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At Savarese Fights in Houston, They Come To See Fights, Not Fighters

Kelsey McCarson

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The Bayou City Events Center, located just on the outskirts of Houston, is a relatively small venue. Essentially, the frequent host to former heavyweight contender Lou Savarese’s promotional ventures in pugilism is three large ballrooms.

Savarese sets up shop in the middle ballroom. The blue ring is tattered and worn, but the ropes are tight and the floor is flat. Around the ring, Savarese sets up reserved tables for sponsors and high-priced ticket buyers. They are dressed in something only a bit less than their Sunday bests, insomuch as some of the men wear t-shirts tucked into their jeans and the ladies on their arms are adorned for something more licentious than prayer.

Behind them, others sit. There are chairs without tables lined all around and the dress code gets less strict and scantier with each meter of distance. Each seat is pointed directly toward the object of attention: that tired blue ring that holds the fighters dancing upon it perfectly high enough for everyone to see.

And the people pack in to see it. Many of them have to stand along the walls.

This is local boxing at its best. Savarese has perfected it. Unlike bigger shows, fans here do not come to see stars. Sure, these men can build local fan bases and dream of something more than entrance music, but for the most part those in attendance are here to see fights, not fighters.

The boxers congregate together in the ballroom to the left. Red corner, blue corner, it doesn’t matter. There are no dressing rooms here, just a large, open space to get taped up, loosened and warmed before entering the fray.

Welterweights Felipe Reyes and Jonathan O’Neal open the action. The rangy O’Neal wants to make it a jabbing contest, but his compact Mexican friend, Reyes, will have none of it. Reyes is a pressure fighter. He likes to brawl, and he has a good enough chin to do it. Like any fighter wearing trunks emblazoned with the Mexican flag, Reyes digs hooks to the body like a demon. But O’Neal is tough, and when it’s proven it won’t be a jabbing contest, the tough welterweight, who slightly resembles Paul Williams, obliges his opponent by letting his hands go, too. Reyes comes forward in the first and takes punches to the head and body just as he intends, all the while digging to O’Neal’s torso.

In the second, O’Neal’s corner is screaming at him. “Box him! Get off the ropes! Box him! Box him, O’Neal! Box him!”

It is easier said than done, and the rest of the fight proves it. O’Neal is hurt in the third. He’s right where he’s not supposed to be, the corner, and Reyes is making him pay. But O’Neal is a tough customer, and he’s game enough to make Reyes work for it. O’Neal seems to figure things out a bit at the start of the fourth. He’s moving his feet better and catching Reyes on the way in, but the marauder keeps on coming forward anyway. By the middle of the round, O’Neal is too tired to keep it up. The final round’s bell is merciful to him.

Judges at ringside score the fight as they so often do, for the fighter moving forward. Reyes gets the nod 40-36, 40-36 and 39-37.

Next up are light heavyweights Jeremy Hall and Joseph Walker. Hall, in blue and white trunks, carries a high guard and works behind a jab. Walker, in black trucks with a white stripe down each leg, carries his hands low, moves laterally and tries to get his thicker body behind hooks and uppercuts. It’s no good. Hall hits him early and often in the first, and has him hurt twice before the bell sounds.

Walker has a good corner. They tell him to use a jab and he does so with success in the second. He’s a different fighter for the opening minute, but a hard right hand from Hall reminds him he’s not the boss tonight. Soon, he’s getting pummeled again, despite giving Walker different sorts of targets by changing back and forth from orthodox to southpaw.

“Move, Joe!” his corner yells at him in the third. He’s not, though, and after getting shellacked on the ropes some more, he seems even more discouraged than ever. Before long, he’s corralled into a corner. Next, he’s in another. Then another. He makes it out of the set, perhaps bolstered by the counter right hand he landed on Hall’s chin toward the end of it.

Surprise! Hall switches stances at the start of the fourth, too. Soon, he’s back orthodox though, and he’s clubbing Walker with hooks and overhand rights just like always.

“Get off the ropes, Joe!” says his corner. “Defend yourself,” whispers the referee who wants to stop it.

Walker does both just enough to make it to the end of the round. Judges at ringside award the bout to Hall, 40-36 all three ways.

Next, it’s cruiserweight Hasam Mohamed taking on light heavyweight Robert Hill at a catch weight of 185 pounds. Both men are muscular and in shape, but it is clear from the outset how much larger the cut up Mohamed is.

Mohamed’s a jabber, but throws it, and everything else coming behind it, like you just called his mother something terrible. His eyes pop out of his head and he wears a scowl with every mean blow, but he doesn’t land any of them with the authority he throws them with. The professional novice is reckless.

Still, Hill learns enough at the start of it to know he doesn’t want to trade too much leather with Mohamed. He covers up, then ducks down to grab mean Mohamed in between careful jabs and right crosses. The second is more of the same: wild and angry swings, tugging and grabbing, frowns and snarls. Mohamed lets it get to him a bit, and starts leading with his head enough to have a point deducted. Later on, he’s reaching back far as he can like he’s throwing a baseball and hurling his fist at his easily prepared by now opponent with everything he’s got.

Something like a boxing match breaks out early in the third. Both are jabbing at each other for a bit, but it devolves into more ugly chaos soon enough. The grey haired referee scolds them like schoolboys but it doesn’t matter. Things don’t change. Hill lands some clean counters here and there to maybe take the round.

The final round is the same. The burr-headed Mohamed looks and fights like a football player. He lands more shoulders than fists. On the other hand, Hill fights with more precision but carries himself as if he wouldn’t make the team altogether.

The end result is a split decision win for Robert Hill. Judges score it twice for him, 39-36, 38-37, and once for Mohamed, 38-37.

The sweet science returns to form by way of junior middleweights Jonathan Casimere and Booker Arthur. They’re quick, skilled and respectful of boxing’s dogmas. Casimere is polite. He greets his opponent, Arthur, before they start the fight with a fist bump. After the bell rings, though, the shorter Arthur is greeted with long, straight right hands over the top of his guard.

The second round is more of the same, though now Casimere is mixing in hooks. Arthur takes a good punch. He wears black trunks and high gray socks, each adorned with Batman’s black and yellow bat symbol. The pace quickens in the third, mostly because Casimere seems more intent to end things. He tires himself out, though, so Arthur gets a bat-flurry in while he rests. Emboldened, Arthur rushes in as fast as he can. Casimere sidesteps him and let’s Arthur run face first into the ropes. On the rebound, he cracks Arthur up top to the head. It’s nice work, though slightly behind the head. The two fight in a phone booth for the rest of it, and trade flurries until they hear the crack of the bell.

The final round is a crackerjack. The two men fight passionately toe-to-toe for three full minutes. Both want to win, and it shows. It isn’t Figueroa-Arakawa but it works.

Judges give the fight to Casimere by majority decision. The scores read 39-37, 39-37 and 38-38.

Featherweights Pablo Cruz and Heron Saucedo Jr. come out next. Saucedo is proud of his entrance music, until he realizes Cruz, the 2011 national champion of El Salvador, is coming in to the sounds of an entire live drum section. Cruz wears blue shorts and dances to the rhythmic sounds of his minions. His people are louder than anyone else here, and they set themselves apart by wearing blue shirts with their fighter’s name on them.

Cruz has quality. He’s fast handed and skilled. Saucedo is no chump, but he’s getting beaten in just about all facets of the game right from the get go. Team Cruz loves it. Chants begin. “Pablo! Pablo! Pablo! Pablo!”

Cruz catches Saucedo clean with a counter right hand in the second, and soon he’s strafed him enough to bring blood spurting from his nose. The ringside doctor says he’s good to go, so Cruz continues his patient onslaught. The third starts as the second ended, more patient stalking by Cruz, more cautious circling and brave strike attempts by Saucedo. Here comes the blood again. The crowd chants when they see it. Cruz is breaking him down now.

The fourth round is just a river of blood streaming from Saucedo’s nose. His arm is covered in it, and Cruz does all he can to make it stay that way. It splatters on top of the writer at ringside from The Sweet Science who keeps typing anyway.

All three judges score the fight for the fighter who made it rain blood, Pablo Cruz. He leaves to what isn’t just a drum section, but a full band of happy worshippers dancing and cheering for him with a giant El Salvaroean flag.

Lightweight Omar Tello does his best to outdo Cruz. Tello, of Houston, has a boisterous crowd of onlookers cheering and chanting for him, too. “Tello! Tello! Tello!” they yell. Opponent Jose Rangel tries a good ol’ fashioned blitzkrieg approach at the start to shut them up, but is quickly countered and sent reeling. A right hand stuns him. Soon, he’s getting blitzkrieged himself right back to the adjacent corner. Tello puts him down to his knee with a quick combination and that is where he stays until he is counted out at 56 seconds of the first round.

The crowd never stops cheering.

It’s time for the heavyweights. Roberto Silva Jr., the hometown kid, drapes himself with a cape over his robe that is also the Mexican flag. This goes over well with people in attendance. His pudgy counterpart, Emmanuel Calzada, is the kind of fighter you expect when you see he’s wearing tennis shoes instead of those designed for the ring. He looks hurried and resorts to hastily thrown haymakers whenever he decides to let his hands go.

The ring quakes from the men’s girth, though they appear normal by heavyweight standards.

A hard right hand sends Calzada down fast in the first, but the referee rules it a rabbit punch. No matter, Silva is pummeling him pillar to post again soon enough. Calzada makes it through the first, even landing a straight right hand in the round to prove he knows how to do it. The two men tire in the second, especially Calzada who is eating hard jabs and power shots. The crowd goes wild for the kid, though, when he finally lands some of those haymakers. In the third, Silva crushes Calzada to the body, then follows it up twice up stairs to break the kid’s nose. The bout is halted at 56 seconds of round 3 with Calzada on his feet but bewildered by the impact.

Super middleweight Gianni Giambi and Cody Perez are the last four-rounder tonight. The bald-headed Giambi has a tattoo under his heart in the shape of Texas, and he fights like a bull. He aggressively charges his prey, Perez, who appears the sheep tonight. He’s got a white across stitched onto his black shorts along with “Psalm 144:1” underneath.

Giambi pounds Perez to the ropes and heads in fast for the kill. It’s too fast.

Perez, whose bible verse indicates he possesses hands trained by God for battle, lands a perfect right hand counter across Giambi’s chin. His head snaps around like a pinwheel and he crashes down hard to the canvas. He’s out. It’s a brutal, devastating blow that leaves Giambi flat on his back, under the ropes and halfway into a judge’s lap. It’s scary for a bit, but he makes it back from dreamland and gets to his feet. He looks more embarrassed than injured.

The final bout of the night is junior welterweight Daniel Garcia against Juan Serrano. Garcia is the headliner tonight. His pompadour head is clean, and his body is fit and lean. He’s a good fighter, the kind you can tell has spent long hours at the gym honing his craft. This opponent, Serrano, is a mystery, but he carries himself as if he’s the same as Garcia. He’s got thick arms but skinny legs. Both have the look of fighters. You know it when you see it. It’s there.

The first round opens with jabs. Garcia is light and nimble. His arms are shorter than his opponents, but he glides across our blue floor like a cloud of smoke. He’s just close enough to punch, it seems, whenever he wants to be. He doubles and triples the jab when he’s there, and blocks the returns as he leaves. Jab established, Garcia starts bringing in his right hand, too. Sometimes it is straight like a knife. Other times, it loops back behind his opponent’s ear like a slinky. He’s winning.

In between the first and second rounds, Garcia stands in the corner. His trunks say “six pounds, ten ounces” on the left leg. The front says “Garcia,” the back, “Perez.” Meanwhile, Serrano sits and listens intently to his corner. No doubt, they’re telling him to keep the shorter Garcia at the end of his longer punches. His blue, black and white shorts look like swim trunks.

Serrano does his best to do as his corner told him in the second. Garcia’s head is snapped back to the sky by a jab he just missed blocking. Serrano does more of it, and follows it up with hooks and uppercuts. Garcia changes now. He’s moving laterally and trying to leap inside to do damage instead of boxing like before. Serrano sees it, and pops Garcia with a right hand that stuns him. Garcia has to hold on to gather his wits.

Garcia can’t seem to block the jab anymore in the third. It’s hitting him, so he decides to move in closer and throw combinations. A left hook catches Serrano off balance and stumbles him ever so slightly. Garcia is pleased. He sends a sharp jab to Serrano’s body, then ducks and dodges the return. Garcia is back in control. The round ends with a looping right hand to Serrano’s head. He’s not hurt, but Garcia’s punches are landing more and more now.

The two stand up to each other in the fourth. It’s time to find out what is what. Garcia lands his shots, but finds out Serrano’s are harder. He’s dazed a bit and tries to use his legs to no avail. Seconds before the bell rings, Garcia is dumped to the canvas by a clean left hook. He makes it to his feet quickly, receives the obligatory count to 8 and heads back to his corner to recalibrate.

Serrano’s long punches are landing harder in the fifth. He’s keeping Garcia on the end of them like his corner wants, and he’s getting lots of torque for them out of his twisting hips. Garcia lands a hook inside on the ropes, but Serrano shakes it off. Serrano is the stalker now. Garcia can’t keep him off. Serrano blisters Garcia with an uppercut, but it is taken well. Garcia recovers with quick combos in close, but they are mostly arm punches now. The thunder in the round is landed by Serrano.

The final round is here. It’s almost time to go home now. Tomorrow is Friday, so most everyone here will peel themselves out of bed in the morning and head to work. It’s time to finish the drinks and start getting ready to head home for the night. The sold out crowd is restless.

Serrano is patient in the sixth, but he can tell Garcia is tiring so he can’t help but trap him up against the ropes. Garcia has to hold on again after a right hook, but once he gathers himself he’s right back at it. Garcia fights to the bitter end, as does Serrano. It’s a good, clean fight, the kind fight fans come out to the Bayou City Events Center in Houston to see. The gregarious Savarese, who’s tasted the power of George Foreman, Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, has done it again.

Judges score the fight for mystery man, Serrano, by split decision. The scores are 58-55 and 57-56 for Serrano, and 57-56 Garcia. A night at the fights in Houston is over.

Follow @KelseyMcCarson on Twitter. 

 

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Jaime Munguia Wins by Split Lip at Fantasy Springs

David A. Avila

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A savage Jaime Munguia uppercut led to a knockout victory over Tureano Johnson but it was nip and tuck for several rounds in the Mexican fighter’s second foray in the middleweight division on Friday.

Munguia (36-0,29 KOs) busted open the lip of Johnson (21-3-1, 15 KOs) and that fighter’s hopes of an upset victory in front of zero fans at Fantasy Spring Casino in Indio, CA. But for a short while, each took their pound of flesh.

Johnson jumped on Munguia from the opening bell with a bruising attack. Using his legs and shoulder to keep the Tijuana fighter frozen and short chopping right hands that seemed to confuse the taller Mexican fighter, he pinned the former super welterweight world titlist along the ropes.

“He is a fighter with an annoying style, so I tried to adjust because he really surprised us in the first round,” said Munguia, 24. “They told me to adjust and get my distance. Little by little we did. He was very strong.”

After minor adjustments were made Munguia began finding a home for vicious right and left uppercuts. They proved to be the perfect antidote for the Johnson rushes and snapped the Bahamian native’s head back repeatedly.

Back and forth the fight went, Johnson boring forward and scoring with repeated rights and Munguia unleashing combinations from long range and uppercuts on the inside.

Finally, in the sixth round, a left uppercut snapped back Johnson’s head and referee Raul Caiz stopped the fight. He led Johnson to the ringside physician who examined the split lip and allowed 20 more seconds. The fight resumed and Munguia unleashed another merciless combination.

The ringside physician advised referee Caiz to stop the fight and it was ruled a knockout win for Munguia at the end of the sixth round.

“I was very anxious for this fight and I learned a lot from this fight,” said Munguia.

Welterweights

A battle between undefeated welterweights saw Rashidi Ellis (23-0, 14 KOs) use his speedy combinations to keep distance against pressure fighting Alexis Rocha (16-1) and win by unanimous decision after 12 rounds.

No knockdowns were scored but judges saw Ellis winning 116-112 twice and 115-113.

“It was a great fight I came out victorious against an undefeated fighter,” said Ellis. “It was my hand speed and footwork.”

WBO Light Flyweight World Title

Elwin Soto (18-1, 12 KOs) successfully defended the WBO light flyweight world title by unanimous decision after 12 rounds versus Nicaragua’s Carlos Buitrago (32-6-1, 18 KOs). No knockdowns were scored the in fight that seemed closer than the judges scores 119-109, 117-111, 115-113 all for Soto.

Soto pressured Buitrago throughout the fight but seemed to be out-punched by the counter-puncher. Still, neither fighter was ever in danger of being floored.

Flyweights

Marlen Esparza (8-1) used speedy combinations and perfectly-timed counters to hand Sulem Urbina (12-1) her first loss as a professional in a flyweight fight that went eight rounds.

A 2012 Olympic bronze medalist, Esparza, 31, fights out of Houston.

Urbina, 30, formerly fought for the Mexican National Team and lives in Phoenix.

Photo credit: Tom Hogan / Golden Boy Promotions

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A Halloween-Inspired Homage to Bernard Hopkins

Bernard Fernandez

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A Halloween-Inspired Homage to Bernard Hopkins

A TSS CLASSIC — It is that time of year. The late-October autumn air on the East Coast is crisp and cool, and throughout America kids are looking forward to trick-or-treat. Go into any neighborhood and you’ll see jack-o-lantern faces carved into pumpkins, ghosts fashioned out of old bedsheets hanging from tree branches, cardboard witches taped to front doors.

Only two of Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins’ 55 professional bouts have taken place in October, but in a very real sense this is his special time, too. Why? Because he is boxing’s equivalent of Michael Myers, the impossible-to-kill night stalker of all those “Halloween” movies, the bogeyman who offed an inordinately high number of unsuspecting teenagers and routinely transformed Jamie Lee Curtis into a screaming, quivering mass of terrified victimhood.

Saturday night, in that haunted mausoleum known as Boardwalk Hall where he has done some of his best work, boxing’s ageless hobgoblin again came out of the shadows to spoil someone else’s party. This time it was the much-younger Kelly Pavlik –OK, so he isn’t exactly a teenager–who was executed. And that grimacing older fellow playing the role of Jamie Lee Curtis was Top Rank founder Bob Arum, who didn’t shriek out loud but looked like he just had swallowed a whole mess of something foul-tasting. Hopkins’ ridiculously easy, 12-round unanimous decision over Pavlik hadn’t followed the predicted script that called for him to finally be battered senseless and forever dragged from his bully pulpit.

“At least (Pavlik) gets to keep his titles,” a glum Arum said of Pavlik’s retention of his WBC and WBO middleweight belts that were not on the line in the 170-pound catchweight bout.

When will they ever learn? Arum has been bewitched, bothered and bewildered by Hopkins before. A few years ago, when Arum still had some promotional dibs on his once-favorite cash cow, Oscar De La Hoya, he promoted a Las Vegas doubleheader in which the Golden Boy and Hopkins were featured in separate bouts. The idea was that De La Hoya would remain loyal, Hopkins would also join the Top Rank fold and everyone would profit nicely from the arrangement. But De La Hoya formed his own company, took Hopkins with him and Arum, who can hold a grudge with the best of them, was left to simmer longer than Grandma’s home-made soup.

Of course, Hopkins has had that effect of any number of exasperated promoters who have tried to make him toe their company line. This guy not only marches to the tune of his own drummer, he has his own percussion section. Butch Lewis can’t string together five or six words, when speaking about Hopkins,  that do not include at least one expletive. Try as he might, even Don King never could bring B-Hop to heel. Lou DiBella still bristles when he thinks about what he believes to be Hopkins’ acts of betrayal. And Dan Goossen regards his brief but stormy association with Hopkins as something along the lines of a Greek tragedy.

“My biggest disappointment in boxing,” Goossen has often said of the pitched battles he waged with his most recalcitrant client behind the scenes. This from a guy who worked with Mike Tyson when Leg-Iron Mike was at or past the point of total mental meltdown.

To Hopkins’ way of thinking, promoters – well, perhaps not Golden Boy, in which he is a limited partner and, at least for now, on kissy-face terms – represent boxing’s power structure, which he claims is hell-bent on making fighters indentured servants with little or no charge over their own destinies. Other than beating up or embarrassing their gloved minions in the ring, there is nothing Hopkins enjoys more than tweaking the noses of those he is convinced have pooled their considerable resources to drive him from the sport.

So there Hopkins was, Michael Myers resurrected for the umpteenth time, chortling over the fact he had again rained on the parade of a perceived enemy. To the Philadelphian’s way of thinking, spoiling the undefeated record of Pavlik, Top Rank’s current marquee attraction, wasn’t just an isolated thundershower drenching Arum’s suddenly soggier operation; it was the landfall of a Category 5 hurricane capable of blowing a familiar tormentor right off the map.

“After Oscar beats (Manny) Pacquiao … look, I don’t want to wish nothing bad on anybody, but that might be the end of Top Rank,” said Hopkins, who might not daydream of such an outcome but clearly would not be despondent were it to come to that.

No wonder the Arums, Lewises, Kings, DiBellas and Goossens probably offer up nightly prayers that their favorite deity, or fate,  humbles Hopkins, or at least makes him grow old fast. Hasn’t this codger been on the verge of retirement now since, what, the first Clinton Administration?

“A few years ago we were here (at Boardwalk Hall) with our jaws on the floor, marveling at Bernard’s performance against Antonio Tarver,” said Mark Taffet, the HBO Pay Per View chief. “We had a beautiful retirement party for Bernard. I still have the big banner on our 11th floor at HBO. We made a beautiful framed photograph of that fight. But here we go again.

“I think I’ll ask Bernard for the $48 (cost of) the frame. I mean, where does he go now? I can’t believe anything this guy does. He continues to amaze us.”

Truth be told, Hopkins is the most accomplished fortysomething fighter the world has ever seen, and the competition for that designation isn’t even close. OK, so George Foreman flattened Michael Moorer to win the heavyweight championship for the second time at 45, unquestionably an inspiring feat, but Big George had lost every round until he delivered the takeout shot in Round 10, and he took terrible beatings in post-40 matchups with Alex Stewart and Axel Schulz, even though he won dubious decisions in those bouts. Archie Moore, the “Old Mongoose,” was the light heavyweight champ well into his 40s, but a French-Canadian fisherman with rudimentary skills, Yvon Durelle, knocked him down four times, including three in the first round, in their Dec. 10, 1958, first meeting in Montreal. Hopkins has been on the canvas exactly twice in his entire career, both of those coming in his Dec. 17, 1994, matchup with Ecuodorean Segundo Mercado, in Quito, Ecuador, for the vacant IBF middleweight crown. Even those flash knockdowns probably owed more to the thin air in Quito, which is 9,350 feet above sea level, and the fact Hopkins arrived there only four days before the fight, not nearly enough time to get acclimated to the altitude, than to the power in Mercado’s punches. Nonetheless, Hopkins salvaged a draw and he battered Mercado en route to a seventh-round TKO 4½ months later, in Landover, Md.

Almost from the time he broke through to the throne room Hopkins has busied himself making enemies, which might seem counterproductive until you examine those emotions which fuel his internal fire.

Hopkins is one of those athletes who seems happiest when he’s unhappy, like tennis’ John McEnroe. He doesn’t get mad, he gets even. Even the slightest provocation can get Hopkins stoked, and nothing lights that particular fire like the notion he is being dismissed, disrespected or disenfranchised.

Take his Sept. 29, 2001, battle with Felix Trinidad for the undisputed middleweight championship of the world. Everybody remembers how Hopkins twice grabbed and threw down the Puerto Rican flag at open-to-the-public press conferences, but the key to his finest performance ever, or at least until the dismantling of Pavlik, was Hopkins’ controlled rage at discovering that his own promoter, King, had had the Sugar Ray Robinson Trophy pre-engraved with the name of Trinidad, another King client, on it.

Like fellow paranoids Richard M. Nixon and Bobby Knight, Hopkins reads and listens to every negative thing anyone has written or said about him. He has compiled an enemies list, at least in his mind, and it pleases him greatly when those who would draw pleasure from his toppling are again left red-faced and embarrassed.

“They say Bernard is old,” Hopkins said at the postfight press conference early Sunday morning. “Yes, I am. They say Bernard is finished. They ain’t saying that now.

“I’m tired, man. I’m tired of proving myself to the same naysayers. Don’t y’all know you motivate me? I mean, what do I got to do, kill somebody? I’m the most underrated fighter when it comes to defense, when it comes to offense, when it comes to my heart. That’s why I always fight like I have to prove something.”

From a technical standpoint, Pavlik – who went off as a 5-1 favorite – probably was toast once Hopkins, who studies film as if he were Roger Ebert, detected that the Youngstown, Ohio, fighter’s big right hand was neutralized whenever he had to throw his payoff punch across his body. That’s why B-Hop continually moved to his right. But for emotional purposes, his victory might have been assured when one Internet writer beseeched Pavlik to “do boxing a favor” and “forever free him” and other dissidents of the torture of watching Hopkins, a defensive genius, make good fighters look bad.

Trash talker supreme that he may be, nothing inspires Hopkins like being on the receiving end of a really mean-spirited insult.

So, what if nine of his last 10 bouts have gone the distance, the exception being his ninth-round knockout of De La Hoya on Sept. 18, 2004? Hopkins is allowed to evolve, just as a strikeout pitcher has to resort to guile as he loses steam off his fastball. What we get nowadays is more a recital of chamber music than a KISS concert, but that does not detract from the fact he still produces classic material. Asked what it was that Pavlik found troubling about Hopkins’ unorthodox style, Pavlik’s trainer, Jack Loew, said, “Kelly had trouble adjusting to everything.”

If Hopkins has his way – and, gee, doesn’t it seem as if that happens quite a bit at this late stage of the game – then another aging legend, Roy Jones Jr., will find a way to win his Nov. 8 fight with Joe Calzaghe in Madison Square Garden, paving the way for a rematch of Jones-Hopkins I, which took place way back in May 22, 1993? Jones won that fight, for the vacant IBF middleweight championship, by close but unanimous decision.

“I’d like to fight Roy Jones again before I die,” Hopkins said.

Might be a long time coming. After all, everyone knows that you can’t eradicate the common cockroach, Michael Myers and Bernard Hopkins.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story originally ran on Oct. 20, 2008, under the title “Halloween’s Early for Hobgoblin Hopkins.” The two Bernards – Hopkins and Fernandez – will be formally inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame next year with the class of 2020. Fernandez joins TSS classmate Thomas Hauser in the “Observer” category.

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Avila Perspective, Chap 111: Munguia, Tank and The Monster

David A. Avila

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Avila Perspective, Chap 111: Munguia, Tank and The Monster

Here come some more hardcore fights.

As the end of the year approaches contracts must be honored. That’s a good thing for fight fans even during a pandemic.

Golden Boy Promotions brings a loaded fight card led by Mexican swing-from-the-heels fighter Jaime Munguia (35-0, 28 KOs) moving into the middleweight division against Tureano Johnson (21-2-1, 15 KOs) at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California. DAZN will stream the Friday night fight card on Oct. 30.

Munguia (pictured opposite Johnson) just recently turned 24 years old; a couple of weeks ago. The former super welterweight world titlist out of Tijuana grew out of the division and now is mentored by boxing great Erik “El Terrible” Morales. No more swinging at anything that moves. Now it’s technical savagery.

Johnson, 36, hasn’t fought in over a year but in that last fight he knocked off Ireland’s undefeated Jason Quigley. That was not supposed to happen. The Bahamian native only has two losses and those were stoppages in the last round by Sergiy Derevyanchenko and Curtis Stevens. He has the technique, but does he have the chin?

Another savage battle involves welterweights.

New England’s Rashidi “Speedy” Ellis (22-0, 14 KOs) faces Orange County’s Alexis Rocha (16-0, 10 KOs) a hard-hitting southpaw in a showdown set for 12 rounds. Will it go that long?

Both have power and I doubt the fight goes beyond seven rounds. Both have ended fights in the opening rounds before. If someone blinks at the wrong time it could be over quickly.

Others on the card including super featherweight contender Lamont Roach and super middleweight prospect Bektemir Melikuziev. Also, female contenders Sulem Urbina and Marlen Esparza square off. Opening bout begins at 5 p.m. Pacific Time.

Crazy Saturday

A Matchroom Boxing fight card stemming from England showcases a Southern California-based world champion Oleksandr Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs) meeting Dereck Chisora (32-9, 23 KOs) in the heavyweight main event.

Usyk, now 33, just recently conquered the cruiserweight division and was undisputed world champion and now deigns to move up in weight where the money is much better fighting the big boys. He’s a speedy Ukrainian southpaw who uses plenty of movement and has shocking power when he sets his feet.

Chisora, 36, has fought all of the top European heavyweights including another Ukrainian heavyweight named Vitali Klitschko. Though it hasn’t always been violets and roses for Chisora, he does pack a wallop and if he catches Usyk it could be all over. But his feet are made of stone and he will have problems moving in rhythm with the fleet-footed Usyk.

A co-main event features lightweight contenders Lee Selby (28-2, 9 KOs) pitted against George Kambosos Jr. (18-0, 10 KOs) in a Great Britain versus Australia battle.

Two female bouts with extra power are also on the card as Savannah Marshall (8-0) battles Hannah Rankin (9-4) for the vacant WBO middleweight title; and Amy Timlin (4-0) meets Carly Skelly (3-0) in a battle of undefeated super bantamweights.

The fight card will be streamed on DAZN at 11 a.m. Pacific Time.

Showtime

World champions collide with three-division world champion Leo Santa Cruz daring to move up yet another weight division and challenge the ultimate danger in super featherweight and lightweight world titlist Gervonta “Tank” Davis for his titles.

Danger is written all over this Showtime pay-per-view card on Saturday Oct. 31.

Davis (23-0, 22 KOs) has yet to be truly challenged by anyone. Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19 KOs) has always been a risk taker and could be going way over his limit against Tank.

“I’m facing the best fighter in the division. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. I have to go against the best fighter,” said Santa Cruz. “I wanted to challenge myself. I know this is a dangerous fight for me, but I want to test myself.”

If Santa Cruz is still standing after 12 rounds then a big salute to him. Davis won’t allow that to happen. He’s not a guy who looks to win by decision. Tank looks to knock opponents unconscious so he can take pictures of them asleep.

“I don’t think I have to knock him out, I just have to go out there and be great. Forget everything else, I just have to go out there and show everyone that I’m the top guy in the boxing world. That’s my main goal,” said Davis.

Right.

It’s not the only good fight on the card.

Mario Barrios (25-0, 16 KOs) defends the WBA super lightweight title against Ryan Karl (18-2) in the co-main event.

Also, on the same card Regis Prograis (24-1, 20 KOs) meets Juan Heraldez (16-0-1, 10KOs) in a super lightweight matchup. Whoever wins will probably meet Barrios for his title soon after. That’s if Barrios beats Karl.

It’s a boxing card that could see the end of the line for one or two of the fighters.

Monster and Mayer

Japan’s Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16 KOs) defends the WBA and IBF bantamweight world titles against Australia’s Jason Moloney (21-1, 18 KOs) at the MGM Grand Bubble in Las Vegas on Saturday October 31. It will be his Las Vegas debut and will be televised on ESPN+.

Inoue will be a big favorite and how can you blame odds makers when Moloney’s only loss was to Emmanuel Rodriguez who was blown out by the Monster?

But you never know.

“There are a lot of expectations, and I want to meet those expectations. I take those big expectations, and I use them as motivation and power to keep getting better with every fight,” said Inoue.

Inoue’s last fight nearly a year ago was an epic clash against Nonito Donaire in a classic battle that saw both deliver bombs and take them in a 12-round fight that ended in a close but unanimous victory for the Japanese star.

Boy was it close.

Until the 11th round it was nip and tuck as Donaire proved why he is destined to be a surefire Hall of Fame inductee when he retires.

Both punished each other and during their confrontation it was evident that Inoue does indeed have a solid chin. One big question will be if Inoue took too much punishment and can he handle a rough customer like Moloney.

“Every fighter should want to fight the best. That’s why we’re in this sport. My dream and my goal is to be the best bantamweight in the world, and the only way to make that happen is to beat Inoue,” said Moloney.

It should be an interesting match.

Also, female American Olympian Mikaela Mayer (13-0) challenges Poland’s Ewa Brodnicka (19-0) for the WBO super featherweight world title. Expect no quarter given by Mayer who has been gunning for a title challenge for the past two years with most of the titleholders in Europe ignoring her.

Brodnicka expects a tough fight.

“I have a lot of things against me. But I’m ready. I don’t care if she says that she doesn’t respect me. She makes a lot of mistakes, and I’m going to take advantage of all of them,” Brodnicka said.

Mayer is not in a good mood.

“I have been calling out the champs for a while. It’s been something I feel like I’ve been ready for a few fights, but now in hindsight looking back, I think everything worked out perfectly. Like Bob Arum said, I’ve had some really great fights, and I’ve really been able to settle in to my pro style. I’m more ready than ever to take on these world champions. I feel like I’m the best in this division,” said Mayer.

Sunday

A Sunday afternoon boxing card by Thompson Boxing Promotions takes place at the Omega Products International in Corona, CA but will not include fans.

Undefeated lightweights Mike Sanchez (6-0-1, 2 KOs) faces Israel Mercado (8-0, 7 KOs) in the main event on Sunday Nov. 1. It will stream on Thompson Boxing Promotions web page and also on its Facebook page beginning at 4 p.m. PT.

Go to this link to watch the fight card: www.thompsonboxing.com

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

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