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WHO DO YA LIKE?? Geale or Barker? Cleverly or Kovalev?

Kelsey McCarson

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This Saturday’s HBO card is a good one. Middleweights Daniel Geale (29-1, 15 KOs) and Darren Barker (25-1, 16 KOs) will battle each other in the main event, each in hopes of solidifying himself as a legitimate threat to long-reigning but increasingly aging and injured division kingpin Sergio Martinez. Both fighters have just one loss on their records — Geale a close decision loss to the athletic Anthony Mundine in 2009 (which was avenged this year), and Barker an 11th round knockout loss to Martinez in what was until that point a remarkably close fight.

Having been in with the best, Barker believes he now has what it takes to defeat fighters like Geale.

“I’ve heard people say in the past that you can learn from defeat, but I always thought that was mad – how can anything good come from losing?” Barker said. “[But] it’s not until you experience something invaluable like a defeat in a World title fight to a World class pound-for-pound star like Sergio Martinez that you appreciate the sentiment and I really have taken that negative – losing in a World title fight – and built on it to go one better. I feel I’ve matured from it, and I’m in my prime at 31 now.”

Barker says he and Geale know each other very well from their amateur days.

“I’ve kept an eye on his pro career as I have on a number of others, and I’m very confident. I know what he’s all about. I know what I’m all about, and I know how to beat him, so I can’t wait for August 17.”

Geale is equally confident.

“I’ve seen some of his pro fights, and he seems very confident about beating me. He’s a smart boxer, a real thinker. He’s nice and rangy, and he likes to pick people off, use his speed, skills, footwork and frustrate people.”

Geale said he plans to be the one that does the frustrating, and that he believes Barker won’t be able to keep up a good enough pace to win the fight.

“Barker has a lot of ability. He has a similar style to me, but Barker does not have my work rate. He likes to dictate and control, move and jab and keep long, but he doesn’t throw the volume of punches that I do. It’s going to be a bit of a chess match. It will come down to who wants it the most, and I’m sure I want the title more.”

Geale is an alphabet titlist (IBF) and ranked number two in the world at middleweight by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. Barker is unranked.

Al Bernstein previewed the fight for the Boxing Channel. Bernstein said it’ll be a battle of two confident fighters. Barker, he said, has impressed since his loss to Martinez.

“Since that fight, he has put together two knockout wins,” said Bernstein. “This 31-year old believes he can handle Danny Geale.”

Meanwhile, Bernstein believes Geale’s 2013 win over fellow Australian Anthony Mundine was huge, but not quite as big as his win over Felix Sturm in 2012.

“He’s done something no one else did. He beat Felix Sturm in Germany in a fight…so that was an extraordinary event for sure.”

Bernstein also believes Geale has America on his mind.

“Danny Geale really wants to impress American fans…he wants to win over the hearts and minds of the American boxing fans.”

The Hall of Famer expects a good tussle.

“This should be a very difficult match for Geale and should be a terrific match to watch,” said Bernstein.

Before the middleweights take center stage, light heavyweights Nathan Cleverly (26-0, 12) and Sergey Kovalev (20-0-1, 18 KOs) will duke it out to see who truly is the best up-and-comer in the division.

Cleverly, a WBO belt holder, is seeking respect. He says he’s had trouble getting fights against top contenders, despite the gold trinket he lugs around his waist. Cleverly was awarded the title belt without winning it in the ring, but has defended it five times since.

“It had taken a year to get Juergen Braehmer in the ring with me and when we thought we had him, he pulled out and I was awarded the title outside of the ring.”

Cleverly said a fight against Kovalev will finally give him the opportunity to show the world what he’s made of.

“We’ve tried making the big fights but the names have avoided me,” he said. “It’s been frustrating but this is a massive breakthrough fight me. I’m fighting the most dangerous [man] in the division – Sergey Kovalev. The Russian is building a big reputation in America, and his punch is even bigger. Nobody else wants to say Kovalev’s name, let alone fight him but I will beat him to show I am the best light heavyweight in the world, and I will force the big names to fight me.”

Cleverly has long been rumored as a potential opponent for Bernard Hopkins. A win over Kovalev could only help matters.

Meanwhile, hard-puncher Kovalev has gone from 11-year-old street fighter to educated boxer-puncher. He credits his time spent in the Russian amateur system with his transformation into what he is today, though he also said he was forced to turn professional in 2008 because of the country’s politics.

“I decided to leave the Russian national team and turn pro,” said Kovalev.

Kovalev left country and family in 2009 in order to “make it big as a professional fighter.” He said his wife, Natalia, joined him three years later.

“It’s hard to be away from our families and friends in Chelyabinsk but we’ve found a nice group of friends here.”

It seems the hard work and sacrifice is finally paying off. Kovalev burst onto the stage in January by dismantling veteran Gabriel Campillo in just three rounds.

“I see just a target,” Kovalev said of his approach that night to NBC’s Chris Mannix. Perhaps prophetically, he then said he was eager to fight “any champion” next, and mentioned Cleverly by name.

Kovalev is ranked number four in the world at light heavyweight by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. Cleverly is ranked number five.

Al Bernstein previewed the fight for the Boxing Channel. He believes Cleverly is in for a very stern test against Kovalev.

“This is most assuredly the toughest test he has had in his pro career,” Bernstein said.

Meanwhile, Bernstein called Kovalev’s signature win over Campillo a tremendous win.

“Campillo…I think got some terrible decisions and should have been a world champion,” Bernstein said. “And Kovalev just completely dominated him.”

Stalwart sportscaster Rich Marotta, President of the newly created Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame, chimed in on the fight via Twitter.

“Kovalev is there to be hit with the jab, and Nathan has a good one, but he’d better keep it in Kovalev’s face all night,” said Marotta.

 

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The Return of Wednesday Boxing Evokes Memories of a Golden Era

Arne K. Lang

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There’s a Wednesday card on the boxing docket this week. The card, which features several undefeated up-and-comers of the sort usually found on Showtime’s developmental series, “ShoBox: The New Generation,” will play out at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles and air on Fox Sports 1.

Not to be out-done, “ShoBox” is returning. The long-running series, which suspended operations in March in obeisance to COVID-19 restrictions, returns on Oct. 7 with a show emanating from Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Casino. The contestants in the main go of the four-fight card, Charles Conwell and Wendy Toussaint, have identical 12-0 records.

It just so happens that Oct. 7 is also a Wednesday. And these upcoming Wednesday shows transported this reporter back to his boyhood when boxing was a fixture on radio and television on Wednesday nights. The Wednesday series sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon beer ran from 1950 to 1960, airing the first five years on CBS and then on ABC.

Fights were all over the TV dial during the 1950s, not that there was much competition. The Big Three — NBC, CBS, and ABC — ruled the airwaves with DuMont a very distant fourth and cable television well off into the future. (For a time, the short-lived DuMont network aired boxing shows on Mondays.)

When televisions first came out, they were a big-ticket item. In 1948, RCA’s cheapest model sold for $395. That’s the equivalent of $10,400 today. By 1954, the cost of the least expensive model had declined to $189 and it came in a bigger box, with a 17-inch screen compared with the 13-inch screen that was standard six years earlier.

With the cost of the coveted contraption beyond the means of many wage earners, saloonkeepers cashed in. Boxing fans flocked to the neighborhood tavern to get their boxing fix. The saloonkeeper could write off his television sets on his taxes as a business expense.

Those were the days, and I date myself, when every town had a TV repair shop and the repairman, like the family doctor, made house calls.

The Wednesday Night Fights were a spin-off of the Friday Night Fights on NBC. The matchmaker for both series (through 1958) was the International Boxing Club which was headquartered at Madison Square Garden. The president of the IBC was James D. Norris (who would come to be seen as a puppet for mobster Frankie Carbo, but that’s a story for another day).

James D. Norris inherited a vast fortune from his father, Canadian businessman James E. Norris. The elder Norris was a big wheel in the sport of hockey and had a financial interest in the arenas that housed NHL teams in Chicago, Detroit, and St. Louis. He made these arenas available to his son and the Wednesday fight cards moved around, unlike the Friday fights which were pinned to Madison Square Garden.

Both series would eventually venture out at times into virgin territory, but the Wednesday series was the trailblazer. The first nationally televised boxing show from the West Coast was a Wednesday affair. Jimmy Carter defended his world lightweight title against LA fan favorite Art Aragon, the original Golden Boy, at the Olympic Auditorium on Nov. 14, 1951. Aragon had upset Carter in a non-title fight 11 weeks earlier, but Carter took him to school in the rematch, winning a lopsided decision.

The Friday boxing series, which took the name “Gillette Cavalcade of Sports,” would come to be more fondly remembered, but once the TV became a living room staple, which happened fast, the Wednesday series drew higher ratings. This was predictable as more folks stayed home on Wednesday nights than on Friday nights. And although the Friday series had a larger budget, some of the most important fights of the era were staged on Wednesdays.

One of the highlights of the 1951 season was Ezzard Charles’ world heavyweight title defense against Jersey Joe Walcott at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field. It was Walcott’s fifth crack at the title and he was considered ancient at age 37, but he avenged his two previous losses to Charles with a thunderous one-punch knockout.

Carmen Basilio appeared in The Ring magazine Fight of the Year in five consecutive years (1955-1959). The first two — his second meeting with Tony DeMarco and his second meeting with Johnny Saxton – were televised on a Wednesday.

Although he would be quickly forgotten, the Wednesday series brought Bob Satterfield a cult following because of his unpredictability. He certainly left an impression on octogenarian boxing writer Ted Sares who recently named Satterfield his all-time favorite fighter.

To conjure up a portrait of Satterfield, think Deontay Wilder and then fix Wilder with a glass jaw. Satterfield, whose best weight was about 182 pounds, was a murderous puncher, but during his career he was stopped 13 times.

LA’s Clarence Henry and Pittsburgh’s Bob Baker were ranked #3 in the heavyweight division when they ventured to Chicago to tangle with Satterfield, Henry in 1952 and Baker the following year. Henry knocked out Satterfield in the opening round. Satterfield hit the canvas so hard, said a ringside reporter, the resin dust flew up.

The Satterfield-Baker fight would also end in the opening round. Baker out-weighed Satterfield by 34 pounds, but Satterfield flattened him. Later on, in a non-Wednesday fight, Satterfield knocked out Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams in the third round. Williams, 33-1 heading in, was the larger man by 25 pounds.

One bet on or against Bob Satterfield at one’s own peril.

The Wednesday Night Fights had a nice run before the series was cancelled and supplanted in its time slot by “The Naked City,” a critically acclaimed police drama series. Perhaps the return of boxing on Wednesdays augurs well for another mid-week boxing series, but we won’t hold our breath.

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Erickson Lubin Wins, But Misplaced His Hammer

David A. Avila

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Erickson Lubin misplaced the hammer but found a way to victory over Terrell Gausha by unanimous decision in a slow-developing WBC super welterweight eliminator on Saturday.

Lubin (23-1, 16 KOs), a southpaw slugger, was unable to lower the boom on Gausha (21-2-1, 10 KOs) at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. But he did enough in a tactical battle that only activated into a real fight in the later rounds.

Back and forth the two super welterweights mostly feinted and fired blows at each other’s guard. Few managed to pierce for scoring blows and those that landed were mostly to the body.

“It was a chess match. I respected what he had, he was trying to counter what I had. My trainer was telling me to be cautious and not get hit with anything stupid,” said Lubin, whose trainer is the respected Kevin Cunningham.

Gausha, 33, was the more accurate puncher but fired less than Lubin. Though he seemingly scored more often with counter rights, the scarcity of his blows allowed Lubin to control the pace of the fight.

It wasn’t until the mid-rounds that Gausha stepped into a slightly quicker pace. In the 10th, a short right connected and wobbled Lubin who covered up.

“I knew I had hurt him, but he was able to recover,” said Gausha, 24, who tried to finish off the hurt fighter but was unable to land another scoring blow.

“I’m in shape and I was able to recuperate,” Lubin revealed.

It was still unclear who was winning the fight. In the 12th and final round Lubin stepped up the pace and connected with a crisp right hook that clearly snapped the head of Gausha. But he fought his way out of the dangerous corner.

After 12 rounds all three judges scored it for Lubin 115-113, 116-112, 118-110.

“Gausha is a tough competitor, he’s at the top for a reason,” said Lubin. “I feel I beat one of the top 154s and I’m going to keep doing that.”

Gausha was classy in defeat.

“I take my hat off to Erickson Lubin. He was the better man tonight,” said Gausha.

Lubin now awaits the winner between Jermell Charlo and Jeison Rosario who fight each other next week for the WBC, WBA and IBF super welterweight titles. Showtime will provide the title match on pay-per-view.

Featherweights

Former IBO featherweight titlist Tug Nyambayar (12-1, 9 KOs) floored Cobia Breedy (15-1) twice in the first two rounds but struggled the rest of the way to win by split decision. One judge scored it 115-113 for Breedy and two others for Mongolia’s Nyambayar 114-112 and 114-113.

Nyambayar knocked down Breedy with a counter right cross in the first round and then floored him with four rights and a left hook in the second. After that, Breedy was the busier fighter and no one was able to take control.

“Boxing is boxing. It was a tough fight,” said Nyambayar.

Welterweights

In a solid match Philadelphia’s Jaron Ennis (26-0, 24 KOs) was able to find out exactly where he stands against real competition and stopped the unstoppable Juan Carlos Abreu (23-6-1, 21 KOs) in the sixth round by technical knockout in their welterweight showdown.

More than just a knockout win, Ennis discovered that he can indeed take a punch from an elite level puncher.

Nobody questioned whether Ennis had boxing skills or athleticism and power, but nobody knew if he could take a punch. They discovered it as Abreu was able to connect in the fourth and fifth rounds. The Dominican fighter pulled out his tricks and connected several times with sneaky rights and lefts. Ennis remained standing.

Abreu was looking to trade bombs with Ennis in the fifth and sixth round and paid the price in getting delivered to the canvas with a pretty right counter uppercut. He survived. But in the sixth a slew of punches along the ropes sent him down again. He beat the count again but during a fierce exchange he was floored a final time at 1:06 of the sixth round. It was the first time Abreu had ever been stopped.

“I feel I put on a wonderful show and got the knockout,” said Ennis. “I feel I showed the division I am here.”

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Fast Results from the MGM Bubble: Pedraza Outclasses Molina Plus Undercard

Arne K. Lang

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The featured bout on tonight’s card at the MGM Bubble was a match between 2008 Olympians. It was a competitive match on paper, but Jose Pedraza turned in one of the better performances of his career while turning away Javier Molina who just wasn’t in Pedraza’s league tonight. The fight went the full 10 with the judges voting for the Boricua by scores of 99-91 and 98-92 twice. A former two-division belt-holder who looked very comfortable in his second start at 140, Pedraza boosted his record to 28-3. Molina, who had won five straight coming in, falls to 22-3.

Pedraza was manhandled by Gervonta Davis in 2017, outclassed by Vasyl Lomachenko in 2018, and upset by Jose Zepeda last year, but showed tonight that he still has plenty of mileage left on his odometer. Josh Taylor and Jose Carlos Ramirez each own two pieces of the 140-pound title, but Pedraza seems to have found a new gear at age 31 and is nipping at their heels. However, Pedraza also hankers to renew acquaintances with Zepeda and that will likely come first.

In the 10-round heavyweight co-feature, Efe Ajagba’s higher workrate carried him to a 10-round unanimous decision over Jonathan Rice. The scores were 98-92 and 99-91 twice.

Ajagba, the Houston-based Nigerian making his first start under the Top Rank banner, advanced his record to 14-0 (11) but was underwhelming. Rice, the terror of Tijuana taxi drivers, fell to 13-6-1 and solidified his reputation as a useful gatekeeper.

Robeisy Ramirez, a two-time Olympic gold medalist for Cuba who now resides in the Miami area, improved to 5-1 with a unanimous 8-round decision over Puerto Rico’s Felix Caraballo (13-3-2). Both appeared on the inaugural MGM Bubble card with Caraballo, fighting for the first time in the U.S., suffering a sixth-round stoppage at the hands of Shakur Stevenson. Tonight’s uneventful fight saw Ramirez on cruise control as he won by scores of 79-73 and 80-72 twice.

San Bernardino junior middleweight Leo Ruiz improved to 8-0 with a 6-round unanimous decision over Cancun’s Rodrigo Solis (4-5-1). Both fighters had a point deducted in round five; Ruiz, 21, for low blows and Solis for spitting out his mouthpiece. The scores were 58-54 and 59-53 twice.

In a fight that wasn’t on the original schedule, Houston super middleweight Christian Montano improved to 10-0 (7) with a 6-round unanimous decision over St. Louis’ Ryan Adams (7-4-1). A three-time national amateur champion, Montano, who is of Columbian descent, had knocked out seven of his previous opponents in the opening round. He looked poorly conditioned tonight but yet won every round on two of the scorecards.

Lightweight Bryan Lua, who hails from the town of Madera in central California’s agricultural belt, returned to the ring after a 27-month absence and scored a one-punch knockout over Chile’s Luis Norambuena. A left hook did the damage, bringing the bout to a sudden conclusion at the 2:27 mark of round two. Lua, (6-0, 3 KOs) won two of three over Ryan Garcia as an amateur. It was a quick turnaround for Norambuena (4-7-1) who lost a 4-round decision in this ring last week.

The first two bouts on the card showcased the newest members of Top Rank’s “Kiddie Corps.” Kasir Goldston and Jahi Tucker, 17-year-old welterweights, launched their pro careers on a winning note.

Goldston, a southpaw from Albany, NY, opened the show with a 4-round unanimous decision over Wisconsin’s Isaiah Varnell (3-3). The scores were 40-36 and 39-37 twice.

Tucker, who trains in the same Long Island town that spawned Buddy McGirt, put away Alabama’s Deandre Anderson (1-2) in the opening round. Anderson came out winging, but the precocious Tucker picked him apart. Referee Robert Hoyle stepped in and stopping the mismatch at the 2:56 mark. As an amateur, Tucker was ranked #1 at 138 pounds while still a sophomore in high school.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams for Top Rank

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