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HBO Pushing Hard To Impress With Fall Season

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I plead guilty, your honor.

I spend too much time pondering, at times worrying about the state of the sport, about the fights we don’t see, the stars I fear aren’t going to be present to lead the way when the Mayweathers and Pacquiaos exit the stage, the nichification of the sport to which, I must remind myself frequently, all others aspire to.

I will state, for the record, that I’ve been doing less public and solitary kvetching of late, though, because the sport is doing what it does tend to do, decade after decade. The sport is replenishing itself, and athletes are doing what the best of them do: elevating themselves, performing at a level and with such drama that they demand our attention.

I was reminded of many of the positive aspects of the sport, and the athletes, and the programming options available to such shameless addicts of the savage art and science of pugilism on Thursday, when I visited HBO headquarters, and chatted with some of the boxing brain-trust there. I got some intel on their upcoming slate, which they are referring to as their “Fall Season,” and I left the building intrigued by the cablers’ year-end push, and impressed with the commitment to larger blocks of content, and value, they are offering.

While I am in confession mode, I will also admit found myself thinking of that Tony Soprano line, referring to his ever-dubious mother, Livia: “Livia is like the woman with a Virginia ham under each arm, crying ’cause she hasn’t got any bread.” That popped up when I picked up on the move towards bundling some of the 24/7s, Face Offs and 2 Days with live fights, and “forcing” me to stay up past a wise bed-time, or succumb to the temptation to DVR, for the next day. Yeah, I was feeling bad for myself because I don’t have the stamina I used to. Cry me a river, Woods…

HBO is kicking off this “Fall Season” on Saturday, Sept. 28. Julio Chavez Jr. gets back on the bus against a journeyman seeking to bury his “Friday Night Fights” tag, Bryan Vera.

One of those new brigade of bombers which HBO is making more of a push to feature, yes, perhaps at the expense of some of those pugilist-specialists who aren’t as likely to manufacture a SportsCenter highlight (cough cough Rigo), will also appear, Haitian-born Canadian Adonis Stevenson (21-1 with 18 KOs). The light heavy is in against Tavoris Cloud (24-1), who is in a semi-crossroads fight, after dropping a UD to Bernard Hopkins in March. And then fans of the heavyweights get a chance to exult in a heavyweight tangle, pitting basketballer size Tyson Fury (21-0) against David Haye (26-2), who always draws numbers, most of them eyeballs belonging to people hoping his foe will shut his cocky puss. The fights will unfold in CA, and Montreal and England, which tells me the company is, I could argue, perhaps somewhat re-energized, looking to hustle that much harder to go where they need to go to snag solid fights.

Do I love the slotting of Vera in against Junior? I don’t…but as was pointed out, Junior has been off a long time, a year come fight night, so if he’s got a coat of rust on him, 23-6 Vera could well be right there with the 46-1 son of the legend. As a fan, I’m hoping that Vera pleasantly surprises me.

I will have an extra Pepsi during those bouts, so I can stay up for first installment of the Marquez/Bradley 24/7, which is slated to begin at 12:30 AM, immediately following the three-bout slate. (The promo stuff says Bradley/Marquez, but I got to give a nod to the longevity of the Mexican, and place his name first, sorry for the indulgence.)

HBO comes back strong and hard with another tripleheader on Oct. 5, with old fan fave Miguel Cotto (37-4; 32 years old, one could argue perhaps an “old” 32) coming back to his old stomping grounds after dating Showtime for a spell. Some fans are thinking his opponent, Delvin Rodriguez (28-6-3), isn’t of the caliber to give Cotto a workout, but along the lines of the Vera choice, I suspect Rodriguez will be as amped for a fight as he ever has been. Sometimes, you give a “lesser” light a chance, and you get magic, because that “lesser” grade boxer gives the performance of a lifetime, as they are so eager to get to the next level. (See, Provodnikov, Ruslan). By the way, I do get thee sense that HBO is on board with a Miguel Cotto-Sergio Martinez tangle early next year. I’d like your thoughts, readers, on what you think of that pairing, in our Forum.

Nebraska’s top boxer, Terence Crawford (21-0), gets another crack on air, against Andrey Klimov (16-0), in a battle of unbeaten lightweights. And to satisfy the vocal souls who have bemoaned the lack of Klitschkos on HBO, the Wladimir Klitschko-Alexander Povetkin scrap will be shown, in an afternoon telecast, from Moscow. I could see Klitschko (60-3) showing more of a beast mode, trying to prove that the 26-0 Povetkin isn’t actually all that different, skills-wise, than the parade of lessers little brother has been hammering since he last lost, in 2004, to Lamon Brewster. The second Marquez-Bradley 24/7 will unspool after the bouts. The orgy of content continues with Max Kellerman’s “Face-Off” placing 34-1 Mike Alvarado and Ruslan Provodnikov (22-2) in close quarters. That we are seeing a “Face-Off” on a non-PPV fight is, again, a signal that a quest to provide greater value to fight fans is an HBO imperative. HBO just started collecting footage for that, I was told. For the record, this is the first time HBO will do live back to back tripleheaders, so read into that what you will, about their commitment to value and degree of competitiveness, what with Showtime stepping up their game, and budget, this year.

You can check out the weigh-in to the Marquez-Bradley event, which is being offered on pay-per-view on Oct. 12, at 6 PM Eastern the day before on HBO. That weigh-in spot will be an hour, not a half hour, as has been recent tradition. By the way, Orlando Salido will battle Orlando Cruz for the vacant WBO featherweight title in Vegas, on the PPV undercard. (Cue the Golden Boy devotees, who think Top Rank could and should dodo a better job stepping up their PPV undercard game lol. As always, I counsel those folks to see how the bouts play out, and reserve your contempt after proper investigation.)

The very next week, a bout that almost definitely promises ebbs and flows of the variety which conjures Fight of the Year chatter, Mike Alvarado-Ruslan Provodnikov, runs from the First Bank Center, in Colorado. Top Rank, the Marquez-Bradley packager, is the promoter. Both fighters were told that Legendary Nights: The Tale of Gatti-Ward will run following their bout, and I am told, both broke into a grin, cognizant of the symbolism and honor involved. You don’t think both Alvarado and Ruslan won’t entertain the notion that they’d like to surpass the immensity of drama found in Gatti-Ward I? After that threequel gets the Legendary treatment, a 2 Days: Mikey Garcia will run. A 1:15 AM start time is the tentative target for that.

Jim Lampley will do his sixth “The Fight Game” on Friday, Oct. 25. Note that will kick off at 8:30 PM; and you can bet Lampley will have an extra bump of adrenaline from having it on primetime. He’ll be able to look back at HBO’s recent run, and also ahead to marquee matchups.

HBO has a date locked in, on Nov. 2. The Bieber faced destroyer Gennady Golovkin (27-0; pictured above in HBO photo, prior to demolition of Matthew Macklin June 29) will meet up with Brownsville badass Curtis Stevens (25-3), himself on a KO run, having dropped and stopped three of his last four foes in round one. Stevens politicked hard and got this gig; will he come to regret that, and ask himself, I should have been careful what I asked for? There is an open slot for another bout on that doubleheader, which will unfold at Madison Square Garden’s Theater. I put on my matchmaker hat, and offered a name: how about Sergey Kovalev glove up on that night, as well? Golovkin, and Kovalev, who impressed with a thorough demolition job on Nathan Cleverly on Aug. 17…The buzz around that card would be ludicrous. The HBO gang was as intrigued by that Golovkin plus Kovalev doubleheader as I was, I dare say. It will be up to Team Kovalev, and promoter Kathy Duva to see if the concept could reach fruition, but since Stevens is a Main Events boxer, it seems a near no brainer.

Kellerman’s Manny Pacquiao-Brandon Rios “Face-Off” will air following the MSG fights, and I am told, to my relief, that Brandon the Badass appeared in this session. He looked like a happy tourist when he and Manny did their press tour, but his gameface and snarliness, I hear, kicked up in the studio with Manny and Max.

The momentum continues on Saturday, November 9, with 32-0 Mikey Garcia topping a Boxing After Dark. Nonito Donaire (31-2), too, will hop in the ring, in his first fight back after getting the short end against Guillermo Rigondeaux in April. Garcia and Donaire are both up against TBD as of this writing. WBO super feather champ Rocky Martinez, the 27-1 Puerto Rican, is in the mix to meet Garcia.

Donaire’s wife, Rachel, reports to TSS that the boxer is of top grade as a daddy to their baby, Jarel, born on July 16. “The baby is an angel,” she said. “And how is Nonito at changing diapers? He’s real fast at it!” Does she have any idea on who he will fight? “We heard November 9 but an opponent isn’t set because no one wants to fight him at 126. He can’t make 122 anymore.”

Demetrius Andrade gets the chance to up his buzz factor, against Vanes Martirosyan in the night’s TV opener. The Pacquiao-Rios 24/7 kicks off following this tripleheader, Manny-iacs must know. Part two of that documercial runs the following Saturday, Nov. 16. HBO has a date for a fight on Nov. 16, and by process of elimination, it seems like the return of Andre Ward to the ring seems a good bet to headline. It would be a year since he last fought for a fee, as the Oakland resident tore his right shoulder training to fight Kelly Pavlik, and has been rehabbing and getting the rust off since a Jan. 4 surgery. It looked like he had risen to another level, with an offensive extravaganza against Chad Dawson on Sept. 8, 2012 (TKO10) win and it’s a shame he wasn’t able to quickly capitalize on the momentum. I dialed up his promoter, Dan Goossen, to try and get some intel. “By early next week, Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest I should have a handle on Andre’s next fight,” Goossen said. “It would be premature to target any specific date right now.” Dmitri Sartison, a 30-2 Kazahkstani German resident who held the WBA world super middle crown, in 2009-2010, is in the mix to get the Ward comeback slot. Sartison fights tomorrow (Saturday), in Germany, against 38-14-4 Baker Barakat, and Goossen said he will have his eye on that one, and hopes Team HBO will too. Ward has been off for a year, the promoter said, and had a major surgery, so while he doesn’t seek an ESPN level foe for the Ward return, he also wants to factor in the layoff. “Nobody has had to twist Andre’s arm to fight the toughest opponents,” Goossen said in reference to anyone who might be seeking Ward to come back against a top 5 type. “But we have to make sure everything is fine with the shoulder.”

Whoever fills that Nov. 16 dance card, the second episode of Pacquiao/Rios 24/7 will run after the live event.

Anyone reading this likely knows that on Nov. 23, Manny Pacquiao will tell the world if he’s still a top tier fighter, or has been irrevocably altered, by age, and/or by a Juan Manuel Marquez right hand, when he meets Brandon Rios in Macau. Don’t worry yourselves over the time difference–Macau is 13 hours ahead of us EST–and just know that the Top Rank PPV will start at 9 PM, as per usual.

HBO is saving a time block for live fights for Saturday, Nov. 30, a doubleheader. Could Ward appear? Or Kovalev, perhaps? Perhaps. We are likely to get one more live card in December, I was informed.

Readers, talk to me. Thoughts? Are you feeling the HBO push toward adding value? What fights from that Fall Season that I touched on are you most pumped for? What suggestions do you have for some of the open slots? Weigh in, in our Forum!

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Tony Yoka Makes Quick Work of Duhaupas; Yoka’s Wife Wins Too

Arne K. Lang

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An indoor rugby stadium in Nanterre, a township in an inner suburb of Paris, was the site today of a five-fight boxing show featuring Tony Yoka and his wife Estelle Mossely in separate bouts (when they fight each other, they do it in the privacy of their home). Attendance was limited to 5,000 with social distancing protocols in place.

Yoka and Mossely, the parents of two young children, the youngest a boy born in May, were each gold medal winners in boxing at the 2016 Rio games. The six-foot-seven Yoka defeated Filip Hrgovic in the semis and Joe Joyce in the gold medal round.

Today Yoka, in his first scheduled 12-rounder, was matched against 39-year-old French warhorse Johan Duhaupas who was 38-5 (25) heading in. Duhaupas went 12 rounds with Jarrell Miller, extended Deontay Wilder into the 11th frame, and knocked out Robert Helenius, the conqueror of Adam Kownacki. Despite his advanced age, he represented a step up in class for Yoka, 28, whose pro career was disrupted by a one-year suspension from the French Boxing Federation for being a no-show at three PED tests. At the very least, Duhaupas was expected to give Yoka some rounds.

But Yoka had other ideas. He needed only 121 seconds to dismantle his countryman and show that he belongs in the conversation with Daniel Dubois, Jared Anderson, the aforementioned Hrgovic and others when talking about the next generation of heavyweight stars.

Yoka (8-0, 7 KOs) dropped Duhaupas midway through the opening round with an overhand right. Duhaupas didn’t appear to be badly hurt, but he had no antidote for the barrage that followed. The coup-de-gras was a big right uppercut that sent him flying backward against the ropes. The referee stepped in immediately.

Yoka’s U.S. promoter is Top Rank which is seeminly out to corner the market on bright young heavyweight prospects. When Yoka turned pro it was under the tutelage of Virgil Hunter, the trainer of Andre Ward. Yoka has spent considerable time in Las Vegas while serving as the chief sparring partner for Joseph Parker.

estelle

Estelle Mossely kept pace with her hubby. Mossely, 28, advanced her record to 7-0 (1) with an 8-round unanimous decision over countrywoman Aurelie Froment. The scores were 80-72 across the board.

This was an assignment designed to shed the rust. Froment, 33, entered the fight with a 3-0-1 record, but hadn’t previously met an opponent with a winning record. In fact, none of Froment’s previous opponents had ever won a fight. In the aggregate, the foursome was 0-32-5 at the time that she fought them. Even the world sanctioning bodies steered clear of this affair, refusing to cloak the fight in some sort of title.

That observation aside, it was a nice win for Mossely coming so soon after giving birth. Born in France of Congolese and Ukrainian descent, she is rated the world’s best active female lightweight by BoxRec.

Hot prospect Souleymane Cissikho was originally scheduled to be on the card, but pulled out for an undisclosed reason. An Olympic teammate of Tony Yoka, Cissikho is a  special talent.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

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Season 2 of the World Boxing Super Series Concludes on Saturday in Munich

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PRESS RELEASE: The hotly-anticipated World Boxing Super Series Season II Cruiserweight Final between Mairis Briedis and Yuniel Dorticos takes place behind-closed-doors in a film studio at Plazamedia Broadcasting Center in Munich, Germany on Saturday, 26 September. On the line: The Muhammad Ali Trophy, IBF World Title, and vacant Ring Magazine 200 lbs belt.

The final will be shown live on DAZN in the US and Sky Sports in the UK.

“A final for the Muhammad Ali Trophy has proved to be something extraordinary. We have seen that it brings out the best in boxers which reflects the DNA of our tournament as to deliver and continue to deliver boxing at its very best to fans of the sport,” said Andreas Benz, CEO of Comosa, the event organizer.

“Plazamedia is a phenomenal solution, the studios are providing a controlled environment which is of huge benefit to us and the production team to keep everyone safe while also putting on a great show.

“At the same time, we have done everything to secure fair conditions for both teams, and to ensure they remain healthy and isolated until the action starts.”

Mairis Briedis, tournament No. 1 seed, qualified for the final through wins over Noel Mikaelian (UD) and Krzysztof Glowacki (TKO3), while Dorticos, No. 2 seed conquered Mateusz Masternak (UD) and Andrew Tabiti (KO10) to enter the 200 lbs decider.

“We are very happy about the announcement of the final,” said Latvia’s Mairis Briedis. “I love the fact that it will be in Munich as it reminds me of every time I went to train with the Klitschko brothers in Germany and the flights were always via Munich. Those are some great memories of the time spent with them there.”

Said Miami-based Cuban, Yuniel ‘The KO Doctor’ Dorticos, IBF World Cruiserweight Champion: “To all my fans worldwide, In Europe and especially in Munich, Germany: I am super happy the World Boxing Super Series final will take place in Munich, Germany, and I will see you all on Saturday, September 26th. The KO Doctor is back and ready to prescribe another dose of pain and take the Muhammad Ali Trophy back to Miami.”

Kalle Sauerland, Chief Boxing Officer of the WBSS, said: “On 26 September we will not only crown the best cruiserweight on the planet but also send a sign to the world that boxing is back with the first major transatlantic championship bout between the undisputed number one and two in their division.

The final is not only about honour and glory, but cementing a legacy. The winner will become a member of an exclusive ‘Ali Trophy Winner Club’ that includes Oleksandr Usyk, Callum Smith, Naoya Inoue and Josh Taylor. It doesn’t get much bigger in boxing, and we expect Briedis and Dorticos to have an absolute barnstormer!”

The Muhammad Ali Trophy was created by the late world-renowned artist Silvio Gazzaniga who also designed the iconic FIFA World Cup Trophy.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 106: Return of LA Boxing, Josh Taylor, Charlos and More

David A. Avila

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 106: Return of LA Boxing, Josh Taylor, Charlos and More

Let’s call this week the Big Build Up.

Back in the 1920s to the 1950s the City of Angels was known as the place where Humphrey Bogart lived and played characters out of Raymond Chandler’s novels. Books like the “Big Sleep” and “Lady in a Lake” were made into movies based in Los Angeles.

Well, here we are back where boxing thrives, people or not.

Los Angeles kicks off the big boxing week starting with a televised fight card that features home grown featherweight Vic Pasillas at the Microsoft Theater in the downtown area. Fox Sports 1 will televise the Premier Boxing Championship card on Wednesday, Sept. 23.

Pasillas (15-0,8 KOs) faces Dominican fighter Ranfis Encarnacion (17-0, 13 KOs) in the co-main event at a fan-less event that begins a crowded week of boxing as we near the end of 2020.

“Coming out on top against Encarnación is going to catapult me into some big fights at featherweight. The division is wide open and I know with hard work I can take it over,” said Pasillas who is originally from Los Angeles. “This is by far the most important fight of my career. I’m coming with everything I got, because I know this is the turning point that will lead to bigger and better fights. I am ready to bring an exciting fight to the fans and get my hand raised in victory.”

Both Pasillas and Encarnacion are undefeated and unknown to most of the boxing world. A win changes everything especially when it’s difficult to even stage a boxing card.

Promoters are anxious to get their fighters in the ring by any means necessary.

On Thursday in Biloxi, Mississippi, super lightweight Michael Williams Jr. meets Thomas Miller in the headline attraction of a boxing card that will be streamed by UFC Fight Pass.

On Friday in southern Mexico, Serhii Bohachuk (17-0, 17 KOs) meets Alejandro Davila (21-1-2, 8 KOs) in Merida, Yucatan. No word if it will be streamed. The super welterweight from Ukraine has a 17-fight knockout streak and has become a main attraction in Hollywood, California for 360 Promotions.

“Serhii has become one of the most talked about rising stars in boxing,” said Tom Loeffler, promoter of 360 Promotions. “Boxing fans are excited to see if he can continue his knockout streak against Alejandro Davila, the toughest opponent he’s faced. He’s been training very hard with Manny Robles for this fight and if victorious, we’re certain there will be bigger opportunities for him in the near future.”

These are all tasty appetizers for the big buffet coming on Saturday.

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Saturday morning, especially if you live in the California area, ESPN+ will showcase the IBF, WBA super lightweight world title fight between champion Josh Taylor (16-0, 12 KOs) and Apinun Khongsong (16-0, 13 KOs) in London. It will be streamed live on Sept. 26, Saturday morning, starting at 11 a.m PST.

This is an important match for Taylor (pictured on the left) who needs a win to nail down a unification clash with Jose Carlos Ramirez the WBC and WBO titlist. If Scotland’s Taylor emerges victorious the super lightweight clash will be one of the top fights of the year.

And if that fight happens to take place, then that winner more than likely meets WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford.

But first things first. Taylor needs to defeat Thailand’s Khongsong on Saturday.

“I didn’t want a warm-up fight, so getting straight back in there against my mandatory challenger is great, as it’s kept me fully focused. I want big fights in my career, so this is an important fight with my belts on the line,” said Taylor.

Charlos Pay-per-view

The Charlos brothers asked for it and they got it.

Long have the brothers from Houston, Texas asked for a pay-per-view fight card and it never seemed possible until now. The Charlos will headline a pay-per-view double-header on Saturday via Showtime.

Beginning at 4 p.m PT/ 7 p.m. ET the Showtime pay-per-view card begins with three top notch bouts:

WBO bantamweight titlist John Riel Casimero (29-4) vs Ghana’s Duke Micah (24-0, 19 KOs).

WBA super bantamweight titlist Brandon Figueroa (20-0-1, 15 KOs) vs Damien Vazquez (15-1-1, 8 KOs).

WBC middleweight titlist Jermall Charlo (30-0, 22 KOs) v Sergiy Derevyanchenko (13-2, 10 KOs).

Charlo was not impressed with Derevyanchenko’s performances against Daniel Jacobs and Gennady Golovkin because both were losses. He expects to dominate.

Derevyanchenko says he’s ready for Charlo.

“Golovkin is a very different fighter than Charlo, but Jacobs is similar stylistically, so that’s something I’ll be used to,” said Derevyanchenko. “This training camp has been very similar to camps for my previous fights though. We just brought in different sparring partners for this one. We’re using fighters who can show us what Charlo will bring to the ring.”

After a 30-minute intermission the second half of the boxing card begins.

Former bantamweight world champion Luis Nery (30-0, 24 KOs) moves up in weight to face Aaron Alameda (25-0, 13 KOs) for the vacant WBC super bantamweight world title. Both fighters are from Mexico.

Former super bantamweight titlists Danny Roman (27-3-1) and Juan Carlos Payano (21-3) meet in a 12-round bout.

In the grand finale WBC super welterweight titlist Jermell Charlo (33-1, 17 KOs) challenges IBF and WBA super welterweight titlist Jeison Rosario (20-1-1, 14 KOs) in a fight for all three belts.

“We lions,” said Charlo.

It’s a very big week for boxing that begins on Wednesday and ends Saturday.

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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