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Boyd Melson: An Atypical Fighter

Thomas Hauser

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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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Vergil Ortiz Jr KOs Brad Solomon at Fantasy Springs (plus Undercard Results)

David A. Avila

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Virgel-Ortiz-Jr-KOs-Brad-Solomon-at-Fantasy-Springs-plus-Undercard-Results

INDIO, Calif.-Vergil Ortiz Jr hunted and pursued the elusive Brad Solomon for several rounds before lowering the boom with three knockdowns and ultimately stopping the formerly unstoppable fighter for a knockout victory on Friday.

It’s on to bigger and better things.

Ortiz (15-0, 15 KOs) proved that styles didn’t matter and Solomon’s (28-2, 9 KOs) slippery moves couldn’t prevent the brutal outcome before several hundred fans and two Boxing Hall of Famers at Fantasy Springs Casino. It was Solomon’s first ever loss by knockout.

Despite winning all of his previous fights by stoppage, the lean Texan who trains in Riverside, Calif. had never fought a boxer with the pedigree of Solomon. It was the main question remaining for Ortiz. Could he figure out the winning equation to defeat a pure boxer?

He had the answer in his pocket all of the time.

Solomon moved smoothly around the ring from the opening bell. Ortiz followed with his tight guard and snap quick punches to the body and head. The first round revealed that Ortiz’s quick hands were just as quick as Solomon’s and much more powerful.

“I had to utilize my jab, figure out the right time to throw a punch,” said Ortiz. “He came to fight.”

After three rounds of chase and pursue, both fighters exchanged briefly and a body shot by Ortiz convinced the fleet opponent to go back on his toes. While trying to move away Ortiz fired a stiff left jab and down went Solomon. Body shots followed and Solomon was visibly affected by them. On one occasion he feigned a low blow but referee Raul Caiz ruled it was a clean blow.

“I can’t lie. I don’t think he was hurt right there,” said Ortiz of the jab knockdown. “

The subsequent blows would prove otherwise in the next round.

Ortiz opened up the fifth round at a rapid pace and though Solomon tried evasive maneuvering, it all proved in vain especially after a six-punch volley by Ortiz. Down went Solomon in the corner but he was able to beat the count. Solomon got up and tried to use his quickness to avoid Ortiz’s charge but a double left hook to the head sent him down once again. Referee Caiz waved the fight over at 2:22 of the fifth round to give Ortiz the knockout win and retain the WBA Gold welterweight title.

“I just took my time,” said Ortiz. “He’s difficult to figure out and made me use my brain.”

Ortiz, 21, continued his domination of the welterweight division though many felt Solomon could stall his rapid ascent to the top.

El Flaco

Serhii “Flaco” Bohachuk (17-0, 17 KOs) continued his knockout streak but needed a little time to figure out the switching tactics of Colombia’s Carlos Galvan (17-10-1, 16 KOs). But after five rounds he discovered that the body attack was the key. Bohachuk floored Galvan three times in the fifth round, two by body shots and the end came at 1:40 of the fifth round.

Other Bouts

Puerto Rico’s Alberto “El Explosivo” Machado (22-2, 18 KOs) snapped a two-fight losing streak by moving up to the lightweight division and knocking out Dominican Republic’s Luis Porozo (14-2, 7 KOs) with body shots in the second round. Machado had problems making the 130-pound super featherweight limit and showed a move up in weight was beneficial as he dropped Porozo three times until referee Tom Taylor ended the fight at 2:59 of the second round for a win by knockout.

Machado is co-promoted by Miguel Cotto Promotions and Golden Boy Promotions.

Alexis Rocha (15-0, 10 KOs) withstood an all-out assault from Mexico’s Robert Valenzuela Jr. (17-2, 16 KOs) early in the welterweight title fight and used a withering body attack to break down the taller fighter. After that it was all downhill sledding for the Santa Ana fighter who broke the will of Valenzuela with bludgeoning blows to the left and right side of the body.

“I was being lazy to be honest, so it’s my fault,” said Rocha on being bloodied by a counter uppercut while punching. “It’s very important, I came to fight and throw body punches to wear my opponent down. I think that’s very key in boxing in general.”

At the end of the fifth round the Mexican fighter was holding on. The fight was stopped at the end of the fifth round giving Rocha the win by knockout and he retains the WBC Continental Americas title in the welterweight division.

“I knew the body shots were taking a toll on him,” Rocha said. “Today was a good learning experience.”

Bektemir Melikuziev (4-0, 3 KOs) boxed his way to a unanimous decision victory over Vaughn Alexander (15-4, 9 KOs) in a 10-round fight for the WBA Continental Americas title. But it was sort of strange to see a guy nicknamed “the Bully” dance around the ring avoiding contact. Still, he won every round but disenchanted fans with his unwillingness to exchange with the muscular Alexander. No knockdowns were scored in the fight. All three judges saw it 100-90 for Melikuziev.

Luis Feliciano (14-0, 8 KOs) knocked down Herbert Acevedo (16-3-1, 6 KOs) early in the 10 round NABF super lightweight title fight and then cruised to victory by unanimous decision. The Puerto Rican who trains in Southern California pummeled Acevedo’s body before delivering a two-punch combination that sent the challenger to the deck. It was Feliciano’s first defense of the title he captured by decision over talented Genaro Gamez.

“I give props to Herbert Acevedo. He’s a tough and rugged fighter. I thought he was out when I dropped him in the third round. I tried to get the finish, but he weathered the storm,” said Feliciano. “I’m happy to finish the year with a win, and we are on to the next.”

A super welterweight fight saw Ferdinand Kerobyan (13-1) destroy Fernando Carcamo (23-11) with two knockdowns in the first round and the fight was stopped at 1:46 of the first round.

A super middleweight match ended in the third round by knockout win for Erik Bazinyan (24-0) over Saul Roman (46-14),

Hall of Fame

Also present at the Golden Boy Promotions boxing card were Oscar De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins who was recently voted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame by the boxing writers. He will join De La Hoya who was inducted several years ago.

Hopkins was selected last week along with Sugar Shane Mosley and Juan Manuel Marquez. Their induction takes place next June in Canastota, New York. It’s quite an honor and well deserved for one of the greatest middleweights in the history of the sport. He also captured the light heavyweight world title. We will have more on this great Philadelphia prizefighter in the coming months.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Frank Erne Enters the Boxing Hall of Fame, a Well-Deserved Honor

Arne K. Lang

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Former featherweight and lightweight champion Frank Erne was back in the news last week with the announcement that he is entering the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Erne and the other members of the newest class will be formally enshrined on Sunday, June 14, 2020.

Mr. Erne won’t be able to attend the induction ceremony. He’s been dead since 1954. However, were he alive, he would have the satisfaction of knowing that this honor is well-deserved.

Frank Erne competed from 1892 to 1908. Of his 53 documented fights, 21 were slated for 20 rounds or more. His opponents included George Dixon, Terry McGovern, and Joe Gans, all of whom went into the Hall of Fame with the inaugural class of 1990. Dixon, a bantamweight, McGovern, a featherweight, and Gans, a lightweight, are widely considered the best of all time in their respective weight classes. Erne defeated Dixon and Gans although both turned the table in rematches.

Frank Erne becomes the first fighter born in Switzerland to enter the IBHOF. When he was six or seven years old (reports vary) his parents moved to Buffalo, New York. In his early teens, he found work as a pinsetter in a bowling alley that was part of a larger complex that included a boxing gym. An instructor there, a boxing professor as they were called back then, took Erne under his wing.

Erne had his early fights in Buffalo. In 1895, he went to New York and attracted national notice with back-to-back knockouts of Jack Skelly. A Brooklyn man, Skelly was such an outstanding amateur that there was little backlash when he was sent in against featherweight champion George Dixon in his very first pro fight (the opening match in the Carnival of Champions at New Orleans, an event climaxed by the historic fight between John L. Sullivan and James J. Corbett).

Skelly was no match for Dixon and ultimately no match for Frank Erne. Two months after their second meeting, Erne had his first of three encounters with Dixon. Their initial go was a 10-rounder that was fairly ruled a draw. The rematch was set for 20 rounds with Dixon’s title on the line.

Here’s Nat Fleischer’s post factum: “Erne proved to be in every respect a superior boxer on this occasion for he outpointed Dixon at long range, beat him decisively at in-fighting, had it all over Dixon in ring generalship, besides possessing courage and fearlessness.” The ringside correspondent for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, more measured in his assessment, called it “one of the fiercest and cleanest fights, as well as one of the most scientific, that has ever been seen.”

Dixon had lost only twice previously, the first by disqualification and the other in a 4-round contest, and would win back his title in the rubber match, clearly out-pointing Erne in a match that went 25 rounds.

Making weight was always a problem for Frank Erne. After surrendering his title to Dixon, he moved up to lightweight and challenged George “Kid” Lavigne. They fought twice.

In their first meeting, Lavigne, the fabled “Saginaw Kid,” retained his title thanks to a generous referee who scored the fight a draw, but justice was served in the rematch which was staged at an outdoor arena on the outskirts of Buffalo on the day preceding the Fourth of July,1899. Despite injuring his hand in the seventh frame, Erne gave Lavigne a good drubbing and had his hand raised at the conclusion of the 20-round match. He now had the distinction of winning world titles in two separate weight classes.

Erne first met Joe Gans in March of 1900 when Gans was still in his prime. The match, slated for 25 rounds, ended in the 12th when Gans suffered a terrible injury to his left eye – some reports say the eye was knocked out of its socket – from an accidental clash of heads. The referee ruled that Gans was at fault and awarded the contest to Erne. Based on newspaper reports, that was a fair adjudication as Erne, the defending champion, had all the best of it, leaving Gans in great distress at the end of the previous round.

Gans avenged the defeat 26 months later, knocking out Erne in the opening round at Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada, across the Niagara River from Buffalo. Erne’s unrelenting battle with the scales had finally caught up with him.

Erne retired the following year, but returned five years later and had one more fight, winning a 10-round decision in Paris over British veteran Curly Watson in a fight billed for the welterweight championship of France. He remained in the French capitol for some time thereafter, working as a boxing instructor and promoting a few fights before returning to the United States and taking up residence in New York City.

Unlike most of his contemporaries, Frank Erne was no fool with his money, but the stock market crash of 1929 dealt him a severe blow and he was forced to seek regular employment. He became a salesman for a fuel company.

Erne won’t be around for his formal IBHOF induction, but he wasn’t completely forgotten in his dotage. On Jan. 9, 1951, the day after his 76th birthday, he received a special award at the silver anniversary dinner of the Boxing Writers Association, a gala affair held in the posh Starlight Room of the Waldorf-Astoria with entertainment provided by Jimmy Durante and other nightclub headliners.

Erne wasn’t honored only for his in-ring exploits, but for his good character. During World War II and again during the Korean War, it was common for famous boxers of yesteryear to visit wounded soldiers in VA hospitals and regale them with stories from their fighting days to boost their spirits. Frank Erne, although he had some infirmities, was especially active in this regard, “indefatigable” said New York Times sports editor Arthur Daley.

Frank Erne, it says here, is a worthy addition to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Kudos to the electors who placed him on their ballot.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 76: Welterweights Vergil, Terence and More

David A. Avila

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In the words of many boxing journalists, fighters, trainers and promoters “styles make fights,” and those differences can lead to unpredictable outcomes. The weekend brings a few stylish welterweights on display from California to New York.

Welterweight ingénue Vergil Ortiz Jr. (14-0, 14 KOs) enters the world of unpredictability when he meets Brad Solomon (28-1, 9 KOs) a swift-moving veteran on Friday, Dec. 13, at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, Calif. DAZN will show the loaded Golden Boy Promotions fight card.

It’s Ortiz’s third year as a professional and fifth time performing at the Indio casino. It’s also where he made his pro debut back in July 2016 when he began his remarkable string of 14 consecutive knockout wins.

Solomon, 36, has made a career of fighting pressure fighters and making them miss or defusing their power. Only Russia’s Konstantin Ponomarev, who was trained at the time by Abel Sanchez, was able to hang a loss on the Georgia fighter’s ledger.

Can Ortiz handle the style difference?

“Vergil can do more than people think,” said Vergil Ortiz Sr., father of the lanky welterweight slugger. “He can box any style.”

As a professional, Ortiz has yet to fight someone like Solomon with his juke and move style of fighting. As an amateur he did face speedsters like Ryan Garcia. As a pro, this will mark his first in the prize ring. It should be interesting.

Power Packed Support

Knockout artist Ortiz leads a power packed-boxing card that includes a number of Golden Boy’s best knockout punchers like Bektemir Melikuziev, Alberto Machado and Luis Feliciano. All of these guys can punch and are looking to put the cap on 2019.

That’s a lot of firepower.

But also on the card is someone fighting for 360 Promotions named Serhii Bohachuk, otherwise known as “El Flaco.” Just like Ortiz, Bohachuk has never allowed the final bell to be rung against 16 foes so far. He is going for 17 when he fights Carlos Galvan (17-9-1) in a super welterweight fight set for eight rounds. Don’t expect to hear the final bell whenever the Ukrainian trained by Mexican style coach Abel Sanchez gets in the ring.

Bohachuk could be following in the footsteps of another guy formerly trained by Abel Sanchez named Gennady Golovkin. It’s still too early, but he looks pretty good so far.

New York City

Top welterweight Terence Crawford (35-0, 26 KOs) defends the WBO welterweight title against Lithuania’s Egidijus “Mean Machine” Kavaliauskas (21-0-1, 17 KOs) on Saturday, Dec. 14, at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. ESPN will televise the Top Rank card.

In the crowded and talented world of the welterweights, Crawford could very well be the best of them all. If only he could prove it. The Omaha-Nebraska prizefighter has tried every enticement possible to lure Errol Spence Jr., Danny “Swift” Garcia, Shawn Porter and Manny Pacquiao. Nothing works.

What does work for Crawford has been a reputation as one of the best prizefighters in the world pound for pound. Some tab him as the very best especially when it comes to speed, agility and the ability to innovate on the spot. He has few peers.

Facing Crawford will be Kavaliauskas who trains in Oxnard with a number of Eastern Europeans including Vasyl Lomachenko. They share the same management. He’s never faced anyone close in talent to Crawford. Except, maybe inside of his own gym.

“I’m not focused on no other opponent besides the opponent that’s in front of me. My goal is to make sure I get the victory come this weekend, and that’s the only person I’m focused on now,” said Crawford. “Anyone else is talk. It goes in one ear and out the other. He’s young, hungry and I’m not taking him lightly.”

Crawford has been chasing stardom for a number of years. What better place than New York City’s Madison Square Garden to showcase his skills to the public. At age 32, Crawford is running out of sand.

Lightweight Title Fight

The co-main event on Saturday at Madison Square Garden features IBF lightweight titlist Richard Commey (29-2, 26 KOs) defending against wunderkind Teofimo Lopez (14-0, 11 KOs).

But this weekend truly belongs to the welterweights.

Next Week

Southern California will be packed with boxing. It’s a last gasp before the end of 2019.

Ontario, California will be hosting a very large Premier Boxing Champions fight card at the Toyota Center on Saturday Dec. 21.

WBC super welterweight titlist Tony Harrison finally defends against Jermall Charlo in a rematch and it won’t be friendly. These guys hate each other.

“He’s fake,” said Harrison when they last met in Los Angeles for a press conference.

It won’t be pretty when they meet next week.

Tickets are on sale. Go to this link for more information: https://www.toyota-arena.com/events/detail/premier-boxing-champions

Fights to Watch

Fri. DAZN 4:30 p.m. Vergil Ortiz (14-0) vs Brad Solomon (28-1); Serhii Bohachuk (16-0) vs Carlos Galvan (17-9-1).

Sat. Facebook 5 p.m. Diego De La Hoya (21-1) vs Renson Robles (16-6).

Sat. ESPN 6 p.m. Terence Crawford (35-0) vs Egidijus Kaviliauskas (21-0-1); Teofimo Lopez (14-0) vs Richard Commey (29-2).

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

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