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Rest In Peace, Johnny Bos

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His skill at choosing a succession of opponents to help a boxer travel from professional point A to point B was immense. His skill at playing life as a politician, of tamping down his voracious need to speak truth to power, to broadcast his critiques of the sport of boxing, was not present to the same extent. Johnny Bos, a Sunset Park, Brooklyn-bred boxing lifer, died in his Clearwater, Florida residence on Saturday. He was 61 years old, and did it his way to the final day.

Bos (pronounced Boz) dealt with congestive heart failure for many years, and I think it’s fair to say that the news of his death, for many that knew him, and knew how deeply he felt the sting of not being in the big-league mix that his talent and acumen suggested he should be, was met with a mixed emotions.

This XL character–he was 6-4, north of 250 pounds, prone to wearing hip hop and pimp-ish gear– was something of a tortured soul. He had a pathological need to diagnose the ills he saw riddling the sport and broadcast his critiques to the world. At the same time, in more recent years, he wanted to be back on the big stage, in NYC, fashioning the paths of prospects to the big time. For a years, I’d try and gently counsel him to adjust his expectations and subvert his iconoclastic tendencies, so he might be accepted back into the club which he bitterly railed had spurned him.

“Johnny,” I’d say, “it makes it harder for the big shots to bring you back into the fold when you say controversial things, and are too honest.”

But he was pathologically incapable of self-censorship. The truth wasn’t something to be dispensed selectively. He couldn’t pick and choose his spots, modulate his delivery to minimize the damage to the ego of the guilty. He couldn’t, he wouldn’t, and for that he must be praised, and his passing must be lamented with more fanfare than his level of celebrity typically enjoys.

Johnny’s laundry list of the dirt in the game was nearly never ending, and his recitation of the ills kept him from rising back from club-show levels onto the A grade cards, with the A grade checks to go with it. Perhaps he knew that railing against the New York State Athletic Commission’s mishandling of the Arturo Gatti weigh-in prior to his February 26, 2000 fight against his guy Joey Gamache was a signed death warrant against his re-admission into the club, but that didn’t affect his outlook. And that was to his immense credit; in a sport which desperately needs healers willing to diagnose and attack the malignancies, Bos fit the bill–and he paid dearly for his candor.

Bos, with that immense frame and theatrical manner of conversing left the impression to new acquaintances unaware of his reason for being that perhaps professional wrestling was his ouevre. But no, boxing was his lasting love, and had been since he laid eyes on the sport which seduced him. Before he hit puberty, Bos was skipping school and instead roaming the dozens of fight gyms which dotted the boroughs. He went from super-fan, to news-sheet writer and hawker, and began making matches in 1977. He worked for Main Events, and Brit Mickey Duff, and steered the ship on the earliest voyages of Gerry Cooney and Mike Tyson. Bos knew which icebergs to steer clear of, and, pals knew, wasn’t shy about telling the world of his prowess. Perhaps he felt the need to inform or remind us of his skills because his circumstances, in later years, didn’t give a hint of his sagacity. To stay afloat, he’d sell memorabilia and you couldn’t blame the guy if he’d pointed to himself as Exhibit B in why the sport needed to be structured differently so lifers could have a pension to look forward to. I got the sense that it was probable that he never compromise his ways, and that he wouldn’t forgive or forget the transgressions of those that had wronged him. When a Facebook post indicated that he was counting down the days until his sentence was served, until he went to a better place, I’d shake my head, maybe, and wonder why he couldn’t steer out of that place. Sometimes, I’d ponder what my father told me about my own mom, someone who also had a hard time finding silver linings: “Mike, mom won’t be truly happy until she’s in heaven.”

Bos didn’t comprehend why, if he was the guy who’d developed more world champions that any soul on earth, as was his claim, the power brokers didn’t utilize his services. I told him a few times that was because he was too truthful and that such honesty, while admirable in the abstract, would hold him back. “Johnny, if you’re telling writers that the New York State Athletic Commission is a corrupt institution, than that makes it basically impossible for a promoter in this region to bring you on,” I’d say. He wouldn’t accept, at least not out loud, that his honesty could be the thing holding him down. And bless his soul for that. That is such a rare trait; the majority of us sell out on a daily basis, refusing to write about this scandal, or call out that dirtbag, because we fear ramifications, fear being marginalized, worry about being booted from the club. Johnny’s disgust at the way the game was played probably didn’t do anything for his longevity. Yes, those periodic posts on Facebook, promising comeuppance for those who’d wronged him in the past, left friends worrying somewhat for his state of mind. He seemed incapable of letting go, but when you dug down, and really thought about all the guys that ditched him at the altar when it came to get hitched, you realized that he had grounds for his rancor.
Friends would tell him to embrace the concept of the contract but he’d blow it off. I’d start to offer him the definition of insanity, lobby him to see that doing the same action again and again and expecting different results would continue to harden his heart, but as the years passed, my counseling waned, and then ended. Johnny was going to do what he was going to do, his compass was locked in, I realized, and couldn’t be budged.

He told us he’d been blackballed in New York, and none of us fought that assertion, I don’t think. No one needed to search for a smoking gun memo to prove his point. We knew that trying to sue Floyd Patterson for taking over his kid’s career after Bos did the steering, and later joining with Gamache in suing the state for botching the Gatti weigh in, that those actions would disqualify him from getting back in the New York groove. But his compass pointed toward truth, to his frequent detriment, and you got the sense that would be his direction till the end.

Opining that boxing was better off when the crooked nose crew ran the racket, even if he didn’t explicitly call out the worst actors in the highest echelons, meant that in later years, Bos would need to get by on low-money gigs for smaller fry promoters. I should have, looking back, allowed him a platform more often in recent years, given him the space and amplifier to inform or remind fans that it was shameful how wages have stagnated for boxers, how more money trickled down to the lesser lights when Carbo had a grip on the game, than today. People like me would nod and mouth unenthused agreement when he griped that onerous promotional deals were hurting the game. It could become repetitious…but that’s as it should have been, as it was our own damn fault we didn’t apply the salves he prescribed.

He’d say that managers were a dying breed, that promoters held all the cards, and you needed to play ball with them if you wanted to get along. Because promoters liked to match their guys soft, to get to a lofty place without bruising them along the way, that meant that his old-school style of matching guys tough went the way of the dinosaur. yes, Johnny was as subtle as a Brontosaurus and I should have given him the space to hear his roar much more often.

Other things Bos railed against, which should be mentioned, in deference to the man…He didn’t care for the lack of available facilities, those hole in the wall gyms which gave street kids an option other than the streets, in recent decades. The sport became an option for rich kids only, with the gym dues, necessary because of our national real estate bubble, becoming prohibitive, he’d say. Oh, and the gloves, they have less padding in them today, and that’s why you get more hand injuries. Really, there wasn’t an area of the sport where Bos didn’t see a hole that needed patching.

Bos actually struck a blow against mainstream societal ills which leave 98% of our citizens with a state of income inequality unseen since before the Great Depression. He saw that outsized medical bills for boxers needing to comply with commissions to get or re-apply for their license hit the have nots hard and acted as a deterrent to participation for many. The same scenario plagues have nots in the realm of higher education, you will note. Johnny’s prescriptions for betterment, I realize looking back, would well apply to the world as a whole, not just the world of boxing.

Johnny was a big fan of the Rage Against the Machine song “Killing in the Name,” which features the lyrics, “F–k you, I won’t do what ya tell me” repeated again and again. He lived the lyric, and didn’t care what toes he broke when he smashed his heels down for emphasis when discussing boxing’s moribund amateur scene. The lack of vitality there was a constant theme, as was the flattening of the globe. The fall of communism meant free enterprise opened up in Eastern Europe and that meant opportunities for Americans to travel overseas to earn a decent payday lessened, because Euros were willing to fight for a lesser fee. The big two, HBO and Showtime, were in Johnny’s bulls-eye all the time, as he believed they owned too much power, as they controlled the purse strings and thus were able call too many shots. They acted as promoter, matchmaker and broadcaster, he said, so guys like him lost their voice. And the promoters, back to them. They just took TV money now, didn’t have to hustle to put asses in seats, so they coasted, and the sport suffered. Bos knew there was no inducement to build the brand of boxing now, and as a result, the “boxing is dying” meme has been flourishing for 25 or more years.

Johnny would tell you he got stiffed more and more as the decades progressed, that while a handshake used to be good enough, that bond of flesh-and-word had disintegrated. In truth, as his power waned, people did indeed take advantage of his diminished stature. They know who they are, and Johnny would like it if their consciences would admit, at least in private, in the night when darkness allowed them cover to feel the guilt and shame, that they screwed him.

Maybe he didn’t present his ideas with the polish, with a political sheen that would have made them and him more palatable, but nobody with a heart could take issue with his frequent suggestion to put 1% of US revenue from the sport, especially from those mega-grossing pay-per-views, into a pot to help pay for the medical expenses of boxers down the line. If all of us listened to Johnny more, and applied the medicine he knew was needed to heal the ills of the game, the sport would be far better off. Sorry, Bos.

I’m sorry I sometimes tuned you out, because a diet of too much truth was hard to handle for me. That is to my discredit, my man. I will try and do my small part and rail about your pet peeves now and again, because you had it right. Our citizens, and the residents of Box Nation, often fall into a complacent state, and choose “serenity” and acceptance and a constant stream of rationalizations, instead of trafficking in truth and seeking necessary change. You were an influence on me more than I told you, and I apologize for not telling you that. Thanks for your predictions and anecdotes and rambling phone calls. The rambling was, looking back, delightful.
See ya!

 

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Conor McGregor vs. Pac-Man: The Circus is Back in Town

Arne K. Lang

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MMA superstar Conor McGregor stole some of the thunder from a busy Saturday in boxing with his announcement that his next fight would come against Manny Pacquaio. “boxing Manny Pacquiao next in the Middle East,” McGregor tweeted on Friday, Sept. 25.

Jayke Johnson, a representative of Pacquiao, confirmed that there have been preliminary talks. Johnson hinted that this would be Pacquiao’s final fight and said that Senator Manny would be donating a large chunk of his purse to COVID-19 relief in the Philippines. The situation is bad there. As of Sept. 22, there were 291,789 confirmed infections in a population of approximately 109 million. The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that travelers postpone all travel to the Philippines, including essential travel.

The best guess is that the fight will take place early next year. Pacquiao is unlikely to leave his homeland until the pandemic has abated there.

Pac-Man, who turns 42 in December, last fought in July of 2019 when he further cemented his great legacy with a 12-round decision over previously undefeated Keith Thurman. McGregor, 32, last fought in January of this year. His fight with Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone was over in 40 seconds. Cerrone left the ring with a fractured nose and orbital bone.

In June, McGregor announced his retirement, but few people gave it any credibility. McGregor was just making noise which he is very good at. But like him or loathe him, the fellow is certainly adept at selling his brand. In the world of combat sports, the Dubliner is Mr. Charisma.

In 2019, McGregor was reportedly the 4th wealthiest sports personality in the world, trailing only Mayweather, Lionel Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo. And his bank balance was growing in leaps and bounds because the whiskey he was promoting was flying off the shelf. Proper No. 12, a three-year-old blended Irish whiskey bottled at Ireland’s oldest distillery, was launched in September of 2018 and reportedly attracted $1 billion in sales in its very first year. (The “12” refers to the postal code of the neighborhood where McGregor grew up.)

McGregor started the company; he wasn’t merely the spokesperson. The parent company of Tequila maker Cuervo recently upped their stake in Proper No. 12 to 49 percent. Without a punch or a kick, McGregor made a big score.

(By the way, the popularity of Conor McGregor’s libation isn’t matched by the reviews. A bottle was sent complimentary to a business magazine in London with instructions to pass it around the office. No one liked it. “It smelled like ethanol and tasted only marginally better,” said one imbiber.)

McGregor’s fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in June of 2017 attracted a whopping 4.3 million pay-per-view buys. The match at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas drew 13,094 paid and a live gate of $55.4 million, the second highest in Nevada history (albeit well short of the $72 million gate generated by Mayweather vs Pacquiao in 2015).

McGregor plainly won the first round in that fight and won the first three rounds in the eyes of many observers. But by the ninth round the Irishman was clearly fatigued and Mayweather stopped him in the 10th.

Many people, including this reporter, believe that there was a gentleman’s agreement in place whereby Mayweather agreed to fight the first few rounds under wraps to give the paying fans more bang for their buck. In a recent tweet, McGregor said that he was disgusted with himself for not following up his early advantage and that, if he could go back and do it over, he would give Floyd a good kick in the neck because getting disqualified wouldn’t have stung as bad as getting TKOed.

The preamble to the McGregor-Mayweather fandango was a four-city promotional tour that began in Los Angeles and coursed through Toronto and New York before concluding in London. At each stop, the public was invited to come and witness the fighters’ vent their mutual enmity and the circus was live-streamed on several social media platforms.

Each session was marked by an orgy of F-bombs. Veteran boxing writer Bernard Fernandez, after tuning-in to the Toronto segment, articulated the feelings of many as he voiced his disgust: “(The show) defiled whatever remained of the nobility of combat sports, and in a broader sense the fabric of civilized society.”

If there is a promotional tour for McGregor-Pacquiao, it will take a different tack. Manny is deeply religious; he won’t play that game.

Historically, some fights for charity have been little more than exhibitions. A writer for an MMA site speculates that McGregor-Pacquiao may be contested under a modified rule set, whatever that means. Regardless, if this event comes off, it wouldn’t command my patronage if I were anything other than a boxing writer obliged to give it a look-see.

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Emerging Heavyweights: Three to Watch

Ted Sares

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Victor Faust (Viktor Vykhryst), a 6’6” 232-pound Ukrainian heavyweight (and long-time amateur) is a product of the great amateur program in the Ukraine–one that has produced the likes of the Klitschko brothers, Oleksandr Usyk, Vasily Lomachenko, and more recently Sergiy Derevyanchenko.

At first glance, his amateur record does not appear stellar, but a closer review indicates several SD’s or MD’s.

Earlier this month, on Sept. 20, he scored a frightening one punch KO when he fought the more experienced Gabriel Enguema (10-9) in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro. It was his third KO victory in three professional fights—all in 2020. The end came as a result of a Doctor Steelhammer-like perfect straight right to knock the Spaniard out cold. It brought back memories of Wladimir’s KO of Calvin Brock in 2006. Faust displayed skills, size, a solid chin, and power in dispatching his opponent.

“…Soon everyone will …see how skillful he is. He’s the complete package and will compete in massive fights sooner rather than later.” Erol Ceylan (Faust’s German promoter)

Oh yes, Faust beat Romanian Mihai Nistor in the amateurs and the talented Nistor in turn halted Anthony Joshua in the amateurs back in 2011. (Nistor also went 1-2 with Filip Hrgovic and lost to Tony Yoka in 2012.) Of course, one must be circumspect when using logic in boxing. Now that Nistor has turned pro, he will be worth following as his style is very much Tysonesque.

There are others who have—at a minimum– the same potential as Faust.

Tony Yoka

tony

Hard-hitting Frenchman 6’7” Tony Yoka (8-0) has beaten far better opposition than Faust and has a far better amateur record. In fact, he beat Filip Hrgovic and Joe Joyce in the 2016 Rio Games on the way to a Gold Medal. Recently, he dismantled veteran and fellow Frenchman Johan Duhaupas, a fringe contender with some notable notches on his belt. The end came in the first round by virtue of a crunching right uppercut.

Yoka perhaps could be slotted above Faust at this point.; he just might be the best of the new guys on the block. However, there are some dicey anti-doping issues that have tainted his reputation, though they do seem to be mostly resolved at this point.

Arslanbek Makhmudov

Arslanbek

This Russian “Lion,” 6’5 ½”, 260 pounds with an imposing muscular frame, is still another hungry prospect ready to break into the next tier. Nicknamed the “Lion,” — he also has been called “Predator” and “Beast — he is 10-0 (10 KOs).

He now lives and fights out of Montreal. The holder of two regional titles, he stopped a shot Samuel Peter in one round this past December.

“I’m confident that with my team, Eye of the Tiger Promotions and Golden Boy Promotions, I will reach my goal of becoming heavyweight champion of the world,” —Makhmudov.

This all said, The Lion needs some work on his technical skills as size can only go so far.

Makhmudov’s next opponent is Canadian heavyweight Dillon “Big Country” Carman (14-5) whose claim to fame is that he KOd comebacking Donovan Ruddock in 2015 in Toronto. This one will end differently for “Big Country.”

Others

Arguably, classy Americans Stephan Shaw (13-0), and Jared Anderson (6-0 with four KOs in the first round) could be added to the above. Filip Hrgovic and Efe Ajagba, both 6’6”, have already moved up.

A good yardstick is 6’5” American Jonathan Rice who lost a 10-round bout to Ajagba, was TKO’d in the seventh round Makhmudov, lost a 6-round decision to Tony Yoka, and a lost 6-round decision to Shaw.

Have I missed any?

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com of on Facebook.

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Jermell Charlo Unifies Super Welterweights Via Solar Plexus Punch

David A. Avila

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WBC super welterweight titlist Jermell Charlo knocked out IBF and WBA titlist Jeison Rosario with a knockout punch delivered to the solar plexus on Saturday to add two more belts to his collection.

“I’m definitely bringing home the straps,” said Charlo.

Shades of Bob Fitzsimmons.

Back in 1897, Fitzsimmons used the same solar plexus punch to dethrone Gentleman James Corbett for the heavyweight title in Carson City, Nevada.

In another casino city Charlo (34-1, 18 KOs) floored Dominican Republic’s Rosario (20-2-1, 14 KOs) three times at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. He and his brother co-headlined a heavy duty pay-per-view card with no fans in attendance on the Premier Boxing Champions card.

Charlo jumped on Rosario quickly in the first round when he charged and clipped him with a left hook to the temple. Down went the two-belt champion for the count. But he got up seemingly unfazed.

For the next several rounds Rosario was the aggressor and put the pressure on Charlo who was content to allow the Dominican to fire away. Occasionally the Houston fighter jabbed but allowed Rosario to pound up and down with both fists.

After allowing Rosario to get comfortable with his attack, suddenly Charlo stopped moving and connected with a short crisp counter left hook and right cross in the sixth round. Down went Rosario again and he got up before the count of 10.

Charlo said it was part of the game plan.

“I’m growing and I realize that the knockout will just come,” he said.

Charlo was in control with a patient style and allowed Rosario to come forward. But the Dominican was more cautious in the seventh.

In the eighth round Charlo jabbed to the head and then jabbed hard to Rosario’s stomach. The Dominican fighter dropped down on his seat as if felled by a gun shot. He could not get up and convulsed while on the floor. The referee Harvey Dock counted him out at 21 seconds of round eight.

“That jab that got to him must have landed in a vital point,” said Charlo after the fight. “I hope he recovers and bounces back.”

Charlo now has three of the four major super welterweight world titles.

WBC Super Bantamweight Title

Luis Nery (31-0, 24 KOs) captured the WBC super bantamweight title by unanimous decision over fellow Mexican Aaron Alameda (25-1, 13 KOs) in a battle between southpaws. The war between border town fighters was intense.

Nery, a former bantamweight world titlist, moved up a weight division and found Alameda to be a slick southpaw with an outstanding jab. At first the Tijuana fighter was a little puzzled how to attack but found his groove in the fourth round.

But Alameda, who fights out of Nogales, Mexico, began using combinations and finding success.  A crafty counter left uppercut caught Nery charging in a few times, but he managed to walk through them.

In the final two rounds Nery picked up the action and increased the pressure against the slick fighting Alameda, He forced the Nogales fighter to fight defensively and that proved enough to give the last two rounds for Nery and the victory by unanimous decision. The scores were 115-113, 116-112 and 118-110 for Nery who now holds the WBC super bantamweight world title. He formerly held the WBC bantamweight title.

Roman Wins

Danny “Baby-Faced Assassin” Roman (28-3-1, 10 KOs) managed to rally from behind and defeat Juan Carlos Payano (21-4, 9 KOs) in a battle between former world champions in a nontitle super bantamweight clash. It wasn’t easy.

Once again Roman fought a talented southpaw and in this fight Payano, a former bantamweight titlist, moved up in weight and kept Roman off balance for the first half of the fight. The jab and movement by the Dominican fighter seemed to keep Roman out of sync.

Roman, who fights out of Los Angeles, used a constant body attack to wear down the 35-year-old Payano and it paid off in the second half. Then the former unified world champion Roman began to pinpoint more blows to the body and head. With seconds left in the 12th and final round, a left hook delivered Payano down and through the ropes. Sadly, the referee missed the knockdown. It didn’t matter as all three judges scored it identical at 116-112 for Roman after 12 rounds.

“I made some adjustments and picked up the pace and got the win,” said Roman who formerly held the WBA and IBF super bantamweight world titles.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

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