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Springs Toledo

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A red tear trickled down Paulie Malignaggi’s cheek in the fourth round Saturday night. I saw it after the first knockdown when he got up to walk it off. The referee was calling out the standing eight, but Paulie ignored him; he was busy making sure his legs still worked.

The welterweight who clubbed him down walked backward to a neutral corner and never took his eyes of Paulie. I never took my eyes of him. He’s a juggernaut, short and wide like an image in a funhouse mirror, shoulders like boulders, no neck. He reminded me of someone I got to know recently, someone from the ferocious forties. They call him Shawn Porter but he was barreling in like a little tiger—like the Little Tiger, Aaron Wade. Left hooks and right hand blasts were ruffling old fight reports scattered around my living room floor.

Wade went barreling through three divisions between 1935 and 1947. He began his career as a welterweight then advanced to middleweight and light heavyweight. Porter has travelled the same path through the traditional weight classes, only in reverse. Their paradigms are also similar. After Wade faced Sugar Ray Robinson, he retired and eventually became a Christian minister. Porter held a prayer meeting in his corner after the slaughter was stopped and was overheard saying “We pray for Paulie’s health in Jesus’s name.”

Paulie was lying nearby bleeding under the ropes. I thought about Willie Pep. Great though he was, Pep too was laid out bleeding after Sandy Saddler got him good. It was October 29, 1948. “I started out feinting as usual to get a feeling for him and he ignored it completely and caught me cold,” Pep said. “I was completely surprised. He knocked me down twice before the fourth round and then he stopped me.”

Porter and Wade. Paulie and Pep. “The Sweet Science,” said A.J. Liebling, “is joined onto the past like a man’s arm to his shoulder.”

The science of the Sweet Science is also joined onto the past. We learned early that master boxers like Pep toy with plodding punchers, though swarmers and pressure fighters present real problems. They’re disruptive. The boxer uses pizazz punctuated by jabs to con his opponent into a pace and rhythm designed to sap his spirit. But disruptive fighters don’t buy what’s being sold. The swarmer closes in rapidly and the pressure fighter closes in ominously and if the boxer fails to keep the beast at bay, he suffers little panic attacks. You can see it in that wide-eyed “uh-oh” look.

Pep walked blindly into the worst knockout loss of his career. He had no excuse. “I had won seventy-three fights in a row and I didn’t think any kid named Sandy Saddler was going to beat me,” he said. “I wasn’t even a little worried.”

Paulie walked into his knockout loss with eyes wide open. He doesn’t need an excuse. He simply “bit off more than he could chew again,” said Jeffrey Freeman of KO Digest. In fighting a younger, stronger, stylistic nightmare, he did what few million-dollar fighters would dare to do and he didn’t blink. Even Sugar Ray Robinson blinked when it came to Murderers’ Row. He ran out on written contracts to meet two of them, ducked another one for years, and he did it during his breathtaking prime. Not Paulie. Paulie’s record is a profile in courage.

“You know who I was rewarded with in my first title fight?” he said last June, “Miguel Cotto.” And it hasn’t been much easier since. He’s been what Vegas calls an underdog with fleas. The odds were 12-5 against him when he faced Ricky Hatton, 4-1 when he faced Juan Diaz, and 5-1 when he faced Amir Khan. Vyacheslav Senchenko was undefeated and a 4.5-1 favorite when Paulie stopped him, but the handicappers scoffed and chalked him in as a 15-1 underdog when he face the untested Adrien Broner. Paulie scoffed right back. “This is how the creation of Adrien Broner happened,” he said before their bout. “They got everybody that’s wrong for boxing together in one room, did everything that’s wrong for boxing in that room, and gave birth to Adrien Broner.” The Sweet Science, he told the press, requires more than talent at the upper level. Then he proceeded to prove it over twelve rounds. So then what happens? He signs to meet a fading Zab Judah, is once again declared an underdog, and dominates the rounds with a jab.

In January, Paulie said he was willing to fight Porter, despite the fact that no one else was calling out that beast. “What do you see in Porter that you can capitalize on?” He was asked. “I’m not saying I see any weaknesses,” Paulie said. “You don’t necessarily have to see a weakness in them to want to fight them” [emphasis mine].

When the smoke cleared Saturday night, it looked as if the ceiling fell on him. He may have regretted wanting to fight Porter. Now he’s wondering what to do next. Retire? Face some plodding journeyman, look good, and retire a winner?

If he is not medically cleared to fight again by a responsible authority, then he has no choice but to retire. If he is cleared and there is no increased risk of injury in the aftermath of his knockout, then he has several choices.

The ghost of Willie Pep points at one of them: Fight Porter again.

Pep had two tune-ups after his knockout loss. Paulie can fight a second-rate swarmer close to home and fight him safely: vary the speed, placement, and force of the jab, avoid the inside where Porter’s strength sapped his, avoid mid-range where he is reduced to punchers’ meat, and practice staying just off the perimeter to draw him out and then counter and circle off. “Keep on the go,” was Pep’s recommendation. “Keep him off balance.” If Paulie and especially Paulie’s legs feel good after ten rounds, he can turn his attention toward Porter and lobby for a rematch.

To most citizens and a few tin-belt titlists more interested in celebrity than glory, it might seem crazy. Why would Paulie challenge his stylistic foil a second time? Anyone who has been paying attention knows the answer.

Pep, haunted by Saddler, knew the answer. “We had a rematch,” he said, “and you better believe I was ready for him. Most of the writers were picking Sandy but I was ready for him. I was dead set on beating him no matter what.”

So what happened? “You could look it up,” Pep used to say with a smirk.

If Paulie decides to hang up his gloves, he will go down in boxing history as a profile in courage. If he returns to full capacity and considers avenging the worst knockout loss of his career, he should fight Porter the way Pep fought and beat Saddler —then do better than Pep and retire.

 


Malignaggi’s statements about Porter recorded 1/31/14 by Tha’ Boxing Voice. Willie Pep’s quotes on Saddler I and II found inWillie Pep Remembers Friday’s Heroes, with Robert Sacchi (1973), p. 14 and Peter Heller’s interview of Pep in In This Corner: 42 World Champions Tell Their Stories (1973), p. 253.

Springs Toledo can be contacted at scalinatella@hotmail.com .

 

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Lipinets and Clayton Battle to a Draw at the Mohegan Sun

Arne K. Lang

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Tonight’s PBC show at Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Casino, billed as a “Showtime Special Edition,” was to feature Sergey Lipinets against Kudratillo Abdukakhorov in the main event. That match-up would have pit fighters born in neighboring countries in Central Asia, the first major fight of its kind on American soil, but Uzbekistan’s Abdukakhorov had visa problems and a Canadian filled the breach.

Custio Clayton, whose 18-0 record was suspect because he had done all his fighting in Eastern Canada, proved to be more than just a worthy opponent. The 33-year-old ex-Olympian from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia held Lipinets (now 16-1-1) to a draw and the general feeling was that he had done just enough to edge it out. Don Trella scored the 12-round welterweight bout for him (115-113), but Trella’s counterparts Glen Feldman and Tom Schreck both had it even at 114 apiece.

Conspicuously bigger than Lipinets – to the eyes if not on the scale – Clayton did his best work in the late rounds. Lipinets, briefly the IBF world 140-pound title-holder (he lost the belt to Mikey Garcia; no shame there) is something of a one-dimensional fighter and as the rounds wore on he connected with fewer punches on the more multi-dimensional Canadian.

In theory, the winner would have been in line for a match with Errol Spence.

Martinez-Marrero

Prior to tonight, Sacramento junior lightweight Xavier Martinez had never fought beyond the eighth round and tonight it appeared that he wouldn’t see the ninth. He was on the deck twice in round eight and nearly didn’t make it to the bell. But he lasted the full 12 to win a well-earned unanimous decision over Claudio Marrero

Marrero, a 31-year-old southpaw from Santo Domingo, DR, was well behind on the scorecards when he caught Martinez with a big right hook shortly after the start of the eighth round. He pressed his advantage and knocked him down again with a flurry of punches. But Martinez recuperated and prevailed on scores of 115-111, 114-112, and 114-112 to keep his undefeated record intact, advancing to 16-0.

This was quite a departure from Martinez’s previous bout when he knocked out his opponent in 21 seconds. Marrero (24-5) lost for the fourth time in his last five outings. The match was billed as a WBA 130-pound title eliminator.

Matias-Hawkins

The TV opener was a 10-round junior lightweight contest between Malik Hawkins and Subriel Matias. Hawkins, a former National Golden Gloves champion from the same Baltimore gym that produced Gervonta Davis, came in undefeated (18-0). Puerto Rico’s Matias, who opened his career with 15 straight knockouts, was looking to rebound from his first defeat, having lost a 10-round decision to Petros Ananyan on the Wilder-Fury 11 undercard.

Matias’s bout with Ananyan was his first start since his match will ill-fated Maxim Dadashev. The Dadashev tragedy may have preyed on his mind, but according to his promoter Juan Orengo, he was lax in his training for Ananyan. Whatever the case, Matias rebounded from that defeat tonight, saddling Hawkins with his first pro loss.

Matias forged ahead in the sixth, knocking Hawkins to his knees and then pursuing him around the ring to apply the finisher. Hawkins survived the onslaught but had no argument when he was pulled out by the ring physician before the next frame.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

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Juan Francisco Estrada KOs Carlos Cuadras; Chocolatito Wins Too

David A. Avila

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WBC super flyweight world titlist Juan Francisco Estrada led a triumvirate of world title fights with a sizzling knockout victory over Mexican rival Carlos Cuadras to retain the world title and set up a future clash with former foe Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez who won his bout in the co-feature.

In front of a small Mexico City crowd Estrada (41-3, 28 KOs) proved he could defeat Cuadras (39-4-1, 27 KOs) again and did it emphatically to retain his title by knockout. There was no squabbling about scorecards in this clash like their first encounter in 2017 that ended with Estrada by decision.

It did not begin well for Estrada who endured Cuadras imposing his strength and speed behind a very strong left jab in the first three rounds. And then a sneaky right uppercut followed by a left hook sent Estrada down for the count in the third round.

But that only proved to be a spark for the fighter known as “El Gallo.”

Estrada realized he was falling behind, especially after the knockdown. Instead of counter-punching, the boxer from Sonora, Mexico began moving forward and became an aggressor. The dynamics of the fight changed suddenly.

Cuadras was hurt by a body shot in the sixth round and spent most of his time looking to avoid more contact. Estrada was in full control.

Despite the change in momentum no round was easy for either Mexican pugilist. Both exchanged freely always looking to end the fight with a big blow. Though each were hurt at times, neither showed signs of relenting.

From the eighth through the 10th round Cuadras seemed to find a second wind, or maybe it was desperation. The Mexico City native known as “Principe” fought possessed and managed to swing the momentum back toward his way for maybe two of those rounds.

In the 11th round both exchanged blows and Estrada connected with a left and right and down went Cuadras. The former world champion got up and was then floored with a counter right cross. He got up again a little shaky and Estrada attacked with a four-punch combination that forced referee Lupe Garcia to stop the fight for a technical knockout at 2:22 of the round.

Estrada retained the WBC super flyweight world title and will now meet Chocolatito.

Chocolatito

Nicaragua’s Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (50-2, 41 KOs) proved that an opponent like Mexico’s Israel Gonzalez (25-3) can be faster, taller, longer and younger but the Nicaraguan will find a way to beat you. He did that with a convincing unanimous decision win after 12 rounds to retain the WBA super flyweight world title.

Chocolatito will now probably meet Juan Francisco Estrada for a long-expected rematch. In their first encounter back in 2012, the Nicaraguan won by decision in Los Angeles.

Chocolatito looked dominant in his ability to deflect the speedy combinations by the young Mexican fighter Gonzalez. Nothing worked against the Nicaraguan who skillfully manipulated his way through barrage after barrage and connected inside with body shots and uppercuts.

It was a masterful performance.

JC Martinez

Mexico City’s Julio Cesar Martinez (17-1, 13 KOs) was defending his WBC flyweight world title against Moises Calleros (33-10-1) a virtual bantamweight weighing more than 7 pounds over the 112-pound flyweight limit. Even the extra weight could not help him.

In the first round, Martinez exploded with a blistering three-punch combination the sent Calleros to the floor dazed and confused. He beat the count and survived the round.

The second round wasn’t too kind for Calleros who became the punching bag for the quick-fisted Martinez who opened up with a nine-punch salvo that forced the referee Cesar Castanon to end the slaughter at 2:42 of the second round.

Other Bouts

Diego Pacheco (10-0, 8 KOs) used his height and reach to score a knockout with a snapping right uppercut to the chin of Mexico’s Juan Mendez (12-3-2) in a super middleweight fight. The end came at 2:02 of the second round with Mexican referee Rafael Saldana stopping the fight at the perfect moment.

Austin “Ammo” Williams (6-0, 5 KOs) powered through Esau Herrera (19-12-1) with body shots and combination punches to win by knockout in a middleweight battle. The end came at 1:36 of the fifth round.

Otha Jones III (5-0-1, 2 KOs) and Mexico City fighter Kevin Montiel (6-0-1) fought to a split draw after six rounds in a super featherweight clash. Both fighters started quickly with Jones having good rounds in the middle portion of the six-round fight, but he tired and allowed Montiel to rally from behind. The scores were split with 58-56 for Jones, 58-56 for Montiel and 57-57.

Photo credit: Ed Mulholland / Matchroom

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Boxing Odds and Ends: Fury’s Next Opponent, Lomachenko Redux and More

Arne K. Lang

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Boxing Odds and Ends: Fury’s Next Opponent, Lomachenko Redux and More

It wasn’t long ago that Bob Arum was talking about potting Fury-Wilder III at Las Vegas’ new Allegiant Stadium in December. But Arum and his business partner Frank Warren have switched gears. Fury-Wilder III is on hold indefinitely.

According to Team Fury, Wilder invalidated the rematch clause in the Articles of Agreement for Wilder-Fury II by failing to activate it within the required time frame. That opened the door for Fury to choose a different opponent for his next fight. The frontrunners are reportedly Agit Kabayel and Carlos Takam. The fight is expected to come off in December in London.

Agit Kabayel, a 28-year-old German of Kurdish descent, is 20-0 (13 KOs). He came to the fore in November of 2017 when he upset dangerous but erratic Dereck Chisora, winning a 12-round decision at the Casino in Monte Carlo. In his most recent fight, in July of this year, he won a lopsided 10-round decision over an obscure opponent before a small gathering (per COVID policy) at a public park in Magdeburg.

Carlos Takam (39-5-1, 28 KOs) is best known for taking Anthony Joshua into the 10th frame before succumbing when they met three years ago this month at Principality Stadium in Wales. Takam was called in from the bullpen when Kubrat Pulev was forced to pull out with a shoulder injury.

In his most recent fight, the 39-year-old French-Cameroonian won a 10-round decision over unheralded Jerry Forrest at the MGM Bubble. As had been true when he was matched up against Joshua, Takam got the call when his opponent’s original opponent fell out. Takam replaced Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller who failed his pre-fight drug test, as was his custom.

In the words of fight writer Kenneth Friedman, regardless of whether it’s Kabayel (pictured) or Takam, “this will be a stay busy fight for Fury, and not one meant to be serious entertainment for the boxing public.”

We appreciate boxing writers who refuse to sugarcoat, but this strikes us as a bit harsh. Kabayel can fight more than a little, and should he get the call he may prove to be as pesky as Otto Wallin.

Lomachenko

It has come out that Vasiliy Lomachenko was damaged goods heading into his bout with Teofimo Lopez. He had a shoulder ailment that forced him to miss a week of training in the gym. This past Monday, Oct. 20, the noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. Neal S. ElAttrache – the head team physician for the LA Dodgers and LA Rams – put Lomachenko under the knife.

Dr. ElAttrache told Yahoo! boxing writer Kevin Iole that Loma had a bruised rotator cuff and a chipped piece of cartilage and that the injury was in the same area in his right shoulder where Vasiliy suffered a torn labrum in his bout with Jorge Linares in May of 2018.

Lomachenko’s promoter Bob Arum said he had no knowledge that the Ukrainian was less than 100 percent. Neither did the bettors. Had the word got out, the wiseguys would have “steamed” the underdog.

We’re reminded of the 1995 fight at the Caesars Palace outdoor arena between Oscar De La Hoya and the late Genaro “Chicanito” Hernandez. It leaked out that Hernandez had suffered a broken nose in his final sparring session and the odds favoring De La Hoya zoomed from 4/1 to 17/2.

In the sixth round, a punch from Oscar broke Hernandez’s fragile nose. The blood came down in torrents, Hernandez quit at the conclusion at the round, and the bookies took a bath.

From a betting standpoint, injuries are far more relevant in an individual sport such as boxing than in a team sport. A heavy sports gambler of our acquaintance, now deceased, invariably bet on an NFL team missing one or more key players. “The back-ups were All-Americans too,” he said by way of explanation.

The contract for Lomachenko-Lopez did not include a rematch clause. Teofimo has no interest in a rematch and has earned the right to move on. However, we would bet that most fight fans would love to see them go at it again. Lomachenko is expected to be fit to resume his regular training regimen in January.

Davis vs. Santa Cruz

“In what is being billed as a 50/50 fight….” reads a SHOWTIME press release heralding the forthcoming match between Gervonta “Tank” Davis and Leo Santa Cruz.

What an interesting choice of words. Who exactly is it that is billing this as a 50/50 fight? Certainly not the bookies. As of Friday, Oct. 23, Davis was anywhere from a minus-460 to minus-680 favorite at prominent betting establishments offshore. (For the sake of convenience, let’s just say that Gervonta is a 5/1 favorite.)

No, this is hardly a 50/50 fight, at least not in the view of the bet-takers who have no choice but to be transparent. But in defense of SHOWTIME, this is an intriguing contest between a brash upstart who has yet to taste defeat and a 32-year-old veteran who has suffered only one defeat in 39 starts, a defeat that he avenged.

Gervonta Davis (23-0, 22 KOs) will walk right through Leo Santa Cruz if he fights as well as he did against Jose Pedraza in 2017. But if “Tank” fights as he did later that year against Francisco Fonseca, Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19 KOs) will make it warm for him.

Davis vs. Santa Cruz will play out on Halloween before a live audience in the San Antonio Alamodome. It is the main attraction of a PPV event with a suggested list price of $74.99. It will be interesting to see what numbers it draws since the show goes head-to-head against an ESPN+ card featuring the U.S. debut of Naoya “Monster” Inoue.

Leonard Ellerbe, the CEO of Mayweather Promotions, which handles Tank Davis, has predicted that Davis will someday command “Mayweather money.” He bases this not merely on Davis’s talent, but on his large social media following. The 25-year-old Baltimorean has a big presence among the hip-hop crowd.

At stake in the Davis vs. Santa Cruz fight are a pair of WBA titles hitched to different weight classes. One of the belts at stake is the WBA lightweight title.

Hey, wait a second, didn’t Teofimo Lopez just win this very same title?

In Deadwood, South Dakota, one can visit the saloon where Wild Bill Hickock was shot dead while playing poker. Or one can walk down the street and visit a different saloon that claims to be the place where Hickock was shot dead while playing poker.

WBA president Gilberto Mendoza doesn’t own those two saloons, but he could have.

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