer, did the grunt work, attending all the little shows and writing up the summaries. Parker, as he freely admitted, was more interested in writing about sporting characters than about the games they played. And like his good buddy Damon Runyon, who wrote for the New York American (later the Journal-American), Parker was inevitably drawn to boxing and horseracing because that was where the most colorful characters were found.

Parker found time to write one book, a primer for novice horseplayers published in 1947 when horseracing was on the cusp of the boom that would lead it to becoming America’s top spectator sport (a distinction, needless to say, that wouldn’t last).

The book had a chapter on touts, one of Parker’s favorite subjects for his newspaper column. They were all charlatans, he wrote, an opinion that did not endear him to the bean-counters as they were forever cluttering up his sports section with ads from racetrack tipsters. Parker wasn’t afraid to make enemies on his own paper.

Believe it or not, but there were still folks back then who believed that professional wrestling was on the up-and-up. Parker educated them when he wrote a column that gave out all the winners on a show that hadn’t yet started.

The programs for the wrestling shows, which included the bout sheet, were published well in advance and then hidden away until they were needed. Parker procured a copy and from it was able to glean which wrestlers had won their preceding match.

“Dan was a shy, gentle, and kindly man with a quick sense of humor,” wrote New York Times sports editor Arthur Daley. But within his profession, he wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The legendary Herald Tribune sports editor Stanley Woodward once likened him to Fearless Fosdick, a character in the L’il Abner comic strip who was a parody of Dick Tracy. Parker had a long-running feud with New York Daily News sportswriter Jimmy Powers which may have had something to do with Powers becoming a well-known radio commentator. In the eyes of the old guard, a true journalist didn’t do “electronic media.”

When Damon Runyon died from cancer of the larynx in 1946, several of his close friends, notably Parker and the famous gossip columnist Walter Winchell, a Daily Mirror colleague, got together and resolved to create a charity in Runyon’s memory. What resulted was a foundation that has raised millions for cancer research. Parker worked tirelessly on its behalf.

Daniel Francis “Dan” Parker died on May 20, 1967, at age 73. He was quite a guy.

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What Next for Gabriel Rosado?

Ted Sares

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What Next for Gabriel Rosado?

Bektemir Melikuziev, Freddie Roach, Edgar Berlanga, and Jaime Munguia are names that, one way or another, figured into Gabe Rosado’s stunning KO last Saturday night in El Paso. It overshadowed the impressive showing by Noaya “Monster” Inoue later that night in Las Vegas.

Rosado (26-13-1) is a well-documented bleeder and just might start spurting during the walk-in, but he is never, ever in a dull fight. The tougher-than-tough Philadelphian won Top Gore honors for his blood and guts TKO loss to Canadian middleweight star David Lemieux in 2014. The year before, he bled aplenty in his game but losing effort against Gennady Golovkin.

This time against Melikuziev, the unbeaten Uzbek, the fight ended in round three when the 35-year-old underdog beat the Eastern Euro fighter to the punch during an exchange of rights with Gabe’s landing first and sending the former amateur star into dreamland. The force of the blow was amplified by the younger and faster man coming forward with caution to the wind. And this time, there was no bloodletting.

The knockout should be a contender for KO of the Year. In fact, it was reminiscent of Juan Manuel Marquez’s explosive knockout of Manny Pacquiao in their final match.

Once again, Rosado (who is now trained by Freddie Roach) has revived his career and can count on at least one last decent payday. While many think Jaime Munguia would be a solid next fight, the thinking here is that Rosado could get carved up by the undefeated Tijuana veteran who has won 30 of his 37 fights by KO. Munguia is just too good.

The Catch 22

Rosado is an all-action fighter but scar tissue and his propensity to bleed is his worst enemy. It has cost him in the past. For such an offensive-minded fighter as Gabe, he is trapped in a terrible catch-22. If he can get the lead early and the bleeding is stemmed within reasonable limits, he can be a force, but not against the likes of Munguia.

If not Munguia, then who?  Here is one suggestion: How about “The Chosen One,” Edgar Berlanga (17-0) whose first round KO streak recently came to an end. Brooklyn vs. Philadelphia would be a nice added touch –not to mention the Puerto Rican factor. Could Rosado expose Berlanga as someone without enough experience, aka rounds? Would Gabe show that Berlanga is more Tyson Brunson that Edwin Valero?

Let’s make it happen!

Ted Sares enjoys researching and writing about boxing. He also competes as a powerlifter in the Master-class. He can be reached at  tedsares@roadrunner.com

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Fast Results from Las Vegas: Inoue Demolishes Dasmarinas; Mayer UD Farias

Arne K. Lang

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Fast Results from Las Vegas: Inoue Demolishes Dasmarinas; Mayer UD  Farias

LAS VEGAS — Top Rank was at the Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas on Saturday, June 19, for the second of their three June shows. In the headliner, WBA/IBF world bantamweight champion Naoya “Monster” Inoue lived up to his nickname with a vicious third round stoppage of Filipino import Michael Dasmarinas.

Inoue (21-0, 18 KOs) had his opponent fighting off his back foot from the opening bell. He knocked down Dasmarinas in the second with a left hook to the liver and twice more in the third round before referee Russell Mora waived it off. The official time was 2:45.

Dasmarinas brought a 30-2-1 record and hadn’t lost since 2014. But he was no match for the “Monster” who looks younger than his 28 years. Those body shots landed with a thud that could be heard in the far reaches of the arena. This kid is really good.

Mikaela Mayer continues to improve as she showed tonight in the first defense of her WBO world super featherweight title. Mayer 15-0 (5) turned away Argentina’s Erica Farias (26-5) with a 10-round unanimous decision in a fight that was frankly rather monotonous.

Mayer won by scores of 97-93 and 98-92 twice. Farias, who landed the best punch of the fight, didn’t have the taller Mayer’s physical equipment but yet landed the best punch of the fight. Her only setbacks have come on the road against elite opponents—Cecilia Braekhus, Delfine Person, Jessica McCaskill (twice) and now Mikaela Mayer.

The opener on the ESPN portion of the show was a lusty 10-round welterweight affair between Ghana native Isaac Dogboe and Glendale, California’s Adam Lopez. Dogboe, whose only losses came at the hands of Emanuel Navarette in world title fights, improved to 22-2 by dint of a majority decision that could have easily gone the other way. Dave Moretti had it a draw but was overruled (97-93 and 96-94).

Lopez, one of two fighting sons of the late Hector Lopez, an Olympic silver medalist, did his best work late, particularly in the eighth round. With the loss, his record declines to 15-3.

Other Bouts

Monterrey, Mexico super lightweight Lindolfo Delgado, a 2016 Olympian, was extended the distance for the first time in his career but won a wide 8-round decision over Guadalajara’s Salvador Briceno

Delgado won by scores of 80-72 and 79-73 twice while advancing his record to 12-0. Delgado’s best round was the eighth, but Briceno (17-7) weathered the storm. Briceno is 5-6 in his last 11, but has been matched tough. The six fighters to beat him, including Delgado, were a combined 78-3 at the time that he fought them.

Vista, California lightweight Eric Puente has yet to score a KO but he is undefeated in six starts after winning a unanimous decision over Mexico’s Antonio Meza (7-6). Puente, who is trained by Robert Garcia, knocked Meza down early into the fight with a sweeping left and was the aggressor throughout. The judges had it 57-56 and 58-55 twice.

Puerto Rican super lightweight Omar Rosario improved to 4-0 (2) with a fourth-round stoppage of Reno, Nevada’s Wilfred “JJ” Moreno (3-1) The official time was 0:47.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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