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KATHY DUVA SPEAKS OUT ON … WELL, EVERYTHING (PART 3)

Bernard Fernandez

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Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
—Albert Einstein

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
—-George Santyana

A lot of familiar sayings pop into a listener’s mind when Kathy Duva speaks out about boxing matters then and now. She has been in the business for more than 35 years, first as a publicist for her husband Dan’s promotional company, Main Events, and after his passing in 1996, as its president. She has been to the top of the highest mountain, when Main Events’ deep roster featured such stars as Evander Holyfield, Pernell Whitaker, Meldrick Taylor and Mark Breland, and later as more of a secondary player with a depleted stable, scoping out less treacherous hills to ascend. But Main Events and Duva are staging a comeback of sorts, with WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev as the brightest hope for renewed relevance.

When Duva ruminates about her company’s and family’s oldest and most bitter rival, Don King, it is with a curious mixture of pent-up venom as well as what almost sounds like near-sympathy for a one-time giant of the industry who has tumbled far from his own glory days. What satisfaction is there to be drawn from victories at the negotiating table unless they sometimes come at the expense of the fire-breathing dragon that so frequently has made your life miserable? Remember, Kathy once dressed up her then-toddler of a son, Bryan, with a fright wig and a gold-glittered, cardboard DKP-logo pendant for a trick-or-treating tour of her neighborhood. It was a sight gag worthy of the best of Mel Brooks, and a reflection of the mother’s utter contempt for the electric-haired model for the Halloween caricature as well as a sort of grudging admiration.

King, at 82, is still around and harrumphing his heh-heh-hehs and “Only in America!” mantra. And while it might not be his last stand, win or lose, his fighter, Bermane Stiverne (23-1-1, 20 KOs) takes on Chris Arreola (36-3, 31 KOs) Saturday night in Los Angeles for the WBC heavyweight championship vacated by the now-retired Vitali Klitschko. Should Stiverne win – and, remember, he already holds a wide unanimous decision Arreola in their first meeting, on April 27, 2013 — King’s faltering operation could take on at least some of the trappings of its former status as one of the fight game’s major power brokers.

I interviewed Duva for a story I had planned to do for TSS a couple of weeks ago, but – she’d certainly hate to admit this – she did her own version of King’s rambling, stream-of-consciousness brand of verbosity, at such length and with such conviction, that she filled up eight legal pages with interesting quotes. What to do? Condense all that material into a Cliff’s Note single column? Or spread the wealth over a three-part series, the truth of which, or possibly the lack thereof, to be discerned by TSS’ knowledgable readers? I chose the latter.

What did surprise me was Duva’s frequent references not only to King as the head of a diminished Evil Empire, but as the main character in a cautionary tale that more recent wheeler-dealers – Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, adviser-to-the-stars Al Haymon and Showtime executive Stephen Espinoza –seem intent on reprising.

Main Events’ marquee attractions from the good old days almost exclusively appeared on HBO or HBO Pay-Per-View, and Kovalev has graduated from dates on NBC SportsNet, which has contracted for Duva’s company to furnish the matchups since “Fight Night” debuted on Jan. 21, 2012, to HBO. It’s no surprise that, in her assessments of the HBO business model in comparison to Showtime’s, she sees HBO as having the superior format. Make of that what you will. It’s only one person’s opinion and, well, it might be construed as more than a little self-serving. Remember, Duva filed a lawsuit in late April against Showtime, Golden Boy Promotions, WBA light heavyweight champ Adonis Stevenson, his adviser Haymon and promoter Yvon Michel. It is Duva’s contention that there is a legally binding contract between Main Events and Michel to promote a Kovalev-Stevenson bout, on HBO, which appeared to be quashed when Haymon took Stevenson to Showtime.

But that doesn’t mean that a perhaps biased point of view isn’t entirely without merit, and Duva makes no bones of her belief that Showtime’s make-or-break, multimillion-dollar bet on Floyd Mayweather Jr., Golden Boy and Haymon is reminiscent of a similar bet-the-house wager made by King two decades ago, with ultimately disastrous results.

“You can literally trace the decline of Don King as a major promoter to the day he made that deal,” Duva said of King’s jumping from HBO to Showtime, taking with him such ring luminaries as Mike Tyson and Julio Cesar Chavez. “His operation went straight down from there. It was a mistake on his part, I think it was a mistake on Showtime’s part. And now the same mistakes are being made all over again.

“Mayweather is being paid a tremendous amount of money (he’s three fights into a six-fight deal that potentially could bring him upwards of $250 million), and it’s putting Showtime at risk financially. It’s not just coming out of their budget that they’ve allocated to buy fights. They’ve got to make money every time he gets in the ring. Whether or not that was a good business decision on their part, I can’t say until the deal’s over, I suppose. They certainly got a lot of attention, and I’m willing to bet, a lot of new subscribers, at least initially.

“The problem, as far as I can see it, is that people aren’t watching Showtime because Floyd Mayweather is fighting on pay-per-view or because Canelo (Alvarez) is fighting on pay-per-view. Or Amir Khan or Adrien Broner. These are the people who are getting their highest ratings, and more and more they’re fight on pay-per-view now. They have a very different business model than HBO had back then.

“Clearly, their business model is to build fighters up to pay-per-view and that’s where they make their money, or not. That’s a perfectly legitimate business model. HBO’s is more – I think – to develop talent, to hopefully put on entertaining fights with that talent, which was what they were trying to do with Kovalev and Stevenson.”

To Duva’s way of thinking, HBO’s model is analogous to a baseball team – say, the St. Louis Cardinals – building through a strong farm system while Showtime taking the approach of the late George Steinbrenner’s free-spending New York Yankees, throwing wads of cash at big-ticket free agents. It’s a bold step for Showtime, which apparently is no longer content to play Avis to HBO’s Hertz.

“The people who got the ratings on Showtime are the people who were built up on HBO,” Duva continued. “They only recently poached another HBO fighter in Stevenson. Their whole business model is, `We’ll poach some top guys from HBO and put them on pay-per-view.’ It was unthinkable that Showtime could do that back then (in the 1990s) because HBO’s budget was much bigger.

“King was able to make the deal he did with Showtime based on Mike Tyson being that sort of pay-per-view attraction. Chavez was a tremendous fighter who, frankly, was buried on Tyson undercards for years when he should have been a bigger star in his own right. But you can’t build a superstar on Showtime. You just can’t, no matter how hard you try.

“What’s interesting to me is how long can this continue? How many more HBO fighters can Showtime poach? At what point will they have too much inventory? I don’t know.”

The principals, of course, are different now than they were then. King’s role presumably is now being filled by Haymon and/or Schaefer, while Espinoza is sitting in the chair once occupied by his twice-removed predecessor as executive vice president and general manager of Showtime Sports and Event Programming, the late Jay Larkin. Mayweather is cast in the role of the new Tyson, the bell cow whom PPV customers are expected to follow no matter whom he fights or how well he fights them.

“This is so much what King tried to do in the ’90s,” Duva said. “He was saying, `I want my own network. I want to call all the shots. I want to do whatever I want.’ It was a situation that was very beneficial to him in the beginning, but in the end he isolated himself. Now, you can see the same thing starting to happen again.

“What stopped King from signing every fighter in the world was that even he had a limited budget and, let’s face it, he was Don King. People were wary of signing with him. It wasn’t that difficult to keep our fighters from going over to him. Generally, it went in the opposite direction.”

It all makes for a soap opera that, unlike actual daytime soap operas with story lines that go on and on and on, figures to have some sort of definitive conclusion. Whether that turns out to be sooner or later, who can say?

“I think the end game for Golden Boy and Al Haymon is to go back and get every date on HBO, too,” Duva said. “The lack of competition is not good in any business. I don’t think that Showtime’s interests should be so closely aligned with Haymon’s and Golden Boy’s. But they are. Ultimately, if HBO capitulates, it means that they give the HBO dates to Showtime, too. And where does that leave Showtime?”

What boxing needs, Duva said, is someone with the patience, persistence and clout to move mountains when necessary. Someone like, say, former HBO Sports boss Seth Abraham.

“Back then, Seth was almost like the commissioner of boxing,” she noted. “Think about it. He came from (baseball commissioner) Bowie Kuhn’s office. He had that mindset. The way Seth used to operate, because I went to a lot of those meetings with my husband, he’d put everybody in a room and not let them out until he had an agreement.

“Now, there was a time when Seth was accused of being way too cozy with Don King. There was an executive with his company who resigned over it, or perhaps he was pushed out. Well, there also was a time when King walked away from Seth, but, still, Seth worked with him when he had to. He didn’t welcome King back with open arms ever again, and there was a lot of bad blood. There always is when you say, `I’m taking my bat and ball across the street.’
“ We once crossed the street ourselves when we made Whitaker-Chavez on Showtime Pay-Per-View because that was the only way to get a fight our guy desperately wanted. To this day, I don’t know that Seth would say he’s forgiven (Whitaker’s manager) Shelly Finkel and maybe my husband for that. That was seen as an enormous affront and I don’t think it helped us in the least in our relationship with HBO. But that was one fight, and you could get past it.

“But to take your whole business across the street? Think about it. HBO enabled Golden Boy’s very existence. They literally pushed Main Events aside at a time after Dan had died and our stock had begun to dwindle. We were not in a good position. At the turn of the millennium when Lennox Lewis was heading into his last days, as was Arturo Gatti, and Whitaker had retired, those dates that used to go to Main Events started going to Golden Boy.”

So the combatants have changed, but the old battle rages on. It’s a war of attrition, with conflicting strategies and visions of how it will all play out, eventually. Maybe Showtime has the right answers this time. Maybe it doesn’t. To Duva’s way of thinking, if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.

“HBO’s got a machine there,” she offered. “They can build more talent. It’s a rare fighter who comes along who is so valuable that he can’t be replaced. It happens maybe once or twice in a generation. Floyd Mayweather is one of those fighters, no doubt. But there’s nobody else over there who’s a Floyd Mayweather.

“How many guys like that have there been in the pay-per-view era? Tyson. Holyfield. De La Hoya. There aren’t too many of them.

“At some point I think HBO will buy fights from Golden Boy again. At some point I think Showtime will buy fights from other promotional companies. I really think that’s the only things that makes sense in the long run.”

For now, though, expect the status quo to remain.

“Richard gave an interview that was related to me the other day,” Duva said. “He said, `I don’t agree with (Bob) Arum’s idea that you go to China and Russia and bring back talent from there. But if they build up somebody that’s attractive to us,’ we’ll just take him.’ If a network wants to empower someone with that attitude, someone who sets himself up to put other people out of business, you will see the demise of the boxing as it exists today. Except that I don’t think (Golden Boy and Showtime) can put HBO out of business.

“I’ve been going to meetings at HBO for 10 years and I told them that this was going to happen. It got pooh-poohed every time. If I went to meetings at Showtime, which I don’t, I would tell them the same thing. They’re looking at boxing as if it observes the laws of economics, as if it obeys the laws of supply and demand. It doesn’t. It never has.”

Read the parts 1 and 2 here :

Kathy Duva Speaks Out On…Well, Everything (Part 1)

Kathy Duva Speaks Out On…Well, Everything (Part 2)

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Season 2 of the World Boxing Super Series Concludes on Saturday in Munich

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PRESS RELEASE: The hotly-anticipated World Boxing Super Series Season II Cruiserweight Final between Mairis Briedis and Yuniel Dorticos takes place behind-closed-doors in a film studio at Plazamedia Broadcasting Center in Munich, Germany on Saturday, 26 September. On the line: The Muhammad Ali Trophy, IBF World Title, and vacant Ring Magazine 200 lbs belt.

The final will be shown live on DAZN in the US and Sky Sports in the UK.

“A final for the Muhammad Ali Trophy has proved to be something extraordinary. We have seen that it brings out the best in boxers which reflects the DNA of our tournament as to deliver and continue to deliver boxing at its very best to fans of the sport,” said Andreas Benz, CEO of Comosa, the event organizer.

“Plazamedia is a phenomenal solution, the studios are providing a controlled environment which is of huge benefit to us and the production team to keep everyone safe while also putting on a great show.

“At the same time, we have done everything to secure fair conditions for both teams, and to ensure they remain healthy and isolated until the action starts.”

Mairis Briedis, tournament No. 1 seed, qualified for the final through wins over Noel Mikaelian (UD) and Krzysztof Glowacki (TKO3), while Dorticos, No. 2 seed conquered Mateusz Masternak (UD) and Andrew Tabiti (KO10) to enter the 200 lbs decider.

“We are very happy about the announcement of the final,” said Latvia’s Mairis Briedis. “I love the fact that it will be in Munich as it reminds me of every time I went to train with the Klitschko brothers in Germany and the flights were always via Munich. Those are some great memories of the time spent with them there.”

Said Miami-based Cuban, Yuniel ‘The KO Doctor’ Dorticos, IBF World Cruiserweight Champion: “To all my fans worldwide, In Europe and especially in Munich, Germany: I am super happy the World Boxing Super Series final will take place in Munich, Germany, and I will see you all on Saturday, September 26th. The KO Doctor is back and ready to prescribe another dose of pain and take the Muhammad Ali Trophy back to Miami.”

Kalle Sauerland, Chief Boxing Officer of the WBSS, said: “On 26 September we will not only crown the best cruiserweight on the planet but also send a sign to the world that boxing is back with the first major transatlantic championship bout between the undisputed number one and two in their division.

The final is not only about honour and glory, but cementing a legacy. The winner will become a member of an exclusive ‘Ali Trophy Winner Club’ that includes Oleksandr Usyk, Callum Smith, Naoya Inoue and Josh Taylor. It doesn’t get much bigger in boxing, and we expect Briedis and Dorticos to have an absolute barnstormer!”

The Muhammad Ali Trophy was created by the late world-renowned artist Silvio Gazzaniga who also designed the iconic FIFA World Cup Trophy.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 106: Return of LA Boxing, Josh Taylor, Charlos and More

David A. Avila

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 106: Return of LA Boxing, Josh Taylor, Charlos and More

Let’s call this week the Big Build Up.

Back in the 1920s to the 1950s the City of Angels was known as the place where Humphrey Bogart lived and played characters out of Raymond Chandler’s novels. Books like the “Big Sleep” and “Lady in a Lake” were made into movies based in Los Angeles.

Well, here we are back where boxing thrives, people or not.

Los Angeles kicks off the big boxing week starting with a televised fight card that features home grown featherweight Vic Pasillas at the Microsoft Theater in the downtown area. Fox Sports 1 will televise the Premier Boxing Championship card on Wednesday, Sept. 23.

Pasillas (15-0,8 KOs) faces Dominican fighter Ranfis Encarnacion (17-0, 13 KOs) in the co-main event at a fan-less event that begins a crowded week of boxing as we near the end of 2020.

“Coming out on top against Encarnación is going to catapult me into some big fights at featherweight. The division is wide open and I know with hard work I can take it over,” said Pasillas who is originally from Los Angeles. “This is by far the most important fight of my career. I’m coming with everything I got, because I know this is the turning point that will lead to bigger and better fights. I am ready to bring an exciting fight to the fans and get my hand raised in victory.”

Both Pasillas and Encarnacion are undefeated and unknown to most of the boxing world. A win changes everything especially when it’s difficult to even stage a boxing card.

Promoters are anxious to get their fighters in the ring by any means necessary.

On Thursday in Biloxi, Mississippi, super lightweight Michael Williams Jr. meets Thomas Miller in the headline attraction of a boxing card that will be streamed by UFC Fight Pass.

On Friday in southern Mexico, Serhii Bohachuk (17-0, 17 KOs) meets Alejandro Davila (21-1-2, 8 KOs) in Merida, Yucatan. No word if it will be streamed. The super welterweight from Ukraine has a 17-fight knockout streak and has become a main attraction in Hollywood, California for 360 Promotions.

“Serhii has become one of the most talked about rising stars in boxing,” said Tom Loeffler, promoter of 360 Promotions. “Boxing fans are excited to see if he can continue his knockout streak against Alejandro Davila, the toughest opponent he’s faced. He’s been training very hard with Manny Robles for this fight and if victorious, we’re certain there will be bigger opportunities for him in the near future.”

These are all tasty appetizers for the big buffet coming on Saturday.

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Saturday morning, especially if you live in the California area, ESPN+ will showcase the IBF, WBA super lightweight world title fight between champion Josh Taylor (16-0, 12 KOs) and Apinun Khongsong (16-0, 13 KOs) in London. It will be streamed live on Sept. 26, Saturday morning, starting at 11 a.m PST.

This is an important match for Taylor (pictured on the left) who needs a win to nail down a unification clash with Jose Carlos Ramirez the WBC and WBO titlist. If Scotland’s Taylor emerges victorious the super lightweight clash will be one of the top fights of the year.

And if that fight happens to take place, then that winner more than likely meets WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford.

But first things first. Taylor needs to defeat Thailand’s Khongsong on Saturday.

“I didn’t want a warm-up fight, so getting straight back in there against my mandatory challenger is great, as it’s kept me fully focused. I want big fights in my career, so this is an important fight with my belts on the line,” said Taylor.

Charlos Pay-per-view

The Charlos brothers asked for it and they got it.

Long have the brothers from Houston, Texas asked for a pay-per-view fight card and it never seemed possible until now. The Charlos will headline a pay-per-view double-header on Saturday via Showtime.

Beginning at 4 p.m PT/ 7 p.m. ET the Showtime pay-per-view card begins with three top notch bouts:

WBO bantamweight titlist John Riel Casimero (29-4) vs Ghana’s Duke Micah (24-0, 19 KOs).

WBA super bantamweight titlist Brandon Figueroa (20-0-1, 15 KOs) vs Damien Vazquez (15-1-1, 8 KOs).

WBC middleweight titlist Jermall Charlo (30-0, 22 KOs) v Sergiy Derevyanchenko (13-2, 10 KOs).

Charlo was not impressed with Derevyanchenko’s performances against Daniel Jacobs and Gennady Golovkin because both were losses. He expects to dominate.

Derevyanchenko says he’s ready for Charlo.

“Golovkin is a very different fighter than Charlo, but Jacobs is similar stylistically, so that’s something I’ll be used to,” said Derevyanchenko. “This training camp has been very similar to camps for my previous fights though. We just brought in different sparring partners for this one. We’re using fighters who can show us what Charlo will bring to the ring.”

After a 30-minute intermission the second half of the boxing card begins.

Former bantamweight world champion Luis Nery (30-0, 24 KOs) moves up in weight to face Aaron Alameda (25-0, 13 KOs) for the vacant WBC super bantamweight world title. Both fighters are from Mexico.

Former super bantamweight titlists Danny Roman (27-3-1) and Juan Carlos Payano (21-3) meet in a 12-round bout.

In the grand finale WBC super welterweight titlist Jermell Charlo (33-1, 17 KOs) challenges IBF and WBA super welterweight titlist Jeison Rosario (20-1-1, 14 KOs) in a fight for all three belts.

“We lions,” said Charlo.

It’s a very big week for boxing that begins on Wednesday and ends Saturday.

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The Return of Wednesday Boxing Evokes Memories of a Golden Era

Arne K. Lang

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There’s a Wednesday card on the boxing docket this week. The card, which features several undefeated up-and-comers of the sort usually found on Showtime’s developmental series, “ShoBox: The New Generation,” will play out at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles and air on Fox Sports 1.

Not to be out-done, “ShoBox” is returning. The long-running series, which suspended operations in March in obeisance to COVID-19 restrictions, returns on Oct. 7 with a show emanating from Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Casino. The contestants in the main go of the four-fight card, Charles Conwell and Wendy Toussaint, have identical 12-0 records.

It just so happens that Oct. 7 is also a Wednesday. And these upcoming Wednesday shows transported this reporter back to his boyhood when boxing was a fixture on radio and television on Wednesday nights. The Wednesday series sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon beer ran from 1950 to 1960, airing the first five years on CBS and then on ABC.

Fights were all over the TV dial during the 1950s, not that there was much competition. The Big Three — NBC, CBS, and ABC — ruled the airwaves with DuMont a very distant fourth and cable television well off into the future. (For a time, the short-lived DuMont network aired boxing shows on Mondays.)

When televisions first came out, they were a big-ticket item. In 1948, RCA’s cheapest model sold for $395. That’s the equivalent of $10,400 today. By 1954, the cost of the least expensive model had declined to $189 and it came in a bigger box, with a 17-inch screen compared with the 13-inch screen that was standard six years earlier.

With the cost of the coveted contraption beyond the means of many wage earners, saloonkeepers cashed in. Boxing fans flocked to the neighborhood tavern to get their boxing fix. The saloonkeeper could write off his television sets on his taxes as a business expense.

Those were the days, and I date myself, when every town had a TV repair shop and the repairman, like the family doctor, made house calls.

The Wednesday Night Fights were a spin-off of the Friday Night Fights on NBC. The matchmaker for both series (through 1958) was the International Boxing Club which was headquartered at Madison Square Garden. The president of the IBC was James D. Norris (who would come to be seen as a puppet for mobster Frankie Carbo, but that’s a story for another day).

James D. Norris inherited a vast fortune from his father, Canadian businessman James E. Norris. The elder Norris was a big wheel in the sport of hockey and had a financial interest in the arenas that housed NHL teams in Chicago, Detroit, and St. Louis. He made these arenas available to his son and the Wednesday fight cards moved around, unlike the Friday fights which were pinned to Madison Square Garden.

Both series would eventually venture out at times into virgin territory, but the Wednesday series was the trailblazer. The first nationally televised boxing show from the West Coast was a Wednesday affair. Jimmy Carter defended his world lightweight title against LA fan favorite Art Aragon, the original Golden Boy, at the Olympic Auditorium on Nov. 14, 1951. Aragon had upset Carter in a non-title fight 11 weeks earlier, but Carter took him to school in the rematch, winning a lopsided decision.

The Friday boxing series, which took the name “Gillette Cavalcade of Sports,” would come to be more fondly remembered, but once the TV became a living room staple, which happened fast, the Wednesday series drew higher ratings. This was predictable as more folks stayed home on Wednesday nights than on Friday nights. And although the Friday series had a larger budget, some of the most important fights of the era were staged on Wednesdays.

One of the highlights of the 1951 season was Ezzard Charles’ world heavyweight title defense against Jersey Joe Walcott at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field. It was Walcott’s fifth crack at the title and he was considered ancient at age 37, but he avenged his two previous losses to Charles with a thunderous one-punch knockout.

Carmen Basilio appeared in The Ring magazine Fight of the Year in five consecutive years (1955-1959). The first two — his second meeting with Tony DeMarco and his second meeting with Johnny Saxton – were televised on a Wednesday.

Although he would be quickly forgotten, the Wednesday series brought Bob Satterfield a cult following because of his unpredictability. He certainly left an impression on octogenarian boxing writer Ted Sares who recently named Satterfield his all-time favorite fighter.

To conjure up a portrait of Satterfield, think Deontay Wilder and then fix Wilder with a glass jaw. Satterfield, whose best weight was about 182 pounds, was a murderous puncher, but during his career he was stopped 13 times.

LA’s Clarence Henry and Pittsburgh’s Bob Baker were ranked #3 in the heavyweight division when they ventured to Chicago to tangle with Satterfield, Henry in 1952 and Baker the following year. Henry knocked out Satterfield in the opening round. Satterfield hit the canvas so hard, said a ringside reporter, the resin dust flew up.

The Satterfield-Baker fight would also end in the opening round. Baker out-weighed Satterfield by 34 pounds, but Satterfield flattened him. Later on, in a non-Wednesday fight, Satterfield knocked out Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams in the third round. Williams, 33-1 heading in, was the larger man by 25 pounds.

One bet on or against Bob Satterfield at one’s own peril.

The Wednesday Night Fights had a nice run before the series was cancelled and supplanted in its time slot by “The Naked City,” a critically acclaimed police drama series. Perhaps the return of boxing on Wednesdays augurs well for another mid-week boxing series, but we won’t hold our breath.

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