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Vitali Klitschko Retires To Pursue Politics

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WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko has retired and given up his title to pursue politics in the Ukraine. Klitschko vacated his title on Monday and said he doesn’t expect to fight again as he pursues a presidential bid in his home country, where citizens have been protesting for weeks in Kiev over President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to shun closer ties with the European Union and push his country toward Russia.

The World Boxing Council proclaimed Klitschko a ”Champion Emeritus,” a move that would allow him to challenge the new champion directly should he wish to resume his career.” This offer makes it theoretically possible to return to the ring, which I cannot imagine at all happening as things stand now,” Klitschko said in a statement. ”I am now concentrating on the politics in Ukraine, I feel people need me there.”

Klitschko is a lawmaker and chairman of the opposition party Udar (Punch) and intends to run for president in 2015. Yes, the door was left open for Vitali to return to the ring and maybe after jumping into politics with both feet, he may long to get punched in the face again, because the business of politics is the only business more corrupt and ruthless than boxing/contact sports. If you’re looking for commentary on Klitschko’s politics, sorry, not here. However, there’s plenty to speak of regarding Vitali the former heavyweight title holder, who retires with a career record of 45-2 (41) with an 87% KO ratio, which is among the top three in heavyweight history. He’s also the only heavyweight title-holder in history who has never been knocked of his feet during his career.

Who would’ve thought a decade ago before he really arrived on the scene that he would retire 10 years after fighting and losing to Lennox Lewis and would go on to compile hall of fame credentials?

I remember being at the press conference in Atlantic City in June of 2002 for Wladimir Klitschko’s final press conference before his fight with Ray Mercer. Wladimir was mobbed by writers and reporters while Vitali was standing in the back by himself with nobody paying him any mind. And when he was singled out, it was said that he was the less formidable fighter and his younger brother Wladimir was the future of the heavyweight division. Ironically, those remarks were made by the European writers who supposedly had the real down low on the Klitschko brothers. Amazingly those who covered the brothers most closely were so much off the mark and never grasped until years later that Vitali was the greater fighter and is the most accomplished heavyweight since Lennox Lewis retired after defeating Vitali in a life and death struggle back in June of 2003. When Vitali turned pro in 1996, he took a back seat to his younger brother Vitali in much the same manner Michael Spinks did to his older brother Leon, when the brothers made their pro-debut in 1977. And like Vitali, Michael ended up being the better and more accomplished fighter. Vitali blew through his opponents on the way up and was seldom met with much resistance until he fought the small and slick southpaw Chris Byrd. Vitali was controlling the fight until he injured his shoulder during the last third of the bout and retired after the ninth round. Despite his commanding lead, his heart and toughness was questioned by the media after the fight.

After losing to Byrd, Klitschko won five straight bouts and then challenged WBC title holder Lennox Lewis who was coming off of his eighth round knockout of former undisputed champion Mike Tyson.

Lewis didn’t think much of Vitali as a fighter and showed up in terrible condition. Lennox paid for that mistake and was subjected to one of the toughest fights of his career. Luckily for Lewis that during the brawl he managed to cut Vitali over his left eye with a big right hand and the fight was stopped after the sixth round with Klitschko leading 58-56 on all three judges scorecards. The fight was sloppy and both fighters were spent after six rounds and it’s a matter of speculation as to who would’ve won had the fight continued.

Lewis retired after fighting Vitali and has smartly avoided coming back. Lennox knew that if he continued after fighting Vitali, there was only one fight out there that made sense for him to take, a rematch with Klitschko. After thinking it over Lewis declined and left the division to Vitali and Wladimir to clean out, and they did. Only Vitali won 13 fights after fighting Lewis and never lost. He even took off four years and came back to reclaim a piece of the title at age 37. In fact he and George Foreman are the only two heavyweight title holders in history to defend a version of the title over the age of 40.

Those who have followed the heavyweight division during Vitali’s era circa 2000/2013 know the names and history of the fighters he’s faced on the way up and as a title holder. Yes, it was a very weak lot and you could make the case that the two best fighters on his record technically hold victories over him. However, he was winning both fights and was never punched around or man-handled by any fighter he ever faced, including Lewis. The negative on Vitali is, he was forced to fight and defend his title against a very pedestrian era of heavyweights. The fighters he faced who could punch, couldn’t fight. The others couldn’t fight or punch and the rest were journeyman who earned a title shot by compiling a few consecutive wins. There’s no way around it, like Larry Holmes and many other heavyweight title holders, there weren’t any outstanding or great challengers around to really test him.

Unlike Holmes, Vital Klitschko looked clumsy in the ring and was very awkward, something he used to his advantage during combat. The bottom line is the opposition he fought was very limited, but that’s not his fault, he fought whoever was the most qualified to fight him and he dominated practically every time out. Actually, he seldom lost rounds let alone bouts. And as he leaves today he’d still be favored over every heavyweight in the word if they were to meet, even at age 42.

Here’s the positive regarding Vitali the title-holder. At 6’7″ and 250 plus, he was very big and physically strong. More importantly he knew how to use his size and strength in the ring. He was versatile and could circle and move if fighting an attacker like Corrie Sanders or Dereck Chisora. He could also press the fight against the fighters who moved away from him like Tomasz Adamek and Kevin Johnson and he also was a very effective counter-puncher. Vitali possessed great punch anticipation and was hard to hit. He had more than adequate stamina and if he hit you clean, he could get you out of there evidenced by his high knockout ratio. Vitali was a confident fighter and was not intimidated by any opponent he fought. Regardless of his opponent’s style, he forced them to address his strengths and awkwardness before they could even attempt to try and fight their fight. No, he didn’t always look polished and refined, but he was damned effective and was a thinking fighter in the ring. In fact he never made mistakes or beat himself once in 47 bouts.

Where does he rank in heavyweight history? It’s too early to say for sure. What can be said is he must be considered amongst the top 15 heavyweight title holders in history based on what he brought to the ring as a fighter. Yes, I’d make him an underdog to Joe Louis, Sonny Liston, Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis, but he would give them one of the toughest fights of their careers if so in a losing effort. As for the rest of the great champions and title holders, he’s even money because of his size and style advantage against them head-to-head.

Like Gene Tunney, Rocky Marciano and Lennox Lewis, Vitali Klitschko is getting out of boxing at the right time. He’s leaving as the best fighter in the division as champ with his health, wealth and respect intact. That alone makes him unique. Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@gmail.com

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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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