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Don't Duva Me Like That: Promoter Kathy Duva Puts Al Haymon On Blast

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Kathy Duva quite likely would have been in a much different mood on Tuesday afternoon, during a mini presser at the Croton Reservoir Tavern on W. 40th St., if Adonis Stevenson hadn't gone and sent the best laid plans of Main Events and HBO and his own promoter awry.

Stevenson, the Haitian-born Canadian, did something a whole lot of pugilists have been doing lately, and signed on with Team Al Haymon on Feb. 18. If he had went with the flow which was funneling towards a showdown with Sergey Kovalev, in the most intriguing light heavy matchup in many moons in September, then Duva's face and voice wouldn't have featured twinges of ire, as they did when she relayed her disappointing day.

But the 36-year-old Stevenson decided, or was helped to decide and then signed off on a completely different plan than what Duva told me she'd hashed out, along with HBO, and Yvon Michel, the promoter for Stevenson.

“We had a deal done two months ago,” Duva revealed. She said that on Jan. 23, she and Team Kovalev and then Michel decided on mutually agreeable terms which would net a Sergey-Adonis showdown. Michel was on board, and all assumed that Adonis was in the fold.

The next day, Jan. 24, Duva continued, Michel and HBO matchmaker/exec Peter Nelson agreed to terms, which included fights beyond the interim one, and the biggie, for both boxers. Michel told Duva his lawyer would type up a contract, and then send it over. She's still waiting, she said. At first, when no contract with specifics requested from the Stevenson/Michel side arrived, she didn't get worried.

“The foot dragging, I'm used to it,” she said. “We had a deal. We exchanged emails.”

And then they didn't…

Stevenson hurled a drop-off-the-table curveball, hooking up with uber advisor Haymon, and suddenly, the two fight plan of attack was in flux. Now, the early fall faceoff between the two men who'd been on a parallel track, who'd fought on the same card last November, to help whet fans' appetites, get them savoring the prospect of this clash of 175 pound titans was not on the to do list. Instead, as it stands today, Stevenson is aligned with Haymon, and is a Showtime fighter.

Yes, the Cold War trenches have been dug deeper, with Duva aiming icy barbs at Haymon, who she said is well known for keeping fight fans from seeing the events they crave. “He's the man best known for making sure the public doesn't get to see the fights they want,” she told me. “It's true, isn't it? Ask Mayweather and Pacquiao.”

So, is the prospect of a Kovalev-Stevenson fight dead? “Not this year,” she said. “But Adonis is running. He's running.” Her ice storm dropped some pellets on Showtime, which she said features stars built by HBO.

Duva said that if she chose to bring this matter to a courtroom, she is confident she'd prevail, she'd be able to convince an arbiter that a contract, of sorts, had been fashioned, mostly via email exchanges, with the pertinent principals.

“My husband (the late promoter Dan Duva) used to say, 'Contracts don't fight, fighters do,'' she stated, indicating that her likely reaction will be to push to elevate Kovalev, without indulging in lawyer-centered undercard action. “We're going to let HBO build Sergey into a star, as they've done countless times, since they started in boxing…In the light heavyweight division, he is the best fighter in the world.”

Two weeks ago, IBF champ Bernard Hopkins was in NYC, talking up his April 19 clash in DC, against Beibut Shumenov, who holds the WBA crown at 175. Hopkins made it clear he was angling toward a fall clash with WBC champ Adonis, who'd just announced his allegiance to Haymon. WBO champ Kovalev and company still held out hope that the parallel path of him and Adonis hadn't been altered since then, and, in fact, it was only today when an HBO boxing person told me that HBO had decided they weren't going to pursue a May 24 Stevenson bout against Andrezj Fonfara, which was on their docket. That decision to blow off that May pairing came, I was told, when Adonis' new representation wanted to tweak terms ie money already agreed to by the old team Adonis.

Now, with Haymon calling shots, Stevenson was asking for “a significant increase” to his purse to fight Fonfara. Not only that, but there was no longer a package deal, for a Fonfara fight, and then a match with Kovalev, on the table. That indicated to HBO, the source said, that Stevenson wanted to jet. The HBO source too said they weren't closing the door on a Kovalev-Stevenson fight, it must be noted. “We're happy to discuss it for the fall,” I was told. Bottom line, according to the HBO source: “We had a deal. It changed. It is not the way we do it.”

I requested a comment from Al Haymon, who takes press queries about as often as I get haircuts, through an emissary, and hadn't heard back at posting time.

I also emailed Yvon Michel, to get his side of the story, and a response to the assertion that a deal had been hashed out, and then rescinded, but also hadn't heard back at time of posting.

Showtime boxing boss Stephen Espinoza did return a request for comment. He said that indeed, Stevenson, whose talents he said he's admired for several years, would be fighting Fonfara, on Showtime, in May. “When we heard that Adonis had no deal in place (with HBO), that he was available, wasn't locked up, we made an offer for his next fight,” he said. HBO, it was his understanding, he said, had the right to match those terms, and declined. Espinoza said Adonis had been slated to fight on the Jean Pascal-Tavoris Cloud undercard, on an August 2012 promotion which got scrapped because of a Pascal injury. “This opportunity came, and we jumped at the chance,” he said, of the May 24 Adonis-Fonfara clash, slated for the Bell Centre in Montreal. “The Hopkins vs. Adonis fight is a natural for both, they're both interested, but both have business to deal with first, so it's a little premature to delve into that.”

Duva clearly isn't enthralled by the pairing. Hopkins, she said, breathing down on age 50, is going to be “irrelevant” in the next year or two. She's betting that Kovalev won't much miss a beat, that HBO will do their thing, and craft compelling scraps for him, raising his profile to an exalted space. “Sergey is going to become that with or without Adonis, who is what, 38?”

Much or all of the motivation for this move by Adonis, she thinks, is because he is avoiding a clash with the the 30-year-old Russian. She thinks that Adonis might not even come out better financially, because she can't see Hopkins taking a smaller slice of the pie, even if Adonis and Bernard fight in Montreal, where Adonis will fill the room, whereas Kovalev would have made a concession to Adonis' ability to put arses in seats.

“Hopkins won't take the short end,” Duva opined. “Also, I think Adonis is scared to death of Kovalev. And the fans are getting screwed. And Al Haymon owns that.”

She said she was reserving the option to pursue a legal route to dealing with the screwed up Kovalev-Stevenson formulation, because, she said, “We exchanged writing, and that's a contract. Bottom line, Adonis Stevenson was scared to make a deal to fight Sergey…as well he should be.”

Oh yeah, Cedric Agnew was in the room, game face on, while this matter was being discussed and Duva was venting. The Chicago-born hitter, training in Houston, was hard to hear when he was talking about his confidence going into the Saturday clash, which will unfold in Atlantic City, and on HBO. I tried to read his brain, wondering if his chill 'tude indicated he might be a little tight. Duva said that she thinks Agnew, who owns a 26-0 mark (13 KOs) against B- level foes, and under, is coming to mess up Kovalev's path as much as Stevenson did.

Duva, on an up note, said that tix are moving well, a testament to Kovalev's burgeoning fan-base, which had her breathing a sigh of relief, considering we're heading into Final Four hoops territory, which can make ticket sales for fights sluggish. Agnew did pass, I think, a test I often pose to an underdog, when I asked him if he was sure he'd beat Kovalev. “Yeah,” he said, not in the most forceful of fashions.

“No doubt?” I pressed.

“No doubt” he would, he said, more firmly.

Duva apologized well into the Q n A, for getting off track, into the Stevenson/Haymon affair, after Team Agnew advisor Bill Benton made it clear that people in that room, mostly press, weren't seeing his kid as a viable foe. He handled ex heavyweight contender Ike Ibeabuchi many moons ago, he said, and writers who hadn't done their homework before Ike fought David Tua had to hustle to get in the know after he got the better of Tua. “After the fight, they knew who he was,” Benton said, making clear we'd have to get up to speed on Agnew Saturday night. “Everybody's overlooking him, God I hope so.”

His son Bobby Benton, at 35 one of the most baby-faced trainers you'll see holding a bucket, helped in the Austin Trout corner when he beat Miguel Cotto two years ago, and he said he'll be on the winning side in AC, too. He said the chill Agnew, who actually broke into a couple of grins when I split him off, and chatted with him, the Benton and promoter Malcom Garrett, has a nasty side, and can show it in the ring. Bill Benton, in the game since 1977, compared him to Matthew Saad Muhammad, and said if the judges are on point, “and we get a fair shake, he'll have his hand raised Saturday. His speed is unbelievable.”

But the Cold Warring, with Duva not being shy about Haymon presence being a net detriment to the sport, dominated this event. Sure, Kovalev had a happy face on, considering he was exulting in the multi-fight deal he'd inked with HBO that day. But the mood in that room was set, I venture to say, by Duva, who was mad as hell, and not shying away from saying why. Haymon's wide angle sphere of influence was now going to result in a must-see bout being yanked away from the fans, she said, and she wondered why some of the bigger name boxing writers weren't examining those chips falling the way they had been of late, and noting a tectonic shift in the way business was being conducted by people who'd she'd regarded as business contemporaries, but now seemed to have been relegated into the bitter adversary zone.

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The Mirage Goes Dark and Another Storied Venue for Boxing Bites the Dust

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Life comes at you fast. It seems like only yesterday that I stood in a crowd of rubberneckers gawking at the artificial volcano that fronted the spanking new Mirage Hotel and Casino. After sundown, it erupted every 15 minutes, sending fireballs into the sky accompanied by a soundtrack of actual eruptions as the air was perfumed with the scent of a pina colada. In those days, late November of 1989 and beyond, the artificial volcano was Southern Nevada’s #1 tourist attraction, supplanting Hoover Dam. (The “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign at the south end of the Strip hadn’t yet become a magnet for hordes of camera-toting tourists).

I didn’t come to the 3,044-room Polynesian-themed resort to see the volcano. I came there to see the centerpiece of the grand opening festivities, a prizefight between Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran, the third meeting between the two gladiators. The Mirage had actually opened for business two weeks earlier, but it was a soft opening, as they say in the trade. The boxing event on Thursday, Dec. 7, 1989, was the cherry on the cake, a spectacle in every sense of the word. Celebrities were chaperoned to their ringside seats on a red carpet, mirroring the Oscars, and a mesmerizing fireworks display, better than New Years Eve, lit up the sky in the interlude between the last preliminary bout and the main event.

Leonard-Duran III was the first of 13 boxing shows at the Mirage, the last of which was staged in 1995. Thirteen isn’t many, but they included some of the biggest fights of the era, five of which – the first five – were staged under the stars in makeshift arenas built specifically for boxing. And now, with the closure of the Mirage today (July 17), another place that housed historic prizefights has dissipated into the dustbin of history.

The accoutrements were more memorable than the fight. Roberto Duran had turned back the clock in his most recent bout, unseating middleweight title-holder Iran Barkley at the Atlantic City Convention Center, but against Sugar Ray he looked older than his 38 years. Leonard was content to out-box Duran and won nearly every round. The final chapter of the Four Kings round-robin (Leonard, Duran, Marvin Hagler, and Tommy Hearns) was a dud.

Two months after the Leonard-Duran rubber match, fringe contender James “Buster” Douglas shocked the world with a 10th-round stoppage of Mike Tyson.

Tyson-Douglas was in faraway Tokyo, but the Mirage became a sidebar to the story of the fight when mischievous Jimmy Vaccaro, who ran the Mirage Race and Sports Book, just for the fun of it posted odds on the match. That gave the Mirage a monopoly as it would be the only property in the bookmaking universe to take bets on the outcome of the fight.

The betting line bounced around a little bit and at one point the odds favoring Mike Tyson stood at 42/1. This price would come to be etched in stone. “42 to 1” became the title of an ESPN “30 for 30” documentary.

It wasn’t lost on Mirage founder and chairman Steve Wynn that Buster Douglas would be the perfect poster boy for a gambling establishment. After all, Buster was the Joe Blow that knocked out Superman and won the big jackpot. Wynn’s attorneys succeeded in extricating Douglas from the clutches of Don King and he was matched against Evander Holyfield, a former cruiserweight champion who was 24-0 with the last six wins coming as a heavyweight.

Worldwide, Douglas vs. Holyfield was a much bigger attraction than Leonard-Duran III. The Mirage reportedly credentialed 1,200 members of the media, many from overseas.

In the days leading up to the fight, there were rumors that Buster Douglas had been lax in his training. Those rumors were confirmed when Douglas weighed-in at 246 pounds, 14 ½ pounds more than he had carried for Mike Tyson.

Counting the intermissions between rounds, the fight lasted a shade over nine minutes. In the third frame, Buster missed with an uppercut and Holyfield countered with an overhand right that landed on the temple. Buster fell to the canvas and made no attempt to rise as referee Mills Lane tolled the 10-count. As he lay there, picking at his nose, the scene was reminiscent of the famous photo of Jack Johnson lying on his back with his right arm shading his eyes from the sun at the conclusion of his 1915 fight with Jess Willard, a match that would always beg the question of whether Johnson was faking it.

Steve Wynn, who could be charming but was a perfectionist with a volatile temper, was livid. On the streets of Las Vegas, there was talk that Wynn had Douglas and his crew evicted from their hotel rooms even before the arena was locked down. If it were true that Buster Douglas was given the bum’s rush like some deadbeat inhabitant of a fleabag hotel, he would have been the first millionaire to experience this indignity. His purse was reportedly $24 million with $19.9 million guaranteed (roughly $40 million in today’s dollars).

Wynn partnered with promoter Bob Arum for the Leonard-Duran fight. For Douglas-Holyfield, he decided to go it alone, eliminating the middleman. By his reckoning, he had people on staff who were quite capable of getting all the moving parts to mesh into a coherent whole. But manufacturing a megafight is a complicated undertaking and Wynn would discover that he had over-reached. Plus, he had soured on boxing after two stinkers.

History would show that Steve Wynn would never again commit a large amount of money to host a prizefight. But this didn’t mark the end of boxing at the Mirage as Wynn owed Don King some dates as part of the out-of-court settlement that freed Buster Douglas from King’s grasp and a handful of promoters with lesser clout (e.g., Kathy Duva, Cedric Kushner, Dan Goossen) would anchor an occasional show there in a four-wall arrangement.

Don King’s first two Mirage promotions pit Mike Tyson against Razor Ruddock. Tyson stopped Ruddock in the seventh round on March 18, 1991. The stoppage by referee Richard Steele, which struck many as premature, sparked a wild melee in the ring between the opposing handlers. The sequel in June went the distance. Tyson copped the decision. Take away the three points that Ruddock was docked for low blows and Tyson still would have won.

King also promoted the last of the outdoor shows at the Mirage, a September 14, 1991 card topped by Julio Cesar Chavez’s super lightweight title defense against Lonnie Smith. In hindsight, this event was historically important.

Although Chavez was a massive favorite and the weather was oppressively hot, the Mexican Independence Day weekend fight attracted a larger-than-expected turnout of mostly Mexican tourists with deep pockets. In future years, many big fights in Las Vegas would be noosed to a Mexican holiday weekend. Chavez vs Smith was the ice-breaker.

In addition to Leonard, Duran, Holyfield, Tyson, and Chavez, future Hall of Famers Riddick Bowe, Jeff Fenech, Azumah Nelson, Buddy McGirt, and Michael Carbajal appeared at the Mirage. “Big Daddy” Bowe never headlined a show at the Mirage but had three fights here preceding his memorable trilogy with Evander Holyfield.

Steve Wynn divested his interest in the Mirage in 2000 and the property became part of the MGM consortium. In December of 2021, the property was purchased by the Hard Rock organization whose parent company, as it were, is the Seminole Indian tribe of Florida. The transition from the Mirage to the Hard Rock is expected to take almost three years. When the renovation is finished, the property will have a new hotel tower shaped like a giant guitar. The guitar, the symbol of the Hard Rock brand, couldn’t hold the volcano’s jockstrap, but it is what it is in the city that constantly reinvents itself.

Back when the Mirage opened, the charismatic Steve Wynn was the most admired man in town. An innovator and a true visionary, Wynn melded the sensibilities of Walt Disney and Bugsy Siegel and changed the face of the Las Vegas Strip. Wynn still has a large footprint in Las Vegas reflected in two look-alike five star hotel-casinos, the Wynn and the Encore, but, incredibly, he is now persona non grata in the city that once worshiped him. His fall from grace is not a proper subject for this website. Suffice it to say that Wynn, now 82, was quite the philanderer in his younger days and his recklessness caught up with him.

Yes, a lot of water has passed under the bridge since that magical night almost 35 years ago when Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran formally christened the newest and brightest jewel on the Las Vegas landscape. Those were the days, my friend, and for some of us it seemed like only yesterday.

A recognized authority on the history of prizefighting and the history of American sports gambling, TSS editor-in-chief Arne K. Lang is the author of five books including “Prizefighting: An American History,” released by McFarland in 2008 and re-released in a paperback edition in 2020.

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A Conversation with Legendary Phoenix Boxing Writer Norm Frauenheim

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It seems all along that Norm Frauenheim was destined to become a boxing writer.

Two critical elements were at play that led the 75-year-old scribe to that profession.

“I was always interested in boxing, even as a kid,” said Frauenheim who spent 31 years with the Arizona Republic beginning in 1977. “I’m an Army brat. I was born in January 1949 on a base, Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, a city I didn’t really see until I hit the NBA road covering the [Phoenix] Suns for more than a decade starting in 1979-80.”

Frauenheim, a longtime correspondent for The Ring magazine who writes for various boxing sites such as boxingscene.com and 15rounds.com, added more background: “One of the many places I lived was Schofield Barracks on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu from 1962 to 1966,” he continued. “I delivered The Stars & Stripes to troops with the 25th Infantry Division, which was headed to Vietnam, along with my dad.

“Anyway, boxing and Schofield have long been linked, mostly because of a novel and film, ‘From Here to Eternity’ (the James Jones novel starring Frank Sinatra on the big screen). The troops were still boxing, outdoors, at the barracks along my newspaper route. I was 13 to 17 years old. I’d stop, watch and get interested. I’ve been interested ever since.”

Frauenheim added: “From there, my father and family shipped to Fort Sheridan, then a base north of Chicago where I spent one year and graduated from high school. Then my dad went back to Vietnam and I went to Vanderbilt University in Nashville (1967 through 1971) and graduated with a major in history. I was also a competitive swimmer, pre-Title IX.

“Competitive swimming is also at the roots of my sportswriting career. I was frustrated that Vanderbilt’s student newspaper didn’t cover us. I offered to do it. The newspaper agreed. I don’t swim as well as I used to. I look at a surfboard and look at the waves I used to take on and wondered what in the hell I was doing. It’s a lot safer to be at ringside.”

After a more than five-decade stint covering boxing, Frauenheim is glad that the manly sport is still around but with more outside competition.

“It’s surely not the [Muhammad] Ali era. It’s not the Golden 80s, either. It’s a fractured business in a world with more and more options for sports fans. MMA is just one example,” he said. “Boxing is not dying. It has been declared dead, ad nauseam. I read the inevitable obits and think of an old line: Boxing has climbed out of more coffins than Count Dracula.

“Still, the sport has been pushed to the fringe of public interest. But it’s been there before. Resiliency is one of its strongest qualities. It’ll be around, always reinventing itself.”

In some respects, boxing, like the other sports, has always been dependent on rivalries like the NBA’s Celtics versus Lakers, which drives the public’s interest and storylines.

“[Larry] Bird-Magic [Johnson] was basketball’s Ali-[Joe] Frazier,” Frauenheim says. “It transformed the league, setting the stage for Michael Jordan. It can happen again, in boxing or any other sport.”

Boxing is still the same but with tweaks here and there.

“When I started, championship bouts were 15 rounds instead of 12,” said Frauenheim who began his journalism career in 1970 at the Tallahassee Democrat and worked at the Jacksonville Journal before being lured in Phoenix. “There were morning weigh-ins instead of the day-before promotional show. There was also a lot more media. A big fight in Vegas meant all of the big media people were there. The last time that happened was Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2015, a fight that failed to meet expectations and I think eroded much of the big media’s appetite for more,” continued Frauenheim whose byline has appeared in USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times.

Mexican legend Saul Alvarez is still a major draw, but there are others on the horizon who are ready to step in and take over like the undefeated super middleweight David Benavidez.

“The clock is ticking on Canelo’s career, and I think he knows it. At this point, it’s about risk-reward. The 27-year-old Benavidez is too big a risk. Canelo, I think, looks at Benavidez and thinks he’ll beat him. I don’t think he would,” Frauenheim noted. “Benavidez is too big, has a mean streak and possesses a rare extra gear. He gets stronger in the late rounds.

“Even if Canelo wins, there’s a pretty good chance that Benavidez hurts him. There’s still a chance Canelo-Benavidez happens. But I think it’ll take some Saudi [Arabian] money.”

Boxers stand alone in the ring, literally and figuratively, but have a small supporting crew.

This makes them unique compared to baseball, football, basketball and hockey.

“Boxers are different from any other athlete I’ve ever covered. It’s why, I guess, boxing has been called a writer’s sport. There are plenty of NFL and NBA players who have grown up on the so-called mean streets,” Frauenheim said. “But they have teammates. They don’t make that long, lonely walk from the dressing room to the ring.”

Stripped naked, boxers are an open book, according to Frauenheim.

“They can be hard to deal with while training and cutting weight. But after a fight, no athlete in my experience is more forthcoming,” he said. “Win or lose, they just walked through harm’s way in front of people. In my experience, that’s when they want to talk.”

Selecting a career highlight or highlights isn’t easy for Frauenheim, but he tried.

“There are so many. I was there for the great Sugar Ray Leonard victory over Thomas Hearns [1981], a welterweight classic,” he recalled. “A personal favorite was Michael Carbajal’s comeback from two knockdowns for a KO of Humberto Gonzalez in 1993, perhaps the best fight in the history of the lightest weight class. I was also there for the crazy, including Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield’s “Bite Fight” and the “Fan Man” landing in the ring like the 82nd Airborne Division midway through a Riddick Bowe-Holyfield fight behind Vegas’ Caesars Palace.”

Three boxers set the tone and backdrop for Frauenheim’s illustrious tenure as a writer.

“Roberto Duran is the greatest lightweight ever. His lifestyle sometimes got the best of him. That was evident in his infamous ‘No Mas’ welterweight loss to Sugar Ray Leonard in New Orleans,” he said of that November 1980 bout. “He told me that he took the rematch, on short notice, because of the money. “Women-women-women, eating-eating-eating, drinking-drinking-drinking,” he told me in an interview of what he had been doing before Leonard’s people approached him for an immediate rematch of his Montreal victory. But take a look at Duran’s victory in Montreal [June 1980]. Watch it again. On that night, there’s never been a better fighter than Duran.”

Frauenheim added another titan to that short list: “Leonard, who is the last real Sugar,” he said, and ended with the only eight-weight division king. “Manny Pacquiao, an amazing story about a starving kid off impoverished Filipino streets. He was a terrific fighter, blessed with speed, power and instinct. Add to that a shy personality unchanged by all the money and celebrity. He is an example of what can still happen in boxing. He’s the face of the game’s resiliency.”

That’s quite a trio, and they’re the best of the best that Frauenheim’s seen and covered from ringside.

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Aaron McKenna and Kieron Conway Victorious in Osaka

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Aaron McKenna scored a 10th-round stoppage of Jeovanny Estela today (Monday, July 15) in Osaka, Japan. The bout was one of four scheduled 10-rounders in the middleweight division in a revamped Prizefighter Tournament with a $1,000,000 prize at stake for the winner.

One of two fighting brothers from the little town of Smithborough in County Monaghan, Ireland, the undefeated (19-0, 10 KOs) McKenna (pictured) was well ahead on the scorecards when the referee stepped in and halted the match at the 2:02 mark of the final round. He entered the ring a 4/1 favorite over Estela (14-1), a 23-year-old Floridian of Puerto Rican descent who began his pro career at 147.

McKenna’s opponent in the next round (at a date and place to be determined) will be England’s Kieron Conway (21-3-1, 6 KOs) who scored a seventh-round stoppage over China’s obscure Ainiwaer Yilixati (19-2). All three of Conway’s losses were to opponents who were undefeated when he fought them with two of those setbacks occurring on Canelo Alvarez undercards.

Two Japanese fighters – Riku Kunimoto and Kazuto Takesako – were victorious in the other bouts and will meet in the semifinals.

Local fan favorite Kunimoto, recognized as the middleweight champion of Japan, advanced to 12-1 (6 KOs) with a fifth-round stoppage of countryman Eiki Kani (8-5-3). This was a rematch. The two fought earlier this year in Nagoya with Kunimoto registering a fifth-round TKO.

Takesako (17-2-1, 15 KOs) registered the lone upset on the card with a hard-earned decision over England’s Mark Dickinson. It was the first pro loss for Dickinson who had only six pro fights under his belt but was a highly decorated amateur. The scores were 98-92, 97-93, and 95-94.

The next fight for Kunimoto will be another rematch. Takesako saddled him with his lone defeat, knocking him out in the first round at Tokyo’s venerable Korakuen Hall in May of 2021.

The tournament, co-sponsored by Matchroom and televised on DAZN, offers an aggregate $100,000 per event for knockouts. McKenna, Conway, and Kunimoto scooped up $25,000 apiece.

Aaron McKenna, his brother Stephen, and their father/trainer Feargal McKenna were the subjects of a story that ran on these pages. Stephen McKenna (14-0, 13 KOs) returns to the ring next month against 14-2 Joe Laws on a BOXXER promotion that will air on Sky Sports in the UK.

Aaron McKenna entered the Prizefighter Tourney as the pre-fight favorite and Matchroom honcho Eddie Hearn has indicated that he will be in line for a world title shot if he wins his next two matches.

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