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Boyd Melson: An Atypical Fighter

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People tend to stereotype fighters. Boyd Melson is not your average fighter. Then again, he’s not your average West Point graduate or your average Jewish kid from Westchester or your average anything.

Melson’s maternal grandparents were born in Poland and were Holocaust survivors. His grandfather escaped from a train that was en route to an extermination camp and joined the Russian Army in the war against Nazi Germany. His father, who spent 26 years in the United States military, is Louisiana Creole with African-American, French, Spanish, and Cherokee roots. Boyd’s sister is an officer in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate Group. His brother is in a public health doctoral program at New York Medical College.

Melson is thoughtful, affable, and a talker. “I was raised as a black male, and I’m Jewish,” he says. “But I’m open to different religions.” Then he elaborates, saying, “Religions are the same in a lot of ways. They’re just written differently. I believe that the highest power in the world is love. I believe that God exists in every one of us, but it’s not Him or Her or It that’s making things happen. It helps us to think that someone else is responsible for what goes on because it takes the burden off of us. But we’re all responsible for what we do and who we are. Bad things can happen for no good reason or because someone planned them to happen. You can ask, ‘Why do people get cancer?’ But you can also ask, ‘Why do people do bad things to each other?’ Good things are the same way. Some good things happen by accident and some good things happen by design. Loving human beings is my identity. I take that very seriously. Everything else in my life complements that.”

Those thoughts might sound incongruous coming from a professonal fighter, particularly one who graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point. After all, the sweet science and the United States Army aren’t the first things that come to mind when the average person thinks of “love.” But they’re part of the mosaic that’s Melson’s life.

West Point was a transformative experience for him.

“I’d heard stories about plebe year at West Point and thought getting yelled at would be funny,” Melson recalls. “That lasted about ten minutes. Then shock set in. I can’t really explain what the experience was like. But in the end, West Point teaches you to believe in yourself. You learn to sift through the crap to get to your objective. You learn that, no matter how bad something is, it will pass. You develop confidence that, no matter bad things are, you’ll find a way to get to where you want to be. You learn how to handle stress with everything – I mean everything – on the line.”

As part of the West Point curriculum, all plebes (first-year cadets) are required to take a boxing class that consists of twenty 45-minute lessons. The last four classes are graded bouts. Each plebe engages in four bouts with two one-minute rounds in each contest.

The purpose of the class isn’t to teach boxing skills as much as it’s to instill mental toughness; to teach young men to face their fears and prepare them for that moment down the road in military combat when they have only themselves to rely on.

“When you’re in combat,” Melson explains, “it’s not about American freedom at that particular moment in time. It’s about you and your buddies surviving. In boxing, you’re trying to hurt someone to win, and that person is trying to hurt you. You learn to think and make decisions under stress. You train your mind to not give up before your body does. Military combat is far more serious than boxing, but some of the demands are the same.”

Melson won all four of his plebe bouts and went from there into intramural boxing. Then he joined the intercollegiate boxing team.

“Eventually,” he recalls, “word began filtering through the ranks that this crazy plebe was knocking people out.”

Melson graduated from West Point in 2003. His first assignment after matriculation was to teach plebe boxing at West Point. Then, after four-and-a-half months of artillery school, he was assigned to the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, which trains Army personnel to compete at the national and international level with the ultimate goal of making the United States Olympic Team. He won numerous amateur honors and was a four-time United States Army champion.

Melson stopped boxing in November 2007 after failing to qualify for the United States Olympic Team. On May 31, 2008, he completed his five-year military commitment and took a job in corporate America, selling spinal implants for Medtronic (a leader in the development and manufacture of medical devices).

The new career fit nicely with a passion that Boyd had developed over time. On June 22, 2002, toward the end of his junior year at West Point, he’d met a woman named Christan Zaccagnino at a dance club. Christan had been wheelchair-bound since age ten after breaking her neck in a diving accident.

A relationship followed. And while Boyd and Christan haven’t been romantically involved since 2009, he still describes her as his “soulmate.”

Melson’s relationship with Christan led him to become a forceful advocate for stem-cell research.

“I’ve spent the past twelve years of my life trying to help Christan walk again,” Boyd says. “And that effort has turned into a quest to get all people who’ve suffered spinal cord injuries out of their chairs. I’ve spent a lot of time educating myself on paralysis and neurology and neuroscience and stem cells so I can understand the issues.”

“The hypocrisy and ignorance that surrounds the political debate over stem-cell research is incredibly frustrating to me,” Melson continues. “People are so ignorant on the issue. To give you one example; stem cells don’t just come from abortions. Stem cells can come from umbilical cords after a baby is born. One reason I wanted to make the U.S. Olympic Team was I’d heard that, if you won a gold medal, you’d get to shake hands with the President of the United States. I had a vision of winning a gold medal, meeting George Bush at the White House, and shaking hands with him so hard that it crushed the nerves in his hand and he needed stem-cell treatment to get the function back in his hand. Would I really have done it? Probably not. But I would have wanted to. And I have a very strong grip.”

Melson left Medtronic after two years and took a job as a medical device sales representative for Johnson & Johnson. “But over time,” he says, “a sadness came over me. I couldn’t figure it out. And then I realized it was because I was no longer trying to do something amazing and different from anyone else. I wanted to do something special. That meant I wanted to box again.”

Boyd resumed training in summer 2010 and turned pro with a four-round triumph over Andrew Jones on November 20 of that year. His professional record to date is 14 wins against 1 loss and a draw with 4 knockouts. The loss came by decision in an eight-round war against Delen Parsley. Melson was on the canvas once and Parsley twice.

Melson’s primary income now comes from teaching boxing and physical conditioning classes at Equinox (a national health club) and training a handful of private clients. He donates his fight purses to justadollarplease.org, a non-profit organization that raises funds for research at The Spinal Cord Injury Project at the W. M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience (affiliated with Rutgers University). In addition, Boyd and Christan have co-founded Team Fight to Walk, a 501(c)(3) corporation that raises money for Just A Dollar Please and will continue to support other research ventures after the clinical trials at Rutgers are complete.

“When Christopher Reeve died, we lost our celebrity,” Melson says. “I’m fighting to get attention, but not for myself. It’s for the cause.”

What sort of a future does Melson have in boxing?

He’s a 32-year-old southpaw without much power who gets hit too much.

“I don’t see him cracking the top ten in any legitimate rankings,” Showtime boxing analyst Steve Farhood says. “But he’s a great guy. And for his own sense of competitiveness, I hope he gets the chance to test himself at least once in the bigtime.”

Ron Katz, one of the savviest matchmakers in the business, is in accord and adds, “Very few people are blessed with the physical gifts you need to be a great fighter. Boyd doesn’t have those gifts. But he enjoys boxing. He does the best he can with what he has and gives it his all. There are far more talented fighters out there who don’t bring honor to the sport the way Boyd does.”

“I’m boxing because there’s so much that I love about it,” Melson says. “I love the the physical and the intellectual competition, the me versus you. It’s competition in its most basic form. You have to be willing to suffer in training to get to where you want to be. You have to be a masochist to do what you have to do. You have to be cruel to yourself to be a fighter. If you’re not pushing yourself to misery, you’re not preparing yourself properly.”

“For me, there’s always that moment in the dressing room before a fight when they bring the gloves in. I say to myself, ‘I must be crazy; I’m never doing this again.’ But at the same time, I want to get in the ring so I can make happen what I want to happen. Then I get in the ring. My adrenalin is flowing. I know I’m going to get hurt; it’s just a question of how much. I get hit in the face. And unless it’s on the nose or in the eye, it feels like pressure, that’s all. Getting hit on the back of the head hurts. Getting hit in the throat, sometimes I can’t breathe. All body shots hurt.”

And what goes through Melson’s mind when he hits someone?

“I hope I hurt him. In the military, very often, you’re trying to kill people. In boxing – let’s be honest about this – you’re trying to hurt people. Before the world was civilized, we were here to survive and procreate. Boxing brings you back to that. To survive, you conquer. But in both disciplines – military combat and boxing – you rely on brotherhood and you’re surrounded by love. You can only tap in to a certain level with anger, and then it runs dry. You can tap in deeper with love.”

Would Melson be boxing if he’d been deployed in the military and seen combat?

“I don’t know,” he answers. “I might have come back angry and had an even greater need to fight. Or I might have come back and said ‘that’s enough.’”

Melson is now slated to fight Glen Tapia on the undercard of Gennady Golovkin vs. Daniel Geale at Madison Square Garden on July 26. A lot of people who care about Boyd don’t like the fight.

Tapia is 24 years old with a 21-and 1 record and 13 knockouts. His one loss was a brutal beatdown at the hands of James Kirkland in Atlantic City last December. But before being stopped, Tapia had Kirkland in trouble.

Boyd is on the card because he sells tickets. For the first time in his pro career, he’ll be a heavy underdog.

“I know I’m the opponent going in,” Melson says. “But it’s a dream of mine to fight at Madison Square Garden. I’ve fought at Barclays Center twice and Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City twice. Those are great places but they’re not the Garden. I don’t know how far I’ll go in boxing, but this is an opportunity for me to get to the next level. I want to be on the card and I’m willing to be the B-side fighter. It’s an opportunity for me to test myself and build on what I accomplished in my last fight.”

That fight took place on February 12 at Roseland Ballroom in New York against a club fighter named Donald Ward. It was supposed to be an easy victory for Melson. But in round three, he injured his brachial plexus (a network of nerve fibers running from the spine through his neck into his right arm).

“The pain was excruciating,” Boyd recalls. “I couldn’t control my arm. I couldn’t feel my fingers in my glove. I thought I was having a stroke. My first thought was, ‘I don’t know what’s happening to my body. I’m scared. I have to quit.’ I started to turn to take a knee. Then I thought about my training at West Point. To survive in combat and in the ring, you slow time down around you when, in reality, real time is taking place. You gut it out and do whatever you have to do to survive. That’s what I try to do for every second of every fight. That’s what I did that night.”

From that point on, Melson was a wounded soldier. “I was barely able to move my right arm,” he recalls. “I landed only one good right hand all night after that – a right hook – and it almost threw me into shock.”

But he survived and won a majority decision.

“Of all my fights, that’s the one that’s the most meaningful to me,” Boyd says. “It confirmed what I’ve always believed about myself; that I can overcome the worst kind of adversity and do what I have to do to prevail. The idea of quitting kept trying to creep into my head. But I was able to block out worrying about my injury and stay in the moment when I couldn’t move my arm and didn’t know what had happened to me and suppress the fear and do what I had to do to win. It’s not just about how far I can go in boxing. It’s about testing myself and enjoying the journey.”

“I love boxing,” Melson says, summing up. “It’s the ultimate experience for testing physical ability and intelligence under threat of the greatest adverse consequences possible short of death. And I love being called upon to comport myself with dignity when I’m in the spotlght, competing in a sport that some people think is barbaric but I think is wonderful.”

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book (Reflections: Conversations, Essays, and Other Writings) was published by the University of Arkansas Press.

People tend to stereotype fighters. Boyd Melson is not your average fighter. Then again, he’s not your average West Point graduate or your average Jewish kid from Westchester or your average anything.

Melson’s maternal grandparents were born in Poland and were Holocaust survivors. His grandfather escaped from a train that was en route to an extermination camp and joined the Russian Army in the war against Nazi Germany. His father, who spent 26 years in the United States military, is Louisiana Creole with African-American, French, Spanish, and Cherokee roots. Boyd’s sister is an officer in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate Group. His brother is in a public health doctoral program at New York Medical College.

Melson is thoughtful, affable, and a talker. “I was raised as a black male, and I’m Jewish,” he says. “But I’m open to different religions.” Then he elaborates, saying, “Religions are the same in a lot of ways. They’re just written differently. I believe that the highest power in the world is love. I believe that God exists in every one of us, but it’s not Him or Her or It that’s making things happen. It helps us to think that someone else is responsible for what goes on because it takes the burden off of us. But we’re all responsible for what we do and who we are. Bad things can happen for no good reason or because someone planned them to happen. You can ask, ‘Why do people get cancer?’ But you can also ask, ‘Why do people do bad things to each other?’ Good things are the same way. Some good things happen by accident and some good things happen by design. Loving human beings is my identity. I take that very seriously. Everything else in my life complements that.”

Those thoughts might sound incongruous coming from a professonal fighter, particularly one who graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point. After all, the sweet science and the United States Army aren’t the first things that come to mind when the average person thinks of “love.” But they’re part of the mosaic that’s Melson’s life.

West Point was a transformative experience for him.

“I’d heard stories about plebe year at West Point and thought getting yelled at would be funny.” Melson recalls. “That lasted about ten minutes. Then shock set in. I can’t really explain what the experience was like. But in the end, West Point teaches you to believe in yourself. You learn to sift through the crap to get to your objective. You learn that, no matter how bad something is, it will pass. You develop confidence that, no matter bad things are, you’ll find a way to get to where you want to be. You learn how to handle stress with everything – I mean everything – on the line.”

As part of the West Point curriculum, all plebes (first-year cadets) are required to take a boxing class that consists of twenty 45-minute lessons. The last four classes are graded bouts. Each plebe engages in four bouts with two one-minute rounds in each contest.

The purpose of the class isn’t to teach boxing skills as much as it’s to instill mental toughness; to teach young men to face their fears and prepare them for that moment down the road in military combat when they have only themselves to rely on.

“When you’re in combat,” Melson explains, “it’s not about American freedom at that particular moment in time. It’s about you and your buddies surviving. In boxing, you’re trying to hurt someone to win, and that person is trying to hurt you. You learn to think and make decisions under stress. You train your mind to not give up before your body does. Military combat is far more serious than boxing, but some of the demands are the same.”

Melson won all four of his plebe bouts and went from there into intramural boxing. Then he joined the intercollegiate boxing team.

“Eventually,” he recalls, “word began filtering through the ranks that this crazy plebe was knocking people out.”

Melson graduated from West Point in 2003. His first assignment after matriculation was to teach plebe boxing at West Point. Then, after four-and-a-half months of artillery school, he was assigned to the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, which trains Army personnel to compete at the national and international level with the ultimate goal of making the United States Olympic Team. He won numerous amateur honors and was a four-time United States Army champion.

Melson stopped boxing in November 2007 after failing to qualify for the United States Olympic Team. On May 31, 2008, he completed his five-year military commitment and took a job in corporate America, selling spinal implants for Medtronic (a leader in the development and manufacture of medical devices).

The new career fit nicely with a passion that Boyd had developed over time. On June 22, 2002, toward the end of his junior year at West Point, he’d met a woman named Christan Zaccagnino at a dance club. Christan had been wheelchair-bound since age ten after breaking her neck in a diving accident.

A relationship followed. And while Boyd and Christan haven’t been romantically involved since 2009, he still describes her as his “soulmate.”

Melson’s relationship with Christan led him to become a forceful advocate for stem-cell research.

“I’ve spent the past twelve years of my life trying to help Christan walk again,” Boyd says. “And that effort has turned into a quest to get all people who’ve suffered spinal cord injuries out of their chairs. I’ve spent a lot of time educating myself on paralysis and neurology and neuroscience and stem cells so I can understand the issues.”

“The hypocrisy and ignorance that surrounds the political debate over stem-cell research is incredibly frustrating to me,” Melson continues. “People are so ignorant on the issue. To give you one example; stem cells don’t just come from abortions. Stem cells can come from umbilical cords after a baby is born. One reason I wanted to make the U.S. Olympic Team was I’d heard that, if you won a gold medal, you’d get to shake hands with the President of the United States. I had a vision of winning a gold medal, meeting George Bush at the White House, and shaking hands with him so hard that it crushed the nerves in his hand and he needed stem-cell treatment to get the function back in his hand. Would I really have done it? Probably not. But I would have wanted to. And I have a very strong grip.”

Melson left Medtronic after two years and took a job as a medical device sales representative for Johnson & Johnson. “But over time,” he says, “a sadness came over me. I couldn’t figure it out. And then I realized it was because I was no longer trying to do something amazing and different from anyone else. I wanted to do something special. That meant I wanted to box again.”

Boyd resumed training in summer 2010 and turned pro with a four-round triumph over Andrew Jones on November 20 of that year. His professional record to date is 14 wins against 1 loss and a draw with 4 knockouts. The loss came by decision in an eight-round war against Delen Parsley. Melson was on the canvas once and Parsley twice.

Melson’s primary income now comes from teaching boxing and physical conditioning classes at Equinox (a national health club) and training a handful of private clients. He donates his fight purses to justadollarplease.org, a non-profit organization that raises funds for research at The Spinal Cord Injury Project at the W. M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience (affiliated with Rutgers University). In addition, Boyd and Christan have co-founded Team Fight to Walk, a 501(c)(3) corporation that raises money for Just A Dollar Please and will continue to support other research ventures after the clinical trials at Rutgers are complete.

“When Christopher Reeve died, we lost our celebrity,” Melson says. “I’m fighting to get attention, but not for myself. It’s for the cause.”

What sort of a future does Melson have in boxing?

He’s a 32-year-old southpaw without much power who gets hit too much.

“I don’t see him cracking the top ten in any legitimate rankings,” Showtime boxing analyst Steve Farhood says. “But he’s a great guy. And for his own sense of competitiveness, I hope he gets the chance to test himself at least once in the bigtime.”

Ron Katz (one of the savviest matchmakers in the business) is in accord and adds, “Very few people are blessed with the physical gifts you need to be a great fighter. Boyd doesn’t have those gifts. But he enjoys boxing. He does the best he can with what he has and gives it his all. There are far more talented fighters out there who don’t bring honor to the sport the way Boyd does.”

“I’m boxing because there’s so much that I love about it,” Melson says. “I love the the physical and the intellectual competition, the me versus you. It’s competition in its most basic form. You have to be willing to suffer in training to get to where you want to be. You have to be a masochist to do what you have to do. You have to be cruel to yourself to be a fighter. If you’re not pushing yourself to misery, you’re not preparing yourself properly.”

“For me, there’s always that moment in the dressing room before a fight when they bring the gloves in. I say to myself, ‘I must be crazy; I’m never doing this again.’ But at the same time, I want to get in the ring so I can make happen what I want to happen. Then I get in the ring. My adrenalin is flowing. I know I’m going to get hurt; it’s just a question of how much. I get hit in the face. And unless it’s on the nose or in the eye, it feels like pressure, that’s all. Getting hit on the back of the head hurts. Getting hit in the throat, sometimes I can’t breathe. All body shots hurt.”

And what goes through Melson’s mind when he hits someone?

“I hope I hurt him. In the military, very often, you’re trying to kill people. In boxing – let’s be honest about this – you’re trying to hurt people. Before the world was civilized, we were here to survive and procreate. Boxing brings you back to that. To survive, you conquer. But in both disciplines – military combat and boxing – you rely on brotherhood and you’re surrounded by love. You can only tap in to a certain level with anger, and then it runs dry. You can tap in deeper with love.”

Would Melson be boxing if he’d been deployed in the military and seen combat?

“I don’t know,” he answers. “I might have come back angry and had an even greater need to fight. Or I might have come back and said ‘that’s enough.’”

Melson is now slated to fight Glen Tapia on the undercard of Gennady Golovkin vs. Daniel Geale at Madison Square Garden on July 26. A lot of people who care about Boyd don’t like the fight.

Tapia is 24 years old with a 21-and 1 record and 13 knockouts. His one loss was a brutal beatdown at the hands of James Kirkland in Atlantic City last December. But before being stopped, Tapia had Kirkland in trouble.

Boyd is on the card because he sells tickets. For the first time in his pro career, he’ll be a heavy underdog.

“I know I’m the opponent going in,” Melson says. “But it’s a dream of mine to fight at Madison Square Garden. I’ve fought at Barclays Center twice and Boardway Hall in Atlantic City twice. Those are great places but they’re not the Garden. I don’t know how far I’ll go in boxing, but this is an opportunity for me to get to the next level. I want to be on the card and I’m willing to be the B-side fighter. It’s an opportunity for me to test myself and build on what I accomplished in my last fight.”

That fight took place on February 12 at Roseland Ballroom in New York against a club fighter named Donald Ward. It was supposed to be an easy victory for Melson. But in round three, he injured his brachial plexus (a network of nerve fibers running from the spine through his neck into his right arm).

“The pain was excruciating,” Boyd recalls. “I couldn’t control my arm. I couldn’t feel my fingers in my glove. I thought I was having a stroke. My first thought was, ‘I don’t know what’s happening to my body. I’m scared. I have to quit.’ I started to turn to take a knee. Then I thought about my training at West Point. To survive in combat and in the ring, you slow time down around you when, in reality, real time is taking place. You gut it out and do whatever you have to do to survive. That’s what I try to do for every second of every fight. That’s what I did that night.”

From that point on, Melson was a wounded soldier. “I was barely able to move my right arm,” he recalls. “I landed only one good right hand all night after that – a right hook – and it almost threw me into shock.”

But he survived and won a majority decision.

“Of all my fights, that’s the one that’s the most meaningful to me,” Boyd says. “It confirmed what I’ve always believed about myself; that I can overcome the worst kind of adversity and do what I have to do to prevail. The idea of quitting kept trying to creep into my head. But I was able to block out worrying about my injury and stay in the moment when I couldn’t move my arm and didn’t know what had happened to me and suppress the fear and do what I had to do to win. It’s not just about how far I can go in boxing. It’s about testing myself and enjoying the journey.”

“I love boxing,” Melson says, summing up. “It’s the ultimate experience for testing physical ability and intelligence under threat of the greatest adverse consequences possible short of death. And I love being called upon to comport myself with dignity when I’m in the spotlght, competing in a sport that some people think is barbaric but I think is wonderful.”

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book (Reflections: Conversations, Essays, and Other Writings) was published by the University of Arkansas Press.

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David Avanesyan: “My Aggressive Style is Going to Give Crawford Problems”

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With determination and total confidence in his abilities, Russian David Avanesyan rejects the idea that he will be the “ugly duckling” when he faces Terence Crawford who will be defending his WBO welterweight title for the sixth time this December 10th.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime for my family and me, one I will not take for granted,” Avanesyan said. “I know going in that I’m a huge underdog and no one is giving me a chance, but let me tell you, I’m going to surprise everyone watching. I’ve had enough time to prepare, so I’ll be ready for the southpaw.”

Thirty-four-year-old Avanesyan (29-3-1, 17 KOs) was born in Russia but resides in England, where he has been preparing for the momentous matchup against Crawford.

European champion in the welterweight division, Avanesyan has won six straight, all within the distance; the most recent being in the first round against Finnish Oskari Metz (16-1, 6 KOs) in London.

Ranked sixth by the WBO and seventh by the IBF, Avanesyan says he has learned many tricks over the years and is now a completely different and more mature boxer.

“Coming from the amateur ranks, I had to learn how to sit on my punches correctly, which can take a lifetime for some fighters. The bad habits that plagued me early in my career are now fixed. Today I’m a completely different fighter in the ring, and my last six fights have shown my growth when it comes to my power punching. I believe my aggressive style is going to give Crawford problems,” said Avanesyan.

Prior to his six-fight winning streak, Avanesyan was knocked out in the eighth round by California-based Lithuanian Egidijus Kavaliauskas in the city of Reno, Nevada where they fought for the NABF belt.

Avanesyan is not misguided as he assesses the enormous task ahead. “There’s a reason Terence Crawford is considered the best fighter in boxing, his skill set is amazing, and he knows how to win,” stated Avanesyan. “I know my hands are full, but I’m going to do everything I can to become a world champion. I need to stick to the game plan we have in place, and if adjustments need to be made during the fight, I will have to make them.”

Although Avanesyan logically praises Crawford’s career, the match-up has created a sea of ​​criticism for the undefeated Crawford (38-0, 29 KOs), who is ranked among the best pound for pound fighters. The vast majority of fans wanted to see him face his countryman, the undefeated Errol Spence Jr (28-0, 22 KOs), the current title holder of the other three most prestigious belts: the WBC, WBA and IBF.

But the thirty-five-year-old Crawford from Omaha, Nebraska says that regardless of his results and whatever adversary he faces, he will continue to be blamed by the people who just don’t like him.

“Before, I always cared a lot about what the fans say and say about me,” stated Crawford. “But the older I got, the more I came to the fact that you can’t please everyone. No matter what you do, no matter who you beat and how many fights you won, how many divisions you conquered, there will still be those who will not love you for their own reasons. It seems to me that all the great fighters went through this. All the greats who were before me, and all those who will be after me, it will be the same with everyone.”

In his brilliant professional career, Crawford has been world champion in three divisions: lightweight, super lightweight and welterweight.

Six years after his professional boxing debut, Crawford claimed the WBO 135-pound world title by unanimously defeating host Ricky Burns in Glasgow, Scotland.

Thirteen months later, Crawford added the vacant WBO 140-pound title by anesthetizing Thomas Dulorme in the sixth round. Dulorme could not endure Crawford’s powerful punch and visited the canvas three times in the fateful sixth round.

Crawford became the undisputed king of the super lightweight division in August 2017, when he chloroformed Namibian Julius Indongo in Lincoln, Nebraska. The African lost the WBA and IBF belts, while Crawford retained the WBC and WBO belts.

In June 2018, Crawford conquered the WBO welterweight belt after putting Australian Jeff Horn (20-3-1, 13 KOs) to sleep in the ninth round at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas.

Thanks to his blazing hand speed, ring savvy, counterpunching skills, as well as his ability to switch from right guard to left guard and back again, Crawford is considered a heavy favorite to take down Avanesyan.

*Note: As of December 2nd:  Crawford  -1600 / Avanesyan  +780

Article submitted by Jorge Juan Alvarez in Spanish.

Please note any adjustments made were for clarification purposes and any errors in translation were unintentional.

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Juan Francisco Estrada Holds Off ‘Chocolatito’ Again

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Once again Juan Francisco Estrada jumped out in front early and Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez needed time to crank up the engine, but fell too far behind as the Mexican fighter won the vacant WBC flyweight world title on Saturday.

Estrada wins the trilogy 10 years in the making.

Once again Estrada (44-3, 28 KOs) surged ahead early in the fight against Nicaragua’s Gonzalez (51-4, 41 KOs) and then navigated toward another win, this time at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona on the Matchroom Boxing card.

“We had excellent preparation at high altitude and I think we left the fight clear on who won the fight this time,” said Estrada about the third encounter.

Ten years ago, the trilogy began in Los Angeles as “Chocolatito” confronted an unknown fighter at the time in Estrada. The two surprised the crowd who expected Gonzalez to destroy yet another Mexican fighter. But it did not happen that night though Chocolatito proved too experienced and battered his way to victory in a light flyweight world title clash.

Then, in March 2021, Estrada finally fought Gonzalez in a rematch and the two engaged in a closely-fought super flyweight world title match. This time Estrada proved slightly better according to the judges and won by split decision in Dallas, Texas.

Few knew what to expect in a third encounter.

At first the coronavirus stalled plans for the trifecta so Chocolatito fought a replacement and dominated. Meanwhile Estrada fought another Mexican and did not look good.

On Saturday, a decade after their first encounter, Estrada looked fluid and accurate in dominating the first six rounds of the fight. Though he did not hurt Gonzalez, he was repeatedly scoring at will.

Gonzalez woke up around the seventh round.

Suddenly the Nicaraguan who was once considered the best fighter Pound for Pound showed up and fired rapid combinations. The spring in his legs suddenly appeared and the energy level was cranked up high after nearly being on idle.

Estrada suddenly found himself against the ropes forced to slip and slide away from Gonzalez’s powerful combination punches. A real fight suddenly erupted during the final six rounds.

“All fights are different and all fights are difficult and this was the most difficult one,” said Gonzalez, a four-division world champion.

Though neither fighter was ever visibly hurt, Gonzalez’s pressure kept Estrada expending too much energy trying to evade the Nicaraguan’s traps during the final six rounds.

“He always goes 100 miles an hour,” said Estrada of his nemesis.

Estrada used uppercuts and slide steps to maneuver against Gonzalez’s hard charges. It seemed to work and allowed the Mexican fighter more room and time to apply counter-measures.

In the final round, those maneuvers allowed Estrada to connect with a hard punch to the body that forced Chocolatito to cover up. It also allowed Estrada to unravel a combination that gave him the last round if needed. After 12 rounds one judge scored it 114-114, while two others saw it 116-112, 115-113 for Estrada who becomes the new WBC super flyweight world titlist.

“We did an excellent fight and I got the victory,” said Estrada. “I’ve always said Chocolatito is a future Hall of Famer.”

Gonzalez was gracious in defeat.

“What is important is we gave that good fight to the fans and we came out in good health,” Gonzalez said.

There is even talk of a fourth fight.

“As long as they pay well, of course,” said Gonzalez.

Other Fights

Julio Cesar Martinez (19-2, 14 KOs) retained the WBC flyweight world title by majority decision over Spain’s Samuel Carmona (8-1) in a rather dull affair. Mexico’s Martinez chased Carmon all 12 rounds in a fight that saw Carmona slap and run, then hold.

No knockdowns were scored and Martinez won 114-114, 117-111, 116-112.

Diego Pacheco (17-0, 14 KOs) ran over Mexico’s Adrian Luna (24-9-2) with three knockdowns in winning by stoppage in the second round of the super middleweight fight. It was no surprise.

The 21-year-old from South Central L.A. once again showed that despite his youth his power seems to be continually increasing as evident in the knockout win.

Now training with Team David Benavidez, the young super middleweight looked sharp, especially with the lead overhand right that floored Luna in the second round. Luna was floored two more times and the fight was wisely stopped by his own corner.

“You put in the hard work then you come in here and shine,” said Pacheco. “I joined team Benavidez this year.”

Nicaragua’s former world titlist Cristofer Rosales (35-6, 21 KOs) won a dog fight over Mexico’s Joselito Velasquez (15-1-1, 10 KOs) by unanimous decision after 10 rounds in a flyweight clash.

It was a back-and-forth struggle that saw the taller Rosales take over in the second half of the fight and win by simply out-punching Velasquez and handing the Mexican his first loss as a professional by scores 97-93 three times.

Photo credit: Milena Pizano

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Tyson Fury TKOs Derek Chisora in Round 10

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Tyson-Fury-TKOs-Derek-Chisora-in-Round-10

It was a chilly night in London but that didn’t deter a near-capacity crowd from turning out at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to witness the third rumble between Tyson Fury and Derek Chisora. The Gypsy King was heavily favored to retain his WBC and lineal heavyweight title and performed as expected. Indeed, this fight closely resembled their second encounter back in 2014.

In that bout, Chisora absorbed a terrific amount of punishment before his corner pulled him out at the conclusion of the 10th round. Tonight’s fight ended nine seconds earlier at the 2:51 mark of round 10 and it was the referee who terminated the match.

When is a heavyweight not a heavyweight? When the man in the opposite corner is substantially bigger. With an 8-inch height advantage and a 15-inch reach advantage, the six-foot-nine Fury was simply too big a mountain to climb for the brave Derek Chisora, a fighter who changed his nickname in mid-career, transitioning from “Dell Boy” to “War.”

Fury dominated round two, especially the last minute, a round in which he was credited with landing 18 power punches. The writing was on the wall for Chisora who ate a lot of thudding uppercuts in the ensuing rounds and ended the contest with a badly swollen right eye and a bloody mouth. With the victory, Fury improved his ledger to 32-0-1 with his 24th win inside the distance. The Zimbabwe-born Chisora falls to 33-13.

Oleksandr Usyk and Joe Joyce were in attendance and the Gypsy King addressed both before he left the ring. Calling Usyk “The Rabbit,” he indicated that he would fight Usyk next in a true unification fight, but said if there were a snag in negotiations he wouldn’t mind trading blows with the Juggernaut, Joe Joyce, who wore down and stopped former heavyweight title-holder Joseph Parker, a former Fury sparring partner, in his most recent engagement. However, Fury also revealed that he had an issue with his right elbow that may require surgery.

Co-Feature

In a heavyweight match that lasted only three rounds but was chock-full of action, Daniel Dubois overcame three knockdowns to retain his secondary WBA heavyweight title he won at the expense Trevor Bryan with a third-round stoppage of upset-minded Kevin Lerena.

In the opening stanza, Johannesburg’s Lerena, landed an overhand left on the top of Dubois’s head that put the Englishman on the canvas and left him all at sea. He went down twice more before the round was over, the first time of his own volition when he took a knee (reminiscent of his match with Joe Joyce) and the second from a glancing blow.

Dubois, whose legs are spindly for a man of his poundage, had trouble regaining his equilibrium in round two, but Lerena didn’t press his advantage. In the next frame, a short right from Dubois penetrated Lerena’s guard and down went the South African. Smelling blood, Dubois knocked him down again and was pummeling him against the ropes when the referee interceded just as it appeared that Lerena would be saved by the bell.

It was the fourth straight win for Dubois (19-1, 18 KOs) since his mishap versus Joyce. Lerena, who entered the bout on a 17-fight winning streak, lost for the second time in 30 fights.

Also

In a ho-hum affair, Denis Berinchyk, a 24-year-old Ukrainian, captured the European lightweight title and remained undefeated with a unanimous decision over French-Senagalese warhorse Ivan Mendy. Berinchyk (17-0, 9 KOs) was making his first appearance in London since winning a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics where he was a teammate of Oleksandr Usyk and Vasiliy Lomachenko.

The judges had it 117-112 and 116-112 twice for the Ukrainian. The 37-year-old Mendy, who has answered the bell for 380 rounds, falls to 47-6-1.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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