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Geale-Sturm: Irresistible Objects and a Finally Moveable Force

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Geale-SturmIf this was Felix Sturm's swan song, it was a doozy. Sturm-Geale was a rock-solid scrap.

OBERHAUSEN -Perhaps a draw was the most fitting verdict on an evening of cliches both apt and absurd, but Daniel Geale and Felix Sturm had fought far too hard for that, whatever it meant, with sanctions aside.

Rhineland boxing's gloved-up gourmet menu did not have any Deutschland “Hausmannskost” (home cooking) on the bill Saturday night as Geale earned a coin-flip split decision into another pay bracket, just a quick autobahn dash away from Sturm's home town.

Instead, patrons were treated to a big-bang buffet feast of fisticuffs, topped off with generous portions of grace, class, and personal insight for the duking dessert. It was exactly the type of stimulating fight scene, everywhere from the nearby train station to the makeshift smoking areas outside the bleacher areas, that ensures the sport's continued popularity in these parts.

Alongside emerging Gennady Golovkin's win over commendable Grzegorz Proksa, Arthur Abraham's surprising performance against Robert Stieglitz and the upcoming Andre Ward – Chad Dawson or Sergio Martinez – Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr fiestas, the 160 -168 pound rumbling range is currently the most prime territory in boxing, especially during the present 30 day stretch.

Were those the “boxing's dead” blabbermouths I saw sitting in a ditch with the “rock and roll” and “US world power” nitwit naysayers?

Considering the intense skill level exhibited by each title holder, Geale – Sturm was one of the better fights anywhere this year, and definitely a leader for Western Europe. Joan Pablo Hernandez – Steve Cunningham had wilder whaps, and David Haye – Derick Chisora in London was a bigger spectacle, but Oberhausen saw a near classic through the extended, exhausting best of each man brought out by the other.

Almost all ringside media in my informal postfight poll scored the contest for Sturm, never the case before in his most recent defenses. The trifecta of 116-112 scores by the official judges were too wide, whoever was favored.

Even allowing a discount for my personal bias I gave Sturm the last round, and the fight, 115-114. A one or two punch margin, folks.

“I knew it was very close, but I was never worried about the decision, I knew I had put in the work,(both) in training and tonight,” said Geale, gazing like it was all still sinking in as he came down the ring post steps.

The win was Geale's second title winning split decision over a German based fighter in Germany, as he added Sturm's WBA belt to the IBF version Geale took from Sebastian Sylvester.

“I give my congratulations to Daniel for a great fight,” said Sturm, “And for his great team. He fought superb and he was very tough. I am, of course, very sad about the decision. But I am glad it was as good a fight as we promised our fans and I wish him the best. Maybe we will have a rematch if he wants one.”

Two clinched cliches, “That's boxing” and “No losers”, were repeated in multiple languages by both competitors and almost everyone behind a microphone except the beautiful “Sat 1” TV babe who moderated the press conference sitting next to Sturm, her perfect blonde hair and makeup in sharp contrast to the dark bruises of Sturm's slumped profile.

Any boxing fan should want to see Geale – Sturm II. Plenty of carnage, plenty of class.

Almost all available Oberhausen seats were filled in the scaled-down Konig-Pilsner Arena with a somewhat glamorous, somewhat subdued swarm of approximately 7077. You could get a good sense of how the fight flowed back and forth through periods of studious silence or screaming in the Sturm stronghold.

For a usually polite German boxing audience to howl in protest after the debatable decision was announced showed both their passion and disappointment.

Geale came in to blaring power chords, fitting his fighting style.No one in the stands made a noise, but Geale was glad to keep them quiet.

Sturm's pyrotechnical entrance to a great intro by Swedish singing star Lykke Li had bizarre, almost scary irony as hundreds captured images with devices held straight up in an unconscious, very eerie one armed salute which hopefully illustrated of how far society has progressed in recent decades.

Sturm came out quick in round one, didn't land much but threw a lot. Geale looked a little stronger and little more aggressive behind good body shots. Sturm had a better second session as they started to alternate control. The fight was dead even at the halfway point, but Sturm looked much worse for wear. Geale landed bigger shots, Sturm landed more.

During the first half of the fight Sturm slipped most shots. Geale didn't but his aggressiveness proved effective.

It appeared strength would trump speed as Geale roared in rounds 7 through 9, but Sturm proved his championship heart and skill as he rallied back with stirring combinations down the stretch.

From second row center I had the bout dead even going into the final frame, the final minute, the final frenzied exchange.

Round 12 may well be the Round of the Year.

Geale's gritty, granite style and personable manner won him many fans, through a looming local melancholia as long time titlist Sturm was dislodged from the upper stratosphere.

Of more vital relevance for 31 year old Geale and the global boxing community, the result seemed to open the door a bit wider for a series of major middleweight matches. We may never see the “Four King” days of Leonard, Hagler, Hearns, Duran and others like Wilfredo Benitez and John Mugabi, but there are solid heirs to the throne throwing shots these days, plenty of potential punching princes.

It was almost as if the confident Team Geale brought in new addition promoter Gary Shaw to field negotiations for Geale's next giant step. That could mean a match with Golovkin, or the winner of Martinez – Chavez Jr, but realistically not until some softer defenses to build everybody's USA market recognition and purse potential.

Sturm looked much more marked at post fight press conference. Geale was relatively unscathed, though he looked just as exhausted.

“Everything went the way I planned it. We knew I had to fight the fight of my life and I did it,” said Geale, now 28-1 (15). “I'd be glad to have a rematch because it was a great fight, but I can't really say what's next. I'm happy I get to some rest, then sit down and look at my options. I think I'll have at least a few more big fights now.”

All four members of Team Geale that spoke sounded sincerely impressed with how Sturm the promoter treated them. It looked painful for Sturm to raise his shoulders and force a slight smile.

“I've known Felix for a very very long time. He has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of,” offered Shaw during a personal display that spoke well for US diplomacy, and of which a dejected Sturm seemed to be taking to heart. “I've been on that side of the table before and I know he's very down right now, but I know he'll be back if he wants.”

If it was the venerable, still relatively young (at 33 years old) Sturm's last big stand, it was certainly an excellent end to quite a run.

It's hard to assess how much mauling mileage Sturm has left, but Geale took lots of it.

Sturm's level of achievement is good in global terms, not just European records, but Sturm will always be faulted around North America for remaining inside a perceived protective zone in his adopted German homeland. Sturm still won't have to travel far for work unless he wants, but Australia ain't the worst place for a paid holiday.

Maybe the most obvious move for Sturm, now 37-3-2 (16), would be the huge, German extravaganza that could come with a bout against newly crowned 168 pound rival Arthur Abraham. That could probably provide Sturm with a nice, grand finale payday to his career inside the strands should those welts look a bit too purple for the face of a guy who still models for Calvin Klein underwear.

At this point, both Sturm and Abraham still have enough leverage and options beyond each other to continue their long running, no-budge negotiation stance.

For his part, it looked like Sturm is still one of the top five middleweights in the world, belt or not.

With his hard earned new hardware, Geale may prove to be the very toughest middleweight of them all.

Waning illumination from the remains of a so called blue moon glowed down upon cheerful figures of shadow and light, that hustled noisily to the trains from the arena. Whatever the fans' scorecards read, there was a pervasive sense that somehow, the strands held no injustice.

There was pain, there was glory.

There were no losers.

That's boxing.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 96: The Return of Boxing, NVHOF and Machete

David A. Avila

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If all goes according to Hoyle, it looks like Shakur Stevenson will be the first to shake out the cob webs of boxing when he fights early next month.

Las Vegas seems to be the target site on June 9, as WBO featherweight titlist Stevenson (13-0, 7 KOs) appears in a non-title fight against an opponent to be named after Mexico’s Rafael Rivera (27-4-2, 18 KOs) was forced to withdraw because of immigration  issues related to the pandemic.

Nothing is etched in stone. If it takes place, the Top Rank show will be shown by ESPN.

It makes sense to open up in the Nevada casino city whose economy depends mostly on live gambling and the people who arrive ready to spend money on hotels, restaurants, and various forms of entertainment. Boxing has always been a lure for Las Vegas.

The lure is Shakur you could say for prizefighting.

Twenty-two year old Stevenson just could be the next great boxer with his mix of height, build, and scintillating fighting tools that have enabled him to burst on the professional fight scene after a successful amateur phase.

He could be the one.

Sadly, fans won’t be allowed in the venue due to new medical protocol because of the corona virus and it remains to be seen if any media outside of ESPN will be admitted.

Still, Las Vegas is opening and that’s a good sign for the city of 1 million when its hotels are full. Gambling and sports are what keep the casino city alive.

Female star Mikaela Mayer the number one ranked super featherweight in the world is also slated to perform on the same boxing card. At press time Mayer agreed to fight Helen Joseph but contracts had not been finalized.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame

A casualty of the pandemic will be this year’s scheduled ceremony for the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame. It has been canceled.

The eighth annual NVBOF ceremony was scheduled for August 7 and 8 at the Red Rock Hotel in Las Vegas.

“We waited as long as possible before making this difficult final decision,” stated Michelle Corrales-Lewis. “Our induction weekend features numerous events that require close proximity of our devoted boxing fans with honorees. Hundreds of fans mix with our inductees, champions, and celebrities where hand-shaking, hugging, picture-taking, autograph-signing, and close-in dining are all part of the experience.”

Among those expected to be inducted this year were James “Lights Out” Toney, Miguel Cotto, Fernando Vargas, Danny “Lil Red” Lopez, Andre Ward, Azumah Nelson, Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson, Jose Luis Castillo, Clarence “Bones” Adams, Julian Jackson, Jose Sulaiman, Carlos Padilla, Sammy Macias and Lorenzo Fertitta.

It’s an extremely impressive class and sure to attract thousands to its ceremony when it eventually takes place. I can’t remember any class in any Hall of Fame as powerful as those who were to be honored this year.

Toney’s exploits alone were enough to guarantee a class to remember. The former middleweight, super middleweight, cruiserweight and heavyweight titlist in my estimation is the greatest fighter in the last 60 years. He could have fought in any era and matched with any fighter from middleweight up to heavyweight.

It’s going to have to wait until next year.

According to the officers of the NVBHOF the list of this year’s class will be added to those voted in next year’s class.

“We do not want to reduce the quality and emotion of the weekend for our Inductees, and certainly do not want to put anyone’s health in jeopardy because of the nature of our event,” said Corrales-Lewis.

For more information call (702) 368-2463.

Machete

Motion picture star Danny “Machete” Trejo revealed during a Spanish language boxing show that the sweet science paved the way for him to eventually find a way into Hollywood and fame.

“When I was eight or nine, my uncle fought in the Golden Gloves and even at that age I was his sparring partner-slash-punching bag! But even back then he really taught me how to box so when I started getting into trouble and going to juvenile hall and the joint, they knew I boxed so I always fought in the joint and became champion of every institution I was in,” said Trejo on Peleamundo the Spanish language boxing show streamed by Matchroom Boxing’s on Youtube.com.

Trejo owns Trejo Tacos and still works in the film industry. The episode hosted by former world champion Jessie Vargas also features Erik Morales.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

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Book Review

Book Review: Bernard Fernandez’s “Championship Rounds”

Arne K. Lang

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When a man retires after a lengthy career in an interesting occupation, he feels a tug to write his memoir. If he happened to be a journalist, the memoir can take the form of an anthology. Bernard Fernandez’s “Championship Rounds,” released this month, is an anthology – a compendium of previously published material – but it also veers off at times into a memoir, which is a very good thing. It could not be otherwise as Fernandez had a front row seat at the circus and the permit to poke around behind the scenes.

For the uninitiated, Bernard Fernandez spent 43 years as a sportswriter, the last 28 with the Philadelphia Daily News before retiring in 2012. Although he was occasionally assigned to other beats, he was foremost the paper’s boxing guy. When he started with the Daily News, many established papers had a full-time boxing writer. Today they are as scarce as professional typewriter repairmen.

Various honors came Fernandez’s way during his newspaper career, the most recent of which, for a boxing writer, is the ultimate, enshrinement in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Fernandez was voted into the Hall in the Observer category last year.

There are 35 stories in “Championship Rounds” sorted into six sections. Eighteen of these stories appeared at The Sweet Science. Among the boxers profiled are Ali and Frazier, Jake LaMotta (who Fernandez interviewed for the second time when Jake was 94 years old), Archie Moore, Tex Cobb, Arturo Gatti (“the boxing franchise in Atlantic City”), and the Spinks brothers – Michael, who “wrung every ounce from his considerable boxing gifts,” and Leon, his mirror opposite, “perpetually distracted.”

Many of the giants of the modern era turn up in “Championship Rounds,” but also some cult figures and even Jack Obermayer, somewhat less than a cult figure save among his peers who were awed by his stamina and cherished his friendship. A familiar face at diners up and down the east coast, Obermayer likely attended more boxing shows than any man ever born, 3,514 in total scattered across 400-plus cities in 49 states, all but Alaska. He devoted himself, says Fernandez, “to the proposition that every fight card, no matter how unimportant or seemingly insignificant, required his presence at ringside to be fully validated.”

The best boxing writers understand that boxing is an ecosystem and that some of the best stories are found outside the ropes.

Fernandez was writing about women’s boxing before it was fashionable to write about women’s boxing. It’s doubtful the name Jackie Tonawanda rings a bell, but she was a trailblazer in women’s boxing and Fernandez brings her to life in a story that appeared in these pages back in 2009. I had no clue that the fight between Laila Ali and Jackie Frazier-Lyde created such a stir until I read “Ali-Frazier IV.” Held at the Turning Stone Casino and Resort in Verona, a little town in upstate New York, the event attracted a media throng of 300-plus from around the world.

Bernard Fernandez is a big movie buff. “I’ve frequently imagined that, were I not covering boxing matches and football and basketball games for my weekly recompense, I’d be a movie reviewer,” he writes.

The big screen and the lowbrow amusement of celebrity boxing intersect in “I Tanya…,” a 2019 story inspired by the Tonya Harding biopic starring Margot Robbie and Alison Janney. The movie transported Fernandez back to Portland, Oregon, and the maddeningly unfruitful scrums that bespattered “the worst week of my newspaper career.”

Being a newspaper reporter who racks up frequent flyer miles isn’t all that glamorous as Fernandez showed in that story, but even the most unpleasant episodes can be fun in the re-telling. And sometimes the hassle of getting somewhere is redeemed by a surprising turn of events at the destination. Fernandez’s trip to Tokyo in 1990 was grueling at both ends of the continuum — from the Eastern seaboard, one crosses 14 time zones – but he would be one of the few American scribes to witness live and in color, as they say, the most famous upset in the annals of boxing.

rounds

Mike Tyson’s 2002 match with Lennox Lewis wasn’t nearly as momentous – at least not after the bell rang – but Fernandez’s excursion to Memphis, the host city, yielded a story too good to be left on the cutting room floor. The highlight for me was his interview with a tourist from Switzerland as they watched the city’s oddest must-see attraction, the march of the ducks in the ornate lobby of the Peabody Hotel.

Of the 35 entries in the book, my personal favorites are the two that are the most poignant. Bernard Hopkins’ truth-is-stranger-than-fiction life story has been well-documented, but one acquires a greater appreciation of B-Hop while reading about the special bond that he forged with a terminally ill teenage fan. In the book’s final entry, Fernandez pays homage to his late father who instilled within him his love of boxing. Bernard Fernandez Sr., who had a brief pro career under the name Jack Fernandez, was a much-decorated New Orleans police captain who passed away in 1994 at age 75. “It is said that an honest man’s pillow is his peace of mind,” writes Fernandez, “and my father never spent a conflicted night.”

Bernard Fernandez is a friend of mine, something I probably should have acknowledged earlier. Moreover, for the past several years, I have been his editor here at The Sweet Science.

Editors, many of whom exemplify the Peter Principle, are faultfinders by temperament and tutelage, and I would be remiss if I didn’t find something to quibble about.

When writing a feature story about a boxer or boxing personality, Fernandez will sometimes open with a parallelism. For example, a certain boxer may summon up the name of a historical figure with whom he shares characteristics in common. The parallel in a piece about Wladimir Klitschko is Al Davis, the former owner of the Oakland Raiders whose mantra, “Just win, baby,” became the enduring catchphrase of Raider Nation.

I thought the comparison was labored and that Fernandez exhausted too many words about Davis and his team before getting to the gist of his story.

With that nitpicking yammer, I likely just got on the wrong side of George Foreman which is never a smart thing to do. “Writers come and go,” says Foreman in the foreword to the book, “but the special ones (like Bernard Fernandez) stand the test of time.”

On this matter, Big George and me are in perfect accord.

Bravo, Bernard, it was a most enjoyable read and if there is a sequel in the hopper, please don’t let it languish.

For more information about “Championship Rounds” including where to purchase the book CLICK HERE.

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Five Fights That Produced Controversial Decisions to be Replayed on ESPN2

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Five Fights That Produced Controversial Decisions to be Replayed on ESPN2

PRESS RELEASE – Wednesday, May 20, will be a night of boxing on ESPN2 when the network airs four consecutive hours of the sweet science featuring some of the sport’s most debated decisions. The action will begin at 7 p.m. ET with Oscar De La Hoya vs. Felix Trinidad.

 

In addition to the linear telecast, all these fights are also available on ESPN+. Exclusively available to subscribers, ESPN+ features a library of hundreds of the most Important fights in boxing history.

 

THE LINEUP

 

Oscar De La Hoya vs. Felix Trinidad (7 P.M. ET)

 

The long-reigning welterweight champions and pound-for-pound greats met in the “Fight of the Millennium” on Sept. 18, 1999, with De La Hoya defending his WBC title and Trinidad defending his IBF title. De La Hoya landed 97 more punches (263 to 166) but after 12 tensely fought rounds, Trinidad was controversially scored the winner by majority decision. The bout set a pay-per-view record for a non-heavyweight fight with 1.4 million buys, a mark that stood until it was broken by De La Hoya-Mayweather on May 5, 2007.

 

Oscar De La Hoya vs. Shane Mosley II (8 P.M. ET)

 

In a rematch of their first bout in June 2000 — won by Mosley via split decision – De La Hoya put his WBA and WBC super welterweight world titles on the line against the former welterweight and lightweight world champion. According to CompuBox, De La Hoya landed more punches (221-127) and was the more accurate puncher (36%-26%). Despite De La Hoya winning in the eyes of most boxing experts, Mosley was declared the winner in a controversial unanimous decision.

 

Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez III (9 P.M. ET)

 

The only fight of the four between them not to feature a knockdown, Pacquiao and Marquez once again went to a decision in this WBO welterweight title fight. Pacquiao was making the third defense of the title and landed more punches (176-138), but Marquez was the more accurate of the two fighters, according to CompuBox (32%-30%). The bout generated 1.4 million pay-per-view buys in the United States which was Pacquiao’s best pay-per-view total until his 2015 mega-fight with Floyd Mayweather.

 

Marvin Hagler vs. Sugar Ray Leonard (10 P.M. ET)

 

Longtime middleweight champion Hagler had made 12 successful defenses of his world title before facing the returning Sugar Ray Leonard who had not fought in almost three years. Leonard, who was attempting to win a world title in a third weight class, built an early lead but Hagler came on strong late. Ring Magazine named Hagler-Leonard the 1987 Fight of the Year, and the split decision victory for Leonard cemented a comeback for the ages.

 

Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Jose Luis Castillo I (11 P.M. ET)

 

After eight successful defenses of his super featherweight title, Mayweather moved up in weight for his lightweight debut against Castillo, who was making the fourth defense of his WBC title. According to CompuBox, Castillo outlanded Mayweather 203-157. HBO’s ringside judge, the late Harold Lederman, scored the fight for Castillo by four points. The official judges, however, scored it unanimously in Mayweather’s favor.

 

ESPN+ features a library of hundreds of the most important fights in boxing history, as well as recent Top Rank on ESPN cards for replay, all streaming on demand. The historic fights on ESPN+ include legendary heavyweight showdowns like Ali vs. Frazier III, Ali vs. George Foreman, Joe Louis vs. Billy Conn, Tyson vs. Holmes, Jack Dempsey vs. Gene Tunney, Max Baer vs. James J. Braddock, Ali vs. Sonny Liston I & II, Wilder vs. Fury II and many more.

 

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in The Fight Forum CLICK HERE

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