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The Year in Boxing, Part 1

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The year in boxing 2013 started out in January in a ‘meh’ fashion.

Andre Ward was supposed to steamroll Kelly Pavlik but hurt his shoulder and that bout was scrapped, Shane Mosley un-retired and was rumored to be fighting Paul Malignaggi, the Zou Shiming phenomenon was kicking off, Golden Boy and Top Rank sparred over a proposed Abner Mares-Nonito Donaire rumble, blah blah blah.

It was as if the sport just said to hell with it, it is what it is, I’m not even bothering with resolutions this year, I’m just skipping straight to giving up. Ok, ok, maybe I’m overstating the case, but for sure the month of January was no harbinger of the multiple blessings the sport graced us with in a zesty 2013.

The month did give us some of those theater of the unexpected moments which makes being a fightwriter so rewarding, such as Kelly Pavlik retiring to become a Facebook philosopher.

The sports’ two lead dogs, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, stayed relevant with discussions about their nexts, with Floyd flirting with Robert Guerrero and Canelo Alvarez and Devon Alexander and Manny setting up for a fifth tangle with Juan Manuel Marquez, as per his promoter Bob Arum. We know that didn’t come off, and that Manny instead shrugged off the Romney Jinx, which bedeviled him when the private equity king/taker-hater sat ringside for the fourth Pacman-Marquez tangle, and had his jaw dropped when Manny got dropped and stopped.

It wasn’t a memorable January, but boxing usually does take a bit of time to ramp up for the new year; that’s an earned right, as there is no off season for practitioners and consumers of the sweet science.

February started off with another look at the possible baton-carrier for the sport, Adrien Broner. “Mr. HBO” would be tested by Brit Gavin Rees (37-1-1) in Atlantic City. Broner was of course fully charged with optimism before the Rees fight, saying, “This is going to be a fun year for me.” Er, there was tons of fun, and also the opposite of that for the cocky Cinci boxer. He solved Rees with ease but stiffer tests wouldn’t be so easy to navigate later.

A dark note was struck when 25-year-old Omar Henry, a junior middleweight prospect, died from gallbladder cancer. His fanbase grew as people rooted for the kid to KO cancer. On Jan. 9, he wrote on his Facebook page: “I got exactly less than 1 month left until my 26th birthday, February 8. Hopefully I live to see it.” He didn’t, sadly, and ends his campaign with a 12-0-1 mark.

Mayweather dropped word that made folks who enjoy the familial dysfunction of the Mayweather crew chagrined, alerting us that he and his dad were back working together for Floyd’s May 4 date. That announcement paled in comparison to the bombshell which dropped Feb. 19, when Showtime told us they’d signed Floyd to a six-fight deal. HBO said, “We made an aggressive and responsible pay-per-view offer. Now we move on. We are focused on the best boxing franchise in the television business. We are proud of the roster of superstar fighters and emerging stars who are scheduled to appear on the multiple HBO television platforms this year.”

Much digital ink was spilled speculating about just how rich Floyd’s deal was, how much (if any) money Showtime lost on the first fights, and just what sort of numbers Floyd did on PPV for the remainder of the year, and much of that left us hoping for a new boxing reality show, featuring execs being hooked up to polygraphs, and being forced to share PPV numbers.

Mayweather first fought on HBO on Sept. 6, 1997, against Louie Leija, on “Boxing After Dark.” That relationship was by no means a smooth one all the way through. Back in 1999, Mayweather didn’t care for a renewal offer, a seven fight deal which he termed a “slave contract.” But that speedbump got smoothed over…yet of course new ones erupted. The ripples from the Floyd-to-Showtime arrangement are of course still being absorbed today.

The first big bout in March featured the sports’ ageless wonder, 175 pound ace Bernard Hopkins, proving yet again that to bet against him is a fool’s errand. He showed Tavoris Cloud over 12 rounds at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn that his brand of ring generalship is a variety which would stand out in any era. At 48 years old, he was still a credit to what a life of clean living could do for a guy. The win left me wondering what Hopkins could do against Andre Ward, the king at 168 pounds. The Philly boxer didn’t seem open to it, but Ward did, telling me that the cash stash from that tussle would have to be overwhelming for him to agree to it. Not sure I ever quite mastered the public offerings as to why that bout wouldn’t come off, what with Hopkins terming Ward a “protege,” but hey, deciphering Hopkins’ zig-zaggy logic can be half the fun in covering him.

But after seeing Hopkins eat more clean shots than he would’ve two years ago, against Karo Murat, methinks he knows what he’s capable of, and what is a bridge too far, and that Ward is in a category with Sergey Kovalev, as boxers better left to the kiddie corps to deal with. But that’s for him to answer, or evade, in the end…

March 18 saw a shift in the sport of massive proportions, with HBO flipping the bird at Golden Boy, announcing they wouldn’t buy bouts from that entity. “In order to achieve our goal of the best fighters in the most compelling matchups we’ve decided to focus our efforts and resources on those strategic relationships where we better share common goals and business philosophies,” said Ken Hershman, president of HBO sports. The name “Al Haymon” wasn’t mentioned, but loomed XL in the decision, with HBO being beyond-irked that athletes they’d groomed for stardom being escorted over to Showtime to do their business. Moving forward, we’d be left to wonder who’d be the Reagan, who’d be the Gorbachev, to bring warring parties to the table, and propel the thawing process to end boxings’ Cold War.

Here is my analysis of the Cold War, from a March 20 column:
My take: That will remain to be seen. Let’s check back in three, six, 12 months. Maybe it is better that things are out in the open, that HBO forced all cards to be put on the table. This is a new age of transparency, after all. If I write an article, and screw up a fact, or my thesis sucks, you guys will call me on it in the comment section. The interactivity forces the content provider to up their game, in theory, anyway. Now everyone knows who is aligned with who, and that makes the scorecards easier to fill out. As always, I ask for pick ’em fights, the best fighting the best. I know I won’t always get that, because these guys have to balance, as cunning capitalists, risk vs. reward, and building up attractions incrementally. I frankly think the whole lot of them can do better at doing that, across the board. As always, however, I remain optimistic, because I know there is no shortage of athletes ready, willing and able to showcase what you saw Saturday in the Provodnikov-Bradley fight: will, skill and drama, round after round.

That rupture didn’t mean we didn’t appreciate the thrilling March 16 rumble between Friday Night Fights graduate Ruslan Provodnikov, who very nearly stopped the Cali-based boxer who’d been dismayed to be the recipient of death threats from a couple knuckleheads after “defeating” Manny Pacquiao in 2012. Bradley’s rep reached a new level, as he admitted post-fight that he suffered a concussion during the firefight, with fight fans finally giving in, and giving the kid a break. 2013 was his breakthrough year, all can agree.

Robert Guerrero’s rep took a turn when he pulled the knucklehead move of the year–yes, there were as always plenty of contenders–when he was busted for taking a gun into an NYC airport, enroute to Vegas to train to fight Mayweather. This development came after Guerrero shared his faith on “The 700 Club,” hosted by homophobe Pat Robertson. “The Ghost” told one and all that God would be in his corner come fight night, and reward his humility against the comparatively faithless Mayweather, but yet again, we all received proof that the Almighty doesn’t engage in fight fixing.

TMZ-type antics got shoved to the side when Mike Alvarado and Brandon Rios gave fight fans a thriller in their rematch, with the Colorado-based fighter getting a UD five months after the two men squared off and Rios exited with his hand raised. Legs proved the difference here, with Alvie using smart and constant movement to befuddle Rios. Think maybe Freddie Roach studied that tape one or twenty times?

Speaking of befuddling; the Rigolution sprouted on April 13, when the 12-0 Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux beat 2012 Boxing Writers Association Fighter of the Year Nonito Donaire in NY. The crowd booed, sending a message that they wanted more O from the oft-cautious Rigo, but most all had to tip their cap to the man who was lauded by Donaire, a pound for pound ace, for his “beautiful boxing.” That it was; Donaire slipped to 31-2 after landing just 82 punches.

Another boxer who elevated themselves to another plane this year was Danny Garcia. He beat 35-year-old Zab Judah on April 27, earning himself a few more fans who liked the way he dealt with the crafty Judah. Meanwhile, Amir Khan’s Achilles remained in place, as the Brit hit the deck in round four against past-his-prime vet Julio Diaz enroute to a UD12 win in England on April 27.

It was a solid start to the new year, this first quarter, with two fight of the year level rumbles unfolding for our viewing pleasure, and those of us enjoying the political hijinks getting much to chew on, with the HBO-Golden Boy rupture to examine.

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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.

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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.

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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 Microsoft 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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