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CANELO-TROUT BRINGS FLASHBACKS TO 1993

Bernard Fernandez

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Canelo vs Trout Spanish philosopher/poet George Santayana once observed that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” He meant it as a warning to future generations, that no mistake from another time should be expected to be forever corrected.

But the past is repeated, more often than we might think, because there are only so many sets of circumstances that it probably is inevitable that what goes around, probably will come around again with a new set of characters. And so it is with Saturday night's super welterweight unification showdown of WBC champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (41-0-1, 30 KOs) and WBA titlist Austin Trout (26-0, 14 KOs), in San Antonio's Alamodome.

Does that matchup remind a lot of you of what took place, in the same city and stadium, the night of Sept. 10, 1993? Nearly 20 years have passed, and here boxing fans are, with the same drama – albeit with a possibly different outcome – being played out by fighters whose characteristics are strikingly similar to those of their predecessors. It's like a hit movie being remade with other actors, in this instance the role of Julio Cesar Chavez filled by Alvarez and the role of Pernell Whitaker assigned to Trout. But until the final punch is thrown, the final scene remains a mystery. The past is not necessarily prologue, at least not yet. We are left in doubt until the closing credits roll.

What happened on Sept. 10, 1993, forever shall remain one of the fight game's more unsatisfying controversies. There was no winner, no loser in the passion play that pitted a Mexican national hero (Chavez) against a slick African-American southpaw (Whitaker). The majority draw – judge Jack Woodruff, from Dallas, had Whitaker winning, 115-113, while cohorts Mickey Vann, of England, and Franz Marti, of Switzerland, each saw it as a 115-115 standoff – left some people enraged, many others relieved, and almost everyone perplexed.

Bottom line: Whitaker, whose WBC welterweight championship was on the line, retained his belt, although, because of the boxing skills and ring generalship “Sweet Pea” had demonstrated over 12 nearly flawless rounds, he and his backers felt he clearly deserved the victory and the distinction of becoming the first man to defeat the man known as “JC Superstar.” Chavez fans – and they comprised the vast majority of the 63,000-plus who jammed the Alamodome – seemed relieved to have come away with the proverbial half-a-loaf, although some suggested that their man's unstinting attempts at forcing the action should have been credited more than Whitaker's duck-and-dodge tactics.

There was no rematch, and the suspicion has lingered to this day that the Mexico City-based WBC and its president, Jose Sulaiman, did not mandate one for fear that the second time around would produce even more of the same frustration that had marked Chavez's attempts to track down and, you know, actually hit Whitaker.

Ferdie Pacheco, a color analyst for the Showtime pay-per-view telecast, had perhaps the most prescient take on what eventually happened.

“With a tremendously pro-Chavez crowd on hand, Whitaker is going to have to win decisively – very decisively – to get a decision if it goes the distance,” Pacheco had predicted. “Don't tell me the judges won't be affected by 70,000 screaming Hispanics. They're only human. (Muhammad) Ali won fights he should have lost because, well, he was Ali.

“If Whitaker wins, it'll probably be one of the stinkingest fights of all time because that means he'll have been able to stay away from Chavez for 12 rounds. It takes incredible discipline to do that, and, let's face it, nobody has done it yet.”

In some ways, perhaps Whitaker-Chavez more closely mirrors what took place just this past weekend, when a defensively brilliant Cuban southpaw, Guillermo Rigondeaux, played keepaway, stepping in for the occasional stinging counterpunch, to win an action-starved unanimous decision over Nonito Donaire in their 122-pound unification bout in New York City's Radio City Music Hall. There's that George Santayana thing again.

But Alvarez-Trout … even Stevie Wonder can see how the storylines are lifted almost verbatim from Whitaker-Chavez. Put it all together and you can almost hear the theme from The Twilight Zone in the background.

A crowd of 40,000 is expected, and maybe even more will be in the stadium if there's a strong walk-up. An impressive turnout, no doubt, if not quite as large as the standing-room-only turnout for Whitaker-Chavez. Showtime Championship Boxing again will televise. You have Alvarez, the undefeated Mexican icon, replicating Chavez and Whitaker, whose fancy moves are a reasonable facsimile of Whitaker's, taking over for a fighter he readily admits is one of his pugilistic role models.

“It's a very similar fight,” Alvarez said when asked about the eerie parallels between then and now. “I've watched (Whitaker-Chavez) on video several times. Austin Trout, like Pernell Whitaker, is a southpaw. He's slick, a very difficult fighter. But that's what we're training hard for.

“Come the night of the fight, we're going to make it where it's not so difficult.”

Trout says virtually the same things. “I do see a very similar comparison,” he said about links to Whitaker-Chavez. “First of all, 'Sweet Pea' is one of my favorite fighters. But the difference between me and him is I can punch a bit.

“There are things that I saw (Whitaker) did in that fight that would have made it a lot less close, things he could have done to pull away from Chavez. The best way to not let history repeat itself is to know history. I know what happened in that fight. Just remember that Chavez is not Canelo and I'm not 'Sweet Pea.'”

In some ways, the scene-setting in advance of Whitaker-Chavez was more intriguing than the fight itself. Chavez's promoter, Don King, and Whitaker's promoter, Dan Duva, were hardly tight, and each man did his part to keep the pot boiling until the opening bell rang. King's preferred method was typical heh-heh-heh humor, while Duva, who since has passed away, saw possible conspiracies at every turn.

“The slogan for this fight will be 'Remember the Alamo,'” His Hairness had harrumphed during a prefight press conference, referencing the legendary three-day siege in 1836 at San Antonio's most famous landmark. “And this time, the Mexicans will win.”

King was then reminded that the numerically superior Mexicans actually won at the Alamo.

“Well, this time they'll win again,” King said while citing such historic Alamo defenders as Davy Crockett and Sam Bowie.

Sam Bowie? The 7-foot Portland Trail Blazers center with the chronically sore feet?

“Aw, well, you know who I mean,” King said, finally correcting himself. “I meant to say Jim Bowie, the guy with the big knife.”

Duva, who once dressed his toddler son in a Don King fright wig for Halloween, didn't think jokes or malapropisms by his opposite number should mask what he feared would be a bias, intentional or not, against his fighter by those with the power to decide the outcome.

“Walking forward and getting hit in the face is not boxing,” Duva, as serious as could be, said beforehand. “This is not a Toughman contest or a barroom brawl. It's who controls the ring. That's boxing. Pernell Whitaker is a master boxer and he's going to box Chavez's ears off.”

But it wasn't only the promoters who got in on the act. At the press conference to officially announce the bout, Chavez, who was 87-0 with 75 knockouts, opined that Whitaker (32-1, 15 KOs at the time) lacked the “essentials” to defeat him. He then made a motion with his right hand that would not be unfamiliar to anyone who ever saw a Michael Jackson or Andrew Dice Clay crotch-grab. Gladys Rosa, serving as the interpreter for the Spanish-speaking Chavez, tried to explain his meaning to the English-speaking portion of the audience, only to be met with a howl of laughter from all present. It was a gesture that required no interpretation.

Not surprisingly, Chavez went off as a 2-1 favorite. And, given what had happened in one of the earlier bouts on the card, the apprehension voiced by Duva and Pacheco did seem to have at least some basis in fact. WBC super featherweight champion Azuman Nelson, of Ghana, retained his title on a split draw against popular San Antonio resident Jesse James Leija, but ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr., after several tense minutes, said there had been a miscalculation on judge Daniel Van Del Wiele's scorecard. Instead of Nelson winning by 116-115, Van Del Wiele's card should have read 115-115. Leija – who, ironically, is a co-promoter of Alvarez-Trout – thus left the ring with his half a loaf.

Some observers had suggested that there would be a something akin to a riot were Whitaker to win a close decision in the main event. But as round by round went by, with Whitaker employing his signature duck-waddle – instead of moving side to side, he frequently went down on his haunches while Chavez's punches sailed over his head – even the challenger's most vocal partisans sensed that this might not be his night. When Lennon announced the majority draw, the mood in the arena was more of relief than of outrage. The idol of the assembled masses was still technically unbeaten.

Duva, of course, wasn't buying any of it. “All those officials are regular guys who fly first-class all over the world, to Tokyo or Thailand or whatever, to judge WBC fights,” he fumed. “WBC judges will tell you that when they go against the house fighter, they're not chosen to fight another fight for a while. That's the way it's done.”

Vann, in his debut column for England's Boxing News, defended – sort of – his scorecard for Whitaker-Chavez without specifically mentioning it.

“Now, after multiple international, British, Commonwealth, European title and 174 world championship fights, you will be able to read about my opinions and see, after all that experience, I still don't have a clue about the fight game,” he wrote.

“…referees and judges will always have their critics. We all see the sport differently. Boxing is so subjective, and that subjectivity can vary depending on how you watch a fight. There isn't any black and white in our sport; it is an opinion of a selected few. It has been said that my opinion and verdicts are at times controversial, but they have all been honest, and I stand by them all.”

Whitaker and Chavez quite properly have been enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y. Their plaques would have been hung regardless of what transpired on Dec. 10, 1993. Their body of work is unassailable, and it probably is pointless to speculate on what might have happened for either had there been different judges, or the judges who were on hand had submitted cards with markedly different scores. What was is what is. The draw is on the books, forever.

And, really, Trout is right. He is not Whitaker, and Alvarez is not Chavez. Whether they like it or not, they may have been thrust into predetermined roles, but it is within their power to script their own finish.

Because if we must have reruns, there's always M*A*S*H on TV Land.

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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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Emanuel Navarrete Retains WBO Featherweight Title in a San Diego Firefight

David A. Avila

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SAN DIEGO-WBO featherweight titlist Emanuel Navarrete won by unanimous decision over Joet Gonzalez in a slugfest that had fans cheering nonstop on Friday night. Fans were mesmerized by the savagery.

More than 2,000 fans saw Mexico City’s Navarrete (35-1, 29 KOs) and Southern California’s Gonzalez (24-2, 14 KOs) bounce brutal shots off each other for 12 successive rounds at Pechanga Sports Arena.

Both Navarrete and Gonzalez were about equal in height with the champion maybe a slight taller, but not by much. As soon as the first bell rang the two featherweights opened up in furious fashion.

Gonzalez was making his second attempt to grab a world title. His first attempt fell short a year ago. He was eager to atone for the defeat by clobbering Navarrete. Body shots were the weapon of choice.

The Mexican fighter Navarrete was accustomed to battling shorter fighters, this time the two were equal in size and in fury. Blows were flying in bunches and by the third round Gonzalez suffered a cut on his right cheek.

At several points Navarrete would connect with a solid blow and eagerly seek to finish the fight. Each time it happened Gonzalez would fight back even more furiously and beat back the champions attacks.

Gonzalez also connected with big shots and moved in for the kill only find Navarrete take a stand and fire back. Neither was able to truly gain a significant edge. After 12 rounds of nonstop action the decision was given to the judges. One scored it 118-110, two others saw it 116-112 all for Navarrete.

Fans were pleased by the decision and even more pleased by the breath-taking action they had witnessed.

Welterweights

Local fighter Giovani Santillan (28-0, 15 KOs) remained undefeated by unanimous decision after 10 rounds versus Tijuana’s Angel Ruiz (17-2, 12 KOs). The two southpaws were evenly matched.

San Diego’s Santillan was able to outwork Ruiz in almost every round. Though Ruiz has heavy hands he was not able to hurt Santillan even with uppercuts. It was clear very early in the fight that Santillan was the more technical and busier of the two. No knockdowns were scored.

After 10 rounds two judges scored it 100-90 for Santillan and a third saw it 99-91.

Other Results

Lindolfo Delgado (14-0, 12 KOs) battered and knocked down fellow Mexican Juan Garcia Mendez (21-5-2) in the last round of an 8-round super lightweight bout, but could not score the knockout win.

Delgado, a Mexican Olympian, was the quicker and stronger fighter yet discovered Garcia Mendez has a solid chin. All three judges scored it 80-71 for Delgado.

Puerto Rico’s Henry Lebron (14-0, 9 KOs) defeated Manuel Rey Rojas (21-6) by decision after eight rounds in a lightweight match.

Javier Martinez (5-0, 2 KOs) soundly defeated Darryl Jones (4-3-1) by decision after six rounds in a middleweight clash. Jones was tough.

Las Vegas bantamweight Floyd Diaz (3-0) knocked down Tucson’s Jose Ramirez (1-1) in the first round but was unable to end the fight early. Diaz won by decision.

Heavyweight Antonio Mireles (1-0) knocked out Demonte Randle (2-2) at 2:07 of the first round.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank for Getty Images

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Book Review

Russell Peltz’s “Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye”: Book Review by Thomas Hauser

Thomas Hauser

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Russell Peltz’s “Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye”: Book Review by Thomas Hauser

Russell Peltz has been promoting fights for fifty years and is as much a part of the fabric of Philadelphia boxing as Philly gym wars and Philly fighters. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2004 and deservedly so. Now Peltz has written a memoir entitled Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye that chronicles his many years in the sweet science.

Peltz started in boxing before it was, in his words, “bastardized by the alphabet groups” and at a time when “world titles still meant something.”

“I fell in love with boxing when I was twelve,” he writes, “saw my first live fight at fourteen, decided to make it my life, and never looked back.” He promoted his first fight card in 1969 at age 22.

Peltz came of age in boxing at a time when promoters – particularly small promoters – survived or died based on the live gate. Peltz Boxing Promotions had long runs at the Blue Horizon in Philadelphia and both Harrah’s Marina and the Sands  in Atlantic City. His journey through the sweet science included a seven-year stint as director of boxing for The Spectrum in Philadelphia. At the turn of the century, he was a matchmaker for ESPN.

Along the way, Peltz’s office in Philadelphia was fire-bombed. He was robbed at gunpoint while selling tickets in his office for a fight card at the Blue Horizon and threatened in creative ways more times than one might imagine. He once had a fight fall out when one of the fighters was arrested on the day of the weigh-in. No wonder he quotes promoter Marty Kramer, who declared, “The only thing I wish on my worst enemy is that he becomes a small-club boxing promoter.”

Now Peltz has put pen to paper – or finger to keyboard. “The internet is often a misinformation highway,” he writes. “I want to set the record straight as to what actually went on in boxing in the Philadelphia area since the late-1960s. I’m tired of reading tweets or Facebook posts or Instagram accounts from people who were not around and have no idea what went on but write like they do.”

Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye is filled with characters (inside and outside the ring) who give boxing its texture. As Peltz acknowledges, his own judgment was sometimes faulty. Russell once turned down the opportunity to promote Marvin Hagler on a long-term basis. There are countless anecdotes about shady referees, bad judging, and other injustices. Middleweight Bennie Briscoe figures prominently in the story, as do other Philadelphia fighters like Willie “The Worm” Monroe, Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts, Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, Stanley “Kitten” Hayward, and Matthew Franklin (later Matthew Saad Muhammad). Perhaps the best fight Peltz ever promoted  was the 1977 classic when Franklin knocked out Marvin Johnson in the twelfth round.

There’s humor. After Larry Holmes pitched a shutout against Randall “Tex” Cobb in 1982, Cobb proclaimed, “Larry never beat me. He just won the first fifteen rounds.”

And there are poignant notes. Writing about Tanzanian-born Rogers Mtagwa (who boxed out of Philadelphia), Peltz recalls, “He couldn’t pass an eye exam because he didn’t understand the alphabet.”

Remembering the Blue Horizon, Peltz fondly recounts, “”The Blue Horizon was a fight fan’s nirvana. The ring was 15-feet-9-inches squared inside the ropes. No fighter came to the Blue Horizon to pad his record. Fans wanted good fights, not slaughters of second-raters.”

That ethos was personified by future bantamweight champion Jeff Chandler who, after knocking out an obviously inept opponent, told Peltz, “Don’t ever embarrass me like that again in front of my fans.”

Thereafter, whenever a manager asked Peltz to put his fighter in soft to “get me six wins in a row,” Russell thought of Chandler. “I enjoyed promoting fights more than promoting fighters,” he writes. “If I was interested in promoting fighters, I would have been a manager.”

That brings us to Peltz the writer.

The first thing to be said here is that this is a book for boxing junkies, not the casual fan. Peltz is detail-oriented. But do readers really need to know what tickets prices were for the April 6, 1976, fight between Bennie Briscoe and Eugene Hart? The book tends to get bogged down in details. And after a while, the fights and fighters blur together in the telling.

It brings to mind the relationship between Gene Tunney and George Bernard Shaw. The noted playwright and heavyweight great developed a genuine friendship. But Shaw’s fondness for Tunney stopped short of uncritical admiration. In 1932, the former champion authored his autobiography (A Man Must Fight) and proudly presented a copy to his intellectual mentor. Shaw read the book and responded with a letter that read in part, “Just as one prayer meeting is very like another, one fight is very like another. At a certain point, I wanted to skip to Dempsey.”

Reading Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye, at a certain point I wanted to skip to Hagler.

There’s also one jarring note. Peltz recounts how, when Mike Jones fought Randall Bailey for the vacant IBF welterweight title in Las Vegas in 2012, Peltz bet five hundred dollars against Jones (his own fighter) at the MGM Sports Book and collected two thousand dollars when Bailey (trailing badly on the judges’ scorecards) knocked Jones out in the eleventh round.

“It was a tradition from my days with Bennie Briscoe,” Russell explains. “I’d bet against my fighter, hoping to lose the bet and win the fight.”

I think Russell Peltz is honest. I mean that sincerely. And I think he was rooting for Mike Jones to beat Randall Bailey. But I don’t think that promoters should bet on fights involving their own fighters. And it’s worse if they bet against their own fighters. Regardless of the motivation, it looks bad. Or phrased differently: Suppose Don King had bet on Buster Douglas to beat Mike Tyson in Tokyo?

Philadelphia was once a great fight town. in 1926, the first fight between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney drew 120,000 fans to Sesquicentennial Stadium. Twenty-six years later, Rocky Marciano knocked out Jersey Joe Walcott at same site (renamed Municipal Stadium) to claim the heavyweight throne.

Peltz takes pride in saying, “I was part of Philadelphia’s last golden age of boxing.”

An important part.

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book – Broken Dreams: Another Year Inside Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press this autumn. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, he was selected for boxing’s highest honor – induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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