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BLAKE’S TAKE What’s Next For Guerrero, and Thurman?

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The main event on HBO’s Saturday night boxing feature was extremely important as far as determining the pecking order in the 147-lb weight class (one currently loaded with talent and good fights to make). Pitting new welterweight Robert Guerrero against mainstay contender Andre Berto provided somewhat of a crossroads fight as the winner would be set up perfectly for big money matches (with Floyd in sight) whereas the loser is destined for nothing more than contender status for at least a few fights. It’s no coincidence that both pugilists were 29 years old entering the bout in what should be their respective primes.

My prediction before the fight had Berto winning a close decision due to his edge in both strength (power) and hand speed. Berto has always showed flashes of elite skills in the ring, and I’ve never bought into Robert Guerrero as an elite fighter (even though he’s extremely likable and his story is compelling). The fact that Guerrero was fighting for just the second time at 147 lbs (having skipped the 140-lb class entirely), and that Berto was prepared to fight at 154 lbs, I figured we may be in for somewhat of a mismatch from a size-perspective.

What we saw: Guerrero v. Berto

-First and foremost, we saw that Robert Guerrero was NOT the smaller man in this fight. While he lacked some of the muscle mass that Andre Berto possessed, he looked every bit of a welterweight prizefighter.

-Andre Berto’s shoulder roll defense seemed really counter-productive against a fighter like Guerrero, with Berto leaning backwards at all times. Taking a page out of Floyd Mayweather’s playbook is always risky as he’s such an outlier based on his raw abilities that trying to emulate his style can often yield unsatisfactory results. This strategy played with into the hands of Guerrero as Berto was swarmed early and often by a relentless Guerrero. Berto seemed unequipped to use this style since he did not once use his lead elbow to create punching space for himself. Legally using elbows/forearms to create punching space –only for yourself– is one of the keys to this style/stance (which Adrien Broner showcased masterfully against Antonio DeMarco).

-Guerrero knocked Berto down twice in the first two rounds. The first was just old-school beatdown as Guerrero (probably illegally) held the back of Berto’s head with his right and delivered several unanswered lefts to the head. That ain’t boxing, it’s fighting. Guerrero is a fighter.

-Guerrero showed a real lack of speed (which would haunt him in a Mayweather fight if he gets what he wants). However, his relentless pressure just bullied Berto down. I thought Guerrero’s work was very nice and he showed that he was not afraid to get nasty. He turned this into a schoolyard brawl and never turned back in what proved to be an excellent strategy. I thought Guerrero would be the smaller/weaker man inside, but he controlled the distance, pace, and flow of the entire fight.

-Guerrero displayed a type of dirty boxing rarely seen in boxing anymore, just relentless pressure. In MMA, this is what Randy Couture made famous. Ultimately, Guerrero did his best impersonation of Nick Diaz by landing countless clean, smaller shots that added up quickly.

-Berto needed to use his legs! This was a huge ring to dance in, and he needed to utilize his athleticism to stop Guerrero from simply walking him into the ropes and smothering him. The first step would have been to abandon that half-assed shoulder roll so he could be up on his toes firing off meaningful jabs to keep his opposition at bay. Beyond that, Berto needed to throw combos, which we didn’t see the entire fight.

-Every round was a repeat of the round before as Guerrero would land a punch or two, and then immediately tie up and turn the fight into brawl. I’m not sure the term “Phone booth” fight applies anymore in an era where finding a functioning Phone booth is as much a challenge as getting the two best fighters in the division to fight one another, but this fight was fought almost exclusively in close quarters. (Editor Note: TSS is open to hearing replacements for the “phone booth” analogy!)

-Berto did himself no favors by throwing one punch at a time. Even though he landed massive uppercuts as the fight wore on (when Guerrero noticeably tired), his output was simply not enough. Given the discrepancy in Guerrero’s aggression and volume, Berto wasn’t going to win on the scorecards. He just couldn’t keep the Ghost off of him, and failed to make any adjustments to change the way the fight was going (not in his favor).

-Guerrero’s inability to stop Berto’s uppercuts inside late in the fight was certainly alarming. However, the bigger take away from that was the fact that Guerrero can take a welterweight punch. His defense for those shots was basically to not go down from them, and in the end, it proved effective.

What we learned:

-In a pure crossroads fight, neither guy really lost ground (from a career standpoint)–which is nuts. Conversely, I’m not sure either fighter truly gained any ground either, though. Neither fighter should be considered elite or in line for a major title fight against a P4P guy like Floyd. Berto, while showing immense heart for fighting through a pair of badly swelling eyes and knockdowns, showed a real lack of experience, ability to adjust, and ability to control distance. To me, Guerrero showed true grit and determination while failing to show elite-level boxing skills.

-Berto’s lack of ability to keep Guerrero off of him shows why he’s not an elite fighter. This could be trainer-based as he seemed to have no training on creating space for himself or stopping Guerrero from turning it into a “phone booth” fight. What Guerrero did to get inside was hardly groundbreaking stuff. He simply willed his way in there and used some B-Hop 1-2-Hold combos. It was hardly an expert display of infighting, but rather an epic display of dictating the terms of a fight.

-Guerrero was awfully stiff in the legs, which is why I simply can’t see him hanging with the elite fighters in the division. I just can’t see him being able to swarm and smother Tim Bradley, let alone Floyd.

– I’d rather see Robert Guerrero vs. a very solid technical boxer like Timothy Bradley or Juan Manuel Marquez before seeing him get his chance against Floyd Mayweather. (Also, a fight with Brandon Rios makes sense and would be sick). I will say that I can totally see Floyd taking a Guerrero fight as it would be a pretty easy one for him to win coming off of a long layoff.

What we saw: Thurman v. Quintana

– At this point in his career, Carlos Quintana is the quintessential gatekeeper. He’s a solid, technical southpaw who has been in very big fights and beaten some very good fighters. However, he’s neither an imposing puncher nor a world-class fighter anymore. Not sure he ever has been either of those, but he certainly is not anymore. Nevertheless, Quintana represented a great test to see if Thurman can handle a game veteran who can really box.

-Thurman certainly commits to his punches. He said before the fight that he goes for knockouts, and that’s evident in this first round. Thurman’s body punch that yielded a first round knockdown was sweet. It had great placement (accuracy) and power, but he didn’t even have his legs fully behind the shot as he was leaning forward too much. This spells raw punching power, and that’s something you can’t ever take away.

-Quintana getting up from that aforementioned body shot knockdown in round 1 showcases why he’s such a good gatekeeper… You’ll have to earn a win against him. He won’t just quit. Many men in Quintana’s shoes would’ve stayed down and collected their paycheck in stride to avoid further punishment.

-With the exception of a few range-finders, I saw no jabs thrown from Thurman through round 2. He throws haymakers, admittedly, and you gotta like that as a fan. For a guy who throws bombs like Thurman does, I thought he did an impressive job not over-committing and leaving himself very exposed.

-Thurman is really a stalking fighter. He kept marching forward through each of the first three rounds, and actually did a solid job cutting off the ring from the more seasoned Quintana.

-Quintana couldn’t offer angles, so he needed to land something hard to back Thurman up. Regardless of how effective Thurman’s aggression is/was, it’s enough to win a fight if your opposition doesn’t land anything meaningful. Quintana offered him very little. Given a lack of true punching power, Quintana needs to out-box people and he did no such thing against Thurman.

-Thurman ended the fight with a startling, strong finish. He said he comes to finish fights, and that’s just what he did. Gatekeepers exist to provide litmus tests, and Thurman passed with flying colors. On to the next one.

What we learned:

-I want more Thurman. Bring on Angulo/Kirkland/Canelo…All would be explosive matchups despite Canelo probably not being interested (can’t really blame him either with big money fights on the table and Thurman’s aggression/power blend). Perhaps Thurman can lure Erislandy Lara into an exciting fight for a change?

-Thurman showed good composure and discipline for a young fighter intentionally throwing KO blows. Combined with his power, it will take him to great lengths as a professional.

-Quintana said after he would retire; if he un-retires, he will be no more than a name moving forward for up-and-coming fighters.

Side Notes:

-Jim Lampley showed his brilliance in between fights by not even stumbling through the pronunciation of Guillermo Rigondeaux’s upcoming opponent (Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym).

-I’m sorry, but I hate Adrien Broner. In the ring, he’s outstanding, but I can’t stand the guy. I understand the need to sell and promote yourself, but that guy is heading down the wrong path if you ask me. Could be a front as @Woodsy1069 and others have suggested, but I’m not so sure. If he’s serious about fighting Pacquiao, I’d be thrilled to see it. But I’d much prefer never to see him outside of the ring. He’s turning into a caricature of himself and it’s not good.

Follow me @Blakehoc for more predictions/insights.

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‘Hotlanta’ Has Suddenly Become a Professional Boxing Hotspot

Arne K. Lang

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‘Hotlanta’ Has Suddenly Become a Professional Boxing Hotspot

This coming Saturday, Oct. 23, Top Rank will stage an important fight at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena, home of the city’s NBA franchise. Shakur Stevenson challenges WBO 130-pound world title-holder Jamel Herring in a battle of former Olympians.

Saturday’s card will be the eighteenth boxing card in Atlanta this year. At least four more shows will be staged here before the year is out. On the pro boxing front, only Southern California has been busier. There have been more shows in Atlanta than in Las Vegas this year and only 10 shows in all of New York thus far in all of 2021.

True, most of the Atlanta shows have been low-budget affairs; club cards that attracted no mention in the national press. But the city’s NFL stadium housed the Jake Paul vs. Ben Askren freak fight in April and Gervonta “Tank” Davis headlined a pay-per-view show at the State Farm Arena against Mario Barrios in June.

It’s a fair guess that Atlanta would not have been on Top Rank’s radar screen if not for Davis. His fight with Barrios reportedly attracted a paid crowd of 16,570, an uncommonly large turnout by today’s standards. Eighteen months earlier, in his first appearance in Atlanta where he is a part-time resident, “Tank” drew 14,129 to the State Farm Arena for a far less compelling match with Yuriorkis Gamboa. That bout took place three days after Christmas, historically a dead zone for a boxing promoter.

The Davis-Gamboa fight with a vacant 130-pound belt at stake was Atlanta’ first world title fight since the 1998 match between Evander Holyfield and Vaughn Bean, a drought of 21 years.

Holyfield, who grew up in a public housing complex in Atlanta, had two prior title fights in the city where he was raised. In 1991, he defended his heavyweight title here against late sub Bert Cooper. Five years earlier, Evander wrested the WBA junior heavyweight (190 pound) title from Dwight Muhammad Qawi in an Atlanta ring.

The most important fight in Atlanta as measured by international news coverage was the Oct. 26, 1970 match between Muhammad Ali and Jerry Quarry. This was Ali’s first fight in 43 months, having lost the prime of his career to a suspension for draft evasion. The crowd of 5,000 at the city’s old municipal auditorium included 600 members of the press. (Ali chopped Quarry to pieces in a fight that was stopped after three rounds.)

The spearhead of the promotion was Atlanta attorney Leroy Johnson, the only African-American member of Georgia’s State Senate. He and Atlanta’s Jewish mayor overcame the opposition Georgia’s segregationist governor Lester Maddox who declared Oct. 26, 1970 a day of mourning. Maddox’s arms were tied because Georgia had no state boxing commission beholden to the Governor. Each municipality was free to set its own course.

The 1970 fight, the first of two between Ali and Quarry, came to be seen as a watershed moment in the history of the “New South.” Twenty-six years later, Ali returned to Atlanta to light the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony of the 1996 Olympic Games, one of the most indelible moments in TV history.

Of all the boxers born and raised in Georgia, none competed before more eyewitnesses than Beau Jack, a two-time world lightweight champion in the 1940s who appeared in a record 21 main events at Madison Square Garden.

Beau Jack had his first two fights in Augusta where he had a shoeshine stand in the clubhouse of the famous golf course, and two of his final three fights there, but fought only once in Atlanta, that coming very late in his career when his pull was diminished. On his road to Gotham’s famous sock palace, the Augusta native spent a considerable time living and fighting in Holyoke, Massachusetts, where, unlike Atlanta, there was no opposition to interracial matches.

Beau Jack’s lone appearance in Atlanta came on July 17, 1950. His fight with Bobby Timpson, a journeyman from Youngstown Ohio, was one of only two pro boxing events in Atlanta in that calendar year. The sport had been moribund in that city for the better part of the previous three decades.

To find a period when boxing activity in Atlanta was as robust as it has been lately, one has to go back 100 years. In those giddy days in the immediate aftermath of World War I when boxing was bursting out all over, a former streetcar conductor named Walker Miller (everyone called him Walk) turned Atlanta into a boxing hotspot on par with the region’s other major cities, Memphis and New Orleans, where the sport at the local level was also flourishing.

W.L. “Young” Stribling, perhaps the greatest regional attraction in boxing history, made his pro debut in 1921 at age 16 on a Miller-promoted show in Atlanta. Walk Miller would eventually become Stribling’s co-manager, maneuvering him into matches with several of the era’s top heavyweights, but achieved his greatest success with Theodore Flowers who worked as a porter in Miller’s gym before becoming the first man of color to win the world middleweight title.

deacon

The son of a Georgia sharecropper who was introduced to boxing while working in a Philadelphia shipyard, “Tiger” Flowers, nicknamed the Georgia Deacon, developed a following that crossed racial lines. His two bouts in Madison Square Garden with Harry Greb and his bout in Chicago with Mickey Walker were big money-makers. As he was advancing with Walk Miller at his side, the club scene in Atlanta withered.

Like many boxing promoters, Miller was a jack-of-all-trades. He was a gym operator, a trainer, a manager, a promoter, and a booking agent. The closest thing to him in today’s Atlanta is Terri Moss. A former pro boxer, Moss, 55, is the CEO and head trainer of the Buckhead Fight Club which has been keeping the sport alive in the Peach State with a series of low-budget promotions.

Imagine that. Walk Miller’s spiritual heir is a woman. Miller and his cronies would have never seen that coming.

The bout between the 24-year-old Stevenson (16-0, 8 KOs) and the 34-year-old Herring (23-2, 11 KOs) and a co-feature will air on ESPN and ESPN Deportes starting at 10:30 p.m. EST. The undercard will air on ESPN+.

There are nine fights scheduled on Saturday’s Top Rank show including appearances by up-and-comers Evan Holyfield, Evander Holyfield’s son, and Nico Ali Walsh, the grandson of Muhammad Ali.

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Late-Bloomer Jersey Joe Walcott Goes the Distance Again With Statue in Camden

Bernard Fernandez

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It may not always be apparent to those with untrained eyes, but there is genuine art in boxing for those who understand the beauty and majesty of a perfectly timed left hook. Just such a masterful moment of the sweet science was authored by Jersey Joe Walcott on July 18, 1951, in the seventh round of his fifth and likely final shot at the heavyweight championship he had been clawing and scratching his way toward since he turned pro at 16 in 1930.

Again a longshot against the great Ezzard Charles, against whom he already was 0-2 in title bouts, a frozen moment in time that fateful night at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field transformed Walcott from a symbol of his sport’s relentless but mostly unrewarded grinders to instant-legend status. At 37, he not only had become the oldest man to that point ever to win boxing’s most prestigious prize (a distinction he would hold for 43 years, until 45-year-old George Foreman dethroned WBA/IBF champ Michael Moorer on another incredible, bolt-from-the-blue knockout, on Nov. 5, 1994, in Las Vegas), but the patron saint of fighters with iron wills and vision quests they would see through to completion or die trying.

In a story that appeared on this site on July 16, 2018, I ranked Walcott’s blasting of Charles No. 1 on my personal list of all-time one-punch knockouts, which I described thusly:

Entering the seventh round, Walcott led the scoring, in rounds, by 5-1, 4-1-1 and 3-3. Moving forward while rocking side to side, the 9-1 underdog dipped to his left and exploded upward with a thunderous left hook that caught Charles flush on the jaw. The semi-conscious champion pitched forward onto his face.

It is difficult to encapsulate the full scope of such a historically significant and aesthetically flawless a punch into any inanimate object, like a statue, but sculptor Carl LeVotch perhaps came as close as is humanly possible with his eight-foot bronze of Walcott, which was unveiled this past Saturday during a celebratory day of festivities in Camden, N.J., the hometown of the beloved fighter whose real name was Arnold Cream. The unveiling took place along the Camden waterfront, at the Wiggins Park Promenade, following a 3½-mile parade that featured marching bands and other attractions.

For medical reasons I was unable to attend an event I had very much been looking forward to, but the spirit of the occasion – and the 20-year march from concept to completion for those who wanted the Walcott/Cream statue to be more than just another item on someone’s wish list – closely mirrored the ring career of an inspirational figure who fueled the imaginations of so many attendees. Chief among those is Vincent Cream, 61, the grandson of Jersey Joe who spearheaded the drawn-out efforts to raise the $185,000 required to fund the project, which is still not entirely paid for.

“It was an overwhelming moment,” Vincent Cream told Boxing Writers Association of America president Joseph Santoliquito, who covered the event for another media outlet. “Everyone who never met my grandfather met him today.

“No one ever dies. He’s here with us. When I look at his statue, and you see who’s gathered here – white, black, old, young, everyone coming together – his timelessness has come. To persevere for 23 years, it represents who my grandfather was as a man and his fortitude as a person. When you have a dream, it’s important to set goals between the dream and the achievement. Every time I brought up the idea of a statue, people would tell me, `Good luck with that.’ That was 10 years ago. We achieved it, a little at a time – like my grandfather.”

LeVotch, with whom I have long been acquainted, has nearly as long a track record in his boxing-related field as did Walcott, who took his ring nom de guerre in tribute to Joe “The Barbados Demon” Walcott, a welterweight champion whose career ended in 1911. The original fighting Walcott was a hero to young Arnold Cream’s father, Joseph Cream, who came to New Jersey from the British Virgin Islands. I first met LeVotch for a story I did on him that appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News editions of July 2, 2003, when he took me through the process of his creation of a 17-inch cold-cast bronze statuette he called The Spirit of Boxing, reproductions of which are owned by any number of boxing notables. His goal, he told me, was to create something more meaningful than the statue of the fictional heavyweight champion Rocky Balboa that was used as a movie prop for 1982’s Rocky III.

“It doesn’t move me,” LeVotch said. “A true piece of art is capable of moving the man on the street. It is an instrument to inspire. It’s been that way since antiquity. I have a great affinity for Rodin (that would be Auguste Rodin, the French sculptor, not Rodan, the Japanese movie monster). His The Thinker is a sacrament, if you will, of an inner grace.

“I’m one of those guys who believe boxing is a metaphor for life. I also think of it as an art form. Those who do it well are, in their own way, artists.”

In addition to his sculpted improvements of several awards the BWAA presents as its annual dinner, LeVotch’s other life-sized commemoration of a boxing life, that of former middleweight champion Joey Giardello (real name: Carmine Tilelli), was unveiled on May 21, 2011, in Giardelli’s old South Philadelphia neighborhood. Like Walcott, Giardelli – father of four sons, one of whom was born with Down Syndrome – was more than just a fighter, something LeVotch sought to convey through his art.

“I saw Joey not only as a terrific fighter, but as a father who cared deeply for his disabled son,” Carl told me a decade ago. “How do you convey all these different sides of a man in coagulated metal? My challenge was to capture the essence of the man as well as a physical likeness.”

Brought to tears by LeVotch’s artistic interpretation of who her husband was and what he represented in meaningful ways that extended beyond the ring, Rosalie Tilelli said, “I’m overwhelmed. I call Carl LeVotch my Michelangelo.”

Jersey Joe Walcott was demonstrably statue-worthy even if he hadn’t moved on from boxing to a full and rich later phase of his life in which he served as the first African-American elected sheriff of Camden County, serving from 1971 to ’74, and chairman of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board until 1984. His wife, Riletta Cream, also was committed to public service as a city educator and county freeholder from 1994 to 2011.

But it is Walcott the boxer who set records inside the ropes that almost certainly will never be matched, much less surpassed. Fighting in an era when there was just one heavyweight champion, not a bunch of alphabet title-holders, he fought eight times for boxing’s grandest prize, going 2-6 with two losses apiece to Joe Louis and Charles before he broke through against Charles with that museum-quality left hook in Pittsburgh. Five of those title bouts, incredibly, were in succession. There are more than a few historians who believe Jersey Joe should have won on points in his first go at Louis, in which he floored the “Brown Bomber” in the first and fourth rounds. No wonder Walcott’s most ardent fans, even those in his own family, were hesitant to risk seeing him come up short again when he again squared off against Charles in the home stadium of baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates.

“I was 12 when my dad won the heavyweight title and there he is, so real,” Ruth Cream, now 82, told Santoliquito at the unveiling. “I remember that night like it happened clearly. I was the only one downstairs at our house with reporters in our living room watching the fight on TV. Everyone else was upstairs in bed because they didn’t want to watch it.

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“After my father won, I remember running up the stairs to tell my family, `Daddy won!’”

After a successful defense on points against familiar foe Charles, Walcott, well ahead on points through 12 of the scheduled 15 rounds, was dethroned by Rocky Marciano on a 13th-round knockout on Sept. 23, 1952, in Philadelphia. He fought just once more, this time being stopped in one round by Marciano, before hanging up his gloves with a 51-18-2 (32) record. He was part of the 1990 charter class of inductees into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Camden officials are hoping their hometown hero’s statue becomes something of a tourist attraction, as is the case with the Rocky statue at the base of the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum and the 12-foot Joe Frazier statue, created by sculptor Stephen Layne and located outside the Xfinity Live! bar/restaurant in the South Philly sports complex. As splendid as it is, the Giardello statue draws fewer eyes given its location in a less-bustling and attraction-loaded neighborhood.

But in a metropolitan area where bronze tributes to sports stars of the four local professional franchises (Eagles, Phillies, 76ers and Flyers) are fairly commonplace, the statues of Frazier, Giardello, Walcott and, yes, Stallone are at least a signal that boxing, for so long Philadelphia’s fifth pro sport and a veritable cradle of champions, is recognizing a part of its past that is worthy of being preserved and treasured.

Editor’s Note: Bernard Fernandez, named to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in the Observer category with the class of 2020, was the recipient of numerous awards for writing excellence during his 28-year career as a sportswriter for the Philadelphia Daily News. Fernandez’s first book, “Championship Rounds,” a compendium of previously published material, was released in May of last year. The sequel, “Championship Rounds, Vol. 2,” with a foreword by Jim Lampley, arrives this fall. The book can be ordered through Amazon.com, in hard or soft cover, and other book-selling websites and outlets.

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Weekend Boxing Recap: The Mikey Garcia Stunner and More

Arne K. Lang

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Weekend Boxing Recap: The Mikey Garcia Stunner and More

Boxing was all over the map on the third Saturday of October with many of the shows pulled together on short notice as promoters took advantage of relaxed COVID constraints to return to business as usual. When the smoke cleared, a monster upset in Fresno overshadowed the other events.

Mikey Garcia, a shoo-in to make the Hall of Fame, was on the wrong side of it. Spain’s Sandor Martin, in his USA debut, won a well-deserved decision over Garcia at a Triple-A baseball park in Fresno.

Garcia, a former four-division belt-holder, was 40-1 coming in with his only loss coming at the hands of Errol Spence. Martin, a 28-year-old southpaw, brought a nice record with him from Europe (38-2) but with only 13 wins coming by way of stoppage it was plain that he wasn’t a heavy hitter. His only chance was to out-box Garcia and that seemed far-fetched.

But Martin did exactly that, counter-punching effectively to win a 10-round majority decision. Two judges had it 97-93 with the third turning in a 95-95 tally.

Neither Garcia nor Martin were natural welterweights. The bout was fought at a catch-weight of 145 pounds. After the bout, the Spaniard indicated a preference for dropping back to 140 where enticing opportunities await.

There was another upset, albeit a much milder one, in the co-feature where Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Gonzalez improved to 25-3-1 (14) while shearing the WBO world flyweight title from the shoulders of Mexicali’s Elwin Soto (19-2).

Soto was making his fourth defense of the title and rode into the match with a 17-fight winning streak. Gonzalez, a southpaw, had formerly fought for the WBO world flyweight title, getting stopped in seven rounds by Kosei Tanaka in Nagoya, Japan.

One of the judges favored Soto 116-112, but he was properly out-voted by his colleagues who had it 116-112 the other way.

Riga, Latvia

The first major fight on Saturday took place in Riga, Latvia, where hometown hero Mairis Briedis successfully defended his IBF cruiserweight title with a third-round stoppage of Germany’s Artur Mann who was on the deck three times before the match was halted at the 1:54 mark.

Briedis (28-1, 20 KOs) was making his first start since dismantling KO artist Yuniel Dorticos in the finals of season two of the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament. He scored the first of his three knockdowns in the waning seconds of round two when he deposited Mann (17-2) on the canvas with a straight right hand.

Although boosters of fast-rising WBO champ Lawrence Okolie would disagree, the Latvian is widely regarded as the best cruiserweight in the world. His only setback came when he lost a narrow decision to current WBA/IBF/WBO heavyweight champ Oleksandr Usyk in this ring in January of 2018. Now 36 years old, Briedis has yet to appear in a main event outside Europe. That’s undoubtedly about to change and a rematch with Usyk is well within the realm of possibility.

Newcastle, England

Chris Eubank Jr, whose fight two weeks ago in London with late sub Anati Muratov was cancelled at the 11th hour when Muratov failed his medical exam, was added to this Matchroom card and his bout with Wanik Awdijan became the de facto main event. A 26-year-old German, born in Armenia, Awdijan was 28-1 and had won 21 straight (against very limited opposition), but he was no match for Eubank Jr who broke him down with body shots, likely breaking his ribs and forcing him to quit on his stool after five frames.

Eubank Jr, 32, improved to 31-2 (23) His only defeats came at the hands of former world title-holder George Groves and BJ Saunders. He dedicated this fight to his late brother Sebastian Eubank who died in July while swimming in the Persian Gulf.

In other bouts, Hughie Fury, the cousin of Tyson Fury, stayed relevant in the heavyweight division with a stoppage of well-traveled German Christian Hammer and Savannah Marshall successfully defended her WBO world middleweight title with a second-round TKO of Lolita Muzeya.

Akin to Eubank-Awdijan, the Fury-Hammer fight also ended with the loser bowing out after five frames. A biceps injury allegedly caused Hammer to say “no mas,” but Fury, in what was arguably his career-best performance, was well ahead on the cards.

The Marshall-Muzeya fight was a battle of unbeatens, but Muzeya’s 16-0 record was suspicious as the Zambian had never fought outside the continent of Africa. She came out blazing, but Marshall, who improved to 11-0 (9) had her number and retained her title.

Brooklyn

In the featured bout of a TrillerVerz show at Barclays Center, Long Island’s Cletus Seldin, the Hebrew Hammer, knocked out William Silva in the seventh round. It was the fifth-straight win for the 35-year-old Seldin, a junior welterweight who was making his first start in 20 months.

Silva, a 34-year-old Brazilian who fights out of Florida, brought a 28-3 record. His previous losses had come at the hands of Felix Verdejo, Teofimo Lopez, and Arnold Barboza Jr. Seldin improved to 26-1 (22 KOs).

In other bouts, junior welterweight Petros Ananyan, a Brooklyn-based Armenian, improved to 16-2-2 (7) with a 10-round majority decision over local fighter Daniel Gonzalez (20-3-1) and Will Madera of Albany, NY, scored a mild upset when he stopped Jamshidbek Najmitdinov who was pulled out after five rounds with an apparent shoulder injury.

Najmitdinov, from Uzbekistan, was making his U.S. debut but he brought a 17-1 record blemished only by former world title-holder Viktor Postol. Madera improved to 17-1-3.

Photo credit: Ed Mulholand / Matchroom

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