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TSS CLASSIC: “Corazon”

Joe Rein

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MayweatherCotto Hogan 95 The heart of the sport can be seen, immense and healthy, at shows like the one Joe Rein reported on back in 2003.

“Reports of my death are grossly exaggerated,” Mark Twain said… The same’s true of boxing, if you'd seen the army straining to get into the Grand Olympic Auditorium in L.A. for Oscar de La Hoya's “Boxeo de Oro.”

It was only 5 P.M. on a workday and ticket holders were in a ragged line stretching well around Grand Ave. — looked like the Oklahoma land rush just before the gun went off.

These were largely roll-up-your-sleeves guys, from what I could tell, Latino. They'd earned their faces and were in good spirits — with maybe a head start on a drink or two. They knew the niceties of the game, but they came to see guys fight, to see someone bite down and show “Corazon.” Heart….Somebody they could identify with… root for.

When the floodgates opened, the mob poured in, sweeping aside the ticket takers.

It was impossible being jostled along in those narrow, sweating corridors, not to have the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, imagining Enrique Bolonas, Jose Becerra, Ruben Olivares, Mando Ramos and Bobby Chacon battling in this very ring, defining Aztec warrior and the legacy of the Olympic.

Management gave it a new paint job, new seats, but this is the gladiator pit that dates back to the ‘30s…where Al Jolson and “Bugsy” Seigel arrived by limo to sit just a few feet from me to watch “The Brown Bomber” and Henry Armstrong. The reverence was palpable.

Not a bad sight line in the place.

The arena was filling quickly, electricity charging the air and bringing the legends to life.

On the main floor behind the 15-20 rows of ringside seats was a portable bar. “All American beer! No Mexican beer!” shouted the bartender. A curious marketing ploy, considering. It didn't seem to hurt sales; a quick look around confirmed.

It was one large extended family: A reunion of stand-up guys. The badges of the trade marking every beaming face — balcony to ringside. Much backslapping, ribbing, dirty laughter, intros, and lots and lots of beer all ‘round.

They yelled, stamped their feet and pounded the air when the action heated in the ring. A Godzilla-sized promotional bottle of Miller Lite, with a poor soul inside, was being led blind through their midst by a guy with a rope…and threatened to tip over at every step, much to the delight of all.

The only things missing from the “old school” picture were: The smell of cigars and the cloud of smoke that made it all look like film-noir.

The early KO's by the super middleweight Andrade brothers had everybody toasting and the beer flowing.

Librado Andrade, in a ring overrun by press, was bursting with pride accepting the first Miller Lite Golden State Award for the outstanding performance of the evening, for his emphatic KO of Errol Banner.

Watching Andrade clutch that sculpture, being turned in every direction for pictures and interviews, and standing on the bottom strand of the ropes trying to stretch to the balcony to share his excitement with friends from La Habre, it was easy to see, he was going to have no trouble dedicating himself to winning a world title.

Security was having no luck trying to clear revelers out of the aisles. No sooner did a group reluctantly disperse than they re-assembled larger and louder.

Raven-haired Pamela Anderson wannabes with painted-on jeans and as much cleavage as they could engineer trolled ringside endlessly in hopes of catching the eye of some mover-n'-shaker for a taste of the “good life”. The hotties acted offended at the whistles and street remarks, but never failed to retrace their routes.

Some ringsiders slipped their tickets to buddies who scampered down from the cheap seats to claim them over the mezzanine wall when a guard wasn't looking. And then, like cats with cream on their whiskers, nonchalantly flashed the ducats at security and disappeared among the heavy hitters, like children let loose in a candy factory.

The fans got an extra glimpse of skin in the prelims prior to the televised fights. The round-card girls jiggled and waved and threw kisses in Band-Aids and floss that lost the struggle to contain the Jell-O inside. The building rocked in appreciation of the generous scoops of dessert served up on stiletto heels.

The PG-rated TV bouts had the same girls in gym shorts and halters, looking more like an aerobics class. Their more-modest garb drew a collective groan. Spice is what they wanted, not health food.

Fernando Vargas, not the least surly or ill-at-ease at a Golden Boy promotion, lounged at the ring apron in tinted shades and an open silken shirt, basking in adulation all around him.

A hulking figure–standing just off to the side of Vargas– in an oversize football jersey–arms locked across his chest, expressionless, with menacing dark glasses, clocking anything to do with Vargas–was the lone reminder of his recent headlines.

Watching two of Vargas's homies shuttle the adoring to and from him between rounds was damn impressive; it had all the precision of a military operation. One mother gingerly handed Vargas her baby. He cradled it and smiled, while she snapped a picture that might inspire a future ring career.

It looked like the line to sit on Santa's lap at X-Mas in a department store.

Two strikingly beautiful women swathed in Calvin Klein and Armani stole away from their escorts and flirtatiously snuggled-in for a picture with Vargas, who grinned and encircled them with his arms. It was good to be the king.

A smarmy guy in a Hawaiian shirt over a paunch and shoe black on his hair was pressing the flesh of anybody-and-all a few rows from Vargas, showing his barely-teenage stable of fighters in the $250 seats what it would be like when they hit it big. With their Marine haircuts and wide eyes, the young fighters looked like goslings plunked down from another planet.

A Nell Carter look-alike, in a scarlet lamp-shade-of-a-dress and lots of 'tude, invaded a row of celebs and got each one up to pose with her for a picture, handing the camera to whoever was closest. And if the flash didn't go off, she insisted on another. Then she passed around a boxing glove to be signed, instructing each what to write. She just waved off any objection. With her in my corner, I could get a title shot.

When Julio Gonzalez and “Panchito” Bojado were spotted, they both were unfailingly gracious–and genuinely touched–under the onslaught of fans for handshakes, pictures with them, a word or two, or a signed program or a blouse front. Some nearly fell out of the stands just for a touch as they went by.

Bojado circulated all around the arena, always in the center of bodies clawing at him; his posse trying to screen him, as best they could. Eventually, he stood right below me; he looked no more than 16. Like bees to honey, everybody descended on Bojado, climbing over each other and the wall to get to him.

When I asked the guys in front to sit down, I couldn't see, Bojado poked his head through the jam: “I'm terribly sorry for the interruption. I apologize,” and he drew the mob away, like the Pied Piper. Pretty classy. He made a fan out of me.

Just to the left of my aisle seat, a guy looking like he was doing a bad-drunk imitation swayed precariously at the top of the stairs, with beer sloshing out of his cup, about 10 feet above the concrete floor. In what seemed like slow motion, he lost his hold on the railing. I just managed to grab his wrist before he fell, and some others pitched in immediately to pull him back. The drunk's friends were all over me with 'Thanks' in rapid-fire Spanish; their beers punctuated every word. I was sure I was in for a shower.

Bobby Chacon wove his way through the crowd, shaking hands, just a hint unsteady on his pins–oddly small, considering what a giant he was in the ring–with that same signature grin plastered on every sports page when he roared off the streets of Compton to shake the Olympic to the rafters and insure his place in the hearts of these fans. He should have been saluted at center ring; he left so much of himself there.

A fellow in his 20s, next to me, tapped my arm and pointed to Chacon, with the respect reserved for an idol, and went on in Spanish about him. His tone said it all. The guy behind me leaned in, expressing the same sentiments, and offered me some tortilla chips.

The heir apparent to Chacon may be “Mighty” Mike Anchondo; nearly the same size as Chacon, with the same schoolboy good looks, masking a killer instinct and a flare for the dramatic.

Anchondo fought the semi wind-up 10 rounder against Nicaraguan Roque “Rocky” Cassiani (23-4-1), who looked like a mini Marvin Hagler when he doffed his brocaded robe. The similarity ended with the muscles.

Anchondo has 21 fights and 17 KOs, is not tall for a 130-pounder, but he has the mark of a veteran: totally relaxed in the ring; his combinations so fluid they belie the speed and power; and almost on cue, he responds to the urging of the crowd with the kind of vicious salvos that seem over-the-top in a movie.

After some confusion at the end of the 9th round, where it looked like referee James Jen-Kin stepped in to stop it– with Anchondo raining unanswered blows on a helpless Cassiani sagging against the ropes–the ref, inexplicably, allowed it to continue.

It was bedlam before the 10th round. The crowd smelled blood and tore the roof off. They were on their feet, chanting “Mighty Mike! Mighty Mike!” …Anchondo didn't disappoint. At the bell, he attacked and kept firing until the ref called a halt. Then, in unbounded joy, he leaped into the arms of his handlers, who held him aloft while he punched the sky repeatedly, and the building shook.

Cassiani was made to order for Anchondo, with his relentless, one-dimensional, search-n'-destroy mind-set. Cassiani threw with bad intentions, and pressed and pressed, and took it, and took it, and took it…until the ref decided he should take no more. He went out on his shield.

After the Anchondo fight, while the ref was standing against the ropes congratulating Anchondo, a woman producer for HBO shoved the ref aside, yelled something in his face, and yanked Anchondo –literally– across the ring to the color commentator, barking orders to clear the way, and glaring. Roberto Duran couldn't have been more menacing.

Anchondo came back out after changing. He was greeted with the adulation one sees only at the Plaza De Toros after a brave kill.

“Mighty Mike! Mighty Mike!” It was deafening. Anchondo signed and flung gloves with all the strength he could muster to the top of the balcony. The place was in a frenzy. Had some fans not been caught by the ankles at the last moment, they'd have sailed off the balcony diving for a glove.

Some months ago, I was impressed with Anchondo's sparring at the Wild Card Gym, and wanted to interview him, so I looked for an interpreter, without any luck. I approached Anchondo, with some hesitation: “DO…YOU…SPEAK…ANY…ENGLISH? I…DON'T…SPEAK…ANY SPANISH.”

“I don't either,” he said, laughing. “It happens to me all the time.”

He's a very engaging, open-faced, unlikely looking executioner, who connects with the barrio, like Art Aragon used to. Plus, the personality to make him a media favorite. It's about time they start beating the drum for him. He could headline the card and pack the place.

The main-go was won convincingly by Jose Navarro over Jorge Luis “Speedy” Gonzalez, for the IBA Continental Americas junior bantamweight title. Navarro is not what you think of when the image of a Mexican fighter comes to mind: Chango Carmona or “Bazooka” Limon.

Navarro is a well-balanced, unflappable ring technician, who fires from the port side like a surgeon. He keeps sticking broomsticks in your face, and threads the needle up and down– stinging, stinging, stinging, keeping pressure at the end of his long arms. He's an educated boxer, and though he doesn't fire the blood, it's going to take a special fighter to take him out of his game.

Gonzalez was outclassed, but he kept throwing bricks and finally his body, in wave after kamikaze wave against the Gatling gun that was strafing him. Freddie Roach, Gonzalez's trainer, must have told him before the last round: 'Son, you need a knockout!'

At the bell, Gonzalez bolted out at full gallop, flailing and swinging, trying to will himself past those whirring blades to land the one shot that would turn the tide. Gonzalez fell short, but he gave it all of his heart and won the heart of the crowd doing it.

Most walkout bouts are just that. People can't get to their cars fast enough, but quite a few stayed and were treated to a very spirited six-round junior featherweight go that Kahren Harutyunyan won by a split decision over Marinho Gonzalez.

It's not a given that a taller man will out jab a shorter one. Harutyunyan proved that. He looked like he was going to need a ladder to reach Gonzalez, but he always got there first…and often. Though Harutyunyan was the only non-Latino on the card, what few that remained didn't begrudge him his props.

Harutyunyan has been a hard luck fighter, and far better than his record indicates (9-1-3). When he got the nod, most of the Armenian community of Glendale jumped into the ring and danced and embraced him. When he came down the ring steps with a grin as big as he was, the Wild Card regulars showed him how they treated their own.

Spilling out into the downtown night with fathers and sons still animatedly buzzing about the fights in Spanish, my step quickened with the pride of inclusion in this fraternity that spans generations and language. It was no different than the old Garden or St. Nick's; and though boxing is relegated to the back page of the sports section, this invalid still has a lotta life in it. It's all about “Corazon.”

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Boxing Exhibitions: Side Show, New Angle, or Something Else? Part Two

Ted Sares

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Boxing Exhibitions: Side Show, New Angle, or Something Else? Part Two

YouTuber Jake Paul (2-0) says he wants to fight English YouTuber KSI, and then maybe Ryan Garcia, Conor McGregor, and some of the top UFC fighters (using boxing rules). This comes after his recent coldcocking of former NBA star Nate Robinson.

“There is a long list of opponents that I want, you know Conor McGregor, Dillon Danis. I’m going to knock them both out.”– Paul

Jake and his brother Logan are participants in a continuing side show and the more attention they get, the more this freak show will last. In that vein, this writer will no longer mention them except to quote the following from a poster named VashDBasher: “Hopefully these exhibition matches with these retired fighters don’t get out of hand. Not to mention these youtubers with single digit fights making more money than a lot of top prospects and contenders. Boxing is turning into a sham with…”

Exhibitions: The Fire Has Been Ignited; Will It Burn?

Jorge Arce and Julio Cesar Chavez, Sr. launched the tour when they faced off in September in Tijuana but it was done under the radar.

The super-hyped and much anticipated Tyson-Jones exhibition is now in the past, but already it appears that many others will take place. After all, this one—though a stylistic stinker– reportedly pulled in close to 1.2 million PPV buys!

“There’s a sucker born every minute.” – usually attributed to P. T. Barnum

Mike Tyson, coming in at a svelte 220 pounds wants to continue and asserts “my body feels splendid. I want to beat it up some more…I will do it again.” If he does, it may well happen in Europe.

Others are coming out of the woodwork sniffing around like dogs smelling Purina chow but the chow in this case is money and plenty of it. Suddenly, the “seniors tour” seems to enjoy the certainty of a Cher’s final tour. Ex- fighters like Glen McCrory, Lennox Lewis, Riddick Bowe, Johnny Nelson, Buster Douglas, Shannon Briggs, Erik Morales, Evander Holyfield, Marco António Barrera, and possibly Oscar De La Hoya (in a traditional comeback rather than an exhibition) are all looking to get in on the action.

 “The rumors are true, and I’m going to start sparring in the next few weeks.” –De La Hoya

The usually quiet Holyfield in particular has made a lot of noise saying among other things that, “Roy Jones was a good local opponent for Tyson, but a fight with me would be a global event and the only one fight that anyone wants to see is a fight between us. There is absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t make it happen…”

But the “Real Deal” also has said he won’t fight for less than 25 million which is pretty much tantamount to saying he doesn’t want to fight.

Tyson vs. Holyfield III? Don’t bet on this one happening.

However, if there is money to be made, Floyd Mayweather Jr will be hovering about like a helicopter perhaps looking to fight Manny Pacquiao in a mega fight, but Manny may be looking to fight everybody’s favorite opponent, UFC star Conor McGregor. A real fight involving Floyd against a risky opponent would be of enormous interest, but keeping in mind that one of his mottos has been “my health is my wealth,” that is not something to bet on.

Ted Sares can be reached at  tedsares@roadrunner.com

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Errol Spence Jr’s Near-Death Experience Has Made Him More Well-Grounded

Bernard Fernandez

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Maybe it’s a good thing that Errol Spence Jr. had to learn the hard way that talent, like life, is a perishable commodity. Even so accomplished a world boxing champion as Spence had to discover that harsh reality in the blink of an eye, or however long as it took for his fast-moving sports car to veer out of control and produce a knockdown far more perilous than anything the man known as “The Truth” ever has had to face in the ring, or likely ever will.

The Errol Spence Jr. (26-0, 21 KOs) who puts his IBF and WBC welterweight championships on the line against two-division former titlist Danny “Swift” Garcia (36-2, 21 KOs) Saturday night in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, could have, and maybe even should have, died in the early morning hours of October 10, 2019, on a virtually open stretch of highway near Interstate 30 in downtown Dallas. Spence’s white Ferrari, capable of hitting speeds up to 200 mph, went over the center median and flipped over several times. It seemed miraculous that Spence (who was cited for misdemeanor driving under the influence), who sustained significant injuries, could be ejected from the car yet somehow recover to the point where he could fight another day.

“It’s just a miracle for things to turn out like they did,” Spence has said. “For anybody to be ejected out of a Ferrari … I mean, it could have been so much worse. I could have lost a leg, an arm. I could have been paralyzed or had brain damage. I could have been killed right then and there. But I didn’t have to deal with any of that. I’m just blessed. I’m definitely going to heed this warning. You go through what I did, you definitely don’t take things for granted as I once did.”

His professional return Saturday night will not only be met with as much public anticipation as is standard for fighters occupying as elite a level as does Spence, but even more so given his career-long 14½-month layoff (his most recent bout was a 12-round split decision over Shawn Porter on September 28, 2019) and questions attendant to how well he has recovered from his near-catastrophic experience. Has the ordeal in any way diminished him physically or psychologically? Was he imprudent in choosing to forego a less-risky tune-up fight for a matchup with the very formidable Garcia, who previously has held the WBC and WBA super lightweight and WBC welterweight belts? Can he demonstrate that he still is as special a fighter as he had been before his car crashed? Or maybe even better?

Not all of the answers will be provided in the Showtime Pay-Per-View main event, but enough will be to ascertain whether Spence can still claim to be the best 147-pound fighter on the planet (as listed in The Ring magazine ratings) or, even if victorious, reveal himself to be at least somewhat damaged goods.

Not that he was prone to preening and chest-thumping before, but, if anything, Spence, although highly confident he will come away with his undefeated record extended, still presents a public posture similar to that of his understated trainer, Derrick James. That is a stark contrast to the bombast for which Garcia’s father-trainer, Angel Garcia, is noted, and has even ratcheted up a notch for this fight. Angel has even gone on record as predicting that Danny will stop Spence in seven rounds.

“He’s going to go out there and show the world what true champions are made of,” Angel said of what he expects from his son, a +340 underdog in contrast to Spence’s -450 favoritism. “Danny don’t just know how to win, he knows how to kick your ass.”

Noting that his date with Spence had already been twice-delayed, the 32-year-old Danny figures all good things come to those who wait, and his patience is about to be rewarded. “Boxing is a sport of timing,” he said. “And the time is now. I feel great. I had a tremendous camp and did everything I’m supposed to do. Now it’s time to go out there and do what I do best, and win.

“I’ve been the underdog in many fights. I don’t worry about the critics or the media. I know that I’m a great champion, and a great fighter. And that’s what I’m going to prove Saturday night.”

James, for his part, is only too glad to yield the megaphone to Angel Garcia. He’s not about to talk smack about the Garcias because, well, he believes no good can come for those who brag about what they expect to do before they do it.

“I don’t make predictions for myself or my guy, but (Angel Garcia) is supposed to believe in himself,” James said. “He’s supposed to believe in what he thinks his son is going to do. Why wouldn’t he? At the same time, we feel the exact same way. I don’t go in there saying we are going to get a knockout. I can’t predict anything like that. But I can predict that we will be victorious.

“My guy’s quiet, I’m quiet. If you believe in yourself, you don’t have to talk about it.”

Any changes in Spence might not be obvious inside the ropes, but he insists his lifestyle has undergone a radical makeover that can only serve to benefit him in the time he has left at or near the top of a brutal sport that chews up and spits out those who can’t appreciate that today’s glory can soon become tomorrow’s memory.  For one thing, he has traded a Ferrari’s massive horsepower for, well, a different sort of horse power.

“I think it did renew my focus and got me back to the thing that got me to the top of the mountain,” he said of his reconfigured priorities stemming from the accident. “After a fight I started taking a week off, then two weeks off to a month off. Now I’m grinding hard again. You realize that having this time on earth is a luxury. Being young (Spence was 29 at the time of the crash, and is now 30), you think you’re invincible. You think nothing bad can happen to you. But when something does happen to you, you realize that time is important, especially time spent with your family and loved ones.

“That’s why I actually moved out of downtown (Dallas), got a ranch with horses, cattle and things like that. I got a pool and I’m outside with my kids. I just had a newborn son.”

Still, Spence knows that saying he’s as good, or better, than he previously had been is not going to convince any doubting Thomases until he delivers the goods. Danny Garcia, proud and tough, poses the test he needs to pass before any lingering suspicions can be laid to rest.

“I’m a realist,” Spence said. “I know people have a lot of questions. Am I still the same? Am I a shadow of myself? Those are questions that need to be answered.”

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Dickens and Bolotniks Victorious in Golden Contract Finales

Arne K. Lang

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The finals of two Golden Contract tournaments played out tonight at a TV studio in an industrial park in West Yorkshire, England. The 8-man tournaments, organized by the controversial boxing management company MTK Global, were similar in structure to the World Boxing Super Series. The winner of each tournament was promised a two-year five-fight deal with a guaranteed six-figure purse in each of the five fights going forward. The fights were televised in the UK on Sky Sports and in the US on ESPN+ in association with Top Rank.

Both finales were 50/50 fights as measured by the betting odds, a rarity in this sport.

James “Jazza” Dickens, a 29-year-old Liverpudlian, won the 126-pound tournament with a 10-round unanimous decision over former British featherweight champion Ryan Walsh. It was the eighth straight win for Dickens, now 30-3 (11), who was stopped in the second round by Guillermo Rigondeaux during his days as a super bantamweight.

This was a tactical fight, heavy on head feints. It was fairly even through the first four rounds, but Dickens pulled away to win by scores of 98-93, 97-94, and 96-94. One of three fighting brothers, Walsh, 34, falls to 26-3-2. He has never been stopped.

Dickens vs. Walsh was originally scheduled for Sept. 30, but pushed back when Dickens and his trainer tested positive for COVID-19. The Golden Contract 140-pound tournament concluded on that date with Ohara Davies winning a controversial decision over Tyrone McKenna.

Light Heavyweight

The light heavyweight finale, as expected, was an entertaining scrap. Ricards Bolotniks, a late bloomer from Latvia, wore down and ultimately stopped Serge Michel whose corner tossed in the towel with seconds remaining in the 10th and final round.

Bolotniks, 30, has a pedestrian record, now 18-5-1 (8), and is rough around the edges, but he has a winning down-to-earth personality and a lot of grit. He got here with a pair of upsets, most recently over Tyson Fury’s cousin Hosea Burton who was 25-1 going in.

Bolotniks knocked Michel into the ropes in round five – it was scored a knockdown — and knocked him down in the 10th with a barrage of punches. He was too strong for Michel (11-2) who represented Germany in the 2016 Olympics.

After the fight, Bolotniks called out Anthony Yarde. A fight between he and Yarde – whose lone defeat came at the hands of Sergey Kovalev in Russia – would almost certainly provide great entertainment.

More

In another fight of note, junior welterweight Harlem Eubank outpointed Daniel “Danny Darko” Egbunike to advance his record to 11-0 (6). The referee scored it 97-94 which was giving Egbunike (6-1) a shade the best of it. Eubank’s previous opponents had 212 losses between them, so this was a step-up fight for him despite Egbunike’s inexperience.

The 26-year-old Eubank is the nephew of former two-division title-holder Chris Eubank Sr. He is trained by Adam Booth who currently trains Michael Conlan, among others, and formerly trained David Haye, Andy Lee, and George Groves, among others. Egbunike, a 31-year-old Londoner who spent nearly three years in prison on drug charges, was making his first start in 13 months.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

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