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Johnny Bos: Large in Life, A Cult Figure in Death

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On his Facebook page, which can be found under “Johnny Bos Johnny Bos,” there were many telltale signs of where Big John’s head, heart and emotions were in the last few years. Weaved into this article are many of his own words in the last few months of his 61 years.

                                                                         *   *   *

On a blustery autumn afternoon in October, 1979, Johnny Bos stepped off the elevator into my office at Ring Magazine. He was wearing a full-length white mink coat, large-rimmed sunglasses and a white ski cap. He wore jeans and a Gerry Cooney T-shirt. His coat was open, revealing a baseball-sized boxing glove which hung from one of several chains around his neck. He was unshaven, but his blond mustache stood out.

As he stepped off the elevator, he ran into Bert Sugar and me, who were heading to O’Reilly’s Pub, the birthplace for so many of the classic Ring Magazines Bert and I put out. As Johnny looked at us and as we looked at him, Bert exclaimed, “What the hell are you dressed up as!!??”

Johnny just looked at Bert, in his black Fedora, paisley pants, blue denim shirt, a tie which matched nothing he was wearing plus a long cigar and said, “Look who’s talking…Mr. Fashion Statement himself.” We had a good laugh, then Bert said, “Come with us, we’re working on the next issue. I’ll buy you a drink.” That was around noon when we headed to O’Reilly’s. We didn’t walk out of O’Reilly’s until midnight, but our next magazine was all but put together. Bert bought Johnny more than one drink. He even offered to pay him. Johnny accepted the drinks—each one a rum and Coke. He refused to take the money. He said helping us put together the story ideas for an issue of The Ring—our Ring—was worth it. He was always there for us.

Today, November 17, 2012, is 26 years I have been straight & sober. I might be the only person who went from being a successful alcoholic to (being) a sober bum.”

                                                                         *   *   *

I met Johnny in late 1976, in front of Sunnyside Garden Arena in Sunnyside, Queens, N.Y. We were there to catch a fight card featuring light heavyweight contender Bobby Cassidy against Luis Vinales. Also on the card was a rematch between my friend, Paddy Dolan, and Gerald Odum, who had beaten me eight months earlier in my pro debut.

Johnny and I were introduced by Malcolm “Flash” Gordon, who stood in front of the arena and sold his boxing newsletters, “Tonight’s Boxing Program.”

“You guys will get along great,” said Flash. “You are two of the biggest boxing junkies I know.”

Flash was right. Over the next 20 years, I watched Johnny move from being a gym rat (he loved spending time at Gil Clancy’s Gym on 28th Street in Manhattan) to being one of the most sought after matchmakers and booking agents in the country. In the early 1980’s, while on a trip to a fight card in Atlantic City, I took the 2 ½ hour ride from New York City to Atlantic City with Hall of Fame matchmaker Teddy Brenner. When the talk came to matchmakers, he said, “I want you to watch three young matchmakers. They are going to be three of the best ever.” The names he mentioned were Bruce Trampler, Ron Katz and Johnny Bos. Trampler already has been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Katz is on his way there. Hopefully, so is Bos.

October 16, 2012—They took everything away from me, but my name will only get bigger and bigger as time goes on, even after I’m gone. Gottttttttttttttttta Gooooooooooooooooo. With Love, from Bos. Ccccccccyaaaaa!

*   *   *

Johnny, whose given name was Bosdal, was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. He was a student of boxing, but little else, and left school before 11th grade. He took a job in a department store, then went to work on the graveyard shift for the U.S. Postal Service. Being up all night probably honed him for his oncoming career as a matchmaker/booking agent, as he did his best work between the hours of 11:00 p.m.-5:00 a.m.

When fledgling boxing managers Mike Jones and Dennis Rappaport signed two promising fighters from Long Island, New York—Howard Davis Jr. and Gerry Cooney—in the mid-1970’s, they had the money to make things happen, but not the boxing knowledge. What they lacked in that department they more than made up for by hiring Bos to make matches for Olympic champion Davis and the towering left hook artist from Huntington, L.I. The talents of Davis and Cooney, along with the expert matchmaking of Bos, helped to quickly move each fighter into title contention.

Quickly, other managers and promoters saw what a matchmaking genius Bos was, and he became the busiest matchmaker in the boxing world. In the late 1970’s, at a fight card—where else—Bos met a young matchmaker from White Plains, N.Y., Ron Katz. The two became close friends. Young Katz quickly began learning from Bos, and soon the boxing business had the Boz-Katz matchmaking seal on almost every card in the nation. If Bos-Katz didn’t actually make a match on the card, they gave other matchmakers ideas for matches…gave them phone numbers or had fighters call them.

He and Katz would talk on the phone thru the night—every night. They made matches, got opponents, sparring partners and helped other matchmakers who were in desperate need of assistance. They usually got no money. Occasionally, they got a “Thank You.” They didn’t care. They had each other to talk boxing to.

It was nothing for them to conference-call someone—after midnight. I lost track of how many times my home phone rang after 2:00 a.m. Upon fumbling for the phone, I’d hear the two of them—Heckle & Jeckle—singing, on key, “Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello.” I’d then go into another room and talk boxing with them, for a good hour or two, this, despite the fact I had to be into my office at The Ring in a few hours while Heckle & Jeckle slept the morning away. Thank goodness my boss was Bert Sugar!

“They can try as hard as they want to take the man out of boxing, but they’ll never take the boxing out of the man.”

*   *   *

Johnny loved music, and his tastes ran from the Temps, Four Tops and Marvin Gaye to Curtis Mayfield, David Bowie and Irene Cara (one of his favorite songs was Cara’s 1980’s hit, “Fame.”). He also loved his wearing his chains, his oversized boxing glove, his rings and his bling. Oh, there was also that full-length mink. Johnny loved his white mink, even in the warmer months. It was as common to see Johnny walk into a press conference in late April or early October wearing it as is was to see Don King with his hair pointed to the boxing heavens. Once, before Gerry Cooney fought Jimmy Young in Atlantic City, Jones & Rappaport, known in the industry as the “Wacko Twins,” told Bos he’d have to look presentable and professional at the casino in Atlantic City on the day of the fight, so they bought him a powder blue, three-piece suit.

“They told me there would be executives from CBS there and I would need to wear a suit,” Bos recalled. “I told them I didn’t own a suit and wasn’t gonna’ buy one. And what did I care if executives from CBS were there. They were there to see Cooney, not me.” But after the “Wacko Twins” bought Johnny the suit, he wore it.

“I kinda’ liked the way I looked,” recalled Bos recently. “It brought out my best features.”

Actually, Johnny’s best feature was his personality. Sure, his pimp-like mode of dressing on that 6’4” frame, which always held between 260-300 pounds, drew attention, but his quick wit, along with his deep passion and knowledge of the Sweet Science—both past and present—ingratiated him to everyone he came in contact with. Here was a man who loved what he did.

In a business known for its backstabbing and underhanded business deals, Johnny could be counted on and trusted. If he shook your hand on a deal, you could consider it done. In his decades of building the careers of so many fighters, Johnny gave more of himself than he ever took in return.

Few top fighters of the 1970’s, 80’s and early 90’s went through their career without being touched in some way by Johnny Bos. Once, he made a match for a rising contender who had stiffed him of a few thousand dollars a year earlier. It was one of the few times Johnny sought revenge. The opponent for the rising contender was a last-second replacement. Bos, who knew that styles make fights, made sure the opponent he chose was anything but the “right” opponent for the rising contender. When the fight was over, the rising contender was a fallen contender and Bos was thrilled.

After the fight, he laughed to me about what he had done.

“You’re bad, Johnny,” I said.

“I’m Johnny Bos, Johnny Bos, baddest dude there ever was!” he said with a roar.

But those moments were few and far between.

He watched with pride as many of the fighters he made matches for, including John “The Beast” Mugabi, John “The Heat” Verderosa, Michael Bentt, Joey Gamache, Tyrone Booze, Tracy Patterson, Jameel McCline, Paulie Malignaggi, Tyrell Biggs, Evander Holyfield, Mark Breland, Meldrick Taylor, Alex Ramos, Johnny Bumphus, Frank Bruno, Cornelius Boza-Edwards, Lloyd Honeyghan—and many more—all went on to major success in the industry.

Hall-of-Fame journalist Michael Katz once said that if he had to choose a person to be the National Commissioner of Boxing, his choice would be Johnny Bos.

To that, Johnny replied, “I could do the job, but I’d hate the politics.”

It was the politics of boxing, the truly dirty side of boxing politics, which broke Johnny’s big heart. After guiding and building the career of lightweight/junior welterweight Joey Gamache, Johnny steered him into a fight on February 26, 2000, against Arturo Gatti in Madison Square Garden. At that time, the New York State Athletic Commission was comprised of political hacks and cronies and run by a convicted felon who should have never been allowed to take control of the state agency.

At the weigh-in, Gatti was allowed to get on the scale and get right off, without the scale actually showing what his weight was. When Bos complained, the inept commission gave him a hard time, and told him the weigh-in was official. Gamache weighed 140 pounds. Gatti weighed 140 1/2. The following day, at the unofficial HBO weigh-in, Gamache was still a junior welterweight. Gatti wasn’t. He had ballooned four weight classes. He weighed in at 160 pounds. That night, he crushed Gamache, knocking him out in the second round.

Bos went wild, calling out the commission’s ineptitude on every level. As Gamache recovered in the hospital from the severe head trauma he suffered at the hands of the brutal-punching Gatti, Bos filed a protest on the grounds the weigh-in was handled improperly. Then he filed suit against the New York State Athletic Commission.

With the NYSAC breathing down Johnny’s neck he sought what he thought would be a bright future in the Sunshine State. He settled in Clearwater, Florida, originally telling me, “Lots of people head to Florida to finish out their lives and die. I’m going to Florida to live.”

It never worked out that way for him, especially after a New York court ruled in Gamache’s favor in the lawsuit, finding the NYSAC negligent in their handling of the weigh-in. But then came the blow which struck Big John harder than he had ever been hit before. The court refused to award Gamache any money. Not a penny. They ruled that the NYSAC’s negligence had not determined the outcome of the fight. He retreated to his apartment in Clearwater and stayed there for months.

“Don’t worry if there’s a hell below, because we’re all going to go.” -Curtis Mayfield

*   *   *

Johnny’s spirits were lifted, when, in 2009, he was inducted into the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame. The induction was exactly what Bos needed. In his 58 years, he had been addicted to three things: Cigarettes, alcohol and boxing. Over the years, he was able to completely eliminate alcohol (1986) and cigarettes (a few years later). But he never could rid himself of his addiction to boxing. Many of us know that same feeling. When the call came about his upcoming induction, Bos was elated.

He took to Facebook and proclaimed he was back. Then he met and became friends with Henry Rivalta, the head Boxing Operations for Acquinity Sports, the new boxing promotion powerhouse based out of South Florida. Rivalta made Bos his matchmaker.

Last November 30, I was in Sunrise, Florida, as one of four announcers for the Khabib Allakhverdiev-Joan Guzman fight. Acquinity was the promoter. Sitting in the hotel lobby, waiting for me were two of my favorite boxing people. One was my announcing colleague that night, Ron Borges, who, for years, has been one of the top boxing writers in the world. The other was Acquinity’s matchmaker, Johnny Bos.

Although I had spoken to him quite often on the phone, this was the first time I had seen Johnny in a few years. Both Borges and I didn’t think he looked well. The fact is, he wasn’t.

Recently, he put photo of a cardiologists’s report done on him in 2000, on Facebook. The report found Bos to have congestive heart failure, brought on by years of heavy smoking and excessive drinking. The doctor said his long term prognosis for Johnny was not encouraging. When Johnny put that doctor’s note on Facebook, he said “I’m still here, so f–k all of you!”

“I spoke to him last week,” said Henry Rivalta. “During our conversation, he said ‘Thank you, Henry. Thank you for everything.’ I don’t know how much longer this old heart can hold out. So thank you for bringing me back. Thank you for everything.’ He knew.”

On Saturday night at around 10:30 p.m., Johnny’s brother, Jeffrey, along with Jeffrey’s girlfriend, Suzanne McBee, found Johnny dead in his apartment.

On so many occasions since his departure from New York, Johnny Bos said to me, “Nobody remembers me. I was once a big name in boxing and now, nobody remembers me.” I assured him that wasn’t true.

Now, as he sits in his white mink at the bar inside the Pearly Gates (sorry, Johnny, you were wrong about where you were heading) with Bert Sugar, Wayne Kelly, Teddy Brenner, Emanuel Steward, Angelo Dundee and other boxing luminaries who graced us, Bos sees the outpouring of love his memory is getting, and knows he hasn’t been forgotten.

As long as boxing lives, he will never be forgotten.

 

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Boxing Odds and Ends: The Sept. 26 Horn of Plenty and Other Notes

Arne K. Lang

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Considering the constraints, the month of September has been a pretty good month for professional boxing. And the month will close with a flourish. Eight world title-holders will be in action on the 26th, the last Saturday of the month.

Five of the belt-holders will appear on the SHOWTIME PPV doubleheader featuring the Charlo twins. The most intriguing fight on that card finds Jermall Charlo risking his belt and his undefeated record against rugged Sergiy Deveryanchenko. At last glance, Jermall was a consensus 17/10 (minus-170) favorite. In baseball, a 17/10 favorite is a heavy favorite. In boxing, not so. A serious handicapper who wouldn’t think of laying 17/10 in a baseball game would have no hesitation about laying these odds in a boxing match.

When Deveryanchenko steps into the ring, 51 weeks will have elapsed since his last fight, his bruising tiff with Gennadiy Golovkin. Jermall Charlo hasn’t been on the shelf for quite that long, having last fought in December.

A more interesting match on this particular Saturday, at least in the eyes of this reporter, will unfold earlier that day in Munich when the curtain finally comes down on Season 2 of the long-drawn-out World Boxing Super Series. Two titles will be on the line when Mairis Briedis (26-1, 19 KOs) meets Yuniel Dorticos (24-1, 22 KOs).

Briedis’ lone defeat came at the hands of Oleksandr Usyk in a very competitive fight. Briedis won five rounds on two of the cards and won six rounds on the other. Dorticos’ lone defeat came on enemy turf in Sochi, Russia when he was stopped with eight seconds remaining in a doozy of a fight with Murat Gassiev.

Forget the titles; titles are a dime a dozen. These two guys are plainly the two best cruiserweights on the planet.

“The tickets are flying out the door and we expect to sell out within hours, if not days,” said co-promoter Kalle Sauerland at a pre-fight press conference.

That assertion was made way back on January 22 when the fight, originally targeted for late December of last year, was headed to Riga, Latvia, on March 21. That date didn’t work, nor did the re-scheduled date of May 16, and ultimately Riga didn’t work either.

Whatever tickets were sold, had to be refunded. There will be no fans in attendance when Briedis and Dorticos finally lock horns on Sept. 26 at a TV studio in Munich. The fight will air on DAZN in the U.S.

“Rest makes rust” was an often-heard caution when big gamblers of yesteryear dissected a boxing match. The late, great pricemaker Herb Lambeck reflexively shied away from boxers that had been inactive for a considerable period of time. For him, the Briedis-Dorticos match would likely be a head-scratcher. Both combatants have been inactive since June 15 of last year when they appeared in separate bouts on the same card in Riga, Briedis’s hometown. And they aren’t getting any younger. Briedis is 34 and Dorticos is 35.

The odds got nicked down somewhat when the site shifted from Riga with fans to Munich without, predictably so as Briedis, the first fighter from Latvia to win a world title, has an avid local following.

Briedis, the superior boxer, is a consensus 9/5 favorite. That seems a shade high as he won’t be able to feed off the crowd – there won’t be a crowd – and Dorticos, the Cuban KO Doctor, has a better chance of ending the fight with one punch. It wouldn’t be shocking if the fight followed a similar tack as the recent fight between Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin.

In case you missed it, Whyte was dominating his Russian adversary when things changed in a flash in the fifth round. Out of nowhere, Povetkin, the underdog, unleashed a picture-perfect uppercut that left Whyte flat on his back, unconscious before he hit the canvas. There have been other smashing one-punch knockouts this year – Ryan Garcia’s demolition of Francisco Fonseca comes quickly to mind – and there may be a few more, but it’s hard to visualize anyone topping Povetkin in the voting for Knockout of the Year.

By the way, if he wins it, Povetkin, 41, would be the second-oldest boxer to score the Knockout of the Year. George Foreman was 45 when he knocked out Michael Moorer in 1994. The source is The Ring magazine which has been issuing this award since 1989.

And if you happen to know the youngest fighter to score The Ring Knockout of the Year, then you’re pretty sharp. No, it’s not baby-faced Naoya Inoue, who is older (27) than he looks. The honor goes to the long-forgotten African-American/Filipino southpaw Morris East who was 19 when he knocked out defending WBA 140-pound champion Akinobu Hironaka in 1992.

In a rarity, it didn’t take long for Alexander Povetkin and Dillian Whyte to agree on a rematch. They will meet again on Nov. 21. The venue is undecided, but Eddie Hearn is hopeful that he can pot the fight somewhere outside his backyard “fight camp” with fans in attendance. The first lines on the fight show Whyte the favorite in the vicinity of 13/5. Povetkin-Whyte II will be a nice appetizer for the Errol Spence vs. Danny Garcia match that goes off later that day.

In an unrelated development, Fury-Wilder III is purportedly going to Allegiant Stadium, the new home of the Las Vegas Raiders, in late December. Bob Arum anticipates a crowd of 10,000-15,000 with social distancing protocols in place.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

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Meekins vs. Kawoya: File It Under Bizarre

Ted Sares

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 It was August 8, 1988. The location was Resorts International in Atlantic City. The main event featured New Yorker John Wesley Meekins (18-1-2) vs another New Yorker (via Uganda and Denmark) Mohammed Kawoya (11-3).

The rangy and skilled Meekins with a stellar amateur career was a clear favorite over the lesser known Kawoya who had fought only once in the US, losing to Jorge Maysonet on cuts at the Felt Forum. Meekins was expected to move on to a world title fight after dispatching Kawoya.

Meekins enjoyed a successful career between 1984 and 1994, fighting the likes of Davey Montana, Mike Mungin, Harold Brazier, Saoul Mamby, Santos Cardona, Darrin Morris (who won his last 16 fights in a row), and Terence Alli. He would lose to a prime Meldrick Taylor (20-0-1) in 1989 with the IBF World Super Lightweight title at stake.

On June 15, 1990, Meekins beat Santos Cardona over 12 rounds to win the NABF light-welterweight championship, but would lose it to Terence Alli some seven months later. It was downhill after that and he retired in November 1994 with a record of 24-5-2 after being stopped by so-so Darryl Lattimore.

Back to Meekins vs. Kawoya

 This one did not go as expected. After being decked in round 2, Kawoya dropped Meekins in the opening seconds of round 3. An exciting fight with multiple knockdowns and furious exchanges was in progress and the fans loved it.

An aroused Meekins then went after the Ugandan with a vengeance and set up one of the most bizarre endings that few boxing fans have ever heard about, much less witnessed, as he again dropped Kawoya this time with a fast left hook. He then went for the kill. Referee Paul Venti sensed it and moved in—perhaps prematurely– as Meekins unleashed what he hoped would be a fight-ending volley of hard shots.

 As soon as Venti stepped in to stop the fight, Kawoya landed a right that dropped Meekins and had him crawling on the canvas and holding on to the ropes devoid of his senses for at least ten seconds. The punch was thrown at the exact moment that Venti ended matters and Venti didn’t realize what had occurred.

 While Kawoya thought he has scored a clean KO and celebrated wildly, the fact was that Venti had ended the fight a fraction of a second before and his decision would stand.

The fans not only enjoyed a great fight, they witnessed something truly memorable—something that had to be seen to be believed; namely, a winner struggling to get up and a loser celebrating what he thought was a knockout.

Kawoya pulled out of the rematch because of a throat infection and Saoul Mamby took his place as a late sub. The Ugandan never fought again, while Meekins never got the title shot that a more impressive effort might have gotten him.

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com or on Facebook and welcomes comments.

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Price and Programming Lineup for Sept. 26 Charlo Twins PPV Doubleheader

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PRESS RELEASE — SHOWTIME Sports has announced the price and programming lineup for the first-of-its-kind pay-per-view doubleheader on Saturday, September 26, featuring two stacked fight cards each headlined by one of the world champion Charlo twins in an event presented by Premier Boxing Champions. THE SHOWTIME PPV event, CHARLO DOUBLEHEADER, is available for purchase at a suggested retail price (SRP) of $74.95 and includes six compelling fights, five of which are world championship bouts.

 THE EVENT

The first card of the SHOWTIME PPV telecast will be headlined by undefeated WBC Middleweight World Champion Jermall Charlo defending his title against Sergiy Derevyanchenko. WBA Super Bantamweight Champion Brandon Figueroa will defend his title against Damien Vázquez in the co-featured bout, while WBO Bantamweight World Champion John Riel Casimero faces off against Duke Micah in the pay-per-view opener. Following the main event and a 30-minute intermission, the second three-fight card headlined by WBC Super Welterweight World Champion Jermell Charlo facing unified 154-pound World Champion Jeison Rosario will begin. Luis Nery will battle Aaron Alameda for the vacant WBC Super Bantamweight World Championship in the co-feature, while former unified champion Danny Román faces former champion Juan Carlos Payano in a WBC Super Bantamweight title eliminator bout to open the second three-fight card of the pay-per-view.

TELECAST TEAM

The announce team for the SHOWTIME PPV telecast is comprised of the most experienced and decorated boxing team on television. Veteran sportscaster Brian Custer is the host. Versatile combat sports voice Mauro Ranallo handles blow-by-blow action alongside Hall of Fame analyst Al Bernstein and four-time world champion Abner Mares. Two Hall of Famers round out the telecast team: boxing historian Steve Farhood as unofficial scorer, and world-renowned ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr.

THE JOURNEY: CHARLO DOUBLEHEADER and DIGITAL PROGRAMMING LINEUP

In the leadup to the unprecedented two-event pay-per-view, SHOWTIME Sports will produce and premiere THE JOURNEY: CHARLO DOUBLEHEADER, a 30-minute show that chronicles the unique story of Jermall and Jermell, twins born one minute apart in Houston, Texas, as they rise through the ranks and put themselves in position to become global boxing stars. Voiced by SHOWTIME boxing host Brian Custer, THE JOURNEY: CHARLO DOUBLEHEADER features rarely seen footage and gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at their most pivotal career moments, motivations, and life outside of the ring.

THE JOURNEY will premiere on SHOWTIME on Sunday, September 13 at 11:30 p.m. ET/PT and will be available for free on the SHOWTIME Sports YouTube channel and all SHOWTIME On Demand platforms.

SHOWTIME Sports will also release new episodes, of the original, digital franchiseRING RESUME which examines the career progressions of boxing’s top stars, available on the SHOWTIME Sports YouTube channel. Beginning Monday, September 21, the SHOWTIME Boxing Snapchat page will focus on high-energy fight and training camp highlights featuring the Charlos. In addition, the Snapchat page will feature the Charlos’ RING RESUMES and THE JOURNEY to expand reach to young audiences with short-form, fast-paced storytelling. Plus, Brendan Schaub and Kenny Florian will preview the keys to the fights on BELOW THE BELT BREAKDOWN, available on the BELOW THE BELT YouTube channel.

MORNING KOMBAT INTERMISSION

Combat sports aficionados Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell will host a 30-minute intermission show after the conclusion of the Charlo vs. Derevyanchenko main event and the start of the second three-fight card. The duo, hosts of the popular live combat sports talk show and podcast MORNING KOMBAT, will also host live streams of the main events press conference and official weigh-in in addition to providing in-depth coverage on MORNING KOMBAT throughout the week. The official weigh-in and main events press conference will stream live on the SHOWTIME Sports YouTube channel and SHOWTIME Boxing Facebook page.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

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