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Bradley Is Not Pacquiao's Most Taxing Concern

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Let me tell you how it will be

There’s one for you, 19 for me

’Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the Taxman

–Lyrics from a George Harrison-written song on the Beatles’ Rubber Soul album

Manny Pacquiao (55-5-2, 38 KOs) challenges WBO welterweight champion Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley (31-0, 12 KOs) in an HBO Pay-Per-View bout on April 12 at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand, and the gist of most of the questions directed by inquiring media minds toward the Filipino legend ran toward what might be described as standard boxing matters. The give-an-take exchanges during Tuesday’s half-hour-long conference call with Pacquiao went something like this:

Q: Are you concerned that you could again get stiffed on the scorecards like you did in your first fight with Bradley? (Bradley was awarded a hotly disputed split decision, also at the MGM Grand, on June 9, 2012.)

MP: “I’m not thinking about the judges. What I want to do is focus on strategy and techniques that we practiced in the ring.”

Q: Does it bother you that Bradley is dropping broad hints that, since your first fight with him, you’ve lost your “hunger” for boxing and “killer instinct” to finish off opponents in trouble?

MP: “The more he says that, the more it inspires me. It’s good for me. But not for him, I think.”

Q: Did you think you were too far ahead on points to possibly lose a decision, and were you shocked when those two judges (Duane Ford and C.J. Ross) turned in cards favoring Bradley?

MP: “I’m not angry. After that decision was announced, I understood that no one is perfect in this world (a reference, presumably, to Ford and Ross). Sometimes mistakes are made. It’s part of boxing.”

Q: Having been a victim of malfeasance by pencil once before, do you feel any additional pressure to score a knockout this time and take matters out of the judges’ hands?

MP: “We’re not focusing on a knockout. Our focus this time is to put on more pressure, to be more aggressive, to throw a lot of punches. If a knockout comes, it comes.”

Pretty tame stuff, all things considered. Then again, Pacquiao never has been the sort to recklessly run his mouth before, during or after fights. He is, by all accounts, gentlemanly in his demeanor and, let’s not forget, he’s also a politician, a member of the Philippine Congress with aspirations of someday becoming his nation’s president. Good manners and rough-and-tumble political instincts seldom are mutually inclusive, but it probably helps those seeking to gain or retain public office if they maintain at least a veneer of humility and the proper social graces.

What has largely gone unsaid in the run-up to this fight, the outcome of which could drastically influence whatever remains of the 35-year-old Pacquiao’s boxing career, is the identity of the most fearsome opponent he actually is facing. The scary dude in question is the same one who long ago flattened the great Joe Louis harder than Rocky Marciano ever could. As he did when he went after the “Brown Bomber,” that foe is targeting “Pac-Man” with a blistering, two-fisted attack, throwing wide haymakers from near and far.

Put it this way: Bradley might be one tough cookie inside the ropes, but that shadowy presence – be he based in the U.S. or in the Philippines — is even more relentless, forever boring in with stinging shots to a prosperous fighter’s bank accounts. What is it that Louis once said? Oh, yeah. You can run, but you can’t hide.

Not from the Taxman, anyway.

Including endorsements, Pacquiao has earned more than $300 million, which certainly seems like a lot of money, and is a figure even more impressive when you consider that, as recently as 2010, the per-capita income in the Philippines was just $2,000, among the lowest of any Asian country. If the PPV numbers are as healthy as Top Rank founder Bob Arum anticipates, Pacquiao’s take for the second twirl around the ring with Bradley could add $15 million-plus to his presumably bulging coffers.

But really rich people aren’t exempt from the kind of money problems that confront less-well-paid workers everywhere, except that theirs are on a much grander scale. The Internal Revenue Service here and its Philippine counterpart have homed in on Pacquiao like heat-seeking missiles. As of December, the IRS was pursuing Pacquiao for $18.3 million in unpaid taxes, with $11 million of the debt relating to the very years (2008 and 2009) that the fighter promised the Philippine government he had fully paid his tax obligation to the United States.

If tax officials in the Philippines are to be believed, Pacquiao’s past-due tax bill there is even more staggering: $50 million.

Asked if his tax problems might be blurring his focus on the task at hand as the rematch with Bradley approaches, Pacquiao insisted it’s no big deal.

“I’m not going to worry about that,” he said. “I didn’t hide anything, and I hired a very good accountant.”

That accountant had better be world-class sharp because, well, the ones Louis sought out to alleviate his crushing tax debt to the IRS were more overmatched than the members of the Bum of the Month Club he so casually dispatched during his long heavyweight championship reign.

One month after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Louis gave his entire $65,200 purse (around $700,000 in today’s money) from his first-round knockout of Buddy Baer to the Naval Relief Fund. Less than three months later, he gave his entire $45,882 purse for his sixth-round stoppage of Abe Simon to the Army Relief Fund. Louis then put his boxing career on hold to enlist in the Army as a private, earning $21 a month.

When hostilities ended, Louis, despite his patriotism-inspired contributions to the American war effort, found himself owing the IRS $500,000. Compound-interest penalties regularly inflated that amount like the clicking meter of a taxi ride that never ends, and Louis died a broke and broken man. Overly trusting, ignorant of things like tax shelters and municipal bonds, and generous to a fault, it has been estimated that one of boxing’s most dominant champions received only $800,000 or so from the estimated $4.6 million he earned during his ring career.

Not that the same fate awaits Pacquiao, but there is another old saying, this one coined by Spanish philosopher George Santayana: Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Attempts at slipping those big shots from the Taxman have already influenced where Pacquiao plies his trade, and likely will continue to do so, most probably for the remainder of his ring career. His most recent bout – a 12-round unanimous decision over Brandon Rios on Nov. 24 — took place in Macao, China, in large part because of the top marginal tax rate there is 12 percent as opposed to the United States’ newly increased top rate of 39.6 percent. That meant that Pacquiao pocketed an extra 28 cents on the dollar, a not insubstantial amount and especially appealing to anyone facing his burgeoning tax problems.

Somebody on the conference call asked if Pacquiao would consider fighting in New York City, either at Madison Square Garden in midtown Manhattan or Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Pacquiao said sure, he’d like that, if it made financial sense for him to do so.

That response provided Arum with an opportunity to jump in and explain the tax-code-influenced economics of boxing, which largely dictates who fights whom, and where.

“Manny is a foreign national,” Arum explained. “If he fights in New York, he has to pay state tax, city tax, unincorporated business tax. It comes to 14 percent. Because he’s a foreign national, he can’t take a credit for any of those taxes. The penalty for him fighting in New York (instead of Nevada, which has no state tax), if Manny’s earnings are $20 million, is as much as $3 million.

“It’s conceivable if somebody is going to make up the difference, that we would fight in New York. But why should it come out of (Pacquiao’s) pocket?”

The same rationale helps explain why Floyd Mayweather Jr. is fighting Marcos Madaina at the MGM Grand on May 3, instead of the Barclays Center, which had also sought to host that bout.

When Pacquiao fought Rios, someone – uh, that would be me – suggested he would have to overcome the “mother of all distractions,” namely Typhoon Haiyan, which had struck the northern Philippines on Nov. 7, killing 5,000 of “Pac-Man’s” countrymen and leaving hundreds of thousands more homeless, hungry and desperate.

Perhaps Pacquiao’s concentration is so riveted on Bradley that the dark tax cloud that is hovering over his head won’t be the granddaddy of all distractions, and one that could prove more nettlesome than that which drifted in with Haiyan. But Bradley is a better overall fighter than Rios, and Pacquiao is 35, after all, an age when the reflexes of many elite fighters slow just enough to make a difference.

The only thing that seems absolutely certain at this point is that Pacquiao will not enter the ring to the sounds of George Harrison’s amplified voice singing of the Taxman reaching deep into his pocket.

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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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