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On The Ledge: Patterson, Holyfield, Morales and Lee

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What draws me to boxing might not be what you think. The easiest way to put it is that the truest forms of beauty lay among simple things, especially those decidedly wonderful and universally admirable qualities like courage, honor and valor.

But I love lots of things about boxing. I love that boxing is simultaneously base and pure. I love that straight punches almost always beat round ones, except when they don’t. I love that both the winner and the loser usually look the same after the finish. I love that that the stakes are so high and the consequences of apathy are so great that a fight can end in a moment’s notice.

What I love most, though, are the fighters in the sport who give everything they have no matter the expected outcome. Whether or not these men happen to be celebrities is irrelevant, because in that one moment, they are simply human beings who pour themselves into a chosen craft without pausing to reflect on what they might receive in return. Where others would retreat, relent or move on, these men move forward.

There is no more lovely place to find this quality than in some of life’s most brutal moments, and it is precisely within the violence of existence that I find the most honorable and noteworthy things present. Such is the case with boxing.

So it was when Floyd Patterson faced Sonny Liston in 1963 for the heavyweight championship of the world, just one year after the mammoth Liston had clubbed the crown right off poor Patterson’s head inside one round. Patterson fought him again anyway, and things didn’t go much better for him the second time. Liston battered Patterson to the canvas again early in the first, only this time it was even faster. The ferocious, bear-like man with the telephone pole jab was just too big, too strong and too skilled for the diminutive Patterson.

Yet, despite all this, Patterson rose to his feet anyway, meeting the menacing Liston head-on like a sea gull diving headfirst into a tidal wave. Down again he went after Liston caught him with short, heavy punches that must have felt like they were made of steel. No matter. Patterson got back up again. He moved forward, racing towards the scariest fighter he had ever encountered, and threw a one-two combination as hard as he could muster.

When the fight was over, Patterson had lasted a total of four seconds longer with Liston than he had the first time around. Some would say the four seconds didn’t matter. I’m not sure I agree.

In 1992, Evander Holyfield lost the heavyweight championship to Riddick Bowe. But Holyfield won another crown that day, one for courage and perseverance. In Round 10, after being shellacked for the better part of the fight by the bigger and stronger man, Bowe did his worst and snapped Holyfield’s head up into the air like a jack-in-the-box. Holyfield was out on his feet. Bowe cracked Holyfield with several more bone-rattling punches, and the champion staggered around the ring like a newborn baby deer, covering up only by instinct.

But that’s when it happened. First, Holyfield shot a right hand out to prove he still had something akin to his wits about him. Next, he was bouncing up and down again as if to say he was ready to get back to work. He was. Holyfield landed another hard right hand, some body punches and two vicious uppercuts to have Bowe finally back off of him. A looping right hand punctuated the moment. Holyfield would ultimately lose the fight but he would win something more important: respect.

In 2012, Erik Morales endured the last moments of his career in a particularly brutal and unkind fashion, especially considering his stature as such an accomplished champion. Seven months after losing a unanimous decision to Danny Garcia, Morales met him again in a rematch but was brutally thrashed inside four rounds.

The first match was competitive, but the second one was just an old-fashioned beating. Morales had no answer for the emboldened Garcia’s speed or power. He went down in Round 4 as if he truly belonged there. But down on the blue canvas something beautiful happened, too. With his head lying slightly askew outside the ropes, his body a heaping mess of aged frailty, faced with insurmountable odds, Morales tried to get up and fight on anyway. Thankfully, his corner stopped it before he could do so, but not before we could see him try.

Finally, Andy Lee went down hard in Round 1 against the brick-fisted John Jackson earlier this year, but the hard luck Irishman quickly rose back to his feet after as if he hadn’t. It didn’t matter. Jackson was too much for Lee on this night. Where Lee looked awkward and unable to time his punches with any sort of rhythm, Jackson was powerful, confident and at ease.

But Lee kept fighting anyway. While his counter right hooks and overhand lefts were not finding their intended target, Lee kept on throwing them anyway. The same went for his jab and uppercut. Nothing worked. The rounds passed easily for Jackson. He was surely on his way to the finest win of his young career. All Lee could do in the meantime was his best, and so he did it.

In Round 5, after getting slammed up against the ropes, Lee was hit hard by Jackson and stumbled backwards. Lee was in trouble, but he didn’t give up. He reset his feet and readied himself for whatever was next. Eyes squinting with determination, Lee walloped Jackson with as perfect a right hook as you’ll ever see. As easy as it was up unto that point for Jackson, he went down to the canvas even easier. Despite long odds, Lee had done it. The knockout win came out of nowhere simply because he stuck to it and believed.

These are just a few examples. There are many more.

I didn’t always fight back like that in my life, but I did when it counted most. I remember that moment better than any other in my life. There I was, torn, tattered and frayed by my own hands, shoeless, heartless and hopeless, standing more than 10 stories above the hard concrete ground that would surely have been my end. I wanted to jump. I wanted my life to be over.

I didn’t remember how or why things had gotten so bad, but I didn’t care anymore. I had been up for more than three days on meth, and I had just eaten a gram more of it in the bathroom of a bus station because I was paranoid and delusional enough to think people were after me.

I was ready to die. I stood across the other side of the barrier, dangling between life and death, held there only by the parts of my feet that fit on the ledge, my heels. My toes hung over, pointing downwards to my destruction. I leaned forward, arms stretched far behind me, only holding onto life by the grips of my fingers.

I wanted to make it easy on me. No one else had. My fingers would give out soon. I wouldn’t have to jump. It would be so much easier. All I needed to do was let go. All I had to do was fall.

My life was nothing then. I had nothing and no one. That’s what I believed anyway. I don’t know. I don’t remember anything but feeling alone and desperate. I remember all the bad things I did to people I loved so I could get more drugs. I remember all the good things I wish I had done but never did. I remember not knowing what to do or say to people anymore. I remember feeling dead inside. I remember not caring anymore about living. I remember feeling helpless and hopeless. I remember feeling like there was no reason to carry on. Life would be better without me.

Let go, Kelsey. That’s what I wanted to do. Just. Let. Go.

But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I’m not sure why. Something or someone told me not to. Was it me? Was it God? I don’t know, but I heard that voice as if someone was standing there on that ledge with me, someone better than me, someone more compassionate and more kind than me, someone who wasn’t afraid to die but wanted to live anyway.

“No. Don’t.”

I don’t know what goes on in a fighter’s mind when things seem so bleak. But, in part, I might know a little more about it than the average person, because I know what went through my mind when I was about to let go of everything. I found it there in that one moment of time, wedged somewhere between the brutality of life and the promise of tomorrow. I didn’t want to see tomorrow until I heard that voice. It was very quiet but came from somewhere deep.

I can’t say for sure, but that has to be something similar to what fighters hear or feel when everything seems so lost. I’ve seen it on some of their faces when things look their worst. It was in Holyfield’s eyes against Bowe. It was what made Patterson rush forward against Liston. It was what fueled Morales when he was trying to climb back to his feet against Garcia. It was what gave Lee reason to believe when everyone else in the world thought he was done.

It’s such a simple thing, but it is so very beautiful. I am not sure where my life will lead, if I’ll end up being as appreciated as men like Patterson, Holyfield, Morales and Lee. But the truth of the matter is that it really doesn’t matter to me. Because the part of these men I admire most has nothing to do with how much applause and adulation they receive for their achievements. In truth, those things mean very little in the end. Everyone loses. Everyone dies. No, the thing I admire most in them, and others in our sport like them, is what they choose to do in their weakest and most fragile moments.

It’s such a simple thing, but oh so very important. Taking the easy way out is never the right choice. That’s why I love boxing. It is because there I can still find moments like that, moments like mine, where the still, small voice who lives deep inside of us whispers what to do when all seems lost and hopeless, when it seems better to just give up and give in.

“No. Don’t.”

And I love to see people listen.

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Abraham Nova and his Mascot are Back in Action on Friday Night

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With his black beard dyed gold, junior lightweight Abraham Nova is one of boxing’s most recognizable practitioners. Sometimes there’s two of him which makes him stand out even more. His twin is an inflatable mascot painted to look just like him. On fight nights they are inseparable. The mascot shadows Nova on his ringwalk, bouncing up and down and dancing to animate the crowd.

Some gimmicks are just plain hokey. Some are annoying. But there’s something whimsical about Nova’s invention that brings a smile to boxing fans of all ages. “Abraham Nova having his own mascot is one of the coolest things in boxing,” says fight writer Ryan Songalia.

“I played all sports in high school, football, baseball, track, and got the idea of it from other sports,” says Nova of his twin who he unveiled in January of 2020 at the Turning Stone Casino and Resort in Verona, New York, where he upped his record to 18-0 with a fourth-round stoppage of Mexican journeyman Pedro Navarrete.

He’s 5-2 since then, the smudges coming against future world featherweight champion Robeisy Ramirez (KO by 5) and defending super featherweight world champion O’Shaquie Foster where he came out on the short end of a split decision. This coming Friday, in his first assignment since failing to de-throne Foster, he opposes 21-0 Andres Cortes at the Fontainebleu in Las Vegas on a Top Rank card airing on ESPN+.

“I was the one who asked for this fight,” says Nova. “Top Rank offered me a match on their June 8th Puerto Rican Parade Weekend show at Madison Square Garden against an opponent who was 17-2, but I turned it down and asked for a better opponent and they accommodated me.” Las Vegas native Andres Cortes, who has been profiled in these pages, is ranked #2 at 130 pounds by the WBO.

In common with boxing’s historical pattern, Abraham Nova had a hardscrabble upbringing.

Born in Puerto Rico to parents from the Dominican Republic, the second-youngest of 10 children, he came to the U.S. at the age of 1 where the entire family was initially shoe-horned into a two-bedroom apartment in Albany, New York.

His father, Aquiles, had a friend here who was the pastor of a church and in need of an assistant pastor to help with his growing congregation. Aquiles eventually founded his own church in Albany, The Pentecostal Church of Unity & Prayer where services are held in both Spanish and English.

As a toddler, Nova lived briefly in Guatemala and Mexico where his parents were called to “spread the word” and to assist in redevelopment projects. The family traveled 5,500 miles in a rickety old school bus from Albany to Guatemala during the end days of the Guatemalan Civil War.

Each of Nova’s four brothers boxed, but he was the only one to turn pro. As an amateur, he won the 2015 Olympic Trials Qualifying Tournament in Memphis, defeating Frank Martin and Richardson Hitchins in back-to-back fights, but failed to make the U.S. team for the Rio Games when he lost a split decision to Gary Antuanne Russell at the Olympic Trials in Reno. Those bouts were contested at 141 pounds.

A 30-year-old bachelor, Nova had his final amateur fights in Lowell, Massachusetts, a pillar of amateur boxing in New England, and has remained in the Boston area without losing his Albany identity. He is trained by ex-U.S. Marine Mark DeLuca, a boxer of some renown who sports a 30-4 record and may not be done with fighting quite yet at age 36.

Nova’s opponent, Andres Cortes, has won five of his last seven inside the distance beginning with a smashing first-round knockout of 34-2 Genesis Servania. On paper, it’s a 50-50 match-up. (The pricemakers are flummoxed; as of this writing, they have yet to establish a betting line.)

Abraham Nova’s mascot may never become as well-known as some of the costumed human mascots in college sports (e.g., West Virginia’s Mountaineer or Michigan State’s Sparty), let alone as beloved as the University of Georgia’s flesh-and-blood bulldog mascot Uga, but give the boxer credit for originality and for bringing a little levity to a sport too often besotted with incivility.

Note: Abraham Nova vs. Andres Cortes is the co-feature. In the main go, new Top Rank signee Rafael Espinoza makes the first defense of his WBO world featherweight title against Mexican countryman Sergio Chirino. Espinoza forged the 2023 TSS Upset of the Year when he got off the deck to defeat Robeisy Ramirez on Dec. 9 in Pembroke Pines, Florida, winning legions of fans with his unrelenting buzzsaw attack. Action from the Fontaineblue begins at 4:00 pm PST on ESPN+.

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A True Tale from the Boxing Vault: When the Champion Refused to Fight

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A True Tale from the Boxing Vault: When the Champion Refused to Fight

BY TSS Special Correspondent David Harazduk — A hundred years ago, ducking a worthy challenger wouldn’t simply stoke the ire of the fans, it came with the prospect of jail time.

On Thursday, November 3, 1927, 16,000 fans packed Wrigley Field in Los Angeles hoping to witness their local favorite challenge for the welterweight world championship. Nicknamed the “Nebraska Wildcat,” Ace Hudkins had relocated to the Pacific Coast where his devil-may-care style in the ring made him instantly popular among Angelino fight fans. He was set to battle Joe Dundee, the champion, an Italian immigrant who had settled in Baltimore at a young age. But there was one problem.

The champion refused to fight.

Members of the California boxing commission, along with promoter Dick Donald, raced to the Biltmore Hotel to plead with Dundee (pictured) and his manager Max Waxman to come to Wrigley Field and fight. Waxman steadfastly refused. Donald, a quick-witted cigar-chomping Irishman known as the “Boy Promoter,” had promised Max’s man the ungodly sum of $60,000, and Dundee wouldn’t enter the ring for a penny less.

Under the rules of the California commission, a fighter could only receive a guarantee of $500. The rest of the purse came from a percentage of the gate: 37.5% for the champion and 12.5% for the challenger. Waxman insisted that Donald had offered $60,000, but the commission couldn’t enforce this side deal.

Tickets in the bleachers were sold at $2.20 a pop while those closer to the ring went for $11. The most the gate could possibly produce would be $90,000. Add in Wrigley Field’s 15% usage fee and payments to the preliminary fighters, officials, and even to rent the chairs situated around the ring, and Dundee’s dreams of $60,000- $75,000 if he lost the title- never had a prayer of being realized. After all, 37.5% of $90,000, plus $500, is only $34,250.

Meanwhile, Eddie Mahoney, a preliminary fighter, entered the ring at 8:30pm. Mahoney was scheduled to fight Joe Dundee’s brother Vince, a future middleweight world champion. When Vince didn’t follow Mahoney into the ring, Mahoney soon left, much to the bewilderment of the crowd.

Donald scrambled to find a plan B. He searched for welterweight contender Sergeant Sammy Baker to replace Dundee and fight Hudkins. When Baker couldn’t be located, Donald asked a preliminary fighter, Olympic gold medalist Jackie Fields, to take on Hudkins instead. Hudkins and Fields had been sparring partners when the featherweight champion of the 1924 Games in Paris was a nascent pro back in 1925. Fields’s manager, Gig Rooney, felt Hudkins was too big for the Olympic champ at this stage of his career and preferred to remain on the undercard against San Francisco’s Joey Silver.

With no plan B, Donald and the commissioners went back to Waxman in a last desperate plea to coax Dundee to defend his title. One commissioner, Charles Traung, offered Waxman an additional $10,000 check for Dundee to fight. Waxman stubbornly held out for more.

At 9:20pm, back at Wrigley, Donald signaled Jackie Fields and Joey Silver to enter the ring. Though Fields was wobbled twice, he opened up a cut over Silver’s left eye and split the San Franciscan’s lip on route to a convincing points victory in a ten-rounder. A few minutes after 10pm, Mahoney and Vince Dundee finally entered the ring for their clash. Dundee starched Mahoney inside of two rounds. When Waxman, who also managed Vince, heard of the second-round stoppage, he said “Vince knocked that guy out, eh? I told him to carry him along.” Waxman had hoped to stall for time.

Soon after the end of the Dundee-Mahoney fight, Ace Hudkins waltzed to the ring. He spent fifteen minutes seated in his corner, covered in a bathrobe and towels to keep him warm. Dundee never showed.

At 11:25pm, ring announcer Frank Kerwin slid into the ring and bellowed, “Owing to the fact that Joe Dundee did not receive his guarantee, he refused to go on with his match against Ace Hudkins.” The crowd was advised to “hold their seat checks and watch the newspapers for other announcements.”

The fans didn’t take too kindly to the announcement and hurled those rented chairs in disgust. Fights broke out all over the stadium, spilling into the ring. All available police officers in the area rushed to Wrigley Field, wielding their nightsticks in a bid to subdue the violent mob. Dozens of fans were injured in the fracas. To add insult to injury, those who had paid $2.20 for their seats in the bleachers were out of luck; they had never received a ticket in the first place.

The next day, Waxman and Joe Dundee checked out of the Biltmore Hotel at noon and made their way to the train station. Later that night, they were pulled off an eastbound train at Pasadena and arrested for false advertising.  Waxman posted a $1,000 bond for each of them.

A warrant was issued for Donald on the same false advertising grounds. He phoned into the police station promising to turn himself in once his feelings of humiliation subsided. The police agreed to wait.

Ultimately, all accused would be acquitted. Waxman would return the $22,249.43 that had been placed in his account and an $11,000 check.

Fans didn’t receive refunds as it was deemed unfair to give them only to those who had bought $11 tickets since the gallery patrons had no ticket stub and thus, couldn’t get a refund anyhow. After the preliminary fighters, Wrigley Field, officials, ushers, and the chair rental company were compensated, the rest of the money was placed into a community fund.

Because he had entered the ring for his title challenge, Ace Hudkins declared himself the new champion, but no commission accepted his claim. Dick Donald’s promotional career, once so promising, abruptly ended. In 1935, he took one last gasp in boxing, serving as matchmaker at the famed Olympic Auditorium for a brief spell.

Joe Dundee would never fight in California again. His championship reign ended dishonorably a year and half later when several commissions agreed to strip him of the title for refusing to fight any top contenders. When Jackie Fields won the vacant title, he and Dundee were matched for the undisputed crown on July 25, 1929. With Dundee a two-to-one underdog, Waxman and Dundee bet $50,000 on Joe to win, with fouls canceling the bet. Fields shellacked Dundee, knocking him down twice. In the second round, after the second knockdown, Dundee knew he was licked. He got up and hit Fields low as hard as he could. Dundee was instantly disqualified, losing any claim to the title as disgracefully as his hold-out against Hudkins.

If only some of the alphabet champions of today had to post bail under the threat of jail for ducking contenders, maybe boxing would be in a better state.

EDITOR’S: Author David Harazduk has run The Jewish Boxing Blog since 2010. You can find him at  Twitter/X @JewishBoxing and Instagram @JewishBoxing

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Results from the MGM Grand where Gervonta Davis Returned with a Bang

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After an absence of 421 days, Gervonta “Tank” Davis returned to the ring at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. In the opposite corner was Detroit-born Frank “The Ghost” Martin who has been training in Dallas under Derrick James. In previous fights, Gervonta, who holds the WBA world lightweight title, has shown a tendency to start slow before closing the show with a highlight-reel knockout. Tonight was no exception.

Martin, 18-0 heading in, fought off his back foot from the get-go, but had good moments and was arguably ahead after five frames. But as the fight moved into the middle rounds, Martin became more stationary and one could sense that the ever-stalking Davis was wearing him down. In Round 8, Davis trapped Martin against a corner post, discombobulated him with a left uppercut and then turned out his lights with a chopping left hand. There was no chance that Martin could rise before referee Harvey Dock completed the “10” count.

Davis (30-0, 28 KOs) celebrated by standing on the top strand of rope and doing a black flip. He has many lucrative options going forward and will be favored to defeat whoever his next opponent will be.

The Davis-Martin fight was the capstone of a four-fight pay-per-view, the second collaboration between Premier Boxing Champions and Amazon Prime Video.

Benavidez-Gvozdyk

In his first fight as a light heavyweight, David Benavidez scored a 12-round unanimous decision over former lineal light heavyweight champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk.

Benavidez, who improved to 20-0 (24), worked the body well and kept up the pressure in the early-going, building a substantial lead. His work output declined over the last third of the fight, but his punches still carried more steam than those of Gvozdyk, 37, who suffered his second loss in 22 pro fights, the other inflicted by the indomitable Artur Beterbiev, prompting the SoCal-based Ukrainian to take a long hiatus from the ring. The judges had it 119-109, 117-111, and 116-112.

Puello-Russell

In a major upset, Alberto Puello of the Dominican Republic saddled Gary Antuanne Russell with his first pro loss, winning a split decision. Puello appeared to have the edge in a furious final round, without which the bout would have ended in a draw. Puello, who improved to 23-0 (10), had to overcome a dubious call by referee Allan Huggins who took a point away from the Dominican in Round 7 for too much holding.

Russell, who was making his first start against a southpaw, is now trained by his brother Gary Russell Jr., the former featherweight champion, who replaced their late father. Russell Jr last fought in January of 2022.

Heading in, Gary Antuanne Russell had won all 17 of his pro fights by knockout. One of the judges thought he won handily. But his tally, 118-109 for Russell, was overruled by the115-112 and 114-113 scores awarded the underdog. Puello, who briefly held the WBA diadem at 140 but had it stripped from him when he tested positive for PEDs, won an interim belt in that weight class with his upset tonight.

Adames-Gausha

In the PPV opener, Alberto Puello’s countryman Carlos Adames successfully defended his WBC middleweight title in his first world title fight with a one-sided decision over former U.S. Olympian Terrell Gausha. Adames, whose late father reportedly sired 35 children, was the aggressor and landed many more punches. He advanced his record to 24-1 (19). It was the fourth loss in 29 pro starts for the 36-year-old Gausha. The judges had it 119-109 and 118-110 twice.

Adames’ triumph made it 2-0 for the Dominicans and their trainer Ismael Salas.

Other Bouts of Note

In a huge upset, Delaware’s Kyrone Davis overcame Arizona’s previously undefeated and highly-touted Elijah Garcia, winning a split decision. A 21-year-old father of two, Garcia, 16-0 heading in, was rated #1 by the WBA and seemingly one step removed from challenging Erislandy Lara for the WBA middleweight title. But Davis, trained by Stephen “Breadman” Edwards, had a solid game plan and although Elijah came on strong in the homestretch, it was too little, too late.

One of the judges favored Garcia 98-92, but his cohorts each gave seven rounds to Davis (19-3-1, 6 KOs) and the decision was fair.

Filipino junior lightweight Mark Magsayo, in his second fight back since losing back-to-back fights with featherweight belt-holders Rey Vargas and Brandon Figueroa, advanced to 26-2 (17) with a 10-round unanimous decision over Mexico City’s Eduardo Ramirez (28-4-3). Magsayo scored a knockdown in the third round with a straight right hand and won by scores of 99-90 and 97-92 twice.

Photos credit: Al Applerose

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Featured Articles1 week ago

Boxing Notes and Nuggets from Thomas Hauser

Xander-Zayas-Wins-a-Lopsided-Decision-Over-Patrick-Teixeira
Featured Articles1 week ago

Xander Zayas Wins a Lopsided Decision over Patrick Teixeira

Ireland's-Callum-Walsh-KOs-Carlos-Ortiz-at-the-Chumash-Casino
Featured Articles1 week ago

Ireland’s Callum Walsh KOs Carlos Ortiz at the Chumash Casino

Resukts-from-Florida-Where-Blair-Cobbs-Proved-Superior-to-Adrien-Broner
Featured Articles1 week ago

Results from Florida Where Blair Cobbs Proved Superior to Adrien Broner

The-Inoue-and-Serrano-Championship-Warches
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

The Inoue and Serrano Championship Watches

Avila-Prospectus-Chap-287-360-Promotions-Don-King-and-More-Action
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 289: 360 Promotions, Don King and More Action

Boxinjg-Odds-and-Ends-A-Bountiful-June-and-a-Cult-Fighter-Returns-from-Prisonj
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Boxing Odds and Ends: A Bountiful June and a Cult Fighter Returns from Prison

Big-Bang-KOs-the-Bronze-Bomber-in-the-Heavyweight-Finale-of-a-Splendid-Show-in-Saudi-Arabia
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

‘Big Bang’ KOs the Bronze Bomber in the Heavyweight Finale of a Splendid Card in Saudi Arabia

Avila-Perspective-Chap-285-Heavyweights-Clash-in-Saudi-Arabia-and-More
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 285: Heavyweights Clash in Saudi Arabia and More

Ireland's-McKenna-Brothers-are-Poised-to-Make-Big-Waves-in-the-Squared-Circle
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Ireland’s McKenna Brothers are Poised to Make Big Waves in the Squared Circle

Gay-Talese-an-Icon-of-the-New-Journalism-Wrote-Extensively-About-Boxing
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Gay Talese, an Icon of the ‘New Journalism,’ Wrote Extensively About Boxing

zhilei-Zhang-and-Deontay-Wilder-Meet-at-the-Final-Crossroads
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Zhilei Zhang and Deontay Wilder Meet at the Final Crossroads

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