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Good-Bye to Roseland, From Hauser

Thomas Hauser

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After a while, the big arenas where fights are held start to feel the same. The spectator areas, dressing rooms, and ringside corrals have a homogenous look. Small venues are more likely to have their own unique character.

Roseland had character. It opened as a ballroom in 1919 at Broadway and 51st Street in New York. Thirty-seven years later, the building was torn down and ballroom dancers were redirected to what had once been a skating rink one block to the north.

In the decades that followed, Roseland hosted everything from gala parties to rock concerts. Guests sang Happy Birthday to Hillary Clinton and listened enthralled as the Rolling Stones blasted out Satisfaction.

Time marches on. Roseland will close its doors after an April 7 concert by Lady Gaga. Then it will be demolished to make way for a high-rise building.

Roseland was never identified with boxing in the public mind. But over the years, 27 fight cards were contested there. An overhanging balcony offered spectators a spectacular view of the ring. There wasn‘t a bad seat in the house.

The first boxing event held at Roseland was a Cedric Kushner “Heavyweight Explosion” card on December 8, 1998, featuring Al Cole vs. Kirk Johnson, Obed Sullivan vs. Jesse Ferguson, and Shannon Briggs vs. Marcus Rhode. Three months later, Kushner returned with Hasim Rahman vs. Michael Rush and Danell Nicholson vs. Frankie Swindell. Rahman KO’d Rush in five rounds. Two years later, he knocked out Lennox Lewis in South Africa to become heavyweight champion of the world.

Paulie Malignaggi won his second pro fight at Roseland with a fourth-round stoppage of Robert Sowers on July 26, 2001. He was there again on November 23 to fight on a card promoted by Lou DiBella with the proceeds going to the families of police officers and firefighters who had died on 9/11. Future champions Jermain Taylor and Orlando Salido also emerged victorious that night. But the show ended on a horrifying note when James Butler (who lost a unanimous decision to Richard Grant in the main event) sucker-punched Grant as the victor stood in the ring awaiting a post-fight television interview.

It was a horrifying moment. Grant dropped to the canvas. Blood poured from his mouth. His jaw was fractured and he went into convulsions. Butler was arrested on the spot. He later pled guilty to felony assault, served four months in prison, and was released on five year’s probation. He is now in prison again subsequent to guilty plea in conjunction with the 2004 murder of writer Sam Kellerman.

Five years passed after the Butler-Grant fiasco before boxing returned to Roseland. The most glorious moment in the ballroom’s ring history occurred on July 15, 2011, when Pawel Wolak and Delvin Rodriguez fought to a ten-round draw that evoked memories of the first encounter between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward.

David Tua, Peter Quillin, Yuri Foreman, David Telesco, and Louis Del Valle also fought at Roseland. The final bell tolled on Wednesday night, when DiBella Entertaiment promoted the last fight card that the one-time ballroom will ever host.

Wednesday’s fights started shortly after 7:00 pm. The seats filled up early. Soon only standing room was available. Curtis Jackson III (better known as Fifty Cent) was there. So was Rosie Perez. Stephen Espinoza and Gordon Hall were on hand to scout future opponents for ShoBox. Harold Lederman and Peter Nelson gave HBO a presence.

There were nine fights, most of them well-matched with spirited action. If one imagined that the fighters’ gloves were black, their trunks black or white, and the ring canvas tan, it could have been the 1940s.

Ron Rizzo (vice president of operations for DiBella Entertainment) stood in the balcony, overlooking the scene. “For me, the closing is personal,” Rizzo said. “I was working for Cedric when we did the first show here. Roseland always had a special feel to it. There’s enough room and enough open space that you can move around and socialize between fights. Wherever you are, you get a good look at the ring. In all the years I’ve been in boxing, I haven’t found a place I like as much as this. I’ll miss it.”

Those thoughts resonated with Kushner, who was sitting quietly on a banquette toward the rear of the arena. These are hard times for Cedric. Once, he was at the center of the boxing universe. But in recent years, he has suffered reversals.

How did Kushner feel about Roseland closing?

“It’s a sign of the times,” Cedric said. “And for me, personally, it’s another part of my past, gone.”

*     *     *

On February 25, 1975, Elijah Muhammad died and his son, Wallace, succeeded him as leader of the Nation of Islam.

Muhammad Ali later recalled, “That didn’t surprise us, because we’d been told Wallace would come after his father. But what surprised some people was, Wallace changed the direction of the Nation. He’d learned from his studies that his father wasn’t teaching true Islam, and Wallace taught us the true meaning of the Qur’an. He showed that color don’t matter. He taught that we’re responsible for our own lives and it’s no good to blame our problems on other people. And that sounded right to me, so I followed Wallace. I’ve changed what I believe, and what I believe in now is true Islam.”

That bit of history is relevant today because Mauricio Sulaiman has succeeded his father as president of the World Boxing Council. Mauricio can take the organization that his father was largely responsible for building, keep the good, and reform its abuses. Or he can embrace the concept of phony belts, questionable officiating, biased rankings, and a lack of overall financial accountability.

The choice is his.

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book (Straight Writes and Jabs: An Inside Look at Another Year in Boxing) was published by the University of Arkansas Press.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 86: Heavyweight Impact, Thompson Boxing and More

David A. Avila

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 86: Heavyweight Impact, Thompson Boxing and More

Any time Yanks fight Brits, expect a battle of epic proportions, but when you add rival networks, well now it’s getting downright nasty.

When undefeated WBC heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder (42-0-1, 41 KOs) steps in to face lineal champion face Tyson Fury (29-0-1, 20 KOs) on Saturday Feb. 22, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, it pits not only PBC versus Top Rank, but FOX versus ESPN pay-per-views.

These are all good things.

Aside from bragging rights for the winner’s side, the absolute winners could be boxing fans especially those waiting for other potential fights between PBC and Top Rank. This heavyweight clash could be the foot-in-the-door needed for boxing.

Think: welterweight showdowns between Top Rank’s Terence Crawford and PBC’s Errol Spence Jr. as a follow up. There are many other potential matchups.

All this could be the next step after this repeat heavyweight showdown.

Wilder brings his explosiveness against Fury’s tactical and incredible agility for this return match. Can they match their first encounter?

Back in December 2018, in Los Angeles, the two heavyweights boxed and slugged their way to history with the best heavyweight world championship fight of the 21st century, even topping 2003’s Lennox Lewis versus Vitali Klitschko that also took place in Los Angeles.

Great heavyweight battles are not as common as one would think. They don’t throw as many blows as welterweights and usually they are as slow as glaciers. They can lull you to sleep with their slowness.

“I’m the hardest hitting heavyweight of all time,” said Wilder when in Los Angeles.

Wilder and Fury mesmerized the public with their clash of styles especially after the tall Brit with the clever lines was dropped in the ninth and 12th rounds. How he got up to fight remains a mystery to me and many others.

“He put me down twice and here I am,” said Fury who twice beat the count after knockdowns in their first encounter at the Staples Center.

Very few heavyweight title fights can equal Fury-Wilder’s first meeting.

Memorable Heavyweight Battles of the Past

Here are a few heavyweight world title fights I saw that I actually think measure up:

Riddick Bowe versus Evander Holyfield 2 in Las Vegas on November 6, 1993.

Larry Holmes versus Ken Norton in Las Vegas on June 9, 1978.

Muhammad Ali versus Joe Frazier 3 in Quezon City, Philippines Oct. 1, 1975.

Wilder and Fury 2 should be similar to their first encounter but expect the fight to end in less than 12 rounds. They know each other’s tendencies, strengths, and definitely know each other’s weaknesses. Expect a knockout but it remains to be seen who gets the knockout.

Yes, we know Wilder has the power but does he have the chin?

This time Fury will be willing to test Wilder’s chin with a full-out attack and that should come early in the fight. This fight should not go past five rounds. Either Wilder goes down and out or Fury goes to sleep. Someone’s not beating the count.

I truly don’t know who wins this rematch.

20th Anniversary for Thompson

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I attended Thompson Boxing Promotion’s first boxing event at the very same Doubletree Hotel in Ontario, California back on March 5, 2001. Carlos “El Elegante” Bojorquez was the headliner on that card and the super welterweight fight ended in a technical draw due to a clash of heads opening a cut on Bojorquez.

That was the first Thompson Boxing card and here we are on Friday February 21, 2020 with the Orange County-based company showcasing another gem in Ruben Torres.

One thing about Thompson Boxing they know how to discover talent and have a string of world champions and contenders in its 20 years of existence. Torres could be the next. They still have Danny Roman who recently lost the WBA and IBF super bantamweight titles by a narrow decision. But regaining a world title remains a reality.

Torres (11-0, 9 KOs) faces Gabino Cota (19-10-2, 17 KOs) in an eight-round lightweight clash that will probably not go the distance.

I’ve seen all of Torres’ fights and through this three-year journey the 5’11” tall lightweight has been honed into a precision fighting machine by trainer Danny Zamora in Santa Fe Springs, California.

Zamora rarely gets credit for his ability to develop boxers into world class prizefighters but he has an extensive history of success. From Yonnhy Perez to Torres the Santa Fe Springs trainer has quietly produced multiple elite pugilists for just as long as Thompson Boxing has existed. Catch his act.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. For tickets or information call (714) 935-0900.

Ryan’s World

It’s been nearly one week since Ryan “The Flash” Garcia knocked out Francisco Fonseca in the first round of their regional title fight at the Honda Center in Anaheim. If you haven’t seen the highlight, go ahead and take a look. The entire fight lasted only 1:20 and it seemed shorter.

Garcia was not fighting a low caliber fighter. Let’s get that straight. Fonseca gave both Tevin Farmer and Gervonta Davis a difficult time. He couldn’t do the same against Garcia.

Fonseca has a lot of talent and a good chin. In fact, the day after losing to Tank Davis by illegal blows behind the head, the fighter who lived in Costa Rica visited my home in Southern California and seemed more than healthy despite the fouls committed against him and allowed by the referee and Nevada State Athletic Commission. Though Fonseca’s team took their complaint to the Commission – with extensive footage showing the hits behind the head – the loss was not overturned.

Over the years I’ve seen Garcia fight both as an amateur and professional and it was obvious to me and almost every major promoter in America that he has talent. All were interested in signing Garcia once he turned 18.

Well, Golden Boy signed him and here he is on the precipice of a world title challenge. It’s not a surprise to those in the boxing game. It’s only a surprise to those that truly don’t know prizefighting. This kid is for real.

Oxnard

On open workout for the public will be held by Diego Magdaleno at La Colonia Gym in Oxnard, California on Friday, Feb. 21. The workout begins at 5 p.m. and equipment will be donated to the boxing club by Shannon Torres Gilman.

Magdaleno, a lightweight contender who scored a big win on national television last weekend on the Plant-Feigenbutz card, is the older brother of former world champion Jessie Magdaleno. He is also training and managing former female world champion, Crystal Morales, who is scheduled to fight on March 27 in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

Fights to Watch

Fri. 8 p.m. Thompsonboxing.com – Ruben Torres (11-0) vs Gabino Cota (19-10-2).

Fri. 11:30 p.m. Telemundo – Saul Juarez (25-10-2) vs Jonathan Gonzalez (22-3-1).

Sat. 6 p.m. FOX or ESPN pay-per-view – Deontay Wilder (42-0-1) vs Tyson Fury (29-0-1); Emanuel Navarrete (30-1) vs Jeo Santisima (19-2); Charles Martin (27-2-1) vs Gerald Washington (20-3-1); Javier Molina (21-2) vs. Amir Imam (22-2).

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Wilder, Fury Both Believe Providence is on Their Side

Bernard Fernandez

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Wilder, Fury Both Believe Providence is on Their Side

You hear it more and more frequently at the conclusion of significant sporting events, including boxing matches. The winner or key-play maker for the victors thanks God for His supposed intervention, thus giving the impression that the Almighty, like many humans who pray that their wagers pay off, plays favorites on the field or in the ring, perhaps even to the point of running a celestial bookie operation.

Remember how it was when Joe Louis knocked out Adolf Hitler’s favorite heavyweight, Max Schmeling, in the first round of their June 22, 1938, rematch at Yankee Stadium? Millions of Americans considered it an affirmation of Divine Intervention, of Star-Spangled good conquering the pure evil of all that the Nazis represented, and never mind that Schmeling found Der Fuhrer as repugnant as did Louis and his vast legion of admirers.

Nowadays, choosing whom to support in a major fight, emotionally and financially, is not always so cut-and-dried. Some will plunk their money down on someone representing their country or home region, more pragmatic types are apt to follow their heads instead of their hearts. But the bedrock principle of gambling still most often applies: when in doubt, root for whichever individual or team will yield a profit rather than a loss.

Given that Saturday night’s megafight between WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder (42-0-1, 41 KOs) and lineal titlist Tyson Fury (29-0-1, 20 KOs) is about as close as it ever gets to being a 50/50 proposition (Wilder is favored by the narrowest of margins), many of those backing their play with big bucks might have to confess that they’re doing so with fingers crossed and fervent prayers offered to a deity that may or may not have determined the outcome beforehand.

But there are two individuals who profess to be absolutely certain of a favorable outcome at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand, and not just for reasons that are presumably based in fact or logic. Wilder, the pulverizing puncher from Tuscaloosa, Ala., has offered his opinion that God indeed has blessed his cause, much as it was widely believed nearly 82 years ago that the king of heaven wanted Louis (also a native Alabaman, for those who take note of such things) to whack out Schmeling. But a different certainty is being offered by Fury, the gigantic “Gypsy King” from the United Kingdom who also claims he has it on good authority that it is his destiny to emerge triumphant.

Wilder, who had an audience with Pope Francis in the Vatican in December, at which time he was named the papal Ambassador for Sport, said he has been aware since childhood of the plan God supposedly has for him.

“I’ve always had power,” he said. “I always tell the story of how my grandmother said I was anointed by God, that God is trying to use me for things. It’s just all about living, coming into this world and finding your purpose in life. I think I found one of my purposes in life, and of course that’s whupping ass and taking names. And I do that very well.

“I’ve just been blessed tremendously. It’s one of the things I can’t describe how it transpired. When you have a calling in life, it’s just that. I just have a calling all my life. I’m showing the world who I am and what I am.”

Fury doesn’t exactly identify God as the reason he will win. His explanation vaguely hints at Tarot cards and tea leaves, but he’s just as convinced that a mighty wave of predetermination will carry him to his inevitable success on fight night. He claims that it is his seemingly miraculous recovery from an emphatic 12th-round knockdown by Wilder in their first meeting, on Dec. 1, 2018, in Los Angeles, that has cloaked him in virtual invincibility.

“I didn’t know I was knocked down,” he said of the second of the two times he was dropped by Wilder. “It wasn’t a flash knockdown, like in round nine. It was like a knockout. I watched it on tape. He hit me with a right hand and when I was on my way down he hit me with a left hook. It should have been bye-bye. I remember opening my eyes after around four seconds. I thought, `Get up!’ I just jumped up. And then Wilder rushes in and hits me with another massive left hook right on the temple. But it was like I was bullet-proof. It was a more damaging shot than the one that buried me. But it wasn’t meant to be. It wasn’t Wilder’s time (to win). It wasn’t my time to lose.

“I come from a long line of gypsies going back thousands of years. I’m the latest king of our tribe, our people, whatever you want to call them. I believe it’s written in the stars. I don’t believe all the hard work, all the dedication, have that much to do with it. You have to do that as well, but some things that have happened to me in my life now make me 100% believe it’s written in the stars.”

(One has to wonder how Fury’s public pronouncement that frequent cunnilingus has helped strengthen his jaw was received by his wife and mother of the couple’s five children, the most outrageous such comment since Livingstone Bramble bragged that, counter to standard boxing protocol, he engaged in sexual activity with his wife multiple times a night right up to the day of his bouts.)

For fight fans hesitant to buy into the notion, proffered by either principal, that a higher power has a vested interest in what takes place inside the ropes in this much-anticipated do-over, standard factors are likely to ultimately prove the difference. Can Wilder’s superior power get him home should he find the mark with that devastating right hand? Will Fury’s more polished boxing skills flummox his bigger-hitting foe all the way to the final bell and a nod on points? Or will Fury keep his word that he will take the fight straight to Wilder in the center of the ring, a radical shift in strategy possibly orchestrated by his new trainer, Javan “Sugar” Hill?

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Wilder – Fury Predictions & Analyses from the TSS Panel of Writers

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Whenever there is a big fight with a high level of intrigue, we survey members of our writing community to get their thoughts. In terms of pre-fight intrigue, Saturday’s rematch in Las Vegas between fellow unbeatens Deontay Wilder (42-0-1, 41 KOs) and Tyson Fury (29-0-1, 20 KOs) ranks among the top heavyweight title fights of all time.

As is our usual custom, we are listing our panelists alphabetically. The graphic is by Colorado comic book cover artist ROB AYALA whose work has attracted a lot of buzz. Ayala’s specialty is combat sports. Check out more of his very cool work at his web site fight posium.

MATT ANDRZEJEWSKI — In the first fight, my prediction was that Fury would easily out-box Wilder. I am sticking to my guns with the same prediction for the second fight. I know Fury is making a lot of noise about knocking out Wilder but I think this is more psychological than anything else. Fury will box cautiously behind the jab, pick his spots to counter and focus very carefully on his defense. He is not going to go for the knockout and will turn this into an even more tactical affair than the first fight. But he will be more successful this time and coast to a wide unanimous decision victory.

BERNARD FERNANDEZ — Fury is saying he’s going to meet Wilder in the center of the ring and take him out in two rounds. I’m guessing that’s a ruse, so I don’t put much stock in it. But even if the big Brit elects to outbox Wilder over 12 rounds, which he is capable of doing, that means he has to avoid getting clocked with a huge right hand for 12 rounds. Gotta go with the home run hitter here. Wilder by KO or stoppage in eight rounds.

JEFFREY FREEMAN — Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder are equally charged with restoring much needed prestige to the heavyweight division in America. It’s a long slow slog. As a result, the powers caring about this have to be careful not to give away what they can sell. That’s why the first Wilder-Fury fight was called a draw. Neither fighter can afford a loss on their undefeated record and Bob Arum won’t be giving paying fans an actual result in exchange for their hard earned PPV dollars. Not yet anyway. So, it’s going to happen again! Wilder-Fury II ends in another draw but don’t worry, you can pay for the trilogy rubber-match “tie breaker” spectacular soon enough!

ARNE LANG – We performed this exercise before the first-Wilder Fury fight. No one was more bullish on Wilder than me. Properly chastened, I am going to pass the buck this time. Here are the observations of a long-time friend who resides on the Isle of Man and is known for having a sharp opinion: “Fury was cut badly in his last fight and will be very cautious, having tasted Wilder’s power. Training at Kronk isn’t the same without Manny Steward there. Fury has had multiple distractions and I don’t regard him as a world class puncher. DW has 36 minutes to land the one punch that will turn the tide.”

KELSEY McCARSON — Can you imagine what Deontay Wilder might feel on fight night? Across the ring from him will again be Tyson Fury, the same fighter who ate Wilder’s best punch and got back up on his feet. The only other time Wilder didn’t score a knockout was when he faced Bermane Stiverne in 2015. But Wilder broke his right hand in that fight, so he could explain that mystery away until he got the rematch with Stiverne two years later and ended up folding him in half in the first round like a lawn chair. But neither of Wilder’s hands were broken against Fury. Worse for the 34-year-old American is that Fury outboxed him for the majority of the fight. I like Fury to win the rematch by decision. Wilder will overcommit on his punches, and Fury will box his ears off for the clear victory.

MATT McGRAIN — Predicting a Tyson Fury fight is rather like predicting the weather. Even with all the pertinent information on hand it’s impossible to know exactly what will occur. Fury has been running less but reportedly sparring more; he has spoken openly of targeting 270lbs for the weigh-in; he has a new trainer who may or may not be motivating him; he has looked consistently bored and disinterested at more recent pressers; he has spoken openly of the crushing depression that envelopes him every Sunday. So, we might get an overweight, disinterested, under-motivated Fury on Saturday night. And he still might win. Put me down for Fury on points, but the right answer is, ‘nobody knows’.

SEAN NAM — Tyson Fury’s body may be as taut as its ever been, but his mind is in free-floating mode these days. Between hinting at an early retirement and opening up about certain sexual proclivities, Fury seems to have one foot perpetually out of the ring. In fact, ever since he linked up with Top Rank, it has been one big, gaudy publicity tour after another for the Manchester man. A stint with the WWE, the publication of his autobiography (as though his legacy in the ring had already been set in stone), and repeated desires to fight in an MMA crossover bout give the impression that Fury may not be as dialed-in for the most important fight of his life. Not to mention, Fury inexplicably canned his former trainer, Ben Davison. Meanwhile, Deontay Wilder, he of the thunderous right-hand fame, has been quiet as a church mouse. Wilder TKO9.

TED SARES –  An in-shape Fury schools Wilder in the early to mid rounds with focus and discipline, but then Wilder’s right connects and a stunned Fury backs off. Wilder then presses the action and KOs the giant in the next round – maybe the 9th or 10th – with a windmill shot (left or right) or a paralyzing straight ala Breazeale. We know Fury can go down. We know he can get up. But so also do Wilder and Mark Breland.

PHIL WOOLEVER – Wilder’s KO percentage gives him the coin-flip edge (Fury better remember what happened to Stiverne) but I have no clear idea what might happen where I see another draw just as likely as a decision either way. What intrigues me most are the over/under bet propositions listed around the 11th (take the under) and the possibility of this rematch joining a list of outrageous circumstances like the long count, ear bite or paraglider.

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