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Boxing’s ‘Cold War’ Continues, With Different Combatants

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Two press conferences on the same day, in the same town, illustrated just how intense boxing’s “Cold War,” circa 2013, continues to rage. And there is no sign that the distrust, apprehension and outright hostility that separate the warring factions is going to end with a peace treaty that might or might not be to the mutual benefit of the combatants, but surely would to frustrated fight fans who are continually asked to choose sides.

The first media gathering was held at 6:30 p.m. in a side room at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall, a few hours before IBF light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins defended his title on a rousing unanimous decision over German challenger Karo Murat, the main event of a Showtime-televised tripleheader. The principals were Stephen Espinoza, executive vice president and general manager of Showtime Sports and Event Programming, and Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer (seen in photo courtesy of Jayson Colon/Fight Images). They sat at a rectangular folding table to inform reporters of two big boxing cards that would be televised by Showtime on back-to-back Saturday dates, Dec. 7 and Dec. 14. The first, from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., would be headlined by the all-Brooklyn matchup of Zab Judah and Paulie Malignaggi; the second, from the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, is topped by the pairing of WBA welterweight champ Adrien Broner and Argentina’s Marcos Maidana. Each card would include four televised bouts, six of which would be for world titles.

“There was a rumor that Showtime was out of money and we had put all our best talent already on pay-per-view and we didn’t have anybody meaningful to fight for the rest of the year,”said Espinoza, who described the two cards, on regular Showtime, as an “early holiday gift” for boxing buffs. “I was aware of those rumors and speculation, and I know what the source was.”

Not that Espinoza would spoil his and Schaefer’s self-congratulatory announcement by mentioning the naysayer’s identity, but there was a strong suspicion among the assembled media types was that he is a former member of the late Robert F. Kennedy’s Justice Department who once was described as the “master of trickeration” by another promotional arch-rival.

Espinoza joked that the funds to finance the blockbuster cards meant that Showtime had “canceled our Christmas party for the year” and that “we’re just happy we could find enough quarters in the couches” to put the cards together at such late dates on the fiscal calendar. He also stressed that the money would come from Showtime’s 2013 budget and not mark an early withdrawal from the one for 2014.

Toward the end of the 20-minute session, someone asked Schaefer if it was true that Canelo Alvarez, a Golden Boy and Showtime fighter, would make his first post-Floyd Mayweather Jr. ring appearance against Miguel Cotto, who is with Top Rank and HBO, and if officials from the other side of boxing’s widest divide would sit in on any negotiations for such a bout.

“No,” Schaefer flatly said of the possibility that his company would offer a tentative olive branch to Bob Arum, with whom he has been embroiled in a nasty, ongoing verbal spat that easily outstrips any rancor that once existed between Arum and Don King. “There’s nobody with Top Rank that’s going to be sitting in that meeting. If Miguel Cotto wants to fight (on Showtime and against Alvarez), no problem. But it will have to be without Top Rank.”

Meanwhile, in the Philippines where Arum was with Filipino national hero Manny Pacquiao, who will take on Brandon Rios on Nov. 23 in Macau, China, a fight which will be televised via HBO Pay-Per-View, was just as disdainful of Schaefer, Golden Boy president (and former Top Rank headliner) Oscar De La Hoya and, presumably, Espinoza for choosing to do business with such presumed low-lifes as the GBP honchos.

“I dislike Schaefer and De La Hoya intensely,” Arum said a few days earlier. “God knows King and I, when we were real bitter rivals, we always found time to do big fights together. But I will not forgive these two bums defaming Manny Pacquiao,” which Arum said Schaefer had done in telling Filipino reporter Ronnie Nathanielsz that Pacquiao had used performance-enhancing drugs.

Although Schaefer refrained from returning verbal fire at Arum, at least on this occasion, he hasn’t always been so shy on the subject of his discontent. During an interview with Boxingscene.com’s Rick Reeno, Schaefer depicted Arum as a back-stabber who would resort to any dirty trick to advance his own agenda.

“The Showtime CEO, Les Moonves, was a personal friend of (Arum’s),” Schaefer said. “They used to go on vacations together. But Arum is not capable of having relationships. He bleeped his own buddy. Arum brought Pacquiao (to Showtime, for his Nov. 14, 2009, bout with Miguel Cotto) and Showtime did a terrific job. The single biggest pay-per-view of Pacquiao’s career was on Showtime. And then (Arum) takes him back to HBO and basically bleeps his own friend. As a result, he became persona non grata on Showtime.”

If you an optimistic sort who dares to believe this Hatfields-McCoys feud might be resolved any time soon, listen to what Hopkins said at his postfight press conference after he had dispatched Murat, approximately six hours after Espinoza and Schaefer had told the media about the wonderful events they would be bringing to the public in December.

Asked if he was serious about a possible catch weight fight with Mayweather, which seems highly unlikely, Hopkins said he’d rather gather up the rest of the 175-pound championship belts, as he did in becoming the undisputed middleweight ruler in 2001.

“To be honest with you, I’d rather unify the titles,” Hopkins said. “I’d rather be the guy that has all the titles, like I proved in the middleweight division. But there’s a Cold War going on, and that Cold War going on is that HBO don’t want to do business with my family, and my family is Golden Boy Promotions. I ride and die with people that ride and die with me.”

None of the comments being offered suggests that there will be peace in our time insofar as premium-cable boxing is involved. There is no one like President Ronald Reagan, speaking in Berlin on June 12, 1987, and telling his Soviet counterpart, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Two and a half years later, the Berlin Wall did in fact come down. But, hey, that was only international politics. Boxing squabbles frequently are more bitter and enduring than lightweight scraps like capitalism vs. communism, and the Schaefer/Showtime vs. Arum/HBO one increasingly looks like it will go the distance, and then some.

It wasn’t always so. When it served their purposes, Arum and King – who, in a moment of inspiration, coined that “master of trickeration” phrase to describe the Top Rank founder — would smile for the cameras, shake hands and pretend to make nice, so long as each made a healthy profit from calling a temporary cease-fire. Just two examples of such uneasy truces were the Sept. 18, 1999, megafight between Arum’s De La Hoya (oh, the irony) and King’s Felix Trinidad, and the June 9, 2007, bout between Arum’s Cotto and King’s Zab Judah.

Even more astounding, the June 8, 2002, showdown between WBC/WBO/IBO heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis and former champ Mike Tyson in Memphis, Tenn., was televised by both pay-per-view arms of HBO and Showtime. Lewis, an HBO fighter, stopped Tyson, who was then with Showtime after a long run on HBO, in eight rounds.

So why can’t a page or two from days gone by be torn from a dated playbook that suggested that co-existence was possible, as least in theory? Well, there are several reasons. For one, although Arum and King might have loathed each other, their relationship was almost cuddly-warm in comparison to the utter hatred in which Arum and Schaefer hold one another. For another, Showtime seemed at least a bit more willing to bend when it was dealing from a less favorable position, an acknowledgment that HBO had much deeper financial resources and a far more extensive volume of subscribers. But that gap has narrowed considerably during Espinoza’s two-year stewardship, and Showtime – in part because of its huge commitment to Mayweather, the sport’s biggest and most bankable star – is feisty enough to stand toe-to-toe with HBO, which haughtily still proclaims itself as the “Heart and Soul of Boxing,” instead of settling for stick-and-move tactics.

Hopkins might crave the opportunity to gather up those light heavyweight straps that belong to other fighters, but trying to do so in the present climate seemingly is as far-fetched a possibility as Lindsay Lohan becoming a nun. It wouldn’t appear be that difficult to pair B-Hop with WBA champ Beibut Shumenov, who is now part of the Golden Boy stable, but WBO champ Sergey Kovalev (who is promoted by Main Events) and WBC titlist Adonis Stevenson (Yvon Michel) have been getting good-paying HBO gigs, and it is reasonable to conclude that HBO Sports boss Ken Hershman – the former boxing head of Showtime, another irony — would let either escape to Showtime to swap punches with Hopkins.

But if Shumenov is the only unification option open to Hopkins, upon further reflection the ageless wonder isn’t sure if he wouldn’t rather take a more lucrative detour.

“I don’t think anybody really knows Shumenov,” Hopkins said. “I want a big, super fight. Shumenov is not a super fight.”

Too many super fights, or fights that might be perceived as such, remain dreamy notions to the public so long as Schaefer/Showtime and Arum/HBO are entrenched in their determination to withhold their attractions from any interaction with the enemy. Cold War? Oh, yes. Frigid, even. These mine-is-bigger-than-yours battles are won or lost in corporate headquarters, without a single punch being thrown by champions who are obliged to pledge total allegiance to one side or the other.

King, contacted by TSS, actually hesitated to weigh in on this updated version of his legendary staredowns with Arum. Maybe the fact that His Hairness requested time to offer a definitive opinion, instead of firing from the lip, might be the biggest upset of all.

“I’d have to put some thought into that,” King said. “It would be tantamount to treachery for me to say something stupid. The game has taken on a different kind of life. Let me think about that and get back to you on that.”

But King, being King, did offer a bit of insight before sitting down to more fully assess the situation.

“It all reverts back to the networks,” he allowed. “That would be the beginning point of what I say and how I say it, so I have to be careful.

“Ross Greenburg would still be at HBO if it weren’t for Bob,” King continued, a reference to Greenburg’s forced exit as HBO Sports president after Arum took the Pacquiao-Cotto fight to Showtime, much to the dismay of Greenburg’s bosses. “Bob still has a lot of influence because he has a superstar (in Pacquiao), so you have to say that he has done his job.”

So has Schaefer, for that matter. And part of his and Arum’s job descriptions, it would seem, is to denigrate the other as often and as crassly as possible. If Joe Fan gets splattered by some mud in the crossfire, just chalk it up as boxing’s new reality, or at least a variation of an old one.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 287: Boxing Wars on Tap in Philadelphia and Las Vegas

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Those boxing wars continue.

Rival promoters battle it out in America as Matchroom Boxing shows off its newest prize Jaron Ennis while Top Rank presents a world title fight in the middleweight division.

Take your pick. Both are scintillating.

Philadelphia’s Ennis (31-0, 28 KOs) makes his promotional debut for the British boxing promotion company and faces David Avanesyan (30-4, 18 KOs) for the IBF welterweight world title on Saturday June 13 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing card.

It’s been a year since Ennis last fought and meanwhile he was bestowed the IBF title without throwing a punch. He earns it on Saturday.

“Having this time off isn’t going to affect me at all. I just want to get back in the ring,” said Ennis whose last fight was a knockout win over Roiman Villa back on July 8, 2023.

A promotional war ensued for the right to sign Ennis. Matchroom Boxing was the winner and they’re itching to showcase one of the most talked-about welterweights to come along since Sugar Ray Leonard.

Avanesyan was selected to replace original opponent Cody Crowley who was forced to withdraw for medical reasons. The Armenian fighter has upset a few in his career including Sugar Shane Mosley and England’s Josh Kelly a few years back.

He’s not shy.

“I think that this is a 50-50 fight. He’s younger, He’s strong, it’s a very good fight,” said Avanesyan who lives in the United Kingdom.

Ennis had no qualms about facing a veteran like Avanesyan.

“It’s a better fight than Cody Crowley but I’ll beat him up, break him down and get the knockout,” Ennis said.

For the past several years boxing experts have been crowing about the Philadelphia prizefighter’s immense talent. On Saturday in front of a hometown crowd he continues the journey toward stardom.

Also, on the same card female WBC featherweight titlist Skye Nicolson (10-0) defends against Dominican stalwart Dyana Vargas (19-1). The Aussie southpaw makes her first real world title defense.

Las Vegas

IBF and WBO middleweight titlist Zhanibek Alimkhanuly (15-0, 10 KOs) defends against Andrei Mikhailovich (21-0, 13 KOs) on Saturday July 13, at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. ESPN+ will stream the Top Rank boxing card.

Its Kazakhstan versus Russia as Alimkhanuly continues the middleweight tradition established by his countryman Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. Can he continue to dominate?

Alimkhanuly, 31, is a southpaw slugger and still learning how to corral a moving target. But he has power and shouldn’t have a problem finding Mikhailovich who packs power too.

Mikhailovich, 26, fights out of New Zealand but has never had a professional fight outside of the island nation. Will he be able to ignore the glitter of Las Vegas?

Also, Southern California’s Ray Muratalla (20-0, 16 KOs) faces former super featherweight champion Tevin Farmer (33-5-1, 8 KOs) in a lightweight clash set for 10 rounds.

It’s another step-up fight for Muratalla who had a four-fight knockout streak snapped in his last fight against South Africa’s Xolisani Ndongeni this past March. It won’t get any easier against speedy Farmer.

Golden Boy and 360 Promotions

Tickets are available for the super welterweight showdown between Vergil Ortiz and Serhii Bohachuk that takes place on Saturday, Aug. 10, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

A press conference was held today at the Golden Boy headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. Both fighters were present to kick off the promotion that will feature the two fighters with almost 100 percent knockout rate.

Ortiz has won every fight by knockout. Bohachuk’s last fight ended in a win and was the first time he didn’t obtain a victory by knockout. But the Ukrainian fighter did pick up the interim WBC title with the win over Brian Mendoza who previously had knocked out current champion Sebastian Fundora.

Both Bohachuk and Ortiz train in Southern California.

Fights to Watch

Thurs. ESPN+ 11 a.m. Nelson Hysa (17-0) vs Thorsten Fuchs (13-1).

Sat. DAZN 5 p.m. Jaron Ennis (31-0) vs David Avanesyan (30-4-1); Skye Nicolson (10-0) vs Dyana Vargas (19-1).

Sat. ESPN+ 8 p.m. Zhanibek Alimkhanuly (15-0) vs Andrei Mikhailovich (21-0); Ray Muratalla (20-0) vs Tevin Farmer (33-5-1).

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Trevor McCumby Fell Off the Map and Now He’s Back with a Big Fight on the Horizon

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Trevor McCumby Fell Off the Map and Now He’s Back with a Big Fight on the Horizon

There’s a church in Arizona that has its own motto: “A church that cares where you’re going and not where you’ve been.” It’s the catchline of The Rock, a non-denominational Christian church in the Phoenix suburb of Peoria.

That phrase undoubtedly resonates with Trevor McCumby, a member of the congregation. “I’ve been to some dark places,” says McCumby who was working at a 7-11-style convenience store a few years ago and now finds himself on the cusp of some big paydays in the sweet science.

If McCumby’s name rings a bell, it likely relates to something that had its genesis on Nov. 26, 2016, when he knocked out Donovan George in the opening round on a card in Las Vegas.

The result was changed to “no contest” when traces of two banned substances were discovered in McCumby’s pre-fight urine specimen. Also, McCumby acknowledged receiving an intravenous infusion to rehydrate after the weigh-in which was against the rules of the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

It wasn’t until July of the following year when McCumby learned his fate. The boxing commission suspended him for 18 months, retroactive to Nov. 26, 2016, and fined him $3,750.

He maintains that he never knowingly took a PED. He pointed the blame at a multi-vitamin supplement allegedly contaminated with anabolic agents. (Trevor’s advice to his fellow boxers: If using a supplement, save the receipt and keep the empty container; it may come in useful someday.)

McCumby quit boxing at this juncture but returned in 2018 and recorded two more wins, pushing his record to 25-0 with 17 knockouts. Eleven of those kayos came in the opening round and that doesn’t include his demolition of Donovan George which effectively never happened.

And then, Trevor McCumby fell off the map. Four-and-a-half years would elapse before he returned to the ring, his comeback stalled by a knee injury suffered in sparring.

A light heavyweight during his run to 25-0, he returned as a super middleweight. Two wins in Phoenix prefaced his ProBox debut on Jan. 31 of this year when he won a lopsided 10-round decision over 17-3-1 Christopher Pearson. Up next is former IBF world super middleweight champion Caleb Plant who has been in with the top dogs in the division. It’s not official yet, but it’s an open secret that McCumby and Plant have agreed to touch gloves on August 17, likely in Florida.

Trevor McCumby, now 31 years old, was introduced to boxing by his father, a police officer in Niles, Illinois, and former Marine who once served as a presidential honor guard. The minimum age for an amateur boxer in Illinois was eight, but the elder McCumby lied about his son’s age and Trevor started competing with oversized gloves at the age of seven. (Trevor McCumby and his dad are pictured in a story about amateur boxing in the Windy City that ran in the Chicago Tribune in April of 1999. At the time, little Trevor would have been six years old.)

The McCumbys then lived in Yorkville, Illinois, a town roughly 50 miles southwest of Chicago. Trevor recalls traveling almost every day after school to the gritty south side of Chicago for training. Sweating side-by-side with inner city kids couldn’t help but speed up his development. He had a fine amateur record (127-11 by his count) and, at age 17, with the Olympics yet two years away, was ready to say “yes” when he got a surprise call from Cameron Dunkin who wanted to manage him. Renowned for his keen eye as a talent scout, the late Mr. Dunkin had one of the foremost stables in boxing.

McCumby was then living in Phoenix. He would finish high school in Las Vegas before making his pro debut in Los Angeles at age 18.

Looking back, Trevor says, “I didn’t take boxing as seriously as I should have. After each win, it was time to go out and party.” His hiatus from boxing was sobering on many levels. Working in a convenience store was humbling and his priorities changed when he met Kenzie (short for McKenzie), a member of the worship committee at The Rock and his future wife. Trevor is now the father of a 3-year-old son, a 1 ½-year-old daughter and there’s another girl on the way, due in November. As for the knee injury, a torn ACL, Trevor says, “it took about a whole year of rehab but feels better now than it ever did.”

McCumby opened his camp for the Plant fight during the week of July 4 at the Top Rank Gym in Las Vegas. His training is being coordinated by Brandon Woods, a protégé of Hall of Fame trainer Kenny Adams.

He and Caleb Plant have a common opponent in a manner of speaking. Plant went 12 rounds with David Benavidez in his last outing, losing a unanimous but relatively close decision. The “strength of schedule factor” in Plant’s favor will weigh heavily in setting the odds for McCumby vs. Plant. But McCumby has also shared the ring with Phoenix-native Benavidez, and on many occasions. “We gave each other great work,” he says. “You could have sold tickets to those sparring sessions.”

There was a time when it seemed that Trevor McCumby would be remembered mostly for putting his hand in the cookie jar and failing to maximize his talent. But hold the phone. His boxing journey is far from finished and this is a story that may ultimately prove uplifting.

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Fernando Martinez Ratches Up the Heat in the Hot Super Flyweight Division

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On Sunday in Tokyo, Fernando Martinez picked up a second piece of the world super flyweight title with a mild upset of Kazuto Ioka. Martinez owned the IBF belt and added Ioka’s WBA scalp to his bedpost. That gives the Argentinian globetrotter one more belt than Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez if you are keeping score.

Of course, there isn’t a little man on this planet who would be favored over “Bam” at the moment, excepting Naoya Inoue who competes two divisions up at 122. The San Antonio southpaw was so impressive in dismantling Juan Francisco Estrada on July 29 that he stifled all talk of whether he belongs on the pound-for-pound list. The debate now is about his placement; how high should it be? But despite Bam’s towering presence in the 115-pound division, there are some good fights out there for him beginning with Martinez.

Kazuto Ioka brought quite a resume. The first fighter from Japan to win world titles in four weight divisions, he was 31-2-1 heading in with both losses by split decision and was appearing in his twenty-fifth world title fight. But Martinez showed no fear of him. He took the fight to Ioka and closed strong, winning by scores of 120-108, 117-111, and 116-112. (The 120-108 tally by California judge Edward Hernandez Sr was assailed as ludicrous; the fight was much closer than that…but there was no disputing the verdict, the right guy won.)

A fight with Bam Rodriguez, who was in attendance, would be the most lucrative for Fernando Martinez, but he has other options. WBO belt-holder Kosei Tanaka is out there as is former pound-for-pound king Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. Both are in action this month. Chocolatito (51-4, 41 KOs) fights this coming Friday on his home turf in Managua against Colombian journeyman Rober Barrera (27-5). Tanaka (20-1, 11 KOs) defends his belt on July 20 in Tokyo against Mexico’s Jonathan Rodriguez (25-2-1). Tanaka has won four straight since getting dominated and stopped by Ioka in 2020.

The outcome of the Ioka-Martinez bout was no surprise to Matt McGrain who previewed the contest in these pages. And, as McGain noted, Martinez doesn’t have much time left to build up his fan base outside South America and the Orient. His current record (17-0, 9 KOs) betrays the fact he turns 33 next week.

The smaller weight divisions have never attracted a large following in the United States, but that has something to do with a historical dearth of American-born fighters at the pinnacles. Bam Rodriguez is making even casual fans stand up and take notice and his ascent comes at a time when his division is percolating.

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