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VIRGIL HUNTER Q n A, Pt 1: “Chad Dawson Is The Better Boxer”

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WardBikaPrePC TJ Hogan 3Hunter (right) likes that Dawson is full-on confident, because that will make a win that much sweeter. (Hogan Photos)

“You have to understand that Chad is a great boxer. If you are going by the book, Chad is probably the better boxer. We are more into performance as opposed to one thing that sticks out. If you look at Chad, the first thing that sticks out is that he is great boxer. We prefer to stand out as a person that executes. “

Before important fights like the one Andre Ward and Chad Dawson are about to have on September 8th in Oakland, CA for the Ward’s super middleweight championship, it is hard to tell the difference between pride and trash talk. No matter how much respect the combatants have for each other during the lead up, there are always insults thrown back in forth. And Andre Ward’s trainer Virgil Hunter knows about mental manipulation.

Hunter says Chad Dawson is a better boxer than his fighter Andre Ward but explains why boxing ability is not enough to win. Only a trainer like Hunter can follow compliment with criticism so gracefully. Hunter, the boxing master, uses doubt to infiltrate the mind of an opponent, forcing a foe to question their confidence. It is a beautiful sight watching Hunter work. And with us, as usual, the 2011 BWAA Trainer of the Year held no punches.

Read closely as Virgil Hunter twists the strategy of Chad Dawson into a cocoon of insignificance.

In part one of our two-part interview on Thursday night, Hunter compares Andre Ward to Barry Bonds, touches on the apparent catch-weight issue, and explains the beauty of Chad Dawson’s self-assurance.

RM: Hey Virgil, I notice Dawson’s team talking through the media about Andre. They mention catch weights and their willingness to make this fight by any means necessary. Does it feel like your opponents are always justifying themselves? Why do you think Dawson’s camp is expressing themselves through the media?

VH: You mean how they talk about the catch weight and all that kind of stuff?

RM: Yeah.

VH: Well, it’s the same old story. Everyone thinks they can beat Andre. But they don’t know what they are looking for. Most of the time the trainers and fighters look at what the other guy should have been doing. But they don’t really pay attention to what Andre’s doing. So they try to minimize the opponents we fight. For instance, Carl Froch constantly emphasized his level of competition and Chad is doing the same. Chad is saying that he’d beat the guys we fought. But he lost to a guy that Carl Froch beat (Jean Pascal.) And he had a lot of difficulty with Jean Pascal. If Pascal didn’t get tired, it would have been a convincing unanimous decision victory. You can say Dawson was winning that last round before the fight was stopped, but that was only one round. But I think we are on the right track when our opponents continuously minimize us.

RM: Last week Dawson’s trainer John Scully said that Andre doesn’t make many adjustments in the ring. He thinks Ward’s opponents adjust to him. Do you think Scully’s statement is accurate?

VH: No, it’s not accurate because adjustments to me work both ways. If I make another fighter fight my fight then I made adjustments. Making adjustments doesn’t mean I have to change what I am doing. The ability to make adjustments means I have the ability to make you change up what you are doing. So along those lines, I think he was kind of missing the epitome of the word adjustment.

RM: So, Andre makes adjustments to stay a step ahead?

VH: Well, we make adjustments for each opponent.

RM: So what are Andre’s advantages over his opponent?

VH: I think it’s his ability to process what his opponent wants to do. If you want to talk about advantages, Chad is a great boxer. He has fast hands, and throws good combinations. But his ability to process—which is crucial in the ring– is where he falls short. You know, Andre’s ability to process is really second to none. His overall punch stat numbers proves it. He has an excellent IQ in the ring. See, this is what people miss out on; they tend to look more at the physical part of the fight as opposed to the mental. Andre is just able to process better.

RM: So, Andre’s ability to process will be the difference in the fight?

VH: It’s going to be one of the advantages he has in the fight.

RM: I see.

VH: They did a study on Barry Bonds a while back and concluded that he picks up a pitch maybe two tenths of a second quicker than the average hitter. That means Bonds recognized a pitch 10 or 20 feet faster than everyone else. Andre has that ability in the ring. He has the ability to process and pick up what he needs to do and react to it. That makes him look beatable because it makes it look like the other guy is not doing what he is supposed to do.

RM: I see what you are saying. Do you think that Andre’s instincts in the ring are God given?

VH: First and foremost, it’s got to come from the crib. If you look at any exceptional athlete it comes at a young age. But you still have to work at it. I think it gives him a great advantage.

RM: So, do you think that Chad respects Andre’s boxing ability?

VH: I don’t think he respects his boxing ability much at all. He is saying all the things he is supposed to say. You have to understand that Chad is a great boxer. If you are going by the book, Chad is probably the better boxer. We are more into performance as opposed to one thing that sticks out. If you look at Chad, the first thing that sticks out is that he is great boxer. We prefer to stand out as a person that executes.

RM: I hear you.

VH: I don’t think Andre has one style. You can’t pinpoint boxer on him. You can’t input brawler on him. You can’t put a style on him. He is like a chameleon. He will fight to adjust and pull the right tool out from the toolbox at the right time.

RM: How close are you to being ready for this fight?

VH: We are completely ready now. If the fight took place last week we’d have been ready to go.

RM: On 24/7 you were talking about having an imperfect training camp.

VH: Well, let me clarify that. You hear a lot of people say they had a perfect training camp, the sparring went perfect, and everything was perfect. I can’t say that because each day presents it’s own challenge. What we have to overcome on that particular day we’ll overcome.

RM: OK. Chad Dawson also said he has every advantage in this fight… That’s obviously not true in your opinion, correct?

VH: Well, a lot of the advantages that he thinks he has are really disadvantages. But I don’t blame him for feeling confident going into this fight because he should feel that way. We don’t feel that way. We don’t feel like we have every advantage. The road we are going to take will be the necessary road to victory. Any advantages that he thinks he has will come into play immediately. Whether they exist or don’t exist.

RM: Sounds like he has a lot of confidence.

VH: Well, it’s just something he says and feels; you can’t knock him for it. It’s a beautiful thing that he is built that way.

RM: Why?

VH: Because it feels good to come out victorious against a guy that is 100% confident, 100% sure that he is the better fighter. It puts a little cherry on top of a victory. And there is also the satisfaction of when he finds out during the fight that what he thought was an advantage– is really a disadvantage. The bottom line is that Dawson says we’ve never seen a fighter like him. But you got to put the shoe on the other foot. He has never come across a fighter that can do the things Andre does. And when it comes to physically strength, I don’t care who he works with, you know, he is not stronger than Andre Ward in a boxing ring. He might be stronger throwing a medicine ball around, or pushing a cable cord, or crunches. But in a boxing ring, he is going to find out real quick that he is not stronger than Andre.

RM: Well, that’s what he does right? Chad likes to push people around with the jab and back them up.

VH: I understand. Yeah… well… He is not going to do that.

You can follow Ray on Twitter @raymarkarian

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High Drama at Turning Stone where Ford Rallied to Overcome Kholmatov

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Top Rank Promotions was at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, New York, tonight with a 9-bout card topped by a pair of world featherweight title fights. The main go for the WBA diadem vacated by Leigh Wood shaped up as a fan-friendly match and exceeded expectations. In a doozy of a fight, Raymond Ford pulled the fight out of the fire in the final minute, halting Otabek Kholmatov to become the third man from Camden, New Jersey to win a world title following in the footsteps of Jersey Joe Walcott and Dwight Muhammad Qawi.

This was a match with several twists and turns. Kholmatov, a 25-year-old Uzbek who resides in south Florida when he isn’t training with the Diaz brothers in the California desert, started fast, forcing Ford to change his tactics and become more of the aggressor. Heading into the final round, Kholmatov was ahead by three points on two of the scorecards while Ford had a 1-point advantage on the other. Moreover, it appeared as if the momentum had shifted back in favor of the Uzbek. But Ford, bleeding from a cut under his left eye, saved his best for last. He landed a punch that began a sequence that ended with Kholmatov turning his back on Ford as he reeled drunkenly into a corner post. There were 7 seconds remaining in the fight when referee Charlie Fitch waived it off.

Ford, with his promoter Eddie Hearn in attendance, improved his ledger to 15-0-1 with his eighth win inside the distance. It was the first pro loss for Kholmatov who had knocked out 11 of his previous 12 opponents and went to post a small favorite.

Co-Feature

The ESPN announcing crew created the impression that the IBF title fight between Luis Alberto Lopez and Reiya Abe was a 50/50 fight, but the oddsmakers who installed Lopez an 8/1 favorite knew better. Mexicali’s ever-improving Lopez, in his third defense of the title he won in England with an upset of Josh Warrington, dominated from the onset before ending matters in the opening minute of the eighth round.

Abe, 25-3-1 heading in, was making his first start outside Japan. It was all uphill for him after his left eye started to swell shut in the second round. Lopez, who improved to 30-2 (17 KOs) continued to stalk him and finally cranked up the juice in round eight, forcing referee Mark Nelson to step in and save Abe from future punishment. Nelson, to his everlasting credit, took the fight out of the hands of the ring doctor who was remiss in allowing the match to continue as long as it did.

UNDERCARD

A bloody welterweight contest slated for “10” between Atlanta’s Brian Norman Jr (25-0, 19 KOs heading in) and Detroit’s Janelson Bocachica (17-2-1) was called off after three rounds and declared a “no decision.”

Bocachica, blood streaming from a cut in the corner of his left eye, put Norman on the canvas with an overhand right in the opening frame. Norman hadn’t previously been knocked down. Over the next two rounds, Norman suffered a bad cut in the corner of his right eye and Bocachica suffered a cut on his hairline that bled profusely. Replays showed that Bocachica’s cuts were the result of accidental head buts and that Norman’s cut resulted from an elbow.

In a spirited 6-round junior welterweight match for Empire State bragging rights, Syracuse’s Bryce Mills (15-1, 5 KOs) turned away Buffalo’s Gerffred Ngayot, winning a unanimous decision by scores of 58-56 and 60-54 twice.

Mills, 22, brought a large contingent of fans and he rewarded them with a busy-bee performance that animated the crowd. A native of war-torn Congo who has lived in western New York since the age of six, Ngayot declined to 6-2.

In the first stoppage of the evening, Troy Isley, in his second fight with the noted trainer Brian “Bomac” McIntyre in his corner, halted Fresno’s Marcos Hernandez at the 1:30 mark of round seven. A counter right hand did the damage. Hernandez (16-7-2) stumbled face first to the canvas and although he beat the count, referee Mark Nelson properly said “enough.”

This was the best performance of his pro career by Isley (12-0, 5 KOs).

Twenty-year-old Las Vegas bantamweight Floyd “Cashflow” Diaz improved to 11-0 (3 KOs) with a unanimous decision over Puerto Rico’s Edwin Rodriguez (12-8-2). This was Cashflow’s first fight training under the aforementioned “Bomac.” A 30-year-old father of four who has never been stopped, Rodriguez was never in serious danger.

Tokyo Olympian Rohan Polanco, a Dominican who has been training in Massachusetts, advanced to 12-0 (7) with a dominant 8-round decision over Tarik Zaina. The scores were 78-72 and 79-71 twice. Polanco scored knockdowns in each of the last two rounds, the first more of a push but the second legitimate and he would have likely won by stoppage if the bout had lasted 10 seconds longer. It was the first pro loss for the Morocco-born Zaina (13-1-1) who fights out of Tijuana.

Las Vegas middleweight Nico Ali Walsh (10-1, 1 NC 5 KOs) won a workmanlike 6-round decision over Cincinnati’s Charles Stanford (7-6). The judges had it 59-55 and 60-54 twice.

Ali Walsh was making his second start with Ismael Salas in his corner. Stanford, 37, fought 15 days ago at Madison-Square Garden on the undercard of Foster-Nova, losing a 6-round decision to an undefeated opponent.

In the lid-lifter, heavyweight Brandon Moore (14-0, 8 KOs) won a ho-hum 8-round decision over flabby Utah trial horse Helamon Olguin (9-7-1).

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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Jake Paul KOs Ryan Bourland but Amanda Serrano’s Fight Falls Out

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Jake Paul brought his brand of boxing to Puerto Rico along with Amanda Serrano but it wasn’t all roses and champagne despite another first round knockout by the influencer boxer on Saturday.

Puerto Rican seven-division titlist Serrano was forced to pull out of the featherweight world championship match due to a damaged cornea.

Doctors would not allow her to fight.

“I wanted to fight,” said a tearful Serrano.

No matter, Paul (9-1, 6 KOs) carried the show with a devastating knockout win over American cruiserweight Ryan Bourland (17-3, 6 KOs) before a sold-out crowd of more than 18,000 fans at Coliseo Jose Miguel Agrelot in San Juan.

Once again Paul fought a legitimate pro boxer and once again he mowed down another prizefighter via first round knockout. The continuously improving Paul who moved around like a seasoned veteran while punishing the body of Bourland.

Body shots followed by a blazing combination of blows proved too much for North Dakota’s Bourland. After several volleys of blows it was apparent that Paul had hurt the cruiserweight with a left hook to the chin and then a follow-up barrage had Bourland in a save-me-defensive stance. The referee stepped in and stopped the action at 2:37 of the first round.

“I was hoping for more rounds,” said Paul after the speedy knockout. “I’m just to glad to be in Puerto Rico.”

Now making his residence in Puerto Rico, the new age fighter stood behind Serrano as she explained to the crowd that she was not able to fight Germany’s Nina Meinke in the main event due to an eye injury. Apparently, it may have occurred during the braiding of her hair two days ago.

“I want to say I’m so sorry,” Serrano said in tears. “I’m a warrior and I would never agree to cancel a fight.”

Nina Meinke who was poised to challenge Serrano was surprised but supportive of Serrano.

“I’m so sorry. I’m absolutely gutted,” Meinke said.

Paul, whose company Most Valuable Promotions backs her, said that every fan in attendance could get refunds. He also said they would try and re-schedule Serrano versus Meinke in the future.

Other Bouts

Despite 12 rounds of holding and clinching WBO light flyweight titlist Jonathan “Bomba” Gonzalez (28-3-1) retained the title by unanimous decision over number one challenger Rene Santiago (12-4). It was a strange decision that saw Santiago land the clearer and more accurate punching. Both fighters are from Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico’s Krystal Rosario (3-0) won a very close scrap against Los Angeles fighter Gloria Munguilla (5-1) by majority decision. Rosario was bigger, faster and stronger but Munguilla was able to connect at times with more flush punches.

Actor Wanna Walton (1-0-1) and Californian Joshua Torres (0-1-2) fought to a majority draw after four rounds in a super featherweight fight. Neither fighter fired many blows in the four-round affair.

Christopher Diaz (28-4, 18 KO+s) needed one round to figure out Headley Scott (18-2) before dropping him with a leaping left hook in the second round. After Scott beat the count Diaz connected with another left hook to end the fight.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 274: Ryan Garcia and Devin Haney in Hollywood, Jake, Amanda and More

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HOLLYWOOD, Ca.- Adorned in a white suit, Ryan “King Ry” Garcia arrived on a big white horse followed by a handful of fair maidens dressed in various colors and some twirling hula hoops into the Avalon Theater on Vine Street on Thursday.

Inside the historic theater that once served as the Hollywood Canteen during World War 2, where actors like Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis and Rita Hayworth greeted soldiers, but this time it was the boxing media waiting.

Garcia (24-1, 20 KOs) will challenge undefeated Devin Haney (31-0, 15 KOs) for the WBC super lightweight world title on April 20 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. DAZN pay-per-view will stream the Golden Boy Promotions card.

It doesn’t get more Hollywood than this.

Inside the 97-year-old theater, once the two opposing factions arrived, the pageantry turned into a war of words, taunts and accusations.

This is boxing.

Aside from the taunts and words of derision tossed at each other, the Haney father and son combination admitted that Garcia was the one fighter willing to fight Devin.

“He (Garcia) raised his hand when no one else did,” said Bill Haney the father.

Devin Haney sat next to his father on the stage anxious as ever to prove his talent in the prize ring. After his victory over Regis Prograis that followed wins over Vasyl Lomachenko and George Kambosos, the former undisputed lightweight world champion is now dwelling in the super lightweight division and holds the WBC version.

“I was killing myself trying to make the weight,” said Haney about moving up to the 140-pound super lightweight division.

Haney has long been familiar with Ryan Garcia since their amateur days as they met in the boxing ring six times as youths.

“They fought six times in the amateurs with both of them winning three apiece. Now they meet with championship gold and the chance at being the face of American boxing on the line,” said Oscar De La Hoya, the promoter and head of Golden Boy Promotions. “In other words, this one counts!”

Garcia and Haney have taken similar paths.

Garcia fought professionally numerous times in Mexico where it is legal to fight under the age of 18. So did Haney. Both faced unknown opponents, sometimes last-minute changes forced them to fight foes that were not originally scheduled.

As pros, the two similarly and eagerly sought to face the best opponents possible despite their inexperience. Both proved more than capable.

Garcia quickly amassed a surprisingly large following of fans through social media and through his exploits of sudden knockouts from his uncanny speed.

“Everything I have today, I earned it,” said Garcia. “Nobody gave me a handout, I never had money, I’m really a small town boy.”

Haney proved able to defeat veteran world champions feared for their technical expertise with his own buttery-smooth fighting prowess.

“I am happy to be here. I worked hard to be here. I sacrificed a lot to be here, and at the end of the day, the world will see it on April 20,” said Devin Haney.

Next month in Brooklyn the two longtime foes will be performing. Will it be the biggest grossing pay-per-view of the year 2024?

Jake and Amanda

Jake Paul and Amanda Serrano are boxing’s best tag team.

Several years ago, Paul recognized that Serrano, a seven-division world champion Puerto Rican was capable of much more than fighting on the small stage.

Genius.

Paul signed Serrano to his Most Valuable Promotions company and together they have been able to draw a mixture of fans long ignored by other promoters.

Welcome to the age of the influencers.

For the past several years Paul has fought MMA stars, boxers and other social media influencers. And when he signed Serrano she fought Katie Taylor in front of a sold-out Madison Square Garden where their fight drew more than a million pay-per-views.

Paul (8-1, 5 KOs) meets Ryan Bourland (17-2, 6 KOs) in an eight-round cruiserweight fight on Saturday March 2, at Coliseo Jose Miguel Agrelot in San Juan, Puerto Rico. DAZN will stream the card.

He will be co-piloting the fight card with the great Amanda Serrano (46-2-1, 30 KOs) who will be defending the undisputed featherweight world championship against Germany’s Nina “the Brave” Meinke (18-3, 4 KOs).

Once again Serrano and Paul will share a very good fight card that also features female super flyweights Krysti Rosario-Ortiz (2-0) and Gloria Munguilla (5-0).

Others on the card include Javon “Wanna” Walton, a featherweight out of Atlanta, Georgia. If he looks familiar there is a reason. He was featured in the Sylvester Stallone film Samaritan and also appeared in the HBO series Euphoria.

Walton has always boxed and now will be a part of the Paul and Serrano team.

Paul has that magic touch for attracting fans to boxing.

Just today Most Valuable Promotions signed Indian prizefighter Neeraj Goyat. The welterweight fighter was recently seen on social media approaching Paul in his training camp and daring the fighter to meet him in the boxing ring. The short video clip attracted more than 150 million views.

Paul, ever the think-out-of-the-box promoter, signed Goyat immediately.

“In just 2.5 years, MVP has organized some of the world’s most significant boxing events, and I’m excited to work with MVP to elevate the status of professional boxing in India and bring attention to boxers from India globally,” said an excited Goyat.

“His viral callouts of Jake Paul certainly got our attention,” said MVP co-founder Nakisa Bidarian.

Out-of-the box thinking.

Fights to Watch (all times Pacific Time)

Sat. DAZN 1:30 p.m. Amanda Serrano (46-2-1) vs Nina Meinke (18-3).

Sat. ESPN+ 2:10 pm Otabek Kholmatov 12-0, 11 KOs) vs. Raymod Ford (14-0-1, 7 KOs); Luis Alberto Lopez (29-2, 16 KOs) vs Reiya Abe (25-3-1, 10 KOs)

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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