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Froch-Groves II Will Pack Wembley, Settle The Score

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Just over two weeks ago a historic deal was announced for these two pugilists, Carl Froch (34-2, 23 KOs), the WBA/IBF super-middleweight champion, and George Groves (20-1, 15 KOs), to finally sort out their differences inside a 90,000, “blood red,” seated stadium.

The anticipation for the May 31 rematch has obviously overwhelmed not just the boxing aficionados, but also people with very little interest in the sport at all, many of whom will never have seen a live boxing match of notable significance in their lives – that’s until they meet their date with destiny.

Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn, the promoter of the event, has pulled off a serious coup regarding the live gate attendance for the event. It would be perfectly legit to say he hasn’t vaulted ticket sales through the retractable Wembley roof, but rather he’s blown it off completely after detonating the semtex with a blasting cap. 60,000 tickets were shifted inside an hour. Sky TV are predicting Box Office pay-per-view buys to hit a million, potentially worth in the region of £17m. The broadcasting rights have gone international to an absurd degree, as over 100 countries are set up for transmission.

Eddie, the dark haired and charming boxing salesman, has went one better than his dad, Barry, who managed to get a figured amount of around 44,000 into Old Trafford for the WBC/WBO super-middleweight title rematch between Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn, 21 years ago. On May 31, after streaming out of the London Underground, jumping out parked cars, or by whatever means necessary regarding transport to the battle, thousands upon thousands of intense spectators, young and old – some having just drowned themselves profusely in large proportions of alcohol while others simply walk in a straight line – will eagerly swagger along Wembley Way towards a stadium befitting of a 21st century clash between two Roman Gladiators.

At the present time, if you don’t suffer from a severe and debilitating case of long-term memory loss, as you very well know, they sure aren’t Romans. Froch, 36, is from the city of Nottingham, with Groves, 25, being a Londoner.

However, these two gladiators won’t stand and trade lunatically until a sure death occurs. Intentional headbutts and low blows aside, their physical confrontation will be conducted in a professional and dignified manner – hopefully. They’ll both warm-up in their respective dressing rooms, get each fist bandaged and gloved by a member of their training camps to the formulated Marquess of Queensberry Rules, then march themselves towards a squared ring for a possible thirty-six minutes of extreme violence.

They’ll both meet centre ring, producing a mirrored symmetry image as they stare intently into each others’ eyes, touch gloves, retreat to their corners, and get ready to physically catapult at each other, wholeheartedly, while seeking a high degree of finessed skill and toughness: spiteful jabs, millisecond feints, rocket launching right hands, rib evaporating body punches, combined with durability in equal measures as a Siberian Larch made church. Hold on… Many Siberian Larch – referred to as “The Tree of Eternity” – made churches have ultimately been standing in existence for over 800 years, whereas Froch’s chin lasted a mere two minutes and forty-two seconds against Groves during their first encounter.

His guard down, balance all over the place, rushing forward, straight up and down as a lampost, Froch handed over his nickname, “The Cobra,” to the awaiting Groves, who simply said, “thank you very much,” before taking a slight step back and flooring the champion, heavily, with a straight right hand down the pipe.

Froch’s relatively limited defense throughout the course of his career couldn’t have been termed as even “frail,” because it would suffice to say it never existed during those alarming moments. If it wasn’t for the sounding of a bell, well, Froch might well have been saved by the referee instead. Thereafter…..Groves, exuding confidence, was springing forward with authoriative, free flowing, jabs. Very rarely did he miss the target with his purposeful offense. As was the case during the first round, his right hand – the punch Groves would later say had Froch “buzzed” on numerous occasions – would go on to become a regular and useful weapon against his slower campatriot throughout the contest.

During round four, technical deficiencies of the champion were evidently there in abundance, again. Groves launched a right hand from long range which, realistically, shouldn’t have found its target. Froch pulling back in a straight line, hands down, wearing concrete boots, almost invited the punch to land on his chin, making no attempt to either slip it with head movement or quickly step to the side and counter-punch. Froch was physically tight and tentative. His jab, usually a ramrod, was so soft it would’ve struggled to awaken a light sleeper had it hit one’s bedroom door.

Throughout the vast majority of the contest, especially the early rounds, Groves showed that he wouldn’t voluntary back pedal, which obviously would’ve allowed the champion to gain momentum with his two-fisted attacks. Lucian Bute showed that backing away from Froch can lead to catastrophic consequences – he was mercilessly steamrolled inside 3 rounds. Groves was always within distance, solidly balanced, defense tight, picking his moments to either lead off or counter, making Froch unsure in almost everything he attempted. Yes, Froch did have his moments during rounds seven and eight but he was barely, if ever, significantly impressive with his work.

After eight completed rounds, Groves was certainly ahead – out thinking, out boxing and out punching the champion. When the controversial stoppage came in favor of the champion, it was a surprising one, as Groves was well balanced with his punching technique undamaged, too. Fighters who are totally “gone” and need to be saved by the referee rarely, if ever, deliver any ability of being able to fire back at their opponent with solid punching technique, which Groves showed seconds before the stoppage. See, it’s not about how many blows to the head or body a fighter receives which should determine the conclusion of a stoppage. First and foremost, well, to a certain degree,  it’s paramountly the state of the fighter’s consciousness and physical well being.

My mind is cast back to the McCullough-Larios rematch in Las Vegas a few years ago, when Dr. Margaret Goodman stopped the fight before the start of the last round. Goodman, a highly respected ring physician in Nevada at the time, thought McCullough had sustained far too many powerful punches over the duration of the fight, even though he never looked seriously hurt or close to being knocked down.

Was Groves hurt? Yes, slightly. But his consciousness wasn’t ripped away from his soul enough for a stoppage to be forced by referee Howard Foster. He was given neither the chance to recuperate himself nor the opportunity to be accurately assessed by the referee.

Before the referee jumped in to stop the fight, Froch was defintely the fighter with all the momentum on his side. Yes. But, in my opinion, had he been allowed to continue, who’s to say Groves wouldn’t have knocked Froch out with a single blow for a full 10 count just a handful of seconds after the exact point when the referee halted the contest?

The IBF – who forced the rematch – statement from Jan. 24: “The panel felt that in the ninth round Groves should have been allowed to continue as he did not appear to be seriously hurt and was counter-punching and attempting to move the action away from the ropes at the time of the stoppage. In addition, the referee waved off the fight from behind Groves instead of in front of him and did not look into his eyes. Groves showed no signs of being hurt after the stoppage. The panel felt it was an improper stoppage… it has been determined that there was inappropriate conduct by the referee that affected the outcome of the fight.”

If Froch allows the younger Groves to dilute his confidence so thoroughly with psychological mind games during the build-up to the rematch that his decision making is, yet again, amateurish and obscured when he steps into the ring, his faculties might well end up being scattered over the canvas, only this time, like a dead man’s ashes.

The volcanic feud: The gas started to simmer during a heated sparring session between the pair at a Sheffield gym in 2010. It manifested itself to boiling point when Froch controversially stopped Groves last November in Manchester – after nine rounds of fistic mayhem. At Wembley Stadium, London, on May. 31, the inevitable eruption of lava might well conclude proceedings once and for all.

Robbi Paterson is a feature writer/analyst who has contributed to various boxing websites, including TheSweetScience.com.

He can be reached at Oscar_no1@hotmail.com

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Weekend Boxing Recap: The Mikey Garcia Stunner and More

Arne K. Lang

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Weekend Boxing Recap: The Mikey Garcia Stunner and More

Boxing was all over the map on the third Saturday of October with many of the shows pulled together on short notice as promoters took advantage of relaxed COVID constraints to return to business as usual. When the smoke cleared, a monster upset in Fresno overshadowed the other events.

Mikey Garcia, a shoo-in to make the Hall of Fame, was on the wrong side of it. Spain’s Sandor Martin, in his USA debut, won a well-deserved decision over Garcia at a Triple-A baseball park in Fresno.

Garcia, a former four-division belt-holder, was 40-1 coming in with his only loss coming at the hands of Errol Spence. Martin, a 28-year-old southpaw, brought a nice record with him from Europe (38-2) but with only 13 wins coming by way of stoppage it was plain that he wasn’t a heavy hitter. His only chance was to out-box Garcia and that seemed far-fetched.

But Martin did exactly that, counter-punching effectively to win a 10-round majority decision. Two judges had it 97-93 with the third turning in a 95-95 tally.

Neither Garcia nor Martin were natural welterweights. The bout was fought at a catch-weight of 145 pounds. After the bout, the Spaniard indicated a preference for dropping back to 140 where enticing opportunities await.

There was another upset, albeit a much milder one, in the co-feature where Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Gonzalez improved to 25-3-1 (14) while shearing the WBO world flyweight title from the shoulders of Mexicali’s Elwin Soto (19-2).

Soto was making his fourth defense of the title and rode into the match with a 17-fight winning streak. Gonzalez, a southpaw, had formerly fought for the WBO world flyweight title, getting stopped in seven rounds by Kosei Tanaka in Nagoya, Japan.

One of the judges favored Soto 116-112, but he was properly out-voted by his colleagues who had it 116-112 the other way.

Riga, Latvia

The first major fight on Saturday took place in Riga, Latvia, where hometown hero Mairis Briedis successfully defended his IBF cruiserweight title with a third-round stoppage of Germany’s Artur Mann who was on the deck three times before the match was halted at the 1:54 mark.

Briedis (28-1, 20 KOs) was making his first start since dismantling KO artist Yuniel Dorticos in the finals of season two of the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament. He scored the first of his three knockdowns in the waning seconds of round two when he deposited Mann (17-2) on the canvas with a straight right hand.

Although boosters of fast-rising WBO champ Lawrence Okolie would disagree, the Latvian is widely regarded as the best cruiserweight in the world. His only setback came when he lost a narrow decision to current WBA/IBF/WBO heavyweight champ Oleksandr Usyk in this ring in January of 2018. Now 36 years old, Briedis has yet to appear in a main event outside Europe. That’s undoubtedly about to change and a rematch with Usyk is well within the realm of possibility.

Newcastle, England

Chris Eubank Jr, whose fight two weeks ago in London with late sub Anati Muratov was cancelled at the 11th hour when Muratov failed his medical exam, was added to this Matchroom card and his bout with Wanik Awdijan became the de facto main event. A 26-year-old German, born in Armenia, Awdijan was 28-1 and had won 21 straight (against very limited opposition), but he was no match for Eubank Jr who broke him down with body shots, likely breaking his ribs and forcing him to quit on his stool after five frames.

Eubank Jr, 32, improved to 31-2 (23) His only defeats came at the hands of former world title-holder George Groves and BJ Saunders. He dedicated this fight to his late brother Sebastian Eubank who died in July while swimming in the Persian Gulf.

In other bouts, Hughie Fury, the cousin of Tyson Fury, stayed relevant in the heavyweight division with a stoppage of well-traveled German Christian Hammer and Savannah Marshall successfully defended her WBO world middleweight title with a second-round TKO of Lolita Muzeya.

Akin to Eubank-Awdijan, the Fury-Hammer fight also ended with the loser bowing out after five frames. A biceps injury allegedly caused Hammer to say “no mas,” but Fury, in what was arguably his career-best performance, was well ahead on the cards.

The Marshall-Muzeya fight was a battle of unbeatens, but Muzeya’s 16-0 record was suspicious as the Zambian had never fought outside the continent of Africa. She came out blazing, but Marshall, who improved to 11-0 (9) had her number and retained her title.

Brooklyn

In the featured bout of a TrillerVerz show at Barclays Center, Long Island’s Cletus Seldin, the Hebrew Hammer, knocked out William Silva in the seventh round. It was the fifth-straight win for the 35-year-old Seldin, a junior welterweight who was making his first start in 20 months.

Silva, a 34-year-old Brazilian who fights out of Florida, brought a 28-3 record. His previous losses had come at the hands of Felix Verdejo, Teofimo Lopez, and Arnold Barboza Jr. Seldin improved to 26-1 (22 KOs).

In other bouts, junior welterweight Petros Ananyan, a Brooklyn-based Armenian, improved to 16-2-2 (7) with a 10-round majority decision over local fighter Daniel Gonzalez (20-3-1) and Will Madera of Albany, NY, scored a mild upset when he stopped Jamshidbek Najmitdinov who was pulled out after five rounds with an apparent shoulder injury.

Najmitdinov, from Uzbekistan, was making his U.S. debut but he brought a 17-1 record blemished only by former world title-holder Viktor Postol. Madera improved to 17-1-3.

Photo credit: Ed Mulholand / Matchroom

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Emanuel Navarrete Retains WBO Featherweight Title in a San Diego Firefight

David A. Avila

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SAN DIEGO-WBO featherweight titlist Emanuel Navarrete won by unanimous decision over Joet Gonzalez in a slugfest that had fans cheering nonstop on Friday night. Fans were mesmerized by the savagery.

More than 2,000 fans saw Mexico City’s Navarrete (35-1, 29 KOs) and Southern California’s Gonzalez (24-2, 14 KOs) bounce brutal shots off each other for 12 successive rounds at Pechanga Sports Arena.

Both Navarrete and Gonzalez were about equal in height with the champion maybe a slight taller, but not by much. As soon as the first bell rang the two featherweights opened up in furious fashion.

Gonzalez was making his second attempt to grab a world title. His first attempt fell short a year ago. He was eager to atone for the defeat by clobbering Navarrete. Body shots were the weapon of choice.

The Mexican fighter Navarrete was accustomed to battling shorter fighters, this time the two were equal in size and in fury. Blows were flying in bunches and by the third round Gonzalez suffered a cut on his right cheek.

At several points Navarrete would connect with a solid blow and eagerly seek to finish the fight. Each time it happened Gonzalez would fight back even more furiously and beat back the champions attacks.

Gonzalez also connected with big shots and moved in for the kill only find Navarrete take a stand and fire back. Neither was able to truly gain a significant edge. After 12 rounds of nonstop action the decision was given to the judges. One scored it 118-110, two others saw it 116-112 all for Navarrete.

Fans were pleased by the decision and even more pleased by the breath-taking action they had witnessed.

Welterweights

Local fighter Giovani Santillan (28-0, 15 KOs) remained undefeated by unanimous decision after 10 rounds versus Tijuana’s Angel Ruiz (17-2, 12 KOs). The two southpaws were evenly matched.

San Diego’s Santillan was able to outwork Ruiz in almost every round. Though Ruiz has heavy hands he was not able to hurt Santillan even with uppercuts. It was clear very early in the fight that Santillan was the more technical and busier of the two. No knockdowns were scored.

After 10 rounds two judges scored it 100-90 for Santillan and a third saw it 99-91.

Other Results

Lindolfo Delgado (14-0, 12 KOs) battered and knocked down fellow Mexican Juan Garcia Mendez (21-5-2) in the last round of an 8-round super lightweight bout, but could not score the knockout win.

Delgado, a Mexican Olympian, was the quicker and stronger fighter yet discovered Garcia Mendez has a solid chin. All three judges scored it 80-71 for Delgado.

Puerto Rico’s Henry Lebron (14-0, 9 KOs) defeated Manuel Rey Rojas (21-6) by decision after eight rounds in a lightweight match.

Javier Martinez (5-0, 2 KOs) soundly defeated Darryl Jones (4-3-1) by decision after six rounds in a middleweight clash. Jones was tough.

Las Vegas bantamweight Floyd Diaz (3-0) knocked down Tucson’s Jose Ramirez (1-1) in the first round but was unable to end the fight early. Diaz won by decision.

Heavyweight Antonio Mireles (1-0) knocked out Demonte Randle (2-2) at 2:07 of the first round.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank for Getty Images

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Book Review

Russell Peltz’s “Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye”: Book Review by Thomas Hauser

Thomas Hauser

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Russell Peltz’s “Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye”: Book Review by Thomas Hauser

Russell Peltz has been promoting fights for fifty years and is as much a part of the fabric of Philadelphia boxing as Philly gym wars and Philly fighters. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2004 and deservedly so. Now Peltz has written a memoir entitled Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye that chronicles his many years in the sweet science.

Peltz started in boxing before it was, in his words, “bastardized by the alphabet groups” and at a time when “world titles still meant something.”

“I fell in love with boxing when I was twelve,” he writes, “saw my first live fight at fourteen, decided to make it my life, and never looked back.” He promoted his first fight card in 1969 at age 22.

Peltz came of age in boxing at a time when promoters – particularly small promoters – survived or died based on the live gate. Peltz Boxing Promotions had long runs at the Blue Horizon in Philadelphia and both Harrah’s Marina and the Sands  in Atlantic City. His journey through the sweet science included a seven-year stint as director of boxing for The Spectrum in Philadelphia. At the turn of the century, he was a matchmaker for ESPN.

Along the way, Peltz’s office in Philadelphia was fire-bombed. He was robbed at gunpoint while selling tickets in his office for a fight card at the Blue Horizon and threatened in creative ways more times than one might imagine. He once had a fight fall out when one of the fighters was arrested on the day of the weigh-in. No wonder he quotes promoter Marty Kramer, who declared, “The only thing I wish on my worst enemy is that he becomes a small-club boxing promoter.”

Now Peltz has put pen to paper – or finger to keyboard. “The internet is often a misinformation highway,” he writes. “I want to set the record straight as to what actually went on in boxing in the Philadelphia area since the late-1960s. I’m tired of reading tweets or Facebook posts or Instagram accounts from people who were not around and have no idea what went on but write like they do.”

Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye is filled with characters (inside and outside the ring) who give boxing its texture. As Peltz acknowledges, his own judgment was sometimes faulty. Russell once turned down the opportunity to promote Marvin Hagler on a long-term basis. There are countless anecdotes about shady referees, bad judging, and other injustices. Middleweight Bennie Briscoe figures prominently in the story, as do other Philadelphia fighters like Willie “The Worm” Monroe, Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts, Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, Stanley “Kitten” Hayward, and Matthew Franklin (later Matthew Saad Muhammad). Perhaps the best fight Peltz ever promoted  was the 1977 classic when Franklin knocked out Marvin Johnson in the twelfth round.

There’s humor. After Larry Holmes pitched a shutout against Randall “Tex” Cobb in 1982, Cobb proclaimed, “Larry never beat me. He just won the first fifteen rounds.”

And there are poignant notes. Writing about Tanzanian-born Rogers Mtagwa (who boxed out of Philadelphia), Peltz recalls, “He couldn’t pass an eye exam because he didn’t understand the alphabet.”

Remembering the Blue Horizon, Peltz fondly recounts, “”The Blue Horizon was a fight fan’s nirvana. The ring was 15-feet-9-inches squared inside the ropes. No fighter came to the Blue Horizon to pad his record. Fans wanted good fights, not slaughters of second-raters.”

That ethos was personified by future bantamweight champion Jeff Chandler who, after knocking out an obviously inept opponent, told Peltz, “Don’t ever embarrass me like that again in front of my fans.”

Thereafter, whenever a manager asked Peltz to put his fighter in soft to “get me six wins in a row,” Russell thought of Chandler. “I enjoyed promoting fights more than promoting fighters,” he writes. “If I was interested in promoting fighters, I would have been a manager.”

That brings us to Peltz the writer.

The first thing to be said here is that this is a book for boxing junkies, not the casual fan. Peltz is detail-oriented. But do readers really need to know what tickets prices were for the April 6, 1976, fight between Bennie Briscoe and Eugene Hart? The book tends to get bogged down in details. And after a while, the fights and fighters blur together in the telling.

It brings to mind the relationship between Gene Tunney and George Bernard Shaw. The noted playwright and heavyweight great developed a genuine friendship. But Shaw’s fondness for Tunney stopped short of uncritical admiration. In 1932, the former champion authored his autobiography (A Man Must Fight) and proudly presented a copy to his intellectual mentor. Shaw read the book and responded with a letter that read in part, “Just as one prayer meeting is very like another, one fight is very like another. At a certain point, I wanted to skip to Dempsey.”

Reading Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye, at a certain point I wanted to skip to Hagler.

There’s also one jarring note. Peltz recounts how, when Mike Jones fought Randall Bailey for the vacant IBF welterweight title in Las Vegas in 2012, Peltz bet five hundred dollars against Jones (his own fighter) at the MGM Sports Book and collected two thousand dollars when Bailey (trailing badly on the judges’ scorecards) knocked Jones out in the eleventh round.

“It was a tradition from my days with Bennie Briscoe,” Russell explains. “I’d bet against my fighter, hoping to lose the bet and win the fight.”

I think Russell Peltz is honest. I mean that sincerely. And I think he was rooting for Mike Jones to beat Randall Bailey. But I don’t think that promoters should bet on fights involving their own fighters. And it’s worse if they bet against their own fighters. Regardless of the motivation, it looks bad. Or phrased differently: Suppose Don King had bet on Buster Douglas to beat Mike Tyson in Tokyo?

Philadelphia was once a great fight town. in 1926, the first fight between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney drew 120,000 fans to Sesquicentennial Stadium. Twenty-six years later, Rocky Marciano knocked out Jersey Joe Walcott at same site (renamed Municipal Stadium) to claim the heavyweight throne.

Peltz takes pride in saying, “I was part of Philadelphia’s last golden age of boxing.”

An important part.

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book – Broken Dreams: Another Year Inside Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press this autumn. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, he was selected for boxing’s highest honor – induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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