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On Kovalev-Hopkins, And The Continuation of The Cold War Thaw

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I heard on the grapevine that talks are underway for a Sergey Kovalev-Bernard Hopkins fight, so I checked in with Kathy Duva, Kovalev’s promoter, and the boss at Main Events.

So, are there talks underway which would pit the Russian hammerfisted terminator type against the aged but still world class master craftsman who has forgotten more than all the rest of the active pros know?

“We’ve had a talk about having a talk,” said Duva, chuckling. “But we have not a had a talk. And “we” is Eric Gomez (at Golden Boy Promotions), a talk about having a talk.” Duva said Gomez, who is now charged with more duties at the reformulated Golden Boy, after Oscar and ex pal, banker buddy Richard Schaefer parted ways in most acrimonious fashion, told her he’d be in touch about this matter by a certain date, and that date came and went.

But, when I put forth that maybe that talk of that fight might be spinning of wheels, Duva said no, as she told Gomez, Kovalev has eyes trained on his Aug. 2 AC date with Blake Caparello. And Main Events is busy banging the drums for that one, in circumstances that got a bit muddier when it was announced about two weeks ago that the Revel casino, host of the card, will be shuttered soon. AFTER the boxing event, Duva made sure to hammer home to me…

So, she said, let’s get through this promotion, and then there will be ample time to hammer out whatever is next for Kovalev. Also, it should go without saying, but it won’t, because we all need periodic reminders, nothing is set in stone till the stone is set. Caparello might just—one does never know until one KNOWS—mess up even tentative plans for Kovalev’s continued ascent. “Once this fight is over, we are going to make a decision very quickly about what Sergey does next,” she said. “So you guys (Golden Boy) better make your decisions very clear about what you want to do.”

Some of you might be thinking, hey, wait a minute…isn’t there a rule being adhered to, one put in place by HBO last year, that they don’t want to be doing business with Golden Boy. Ah, yes and no.

This is the new, re-formulated Golden Boy. The Richard Schaefer-less Golden Boy.

Many of you do know that there was the suggestion of a mini-thawing, I guess you could call it, in this Cold War, the one that has entities taking sides, with HBO buying most of its product from Bob Arum of Top Rank, and Showtime buying just about all its fare from Golden Boy, and most of that involving fighters repped by Al Haymon. HBO, you recall, got sick of dealing with seeing fighters they believed they built up running across the street, to Showtime, with, in their minds, Haymon being the broker-bad-guy, pitting two sides against each other, to drive up purses for fighters he reps. So, last year, HBO said no mas. They weren’t going to be putting near and long-ish range plans into activation, and seeing them go off the rails, because people they were working on building-up took their toolbox over to the competition.

I asked someone in the know at HBO a couple days ago who didn’t want to speak on the record about the concept of a greater thaw, and that person indicated to me, in so many words, that the game has changed. Not wholly, not fully, not with any grand pronouncement. But, this person said, we put it out there publicly not long ago that our doors are open to dealing with all parties for fights and deals that make sense. Which leads us to a Kovalev-Hopkins fight. That’s a heckuva deal, a fight which would be much anticipated by all fight fans.

Now, I wouln’t go outside, with your megaphone, and announce to the world that all are playing nice, that this Lomachenko-Gary Russell June 21 scrap was the hors d’ouevres and this Kovalev-Hopkins tiff will be served up as the main course right quick. But I’m feeling like the thawing is continuing, that more varied deals will be made in this second half of the year in boxing, with HBO being amenable to working with this Oscar De La Hoya-led Golden Boy. Kovalev is tied in to fighting on HBO, by the way, and to my knowledge, Hopkins is NOT tied into having his bouts run on Showtime, so that could help pave the way to make this thaw-out special reach the serving stage.

Duva told me that yes, she gets the feeling that the thawing is in effect. The proof? Because this Kovalev-Hopkins bout is even being talked about…that’s proof in itself. “Exponentially,” she told me, when I asked about there being light at the end of the accursed tunnel of division.

“I want to hear (that HBO will work with Golden Boy, and all entities will be open to doing deals even with people they don’t call friends) that, as a promoter, because then more opportunities can be created, to work together. If everybody is just making matches in house, then what you get is a very stagnant, boring sport. I come from a time when we absolutely despised each other, but we’d come together to make a deal. Bernard Hopkins, I’ll say this if this is proof of HBO being willing to back up what they’re insinuating, Bernard Hopkins was a pre-approved opponent in that (multifight deal made for Kovalev’s next few fights earlier in 2014). It was always envisioned that perhaps times would change.”

Now, I do confess I have not figured what other shoe has dropped, and who was wearing it…or even if the damned thing has dropped at all. I did do a double take when I heard and saw Hopkins, basically besties with Richard Schaefer the last few five or so years, changing his tune, and saying he’d be open to fighting for Oscar’s Golden Boy. I sort of assumed that there would be a full split, with “Richard’s guys” going with him, and maybe fighting on Mayweather cards, and Oscar’s guys sticking behind with him, and fighting under the GBP umbrella still. I wondered aloud, does Hopkins’ change of tune maybe indicate that Schaefer has indicated to B-Hop that he will be out of commission for a spell, not being active in the sport, for whatever reasons, be they litigational or contractual…and that’s why Hopkins is singing a new tune?

No, Duva said, that’s not her perception. Her perception, she said, is that she thinks that Showtime isn’t interested in right now putting together a Hopkins vs. Adonis Stevenson fight. Why would that be, you might ask. That fight was on the back and then front burner for awhile. Maybe one reason, and I am purely theorizing here, is that it would seem more prudent not to mix up those ingredients in that fashion because of the ongoing suit lodged by Duva against Showtime, and Haymon and Stevenson, and Golden Boy and others. That suit is stemming from the busted deal from the spring which Duva maintains she had cemented, but which splintered when Stevenson latched on with Haymon. I think theorizing is all we’re going to get here, because you could also speculate that maybe some people think Stevenson is too obviously ripe to be picked off by Hopkins, and it might be “wiser” to have him fight lower-caliber opposition, to make it more likely that he retains a belt-holder at 175 pounds.

Anyway, the reasons why Hopkins might now be free to tangle with Kovalev are probably immaterial, if indeed this storyline continues to play out as it’s looking like it will.

“I’m totally open to it, I’d love to have the talks for Kovalev-Hopkins…but we haven’t had it,” Duva said, in closing.

Summation: Here’s hoping that indeed we do continue to move more so towards a new period of if not wondrous co-existence, then at least a peaceable-enough atmosphere which sees the power brokers getting along well enough to sit int he same room enough long anough to make deals which us fans want to see. Hell, they can hose their nose the whole time, whisper expletives under their breath the whole time if they want to, as long as this ice age ends. Because the best need to be fighting the best, as often as possible…because if not, then our sport stagnates, and the fans get screwed, as do the athletes, because they aren’t given a full slate of options to plot their course.

Follow Woods on Twitter. https://twitter.com/Woodsy1069

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Emerging Heavyweights: Three to Watch

Ted Sares

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Victor Faust (Viktor Vykhryst), a 6’6” 232-pound Ukrainian heavyweight (and long-time amateur) is a product of the great amateur program in the Ukraine–one that has produced the likes of the Klitschko brothers, Oleksandr Usyk, Vasily Lomachenko, and more recently Sergiy Derevyanchenko.

At first glance, his amateur record does not appear stellar, but a closer review indicates several SD’s or MD’s.

Earlier this month, on Sept. 20, he scored a frightening one punch KO when he fought the more experienced Gabriel Enguema (10-9) in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro. It was his third KO victory in three professional fights—all in 2020. The end came as a result of a Doctor Steelhammer-like perfect straight right to knock the Spaniard out cold. It brought back memories of Wladimir’s KO of Calvin Brock in 2006. Faust displayed skills, size, a solid chin, and power in dispatching his opponent.

“…Soon everyone will …see how skillful he is. He’s the complete package and will compete in massive fights sooner rather than later.” Erol Ceylan (Faust’s German promoter)

Oh yes, Faust beat Romanian Mihai Nistor in the amateurs and the talented Nistor in turn halted Anthony Joshua in the amateurs back in 2011. (Nistor also went 1-2 with Filip Hrgovic and lost to Tony Yoka in 2012.) Of course, one must be circumspect when using logic in boxing. Now that Nistor has turned pro, he will be worth following as his style is very much Tysonesque.

There are others who have—at a minimum– the same potential as Faust.

Tony Yoka

tony

Hard-hitting Frenchman 6’7” Tony Yoka (8-0) has beaten far better opposition than Faust and has a far better amateur record. In fact, he beat Filip Hrgovic and Joe Joyce in the 2016 Rio Games on the way to a Gold Medal. Recently, he dismantled veteran and fellow Frenchman Johan Duhaupas, a fringe contender with some notable notches on his belt. The end came in the first round by virtue of a crunching right uppercut.

Yoka perhaps could be slotted above Faust at this point.; he just might be the best of the new guys on the block. However, there are some dicey anti-doping issues that have tainted his reputation, though they do seem to be mostly resolved at this point.

Arslanbek Makhmudov

Arslanbek

This Russian “Lion,” 6’5 ½”, 260 pounds with an imposing muscular frame, is still another hungry prospect ready to break into the next tier. Nicknamed the “Lion,” — he also has been called “Predator” and “Beast — he is 10-0 (10 KOs).

He now lives and fights out of Montreal. The holder of two regional titles, he stopped a shot Samuel Peter in one round this past December.

“I’m confident that with my team, Eye of the Tiger Promotions and Golden Boy Promotions, I will reach my goal of becoming heavyweight champion of the world,” —Makhmudov.

This all said, The Lion needs some work on his technical skills as size can only go so far.

Makhmudov’s next opponent is Canadian heavyweight Dillon “Big Country” Carman (14-5) whose claim to fame is that he KOd comebacking Donovan Ruddock in 2015 in Toronto. This one will end differently for “Big Country.”

Others

Arguably, classy Americans Stephan Shaw (13-0), and Jared Anderson (6-0 with four KOs in the first round) could be added to the above. Filip Hrgovic and Efe Ajagba, both 6’6”, have already moved up.

A good yardstick is 6’5” American Jonathan Rice who lost a 10-round bout to Ajagba, was TKO’d in the seventh round Makhmudov, lost a 6-round decision to Tony Yoka, and a lost 6-round decision to Shaw.

Have I missed any?

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com of on Facebook.

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Jermell Charlo Unifies Super Welterweights Via Solar Plexus Punch

David A. Avila

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WBC super welterweight titlist Jermell Charlo knocked out IBF and WBA titlist Jeison Rosario with a knockout punch delivered to the solar plexus on Saturday to add two more belts to his collection.

“I’m definitely bringing home the straps,” said Charlo.

Shades of Bob Fitzsimmons.

Back in 1897, Fitzsimmons used the same solar plexus punch to dethrone Gentleman James Corbett for the heavyweight title in Carson City, Nevada.

In another casino city Charlo (34-1, 18 KOs) floored Dominican Republic’s Rosario (20-2-1, 14 KOs) three times at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. He and his brother co-headlined a heavy duty pay-per-view card with no fans in attendance on the Premier Boxing Champions card.

Charlo jumped on Rosario quickly in the first round when he charged and clipped him with a left hook to the temple. Down went the two-belt champion for the count. But he got up seemingly unfazed.

For the next several rounds Rosario was the aggressor and put the pressure on Charlo who was content to allow the Dominican to fire away. Occasionally the Houston fighter jabbed but allowed Rosario to pound up and down with both fists.

After allowing Rosario to get comfortable with his attack, suddenly Charlo stopped moving and connected with a short crisp counter left hook and right cross in the sixth round. Down went Rosario again and he got up before the count of 10.

Charlo said it was part of the game plan.

“I’m growing and I realize that the knockout will just come,” he said.

Charlo was in control with a patient style and allowed Rosario to come forward. But the Dominican was more cautious in the seventh.

In the eighth round Charlo jabbed to the head and then jabbed hard to Rosario’s stomach. The Dominican fighter dropped down on his seat as if felled by a gun shot. He could not get up and convulsed while on the floor. The referee Harvey Dock counted him out at 21 seconds of round eight.

“That jab that got to him must have landed in a vital point,” said Charlo after the fight. “I hope he recovers and bounces back.”

Charlo now has three of the four major super welterweight world titles.

WBC Super Bantamweight Title

Luis Nery (31-0, 24 KOs) captured the WBC super bantamweight title by unanimous decision over fellow Mexican Aaron Alameda (25-1, 13 KOs) in a battle between southpaws. The war between border town fighters was intense.

Nery, a former bantamweight world titlist, moved up a weight division and found Alameda to be a slick southpaw with an outstanding jab. At first the Tijuana fighter was a little puzzled how to attack but found his groove in the fourth round.

But Alameda, who fights out of Nogales, Mexico, began using combinations and finding success.  A crafty counter left uppercut caught Nery charging in a few times, but he managed to walk through them.

In the final two rounds Nery picked up the action and increased the pressure against the slick fighting Alameda, He forced the Nogales fighter to fight defensively and that proved enough to give the last two rounds for Nery and the victory by unanimous decision. The scores were 115-113, 116-112 and 118-110 for Nery who now holds the WBC super bantamweight world title. He formerly held the WBC bantamweight title.

Roman Wins

Danny “Baby-Faced Assassin” Roman (28-3-1, 10 KOs) managed to rally from behind and defeat Juan Carlos Payano (21-4, 9 KOs) in a battle between former world champions in a nontitle super bantamweight clash. It wasn’t easy.

Once again Roman fought a talented southpaw and in this fight Payano, a former bantamweight titlist, moved up in weight and kept Roman off balance for the first half of the fight. The jab and movement by the Dominican fighter seemed to keep Roman out of sync.

Roman, who fights out of Los Angeles, used a constant body attack to wear down the 35-year-old Payano and it paid off in the second half. Then the former unified world champion Roman began to pinpoint more blows to the body and head. With seconds left in the 12th and final round, a left hook delivered Payano down and through the ropes. Sadly, the referee missed the knockdown. It didn’t matter as all three judges scored it identical at 116-112 for Roman after 12 rounds.

“I made some adjustments and picked up the pace and got the win,” said Roman who formerly held the WBA and IBF super bantamweight world titles.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

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Jermall Charlo UD 12 Derevyanchenko; Figueroa and Casimero Also Triumphant

Arne K. Lang

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Jermall Charlo UD 12 Derevyanchenko; Figueroa and Casimero Also Triumphant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

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