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Thompson & Solis Represent Why Klitschkos Own Post-Lewis Era

Frank Lotierzo

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This past weekend heavyweight contenders Tony Thompson 40-4 (26) and Odlanier Solis 20-2 (13) met for the WBC International title in Tekirdag, Turkey. Forget about the International title that was up for grabs, the real prize for the winner was the opportunity to face the Bermane Stiverne vs. Chris Arreola winner; they meet on May 10th for the vacated WBC title that came up for grabs when defending champ Vitali Klitschko recently retired.

Thompson, 42 has earned two shots at the title and was stopped both times by WBA/WBO/IBF title holder Wladimir Klitschko, the last time being in July of 2012. Solis, 33, fought for the title once and was stopped by Wladimir’s older brother Vitali Klitschko in the first round, back in March of 2011.

The 6’5″ Thompson defeated Solis via a 12-round split decision by the scores of 115-113, 115-114 and 112-116. Solis was a celebrated amateur and gold medal winner in the heavyweight division at the 2004 Olympic games in Athens, Greece. He was also known for beating fellow Cuban sensation Felix Savon twice in three fights. In December of 2006 he defected from the Cuban National team and turned pro in April of 2007. At the time of his pro debut he was viewed as a highly talented and skilled heavyweight and thought to perhaps be a legitimate threat to disrupt and possibly end the stranglehold over the heavyweight division employed by Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko that began with the retirement of Lennox Lewis in 2003. In his bout against Klitschko, Solis injured his right knee trying to catch his balance after being hit by a right to the temple with only seconds remaining in the first round. And some actually felt that he was hurt before the fight but didn’t let anyone know because he didn’t want to lose his shot at the title. Either way the fight didn’t last long enough to truly gauge just how formidable a challenger Solis was.

Tony Thompson turned pro without much hype and fanfare in 2000 and already lost before the year was over, in his fifth bout. After the loss Thompson ran off 27 straight wins due to good timing and management along with his good work ethic. During his 27 bout win streak heading into his first title bout with Wladimir Klitschko, Thompson beat fringe contenders and journeymen Vaughn Bean, Dominick Guinn, Timur Ibragimov and Luan Krasniqi. Heading into the Klitschko bout, Thompson was viewed as a grinder, but there was a thought permeating out there that his long reach and southpaw style could possibly trouble Wladimir. As it turned out that wasn’t the case, Wladimir was just too physically skilled and strong for Thompson and ultimately stopped him in the 11th round of a fight that he basically controlled from the onset. When they met again four years later, it was basically a rerun of their first fight only this time Klitschko needed just six rounds to turn back Thompson’s second bid to take his title. Which brings us to why the heavyweight division is in the doldrums today.

Tony Thompson and Odlanier Solis represent both ends of the spectrum as to the reason why Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko have been so dominant and have rarely lost rounds let alone fights during the past 10 years. Think about it, Vitali hasn’t lost since fighting Lennox Lewis back in June of 2003 and Wladimir hasn’t been defeated since Lamon Brewster beat him back in April of 2004.

In the case of Solis, he represents how talent alone isn’t enough and how unforgiving boxing can be to fighters who are lazy and won’t get in shape. On the other hand, the 42 year old Thompson, who is not a gifted fighter, keeps upsetting peoples’ apple carts and earning big fights, illustrating just how pedestrian the division is. For Solis it was another stinker in a big spot with his career on the line – whereas Thompson stretched the most out of his ability and once again beat a fighter who was both technically better and more gifted than him. Sure, Thompson isn’t undefeated or aesthetically pleasing to watch, but three of his four loses were to Wladimir Klitschko twice and unbeaten Kubrat Pulev (who will soon challenge for the title) in his last fight before facing Solis, and only Klitschko has stopped him.

The reason that we’ve seen the Klitschkos dominate for the last decade is easy to see. For starters both brothers are very tall, long and strong. Winning and being successful is a very high priority to them, and we’ve never seen either Wladimir or Vitali show up on fight night out of shape or disinterested in the outcome. They can both punch and figured out early on in their careers how to use their size; yes, they’re more than just big. They also view boxing as a respectful sport and an honorable way to make a living. Therefore they think it’s disrespectful to show up for a fight out of shape and in the process cheat themselves and the fans. Something else that’s never mentioned is this…they see boxing as a means to an end. In other words, work hard and sacrifice now in turn for the riches and glory that will come later. Basically, boxing is a vehicle to open doors for them down the road when they retire, as we’ve already seen with Vitali who is going to run for president of Ukraine if it isn’t taken over by Russia in the meantime. However, for fighters to be respected in their post boxing life, they have to be seen as winners when they were active fighters, which of course applies to both Wladimir and Vitali.

During the past decade both brothers have faced all type of different styles and fighters during their title reign. Which again brings us back to Tony Thompson and Odlanier Solis. In Thompson you have a fighter who is not really gifted, and he represents one faction of fighters that both brothers have faced. Thompson has size and desire, but he’s not really good at anything and has no identity as a fighter. He’s not fast nor is he really a good boxer and he lacks finishing power. Sure, he gives 100% but just doesn’t have the needed physical tools and skills to beat either Klitschko, who are his equal in size and desire in addition to being able to box and punch really well. Then there’s the Solis faction of fighters they’ve faced, fighters who were gifted but lacked conditioning and desire. The fighters who had the physical tools to bother or possibly beat the Klitschkos lacked the initiative and boxing aptitude to really test them and apply it.

We can look at Floyd Mayweather’s career and note that in most of his big fights there was a manufactured angle that he deliberately sought out in tilting the ring or field of play in his favor. The difference with the Klitschkos is, they fight whoever is out there and don’t seek an edge in picking their opponents. The edge is by nature and already built in for them being that today’s heavyweight division is a land of tweeners. You can go back and look over the last decade, not many of the brothers’ opponents brought a single weapon to the ring that was a bigger concern to them than the formidable problem they presented their opponents. If they fought big guys like them, they held the advantage in boxing ability and power. If they were confronted with guys who could punch, they shut them down and made them afraid to even try and get off with anything consequential for a majority of the bout. The few fighters they had to fight who were better boxers than them were too small to box them and were held in check while they were looking to box and score.

The only way we were going to see either Klitschko get beat after Lennox Lewis retired circa 2003/2004, is if a Tony Thompson with Odlanier Solis’ ability showed up one night. Sadly, a fighter like Thompson will never have nearly enough skill and ability to get the job done, and Solis will never fight to the best of his ability because he lacks the gumption and constitution needed to harvest it. And that’s not either brothers’ fault. They both trained hard and always were looking to improve as fighters. Couple that with their size and power it becomes crystal clear why we’ve seen Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko dominate and own the heavyweight division during the post Lennox Lewis era.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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Jaron Ennis KOs Sergey Lipinets and Other Results from the Mohegan Sun

David A. Avila

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Philly is on the up. Again.

Jaron “Boots” Ennis kicked his stature into another gear with an impressive knockout of former world champion Sergey Lipinets on Saturday.

“It’s on the up now for bigger and better fights,” said Ennis.

Those Philly fighters know how to do it.

Before a small audience Philadelphia’s Ennis (27-0, 25 KOs) showed that he’s ready for the elite level class by dominating the always tough Lipinets (16-2-1, 12 KOs) at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn.

Is there any other American welter looking for action?

Ennis walked into the arena with all of the physical advantages, but experience can be a tricky matter in the fight game. Lipinets was ready to provide the lesson.

For the first two rounds Ennis used his superior reach, height and speed to keep the former super lightweight world titlist from entering his domain. The Philly fighter wacked at the Russian fighter’s body and head while taking minimal return fire.

Lipinets finally found his way inside and both fighters traded big blows. A wicked right uppercut by Ennis connected and Lipinets bounced a right cross on the Philly fighter. Both absorbed the big blows with little effect.

Still, Ennis was winning all of the rounds and Lipinets realized that maintaining the status quo was not doing him any good. He increased his attack and slipped on Ennis foot and went down. It was incorrectly ruled a knockdown by the referee but it was the least of the Russian fighter’s problems.

Both fighters attacked the body but Lipinets shot one far below the belt and the fight was stopped for a moment. Lipinets was warned. Both went into attack inside and it seemed to be Lipinets best round. He seemed to find his way back into a groove.

“I saw he wasn’t as skilled on the inside as I was so that’s when I started getting a little closer,” Ennis said.

Ennis may have realized that Lipinets had a good round and he wasn’t about to allow another. As the two fighters re-engaged in their war inside, Ennis connected with a right hook to the chin and a left uppercut finished the job. Down went Lipinets and referee Arthur Mercante waved off the fight at 2:11 of the sixth round without a count.

“We worked on a lot of power shots and a lot of speed. That’s what we did,” said Ennis. “Everything is all natural.”

The impressive knockout of Lipinets proved that Ennis has more than enough ability to hang with the best welterweights around.

“Maybe one of the guys will want to fight me. Who knows?”, said Ennis.

Other Bouts

IBF super flyweight titlist Jerwin Ancajas (33-1-2, 22 KOs) floored Mexico’s Jonathan Rodriquez (22-2, 16 KOs) and hammered out a win by unanimous decision. But it wasn’t an easy fight. It never is when you put the Philippines versus Mexico.

Ancajas needed the win to keep his name handy for a possible match in the now heated super flyweight division that features Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman Gonzalez, and Carlos Cuadras.

A battle between welterweight contenders saw Eimantis Stanionis (13-0) power his way to a unanimous decision win after 12 rounds versus Thomas Dulorme (25-5-1).

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Fast Results from Tulsa: Joe Smith Jr Nips Vlasov, Wins WBO Title

Arne K. Lang

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Joe Smith Jr had to dig down deep to upend Russian veteran Maxim Vlasov, but pulled the fight out of the fire with a late rally to capture the vacant WBO light heavyweight title before a sold-out crowd of 500 masked-up fight fans at Tulsa’s Osage Casino. Smith prevailed by a majority decision. One of the judges had it a draw (114-114), but he was overruled by his cohorts who each turned in tallies of 115-113.

Smith, the quintessential blue-collar fighter, suffered a cut above his left eye in the first round and it troubled him throughout. Vlasov fought a smart fight, out-working the more one-dimensional Smith in most of the rounds, but a cut inside his mouth and Smith’s body punches eventually took their toll. Smith had a strong seventh round but Vlasov recaptured the lead only to let it slip away in a good action fight. There were no knockdowns, but Vlasov went down in the 11th from a punch that landed behind his head, an illegal punch, hence no knockdown.

Smith Jr improved to 27-3 and earned a date with WBC/IBF champion Artur Beterbiev. Vlasov, whose effort commanded a rematch that won’t happen — at least not any time soon — falls to 45-4. All four of the Russian’s losses have come on U.S. soil, two right here in Tulsa where Vlasov was out-pointed by future world title challenger Isaac Chilemba way back in 2011.

The were nine bouts in all the card, the majority of which were intended to showcase up-and-coming heavyweights. The result was a predictable slew of quick stoppages, resulting in plenty of dead time between bouts.

The match between Efe Ajagba and Brian Howard was packaged as the co-feature. Ajagba had been less than impressive in some of his recent starts, but tonight the 6-foot-6 former Olympian for Nigeria scored a devastating one-punch knockout to restore whatever luster he may have lost. The lightning bolt came at the 1:29 mark of round three. Howard was unconscious before he hit the canvas. Ajagba advanced to 15-0 with his 12th knockout. Howard declined to 15-5.

Other Bouts

In the last of the seven preliminary fights on ESPN’s subscription channel, Jared Anderson improved to 9-0 (9) with a second-round stoppage of West Virginia southpaw Jeremiah Karpency. The gifted 21-year-old Anderson, from Toledo, Ohio, scored two knockdowns with hard body shots before the bout was halted after only 38 seconds of the second round. The grossly overmatched Karpency was 16-2-1 heading in.

Local fan favorite Trey Lippe Morrison advanced his record to 17-0 with his 17th knockout, stopping 36-year-old Alabama journeyman Jason Bergman (27-20-2) in the third frame. Bergman came to fight and actually scored a knockdown in the opening round that the ref erroneously called a push. Fighting with his back against the ropes, Bergman landed a left that knocked Morrison off his pins.

It was a quirky knockout, coming at the 1:27 mark of round three when Bergman rolled his ankle while throwing an errant punch. He fell to the canvas in obvious pain and the bout was stopped. Bergman had lost seven of his last nine coming in, but was meeting an undefeated opponent for the fifth straight time.

Tulsa native Jeremiah Milton (3-0, 3 KOs) had a successful homecoming, bombing out Mississippi’s Jayvone Dafney in the first round. An overhand right by Milton left Dafney out on his feet with his back pinned against the ropes. Milton, realizing that his opponent was seriously hurt, held back, waiting for the referee to intervene. The time was 1:19.

In the ESPN+ opener, Philadelphia’s Sonny Conto (7-0, 6 KOs) returned after a 15-month absence and dismissed paunchy Waldo Cortes in the opening round. Conto put Cortes (6-4) down for the 10-count with a perfectly placed right hand. The official time was 1:41.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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Conor Benn Embarrasses His Detractors, Demolishes Vargas in 80 Seconds

Arne K. Lang

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Conor Benn fought Samuel Vargas in London today (Saturday, April 10). Although Benn was a solid favorite, he was stepping up in class. Vargas, a 31-year-old Canadian via Columbia, brought a 31-6-2 record. He had been in with the likes of Errol Spence Jr and Danny Garcia and had extended Amir Khan 12 rounds on Khan’s turf in Manchester.

Vargas’s best days were behind him , but the prevailing sentiment was that he would make it interesting, likely taking the fight into the late rounds and perhaps lasting the distance. So much for prevailing sentiment. Benn walked right through him. Vargas couldn’t cope with Benn’s superior speed. He was being battered against the ropes and offering nothing in return when referee Michael Alexander stepped in and waived it off. It was all over in 80 seconds. Benn improved to 18-0 with his 12th win inside the distance.

Benn, 24, is the son of Nigel Benn, a former two-division world champion who was one of England’s most celebrated fighters. Conor had a brief amateur career in Australia before turning pro at age 19 in London, the city of his birth. While his record is unblemished, it would be incorrect to say that he passed every test as he was climbing the ladder. His first fight with Cedric Peynaud, a marginally skilled Frenchman, has haunted him.

Benn was knocked down twice in the opening round, but scored two knockdowns of his own late in the 6-round fight and was awarded the decision. Peynaud brought a 5-4-3 record and to say that Conor’s performance was underwhelming would be an understatement. At the finish, his right eye was badly swollen.

Scott Gilfoid offered up the most damning criticism: “To say that Benn looked poor tonight is being kind. He was absolutely horrible….The flaws that I saw in Benn’s game tonight are ones that likely won’t go away anytime soon….His performance has to be viewed as a warning sign that he’s not destined to go far in the sport like his famous father.”

Benn and Peynaud fought on Dec. 13, 2017. This was Benn’s 12th pro fight. He had one more bout under his belt before he and the Frenchman had another go at it. The rematch, scheduled for 10 rounds, took place on July 28, 2018, on a show headlined by the heavyweight match between Dillian Whyte and Joseph Parker.

Benn knocked Peynaud down three times but couldn’t finish him. However, the outcome was never in doubt. He won by scores of 98-90 and 98-91 twice.

Trevor McIntyre, a stablemate of the aforementioned Scott Gilfoid (rumor has it that Gilfoid and McIntyre are the same person, and that both are aliases of the owner of the web site where their bylines appear) conceded that Benn showed improvement, but was otherwise unimpressed: “(He) still looked like someone that would be blown away by a halfway decent journeyman fighter….Benn’s defense was leaky, his hand speed slow, and his movements looked uncoordinated throughout.”

Benn’s most recent fight before tonight came against Sebastian Formella, a sturdy but feather-fisted German who was coming off a 12-round defeat to Shawn Porter, a bout in which he showed great heart but won nary a round. Benn won lopsidedly. The scorecards read 100-91, 99-91, and 98-92.

The mysterious Barry Holbrook, whose byline appears at the same web site as Gilfoid and McIntyre, acknowledged that Benn proved some of his doubters wrong, but wrote that “a top welterweight like Errol Spence, Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia, Terence Crawford, or Vergil Ortiz Jr would have knocked him out. If they didn’t score a knockout, they would have battered him to the point where the referee would have needed to stop it.”

The respected British scribe Ron Lewis offered a different take: “(Conor) looked a completely changed fighter from the wild youngster of his early professional career, switching well from head to body, being patient, and picking his spots well.” Lewis did not speculate how Benn would have fared against some of the division’s top guns, but certainly hinted that Nigel’s son could become a factor in what is currently a very strong welterweight division.

As today’s showing proved, Mr. Lewis is a more perceptive observer than his counterpart(s) at the web site where Benn has been repeatedly ‘dissed. Nigel’s son has made enormous strides in the last few years. He’s also an interesting character. Having spent much of his formative years living on the Spanish island of Majorca, he’s fluent in Spanish which is always a useful attribute from a marketing standpoint. But as for how good he is, let’s not jump to conclusions, mindful that Samuel Vargas was on the wrong side of the curve, having lost three of his last five heading in.

The question doesn’t yet have a definitive answer, but tonight in London, Conor Benn was very good, very very good.

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