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Bernard Hopkins Weighs In on Golden Boy Situation

Bernard Fernandez

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?The last time Bernard Hopkins registered a knockout in the ring was on Sept. 18, 2004, when he landed a left hook to the liver that put Oscar De La Hoya, gasping for breath, down and out on the canvas in the ninth round of their middleweight unification showdown at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand.

?A decade later, is Hopkins prepared to again knock out the “Golden Boy,” only this time in a business sense?

?Although he insists nothing is etched in stone at this point, Hopkins, who shortly after that watershed victory a decade ago became a limited partner in De La Hoya’s company, Golden Boy Promotions, is dropping broad hints as to where his loyalties lie in the aftermath of Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer’s announcement on Monday that he had resigned that position, effective immediately.

?“It’s got to be run by somebody,” Hopkins said of Golden Boy Promotions’ now murky future. “But it’s going to be very, very difficult for Golden Boy to keep the credibility of the brand without Richard Schaefer.

?“A guy like Richard – and let me say that we don’t always agree on everything – really can’t be replaced. I’ll reiterate: Richard Schaefer cannot be replaced. Things will continue to be run (at GBP), but they won’t – can’t – be the same. Richard is a man who is stern when he needs to be stern, and fair when he needs to be fair. It’s hard to find people like that in boxing. He’s one of the biggest and most respected players there is. Even the people who don’t care for him too much on a personal level have got to respect him when it comes to the way he does his job.

?“Think about it. Who really ran Golden Boy? I’m not talking about popping up in the office once or twice a year. Who was there, doing the deals, on a day-to-day basis?”

?If that sounds like a veiled shot at De La Hoya, the occasional visitor to his own company whose relationship with his onetime close friend Schaefer has grown increasingly chilly, draw your own conclusions.

?“Oscar’s been talking to certain people,” Hopkins said, a pointed reference to the olive branch extended by De La Hoya to his former promoter and more recent adversary, Top Rank founder Bob Arum, with whom Schaefer has adamantly refused to do business. “He’s been tweeting. He showed up at Canelo’s (Alvarez) camp. OK, he’s rededicated, he’s gotten himself together, he’s burying the hatchet (with Arum). Great. But with him doing all that, is anybody really surprised that this thing with Richard happened? The only thing that’s a shock is that it took this long to go down.”

?The ramifications of the De La Hoya/Schaefer split are significant. It was Schaefer who has a close personal and working relationship with boxing’s most bankable fighter, FloydMayweather Jr., as well as with Mayweather’s influential adviser, Al Haymon, whose deep roster of fighters regularly appeared on Golden Boy cards but all of whom were not under contract to GBP. Schaefer’s resignation was quickly followed by an announcement from Leonard Ellerbee, chief executive of Mayweather Promotions, that Mayweather and, most likely, Haymon’s other A-list fighters were also severing relations with GBP. That leaves De La Hoya’s depleted stable with a new lead pony, Alvarez (43-1-1, 31 KOs), who takes on Erislandy Lara (19-1-2, 12 KOs) on July 12 at the MGM Grand.

?Although it is widely presumed that Schaefer, a Swiss-born banker who had no background in boxing until he became De La Hoya’s business manager and then GBP’s CEO, will now partner up with Mayweather, Haymon and Ellerbe, there are legal issues that must be ironed out. For one thing, Schaefer – who signed a contract extension with GBP in April 2012 that Hopkins said “runs until, I think, 2017 or 2018” – remains a shareholder in the company, which could make it difficult for him to join Mayweather Promotions or some other promotional entity until the expiration of that arrangement. In a prepared statement, Schaefer indicated that he will “look forward to the next opportunity,” and that he hopes that opportunity is in boxing, but he also noted that he also is “proud to remain a shareholder, so I have a strong interest in the continued success of the company.”

?For his part, Ellerbe said, “Richard will have a tremendous impact on whatever he decides to do and wherever he goes. We always welcome smart leaders, but I don’t know what his future is.”

?Hopkins has spent his share of time in courtrooms, having engaged in bitter and ultimately litigated disputes with several of his past promoters, managers, trainers and advisers, including Butch Lewis, Don King, Bouie Fisher and Lou DiBella. He has an idea of where all this is headed.

?“You know it’s funny,” he said. “When I joined Golden Boy, people were actually betting that somehow I would find a way to screw it up. But I’m still here.”

?Yeah, but for how long? At 49, Hopkins (55-6-2, 32 KOs), the IBF and WBA light heavyweight champion, is looking forward to another unification matchup, with WBC 175-pound titlist Adonis Stevenson (24-1, 20 KOs). Whether that bout, if it comes off, is under the Golden Boy banner has yet to be determined.

?“I’m not under contract to Golden Boy,” stressed Hopkins, who added that he has spoken recently to both De La Hoya and Schaefer. “No one has asked me to come here or to stay there. I got my own team, a separate team. When all is said and done, I’m going to evaluate everything and decide to do what’s best for Bernard Hopkins. I’m going to try to be fair to everybody, but I got to look out for me first. It’s crucial for me to make the right move, whether it’s with Richard or with Oscar. I worked too hard to get here to do anything else.

?“No matter what, though, what’s going on now between them won’t affect me from getting in the ring and winning another title. I want to continue to unify the light heavyweight division, and with two titles I’m in better position to do that now, regardless of the shakeup. I could even promote my next fight myself. It won’t be an emotional decision. I’m going to align myself with the best, with the smartest, and with whoever can do the most for me at this stage of my career.”

?Hopkins was asked if the timing of Schaefer’s resignation could be interpreted as an attempt to somehow diminish De La Hoya’s induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame on Sunday. He said he didn’t think so, although Schaefer will not be in Canastota, N.Y., for the ceremony, which also would seem to say a lot.

?“That’s one way to look at it,” he said of the perception some have that Schaefer is intentionally trying to detract from De La Hoya’s Hall of Fame moment. “It’s the easy way to look at it. But let’s keep it real. The last 30 or 40 days, and maybe longer, this thing has been massaged every which way. Is anybody surprised that this thing with Richard happened?

?“But I don’t think too much should be read into the timing. Fights need to be negotiated, deals need to get done, whether it’s Hall of Fame weekend or not. Look, we all have to do what we think is best. I think Richard got to the point where he just couldn’t wait another week to do what he did. He probably felt he couldn’t wait another day.”

Hopkins also said the Showtime/HBO, Golden Boy/Top Rank “Cold War” was “foolish from the beginning. A lot of fans got hurt, and are still getting hurt to this day. They’re missing out on a lot of big fights. But it is what it is.”

There was one more potential surprise offered by Hopkins, who professed admiration for Haymon, who could become part of whatever remains of his twilight as an active fighter. That statement further suggests that boxing’s ageless wonder could soon be parting ways with Golden Boy.

“I have great respect for him, and he has great respect for me, going back to the day when he came into boxing with one fighter, my friend, Vernon Forrest, `The Viper,’” Hopkins said of Haymon, the Boxing Writers Association of America’s 2013 Manager of the Year. “I was on the other side from him when Al was representing Jermain Taylor.

“I don’t have a contract with Al Haymon, but I wouldn’t mind having one because he knows the business and he knows how to make the moves to get you where you need to be.”

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Jermall Charlo UD 12 Derevyanchenko; Figueroa and Casimero Also Triumphant

Arne K. Lang

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Jermall Charlo UD 12 Derevyanchenko; Figueroa and Casimero Also Triumphant

The Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut, was the site of the first pay-per-view boxing event in the United States since the Fury-Wilder rematch on Feb. 22. There were six fights in all, five of which were title fights and the other a title-eliminator. They were divided into two tiers but bundled into a package that cost approximately a dollar a round with a facile intermission tossed in at no extra charge.

The headline attraction of the first “three-pack” – and the most anticipated fight of the evening – found WBC world middleweight champion Jermall Charlo defending his title against Sergiy Derevyanchenko. The Ukrainian gave Gennady Golovkin a hard tussle when they fought in November of last year at Madison Square Garden – GGG won a unanimous decision but the scores were tight and many thought Derevyanchenko deserved the decision – and the expectation was that tonight’s match would also be very competitive.  But it really wasn’t although the rugged Derevyanchenko rarely took a backward step.

The fight went the distance and there were no knockdowns, but Charlo buckled his knees at the end of round three and Derevyanchenko ended the fight with cuts above both eyes. The judges had it 118-110, 117-111, and 116-112.

With Canelo Alvarez apparently headed to 168 and GGG showing his age at 38, one can make a strong case that the undefeated 30-year-old Jermall Charlo (31-0, 22 KOs) is now the top middleweight in the world. Derevyanchenko, who was 23-1 in the semi-pro World Series of Boxing before turning pro, saw his pro record decline to 13-3 with all three losses in middleweight title fights.

The middle fight of the first tier was a lusty encounter between Mexican-American super bantamweights Brandon Figueroa and Damien Vazquez. Figueroa, one of two fighting brothers from the Mexican border town of Weslaco, Texas, was a huge favorite over Vazquez, a Colorado native who moved to Las Vegas as a freshman in high school and had fought extensively in Mexico where he made his pro debut at age 16. But Vazquez, the nephew of former three-time world super bantamweight title-holder Israel Vazquez, came to fight and gave a good effort until the fight turned lopsidedly against him.

In the middle rounds, Figueroa’s high-pressure attack began to wear Vazquez down. Vazquez had a few good moments in rounds six and eight, but when his right eye began swelling from the cut above it, he was fighting an uphill battle. He took a lot of punishment before referee Gary Rosato halted it at the 1:18 mark of round 10.

Figueroa, 23, successfully defended his WBA 122-pound title while improving his record to 21-0-1 with his 16th KO. Vazquez declined to 15-2-1.

The lid-lifter was a WBO bantamweight title defense by John Riel Casimero with Duke Micah in the opposite corner. Micah, from Accra, Ghana, came in undefeated at 24-0, but Casimero had faced a far stronger schedule and was a substantial favorite.

A Filipino who was been training in Las Vegas under Bones Adams, Casimero took Micah out in the third round. The Brooklyn-based Micah was somewhat busier in the opening frame, but the tide turned quickly in favor of the Filipino. Casimero hurt Micah with a left hook in round two and went for the kill. He wasn’t able to finish him, but Micah was on a short leash and referee Steve Willis was quick to step in when Casimero resumed his attack after the break. The official time was 0:54.

Casimero (30-4, 21 KOs) was defending the title he won last November with a third-round knockout of favored Zolani Tete in Birmingham, England. He was slated to fight this past April in Las Vegas against Naoya Inoue, but that fight evaporated as a result of the coronavirus. After the bout, Casimero called out Inoue (and others): “I’m the real monster,” he said. “Naoya Inoue is scared of me. You’re next. I would have knocked out anyone today. If Inoue doesn’t fight me, then I’ll fight Guillermo Rigondeaux, Luis Nery, or any of the top fighters.”

Check back shortly for David Avila’s summaries of the remaining fights.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

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Mairis Briedis and Josh Taylor Impress on a Busy Fight Day in Europe

Arne K. Lang

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In the busiest weekend of boxing thus far in 2020, there were fights of note all over the map in Europe. The most compelling was held at the Plazamedia Broadcasting Center in Munich where the long-delayed WBSS cruiserweight final pit IBF world cruiserweight title-holder Yuniel Dorticos against Mairis Briedis. Both had only one loss on their ledger, that coming in a semifinal of Season One of the WBSS tourney.

Heading in, Briedis was recognized as the more well-rounder boxer. Dorticos had a style somewhat similar to Deontay Wilder, meaning that he was over-dependent on his big right hand. It figured that Briedis would fight with extreme caution, using his faster hands and superior footwork to keep out of harm’s way, but to the contrary he wasn’t afraid to trade with Dorticos and actually landed the harder punches. At the end, he captured the IBF belt and the more coveted Muhammad Ali Trophy with a majority decision. The judges had it 117-111, 117-111, and a confounding 114-114.

The first fighter from Latvia to win a world title, Briedis (27-1, 19 KOs) is now a two-time world cruiserweight champion. He previously held the WBO cruiserweight belt, but vacated it rather than adhere to the organization’s mandate that he give Krzysztof Glowacki a rematch. (Their first fight, a TKO 3 for Briedis, was very messy and he was fortunate that he wasn’t disqualified.) Dorticos, the Cuban defector, returns to his adopted home in Miami with a 24-2 record.

Briedis, 35, may own only one piece of the world cruiserweight title, but at the moment he is clearly the topmost fighter in the division.

York Hall, London

Apinun Khongsong’s first engagement outside the Orient didn’t go well for him. The 24-year-old Thai boxer with an Muay Thai background was out of his element against WBA/IBF champion Josh Taylor who dismissed him in a hurry with a “solar plexus punch” that would have made Bob Fitzsimmons proud. The punch from the left-handed Scotsman sent Khongsong to the canvas writhing in pain and he was down for several minutes before he was able to stand upright. The official time was 2:41 of the opening round.

Taylor, the Tartan Tornado, was making his first start since October of last year when he won a 12-round majority decision over Regis Prograis in a Fight of the Year candidate. His next fight may be a full unification of the 140-pound belt with Jose Carlos Ramirez in the opposite corner. Both he and Khangsong entered today’s fight with 16-0 records, but Taylor, who scored his 13th knockout, was in a different league.

Undercard Bouts of Note

In a 10-round bantamweight contest, Charlie Edwards (16-1, 1 NC, 6 KOs) out-classed British countryman Kyle Williams (11-3). The referee awarded Edwards nine of the 10 rounds. Edwards, 27, previously held the WBC 112-pound title but was forced to relinquish it because he had trouble making the weight.

York Hall has been a jinx for David Oliver Joyce, the 33-year-old super bantamweight from Mullinger, Ireland, who is 0-2 in this building and 12-0 elsewhere. Joyce failed to last three rounds today in his match with Ionut Baluta. A Romanian who fights out of Bilbao, Spain, Baluta knocked Joyce down with a big left hook and then swarmed all over him when he arose, forcing the referee to intervene. The official time was 1:49 of round three.

It was the sixth straight win for Baluta (14-2, 3 KOs) and his third straight over a once-beaten opponent.

Riga, Latvia

Riga native Richard Bilotniks successfully defended his version of the European 175-pound title and advanced to the finals of the Golden Contract Light Heavyweight Tournament with a one-sided 10-round decision over Hosea Burton. A late bloomer who won only four of his first eight pro fights, Bilotnicks 30, won every round on one of the scorecards and eight rounds on the others to advance record to 17-5-1. Burton, who lost for the second time in 27 starts, let down his cousin Tyson Fury who flew to Latvia to cheer him on.

Struer, Denmark

At an arena in the city of Struer, hometown lass Dina Thorslund had a harder time than expected with Nina Radovanovic, but the Serb got no respect from the judges who didn’t see fit to award her a single round. Thorslund (15-0, 6 KOs) successfully defended her WBO world 122-pound title.

In the chief undercard bout, heavyweight Filip Hrgovic (11-0, 9 KOs) moved a step closer to a world title opportunity with a second-round blast-out of late sub Alexandre Kartozia. There was no need to count when Hrgovic leveled Kartozia with a big right hand.

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Tony Yoka Makes Quick Work of Duhaupas; Yoka’s Wife Wins Too

Arne K. Lang

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An indoor rugby stadium in Nanterre, a township in an inner suburb of Paris, was the site today of a five-fight boxing show featuring Tony Yoka and his wife Estelle Mossely in separate bouts (when they fight each other, they do it in the privacy of their home). Attendance was limited to 5,000 with social distancing protocols in place.

Yoka and Mossely, the parents of two young children, the youngest a boy born in May, were each gold medal winners in boxing at the 2016 Rio games. The six-foot-seven Yoka defeated Filip Hrgovic in the semis and Joe Joyce in the gold medal round.

Today Yoka, in his first scheduled 12-rounder, was matched against 39-year-old French warhorse Johan Duhaupas who was 38-5 (25) heading in. Duhaupas went 12 rounds with Jarrell Miller, extended Deontay Wilder into the 11th frame, and knocked out Robert Helenius, the conqueror of Adam Kownacki. Despite his advanced age, he represented a step up in class for Yoka, 28, whose pro career was disrupted by a one-year suspension from the French Boxing Federation for being a no-show at three PED tests. At the very least, Duhaupas was expected to give Yoka some rounds.

But Yoka had other ideas. He needed only 121 seconds to dismantle his countryman and show that he belongs in the conversation with Daniel Dubois, Jared Anderson, the aforementioned Hrgovic and others when talking about the next generation of heavyweight stars.

Yoka (8-0, 7 KOs) dropped Duhaupas midway through the opening round with an overhand right. Duhaupas didn’t appear to be badly hurt, but he had no antidote for the barrage that followed. The coup-de-gras was a big right uppercut that sent him flying backward against the ropes. The referee stepped in immediately.

Yoka’s U.S. promoter is Top Rank which is seeminly out to corner the market on bright young heavyweight prospects. When Yoka turned pro it was under the tutelage of Virgil Hunter, the trainer of Andre Ward. Yoka has spent considerable time in Las Vegas while serving as the chief sparring partner for Joseph Parker.

estelle

Estelle Mossely kept pace with her hubby. Mossely, 28, advanced her record to 7-0 (1) with an 8-round unanimous decision over countrywoman Aurelie Froment. The scores were 80-72 across the board.

This was an assignment designed to shed the rust. Froment, 33, entered the fight with a 3-0-1 record, but hadn’t previously met an opponent with a winning record. In fact, none of Froment’s previous opponents had ever won a fight. In the aggregate, the foursome was 0-32-5 at the time that she fought them. Even the world sanctioning bodies steered clear of this affair, refusing to cloak the fight in some sort of title.

That observation aside, it was a nice win for Mossely coming so soon after giving birth. Born in France of Congolese and Ukrainian descent, she is rated the world’s best active female lightweight by BoxRec.

Hot prospect Souleymane Cissikho was originally scheduled to be on the card, but pulled out for an undisclosed reason. An Olympic teammate of Tony Yoka, Cissikho is a  special talent.

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